Ed’s Corner

Making Winter Buddies

We’re at the dark turn of the year, awaiting the Winter Solstice (the night between December 21st and 22nd) and after that the return of the light, when the sun will be ‘up’ a little bit longer each day. When I walk by the now naked trees and look closely at the branches I’m reminded that they may be devoid of leaves but certainly not the buds we can find along and usually at the ends of most branches. Inside these buds are the flowers and leaves that will ‘be’ next spring. They too are waiting all winter for the warmer, light-filled days of spring. When I’m with children outdoors we sometimes refer to them as packets of promise.

Buds

Now some buds, depending on the kind of tree they are on, will contain just the leaves, some only the flowers, others will have both.
Different buds will have different shapes, colors and be of different sizes. They serve as good guides in identifying winter trees.

Now would be a good time to venture out-of-doors and find some ‘buddies’. Go to a few different kinds of trees and choose some buds that you can check on, be aware of or look in on, whenever you go outdoors. Be patient, not much will be happening for a while but when it does happen, it will feel like magic, a promise fulfilled.

How will you know which are your buds? I like to tag or mark them with a colored piece of yarn or string tied around the branch and on or right next to my buds. You might think of other ways to mark your buds so that you can easily find them.

buddies

More than a gift

The Gift of Food

The table is set: a fancy tablecloth, my best china set, candles, and flowers complementing the color of the tablecloth. Aromas from the kitchen are filling up every corner of the house. Luckily, the dish in the oven looks perfect. I turn the oven off, then I fix my hair with a few quick strokes of the brush, and try to reassure my impatient children that it is almost time: shortly the doorbell will ring and the guests will arrive… It is holiday season.

At this time of the year we are especially aware of the social aspect of our culinary activities. We gather together to celebrate, and while sharing the same physical space we also share food, rituals, our stories, our lives.

Cooking and eating has always been a social act. Growing food and cooking was traditionally a communal activity, an affair usually involving multiple generations. While cooking together or waiting at the communal oven for the bread to bake, women shared news from the community, but often also joys and pains of their private lives. They were taking home loaves of bread and with them maybe a few slices of hope that life can be good.

Although we no longer gather around a communal oven and discuss our lives while waiting for our bread to bake, cooking together remains a great opportunity to connect or reconnect with people around us. Sharing the work itself brings us together, but even more importantly, the kitchen often becomes a safe place to discuss troubles, disappointments and share our personal stories.

When it comes to food, late fall and early winter was always a season of abundance and time for celebration before the hard, hungry winter season. Traditional holiday dishes nourished the body, while rituals provided nourishment for the soul during the darkest part of the year.

The ways we celebrate may have changed, and we definitely no longer need to gain several pounds during the season of abundance in order to survive the harsh winter that is ahead. Of course, we still enjoy traditional holiday dishes, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t. Food is often the only connection to our religious, ethnic or old family traditions. Food becomes more than physical sustenance, it is a reconnection with the past, our roots, but also with family members and friends.

The most we can give, especially to our children, is to share with them our time, our memories, and our experience. Spending a quiet afternoon together preparing food or making small gifts is a great opportunity to do so. Last Sunday afternoon, we used oats, coconut, almonds, raisins, and canned sour cherries to make small no-bake treats.They can be enjoyed at teatime with a cup of tea or hot chocolate. Nicely packaged, they make an edible homemade gift. Together with the gift of food you will be giving a gift of love and care.

Treats

Coconut & Cherry Treats

You will need:
1 cup quick oats
1 can sour cherries/pitted (you will need 15-20 canned sour cherries and about ½ cup of the liquid)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup raisins
½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut, plus extra to cover the surface of the treats
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup mini chocolate chips
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Soak the oats in the sour cherry liquid for about 20 minutes. Add all the other ingredients to the softened oats, except for the sour cherries. Mix well. Take a small amount of the mixture (about the size of a walnut), flatten it and put a sour cherry in the middle. Form a small ball. Roll the ball in shredded coconut to cover.  Proceed  the same way with the rest of the mixture. You may need to wash your hands often as they will get sticky and you won’t be able to form the balls properly.

This recipe makes 15-20 walnut-sized treats.

 

The doorbell is ringing, the guests have arrived. The celebration can begin….

For this holiday season, I wish you all special moments that will stay with your children in the years to come and will be cherished as memories of magical times.

 

Eva Szigeti operates Pinebrook Garden Day Care, child-care centered around hands-on homesteading activities and free creative play. She also offers cooking and fiber craft classes for children and programs for homeschoolers.  For the past three summers Eva has been teaching cooking at the Nature Place Day Camp.

Raven Brings Light

Raven Brings Light to the Cramshaws

Solstice we celebrated usually between Chanukah and Christmas. The holiday of Chanukah moved around on the calendar but mostly arrived before Solstice, Christmas always came four days after Solstice. All we knew about Chanukah in our family was that it lasted eight days, which could mean a gift a day, and there was no tree involved (although there were some sort of magical candles, too). Christmas of course had the tree and wreath and the lights, and the day was a reminder of the birth of Jesus. But we also learned that the tree and wreath and even the lights were actually a part of Solstice long before Christmas and Chanukah. After keeping Solstice with Grandma Cramshaw for a few years in a row there came the particular Solstice night when she told us what she believed was the origin of celebrating the longest night with the promise that light would come again.

“In the before time there was darkness and cold everywhere. Sun had been captured by Old Man and he kept Sun locked in a box. From time to time Old Man took Sun out and warmed the place where he stayed but he would not share Sun with anyone else. No one could get Sun away from Old Man…”

Dougy asked, “But did they try?”

“Yes” Grandma said, “Eagle who flies like thunder wind, Bear, the strongest of them all, and even Weasel, so fast and small, they all tried but Old Man was a powerful shaman and no one could steal back Sun.”

“No one?” Ricky asked, his voice peaked with curiosity.

“Well” the old lady told us, “No one except Raven.”

“Raven!” Dougy squealed.

Raven

“You know Raven” she told us, “Crow’s big cousin. He and Crow are tricksters, they can shape-shift. So Raven shaped-shifted into a little seed and floated down the river. And Old Man’s beautiful daughter drank from the river and swallowed the seed and became pregnant…”

Ricky said, “And then what happened?”

“Oh she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, who was really Raven in disguise. Old Man loved this little boy and spoiled him rotten. One day Old Man even let the boy play with Sun. Then Raven turned back into himself and flew off with Sun, fast away before Old Man could catch him. But he flew so fast that he dropped Sun into the sky and that is how we came out of darkness.”

Dougy said, “I like trickster Raven!”

Ricky said, “You are trickster Raven.”

With that Dougy jumped up and ran through Grandma’s kitchen, snatched up her Everyready Flashlight and charged out into the night shouting, “Caw Caw Caw!” The pig monster dogs jumped out of a group nap and immediately snapped and fought with each other in response to Dougy’s Raven. We stood at the back window and watched him swinging the flashlight around furiously until it slipped out of his hand, bounced away across the frozen earth and died out. Dougy ran to it, picked it up, shook it violently but it did not light up, and looked back at us where we stood watching him from the window.

The old woman said, “That boy don’t need no flashlight to bring light into the world.”

2016 Events, Open Houses, and Camp Fairs

The approaching winter and spring seasons are brimming with open houses, camp fairs, and events at The Nature Place.

Public Programs

Join us at camp for one or all of the events and activities we’re hosting. Attending one of our programs is a great way for new or inquiring camp families to experience some of what we do at The Nature Place, as well as an opportunity for returning campers to come say ‘Hi!’ to friends and enjoy a sweet taste of summer camp during the off-season.

Winter Tales with Chuck Stead
Saturday, January 16th. Noon – 1 pm.  Open House 1 – 4 pm.

Chuck1

Every Friday at camp Master storyteller Chuck Stead spins funny, poignant, outrageous and true stories of his childhood growing up in the nearby Ramapo Mountains. But when the weather turns cold and winter has really set in, Chuck tells us his Winter Tales – stories that sparkle and glimmer like the snow and ice of January. Join us for this annual storytelling treat!

 

Outragehisss Pets
Sunday, February 7th. Noon – 1 pm.  Open House 1 – 4 pm.

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Each Tuesday and Thursday of our summer camp season Outragehisss Pets brings a menagerie of wild animals to camp for us to learn about, see up close, and even touch or hold, if we’re feeling brave. Some animals are soft (chinchillas), some fluffy (long-haired rabbits), rough (armadillos), scaly (snakes), spiky (hedgehogs), but all are exciting! Join us on Sunday, February 7th, for our annual winter animal program. It’s sure to be outragehisss.

 

Maple Sugaring
Saturday, March 5th.

This program happens twice, once from 11 am – Noon, and then again, from 2 – 3 pm. Our Open House on this day is in between programs, from Noon – 2 pm.

138044 CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ MAPLE SUGARING DEMONSTARTION 2-25-15 Ed and Daniel Bieber of The Nature Place Day Camp demonstrated maple sugaring at the Cliffside Park Public Library on Feb. 25, 2015. KRYSTI SABINS/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER

138044 CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ MAPLE SUGARING DEMONSTARTION 2-25-15 Ed and Daniel Bieber of The Nature Place Day Camp demonstrated maple sugaring at the Cliffside Park Public Library on Feb. 25, 2015. KRYSTI SABINS/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER

Mighty maple syrup, that aristocrat of of all sweets, is a large part of what we call ‘the three M time of year’ – March, Maple, and Mud. Join The Nature Place for our most popular public program (it’s so nice, we do it twice), in the morning beginning at 11 am or in the afternoon, starting at 2 pm.

We’ll learn all about maples trees, discovering what it takes to turn sap into syrup. We’ll then go outside to tap a maple tree, taste the sap that drips out, see it boiling over a fire, and then, conclude our event with the sweet taste of thickened maple syrup over crushed ice, accompanied, of course, by a dill pickle. Participants in this program will take home their own spouts for tapping as well as clear instructions for making your own maple syrup at home, from your very own tree.

138044 CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ MAPLE SUGARING DEMONSTARTION 2-25-15 Ed and Daniel Bieber of The Nature Place Day Camp demonstrated maple sugaring at the Cliffside Park Public Library on Feb. 25, 2015. KRYSTI SABINS/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER

138044 CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ MAPLE SUGARING DEMONSTARTION 2-25-15 Ed and Daniel Bieber of The Nature Place Day Camp demonstrated maple sugaring at the Cliffside Park Public Library on Feb. 25, 2015. KRYSTI SABINS/FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER

This event starts inside but then moves outside, so dress for the weather!

 

Wild Edibles with Paul Tappenden
Sunday, April 17th. Noon – 1 pm.  Open house 1 – 4 pm.

Paul

Wild food forager Paul Tappenden leads us on a vernal adventure into our environs to discover what’s growing wild and edible in our area. We’ll learn plant names, properties, tastes, uses in cooking, and get an overall feel for a number of plants. Early spring should yield a bounty of tender flora. Join us for a fun, investigative feast from the earth.

 

Spring Peeper Hunt
Saturday, May 7th. 7:30 – 8:30 pm.

Peeper

Hunting spring peepers successfully takes a keen ear, a sharp eye, stealth, and above all, patience. Join The Nature Place as we tromp through the small swamp behind the farm on a search for these tiny sirens of spring. The male frogs emit a loud ‘pee-eep! pee-eep!’, which allows us to echo-locate our targets, carefully treading over hillocks and sunken logs until we are close enough to shine a flashlight on the spring peeper. If we’re lucky, after a minute or two, the frog will start singing again, and we’ll see his vocal sack bulge out as he peeps, like a bubble blown from froggy bubblegum.

This event is in the dark, in a swamp! Please attend in high rubber boots, clothes you don’t mind getting swampy, and a sense of adventure. Flashlights are a must.


Open Houses

Attending one of our open houses is really the best way to learn about and get a true feeling for our camp. You’ll meet us (Ed, Scott, Daniel, and often Elaine and Shaina and others), get a tour of our camp grounds, see a narrated slide show of our summer activities, and come away from your visit with a fuller understanding of what we do and why we do it at The Nature Place Day Camp. All open houses run between 1 and 4 pm (except for March 5th, which is Noon – 2 pm).

Saturday, January 16th
Sunday, February 7th
Sunday, February 21st
Saturday, March 5th
Sunday, March 13
Saturday, April 2nd
Sunday, April 17th
Saturday, May 7th
Sunday, May 15th

Camp Fairs

We attend a total of 10 camp fairs in New York City (Manhattan and Brooklyn) between January and April. A camp fair is basically like us bringing a slice of our Open House to you, in your neighborhood. We (usually Scott and Daniel) will be at our Nature Place table, speaking to inquiring families about camp and answering questions. You’ll know it’s us by the large earth art city-stump, wooden photo trifold, and general down-to earth vibe.

All camp fairs run between Noon and 3 pm.

Saturday, December 12th – Upper East Side
St. Jean Baptiste High School, 173 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021

Sunday, December 13th – Upper West Side
Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024

Saturday, January 23rd – Upper East Side
St. Jean Baptiste High School, 173 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021

Sunday, January 24th – Upper West Side
Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024

Saturday, January 30th – Williamsburg, BK
Williamsburg Northside Lower School, 299 N 7th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Sunday, January 31st – Cobble Hill, BK
Brooklyn Heights Montessori School, 185 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Saturday, March 5th – Battery Park City
Asphalt Green, 212 North End Ave, New York, NY 10282

Sunday, March 6th – Park Slope, BK
Berkeley Carroll School, 181 Lincoln Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217

Saturday, April 9th – Upper East Side
St. Jean Baptiste High School, 173 E 75th St, New York, NY 10021

Sunday, April 10th – Upper West Side
Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 W 83rd St, New York, NY 10024

NYC Camp Fairs This Weekend

Come see us on the Upper East Side, at St. Jean Baptiste High School, this Saturday between Noon and 3 pm, or on Sunday on the Upper West Side, at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, also between Noon and 3 pm.

When you visit The Nature Place at a camp fair it’s sort of like we’re bringing a slice of our Open House to you, in your neighborhood. We (usually Scott and Daniel) will be at our Nature Place table, speaking to inquiring families about camp and answering questions. You’ll know it’s us by the large earth art city-stump, wooden photo trifold, and general down-to earth vibe.

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We won’t have a snake skin that’s as cool as the one in this picture, but you’ll get to hear about camp, and about fun moments like the one in this photograph.