Fall 2017

Looking back at the close of 2017, our fall season was made meaningful by our many young visitors. Most prominently, all thirteen classes of Frederick County’s Head Start program frequented our farm from mid October through December. During this time, each class visited for four consecutive days, each with its own theme. On the first day, the children meet the horses and experience the responsibilities that go along with their care: grooming the dirt out of their lush winter coats and feeding them. To understand the latter, our ‘friends’ must find and sort out carrots, apples, and horse treats which, we tell them, Miss Joy dropped and lost in the grass when she went out to feed the horses their breakfast. After they have collected all of the food, we give it to the horses and watch as they gratefully munch and crunch.

On the second day, we leave the familiar barn to go exploring. Before we begin, we learn the five senses through the example of popcorn, which we can hear, smell, see, touch, and taste. After this, we break into small groups and head out into the woods. We collect the over-sized leaves of the arboretum, ride the stone lion who lays stoically by the bamboo forest, and admire the hard work of Wally the Beaver at the pond. After a half hour of exploration, we head back to the pavilion where we do leaf rubbings and paint rocks.

 On the third day, we talk about our feelings and how to change them. To review the common feelings, we have little laminated cards with emojis scattered across the grass in the riding ring. Before releasing our ‘friends’ into the riding ring to find and sort these into buckets, we give each child one of our farm-crafted pool noodle horses (or “norses”) which they ride about on. After this activity, we talk about ways we could help someone go from sad or angry to happy. To find that happiness, we groom horses out in the field, color little wooden horseshoes (which later get turned into ornaments with their pictures in it), and go to the hay playground to romp. Undeniably, the kids leave the farm with smiles.

Finally, our last day features our latest Stoney Lick Farm story, “What’s that Sound?” which is about how one of our horses, Bylgia, hears a sound and goes to find out where it came from and who made it. To do this, she has to ask all the animals on the farm to point the way for her. At last, she discovers that the noise came from our basset puppies barking in the woods! After we finish reading this story, we get into small groups to reenact Bylgia’s adventure by following color-coded cones from Glampi the horse, to Flint the Goat, to Hope the Cow, to a pretend turtle and insects, and at last to the puppies. After thus meeting all the animals on the farm, our ‘friends’ conclude their last visit of the fall.

In addition to our activities with Head Start, we also did more traditional Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) with older groups of kids. In late September, a girl scout troop of 5th grade girls came to do EAL. They performed the activities and engaged with our horses with the self-assured enthusiasm unique to ten year old girls. By the end of it, our horses were greatly beautified with braided forelocks, manes, and tails. By chance, these girls were here the same day the basset puppies were dropped off for their three month long stay. So, after EAL, we all went down to their pen and met them. The puppies and girl scouts alike were delighted at their meeting.  

In November, Baltimore’s “So What Else” organization set up a retreat for about a dozen students from the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts. They stayed three days and two nights in our Homestead, filling their time with hiking, yoga, art, leadership training, and late-night campfires. On their last day on the farm, they participated in EAL with our horses and went for a walk with our basset puppies.

Photo courtesy of Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts Facebook

We closed out our fall season with the Holiday Open House at the Lodge. Here, the girl scout troop who did EAL with us earlier in the fall returned the favor by greeting visitors and arranging cookies. Paul Kazyak and his Venturing Crew who made use of our property in September came to help with parking. With these helpers plus many others, our open house ran smoothly despite the new-fallen snow. We were delighted to see so many friends of ThorpeWood come to visit, including Head Start staff and a few of our preschool ‘friends.’

With 2017 thus concluded, we look forward to the memories and connections we will make in the new year.


Posted in EAL, Events, Head Start, Holiday Open House, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Head Start ‘Friends’ and Family Day

Inspired by a suggestion from Head Start staff, ThorpeWood held an open house for our Head Start ‘friends’ and their families. About a hundred and fifty people came to enjoy the beautiful sunshiny day at the farm. The beginning of the morning was dominated by visiting the barn. Outside the barn, the goats, Flint and Arrow, entertained all passers-by as they entered the barn. Inside, the horses, Snudder and Geysir, hung their heads over the stall door to sniff the little outstretched arms. Many remembered our ‘horseman’s handshake’ (offering the back of your hand for the horse to sniff), and even taught their younger siblings how to do it. 

Across the aisle was our two-day old Holstein calf. With the stall wall lowered considerably, all of our preschoolers could reach over to pat her silky coat as she lay nestled in a bed of straw. In the aisle, our visitors wrote down name ideas for her. After a good bit of fraternizing with the animals, Sam summoned everyone into the riding ring, where hula hoops, cones, and pool noodles served as playthings for our ‘friends.’ Here, Sam introduced everyone to Stoney Lick Farm and transitioned us into the touring part of our day. 

Three tour groups formed, led by Julie, Sam, and myself. My group walked around the horse pasture, down the pine trails, into the open field, down to the pond (where we discovered seven darling basset puppies), and back again through the arboretum. Before releasing them from my tour, we took a detour to the hay playground, where the children wildly climbed and jumped off our mounds of hay bales. All of this hopefully gave parents a good idea of the kinds of adventures their children have when they visit Stoney Lick Farm.


Upon returning, Scott had grilled hot dogs to accompany the copious amounts of food Joy had arranged at the pavilion. After lunch, this family picnic moved up the hill to the fire ring. Equipped with marshmallows and sticks, our ‘friends’ roasted marshmallows which Sam turned into s’mores. So, after meeting all our animals, hiking through the farm, and filling up on hot dogs and s’mores, the families boarded the buses for home.

For parents, this visit hopefully eased fears about their children’s field trips to the farm. For older siblings, this was a reunion with the farm and horses after their graduation from Head Start a few years ago. For our four year olds, this was just one visit among the dozen they will take this year, made special by being able to share the experience with family. And for our three year olds and younger siblings, this was their very first farm visit, a prelude of what is to come…


Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Our Rescue Calf

Many have been flocking to ThorpeWood’s barn to greet the latest addition to our furry family: a newborn Holstein calf! At the Frederick Fair this past weekend, Sam and Julie visited the birthing center in time to witness a Holstein mama giving birth to not one, but two little calves. In a facebook post, Julie explains the drama of the evening and the happy conclusion:


“…a Holstein was ready to give birth to a calf. There were complications and it took several people to get this baby out…once out, there were more serious complications and after a bit, they announced to the audience of about 200, that the bull calf did not make it! Unbelievable sadness filled that space! Then….all of a sudden a hoof appeared at the rear of the momma and we all yelled “there’s another baby!”…they had no idea she was having twins! All the workers quickly ran to the mother and assisted with this birth that was perfect!

There was another problem however, the mother had collapsed and was stuck in the metal equipment that assists with the birth…it took about 6 men working frantically (15-20 minutes) to free her…they finally did and she ran to her baby…unaware she had lost the first. So…the sad news in the dairy cow life is that because twins were born … a male (bull) and Heifer (female) … this is what happens…

“If the twins are bull & heifer, the heifer has a good chance to be sterile, but not always!! It depends on what kind of twins you have. If it is a male and a female, the male hormones in the developing calves will get into the bloodstream of the female calf and prevent complete female organ development.”

So, the little Female is unable to produce and therefore the dairy farmer has to make that hard decision to send this calf to the stockyard!! No income from this sterile female. Which we understand completely!!

So many tears! But, I could not stand the thought of this beautiful “miracle” baby being sent to the stockyards….so, guess what? We will have a new baby at the ThorpeWood farm this weekend! Hoping to get her tomorrow!! I couldn’t walk away from this one…not after witnessing, for 90 minutes, this event!!!”

After being picked up by Scott and Sam, the little calf arrived just in time for the Head Start ‘Friends’ and Family Open House. Despite being barely two days old, she greeted over a hundred visitors that day with no fear. At her stall, a big sheet of poster paper asked for help naming our darling girl. After reviewing the submissions, Julie named the calf “Hope.” Her sweet nuzzles and spunky bucks and kicks promise she will be a lovey, spirited addition to our farm!



Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Basset Puppies at Stoney Lick Farm!

Puppies and Head Start Children at Open House

In addition to our usual horses and goats, ThorpeWood is now (temporarily) home to seven 10 week old basset puppies. They have come to us by way of my parents, who have a pack of bassets on their little farm in New Jersey. Through their nonprofit, the Center for Rural Preservation which seeks to reunite the public with land-based rural activities and sports, they have loaned us this litter of hounds to share with our Head Start ‘friends’. This exchange goes two ways as our three and four year olds get to meet and love our darling puppies while the puppies get well socialized with people and become fearless as they wander the farm, meeting all the scary things they’ll encounter later in life (horses, goats, trucks, other dogs, etc).

In trying to best explain the symbiotic relationship between ThorpeWood and the Center for Rural Preservation, I asked the latter’s vice president, John Gilbert (my dad), for a comment on this puppy loan:

The Center for Rural Preservation is pleased it is able to make a litter of hound puppies available to ThorpeWood’s outdoor educational program.  A rich, textured view of the natural world reveals itself when young children and hound puppies together explore its fields, streams and woodlands for perhaps the first time. Certainly, experiencing the outdoors through the sensitive, inquisitive noses of hound puppies helps children and adults alike to more fully connect with and embrace the outdoors, all while building a sense of empathy for animals.”

His words about exploring the natural world are especially relevant to this past summer, when we had a similar exchange (this time foxhound puppies). During summer camp, our Head Start ‘friends’ explored the farm in small groups, accompanied by a puppy on a leash who led the way. The puppies were also featured in one of our ThorpeWood-original stories, The Tail of the Six Foxhound Puppies, and the accompanying activity: painting the puppy pen! This fall, the basset puppies will partake in similar adventures, all of which will be detailed in coming blogs!

Puppies at home in NJ, ready to come to ThorpeWood!



Posted in EAL, Head Start, Stoney Lick Farm

Summer Camp

In addition to their usual school year program, Frederick County Head Start also runs a summer camp for rising kindergartners. To fulfill summer time demands for adventure, both classes took weekly trips to Stoney Lick Farm. So, for three hours each Tuesday and Thursday, our farm was enlivened by a little yellow school bus and its passengers.

Since only our five year-olds participate in summer camp, we were able to give more freedom and responsibility to our ‘friends.’ On the first day, for example, instead of grooming the horses in the stalls as we usually do, we encouraged our brush-toting ‘friends’ to pick a horse and go greet him as he grazed in the daisy-dotted field, his natural habitat. Later in the day, we illustrated the barn floor in chalk, had pool noodle sword fights in the riding ring, and painted tee shirts. In the following weeks, we roughly followed this structure of morning animal-based activities and afternoon arts and crafts sessions.

For week two, we took turns riding all around the farm – through the woods and arboretum, around the pond, and down pine trails. Subdued by that hour of walking, our afternoon consisted of coloring goodie bags and wooden horseshoes. These were later turned into magnetic picture frames featuring a photo of each child atop our horse, Snudder.

During week three, we explored the farm, looking for animals to love. Having called in reinforcements, our usual horse and goat friends were supplemented by Lulu and Lacey (Scott’s miniature horse and mule), Oreo and Nugget (Sam and Julie’s rabbits), and Louie (a local pig). That afternoon, Joy’s story, The Tail of the Foxhound Puppies, introduced our afternoon arts and crafts project: painting the puppy pen! Our little artists brushed and blended the paints on the wooden slats of the picket fence until it was time to return to the bus.


For week four, we reenacted one of our favorite activities from the spring: exploring the farm in small groups. This time, however, we added an extra dose of fun by bringing a puppy on a leash. Each ‘friend’ took a turn holding the leash and following behind this four month old foxhound puppy whose nose led the way. In the afternoon, our arts and crafts project had a living canvas: Glampi and Geysir! Armed with finger paints and foam brushes, our ‘friends’ decorated these two horses into stunning rainbow unicorns (minus the horn).


Our final week also borrowed from our spring curriculum as we spent the day splashing in the stream. Taking advantage of the maturity and longer legs of the five year olds, we went for a longer hike to a more exciting part of the stream, complete with little waterfalls and boulders to scramble up and down. After an hour in the stream, we dried out on the bank and ate our picnic lunch. In the remaining time, we returned to the Lodge’s pavilion for some celebratory play.

Since most of the children have been coming to the farm since they started preschool at age three, these last five visits act as the closing ceremonies to the past two years of regular contact with the farm. Each evening, they can remember the day by the strata of dirt, chalk, and paint which catalog the day’s activities. But since a bath will wash all of that away, our ‘friends’ also have more concrete mementos of their time at Stoney Lick Farm in the form of their spring graduation certificates, painted tee-shirts, name tags, and framed pictures. Hopefully, a few years from now, these will spark memories of the fun they had with us on the farm!


Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Flat Fandi

This summer, two classes of ‘friends’ from Head Start took five weekly visits to the farm. While everyone on the farm would have loved to see them more often, only one of us took action on that sentiment. That would be our horse, Fandi. Without our knowing it, Fandi sent this letter to both classes:

Hey Friends!
     This is Fandi, from the horse farm. I wrote you this letter because I need your help! I love being on the farm with all my horse and people friends (Mr. Sam, Miss Joy, Miss Katie, and Mr. Scott) but sometimes I want to go on an adventure! But since I’m such a big horse, it’s hard for me to travel places. I want to go to the library, the park, and, most of all, I want to visit your classroom! Do you think horses are allowed inside buildings like your school? No, I didn’t think so either.
     So instead, I’m sending a teeny tiny version of myself to travel around for me! His name is “Flat Fandi” because he’s just like me, but flat like a piece of paper. Will you show him around your classroom? He would love to listen to stories, play legos, and paint pictures! Maybe your teacher can take pictures and send them back to me so I can see what fun you all are having with “Flat Fandi”!
     Thanks for your help, friends! See you on the farm!
                                                             Love, Fandi

Here are some of the pictures we got back from the teachers!



Using their memories and these photos as inspiration, our ‘friends’ created a popcorn story about Flat Fandi’s adventures. A popcorn story is one where each child adds one sentence to the story. The final product starts with real things that Fandi did, then, with the help of some imagination, becomes fiction. Here it is:

“Once upon a time, Flat Fandi was reading a book in the classroom. He was on a chair. He was playing blocks and was doing a great job in the classroom. He went to a magic show with us. Flat Fandi went to the movie theater to see Ninja Turtles! After, Flat Fandi and Cayden went to the park to play farm. Flat Fandi and a bunch of boys played the shark game. Miss Julie and Flat Fandi went for a walk in the woods. Flat Fandi picked up rocks. He ran back to Quinara’s car. He is driving. He crashed and the window broke. Edinelson saves Flat Fandi. Then Flat Fandi came back home to the farm!”

Authors (in order of their contributions): Malcolm, John, Monserrat, Monika, Deyana, Angela, Cayden, Andrew, Miss Julie, Izzy, Quinara, Cesar, Jacob, Edinelson, and Isabella.


While Flat Fandi was originally our little way of bringing the farm to the classroom in order to engage the children and remind them of their farm friends, Flat Fandi is also up for some more travel. If you want Flat Fandi to visit your home or workplace, send an email to kategg26@gmail.com with your address!




Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Announcing our 10th Annual Trail Run/Walk Event

20160729_100449Fall is just around the corner and so is our Annual 10K Trail Run/5K Trail Walk. On September 3rd at 9am (registration is at 8am) we will kick off our 10th Annual Trail Event. Come and experience the beauty on Catoctin Mountain as you run or walk the beautiful trails on our property.

You can register here. You may also register the day of the event. Registration fees on Race day in crease by $5. ONLY PRE-REGISTRANTS WILL RECEIVE A T-SHIRT.

Bring a team of folks and run together as many of the employees of our sponsors do …they have a ball on the course because they do it as a group.  Also, remember the 5K Trail fun run/walk can be such fun for the whole family, including FIDO on a leash!

There will be Door Prizes, as before, awards for the top 3 male and female, beer from Flying Dog Brewery and more!! A newly designed t-shirt will be given to pre-registrants as well!

If you are interested in volunteering for this event please contact Julie Castleman, jcastleman@thorpewood.org or call 301-271-2823.

As in previous years, proceeds from this event benefit Head Start and the YMCA of Frederick County to participate in ThorpeWood’s Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) program and to enjoy our property for their summer programs.


Posted in 10K, 5K, EAL, Events, Head Start, Trail Run, Volunteering

Day 4: Graduation

Graduation in the homestead barn (our rainy day location)

Graduation in the homestead barn (our rainy day location)

For our final Head Start visit of the school year, we begin at Sam’s house, our trailhead. From here, we venture down the narrow and rocky trail which meanders back to a one-room log cabin. Along the way we gasp at the turbulent stream below and collect acorn hats. When the cabin comes into view, we imagine who might live there. A horse? Mr. Sam? Spiders?

IMG_3395Now on the cabin porch, Sam explains the concept of graduation, thus preparing our ‘friends’ to find their graduation certificates. When we open the door, our crowd flows in, searching for their names and pictures. The better readers helpfully shout out names as they scan the array of certificates propped against the wall, windows, and wood stove. Although the taped-on lollipops tempt them to do otherwise, our ‘friends’ then relinquish their certificates to the teacher, thus freeing up their hands for the coming fun.

Directly below the cabin, the stream flows and ripples over rocks and under fallen branches. Enticed by this sight, we zig zag down the steep hill to the shore. IMG_3864As if by instinct, everyone gathers rocks and launches them into the rapids. Other than the basic direction of “don’t hit anyone,” we allow them to do whatever they please. Inevitably someone dips a toe in, looks back to shore, waits to be scolded. But we don’t say a word. So he (most often she) goes in deeper, past his ankles, with his friends following suit. Shoes and socks are deserted. I ferry ‘friends’ through the rapids as Sam encourages rock climbers on the far bank’s biggest boulder. Everyone is in the water, screeching, splashing, and free. The loud, the restless, and the disobedient now can do no wrong, for we are already doing the most fun, wild thing imaginable. For a change, they are praised, not scolded, for getting wet and dirty, for being children.

This is the world we grew up in. This is the world we want to share.






Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Day 3: Riding

As the school bus pulls down our gravel driveway on the third day, our ‘friends’ excitedly anticipate riding a horse for the first time. IMG_3290In their stalls, Snudder and Vinur similarly anticipate the coming hour as Joy brushes the hard-earned dirt from their hides. Since the day begins with a photoshoot of each child with Snudder for their graduation certificates, Joy treats Snudder to a few extra squirts of Cowboy Magic: Super Bodyshine.

With photos done, we split into two groups: team Vinur and team Snudder. In each group, one ‘friend’ sits high upon his steed, while the rest play follow the leader as they hike behind. Honoring the title of leader, we allow each rider to dictate our path. At every intersection, we ask ‘left, right or straight?’ Even our shyest ‘friends’ are surprisingly decisive in pointing the way. image4For four minutes, each ‘friend’ weaves through trees in the arboretum, ventures down pine-needle paved paths, or strolls alongside the pond. No matter where we go, our ‘friend’ is connecting with his old friend Snudder in new ways.

Unlike the pony rides at the fair, this short ride is the culmination of many previous connections. In the fall, these children learned about grooming, bathing, and, most importantly, respecting our horses. During our three winter classroom visits, we reminded the children of our animals’ personalities and antics through our stories 9 More Mias, Vinur and the Goats, Fandi Needs a Doctor, and Flint’s Big Adventure. Fully illustrated with real pictures, all of these tell (mostly) true stories about the happenings on the farm. With these interactions and stories, our ‘friends’ develop an understanding of and friendship with our horses.

Given this, our ‘friends’ don’t view the horses as simple vehicles or toys, but instead as sentient beings, not too unlike ourselves. With this understanding comes empathy. image1 (1)One girl showed this quality as she, atop Vinur, watched the other group cross our path with Snudder. After calling out to her own friends, she noticed Vinur’s quickened pace, and so declared “he wants to catch up to his brother!”
Being able to relate to others’ feelings in this way is a skill that surely extends beyond our farm.


Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Day 2: Treasure Hunt

Having explored the day before, our ‘friends’ arrive on the second day well acquainted with all the little beauties and amusements our farm has to offer. One undisclosed source of amusement, however, is saved for today. Inconspicuously situated in one of our upper barns, a hay playground awaits us. image3 (1)So, after grooming the horses and goats, we race up the hill, leaving the teachers far behind. Although our ‘friends’ are out of breath when they arrive at the barn, they find the air to shriek with delight at the hay-filled stalls. Arranged in steps and mountains, the hay entices even our shyest friends to go feral as they leap and climb.

After a good bit of romping, we assemble for a story. Our latest book, Silly Stormur and Goofy Garpur, depicts our two youngest horses as they play dress up with all the clothes on the farm. After we giggle at the absurd pictures of Stormur and Garpur wearing all sorts of horse and people clothing, the last page tells us an unsavory truth: the boys didn’t clean up their mess! Aghast at this no-no, the children are rallied to go on a treasure hunt to find the lost clothing. IMG_3289

Running through the arboretum, we discover gloves, saddle pads, lead ropes, horse shoes, chaps and more hidden in trees and under bushes. Our ‘friends’ then adorn themselves with the lost dress-up clothes. With a bit of imagination, the chaps become a superhero cape. The lead rope is a belt. The saddle pad becomes butterfly wings. With these outfits and a good bit of hay in their hair and clothes, our ‘friends’ skip to the bus, fully transformed into farm children.



Posted in EAL, Head Start, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm