MAEOE Conference – 2023

In early February, Katie and Clare (ThorpeWood’s program director and barn manager/community liaison, respectively) took to the road well before dawn and headed down to Ocean City for this year’s Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education conference. It was a jam-packed weekend of Environmental Inspiration. From morning to evening, the days were filled with workshops and presentations all centering on that which is most important to all of us at ThorpeWood – sharing the natural world. Katie and Clare took in wonderful presentations like:

Living Local: Agriculture Education Training

The healthiest food at any scale: the gardens and farms of the future.

Nature-Wise: Reading, Writing, Playing and Probing in the Outdoor Classroom

Using Observation to Engage and Ground

Nature and Mental Health

Schools + Outdoors + Counseling = Increased Opportunity

Things that Go “Ribbit” in the Night: Amphibian Call Identification

The Power of Connection: Discovering the Effects of Formal and Nonformal Environmental Education on Students’ Connectedness to Nature

Exploring the Environment through Theatre

Nocturnal Adventures

In addition to learning, engaging, and taking vigorous notes during these sessions, the ThorpeWood staff also led some of the conference sessions!

Katie led her group of 17 participants out to the beach on a cold (32°) and windy (15mph, with additional great gusts) afternoon. Her session was called Forest Therapy…on the Beach!, during which she introduced her fellow educators to Forest Therapy as a practice before actually heading out to the beach for two hours of mindful engagement. The hours on the beach consisted of a sensory awakening meditation, nature invitations, and tea. The great wind blew sand through everyone’s hair and eliminated hopes for tea as the tea cups continuously filled with sand. So, with some quick adjustments, tea time became an opportunity to taste the salt water of the ocean and appreciate all the sensations and memories that followed.

Upon reentering the warmth of the conference room, the group discussed the outing, how they might incorporate the practice into their work, and generally rounded out the session with gratitude and good company. 

On Saturday, Katie and Clare teamed up to run the Social Emotional Learning Community Meeting, an opportunity for those with shared interests to network and share their experiences around the chosen topic. We were honored to be thought of and asked to lead this session. It was a delight to facilitate the conversations through the creation of impromptu expert panels on many Social Emotional Learning topics. 

Overall, the weekend was a great success and our ThorpeWood team came home bursting with ideas, inspiration, and pride at their part in the event. Until next year…

Posted in Events, Forest Therapy, Meetings

Upcoming Community Concert!

You’re invited to a ThorpeWood Community Event! We are planning a lot of fun community events throughout the year – and we are starting with a concert at our beautiful timber frame lodge! Come listen as Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide kicks off his tour at ThorpeWood on February 15th. See the flyer below for details. If you aren’t familiar with Eef, or just can’t wait to hear his beautiful music, take a look at Eef’s Tiny Desk Concert here.

If you plan to attend, please email Clare at [email protected] with your guest count. Plan to pay cash at the door. 

Posted in Events

‘So What Else’ Overnight – 2023

For the first time since April 2019, we welcomed back the wonderful organization So What Else! Here’s a bit about this wonderful non-profit:

So What Else’s mission is to improve the lives of children and families living in underserved communities in the Baltimore-Washington Metro Area by providing food security, access to basic necessities, and high-quality out-of-school time programs in literacy, athletics, and the visual and performing arts while inspiring young people to give back to the community by creating volunteer opportunities for citizens of all ages.

In the past, So What Else has brought young adults for a leadership retreat involving equine assisted learning, a foraging walk, yoga, animal time, and more. On this visit, the children and adults spent two nights in our homestead house and participated in some programs with Clare. It seemed they had a lively time together experiencing a world far outside their everyday city lives in Baltimore. We were particularly touched and sobered when one of the group leads, reflecting on the ladybugs in one of the upstairs bedrooms, said ‘better bugs than bullets.’ We are honored to provide a rural escape for these youth – and adults, too!
To support this fine organization, visit their page here.
Posted in Stoney Lick Farm, Youth Programs

Woods in Your Backyard

The ThorpeWood team assembled this past Saturday at the Ole Mink Farm Recreation Resort to attend The Catoctin Land Trust’s Woods in Your Backyard program. The event is designed to unite local landowners in caring for our woodlands. The Catoctin Land Trust, The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forestry Service, and The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay joined forces to deliver this program.

They called us all to action with the following passage:

“Small lots, such as the one you may own, are a big deal. Owners of even just a few acres can make a positive difference when they work together. By enhancing wooded areas or creating natural areas on your lot, you can enjoy recreation, aesthetics, wildlife and improved water quality.”

The event covered forest ecology, wildlife habitat enhancement, woodland inventory, tree identification, tree planting and care, invasive species control, planning, and more. We were most enlived by the outdoor portion which took us all on a tree identification walk in the woods. The whole event was delightfully informative and compelling. We ThorpeWood folk are all rallied to get our forest in tiptop health. We are meeting with our local forester next week to further our education and learn new tips for forest care. We hope to get ThorpeWood program participants involved in our upcoming projects – particularly invasive weed pulling!

If you’d like to help care for ThorpeWood’s forests, please reach out to Jeff at [email protected]!

Posted in Adult Programs, Stoney Lick Farm, Volunteering

New Years Resolutions – 2023

Well the farm animals are all astir over the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. They are a motivated bunch of critters – goal-driven, ambitious, unstoppable. Let’s take a look at what they have planned for the new year:


Mia – Keep my coat white and shining. Be a more benevolent queen of the herd.

Vinur – Be the perfect sidekick to Mia. Finally convince herd-mates to call me and Mia ‘Double Trouble’ when they see us coming.

Snuder – Restart my barbershop quartet group. Go on tour.

Fandi – Keep on keeping on.

Geysir – Go on more rides. Practice my flying pace.


Flint – Hog all human love and affection. I deserve it. 

Banjo – Be held in as many arms as possible. Remain pocket-sized.

Mohawk – Be brave. Be trusting.

Annabelle – Teach my baby brothers about the world. Clear brush with speed and great appetite.





Hope – Perfect my bounce + kick move. Perform in a talent show.

Effie – Support Hope in her ambitions. Be a good friend.




Matilda – Maximize my feather floofiness. Be beautiful.

Ingrid – Outsmart the humans. Trick them into giving me more mealworms.

Stella – Be more like my hero, Ingrid.  

Barbara – Improve my tail feather hygiene. 

Dizzy – Gossip less. 

Daphne – Maintain dignity, despite being bottom of the pecking order.


Scratch – As always, increase time spent being loved. Perch atop more humans. 


We wish all of our animals the best of luck in accomplishing their goals. We are proud of them no matter what. 

Posted in Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

December at ThorpeWood’s Lodge

As anyone who has been to ThorpeWood in December knows, there is no place as beautifully decorated for the holidays as ThorpeWood’s lodge. Word has gotten around over the past two decades, it turns out. We had so many non-profits and school groups host gatherings in this lovely space during the month of December. First up…

December 1: The Thurmont Business Network had its monthly meeting at the lodge. There was great attendance and a lovely spirit of sharing!

December 3 & 4: ThorpeWood hosted two Holiday Open Houses. Read more about those festive occasions here.

December 5: Middletown Middle School had an intimate Language Arts Retreat in front of our fireplace. Midway through the day, we took them over to the farm to visit with the animals, get some fresh air, and reset.

December 6: ThorpeWood and Mountain Memories had their holiday staff party at the lodge. We enjoyed taste testing a potential new caterer, a Secret Santa gift exchange, and a talent showcase!

December 7: The Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education had their first ever Green Careers Event at the lodge. It was a wonderful success – read more about the day here

December 9: The Community Foundation of Frederick County enjoyed our crackling fireplace for a staff retreat.

December 10: Last wedding of the year! Congratulations to Melissa Rotella and Russell Tabler!

December 13: The Frederick Saltwater Anglers had their holiday meeting at the lodge.

December 14: Another beautiful private event. The family and friends of Jerome Brown held a memorial service in his honor.

December 16: The Asian American Center of Frederick had a huge Holiday Party with about 70 guests in attendance. They enjoyed a catered meal, dancing, door prizes and other such fun. 

December 18: Another ThorpeWood Holiday Open House. So much fun!

December 20: The Western and North Central Maryland Social Studies Supervisors had a meeting of ~10 folks. They had all been to our lodge before and settled in beautifully, making the space their own.

December 21: 15 Black and African American Studies Teachers from Frederick County Public Schools gathered around our fireplace to relax, reset, plan, and be together outside of a school building.

December 23: A private family dinner and celebration with ~60 folks in attendance!

Holy cannoli this has been a busy month! We love sharing our facilities with non-profits, school groups, and private events, too! If you’re interested in coming to our lodge for any such purpose, please reach out to Julie at [email protected]!

Posted in Events, Holiday Open House, Meetings, Weddings

2022 Holiday Open Houses

ThorpeWood was delighted to host three Holiday Open Houses at our lodge this year! Each night from 2-8pm, we surrounded ourselves with neighbors and friends of ThorpeWood. Our 17′ tall Christmas tree, topped by our taxidermied bard owl, dazzled attendees. Live music from local musicians united us in merry spirits. Mulled cider and homemade cookies from attendees delighted our taste buds. Our downstairs filled with crafts and the whole Claus family brought great amusement to visiting children. 

Our bulletin board showcased our programs, with some wonderful hands-on elements (horse tails! feathers! nature art!) that are so key to all we do at ThorpeWood. Many thanks to Clare, ThorpeWood’s community liaison/barn manager, for artfully designing this display! Each night also featured a reading of The Crooked Little Christmas Tree, written by ThorpeWood’s dearly departed matriarch, Sally Thorpe.

Outside the lodge, all was beautifully decorated in the Christmas spirit as well, with our 1951 Farmall tractor dressed up in lights, countless wreaths, twinkle-light lamp posts, reindeer, and more. A little further from the lodge, we also entertained visitors at the farm – allowing folks to join in on feeding and tucking in the animals for the night.

We hope to see all of our attendees again next year, along with new folks, too! Happy Holidays to all!

Posted in Adult Programs, Events, Youth Programs

Green Careers Event

Earlier this week, we were delighted to host the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education’s (MAEOE) Green Careers event at ThorpeWood’s lodge. This event focused on bringing together high schoolers with 30+ green professionals from a huge range of fields – including environmental education, forestry, parks, agriculture, and more. 60 Students from Frederick County High Schools were hand selected by their teachers to attend the event.

These students began the day on a hike down our Coffee Hollow trail with ThorpeWood’s program people, me and Clare. After a brief moment of silence overlooking the ravine, we headed back inside to get down to business. Over the course of the next 2+ hours, the students cycled through the green professionals’ presentations. The students learned what the jobs were like on a day-to-day basis, the career path the professionals took to arrive at their jobs, and received advice on how to enter the field (Everyone highlighted volunteerism and internships!)

We ThorpeWoodians were delighted to participate in a few ways. First, we were proud to host the event in our beautiful timber-frame lodge and make use of our nearby breathtaking trails. Second, as ThorpeWood’s program director, I served as one of the green professionals, talking to the high schoolers about outdoor education, forest therapy, and how I came to serve at ThorpeWood. Both my story and that of Clare, our community liaison/barn manager, served the tone of the day well. I started at ThorpeWood as an intern. Clare started as a volunteer. Each of us did good work and were offered full-time positions.

The day ended with everyone having lunch and cookies in the lodge. Students were encouraged to talk more with the professionals – and the professionals also took the opportunity to network amongst themselves. It was so energizing and meaningful to be a part of MAEOE’s Green Careers event. We were honored to host such meaningful thoughts, ideas, discussions, and inspiration. We hope the day guided many of the high schoolers at the start of their professional lives.


Posted in Events, Youth Programs

Our Partnership with Head Start

As we close out 2022, we are honoring our relationship with the Frederick County Head Start program. Nine years ago, back in January 2014, we announced our new partnership with the following message on our blog:

We are so very excited to share with you the announcement of a fantastic new partnership between ThorpeWood and the Head Start program for Frederick County.  Over the course of 11 weeks, with one week off for Easter, ThorpeWood will welcome over their youth – ages three and four – to come to ThorpeWood and benefit from the glorious natural opportunities ThorpeWood has to offer.

After the first preschoolers visited the farm, we were beyond delighted and, again, posted about it on the blog: 

Well, we are pleased to tell you that it has begun!  We welcomed the first Head Start children up to the mountain last week!  Words fail in the effort to tell you how exciting this is for us and how much it means to be connecting with small children in such a meaningful way.

headstartWords may fail, but this picture captures it pretty well:

It is hard to tell who is more excited in this picture – the children or Sam!  Being of service in this way is something everyone here at ThorpeWood is so very passionate about.

While the focus of the Head Start program is on school readiness, the exposure to different learning experiences – both inside and outside of a classroom setting, and in our case, equine assisted learning – helps to establish within these wonderful young children a solid foundation for their approach to learning in a lifelong way.  Powerful stuff.

  Over the years that have followed, we have kept the blog up to date as we morphed the program to constantly increase the amount of time the kids spent with us at the farm. In the many years since the start of our partnership, every one of our seasons revolved around the Head Start students (click on the italicized words to dive deeper into these topics). The spring and fall were jam-packed with multiple visits from each of the classrooms – exploration, animal time, nature art projects, and so much more. The summer focused in on a smaller number of kids, who came to the farm for longer and more frequent days. The cold winters flipped the tables on us – and we and our animals would go to the ‘friends’ down in Frederick, Walkersville, Emmitsburg, and more. When we couldn’t make it often enough to satisfy us, we would write books, send postcards, deliver farm trunks, and craft videos for the ‘friends’ to watch. 

It has been 9 beautiful years of continual support. However, with pre-k opening up in the local elementary schools, the Head Start population is skewing younger. After giving it a try for over a year, we, unfortunately, have found that our outdoor programs are a bit too much for the three-year-olds. They quite simply are not ready for the big outings and therefore cannot fully absorb all ThorpeWood has to offer. And so, we are now in the process of transforming our programs to more effectively make use of our acreage, animals, and expertise. But don’t think for one minute that we are giving up this beautiful partnership! We are simply scaling back a bit, and putting a larger focus on Head Start staff wellness iniatives and larger-scale family engagement outings. We hope that providing the ThorpeWood experience to the Head Start caregivers (both teachers and parents), we will be able to fulfil our mission of nurthuring therapeutic relationships with the natural world more effectively. 

With that, a moment of apprciation and gratitude for our 9 year relationship with Head Start.

Thank you to all who made it possible. We will be seeing you again soon!


Posted in Head Start, Youth Programs

Teen Camp Jamie 2022

Following up from their recent camp this past September, Camp Jamie held a teen camp at ThorpeWood this past weekend. The small group of 8 campers and 7 staff dedicated their day to healing, sharing, and being in the presence of others who have experienced great losses at a young age. In the morning, the campers introduced themselves through a game of Jenga before creating ‘memory catchers’ in the lower level of the lodge. Everyone headed out into the warm November day for a short walk to their lunch spot – beside the toasty woodstove in the one-room cabin by the stream. From there, we hiked across the property to the farm, where the horses, goats, cows, chickens, and cat greeted us. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed grooming the horses, loving the cat, holding the goats, and admiring the chickens. 

As late-fall darkness fell over the early evening, the campers gathered around the fireplace back at the lodge for a sharing circle. For over an hour, they shared their losses, feelings, and memories. After shaking off the heaviness of those moments, dinner was served. The bonding continued over the creation of ceremonial pouches and the rememberence ceremony at our cowboy cauldron. Finally, after s’mores were made and eaten up, everyone headed home.

We are so honored to be a home to these teens – a place where they can feel safe to share their deepest pains and find a way through them. We’ll be seeing these brave teens again soon!

Posted in Youth Programs