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A Simpler Life at Camp!

Dear Parents & Friends,

We must be living right here at GV.  We have had another good weather day today after early morning showers pelted us before breakfast.  The day was a mixture of sun and a few sprinkles here and there but the sun did shine a good bit of the time.  We’ve had a very dry summer up until our D Session and then it began to follow the pattern of weather we’ve been having now.  We needed the rain and I’m glad it’s coming in the night when we’re sleeping.  Speaking of which many more cabins are camping out tonight under the clouds and stars and the same will be true tomorrow night as our last few cabins go on campouts.  In a short session it takes about three days to give everyone this experience.

Our Mountainside and Riverside groups are out for 4 nights.  We heard from several of them and everyone is doing fine.  It’s been wet but not to the point of impossible by any means.  I will be going out with the paddlers to the Tuck tomorrow.  Paddlers usually get wet and stay wet so it doesn’t matter.  When you’re surrounded by moving water all day a little rain doesn’t faze you.  Given the choice, I’d rather have it falling from the sky than be swimming alongside my boat.  Even on paddling trips we make sure campers are wearing splash jackets and staying warm.  It’s just part of taking care of oneself in any conditions.

I went to the Mill this morning to watch the crew there for the first activity hour.  It’s like stepping back in time, because the Mill was built in 1890.  That’s a long time ago and one of the aspects of the Mill is talking about your life as a child in those times.  While at the Mill there are many implements and artifacts from that era including corn husk dolls and toys made from corn cobs.  That was about the extent of that “Toys R Us” storefront from that time in history.  It was a simple life.  Besides learning about grinding corn from our corn crib, there was also a group outside fishing from the small pond below the waterwheel.  I was watching a sibling pair, an older brother and younger sister, as the brother was helping his sister with getting her placed around the pond and also assisting her with getting her cane pole positioned to bring in Ringo, the legendary giant trout that no one can catch.  I didn’t stick around to see if little sis caught Ringo, but it was fun to watch the two interact and he was such a good big brother.

The campers inside the Mill learned about the dried corn they would be grinding, how to take it off the cob and then how to “process” it after it had been ground up.  It is a many stepped system that they go through to reach the final products of corn meal, grits, and chicken feed which goes back to the farm.  We consume all the corn meal and grits here at camp.  We learned about the weevils and the moths that live by eating the dried corn and how to get rid of those.  Of course the Mill puts on its modern face as it did this afternoon, when all that water power is used to MAKE ICE CREAM! Yes you read it here, ice cream and almost any flavor you want.  They made “iscream” in the PM and the flavor of the day was cookie dough.  There was no lack of campers who wanted to sign up for that afternoon activity.  Between Capture and Flag and Ice Cream at the Mill, there were some empty seats at other activities this afternoon.

While near the Mill this morning I visited the weavers up in Shady Grove.  We have 11 floor looms that campers can create intricate patterns on.  They use a combination of their own designs and also the levers and foot pedals of the loom to design their pieces.  It’s a methodical pace that takes patience and focus and the final product is very nice.  Another craft that harkens back to simpler times is taking a dried gourd that’s grown at camp and clean it up, paint it, cut it out, sew things into its thick skin and create a piece of art or perhaps a vessel to hold life’s treasures.  The gourds dry out in an old barn through the winter and each has a distinct knack for patterns of mold and mildew that once scrubbed off, reveal a nice skin that is easily decorated.  The first phase of cleaning the gourd is the hardest.  You get it down in the creek next to the Mill and scrub with all kinds of brushes and pads to get down to the nice layer.  From there it’s up to you to design it with your own purpose and ways to enhance its natural beauty.

Working with your hands and learning handicrafts is very satisfying.  It might come in the form of building your first fire or creating a piece of tapestry on the loom.  We live in such a mechanical world and technology surrounds us.  It’s nice to involve ourselves in activities that are “human powered” with simpler approaches to an end result.

We ended our day with a little Mountain Dancing tonight in the Lodge with Debbie at the 88’s.  We did the Hokey Pokey, Going to Kentucky, Pattie Cake Polka and Sasha.  After that was a Tajar Tale or two.  Children had a chance to choose their partners as well as be with their own cabin.  Camp is a good place to make your own decisions.

Camps help children feel in control of their lives. Those experiences of self-efficacy travel home as easily as a special art project or the pine cone they carry in their backpack. Children who experience themselves as competent will be better problem solvers in new situations long after their laundry is cleaned and the smell of the campfire forgotten. The goal here is to encourage a child’s sense of internality, their perception that they have some say over daily activities at a camp. They learn to fix problems when they happen (cleaning up a mess when a group of campers get too rowdy) is the child who will take home with him a view of the world as manageable the next time she encounters challenges. Camp is a great place for children to take a good bite out of growing up, but not too fast.  Stay tuned!