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MAR. 16, 2016

The Importance of Summer Camp

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Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

Giving your child the gift of summer camp is, in my mind, one the greatest gifts you can ever give them.  It is a gift of community, social connections, connections to the natural world, and finding one’s place and voice in the world.  Stepping away from home and into another safe and nurturing environment where one is expected to be responsible for oneself and contribute to the community is a time of great growth for a child.

Every day more and more research is done on the value of educational experiences outside of the classroom.  A good summer camp environment is designed to challenge young people physically, mentally, socially and spiritually with steady encouragement from staff who love being with children and teens and who are committed to encouraging growth on all fronts.

Sending your child away to camp can be a difficult decision, especially the first time.  As a parent of now young adults, I have been there and understand that feeling.  I can say from personal experience and from watching hundreds of families arrive for their first ever camp session, giving your child this space to grow is one of the best things you will ever do for them.

If you are still sitting on the fence about whether or not your child, or you, are ready for camp I encourage you to go to the American Camp Association website and check out their articles and resources.   In particular I think you will enjoy this article.

Hope to see you at camp soon!

Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

SEP. 30, 2014

Precious Spaces Everywhere You Go

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Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director

One of my favorite places on Eagle’s Nest campus is our garden – full of life, energy and potential at every turn. Ryan, our Garden Manager has been doing a beautiful job of creating a menagerie of gardening beds, each one utilizing a different technique, a different amount of space or special growing mediums suited to very particular needs. I have been thrilled with what our campers and students have learning about composting, soil enhancement, planting, weeding (yes lots of weeding), harvesting and preservation. These skills they are learning are easily carried home to create gardens both large and small.

garden
This month I have been traveling a good bit connecting with Eagle’s Nesters across the Southeast and I had a terrific find in the middle of Washington, DC where I least expected it. There, in the shadows of the Washington Cathedral was a precious space, very like our garden at Eagle’s Nest, called the Newark Street Garden. I was totally enthralled with this eclectic array of small plots, each one hosting a different pattern, plants, artwork, insect life and so much more. In my three day stay I rambled through these gardens each day taking in the beauty and the potential of all that was there. By the end of my DC stay I was ready to head back to Eagle’s Nest with new energy for encouraging our campers and students to be that person who has a garden at their home or who helps to start a community garden in their neighborhood. Next time you are at Eagle’s Nest head on down to our precious space and get inspired for what you can do!

garden 5

garden 3

garden 2

NOV. 25, 2013

What’s Happening in the Garden This Fall?

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Short days and cold nights are here and that makes for a lot of changes in the garden. This time of year brings a welcome end to the constant weeding or harvesting of summer and an opportunity to direct our attention toward the long term.

We are all about building community here at Eagle’s Nest and that is exactly what this dormant season will bring to the garden. There will be quite a lot of new species with new life styles and symbiotic relationships helping to create a more complete and sustainable ecosystem.

black locus

A lot of unsuspecting perennials, like this Black Locust tree, will wake up next spring in new locations ready to change the world, or at least our small part of it.

While the frosts have slowed our harvesting down quite a bit it has by no means stopped. That beautiful bed of broccoli did indeed turn out a nice crop in the beginning of November and should continue to produce smaller side shoots. We are also still harvesting Lettuce, Carrots, Kale, Beets, and Spinach.

broc

Just before the first frost in mid October the Outdoor Academy students and I dug our two beds of sweet potatoes which were planted at the end of May. I had my doubts about the success of the crop due to so much rain and poor drainage in those areas but the sweet potatoes were apparently confident enough to produce more than 230 pounds from only 200ft². We also harvested some of the leaves which are delicious sautéed or in soups and can be found seasonally at farmers markets or growing on sweet potato plants.

sweet potats

There is a major new feature taking shape in the garden this fall, a community garden area featuring 4’x4’ raised beds. This area will provide a space for students and staff to take ownership of a small part of the garden and experiment with backyard scale agriculture on their own. The grid pattern creates an extremely accessible area in which to work and learn. As the hedgerows develop the community garden will become a fairly secluded spot within the larger garden. It’s going to be a really beautiful spot.

garden wide view

There are many different styles of sustainable agriculture and they all share the idea that natural systems should be encouraged and supported. We are attempting to do just that by putting the right plants in the right places and then letting them build a healthy ecosystem. Whatever the problem is we have a plant that will help to fix it.

Black Locust trees, like the one at the beginning of this article, add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil as well as provide bird habitat, firewood, and building materials.

garden herb

Comphrey is a dynamic accumulator, a particularly vigorous plant that can thrive in poor soils by scavenging nutrients that are inaccessible to other plants. These nutrients become available to your crops when the Comphrey leaves die or are composted. Be careful though while it will not spread on its own, it is almost impossible to remove from a location once it is planted because even the smallest roots will produce a new plant. This one is going to be a major part of the garden for a long time.
Some crops are grown for the kitchen, some are for other plants, and some are for the bugs.

flower

These Fava beans are being grown as a cover crop in the high tunnel. They will produce a large amount of nitrogen and organic matter for the next crop in line. Flowering in November they also provide food for beneficial insects and something beautiful to look at when it’s cold outside. Fava beans actually feed beneficials even when they are not flowering through special Extrafloral Nectaries. Another symbiotic relationship encouraging a healthier ecosystem.

Next season will hold many more exciting new developments as the systems mature and start to create a more diverse and interdependent environment. I can’t wait to see it. For now you will find me collecting leaves, moving trees, planting bulbs, sheet mulching, pruning, harvesting, double digging, and thinking up those new developments for next year.