Head Start Classroom Visits

In anticipation of our upcoming visits from Head Start kids, we once again made our way down to Frederick with an animal in tow. These visits are designed to prepare the children for the farm in a few ways:

  1. Introduce us farm folk as friendly, kind, and safe people.
  2. Introduce our animals as friendly, kind, and safe animals. 
  3. Teach the children what to expect when they visit the farm
  4. Teach the children how to behave at the farm (give animal handshakes, be calm and quiet, be gentle and kind)

These goals are accomplished through our story, Meet the Farm, our interactions with the kids, and an animal encounter. This year, we brought our Pygmy/Nigerian Dwarf goat crosses to entertain and delight our smallest ThorpeWood visitors. Annabelle, Banjo, and Mohawk received their animal handshakes, pats, and hugs with great affection (and tolerance).

All of this also allows us farm folk to get an idea of who will be coming to the farm in the coming two months and what to expect behavior-wise. At the conclusion of each visit, we invited the class to their upcoming field trip.

Wish us luck (we may need it with all these three year olds!)

Posted in Head Start, Youth Programs

Camp Jamie 2022

 Camp Jamie has been an institution of the Frederick community for the last 31 years. We are so proud to host Frederick Health Hospice’s yearly day camp which serves children who have suffered the loss of someone close to them. This year, the event took place on the farm side of our property, with campers, volunteers, and staff gathering in our homestead barn. After some ice breakers and an introduction to camp, the children were separated into two groups to go through a few experiences. 

We were delighted to share our animals with the children as we allowed them a break from the hard emotional work of the rest of their day. There is nothing quite like the quiet presence of a horse or the silliness of a goat to ease tension and invite folks to let their guard down. Our beautiful natural world also played a role in the day, as the children gathered in our dawn redwood trees for a sharing circle, hiked our back trail to the natural spring to find memorial rocks, painted their stones in our pavilion overlooking the horse fields, and concluded their day around the fire ring for a remembrance ceremony (and s’mores!). 

It is such an honor to share our property with everyone who comes through – and it is especially a privilege to help hearts heal and offer restoration for those who need it most. 

Until next year…

Posted in Horses, Stoney Lick Farm, Youth Programs

6th Annual Head Start Family Day

Oh my, how we love Head Start Family Day – this is our 6th year holding the event! With 135 folks in attendance this year, we were proud to run a smooth and FUN event. The objective of the day is to give the families a restorative and adventure-filled day in nature, and also allow the parents a chance to see where their children will be attending field trips throughout the school year.

The day began with a welcome in our pine cathedral, where we talked about our farm and what programming looks like when the Head Start students come to visit. From there, we led an exploration hike across the property, to the field, pond, tipi, and back again. Along the way, we challenged the families to find forest fun: pinecones, leaves, acorns, ‘gumballs,’ hickory nuts, and more. 

Once we returned to the main farm area, we released the families to our farm centers. It was a full carnival with folks using their imaginations in the mud kitchen, loving horses in the barn, enjoying the goats in the field, riding atop the 1951 Farmall tractor, bouncing in the hay playground, reading farm stories in the pavilion, playing in the riding ring, and getting down to serious business atop the tractors and other farm machinery. 

At the close of our two hours together, the Head Start staff offered snacks to all the families as they departed for their cars. It was a lovely day and we owe a big THANK YOU to all the Head Start staff who supported us at the farm centers, provided navigation support at the crossroads, got waivers signed and folks checked in, and more. 

Until next year…

Posted in Head Start, Stoney Lick Farm, Youth Programs

Heartly House Staff Retreat – 2022

Earlier this week, we hosted the Heartly House staff for a retreat on our property. The Heartly House folks began their day at the lodge with breakfast, coffee, and a warm welcome from their president and executive director Inga James. From there, the staff was freed up to choose their own adventure. They divided themselves between the following activities: Animal Time at the farm! Hip Hop Dance Class! Free Time! 

What fun! We were happy to have 8 folks join us for animal time. After a stroll across the property to the barn, we broke out the finger paints and got to work creating two group art projects on our canvases (the horses!). While one group created intricate mandalas across Geysir the Horse, the other group created a landscape filled with flowers, sunshine, and a pond (with a sailboat, of course) on Vinur the Horse. We are always delighted to watch the art in progress, seeing it morph and evolve as the group pours their hearts, talents, and giggles into it. Afterward, we made time to visit with all of our other animals – goats, cows, and chickens!

After the morning fun, the staff members returned to the lodge for lunch and a strengths assessment workshop. We hope the rest of their day was as smile-filled and heart-warming as the parts we were privileged to join. Many thanks to the lovely staff of Heartly House for brightening our farm and doing such needed work in the community.

Posted in Adult Programs, Horses, Stoney Lick Farm

Litter Pick Up – September 2022

We ThorpeWood folk always anticipate our quarterly litter pick-up adventures with great enthusiasm. As the proud adoptors of Catoctin Hollow Road, we rally our staff and volunteers, arm ourselves with trash bags and gloves, and head out in our Kubota RTVs and pickup truck. This quarter, we broke up into two groups – with Mattie and Sam starting at Route 15 and Lydia, Jeff, Clare, and I starting at Mink Farm Road. The Mink Farm Road side gets extra hands since we love to dive deep into the woods and simultaneously conduct a stream clean-up. 

Among the endless bottles, cans, and food wrappers, we also rolled tires up cliff sides, dug a car seat from the leaf litter, and fashioned a complete outfit from men’s shoes, a XXL winter coat, ladies’ underwear, and more. While this may be dirty work, it is also a lovely team-building exercise. We rely on each other for a hand with the heavy stuff. We create a conveyor belt of muscle to haul tires incrementally up the cliffside. We offer each other a sip from any bottles still containing their unidentified putrid liquids. We share smiles and laughter at our silly finds and jokes. We get to know one another better. 

After all of this, we join together in the wonderful roadside swimming hole for a splash and giggle. And then, of course, we also celebrate a hard day’s work with ice cream back at the farm!

If you would like to join us next time, please email [email protected] If you or your company would also like to adopt a road, look up your local adopt-a-road program.

Posted in Activities for You, Volunteering

Carroll County Head Start Staff Retreat

At the end of last month, Catholic Charities Head Start and Early Head Start of Carroll County joined us at the farm for their beginning of year staff wellness day. They began their day at our beautiful timber-frame lodge to discuss “why what we do matters and why self-care is so imperative to our work/ life.” From there, the leaders of the event opened up the morning workshops, where participants could opt into one of the four 45-minute workshops. While some folks did yoga with the lovely Kim Wilson in the pavilion, others came along with me for a forest therapy walk, did self-care journaling with Sara Reich, or had time to ‘chat and create’ with Pat Foley.

Group nature art project created along the Forest Therapy Walk

After a casual interactive lunch with Kim Wilson, everyone came over to the farm-side of things for a second round of break out sessions. Here, participants were invited to paint our horses with farm team Mattie and Clare, explore the mud kitchen and tipi with me, or go on an epic scavenger hunt with Kelsey Lineberger.

After a good deal of silliness in these stations, we all moved together into the pine cathedral to hear about the ‘Benefits of Farm-Based Programming’ with me. Here, I shared what our nature and animal programming is all about, as supported by research studies and our own farm-based observations. All told, it was a lovely day for all and we can’t wait to do it again in the future!

Posted in Adult Programs, Forest Therapy

COIPP Picnic 2022

While we farm folk don’t usually bring our animals off the property for programs, we make an exception for the Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership (COIPP). Their back-to-school picnic at Staley Park is always a wonderful event and we are delighted to bring our smaller animals to attend alongside the ~100 other children, parents, and volunteers. This year, Joy (our former barn manager) and I attended alongside Banjo, Mohawk, and Annabelle (our goats) and Ingrid and Barbara (our chickens).

We set up a portable fence a little ways away from the main pavilion and awaited our visitors. It was such fun to receive everyone and share our furry and feathered friends. One girl, who had previously come to our farm as a Head Start student, spent nearly the whole evening with us in the pen. She educated everyone who came through on the rules – be gentle, don’t chase, pet the chickens like this, etc. 

It was a wonderful evening for all. Thanks to the COIPP organizers who invited us! We hope to do some events for this organization on the farm soon!

Posted in Youth Programs

Living Through Loss ’22

We were honored to host Living Through Loss, a support group for parents who have lost a child to overdose led by Jamie Eaton, MS, LCPC. The attendees were welcomed at ThorpeWood’s lodge before heading out to their various workshops all across the property. All through the day, they cycled between their four chosen activities, plus a group lunch at our pavilion and a closing concert in our pine cathedral.
Check out the amazing line-up of workshops that Jamie put together:
Healing Through Advocacy for Change
Healing Through Our Broken Stories: The Power and Influence of Story
Healing Through Narrative: How to Communicate Your Story Through the Arts
Healing Through Nature: A Forest Therapy Walk
Healing Through Equine Art
Healing Through Reading Resources
Healing Through Tuning In: Self-Calming Your Nervous System
Healing Through Creative Expression: Affirmations and Collage
 
These workshops took place all over our beautiful property – at the deck of the Little Pond Cottage, in and around the lodge, at our barn, and so many other wonderful spots. The participants were exceptionally appreciative of all our animals, staff, and property. It was a joy to have them here and to share in their stories.
 
Here is one beautiful email we received after the event:
Your kindness in offering a special retreat for Living thru Loss was remarkable and greatly appreciated.  I joined this group last year following the death of my young daughter and this has given me a space and place to meet others in a group none of us ever wanted to join.  But we find ourselves in this life with great highs and lows, and opportunities for joy and sadness.  You offered us a wonderful day to both rejoice for our lives and to grieve together under the skies of Thorpewood, in a peaceful setting with the animals, nature, and Katie, Chester and a lovely woman who helped with the horses.
Thank you to all who made the day special. We can’t wait to have everyone back again soon for another Living Through Loss event!
Posted in Adult Programs, Forest Therapy

Camp Journey Visits (August ’22)

Our friends at Camp Journey were busy at the farm all week long! Run by Sheppard Pratt, Camp Journey is an overnight respite program for 11-17 year old children with mental illness. Each night of the week, a different group of kids calls Camp Journey home.

So, to serve ALL of these youth, we blocked off the full week – mornings, afternoons, and evenings for this wonderful group. They filled out our week nicely, largely coming in the evenings with small groups. We were delighted to have these wonderfully intimate groups of kids with us at the farm. Together, we went on hikes, fished, took care of the animals and property, walked the goats, painted the horses, and so much more!

The highlight of my week was definitely the Thursday evenings girls. These girls were exceptionally present with the animals and happily groomed and painted our horse Vinur for such a long time. We so admired how deeply they felt the experience. When these girls returned the next morning after spending the night at Camp Journey, they took our Pgymie/Nigerian Dwarf goats on a 2-hour adventure all around the property. It was such a beautiful experience!

The counselors at Camp Journey always impress us with how thoughtful and connected they are with the students. They are very much mentors and role models in everything they do. We were so appreciative of how much they embraced the experience alongside the children. We are looking forward to having them back again someday soon!

Posted in Youth Programs

Forest Therapy at ThorpeWood

We ThorpeWoodians are delighted to add Forest Therapy to our programs! Forest Therapy is a mindful walk in nature led by a certified forest therapy guide. Through a sensory awakening meditation and guided forest invitations, participants are called to engage deeply with the forest, tune into their senses, and become fully present. 

The History:

Forest therapy comes from the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku ( 森林浴 ), which translates to forest bathing. Shinrin-yoku started in Japan in the 1980s to address the increasing levels of burnout and the negative health effects of urbanization and indoor tech-based jobs. The movement spread across the world and is becoming increasingly popular here in the U.S.

The Science:

Scientific research done in Japan and around the world discovered there are quite a few health benefits to this practice. They include reduced stress, heart rate, and blood pressure, and improved concentration, creativity, and mood. Although simply slowing down and coming into the present moment is partly responsible for the health benefits, the simple presence of the trees also plays an important role. Trees have a component of their immune system called phytoncides, which are aromatic oils that defend against pests and pathogens. When you smell an evergreen tree, you are smelling its phytoncides. When we inhale these phytoncides, our immune system gets a boost in the form of increased natural killer cells, our first line of defense against stressed cells.

For more information on the health benefits of forest therapy, check out these research studies:

What to Expect:

A traditional two-hour-long forest therapy walk consists of a sensory awakening meditation, guided invitations, and tea. All of these are designed to have participants slow down, open their senses, and relax into the present moment. The session begins with the sensory awakening meditation in which participants are invited to ease into the forest and present moment. The bulk of the walk is occupied by a series of nature-connection invitations, which guide participants in their sensory experiences of the woods. After each invitation, participants are welcome to share their observations and experiences. If an invitation doesn’t resonate, that’s ok. Participants are free to do whatever sits well with them – because it is their time—time to relax, enjoy, and simply be. At the conclusion of each walk, participants join together for tea. During this time, we wrap up our experience together and ease ourselves back out of the forest.

Walks shorter than two hours may not include tea, but the spirit of the final component will still be brought to the walk.

Location:

ThorpeWood will be running forest therapy sessions on our 160-acre property and off-site at local public green spaces for high-need groups who cannot make it to the property. 

Next Steps:

If forest therapy sounds like a good fit for you or your group, please reach out to Katie at [email protected] to organize a walk. 

Posted in Adult Programs, Forest Therapy, Nature Preserve