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MAY. 11, 2017

Garden Work in the Transition of Seasons

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When I took a walk down to the Eagle’s Nest Garden this week to see how progress was coming for this summer’s growing season, I half expected Bella to thrust a pair of work gloves or a tool into my hands.  For all that she has been doing this semester to prepare for the sunny days of the western North Carolina summer, Bella was just as eager to pause and talk about the work that has already been done and the many projects that lay ahead.

For those of you who have not heard, Bella Smiga joined the Eagle’s Nest community over the winter as our Foundation’s Garden Manager.  After wrapping up an undergraduate degree in Environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Bella worked in the solar energy industry.  During that time she started exploring gardening on her own, found that she enjoyed the simplicity of growing food and the sense of self-reliance it brought her, and began dreaming about a career of feeding people without further damaging the earth.  Last year she completed a Master’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College where her education focused on both the practical application of low-impact farming and using sustainability-minded agriculture systems to build community.

Since her first afternoon at Eagle’s Nest, Bella has been working with the weekly Outdoor Academy garden work crew on projects to prepare the land for spring plantings.  These projects have included trimming back and rebuilding trellises for the raspberries and blackberries and pruning locust trees to let more light onto the growing beds.  As we stepped through the willow fence and out onto the fields, Bella explained her next steps.  The garden is at the transition point between the winter and the summer.  Cover crops, meant to replenish the soil with nutrients and stave off the erosion of rich topsoil, still cover most of the fields.  Seedling plants, including peppers, beets, broccoli, yellow squash, onions, several varieties of tomato, eggplant, zucchini, watermelon, and many herbs are being carefully nurtured in their infant stages as they await planting.

As winter fades and the threat of the last killing frost disappears, Bella is starting to experiment with new growing methods.  “One teaspoon of healthy soil contains more living microorganisms than there are people on the planet,” she reminds me.  Most farmers till the soil every spring to integrate new nutrients and prepare the land for new crops.  Yet, Bella fears the damage tilling can do to the soil life—healthy dirt makes healthy vegetables, after all.  While she explores no-till growing methods, Bella also has plans to refurbish the raised planting beds used to grow crops.  These are great teaching spaces for students and summer campers to relate back to a growing scale they might have seen in a home garden.

Bella will continue to plan planting and harvesting schedules, track growth of the plants, and weed rows of crops.  Throughout the year, different young people experience different parts of the farming process.  During these last two weeks of spring at the Outdoor Academy, Semester 44 will continue to enjoy some of the early plantings that are ready to be harvested, such as lettuce, kale, garlic, and radishes.

Eric McIntyre, Resident Wilderness Educator

APR. 13, 2017

Reflections from the River

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Clara Ruth Logan, one of our semester 44 studetns, wants to share her experiences during the last paddling trip.

“There are many moments at The Outdoor Academy when I feel my body and my mind getting stronger, and our 3-day paddling trip last weekend was one of them. With the sun on my arms and the postcard view of the Appalachian Mountains over the French Broad River, it seemed impossible to feel unhappy.

On the first day, nervousness and excitement bubbled up inside of me as our instructors, Lucas, Eric and Ryan, told us the plan. As soon as we got on the river, we would have to ferry across against the current to avoid a strainer on the left of the river. I hopped in the bow and my partner Margo got in the stern of the boat. I was so scared but we did it and I felt so strong! Margo and I continued down the river and enjoyed the sunshine, the beautiful view, and the occasional splash of water on our skin.

On the second day of our trip we had some crazy rapids! I loved the wave trains because our boat would gallop down the river while tons of water splashed over us. We learned that if we paddled hard and really focused on our boat control, we could let go of the fear, and our excitement and happiness would take over. I felt strong and capable on the river, and most importantly, I felt truly happy.”

Thank you Clara Ruth for sharing.

Rodrigo Vargas, Spanish Teacher

FEB. 24, 2017

To Walk with Intention and Awareness: A Glimpse of a Weekend at Buffalo Cove

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“…. At one period of the earth’s history there was a kind of ‘earthly paradise,’ in the sense that there was a perfectly harmonious and perfectly natural life: the manifestation of Mind was in accord – was still in complete accord – and in total harmony with the ascending march of Nature, without perversion or deformation. This was the first stage of Mind’s manifestation in material forms.” (The Mother’s “Agenda”, Vol 2)

This past weekend, Outdoor Academy Semester 44 students had the privilege of experiencing the power of connectedness to the Earth, and learn a lot about themselves as well, during their recent trip to Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center, outside of Boone, North Carolina.

Nathan Rourke, director of Buffalo Cove, has deep roots within Eagle’s Nest Foundation dating back to developing the Paleo Man adventures for summer camp and being on faculty during the initial years of OA and the Birch Tree program.  His daughter, Maddie, is a current student at OA and they have practiced and refined their skills of living sustainably and harmoniously with the Earth, dating back to Nathan’s teenage years.

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OA and Buffalo Cove have forged this partnership throughout the years, instilling virtues and values within each organization with a three-day trip for each semester.  In exchange for his staff teaching earth skills lessons (stalking, bowl burning, fire by friction, shelter-building, etc.), OA students practice their work ethic principle through work crews, building trails, setting beams for structures, lopping, and helping in permaculture gardens.

Upon their return, students write reflection papers for Outdoor Education class.  Here are a few excerpts:

“Nathan does a great job of giving an explanation of WHY we are doing every work crew, so it feels more meaningful and powerful.”

“It felt good to dance around the fire on Saturday evening, not bound by judgement, and it allowed our community to begin the process of breaking down our walls to allow us to flourish.”

“Awareness was a constant theme of the weekend.  Awareness of yourself, your mind, the full moon, the cool breeze in the valley and others, is such a powerful piece.  The world is much larger than ourselves, and yet we get bound to this at times.”

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Each semester I reach out to Nathan and his wonderful staff before each trip to Buffalo Cove, and speak to the community needs of each OA semester and what I hope for them to come away with.  He does an amazing job of framing each activity.  His program intentional and grounded, and students always come away with a powerful transformative experience.  Whether it be howling at the moon, drumming around a fire, dressing a rabbit, learning how animals stalk prey, or cooking over an open fire, Buffalo Cove is always exactly what each semester needs at exactly the right time.

Lucas Newton, Outdoor Education Manager

FEB. 13, 2017

Remembering Mo Waite

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My dad meant so much to so many. He was a great, great man who will be sorely missed, but the good he brought to this world will live on in us all. To carry on all that he did will be an honor and a high task- in his wonderful memory we will do it! 

– Noni Waite-Kucera, Executive Director, Eagle’s Nest Foundation

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Dr. Benjamin Moseley (Mo) Waite, scientist, educator, conservationist, and friend and mentor to many, died February 3rd, 2017.

In 1950 Mo’s parents Dr. Alex and Hannah Waite chartered Eagle’s Nest Camp, originally founded in 1927, as a non-profit educational organization. Mo first attended camp with them as an 8-year-old boy in 1945 and continued to spend his summers at camp until he started graduate school. In the summer following his college graduation, he ran the laundry, washing all of the campers’ clothes, wringing them out and hanging them out to dry. He even pressed their jeans! In the 1970’s Mo helped found Carolina Camps for Children with Diabetes, providing life changing opportunities for children to learn to manage their illness in a camp setting. Mo has said that he found that to be “one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had”. Mo continued his parents’ legacy by serving on the board of trustees for over 35 years.

Eagle’s Nesters through the years will remember Mo as the mountain of a man who would hike a Dutch oven or watermelons out their camping sites for them, as the red mustached man who led them on “short” hikes in the woods, or as the chief of the Migisi. Trustees will remember paddling down the rivers of Western North Carolina or washing dishes and dancing in the Sun Lodge kitchen with Mo. They’ll also remember meaningful time spent on hikes through the woods and his thoughtful guidance as President of the Board of Trustees. Some are also lucky to have a least one of the beautiful hand turned bowls that he crafted. Mo started what has now become an annual Eagle’s Nest silent auction with about 6 of these bowls. The auction now raises close to $5,000 dollars each year for camp and Outdoor Academy scholarships. So beloved was Mo that one year a fellow trustee bid $500 for an old ceramic bowl that Mo had made and that was being used to serve hummus in at the auction.

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Mo with the Eagle’s Nest Board of Trustees.

Mo graduated from Rollins College in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He continued his studies at Duke University, and in 1963 he obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry. After postdoctoral fellowships at Duke University and in The Netherlands, he joined the faculty as an assistant professor at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in 1968.  He became the chairman of biochemistry in 1978, a position that he continued to fulfill until his retirement in 1998. He made tremendous contributions in the field of lipid biochemistry, including a landmark publication, “The Phospholipases”. He trained and was a mentor of numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have subsequently established successful research careers in both academics and industry.

He loved returning to his summer home in Maine to tend to his “deer-loved” vegetable garden and his relationships with friends and community. Mo loved the natural, bold beauty of Maine and together with Helen, his wife of 57 years, committed themselves to protecting and conserving its natural habitats. Moseley served on the board of Directors of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy for over 10 years, which, since its founding, has protected 6,330 acres of land, watersheds, islands and 62 miles of shoreline in Washington County.

Scientist, ceramicist, furniture maker, gardener, pickler, blueberry farmer, white water paddler, world traveler, bibliophile; Mo’s interests and talents ranged as wide as the circle of people who respected and loved him.

Together Mo and Helen, former Eagle’s Nest Camp Director, Executive Director, and founder of The Outdoor Academy, crafted a beautiful ship of life—each taking a turn as the mast and the rudder. Thousands of campers, students, faculty, professional peers, friends, extended family will continue to be touched by their joyful and inspiring journey through life.

Mo had an impact on so many people’s lives. In the week since his death his family has received and heard many stories that speak to his kindness, wisdom and humor. We invite you to share your stories of Mo with his family and Eagle’s Nest. Please send your stories to Noni at noni@enf.org.

A celebration of his life will be held on February 25th at Brevard College.

FEB. 8, 2017

Conflict Resolution 101

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What do you do when you have a disagreement with someone? What if that person was in many of your classes at school, did chores with you, and slept in the bunk next to yours? Learning how to resolve interpersonal conflict is a skill we teach early on at OA. The honeymoon phase only lasts a few weeks, and then it is completely normal for any group to enter into sibling-like behavior, which can include not only great fun and laughter, but also some squabbling and eye-rolling. With principles such as Integrity and Self-Reliance, not to mention a cornerstone of Community, we value timely, compassionate, assertive and empathetic feedback as a way to keep our community healthy and happy.

Last weekend, students learned and then practiced how to give and receive feedback. They learned how to use “I” statements, choose an accurate feeling word, explain why they felt a certain way, and follow it with a request. The finished product might sound something like this: “I felt disrespected tonight when you laughed during my dinner announcement, because I was already nervous and I needed your support. Next time will you please not laugh when I’m speaking in front of the group?” This clear, concise way of communicating allows the speaker to share her or his experience of the situation, while eliminating a blaming, shaming tone usually found in “you” statements. Students also learned how to VOMP, which is a conflict resolution style used for more intense disagreements. VOMPing is a back-and-forth conversation that goes through four steps. The first step is Voice, where one person shares her or his side of the argument, while the other person listens. The second step is for each person to Own her or his part of the argument, acknowledging anything that she or he might have done to add to the disagreement. The third step is to share eMpathy for what the other person experienced, talking through what it might have been like for that person, such as what that person might have been feeling. During the eMpathy step, the discussion usually softens and both participants are allowed the space to feel the vulnerability of the other. Finally, the two participants make a Plan in order to avoid further miscommunications. These are challenging skills to master, but it is our hope to build a culture of feedback and respect during the OA semester by taking the risk to deal with things directly. It is important for students to feel empowered to offer and receive feedback from all members of the community in order for each of us to move towards becoming the best “self” we can be.

Susan Daily, Dean of Students 

DEC. 5, 2016

Give Thanks

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I was thinking about the feelings of the students days before our Thanksgiving break. They were excited and a little nervous about it. I asked Mary-Lawson Cox, one of my Semester 43 Spanish students, her thoughts about the week away from the Outdoor Academy.  This is what she wrote, and I want to share with all of you.

Give Thanks

As students go home to their families, we all will reflect on our time that has been spent at the Outdoor Academy. We will share our experiences and new traditions that we have learned, one of them being the idea of giving thanks. Before every meal, we all hold hands and take time to think of all of the things we are thankful for. One person will say “Give thanks!” with the rest of us following. It is the little moments like these, the gratitude given for your meal, the squeeze of your neighbor’s hand, or the verbal act of saying what you appreciate that makes a community come together. I know I can speak for everyone when I say that this break has given us the time to think about what a true community is. A community is a place where you can come together with one another and grow as both a member and as an individual. It is a place where you feel most loved and you feel you can be your truest self. We are thankful for the time we have spent with our families but are excited to return home to the mountains where we can give thanks for the rest of the time we have on our journey.

Mary-Lawson Cox, a student attending the Outdoor Academy

Thank you Mary-Lawson for these words and let’s Give Thanks always!

Rodrigo Vargas, Spanish Teacher