This past weekend was the annual youth fishing derby at the lake ( St. George). I volunteered to haul over a carload of # 10 cans, several spatulas, and a few crates of dry kindling to help kids learn to build a fire and cook their own food. It was so fun! The ice fishing derby is a great mid-winter event created to encourage kids and their families to get out and ENJOY winter. A whole day of winter fun! Kids (and adults!) could try their hand at drilling a hole through the ice and ice fishing, they could put on a pair of the skates or strap on the snowshoes that were provided, or borrow the sleds to use, or take a ride around the lake on a snowmobile, they could even crawl inside an igloo. My contribution (along with my much-appreciated Fernwood helpers) was to set up a “Hobo cookout’ using # 10 cans as individual stoves and to teach kids how to cook on them. Please picture in your mind a bunch of kids in a large area looking out over the lake scattered with large # 10 cans and small ‘kid constructed’ piles of tinder and dry twigs and boxes of ‘strike anywhere’ matches and plates piled high with hamburgers, hot dogs, and rolls. Now you have an image of how things looked. Here’s the really fun and great thing about teaching kids to build a fire outdoors in the middle of winter and letting them grill their own lunch; All of a sudden, despite any past finicky behavior about food, they will now eat almost anything. They are so proud of this basic skill…make fire, cook meat… that they forget about any picky tendencies. I watched one very slight girl cook and eat 6 hotdogs ( no bun, straight off the stick), I saw several hot dogs roll off the stoves and hit the ground, picking up a slight coating of vegetative matter, only to be quickly wiped off with a wet and grimy mitten for further cooking, then eaten. Many of the cooks charred their dogs to the point of oblivion, no bother, they ate those too. Hamburgers were flipped onto the ground, over-cooked, undercooked, and then happily eaten smothered in ketchup using a wooden shingle as a plate. One boy did touch the top of his stove without wearing his gloves and burned a finger, teared up for a minute, plunged his hand in the snow for relief, and then continued cooking his burger to perfection with the other hand. Bravo! All of this great fun happened because a community recognized the importance of getting outdoors, learning seasonal skills and craft, as well as providing an opportunity to embrace winter here in Maine. The event was also free for everyone… burgers, hot dogs, chili, soup, and baked goods were all donated and also free, all day. The big barn on the property was open and heated with a big wood stove, inside were posters and booklets about fish species, lake habitat, animal tracking guides, and ice fishing rules and regulations. Large pots of hot chocolate, coffee, and tea were on standby for anybody needing a warm drink. Community is essential to all of this. I am so proud to live in a place where we celebrate the beauty and opportunity provided by our landscape and to gather, one and all, to have fun and share knowledge and experience. As you can probably surmise, it was a good day! Oh, and check out some of the beauties kids caught throughout the day ( picture above)…not bad, heh?
The studio that has been on our list to build is underway and will be completed and ready for late winter/ early spring classes. Over the last several years we have been offering classes here at the nursery and farm. Rick has taught many classes on native plants, plant propagation, and designing beds for shade. We’ve had workshops on building hypertufa vessels, dyeing and spinning wool, and soap making. We’ve taught people how to butcher their own chickens and cure and smoke bacon. Now we are wishing to expand the classes and workshops we offer. More classes on raising sheep, washing and dyeing wool, and spinning and felting. A workshop on fermentation, home canning, and sausage making, may be what’s offered. Imagine wanting to learn about homesteading skills, and knowing of a place to learn them. In addition, Rick will increase the amount of workshops being led on horticultural topics. A native plant walk and idtentification class. A talk on shade and woodland plants for the garden. A hands-on work shop on plant dividing. Just to name a few. We think the nursery and farm here are unique in many ways. The nursery is unusual with regards to the native and woodland plants ( shade and some sun loving plants, as well) we grow . Rick has been working with natives and woodland plants for well over thirty years. His knowledge and experience has always been a welcome help to customers who have questions or for those who want to learn the most they can about native and woodland plants. We have always been a rare find amongst plant enthusiasts. Though we actually have about 15 acres of land, we grow a tremendous amount of food on what would be considerd a small holding. We can see all of our gardens from the house. In addition we raise at least two pigs a year, 75-100 meat birds ( chickens ), lamb, and raise a substantial laying flock. Our three large organic gardens easily produce enough food for two to three families. We operate a greenhouse, a hoop house for an extended growing season, and several cold frames. What we buy for food is kept at a minimum on account of what we are able to raise and preserve. We feel that we are a good model for living sustainably on a somewhat small piece of land. Not everyone wants to own large 100 acre parcels of land, and knowing that you can provide for yourself on far less, can be helpful information. Also, we are firm believers that growing even a little bit of food on your own decreases your dependency on others to do it for you. We see our life here as a cycle of activity that allows us to be as self sufficient as possible. So, in order to accomplish this, we pay close attention to how we’re doing things. We are good soil stewards. We rotate crops. We pay attention to pollinators and how to avoid plant disease using organic methods. We keep our overhead low and try to always be efficient in our work. These are the types of skills we’d like to share. The new studio will be a place to offer more workshops and classes on all that we do here, from native plants to growing your own food, to learning about soil amendment or making your own soap. We’ll be keeping you posted on the progress and would love to hear any suggestions about classes folks might be interested in ( Sharon, if you’re reading , I have your ‘what to do with herbs’ class on the list). If you are interested in plants, take advantage of the knowledge and experience Rick has to offer, and suggest a class. By spring we will have a list of what’s being offered so far, so keep checking in. In the meantime, we’ll keep writing about life here at Fernwood.