June Challenge: Be a part of nature

We are not observers of nature, we are participants.

This month’s sustainability challenge is an easy one since you have no choice: Be a part of nature.  The challenge is to reflect and understand what your role is and should be.

Have you ever heard of the secret Thorntown? You can still find the ruins of this lost town in a mysterious farmland in Ohio. Large flat rocks, an old farm gate, old scraps of lumber and small sprouts of multiflora rose can be found at the site.  At one point in time the invasive rose bushes reigned and covered much of the land, drinking from a tiny seasonal creek.

And then came the children.With their pruners and their shovels and their cartloads full of rocks, they created their own world.  Little by little they pruned tunnels out of the plants, and the tunnels led to mini houses pruned out of the bushes.  The children showed superhuman strength hauling 400 pound cartloads of rocks to create floors for their house.  They would disappear magically and quietly into the woods, not to be seen or heard for hours.

Those children were my daughters and their friends, fully engaged and being part of nature.  The children grew up and left and the bushes were taken over by a new community of plants. Thorntown is as full of life as it always was without the thorns or the children.   I have observed the rose bushes die, the poison ivy and mustard garlic come in, the black walnut and maple seedlings growing towards the sun and the elderberry bushes drinking the creek dry.  The tree frogs have joined the chorus and lightning bugs, like stars falling out of the sky, still light this secret little spot. A spot that is so simple and complicated at the same time. A little patch of nature that will forever bring me joy and memories of young girls.

I don’t recommend you prune yourself a little house in our parks, or pick the flowers, or take what belongs to all of us, but do go out into nature. Be observant, listen to the frogs, the birds, enjoy the quiet and the noise, savor the views, soak up the sun and the rain, get scratched up by the branches, and be fully immersed in its beauty.

If you are lucky to have a yard, explore your natural place, garden in it and create spaces and habitats for many creatures. Let (or make) your children go outside and be part of the natural world. They will surprise you with their creativity and strength.  Growing with love and understanding for nature is important because clean air, clean water and clean food depend on our interactions with nature.

This is just the kind of outdoor exploration that we have planned for our Summer Farm & Science campers who will begin visiting Crown Point next week.  Our energetic teachers have been busy preparing a wide range of adventures for children ages 7-11, including plenty of space in the day for independent discovery and imagination.

This will be Crown Point’s 24th season of Summer Farm & Science Camp, and this year we’re also carving out a unique opportunity for teens to explore the world of natural food and farming in northeast Ohio. Taste of Farming for Teens will provide high school age students with a chance to explore careers by visiting sites in our local and sustainable food system: small farms, a natural food grocery store, a local food processing facility, local chefs, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban gardens and scientists from the Ohio Agriculture Research & Development Center (OARDC).

Spaces are still available in both programs and you can register here:

Summer Farm & Science Camp

Taste of Farming for Teens