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The Dirt - May
"Be like a flower and turn your face to the sun."

                   -Kahlil Gabran


Ed's Corner

When the Earth Hummed
At the beginning of this month we offered our annual Spring Peeper 'hunt'. With flashlights in hand and rubber boots on feet, families ventured into the wetland to find this thumbnail-sized frog called the Spring Peeper.
The males make a somewhat loud peeping noise, many together can make a very loud sound (some say like sleigh bells) that can be heard from up to two miles away! It took a while but finally we started to 'catch' some - in our flashlight beams as well as actually in-hand.

The wetland was very dark but the rising almost-full moon provided a hint of light, not to mention it's beautiful reflection in the open water in the middle.
And then, starting very slowly from this open water, there came, hesitatingly at first, and then with a let-er-rip feeling, a sound that can only be described as ethereal, ancient, deep. All we could do was stop, listen and and allow our bodies to be part of this earthly surround-sound experience. 
A child asked 'Is that the earth humming?' Maybe it is. Or could be. Why not? How magical and full of wonder! If the earth were to hum I could not think of a better place than where we were, another season or a different sound.
I would be happy to leave you with the thought of a humming earth. We looked into the water with our flashlights and saw nothing.
But I would be remiss.
The sound was the mating calls of toads, doing the same thing in the same wetland that the peepers were doing. Knowing this does not negate the imagination or sense of wonder that brought forth the question about the earth humming. One does not have to restrict oneself to one way of looking at the earth. There does not have to be an either/or. As we say at camp, "Open your mind and say 'Ahh'".
There may still be time after you receive this Dirt to go out to a wetland at night and be part of the humming. You will never forget it.
Good luck.
This is the last issue of The Dirt until September. Camp is about to begin and we have many outdoor things we'll be attending to with our campers; maybe even discovering other ways in which the earth hums.

Have a great summer! We plan to.

Sheep and Wool Festival

Sunday, May 31st, 10 am - 4 pm.
285 Hungry Hollow Road Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977. 

Fiber Craft Studio hosts the always awesome, frequently furry, sometimes sheepish, completely crafty Sheep and Wool Festival. Participate in spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, plant-dying; hang out with the sheep and rabbits; eat great food; browse hand-made gifts; see a puppet show; more!


Dead Mink in May

Storyteller Chuck Stead brings us a spirit tale for this month of May. If you're at camp with us this summer you'll hear plenty of Chuck! If not, let this tale hold you until September, when we begin our Dirt anew.  

Dougy Cramshaw found a dead mink in the road. It was not a fast traveled road, it was a slow village road called Mountain Avenue. The mink, which is in the weasel family and looks like a small otter, was not physically damaged in appearance. When Dougy first saw it he thought it was napping. It had been freshly killed, and despite the warm May sunlight it was not yet rotting. He carefully cradled the mink in his arms and brought it to his grandmother. Old Lillian Cramshaw examined the pretty little fur-bearer while her pig monster dogs whined desperately to get at it. Mink have a very strong odor that raises all sorts of dog concern. The closest water body for this mink would have been the Fountain Pond Park, but more likely it had come from the little brook along Sixth Street. Perhaps it swam from the Ramapo River into the brook under the Thruway and then walked through the village.

Still – for a mink to be this far from water most likely meant it was foraging for its new family. In May young mink are just getting ready to go out on their own, but a parent (especially a mom) will still go hunting and gathering for them. Dougy was worried about the idea of these now being orphaned mink, but Grandma Cramshaw believed that the young mink would do well on their own. So he and his brother Ricky brought this dead mother mink down to my folk’s house where my dad Walt skinned the little animal and stretched the fur on a mink board to dry out. Then Walt gave the Cramshaw brothers the little naked mink wrapped up in a brown A&P shopping bag to bury in the woods. But we were told to put her in a shallow grave so that the rest of nature could eat her. Dougy objected to this idea of being eaten.

Walt said, “It’s the way of things.”

Dougy insisted that a little animal grave be a memory place and not a lunch counter.

Walt said, “You don’t bury memory, and then there’s the spirit, you know.”

“What comes of that?”

“It goes into the grubs and bugs and worms and maybe the crow or a vulture and it carries on.”

So Dougy agreed, and we buried the mink on McGregor’s Hill. For weeks afterward Dougy visited the place and took note of the gradual decay and occasional disappearance of her remains. He doubted that her spirit went to the worms and was troubled about it floating around aimlessly. Then one day while fishing down under the Fourth Street Bridge he saw two young mink happily chasing each other down stream. They played like otters or seals, dodging each other swimming about with great skill. They swam close to Dougy and then stopped short and stared at him. After that he was OK about the dead mother mink, he told us her spirit was there in her children.

Growing Milkweed 

Do nothing and feel good!

Daniel Bieber
I have many milkweed plants growing outside my house, sprouting from between rocks that line my garden and against the wall of the house. Thick, sappy, and fast-growing, the milkweed in my yard seems to like the unused spaces between things, places not thought of in intentionally planted or arranged landscaping. 

We sent out a letter to many camp families full of milkweed seeds to be planted, but I did not plant the milkweed growing by my house. Last summer I noticed a few plants that popped up, and this late spring I've spotted twice as many growing as last year. I think about milkweed and its importance for monarch butterflies often, but milkweed in my garden and around my house has taken on a larger meaning than monarchs. 

My caring for the milkweed plants accumulating next to our baby cucumbers and unfurling wild flowers has been largely a matter of doing nothing. My plants have come up on their own, seem to thrive whether it rains or stays dry, and only seem to 'notice me' if I accidentally break or step on a leaf or thin green branch during the rest of my garden care. I'd like to think the milkweed grows on my property proportionally to the time and energy I spend thinking about the plant.

Unlike all the rest of my floral and vegetative spring endeavors, all of which require some measure of planning, care, and intention, the milkweed asks very little of me. Really, the best thing I can do is stay out of its way, notice it, appreciate it's ability to grow (perhaps even better) without me. Regardless of my feelings, independent of my will to cultivate growing things or to save the monarch butterflies, nature has and acts with an intelligence all her own. 

Wild Superfoods

Wild food forager Paul Tappenden shows us what's wild and edible in our area.

Like most of us, I always look forward to May, when the world is filled with color and fresh growth. This month is a forager’s dream come true, where the woods and fields turn into a smorgasbord of wild foods. Not only are they fresh, delicious and abundant, but they are some of the most nutrient packed foods available anywhere. I see many articles written about superfoods from all the exotic corners of the planet. They come fresh, dried and in pill forms to supplement our somewhat questionable diets, but tend to be prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to most of us. Yet we have many power-packed superfoods growing on our own doorsteps that we step over (or on) every day. In fact, in many cases we go out of our way to remove or kill them. It really doesn't make a lot of sense to me. That’s why I do all I can to inform people that these amazing plants exist and can be easily incorporated into our daily diets.
Many of these foods have been shown to prevent and even reverse chronic diseases, and have been used used to do so for thousands of years. Even today many cultures regularly include plant extracts in many disease treatment protocols. 

As many of you are aware, food and medicine are the same thing, when used wisely. Many wild species serve both these purposes. They are available for us to help keep our lives balanced, if only we have the wisdom to see what they are telling us.  Some of the edible plants with medicinal uses that are available this month include: Garlic mustard, Pepperweed, Ramps, Stinging nettles, Plantain, Watercress, Dandelion, Lambsquarters, Bamboo shoots, Pokeweed and Field garlic. 

Stinging Nettle


Garlic Mustard

Paul Tappenden is the Rockland Forager. He leads identification walks once a month in our area. See regularly updated blogs, videos, events, and what he and other foragers, herbalists, and naturalists are up to:

These wild turkeys thought no one was watching as they tried to sneak through a newly planted field. 

Upcoming Open Houses

Sunday, May 24th

Then, Camp!

All open houses take place at the Green Meadow Waldorf School: 307 Hungry Hollow Road. Stop by anytime between 1-4pm.
Non-competitive and nature-oriented, The Nature Place supports children to be themselves, with their friends, in the great outdoors. Learn more at
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