Dear Parents & Friends,
Believe it or not we dodged the weather forecast again today. It was a beautiful day here with just a light sprinkle early this morning before breakfast. The sun went in and out in late morning and it stayed that way all day. It started raining about 5 minutes after I started this. We have about 5 cabins on campouts tonight but they all should be hunkered down in the shelters by now. They cooked out and camped out but left Downtown GV around 6:00 and it’s almost 9:30 now. Every cabin goes on a campout at least once while at camp. Unless the weather is really bad and they can’t get a fire going they stay in one of 12 different shelters here on the property. It’s good cabin bonding time and there’s nothing like cooking out over an open fire and enjoying the sounds of the forest and streams around you. Everyone usually comes back by breakfast and it makes for an early morning rise and shine.
I went by several activities this morning and this afternoon on my rounds. I first started out at the farm where campers were experiencing so many firsts. Feeding a baby calf a huge bottle of formula started things off. While counselors were explaining the process the calves (all 17 of them) were braying at the top of their lungs waiting to be fed. They know the routine these days after 8 weeks of camp. They are very tame and always want more contact with campers after the milk is consumed. They will settle for a rub or scratch here and there and you can tell they are just big pets. This Friday will be a big day at the farm, because all the calves will be let loose in the pasture. The weening period is over and they are big enough to eat grass like the rest of our camp herd.
From there it was on to milk the camp cow which is a first time for 99% of our campers. We give everyone a chance who comes to the farm. With our inexperienced milkers and many attempts we usually hook Elsie up to our automatic milk machine and do in five minutes what might take campers an hour or more. Next on the list are the baby chicks, baby goats and of course the piglets. I think everyone’s favorite is the piglets. You’d better tuck your shoe laces inside your shoes because they love to chew on the laces and untie your shoes. They go right for the feet as soon as campers enter the pig pen. Pick them up and they squeal, which is loud, but mostly cute. They are just the right size now for being able to hold them. They will get bigger soon and you wouldn’t be able to lift them in another month or so. Big Mama just lies there and nurses all day long.
The chicks are easy to hold and if you place them in your hand on their back and rub their belly they will fall asleep. We also give the campers an opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of a chick which is fast at about 300 beats per minute. The goats literally are a bunch of “kids” in a pen jumping and leaping on things including an old stump there. They rarely stay still enough to be held but campers sometimes luck out and find one ready for some affection and gentle strokes. When the session is over it’s interesting to see them all make a beeline to their mom’s to tell them about their encounters with campers. The mom’s listen intensely just as parents do when receiving a loving child.
From the farm it was onto to Horseback and observing campers riding in the ring and learning how to sit on a horse. My wife is the rider in the family and my only knowledge of horses is they eat a lot. Campers love to ride and we have many who have experience and many who don’t. After some time in the ring, they usually head out on the trails where the first timers have a leader.
This afternoon I spent time at the climbing wall and the soccer field. Climbing on our three sided wall is always fun. It’s right next to the creek and is cool because of all the shade surrounding the wall. Campers were utilizing the easy and medium side their first day out. They first learn how to put on their harness and helmet and those should fit correctly and be secured. Then they learn about knots and helping to backup belay. This gives them something to do while the counselor is belaying and occupies their time rather than just waiting to climb. It’s all challenge by choice and they can go as high as they want. We urge many tries if they don’t make it to the top, because camp is a place where there are many opportunities. The wall is 50 feet on each side and each side has its challenging spots as you make your way up. You have to trust your feet and legs as well as your hands and arms. You also have to trust your belayer who is holding you safe on the wall. We have to remind them that you’re tethered the whole way up and if you do peel off, you won’t fall but a couple of feet as the rope stretches under your weight.
I enjoyed seeing a pickup soccer game after being at the wall and wanted to join in but the campers didn’t need any adult intervention and were playing well and using good form. I’ve seen soccer skills increase greatly over the years as more and more children start playing at younger ages. You can tell it’s more widespread than it was 10 or more years ago.
Camp is about the familiar (playing a game you play at home) and the unfamiliar; trying new things like milking a cow for the first time. It’s about leaving your comfort zone, eating new foods and being pushed in positive ways. It’s about sleeping out in a shelter and being surrounded by new friends and listening to rain on the tin roof. Camp is much more and for each child it’s different. What you’re imagining by reading this is just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned and we’ll try and reveal more of that iceberg each day. The rain has stopped and the katydids are back out calling their call.