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The Nature Place Day Camp - Dec Dirt
"In longest, darkest nights take rest and ease, 
And every shortening day, as shadows creep 
O'er the brief noontide, fresh surprises find." 
                                               
                               - Helen Hunt Jackson

Ed's Corner

It is now a few days before the official first day of winter, which arrives on Sunday, December 21st. This day, the shortest day of the year (least hours of daylight) is known as the Winter Solstice. Soon after this day the sun will  be in the sky for an increasingly longer smidgen of time each day. These smidgens do add up and it's usually around the third week of January that I become aware, almost by surprise, of more light and a different quality to the light.

These weeks preceding the Solstice can be dark, gray, and can offer up, even now as I write this, cold rainy windswept days. Br-r-r. Thoughts of sitting by the fireside, sipping hot chocolate, even a nap, dance through my head. And as I sit next to the fireplace, warmed once again by the sun's energy, some of which is now being released by way of the burning wood, I begin to think of all the amazing things that are part of the natural world, at this very moment, not very far from where I am or you are:

Slug eggs!
  • Under a nearby rock, which is probably frozen to the ground, there may be an overwintering bald-faced hornet queen.
  • Under a board or a large branch that has been on the ground for some time, there might be a small mound or two of round, white eggs. These slug eggs - yes, that's what they are! - remind me of small stacks of cannonballs, the kind that I have seen at historical restorations.
 

More of what's happening: soldier beetles, moonlight, snowflakes

Making a Birdfeeder




December’s colder weather and the year’s turn toward winter mean less available food for hungry resident birds. This time of year offers an opportunity for us to fill some of the vacuum left by nature’s waning resources, and by doing so bring some action, drama, color, and an endlessly watchable scene of hungry visitors to our attention.

Making this bird feeder is simple, and viewing the results of your work can be an exciting and easy way to connect with the natural world during this season.

 

Step-by-step instructions (with photos) to make your own feeder

Telling Stories


Storyteller Chuck Stead shares a Winter Solstice tale with us for this month of December.

Solstice

Ricky Cramshaw’s grandmother had introduced us kids to the Winter Solstice, and from then on we gathered with her on Dec 21st to burn a little dried bush along with some other things, and to thank Creator for the sun on the longest night of the year. There weren’t too many others in the village that openly celebrated this ancient holiday, but quietly, and in his own way, my dad Walt did. This usually meant a little twig fire in the backyard. My Irish Catholic mother Tessie avoided this. Clearly she disapproved.

Living on a dead end street in the last house before the Thruway, we seldom did any outdoor holiday decorations. Sometimes Walt stapled a string of tree lights around the front screen door. We did have a sickly little white pine, about six feet high, which looked like a sad little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but it wasn’t strong enough to hold any decorations. My sister Terry planted it in our shady little dirt patch of a front yard, and for three years it inched its way upward but seldom produced a new needle. Walt tried to wrap it with Christmas tree lights but the poor little tree bent over and practically laid flat on the ground.

 


Read the rest of Chuck's winter solstice tale

New Website


All fall we've been working on a new website, and now it's live! You can visit thenatureplace.com to see a new look, fresh images, and some differences in the layout and structure of how we show the world what we do. Next up, soon after the new year: online registration!
Wild Foods Diet
Paul Tappenden shows us what's seasonally wild and edible in our area

Whenever I do wild edibles presentations, I am inevitably asked how much of my diet consists of foraged foods. Of course, that greatly depends on the time of year. However, whether or not I create entire wild foods feasts or  merely graze from nature whilst out walking the dogs, I try to make sure that I include at least one wild ingredient in anything I prepare. Last weekend was a pretty typical example, and even though this is a sparse time of year for harvesting from nature, I still managed to find plenty of ingredients.



For breakfast on Saturday, I made a batch of scrambled eggs with chopped bittercress. In the afternoon, since the weather was lousy, I decided to stay home and do some baking. My wife suggested that I make apple turnovers. As usual, I used acorn flour to give them that unique nutty taste. They were so good, I didn't expect them to last very long.
 

More about Paul's wild diet & pastry-stealing squirrels

Events and Camp Fairs

Beginning after the soon-to-be new year we're hosting events and open houses, and will be attending numerous camp fairs in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Upcoming is Winter Tales with Chuck Stead, on Saturday, January 17th, from Noon to 1 pm. 
 


See a full list of events and camp fairs here

Upcoming Open Houses


Saturday, January 17th
Sunday, February 15th
*Saturday, February 28th 
Sunday, March 15th
Saturday, March 28th
Sunday, April 12th
Sunday, April 26th
Saturday, May 9th
Sunday, May 24th

All open houses take place at the Green Meadow Waldorf School: 307 Hungry Hollow Road. Stop by anytime between 1-4pm.
*(11 am - 2 pm)


Non-competitive and nature-oriented, The Nature Place enables children to be themselves, with their friends, in the great outdoors. Learn more at thenatureplace.com
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