Category Archives: Throwback Thursday

Reflections on Moose Hill Camp

Nick Culhane is currently attending college in Denver. We will miss seeing him this year after spending 14 summers with us – but we are excited for his next adventures and the role we played in his life; he will always be a part of our Moose Hill family!

Moose Hill Camp has been a major part of my childhood and young adult life. I remember my first day of camp when I DSCN2235was dropped off at the young age of seven. Just like every child when coming to a new place for the first time, I was both nervous and excited.

My nerves quickly went away during that first week when I meet my awesome camp counselor (Matt!) and the other campers in my group. Because group sizes are smaller, campers really get a chance to bond and make friends – it’s just one great aspect of Moose Hill Camp. To this day, I still talk often with a friend I met while at camp, and we reflect on our summers at Moose Hill.

This truly is an outdoor experience, just another characteristic that makes this camp great. Unless there is an absolute down pour happening, one can expect to spend their day outside, exploring through the forests. As a young child I was unsure how I felt about the outdoors, and I had a massive fear of bees (I still do today), but after the first Monday morning nature walk, I was hooked on being outside!

fort funMoose Hill has a bit of everything when it comes to nature. There are fields to play games in, swamps and ponds to search for frogs and a variety of unique insects, pine forests to build small forts in, and, of course, the infamous Bluff hike with a great view of the surrounding towns and Gillette Stadium.

The number one lesson I learned as a camper – nature is awesome and needs to be explored! To this day I consistently go hiking and camping, and I thank Moose Hill Camp for teaching me that nature is wonderful.

My great experience as a camper convinced me that I had to become a Leader-in-Training (LIT). This is a very unique and awesome position. Even though you are still a kid (ages between 14-15), you are responsible for setting a good example to all the younger campers. You lead free time events, as well as option time on Thursday afternoons, a much sought after camper activity.

As a 14 year old kid, all I wanted to do was lead the active games and go for hikes. Yet this program challenged me to expand my horizons into the scary world of arts and crafts (for me anyhow). I remember when the leaders for the LIT program, Patti and Matt, asked me to do an NickInvitationCirclearts and craft option and I reluctantly agreed. However, this experience challenged my creativity and ultimately gave me the opportunity to meet new campers. It gave me an appreciation for how Moose Hill includes all types of children at their camp. They have activities for everyone from an energetic young child who loves to run (me!) to a creative child who loves to draw, and read books and magazines. As an LIT, I gained an appreciation for how every child is their own person and has different skills and hobbies.

After a few years as an LIT, I took the next step and applied to become a camp counselor where I learned about camp from a whole new perspective. The counselors meet at the end of the day, allowing us to see just how much Moose Hill cares about their campers. We talked about any difficulties, and shared a variety of ideas with each other to help campers have the best experiences possible. I wasn’t even aware how much the camp director and the counselors truly cared about the campers; it is what makes this camp stand out among so many others.

2015 Nick farm groupBut, by far, the most important thing that I learned was the emphasis this camp places on education for the children. As a camper, I remembered how everyday we learned about a different animal or plant. But, as a counselor, I learned just how difficult it can be to plan a lesson. After my first day on the job, it became clear that I needed to start planning my lessons both the weekend before, and the night before, camp started.

While it can sometimes be hard to get a bunch of young children to learn about anything during the summer, over the two years I worked at camp, I learned how to use the awesome nature at Moose Hill in my lesson plans. I remember searching in fields for specific insects, doing experiments to see which foods ants like the best (answer: food with the highest amount of sugar!), and using the awesome teaching bins and folders Moose Hill has available in their staff rooms. This experience gave me a great understanding of how hard a teacher’s job can be, but at the same time it is also so rewarding.

I remember when a camper ran to their parent at pickup time because they wanted to tell them everything that they had learned about a specific animal or plant I had talked about that day. It was the greatest joy I had while I was part of the staff at Moose Hill. Because of my experiences as a camp counselor, I decided to pursue a future in education when I entered college. This was a change from my original goal to become a research pharmacist. wk3 predator prey Nick

Education is so important for every child in the world, and thanks to my time at Moose Hill, I now understand how important a great teacher can be in the life of a child. Moose Hill Camp is a great place for any child to spend their summer because of the awesome adventures through the forests, the activities for all types of children, the staff that care about each camper on an individual level, AND because the campers leave with a better understanding of the importance of nature and why it needs to be protected.

If you would like to learn more about Moose Hill Camp, meet some of the current counselors and a few other families, join us for a meet and greet Open House on June 21 at 6 pm. We look forward to sharing our summer with you!

When the Sun Goes Down

Harry Higbee, a noted ornithologist, was the very first superintendent hired at Moose Hill. He was charged with maintaining the property and teaching visitors about planting to attract birds.

Periodically, Harry Higbee wrote about what was happening at the sanctuary, sharing his own observations and thoughts…and his own poetry.

I came across this great photo by one of our staff, Matt Apone, who captured a sunset (a true bonus to being staff at Moose Hill is the ability to roam the grounds once we have closed – our trails are only open dawn to dusk) and it reminded me of a poem that Mr. Higbee wrote in 1938.sunset at the bluffs

When the Sun Goes Down

I love the fire that burns in the west

At the hour of day’s decline;

When the sweet refrain of the Hermit Thrush

Comes clear on the evening’s golden lush

From the dark and shadowy pine.

‘Tis the end of a day when the sun goes down –

Though it gives me a bit of pain,

At the thought of so much I have left undone

And so few the battles I’ve nobly won,

In these hours of loss and gain.

Yet there comes a feeling of sweet repose

As I look toward the glowing west;

And a promise of better days to come

Seem born in the rays of the setting sun

As it silently sinks to rest. –H.G.H.

Moose Hill Notes – Winter past

Once again, I have been enjoying the notes from past directors and their observations as they worked, and lived, here at Moose Hill. I came across this Moose Hill Notes write-up from January 1952 by Albert Bussewitz. Check out what was happening 64 years ago:

During a large portion of the past month the Moose Hill area was free of snow and temperatures were appreciably above the norm for this time of year. Outside of two or three sharp downward thrusts of the mercury there were relatively few days when weather conditions imposed unduly severe restrictions on the bird population.

Evening GrosbeakThere appeared to be a slight diminution in numbers of Evening Grosbeaks and the Pine Grosbeaks were sighted on only two occasions. The former species made sporadic forays on the sunflower seeds with characteristic avidity but the flocks were smaller and less frequent. However, reports of Evening Grosbeak visitations at feeders in Sharon and nearby town persisted and their large influx this season has made them the conservation piece of many a Sanctuary visitor.

It seems very difficult to believe that the two aged apple trees near the museum porch on the north side of the residence can still harbor any form or vestige of insect life. So persistently throughout the four seasons have they (been) finely combed by a large variety of bird visitors. Despite the vigilance of the past the squat boles and crooked branches of these fruit bearers are subjected to an unceasing scrutiny by sharp avian eyes and equally sharp bills. Last month the Brown Creeper was a frequent bark prober and though his gleanings may have been meager enough his visits continued with unflagging perseverance. One wonders how much insect fare remains undiscovered by the searching spirals of this indefatigable worker to placate the appetites of the many Downies, Chickadees, Nuthatches and the occasional Hairy Woodpeckers. All ply the selfsame territory day after day with unremitting zeal.

Ruffed Grouse continue to be seen along the tails and about the residence in gratifying numbers and it seems reasonable to believe that their periodic cycle of abundance is in the ascendancy. At least this seems true on the local level.

We think that five Chickadees feeding and cavorting simultaneously on a single peanut log is a right tidy sum — and sight. Quit often two or three of the sprightly fellows are observed sharing the same the samblack-capped chickadeee larder but last week one day a full fivesome crowded about the buffet-style facility. It was with great regret that we were unable to obtain a photographic record of the busy scene and so we must ask our readers to accept on faith the accuracy of our account. Or are Chickadees equally gregarious at your snack-stick?

Principal fruits of some of the Saturday trail hikes taken by visiting Day campers of last summer have been the snug winter homes of the Saturniidae–especially the cocoons of the Cecropia and Promethea moths. Not all of them, however, will be developing large and colorful lepidopterous forms for the very lightness of many of the silken cases suggests that the ubiquitous ichneumon fly has stolen a march on the carefully spun plans of the moth larvae.

Truly these are the notes of a true nature observer – such detail and embellished descriptions of his observations. While Pine Grosbeak and Ruffed Grouse have not been recorded at Moose Hill for some time, you can still observe Evening Grosbeak, Brown Creeper, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Hairy Woodpecker on the property. In fact most of them are very easy to observe at our bird feeding area at the Visitor Center – you can warm up inside, enjoy the current show in the Gallery, and sit and watch the activity at the bird feeders. Sounds like a great way to enjoy a cold winter day to me!

Community Supported Agriculture: Then and Now

Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary has leased land to a local commercial family farm, Ward’s Berry Farm, for years. Discussions began over eleven years ago between the sanctuary and Jim Ward around organic farming. Soon these discussions turned toward talk of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Both felt that this model would be a safe way to experiment with taking a small section of the acreage and applying organic practices to growing some crops.

From those initial meetings, the Moose Hill Community Farm was born. Over the years, there CSA under a tent, stormy dayhave been a variety of changes:

  • From 100 families to just under 400 families involved and connected to us through the CSA.
  • From a little over 9 acres to 15 acres preserved and dedicated to organic farming.
  • From using organic growing practices to having a certified organic farming operation.welcome to the farm, barn, solar array and bird garden raised beds
  • From distribution under a tent, that on at least one occasion decided to blow away, to a dedicated CSA Barn with a solar array to offset our electrical needs!
  • From distributing only the crops we raised to making connections with other local farms to bring our shareholders fresh eggs, fish, and honey.

And yet some things have not changed:

  • Shareholders still make time to complete required work hours helping with harvesting, weeding, and distribution of the bounty. Many shareholders have so much fun and choose, when they can, to spend extra time with us on the farm.
  • Kids still come with parents and help to harvest or weed in the fields – connecting people of all ages to the food they are eating. There’s nothing like a strawberry warmed by the sun and immediately picked and enjoyed, or a cherry tomato enjoyed the same way.
  • People still connect with each other – staff to shareholders, shareholders to staff, shareholders to shareholders – talking about, well, anything under the sun (or rain, or wind).
  • Moose Hill Community Farm still commits to working with Ward’s Berry Farm to provide fresh, organic produce for our shareholders and for local food pantries for 18 weeks out of the year.

In the end, we still have chsunflower field editedallenges – long hours, deer invasion, crop balances (too many, too little, not quite what we wanted), tomato blight, thunder storms, weeding out the good along with the bad, managing pests organically – but that’s the point. We, as a community, continue to grow together and we couldn’t be happier about the success and growth of the Moose Hill Community Farm. Our shareholders truly are a part of this CSA – they share in the risks, the challenges, the bounty, the stories, and the laughter.

As we enter our 11th season, we are delighted that the changes we made to staffing the farm last year where successful. We will continue to be committed to helping to create a place where those interested in pursuing a career in farming might try it out, learn from us, and provide some new ideas to keep up growing. Our Farm Apprentices and Farm Hands were so great at connecting with our shareholders and revitalizing that community that we so value. They provided consistency to the operation and worked alongside shareholders and other volunteers with enthubounty editedsiasm and efficiency.

With anticipation of another great year for the Moose Hill Community Farm CSA, we can’t wait until the growing season begins!

Registration for the 2016 summer season begins Sunday, January 17. Learn all about our CSA here. We look forward to seeing old friends return, welcoming in new shareholders, introducing more volunteers to the farm, and sharing the bounty once more!

A Good Place to Hang

While Moose Hill is ever-moving forward, it is fun to poke through some of the past. While not every detail has been saved, there are various notes, articles, and pictures from over the years. This picture is truly one of my favorites – clearly this was a good place to hang out.

raccoon at sign 1958

Taken in 1958 by Albert “Buzzy” Bussewitz, a former Moose Hill Sanctuary Director (1948-65), the handsome raccoon seems at ease on the arm of a sanctuary signpost. The picture found its way into a local newspaper, the Mansfield News, with an article: Moose Hill Sanctuary in Sharon, Habitat of  Endless Wonders of Nature in this Area.

At the time, the sanctuary protected just 250 acres, had only eight miles of trails, had 10 years of a successful natural history summer day camp for boys and girls under its belt, and, since 1916, 143 species of birds had been identified on site. Today, we protect 1,971 acres of land with another 302 acres held in conservation restriction, there are 25 miles of trails, we still have a very active day camp, and at least 180 species of birds have been identified on site.

In the newspaper article featuring the picture of the relaxed racoon above, Mr. Bussewitz summarized some of the activity at Moose Hill and concluded with some information about the summer camp program:

teacher naturalist Michael teaching about bugs“The discoveries revolve about the birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, trees, flowers, rocks, minerals and weather forecasting…. The program is designed to bring to a youngster a larger world,…”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Registration for our 67th year of summer camp begins January 14.

Don’t forget to check out all of our great programs in our Winter/Spring catalog.

We look forward to seeing you at a program, visiting the Gallery, or out on the trails, soon!