Week 1 Letter, 2015
Farm and Garden Days
The two weeks of this program – which follow directly upon the end of our six week camp – were once known as part of the ‘dog days’ of summer. Hot, sultry, steamy, not a breeze stirring, the kind of weather that would make a hound, or any kind of dog, just want to laze around on the porch all day, panting, not even lifting its head to a strange noise.
Another derivation of ‘dog days’, is that the so-called dog star – Sirius (the brightest star in the sky) – starts rising in the evening sky at this time of year.
For us, this is the time to explore the farm and gardens. The gardens are grown and the farm operated using biodynamic principles, sort of like organic plus. We will milk cows, transplant plants in the greenhouse to bring home, make cheese, cultivate the field with work horses, make new beds for planting, cook with our fresh ingredients, create earth art (from the earth!), plant seeds, harvest, experience different herbs, spices, vegetables and cooking methods, work with clay, play games, sing, swim, go mucking in our streams, explore nature all around us, have a tipi as home base AND be with some of the same counselors that have been trained by us and worked with us all summer. Also, Ed, Scott and Daniel will be working with the Farm and Garden campers!
Oh, there are chickens, sheep, cow, horses and honeybees that will be making their appearance throughout each of the two weeks.
Farm and Garden Days is a smaller program than our regular camp, the rhythm a little more laid back. There is fun, learning and connections made with the earth and with each other. Your child will most likely try and enjoy some new, healthy foods. Both weeks are 3/4 filled, and the during the next few weeks of The Nature Place is when we fill in the rest. If you’d like to enroll your camper for one week or two, the time do so is now!
Your camper might be asking you to go outdoors with him or her to explore the natural world as we do at camp. Why, it could even become a habit, you and your child … maybe after the dishes are done, or setting aside two hours every Saturday or Sunday morning. You might look forward to it, even love it. But I must share with you some things to be aware of if you really start venturing into nature with your child on a regular basis:
* you will re-discover your own sense of wonder
* you may begin to find ordinary things extra-ordinary
* your child will help you see that nature is everywhere
* you may feel joy
* you could begin to feel part of the ‘whole’
* expect deeper connections with your child and with the natural world.
On a camping trip, after going into the tent to settle down for the evening, a nine-year old camper asked the camping leader who was passing by, “Is there going to be coffee with breakfast?”
At face painting a camper wanted a gun to be painted. A counselor said, “We don’t do that at The Nature Place.” To which the camper replied, “No, but it’s a solar powered gun.”
The trail markers on one of our favorite Harriman trails – the RD (Ramapo Dunderberg) – is a white rectangle with a red circle in the middle. This identifying marker can be found painted on trees or on rectangular metal markers nailed to trees. A camper hiking this week on the RD asked, “Are we hiking to Japan?”
In cooking, working with herbs, a camper put a sprig of thyme around his wrist and proclaimed, “This is my watch!”
On a hike, “We’re clearly not in New York. We can’t even see the Empire State Building.”
Finally ‘getting’ the back float, a camper was overheard saying, “I’m floating just like a leaf in a pond.”
There are now more monarch butterflies in the world!
And many of us, campers and staff alike, feel like proud parents. These are the same very tiny caterpillars that we have watched eat and eat and then eat some more – milkweed leaves only, please – grow in size tremendously; shed their skins; crawl to the top of their net enclosure; hang down from the top like the letter ‘j’; make a most beautiful chrysalis around itself; and just a few days ago emerged as fully grown monarch butterflies.
We released them during Morning Share. Everyone watched as they spiraled slowly upward and outward, seeming to take their time, in no hurry to quickly depart. And some seem to feel comfortable staying around camp because we have been seeing them flitting here and there. We think the monarchs we have recently seen are ‘them’ because we hadn’t seen any before we let them go.
One small step for monarchs – one small step for us as earth caretakers.
As we ended this week and it’s theme of ‘It’s About Thyme’ we slowly gave hints as to things we might expect during next week’s theme of Troll Rendezvous. It was a coincidence that our camp’s 30th anniversary this summer fell on the year (they have a big get together every 30 years) that trolls from all over come together for a family reunion of sorts. It should be a wild and woolly time, even though that theme is for the week after next, the 5th week of camp.
Hikes this week enjoyed the great weather despite the weather reports calling for the opposite. One of the hikes intersected the Appalachian Trail in hopes of running into a thru-hiker, someone who started in Georgia in March and will be hiking the entire 2,000 miles, ending at Mt. Katahdin in Maine, the northern terminus of the trail, sometime in September.
We met a young couple who were thru-hiking and they spent a little while answering the campers’ questions:
Have you seen many animals?
Yes. Bears, deer, snakes.
What are your trail names?
What challenges have you encountered?
The third day on the trail it began to rain and it continued for 7 straight days. We were always wet.
Why are you doing this?
We’ve thought about it for a long while and we are both at the time of our lives in terms of responsibilities that we can afford to take the time. It’s a challenge and it’s a cool thing to do.
A quick look at some activity areas this week
In cooking this week the campers made and brought home jars of herbed apple cider vinegar, made with vinegar, basil, time, parsley, sage and rosemary. This vinegar should not be opened for at least 2 weeks for all the flavors to infuse into the vinegar. Each group also made a large jar of garlic, dill pickles and after a two-week ‘incubation’ time will be ready for the group’s sampling.
In games there were many activities using the long rope, nicknamed the ‘Super Tornado’. They also played a game called Evolution, based on rock/paper/scissors.
The side stroke was the focus in swim lessons down at the pond.
Archery made shooting a bit more interesting by putting inflated balloons on the bull’s eye.
Campers in music made parodies of well-known songs. The song of the week was, ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning’.
Drama had campers laughing as they had to create skits that had 3 things in them: time, thyme and Bob.
Haiku’s were written – We are late she said
…as well as “You” poems
Art was paper-making, branch weaving, and more.
Up stream/Down stream – a watery hands-on exploration of two sections of the same stream – our very own Fairy Stream!
Camp is now half over. Looking into the next three weeks I see:
Chuck Stead Family Story Night, this coming Thursday, July 23rd, 7:15 pm.
Clearwater sails on the Hudson.
The Barefoot Zone! A day of foot liberation and stepping in…
Arm-of-the-Sea Theatre, for families, Friday, July 31st, 7:15 pm.
More Bill Robinson and his large animals, as well as the weekly Outragehisss Pets.
Full Camp Harvest Day. We all go up to the fields to harvest, sing, and of course taste.
Remembering Summer – Wednesday, August 5th (rain date August 6th), at 7:15 pm. An outdoor slide show of this summer’s activities. Live music – from our own band – to dance to. Meet other campers and adults you have only heard about.
And, of course, you can look forward to the ‘usuals’: Swim, gardening, morning share, climbing, music, games, day hikes, chickens, Hobby Time, canoe camping, Almost Overnights, Backpacking trips, outdoor wilderness living skills, art, archery, drama, cooking, dance, trolls (plenty of trolls!), archery, keeping an eye out for ‘our’ Monarchs and more.
Until next week,