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The Dirt - November
"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different, and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air."

-Eric Sloane

Ed's Corner

With chilliness in the air, rain and snow in the forecast, and less sunlight each day, November sometimes gets a bad rap. I was reminded of this when looking through poetry for the perfect one to include here. Lot's of "gloomy", "shadows", and "bare trees" in November, it seems. And yet, though I have certainly felt the melancholy of the season at times, I have also felt something else in November's unique mystique.

I believe it's similar to what the Dutch refer to as 'hyyge' - a feeling of coziness and comfortable conviviality (according to Wikipedia), a contented warm atmosphere. Though the wind may be cold and the light low, there is, in each November day, an opportunity to embrace and give thanks for quiet comforts. The poem below capture's this feeling well...I hope you too can notice it and cultivate it this season.

"The snapping of pitch from a burning log,
The faint scent of pine filling the room.
Flames leaping about as if it were a ballet
Performing for its audience.
The soft, comforting glow of candlelight,
Bringing with it serenity and quiet thoughts."
-   Linda Christensen, Autumn's Beauty 

Today: Final Day of Campership Fundraising Drive!


Donate by midnight tonight to receive a stainless steel drinking straw (plus cleaning brush!) as a small token of our gratitude! All donations are tax deductible and any amount is deeply appreciated and helpful.

Read more about the Campership Fund here!

Click here to donate!
"I just donated as a way to thank The Nature Place for being there for my son. His time at The Nature Place was a life-changing, positive experience. He’s applying to colleges now, and as he reflects on who he is and what he has accomplished, he has been thinking a lot about TNP. You are mentioned fondly in his applications."
-Received yesterday from a former camp parent

The Sustainability Scoop

A hub for 'green' information and inspiration

How to Reduce Electricity Use
It's more fun than you'd think!

Ayla Dunn Bieber [candle]lights the way toward more conscious energy use in our homes, with tips and activities to help your family reduce your electricity use (and your monthly bill!)...

What better time to talk about energy use (specifically, electricity use) than just after turning the clocks back, when our homes seem darker so much earlier! Personally, I go through phases of being more conscious about my electricity use. I am happy to say that lately I have been in a more aware phase, and even more so after doing research for this 'scoop'!

So, let's get into it: "According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every American replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR light bulb, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year, we would save more than $600 million in energy costs in a year, and we would reduce greenhouse gases emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road" [source].

What?! Sobering, right? And inspiring!

Here are some fun and easy things you can do at home to 1) increase your family's attention around your electricity use, and 2) take concrete steps toward energy reduction. I'm so excited to forge some new habits together! 
  • Have an electricity free day! Your power doesn't have to be out to experience the magic this can bring. In fact, we'd like to do it together! NPDC declares Sunday, Nov. 25th a shared electricity-free day! Send us pictures of what your family does with your day (perhaps a picture of your candlelit dinner table?). This is a wonderful way to jump-start bringing attention to your electricity use. Are there certain lights you instinctively turn on when they aren't actually needed? Do you turn off the lights every time you leave a room? Are there certain lights you leave on all the time? Bringing awareness is the first step toward making long term changes.
  • Get crafty by creating light switch covers to help remind you and your family to turn the lights off! Climatekids NASA has a fun template, but the sky is the limit. Use a design that fits your family!
  • Learn what electronic items in your home are sucking energy while they are powered off!! This is a HUGE one. Here is an informative article on how to identify these items and what to do! If you don't have time to read the article, the short of it is that we need to either unplug devices (including cell phone chargers and computers) when not in use, or for areas in your home that you have several things plugged in, use a 'smart power strip' that knows when a device is off and shuts down electricity to it. This can save you from all the bending and reaching each time you need to turn your computer on or off etc). 
  • Make a commitment to eat dinner only by candle-light - for a night, a week, a month... a year... (who doesn't love a candlelit dinner!?)  

We also love supporting our local co-op, The Hungry Hollow Co-op. When they heard we were writing about energy conservation, they wanted to offer an exclusive deal to our Dirt readers (!!). Stop in and present this coupon for savings on your purchase of candles this winter!

I'm so excited to hear how you and your family have fun with this topic! Please keep me posted.

Signing off and shutting down,

New Dates! Primitive Living Skills

Mark your calendars, Spring Series dates below!

Topics and registration available soon. For now, save the dates!
Children Sessions:
February 3, 24
March 3, 17
April 7, 28
May 5, 19

Adult Full-Day Workshops
March 16
May 11

Family Sessions series #1:
February 3
March 3
April 7
May 5

Family Sessions series #2:
Feb 24
March 3
April 28
May 19

Timely Bird Special

The deadline is just one month away. Sign up now, before holiday busy-ness takes over!

Missed our early bird registration
deadline? Don't worry, late birds, this one's for you.

Sign up for Summer 2019 by December 15th, 2018, paying half your balance then and the other half on January 15th, to receive 7.5% off your total camp tuition!

To see the Timely Bird Rates, click hereSign up here if this second chance for savings is calling your name!

The Traveler and the Cook

In her new series, our cooking instructor, Eva Szigeti, writes about airport experiences that went beyond the expected...

At the Airport

For the weary traveler, airports are rarely fun. Usually, we don’t think of airports as places where the real travel experience happens. They are just the unavoidable necessary steps toward our travel destinations, where all the fun and experiencing is supposed to happen. If time spent at an airport becomes memorable, it is usually for the wrong reason: a missed plane, hours of delay, lost luggage…
That being said, I’d like to share two very different airport-related experiences that don’t fit this equation.
One of them happened years ago in Paris Orly Airport. As I was absent-mindedly hurrying through the airport, I suddenly became a witness of a tiny moment in some strangers’ story and felt deeply touched by it.
I had very little time to catch my connecting flight. Navigating the corridors as a little piece of an anonymous moving crowd, the only thing on my mind was to get to the right gate on time. But then, suddenly, I had to stop. We all had to stop, and readjust our minds, our perception of the world—because the following happened: The column of people in front of me stopped moving. Something was wrong. I could see the escalator at the end of the narrow corridor—the only available exit route in front of us. The escalator was running and there was a crowd of people seemingly waiting to get on, but the steps of the escalator continued their rhythmic ascent without carrying any people.
The group at the very front seemed to be traveling together. Their clothing stood out. They weren’t dressed for the cold Parisian winter day. Rather, some wore short-sleeved T-shirts; others wore traditional African clothing made for a warm climate. They seemed scared and indecisive. The older members of the group were discussing something. Suddenly a teenaged boy stepped out of the group and turned back as if asking for the approval of the elders. He then stepped onto the escalator and went up. Shortly after, the others hesitantly followed the young boy. I realized that escalators were not part of their experience prior to this moment. Confronted with one for the first time, they did not know what to do until the curiosity of the young boy grew stronger than his fear, and he showed the group the way…
I do not know what was to follow for these families after they arrived at the top of the escalator. Perhaps they were on a vacation, or perhaps they were fleeing their homeland. I have often wondered how their lives unfolded since that cold day in Paris. I hope they found their way and their place.
The other very different and cheerful story involves travelling with my children and their perception of a country, based solely on its largest airport. We were changing planes in Zurich, Switzerland. This time, I didn’t have to worry about not making it on time to the connecting flight, as we had a five-hour layover. I was worried about having too much time. Spending hours in transit after an overnight flight is usually not fun.
I had prepared. We had plenty of snacks packed to fight hunger and also serve as a distraction. There were a few small toys, books and activity booklets in my backpack, ready to provide a little entertainment. But, in the end, we never took them out. The children vastly enjoyed the airport. The sleepiness was gone and the boredom was lifted as they looked out of the airport windows and past the runways. As far as the eye could see, there was forest, and only forest. We were at the largest airport in Switzerland and it wasn’t surrounded by an urban or industrial landscape, but rather, endless trees. The children noticed it right away. They pointed it out, and they loved it. They appreciated how clean everything was, too. We enjoyed the view for a while, and then it was time for lunch. We chose a deli that imitated the looks of a rustic small town bakery. The soft pretzels with ham a cheese looked so good and tasted even better. A piece of Swiss chocolate for dessert followed. We learned and experienced that there is such a thing as a good airport food - at least in Switzerland. Of course, one pays the price, as Switzerland is anything but inexpensive.

The natural question for my children to ask was: “Why don’t we live in Switzerland?” This country, experienced only through its airport, somehow made so much sense to them. My children now often talk about Switzerland. Since spending five hours at the airport in Zurich, this country has become one of their dream destinations. My daughter started learning Italian, and explained her decision among others things with: “It could be useful in Switzerland”.

So we keep saving for a ‘real’ trip to the country of the majestic Alps, delicious chocolate, and yummy airport sandwiches.

Click here for Eva's Airport Pretzel Sandwich recipe!

Share something with us!

Looking for an outlet for your creative expression? Do you like nature? Do you like to write stories, paint, or take photographs? How about penning a haiku? We're calling upon folks of all ages to contribute to The Dirt. If you feel inspired, send something in to us (you can reply to this email) and we'll put it in The Dirt!

The First Thanksgiving

Chuck Stead shares some historical context for the 'quintessential' Thanksgiving meal...

Early American Plymouth Colony settlers in New England made pumpkin pies without crusts. They stewed their pumpkins or filled a hollow pumpkin shell with milk, honey and spices and then baked it in hot ashes. Natives brought pumpkins and squash to the shared meals and taught the settlers various uses and preparations. This lead to pumpkin pie being served at the first Thanksgiving. By the 1670s, recipes for ‘pumpion pie’, as it was called, began to appear in English cookbooks. Recipes called for cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and soon added apples, raisins and currants. In 1796 American Cookery by an American Orphan written by Amelia Simmons was published and was the first cookbook to include Native American dishes. Simmons' pumpkin pies were baked in a crust similar to present-day pumpkin pies.

In all likelihood, venison, not turkey, was served at the earliest Thanksgiving meals. Deer were plentiful and one deer could feed a good number of people - more so than a single turkey. According to records of what is traditionally known as "The First Thanksgiving," the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash. William Bradford notes that, "besides waterfowl, there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many." Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except, notably, the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner. Early feasts of the Order of Good Cheer, a French Canadian predecessor to the modern Thanksgiving, featured a potluck dinner with freshly-hunted fowl, game, and fish, hunted and shared by both French Canadians and local natives.

A Sunflower with Hidden Culinary Delights

Wild food forager Paul Tappenden shares the ways he prepares this winter treat, which has a rather stinky side effect...

I’m not a big fan of Sunflowers. Since we have a small property, just one or two plants would take over half the space. However, there is one member of the genus that I am partial to: Helianthus tuberosus, Jerusalem Artichoke. To begin with, it blooms in October, when all those around it are done flowering, and secondly, it has tasty edible tubers. 

After the flowers have died back in November/December, and after the first frost, I take my trusty fork and dig carefully around the base of each plant, trying not to spear any of the tubers that are growing among the roots. Sometimes I will find three or four small tubers, and at other times, I will unearth several large specimens. It is fun to anticipate what will come up with the next forkful of soil. Once I have a healthy pile of chokes, I take them home, clean off the dirt, and store them in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. This way, they last for ages. 

'Sun chokes', as they are also called, are delicious eaten raw or cooked. Their only drawback is that the tubers are high in inulin, a sugar that can cause rather gaseous results. In fact, my daughter calls them fartichokes. I’ve tried them many ways over the years, and there aren’t many ways to prepare them that don’t result in gastric fermentation. However, I’ve found two ways that work: dehydrating (as chips or flour) and fermenting. What’s more, fermented sun chokes are very tasty. I also heard recently that boiling them in water containing baking soda does the trick, but I haven’t tried that yet.

I’ve made the tubers into flour, which I baked with a few times, but I prefer using acorn or nut flours. However, sun choke flour is much quicker and easier to make. Other ways I enjoy eating sun chokes are julienned in salads. prepared in a cream sauce, au gratin, and just plain baked. Each way is delicious, and each way ultimately turns into a fart fest. 

Stay Tuned: 2019 Event Dates in December's Dirt

Looking to meet us in your neighborhood, check out our campus, or come to one of our public programs? Stay tuned for next month's Dirt, which will announce all of our upcoming Camp Fair appearances, Open Houses, and dates for events like Winter Tales with Chuck Stead, Maple SugaringOutragehiss Pets, and our Wild Edible Plant Walk.

Upcoming Open Houses

Open Houses for the 2019 camp season begin in January.

Alternately, if you’d like to get a jump start on your planning, we’ll be giving private tours all fall. Please contact us to arrange a time!

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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