Spring Peepers

Preview the sound of spring peepers!

On Saturday, May 2nd, beginning at 7:30 pm, The Nature Place will lead intrepid explorers on a ‘hunt’ for spring peepers, tiny frogs we’ll locate using our keen ears, eyes, and still-hunting abilities.

Peep!

This event often involves some swampy wading, so a good pair of rubber boots is recommended. We also recommend you come wearing clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or wet, and bring a flashlight. No nets or other ‘hunting’ gear is required, all we’ll use are our ears, and if we’re lucky, our gentle hands to pick up a small spring peeper. Families working together (parents helping) children is a must for this event.

We’ll meet at the Green Meadow Waldorf School, 307 Hungry Hollow Road in Chestnut Ridge NY, 10977 at 7:30 pm, from where we’ll caravan together to our special spring peeper pond.

Please call 845-356-6477 with any questions. This event will put the spring in your step!

Ed’s Corner

Happy Earth Day this coming Wednesday, April 22nd! At The Nature Place we have many ways we celebrate the earth.

Earth Day

What planet are you on?

Most of the time I’m not aware of standing on a planet,
a mote of swirling Milky Way careening through the void.
I don’t have much context or a solid frame of reference
in which to clothe such dizzying contemplations.
I read about, sing songs about, this marble circling the sun,
this spaceship earth resplendent in a garden universe,
but whatever I might think I know with my minuscule mind,
the reality is mostly, still, poetical abstraction.

In the dark, round cool of Hayden Planetarium I can
lean back in vibrating chairs, look up, watch and listen
as aisle lights fade and fleets of stars wink on and off above me,
while an omnipresent, god-like voice thunders in my ears.
Planets veer toward and past me, orbit in and out of view,
meteors come sizzling through the startled atmosphere,
all is motion, whizzing, speeding, as the music swells and crashes
(as if this orchestrated movement needed any sound at all)!

Why not go outside at night, find a dark and quiet spot,
lie back and look up at the real thing, you might ask? I do that, too.
I take in the quiet beauty, the vastness of the countless stars,
but at such a far remove the starry welkin scarcely moves.
I don’t have the dynamic sense of wandering, spinning spheres.
But I can imagine it, get some feeling for it, when I stop
to wonder at the cycles and rhythms of earthly seasons,
the subtle, incremental change from winter into spring,
the swifter, more decisive shift from nighttime into day.
There are no godly voices, nor symphonic lights and sounds,
but there are whispers in my soul…I am truly thankful
for the complementary gifts of planetariums and planets.

Frog’s Milk in Springtime

Storyteller Chuck Stead brings us a spring tale of milkweed and monarchs for this month of April. 

Flower

After the last thaw, when the earth is still cold but no longer frozen, when it gives off a sweet first scent of spring, and when the first green shoots called “plant tops” come forth, that is when the grandmas with their children forage for the new plants. There is great debate about the art of taking these shoots. Some believe that to obtain their full nutritional benefit, the whole plant is to be dug up, roots and all, while others advise cutting the plant at the base in order to allow for future growth. Even the removal of the plant at the base is debated with ‘traditionals’ pinching off the stalk while ‘moderns’ neatly trim it with a scissors. And there is debate about drawing the best medicine from the plant, with some people boiling the new shoots in water and then once they are cooled adding them to a local meat (venison, fish or fowl), and others claiming that the plants should be eaten raw. These early plants included dandelion, milkweed, lambs-quarters, garlic mustard, and watercress.

Young Dandelion with Onion Grass

Young dandelion with onion grass

Ricky Cramshaw’s grandmother didn’t go very far for her early greens. She picked lambs-quarters and garlic mustard at the back of her property along the base of McGregor Hill. There was dandelion everywhere as well as plantain; and along a rocky patch by the Thruway cliff were some milkweed. The problem for me was her nasty little pig monster dogs that roamed the backyard and peed in all these places. The old lady told us this was not an issue. She said, “I don’t feed them dogs canned dog food store-bought like. I give them real food – nothing bad and greasy – so their pee is just fine.” Of course she washed her greens but still, I was not comfortable with the idea that something in my salad might have been peed on by pig monster dogs.

Ricky and myself came around the side of the Cramshaw house and found the old grandma with Rick’s little brother Doug picking early spring greens. They both had a little scissors to cut with and they shared an Indian basket for gathering. With the pig monster dogs roaming about I hesitated. Rick told me they would leave us alone if we helped pick greens. So we both hunkered down and started to pinch off some new dandelion shoots. Dougy discovered the first new tops of milkweed and asked if she wanted them, too.

The old white haired woman came over to the foot of the cyclone thruway fence and stared down at the baby green tops of milkweed just above the stony soil. She told us the Indians called this plant Frog’s Milk because the mature husk looked warty like a toad. Dougy said they ought to call it Toad’s Milk. Grandma said, “I suspect you are right but nobody eats toads while frogs, like milkweed, are eaten, so it’s called Frog’s Milk.”

Dougy reached down with his scissors but she stopped him. “No” she said, “Leave this milkweed for the butterfly – you know the orange/black one, the monarch.”

“He eats them?”

“That butterfly plants her babies in them. When those babies hatch, they eat the milkweed leaves.” She looked down at an empty tractor trailer banging along the north lane of the Thruway. We all watched it rumble past us. Even the pig monster dogs came over and watched it go. Once the echoing thunder drifted off the old woman looked again at the little new milkweed and she said, “I dreamed about that butterfly last night. That’s a dream of change. Change is coming always.”

Milkweed pods (photo courtesy of Paul Tappenden)

Milkweed pods (photo courtesy of Paul Tappenden)

Open House

Join us for our open house on Sunday, April 12th, between 1 and 4 pm, on the grounds of the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977.

Come by to learn what puts the nature in The Nature Place, to ask questions about camp, and to find out what we do, and why.

Call 845-356-6477 for questions or directions.

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