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The Dirt - May
"The force of Spring - mysterious, fecund, powerful beyond all measure."

-
Michael Garofalo

Ed's Corner


Hello friends! What you're about to read constitutes the last issue of The Dirt until September 2018. Thank you all for reading along this year. We'll be doing many of the things we've written about this year together during our camp season. Most importantly, we'll be unplugging, and going OUT.

As Anne Frank said, "The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be. As long as nature exists, and it certainly will, then there will be comfort for every sorrow."

Now, with long days and warm temperatures, nature is beckoning us [almost demanding us] to get outdoors and explore. There's lots of things happening now and that's why mid-May until the beginning of July is referred to as the high tide of life in nature. Let's ride the wave while it's here!

The Sustainability Scoop

A hub for 'green' information and inspiration



Garbage Can Challenge - May Update

Ayla Dunn Bieber tells of a fowl plastic encounter, shares some bright sustainability spots, and signs off for the summer...

There has been a steady hum of busy birds around our house these past few weeks: nests being built, eggs being laid, baby birds being fed. We are lucky that a family of robins has graced us with their presence the past few years and has built a nest in a bush next to our garden! It's at the perfect height to catches glimpses at their progress as we walk by.

True story: A few weeks ago, Odelia and I were walking by the robin's nest to check on it's perfect blue eggs, when we noticed the mama bird looked to be in distress. We waited and watched and quickly noticed that her leg was caught in something! She was frantically trying to get her foot freed as she flapped and struggled. I got as close as I could, without disturbing her more, to try to see what she was caught on. Sure enough... you guessed it, folks... it was a strip of PLASTIC! Determined to help this mama bird, Odelia and I ran into the house to get a glove and pair of scissors. Just as my hand neared the scared bird, she took one last plunge and freed herself! 

I got closer to the nest and realized the robin had used this piece of plastic, weaving it among the twigs, to build her nest (not uncommon). I pulled the piece that was not compactly woven within the nest out and had a sinking feeling. It took me a while to figure out what kind of plastic it was, later realizing it was a shred of plastic material from an old tarp. This is an item I would not have thought of as 'unsustainable', but as it goes, once my eyes have been on the lookout, I have since seen more of these same shreds of plastic littered around other places as well. This story has a happy ending thought, as the eggs hatched and we have been enjoying watching the baby birds being fed worms and getting bigger! This is sadly not always the case. Let's use this story to inspire more awareness and action. It's certainly got me thinking about tarps, for one thing...Do any of you have/use any tarp alternatives? I will be doing some research on canvas tarps!



Sustainability is catching on all around us, in new spaces and in exciting ways. It is becoming hip, which while it can be annoying because we have to watch out for 'green washing', definitely has it perks. More people are getting on board every day, in ways big and small. Our favorite restaurant in Nyack, O'Donoghue's, just switched to paper straws. This is huge, because when one business makes a move, more are bound to follow! Are you seeing any broader changes around you?

Camp is right around the corner and we have some new things planned for this summer with sustainability in mind. Here is a sneak peak of a couple:

We will be partnering with Green Camps, an organization that's 'leading the environmental sustainability movement among camps in the U.S. and Canada.' We'll be increasing our camp programming around ways that we all can make small changes that help our Earth, both at camp and at home. We'll also be working towards a Leave No Trace Youth Program accreditation, as we continue to educate campers in the Leave No Trace ethic and the fundamentals of stewardship.

I'm so looking forward to seeing all of these efforts in action and to partnering with all of our camp families to really make a difference!

Through all of the ups and downs of this garbage can challenge, it has been an honor to take this journey with you this year. My hope moving forward is to hold tightly to what I have learned and continue the process of changing habits towards increased sustainability in our home. I know our family can do better than our 1/2 can of garbage per month, where we have remained for the later half of the challenge. May this summer bring your family, and mine, a little breathing room to try some new sustainable choices!

With sustainability ever on my mind, I sign off for now...
Ayla
 

For the Love of Lovage...

Our cooking instructor, Eva Szigeti, muses about lovage and what's in a name...
 
As parents, we make many important decisions. Among the first is the naming
of a child.  Finding the right name for a new baby is often a long process full of careful considerations. Many factors play a role: our origin, cultural and religious background, education, and our hopes regarding the future of our offspring. Finding a name for a newly born baby means naming without knowing who that baby really is as a person. We can only imagine the personality or ‘grown-up looks’ of our newborn. We hope that the name will be a good fit for the child’s personality and a good fit within our family and society (regardless of whether our priority is  “to fit in” or distinguish our child from the crowd).
 
The Latin proverb “Nomen est omen” captures the predictive power of a name, and is certainly at least partly true. A name puts a person in a social and cultural context. Unfortunately, it can result in stereotyping people, and can lead to assumptions, not only about our origin or social status, but also about our behavior.
 
I was walking in my garden admiring the newly emerged plants when these thoughts about naming began to occupy my mind. It was because some lovage had caught my eye. A lovely plant with an even lovelier name. Lovage is an old European herb widely used in medieval kitchens and herb gardens, but largely forgotten today. So forgotten, that the word didn’t even make it into the spell-check dictionary on my computer. As I was writing this text, the spell-check constantly indicated that there is an error in the word lovage.

My mind kept wondering about the origin of this strange word and whether “Nomen est omen” applies to plants.  Lovage looks a little like a celery (although unlike celery, it can grow up to 5 feet tall). Its flavor also reminds most people of celery, but it is stronger, more complex, and more aromatic. Personally, I like it a lot. Beneficial insects like it too.  If lovage were widely known, my guess is that its strong flavor would generate either a “love it” or “hate it” response in most people; nothing in between.
 
The plant belongs to the same family as carrots, parsley, and dill.  Its leaves, stalks, seeds, and roots are all edible. In the past, candied stalks and roots were used as a remedy. Leaves work well in salads, soups, and stews. Ancient Greeks chewed the leaves to improve digestion. Hildegard von Bingen used lovage as a culinary herb, and recommended it as a remedy for colds, heart problems, and abdominal pain.
 
Thanks to its name, lovage also has a reputation as a love potion. I am not sure about the effectiveness of the potion, because it turns out the name of the herb is the result of a semantic mix-up.  As I have learned, the original Latin name of the plant was Ligusticum, meaning ‘from Liguria’ (a region in north-western Italy). Ligusticum somehow later morphed into Levisticum. Subsequently, the plant was called loveche in Old French and loveache in Middle English. The non-poetic truth is that modern English ended up with the word lovage due to a distortion of the plant’s Latin name, and not because it had anything to do with love. Folk etymology was wrong, but regardless I still love lovage…

Click here to read Eva's Spring Potato Soup Recipe

Last Spring Primitive Living Skills Session 

Our final PLS session of the season will be held Sunday, June 10th. Sign up for an immersive, hands on experience in wilderness skills that can be used all summer long!

Sunday, June 10th
~Children Session (ages 10-14): 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM
~Adult Session (ages 17+): 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM

All sessions begin at 285 Hungry Hollow Rd. Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977

Habitat

Chuck Stead, our beloved camp storyteller, picks up where he left off last month...
 
Jeff Masters walked us kids up along the power line that crosses the road in east Hillburn, just past the Paint Shop, and then goes up the hill and over the mountain. I was directly behind him, followed by Cindy and Ricky, and even Rick’s little brother, Doug, trailing behind us. Jeff lead us over some wide expanse of rock that was a light dusty color. Crossing under the high-tension cables, he walked us into the tree line and right up to some large slabs of broken rock. He said the snake scientists call this sort of rock ‘talus’ and he said the snake scientists are called ‘herpetologists’.
            “Herpy-loligists?” Ricky asked him.
            “No, herpetologists” Jeff told him.
We all tried to say it and Dougy came up with the best version, “Herpy-lollipop-olists!”

We heard something moving and Jeff kept us back as he spotted a big black snake slipping away from where we stood. The snake was in no hurry to get away and Jeff said this might mean that he or she had just caught a mouse and had a full stomach. Once the snake was gone, Jeff told us that this was ‘good snake country’, as the rock offered nice places for them to den and the open area where the power lines were strung made a good place for mice to live. That meant there was plenty of food for the snakes. He said they also liked to lie out on the open rocks, but that was risky as hawks could see them and hunt them out there.



            I said, “Hawks eat snakes?”
            “Yup, hawks eat the snakes just as the snakes eat the mice.”
            Ricky asked, “Who eats the hawks?”
            Jeff said, “Well, eagles will, but we ain’t got much eagles around here these days. Owls and ravens and crows will eat hawk eggs, but not the hawks themselves.” Then he said, “That black snake we just seen can climb trees and sometimes they climb up to the hawk’s nest and eat the eggs too.”
            Cindy said, “In nature, everything is a meal.”
            “Yup” he told us. “Pretty much everything gets eaten eventually, even you!”
            “Me!?”
            “Well yeah, if you was to live where the polar bears or the grizzly bears or the lions was to find you.”
            Ricky said, “We don’t got them being around here, right?”
            “No we don’t and even if we did we’d keep ourselves away from them.”
            Ricky said, “Or we’d be their supper!”
            Dougy said, “I want to eat some nature!”
            Jeff told him, “You eat nature all the time. All our food comes from nature.”
            “No”, Dougy told him, “Our food comes from the grocery store.”
            Jeff laughed and said, “Where do you think the store gets it from?”
            “The food house!” Dougy declared.

Jeff told us, “The food house is everywhere.” He hunkered down and said, “You see, just like this place is good for mice, then it’s good for snakes and then good for the hawks. All of nature is a food store, only we call it a ‘habitat’. A good habitat means there will be good hunting and good eating.” He stood up and looking back down into the valley toward the thruway. He said, “But not when we build too many roads and buildings and dump garbage all over. That messes up the habitat. It’s like we were going into the food store and breaking up the shelves and refrigerators and dumping all the orange juice and milk on the floor.”

            Dougy said, “Hey! That’s wrong! We’d be bad guys to do that!”
            Jeff said, “Yup and it’s the same thing when we break up the habitat.”
            Doug thought about this and then said, “But we need roads and buildings, too.”
            “Yup, you’re right, and it’s always a trade-off. We want roads and buildings and we got to have a good habitat.”
            Cindy said, “So the snake scientists…”
            Dougy shouted, “The Herpy-lollipop-olists!”
            She said, “They are always working to see if the snake habitat is in good health?”
            Jeff said, “Yup, that’s what science is for.”
            Ricky said, “But Uncle Mal says them fellows is know-it-alls!”
            “Yeah, well a lot of them are because sometimes the ‘new-learning’ don’t give a hoot about the ‘old-learning’.”
            And Ricky said, “Ain’t that because the new takes over the old?”
Jeff looked at us and said, “Taking-over ain’t the way it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be just like a good habitat, where one thing builds into the next. In nature everything continues because everything is still connected; eventually everything comes around. Same is true with science, but it’s wrong when it forgets about the ancient wisdom.”
            I said, “What’s that?”
            He said, “It’s what came before the science. It’s what helped make the science come around.” He looked down at me and said, “And it’s in all of you.”
            Dougy squealed and said, “Oh, I feel it tickling my insides!”

We followed Jeff out from under the trees and back down along the path of the power lines. Truth is, I wasn’t at all sure what he had been talking about, but I had a feeling it would come to me. I figured it was like ‘good habitat’ - eventually everything comes around.

Poison Ivy & the Gem that is Jewelweed


Wild food forager Paul Tappenden fills us in on his poison ivy protocol and the joys of jewelweed...

A couple of years ago, I was out in my backyard doing a bit of cleaning up, without wearing gloves (not a wise decision).  However, I wasn’t bothered when I brushed against the Stinging Nettles, as they are my pals and I quite welcome their stings.  But then, I inadvertently brushed up against a sprig of poison ivy that was waiting in hiding.
 
Scratches from rose thorns don’t bother me much. Even the occasional bruise or abrasion doesn’t faze me. But brushing up against that Toxicodendron radicans makes me very nervous, and had me seeking out the antidote, without which, I am likely to develop a nasty, angry patch of itchy bumps, sores and blisters.  If I don’t treat them, they will stick around for a month or more.  Luckily, I have a poison ivy salve, made from Plantain and Yarrow, which works really well in clearing it up. Then again, I’d sooner not have to deal with it in the first place. That’s why I turn to my old pal, Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), or occasionally, Pale Jewelweed, (I. pallida). I take the juicy stems and rub them thoroughly on the area I think has come in contact with poison ivy oils and it prevents the rash from developing.

Well, I hadn’t seen Poison Ivy in my yard for years, so this sneaky little sprig, got me by surprise. As fate would have it, there wasn’t a leaf of Jewelweed growing within half a mile of my house. What was I going to do? The solution hit me almost immediately. I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning out my freezer drawer, which gave me the chance to rearrange it and dig out some old forgotten items (many of which wound up in the recycling bucket). Now, I was able to organize what was left, with room to spare.


 
I guess you may be wondering what this all has to do with poison ivy. Well, while cleaning the drawer, I was able to retrieve a small freezer bag containing several dark green ice cubes. These were what I was looking for. I had found my much-treasured Jewelweed cubes. They shone with inner and outer radiance, as if to say, “We are here to rescue you.” And I knew that they would keep their promise.
 
I rubbed any area that I thought might have been exposed with the ice, paying special attention to the areas between my fingers.  Most of the ice cube was still intact after that, so I put it back into the bag and returned it to the freezer. It should last a very long time at this rate.
 
 Every year, at The Nature Place, I make sure to show the campers how to recognize Poison Ivy and Jewelweed and teach them how to protect themselves in case of exposure to the former. Even the most susceptible campers can be kept safe from Poison Ivy rash.

GMWS Forest Preschool


This just in: Check out Green Meadow Waldorf School's brand new Forest Preschool Program enrolling this Fall!

8th Annuual
Sheep and Wool Festival

Sponsored By The Fiber Craft Studio

 

Sunday, May 27, 10:00am-4:00pm, Rain Or Shine

Location: The Fiber Craft Studio, 275 Hungry Hollow Rd., Chestnut Ridge, NY. Park on Orchard Lane.

Celebrate nature’s gifts and fiber transformation • participate in fiber craft activities, including spinning, weaving, knitting, felting, and plant dyeing • bid for unique hand-crafted gifts at the Silent Auction • see the Studio Store and display • take in a puppet show • and enjoy delicious food at the Japanese fusion food corner

Admission is free. A small fee will be charged for activities. All proceeds benefit the Fiber Craft Studio.


Camp Tours, too!


If you are considering camp for this summer, but have not made it to one of our Open Houses, join us for one of two camp tours at 11:00 am or 1:00 pm on Sunday the 27th. Tours will leave from the Sheep and Wool Festival and will answer all of your burning questions about camp! Please RSVP via camp@thenatureplace.com or by calling 845.356.1234.
 

Bring on the Dirt!


You've just finished reading the last monthly Dirt until September. We're signing off from the virtual Dirt, and heading out to play in the real dirt, digging for critters and planting seeds, all summer long. You'll find us where the worms are squirming...we hope to see you there!

Upcoming Open Houses



Camp Tours: leaving from the Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday, May 27th at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm. See details above.

The Festival will take place at 285 Hungry Hollow Road, Chestnut Ridge NY 10977.

Please email us in advance at camp@thenatureplace.com to set up your appointment. 

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