Ed’s Corner

It’s another gray morning as I look out my kitchen window today. Gray skies and even mostly gray bark on the trees as I gaze over the woodland behind my house. What, you say, is wrong with me? Don’t I know that tree bark is brown? Remember how the brown crayons in school were brought out to color the bark of trees we had drawn? It’s taken for granted that all tree bark is brown. Just ask anyone and they’ll tell you its so, but If you go right up to a tree, the bark appears gray, or some shade of gray, not usually brown.

This is the time of year when sunrises and sunsets can be most beautiful. There are no leaves to get in the way of the view. Very recently, I was in Helen Hayes Hospital in Haverstraw. It sits on top of a big hill, and views of the the Hudson River and nearby mountains were grand. I woke up just as the sun was rising and the sunrise over the Hudson was just spectacular, in a quiet way. I wanted to run around to every patient, nurse and doctor and tell them to look out a window.

That probably was the best medicine of the day.

 

Can you spy the creature who’s ability to camouflage relies on the grayness of a winter day?

 

 

Ed’s Corner

If you’re receiving our blog for the first time, welcome! To those who are long-time readers, welcome back. In each issue of our monthly newsletter (which we also post hear on our blog) you’ll hear from interesting contributors (familiar faces from camp), learn of goings-on in and around our community, and get ideas and inspiration for recipes, projects, and more. The Dirt is the medium through which we transmit the Nature Place spirit to you, our dear friends and families, and keep it going all year long, until summer comes around once again. We hope you enjoy!

Week Three at Camp

The weather this past week at camp has been just beautiful! Temperatures were in the low 80’s and the air was dry, with crisp, cool mornings. These finest of summer days were possible after Tuesday’s dark, intense rainstorm, complete with plenty of thunder and lightening. The gorgeous days since have been so perfect for time spent outdoors, in the height of nature’s blooming, green growth, that it almost feels like camp could just roll on forever.

But, the truth is, we’ve got just half of it left! There are three adventure-filled, wacky, fleeting weeks of The Nature Place Day Camp still to come.

And to top it all off, after The Nature Place ends, there are three one-week specialty programs taking place August 13 – 17:

  • If your camper especially enjoys the hands-on nature, garden, and farm experiences at The Nature Place, Farm & and Garden Days would make a great addition to their summer lineup. Cow-milking, horse-plowing, gardening, and a pizza party extravaganza are just some of what makes up this program. Plus, we’ve added a new extension created for younger campers ages 5 and 6.
  • If art and nature-inspired creativity are what excites your camper, our new Art & Earthprogram is just the thing. Taking place in the painting studio at the Red Barn, and mixing hands-on creative work with materials from and time in nature, this new program is for the nature-loving artist.
  • If your camper is a teenager age 13 – 16, looking to find community, a renewed sense of self, and meaning through a strong relationship to the natural world, Passagesis designed for them. A wilderness rite-of-passage experience for adolescents, this program combines survival skills and techniques for securing shelter, food, fire, and water with deliberate time for community-building, self-reflection, and ceremony.

 

Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, here are some Quotable Quotes from our recently completed 3rd week of camp:

  • An acorn fell off a tree and hit a group E counselor on the shoulder. A camper said to her, “You should feel lucky, because the tree chose you and gave you a gift!”
  • Pouring water into a pot on an overnight, one camper said of the stream of water, “That is a parabola. Most things in nature are.”
  • Upon seeing Drama Jon for the first time this summer, and knowing that Jon’s wife just had a baby, a camper said, “Look, there’s Papa Jon.”
  • After visiting the garden, campers came away wearing beautiful “necklaces” containing the seeds of each of the Three Sisters in a transparent bag. When lunchtime came, a young camper sat down to eat, took off the necklace, and carefully laid it out in the sun. The camper explained, “Now the seeds can eat while we eat…and they eat sunlight!”

 

This week’s theme was Be’an Green. We had songs, activities, events, and Morning Shares relating to living sustainably on our planet earth.

Activities this week included:

  • Nature drumming in Music with Rocki. Campers played high and low nature ‘instruments’, boomwhackers, and other percussive items to play patterns, and took turns conducting some favorite camp songs.
  • Being green in the Nature Pond in Nature with Alex. Campers explored animal and plant life at our algae-covered, wooded nature pond, finding dragonflies, frogs, turtles and many types of insects. Campers learned about the predator/prey systems and life stages of pond inhabitants, and a mucky time was had by all.
  • Beans and greens all around the world in Cooking with Eva. Campers prepared all sorts of different bean salads, plated on beds of salad greens. Mediterranean, Thai, Mexican, Italian, and Greek bean salads were a few of the varied options.

  • Learning trapping techniques in Outdoor Skillz with Joe. Younger campers were treated to a ‘show and tell’ of many of Joe’s greatest treasures including a deer skull and buttons made out of deer antlers, obsidian tools, arrowheads, a pouch made from squirrel pelt, coyote tracks, and more.
  • Shooting our best shots in Archery.
  • For older campers, learning the art of kokedema and creating a hanging kokedema ball in Art. These were constructed by making mud/clay balls, inserting a small plant in this soil ball, coating the whole thing with moss, and then tying string around it all, with additional strings for support so that the kokedema ball can hang nicely (in front of a window of your home, perhaps). Younger campers learned the art of paper making by giving new life to shredded, used paper. They then pressed this paper into molds and sprinkled them with wildflower seeds, to create plant-able art that will grow pollinator-attracting flowers. Talk about be’an green!
  • All sorts of theater/communication games in Drama with Janet. These included MILL, blink and switch, eagle eye, honey, evolution, green bean hunts, reenactments of ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk’, and many more bean skits.
  • Playing games with Nature May that taught us about the life of coyote pups and the perils of pesticide bio-accumulation in predator birds, as well as exploration in the Nature Pond with nets and keen eyes – discovering dragonflies, snapping turtles, and frogs.
  • Oodles of non-competitive games with Leah. These included ships and sailors, blob tag, cat and mouse, the igloo game, and the handshake game.

  • Building bean teepees in the garden. Campers learned about the three sisters (corn, beans, squash) and other kinds of companion planting, and created supports for plants that climb, using sticks and bamboo to form a teepee shape, as well as using other plants like corn or sunflowers as supports. Campers also made seed necklaces that will allow the seeds of the Three Sisters to sprout inside and then be transferred to a pot or garden.
  • Petting baby guinea pigs, Hamlet the pig, an Iberian ribbed newt that can poke its ribs through its skin in self-defense, and an armadillo in Outragehiss Pets.
  • Rhythmic games and joyous drumming with Mashobane.

Hobbies this past week included archery, chickens, drumming, knife skills, climbing, making lip balm, project runway (a la Nature Place), cooking secret brownies, wild food foraging, wildlife scavenger hunt, wood working (making book ends), and more.

We were all treated to an incredible special performance on Friday afternoon by Arm–of-the-Sea Theater. Using spectacular puppets, scenery and props, with an original live score that had us all singing along, this brilliant performance taught us all about ‘Dirt: The Secret Life of Soil’, including the world of mycelium, microbes, soil chemistry, soil-dwelling insects, plant life and more.

Speaking of treats:
Story Night with Chuck is happening this coming Thursday, July 26th. Come back to camp and join us at 7:15 pm to hear master storyteller Chuck Stead tell beautiful, hilarious, place-based stories of his youth growing up in the nearby Ramapo mountains. You may have heard bits and pieces of his stories from your children; now, come and hear a whole one. This evening event is great for the whole family (you can bring friends, too), but we recommend it for children ages seven and older.

 

Next week‘s theme is ‘Oh Deer, There’s a Whistle Pig in the Garden!’ What is a whistle pig, you ask? It’s another name for a groundhog or woodchuck, which can be tragic guests to a garden, eating up anything in sight before you can blink twice. There’s also a lot to be learned about them! Did you know groundhogs can climb trees? You can get a sense this week will be animal-centered, whether it be deer, whistle pigs, actual pigs, or other. Our grand plan is to have Coco, our neighbor’s mini pig, star in Morning Share, wearing a whistle around her neck, of course.

Next week there will be two day hikes, two almost overnights, four cedar pond trips (canoeing and camping), and two backpacking trips. Group Q will be doing a four-night backpacking trip, tracing the route of the original Appalachian Trail through Harriman State Park.

The forecast promises rain and thunderstorms, which will keep us in the spirit of muggy mid-summer. Where last week’s cool mornings seemed to hint at autumn, this humid, perfect swimming weather, with thunderstorms rolling through in the afternoons, should keep us well-oriented toward the proper season. If you see a few yellow or brown leaves that have left their branches prematurely, or if you notice the flowering Queen Anne’s lace, pale blue chicory, or see the soon-to-blossom golden rod, just ignore it for a while longer. While the summer season is slowly beginning its rotation toward autumn, we’ll make hay while the sun is high, reveling in the friendships, adventure, and freedom of camp.

 

Thanks for spending some of your summertime with us at The Nature Place. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.

See you on Monday,

Ed

 

PS. The Threefold Cafe’s camp lunch menu has grown! Staying sustainable with stainless steel lunch tins, and always with gluten-free and vegetarian options, they’re now offering:

  • Sunflower butter & mixed berry jam on soft wheat bread
  • Sliced roasted turkey breast on whole grain bread with mayo, lettuce & Swiss cheese
  • Café’s organic hummus, organic shredded carrot, house pickles & lettuce on ciabatta roll
  • Tuna salad sandwich w/ pickles & lettuce on soft wheat bread
  • Fresh plain bagel with cream cheese
  • Fresh sliced ham & Swiss cheese on croissant with yellow mustard.

The Cafe is really the cat’s meow.

Ed’s Corner

Originally published on March, 20 2018

Well…it’s here! Happy First Official Day of Spring! Here’s a poem by Harriet Prescott Spofford that I always enjoy rustling out of my collection around this time of year. She writes:

“Under the snow drifts
the blossoms are sleeping
Dreaming their dreams of sunshine and June.
Down in the hush of their quiet they’re keeping
trills from the throstle’s wild summer-sung tune.”

Isn’t it perfect for this time of year? I like to think of myself as one of those blossoms. I often find myself daydreaming of sunshine and June and, of course, the start of camp, as the clocks change and daylight hours stretch longer and longer, but that spring-time warmth is still elusive. I keep the summer-song of the thrushes (did you know that ‘throstle’ is an old-fashioned word for a song thrush) close to my heart and as summer gets closer, I look for the early signs that it is near.

On top of dreaming about summer, our year-round crew has been busy preparing for it; excitedly working to bring our 33rd Nature Place summer to you. This week, we’re down at the American Camp Association’s Tri-State Camp Conference in Atlantic City–the largest gathering of camp professionals in the world!–where we’ll take workshops, expand our horizons, and spend time with other camp folks dedicated to spreading the joy of the camp experience.

If our excitement for summer was enough to melt the snow drifts and awaken the sleeping blossoms, Spring would have sprung long ago.

Ed’s Corner

The Fifth Season

Well, we all know we have winter, spring, summer and fall, but did you know there
is a fifth season? It’s Sugaring Time. Coming right between winter and spring, it can last for 2 weeks or close to two months.

It’s all dependent on the weather. Cold nights and warmer days are what’s needed for the buckets on our maple trees to fill with the clear, sweet liquid we call ‘sap’. We then boil the sap until it turns into that amber aristocrat of all sweets – maple syrup!

I hope you can make one of the two maple sugaring programs we will be offering this Saturday, February 24th. The purpose of the program is to give you enough information to identify a maple tree, show you how to ‘tap’ it, how to collect the sap, and how to boil it down to maple syrup. Each family will take home a sheet of instructions and your very own spout.

Sugaring is a great family activity – everyone can get involved in some way and the syrup you’ll make will be the best syrup you’ve ever tasted in your life!

Looking forward to seeing you as we celebrate our fifth season.

Ed’s Corner

When it’s a nasty, cold, winter-mix kind of day, and it seems that its been gray forever, just think about that the fact that the sun is still shining very brightly right above the clouds, just as it does on the sunniest day. And if you’re feeling a little grey like the day, remember that somewhere there is light, above the clouds, throwing shadows against the earth. If you find yourself within your own shadow, look for the light – it is there. The bigger the shadow, the larger the light.

 

Ed’s Corner

This is the time of year where we have the shortest daylight. It’s gray. It’s rainy. There’s not enough snow yet to make it feel brighter, prettier, seasonal. Some people experience a condition called SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – in the winter months, due to a lack of light. Special lamps are sold for people to sit under each day, which mimic the sun’s light. Reports lead me to believe they work!

This year, there are other reasons to be sad besides SAD. The news provides us with plenty of fodder to feel down, full of angst, stressed out, wondering what might be the truth…

But have hope! There is truth and tranquility to be be found when you are out in nature. And wherever you are, nature is not very far from you. Natural winter delights and verities are all around us:

* A beautiful snowstorm that transforms the sharp corners of the world
* If you tap trees, it’s time to get ready for maple sugaring
* By mid-January, you will feel – some days – a warmth in the air. The quality of the daylight will begin to feel different
* The sun rises in the morning and sets at night. This seems trivial but did you ever think about how it happens each and every day, without fail, and we can depend on it?
* How wonderful a fire feels and smells on a cold day

You can find your own truths out of doors. Forget the news for a while. It’s time for a nature break.

Ed’s Corner

Walking recently in the crisp Fall air, with multi-colored leaves crunching underfoot, I was struck, as I often am, by the undeniable truth that surrounds us in nature. As I walked, the lyrics of Malvina Reynold’s 1964 folk song, “God Bless the Grass”, came slowly out of the recesses of my memory. I thought I’d share them with you here:

God Bless the Grass

God bless the grass that grows thru the crack.
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the truth that fights toward the sun,
They roll the lies over it and think that it is done.
It moves through the ground and reaches for the air,
And after a while it is growing everywhere,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that grows through cement.
It’s green and it’s tender and it’s easily bent.
But after a while it lifts up its head,
For the grass is living and the stone is dead,
And God bless the grass.

God bless the grass that’s gentle and low,
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow.
And God bless the truth, the friend of the poor,
And the wild grass growing at the poor man’s door,
And God bless the grass.

Ed’s Corner

It’s About Time

We think we can manipulate time, twist it like a Gumby, do whatever with it.
For example, we say we can save it, spend it. But I don’t know of a time bank where you get time interest from the time you put into it.

You can have a great time, a terrible time; we believe we can even make time; take time out; be on time; waste time; lose time; run out of it; squeeze time.

To me, time is:

now….now….now….now….now….now…. You get the idea. We live only in this moment, this now.

Good news!

There are a lot of moments in front of you. You are blessed with many possibilities and choices of how you want to be or what you want to do in the next many moments. Yes, the choice is yours: what will you make of the most precious thing you have?

This month of October is glorious in so many ways. I hope you will choose to “spend” your time with your children out-of-doors.

Ed’s Corner

To those of you who are reading our blog for the first time, welcome! To those who are long-time readers, it’s good to have you back. Each year, when I am called to prepare my contribution for September’s issue of The Dirt and its corresponding blog post, it is a tell-tale sign for me that summer is over, and it is time once again to enter the magical and transformational season called ‘fall’.

As many of us know, beyond our personal, unofficial signs of fall’s arrival, there is in fact an official beginning to the season. This year, the autumnal equinox occurs on Friday, September 22nd at precisely 4:02 PM, when the sun crosses the celestial equator. On this day we will have equal parts night and day. From then on, nights will slowly become longer than days, until we arrive at the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice in December. From there we begin the slow lengthening of our days as the cycle through the seasons continues.

With the thought of this cyclical, circular motion in mind, I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote following our last day of camp, just a bit over a month ago. Though the season has begun to turn, the memory of that day is still just as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. It is one that I will hold dear as we enjoy each changing season, until we arrive at glorious summer once again.

 

Love Is All Aground

On the big field, on the last day of camp,
without fail, we take time for goodbyes.
Holding hands, we form one large circle
that this year held one final surprise.

With all of our campers and counselors
each holding the hands of two others,
no matter how many, how far afield,
we always find room for each other.

Once our living circle has formed,
the center we share gives us reason
to recall all the circles we have in our lives:
the earth, the moon…the seasons.

We may feel a little bit melancholy,
knowing this summer’s camp is now done,
but we take solace in the circle of time:
we’ll be back, under next summer’s sun.

As we stood hand in hand, I became aware,
my eyes tracing our ring, start to start:
though our ‘circle’ may not have been perfect,
it did form one great, perfect HEART.

The tipis that still dominated the field
had sent us a little astray,
enough to dimple our circle of souls
in this wondrously suitable way.

I was called to the middle to share
some meaningful, well chosen words.
I had them scripted, but this surprise heart
had rendered them moot and absurd.

All I really needed to do
was point out the heart we had made,
shaped by our own hearts and hands
though we hadn’t known what was at play.

Love and tears suffused the air,
the oohs, the ahhs were all profound.
We’ve always known our camp is Love —
here the proof stood on the ground.