Musings from a Sidewalk Explorer

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, continues her daily walks around her neighborhood and shares what she sees and a few fun activities and resources for you.

red maple flowers

Spring has marched onto the scene in the form of an exploded rainbow! As I continue my daily walks I have noticed the colors of spring: red maple flowers sprinkled on the sidewalk; yellow daffodils, dandelions, and forsythia; tiny purple flowers gracing a road edge; a perfect blue sky (finally), and the fresh green of new leaves just emerging. What colors have you noticed?

Try a few colorful experiments:

  • Mix a few drops of food coloring in glasses of water and see what happens.
  • Make “fireworks” in a bowl of milk (one of my favorite experiments)…find out how to make Color Changing Milk from Steve Spangler Science.
  • Create an art project with every crayon in the box and share your picture with us! 
  • Have a family color sing-down; it’s easy…divide into teams and take turns singing snippets of songs that include a color.  For example, “Somewhere over the rainbow blue birds fly.”
  • Of course, if you can venture onto area sidewalks, you can always search for your favorite color while outside.

And, enjoy another great story from Shawn – A Finnish tale about the Northern Lights

Be well and be safe!

Supporting Our Local Vendors

With the gift shop closed, we wanted to take a moment to highlight ways you can still support the local businesses that you can’t currently purchase from through us. We know that things are tight for a lot of folks out there right now due to so many jobs being shut down, but if you find yourself needing some of the items that our vendors below offer, we implore you to shop local and support these smaller business that are being greatly affected right now.

Country Farm Candles just launched a Tealight Soy Making Candle Kit, which makes a great at-home craft project. They are also working on a video series of candle experiments that can be done at home with the tealights so be sure to follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Cilla’s Creations has been busy working on new cement pieces to brighten up your yards and gardens that will be available for purchase curbside with a portion of the profits still going to support us at Moose Hill. Follow her Facebook to learn more details.

Celebrations have become a little different in this time of quarantine but you can still buy gifts of unique jewelry through Ring by Ring Designs on her website. Our entire Nature Collection is available with some new designs that aren’t even in the gift shop yet.

If you are anything like me and have found yourself drinking a little more coffee than usual to get through these strange days, you may need a restock. Jim’s Organic Coffee is an excellent local company that is currently offering 15% off of their online orders. All of their coffee support independent farmers in their countries of origin and their Mexican Single Origin coffee is certified bird friendly with over 100 bird species and over 200 plant species on the farm. Once you get your hands on some of their coffee, be sure to check out all the different ways it can be brewed to perfection right at home.

I know some of you are missing our maple syrup but I have good news. Ward’s is now selling our bottles of certified kosher maple syrup and they are now offering no contact curbside pick-up and home delivery for some of their groceries, including our syrup.

Simpson Spring, located in Easton, is also doing curbside pickup of their local water, meats, cheese, eggs, and yogurt options. You can call ahead or send them a message on Facebook to place an order.

Our organic CSA will be a great way to get fresh veggies in the coming months. Join our summer CSA and receive 18 weeks of fresh, organic vegetables Pickups in Sharon and Mattapan. With shares equaling just $27 to $32 per week it’s a great way to support Moose Hill and the work we do. Register online today to secure your slot. If you have questions about this program, please feel free to email us at [email protected]

Right now, we’re still planning to start our CSA program on time in late May. Arrangements will be made for a safe pick-up process for shareholders and farmers if the COVID-19 situation continues into the CSA season. By purchasing a CSA share now, you’re giving valuable support to our farmers as they continue to work to provide fresh, sustainable food for our community.

If you are running low on birdseed, you can support our local supplier and pick some up at Chickadee Seed & Feed on route 1 in Walpole. They have some limited hours but they are a smaller shop where you can go safely without much interaction with other people. Check their Facebook for updates on their hours and protocols.

Lastly, Tree House Farms has fresh eggs weekly and is taking orders to raise meat birds monthly. Check out her Facebook or Instagram for updates on how to order and message her on either platform with any questions or requests.

We can’t wait to see you back up on The Hill when we are able to re-open our doors, but we hope you are all staying safe and healthy in the meantime. As always, thank you for your support of Moose Hill and for supporting our partner vendors!

Critter of the Week: American Robin

Ms. Patti, one of our educators who has been teaching preschool and kindergarten aged children at Moose Hill for 25 years, sent a fun little update to her Knee High Naturalists and we thought we would share it with you – fun for the young ones, but fun for adults too!

Miss Patti exploring the fields with her Knee High Naturalists

Hello, I hope you are noticing the arrival of spring.  Even with the current situation, I walk daily and have been delighted to see spring’s arrival from my neighborhood’s sidewalks.  Trees and daffodils are blooming, birds are chirping spring songs, and at some point the temperatures will warm.

Look for robins working any lawn.  They run, run, run and then stop.  As they tilt their heads they are actually looking for worms/insects since their eyes are on the sides of their heads.  Play the “robin game” in your yard…it’s easy.  Run about and when the caller says “stop” look at the ground to see what you can notice.  What’s hiding in the grass?  Is it easy being a robin? Below is some great information about robins.  Or check out Mass Audubon’s website for additional information about this and other birds: https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/birds/spring-summer-birds

Critter of the Week:  American Robin: the American Robin is a familiar sight pulling up worms on suburban lawns. Although it’s at home breeding in deep, mature forests, the robin is the most widespread thrush in North American thanks to a tolerance for human-modified habitats.

Description: a large thrush, back and wings gray, underparts red, dark head with white eye crescents. These birds are between 20-28 cm (8-11 in), weigh about 77 grams (2.72 oz) , and have a wingspan of 31-40 cm (12-16 in). If you measured your outstretched arms from fingertip to fingertip – what would your wingspan be?

Sex Differences: sexes look similar; female paler, especially on head.

Sound: song a musical whistled phrase, “cheerily, cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up.” Call note a sharp “chup.” Also a very high-pitched thin whistling note. Click here to listen to the sounds of the robin from the The Cornell Lab.

Conservation Status: populations appear stable or increasing throughout its range. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Cool Facts:

  • Hundreds of thousands of American Robins can gather in a single winter roost. In summer, females sleep on the nests and males congregate in roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males in the roost. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.
  • The American Robin eats both fruit and invertebrates. Earthworms are important during the breeding season, but fruit is the main diet during winter. Robins eat different types of food depending on the time of day; they eat earthworms early in the day and more fruit later in the day.
  • An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.
  • Although the appearance of a robin is considered a harbinger of spring, the American Robin actually spends the winter in much of its breeding range. However, because they spend less time in yards and congregate in large flocks during winter, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions. For a discussion of how snow cover affects wintering robins, based on Great Backyard Bird Count data.

Take a moment and enjoy a story from another one of our education coordinators and our camp director, Shawn, about how the robin got it’s red breast. Listen here.

We hope that you find time everyday to look for the many signs of spring in your own yard, or in your neighborhood – draw a picture, keep a journal of your observations, write a poem, take a picture – and then share those things with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Reflections of the Sugaring Season

The Sugar Shack

This year, we were not able to share one of our most favorite seasons, the sugaring season with you. While we ran a few programs in early March, our beloved Maple Sugaring Weekends were cancelled – we missed seeing you all out on the trails learning about the history of sugaring and tasting that oh, so sweet treat. However, even though programs were cancelled, the sugaring season went on and we had a great year for producing our own maple syrup.

Vin, whom some of you know as our property steward and who is an incredible birder, also leads our sugaring efforts. We had a few changes to our operation this year and we asked Vin to share his insights on sugaring at Moose Hill over the last 12 years.

Vin demonstrates tapping a tree

When I started here we had about 80 taps (some trees have more than one tap) and made approximately 10-15 gallons of syrup for a couple of years. We steadily increased the number of taps and in the past few years, we were up to 155 taps. During this time, the taps have been rotated to other trees in the same season when the original taps showed signs of slowing down, bumping our number of taps up to about 250. These increases brought syrup production into the 35-40 gallon range.

the new evaporator

In 2018, we purchased a larger (30 inch by 8 inch) evaporator which made it possible to expand production even more because this new, larger, and more efficient, evaporator could process sap much faster. The old evaporator boiled off 20 gallons per hour, but the new evaporator boils off up to 70 gallons per hour.

a traditional system – tap and a bucket

In 2020 (this season), we decided to increase the number of taps by 115. As we have always used a traditional bucket collection system that would mean a larger increase of work. However, this would be done by using tubing as opposed to the traditional buckets. Tubing is a more efficient way to obtain sap and yields more sap per tap than buckets. The reason behind the yield is because tubing is considered a “closed” system, allowing very little outside air to infiltrate the area where the spout goes into the tree, resulting in less buildup of microorganisms. These microorganisms eventually cause the trees to stop the flow of sap prematurely so the tubing helps to extend the sap season. Once a tree is tapped, a traditional spout that has a bucket generally runs for about five weeks. Attached to the tubing system, that same spout will run for about 8 weeks or more, ultimately providing more sap. Another advantage of the tubing system is the natural vacuum that is created within the tubing which also increases the yield. This is due to the sloping terrain in the section of sugar maple woods that we tap (our main sugarbush). The weight of the sap in the small diameter tubing (3/16 inch) is what creates this vacuum and in year one has outproduced the traditional buckets at least two to one, if not more.

a tubing system – lines in the woods

We installed five main (lateral) lines with about 20 tapes per line. These five lines flow down to a low spot in the sugarbush into a 300 gallon holding tank. From there, the sap is transported to the Sugar House holding tanks, and then into the evaporator for processing. The last two seasons have been average or above average for sap flow. In 2019, an above average year, about 2,800 gallons of sap were collected. This year, which was an average flow, the additional 115 taps on tubing yielded close to 5,000 gallons. The 2020 season also turned out to be a short season for sap flow. The trees were taped at the end of January (traditionally, on average, it is the first week of February) and slowed considerable by the end of the first week in March due to the weather being too mild. I wasn’t able to rotate any of the buckets to other trees this year to extend the season, which further illustrates how effective the tubing system functioned in year one.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the tubing. There was a large learning curve to a new system and there are still many bugs to work out, mostly in transporting sap. But, as we look forward to next year, we will retire the bucket system in our main sugarbush. Don’t worry, all the places we go to for programming and the Maple Sugaring Weekends will still feature the traditional buckets. But, by converting the rest of our main sugarbush to tubing, and using the same amount of taps, our production will likely go up even higher.

Our next challenge to work on – the bottling operation. This is a time consuming job that was developed based on past production. With an increase, we will need to think about how we make that more efficient.

With the large increase in sap production, you might wonder how that actually translates into syrup volume. As you might remember, the traditional formula for sap to syrup is 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. Over the years, we have noticed that it is often more like 45-50 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. There are a number of reasons why this might happen, but that’s a story for another day.

Here are a few stats from our last four seasons of maple syrup production. In 2017, we produced 37 gallons of syrup; in 2018, we produced 35 gallons of syrup; in 2019, we produced 53 gallons of syrup and then this year, 2020, we produced 76 gallons of syrup.

We don’t sell our syrup by the gallon, but in 8 oz bottles and 1.75 oz maple leaf bottles. This year, our 76 gallons of syrup translated into 1,100 bottles and 335 maple leaf bottles. Now that’s a lot of syrup!

With Moose Hill and our Gift Shop currently closed, you might wonder how you can get some of our delicious maple syrup to enjoy. We have once again partnered with our neighbors and friends at Ward’s Berry Farm and they are selling Moose Hill syrup – so another reason to support a local farm and get a sweet treat from us.

March Happenings at Moose Hill

It’s hard to believe that March is here! How did that happen? In a winter that has been a true roller coaster ride in temperatures but with a lack of real snow, at least in our area, it has been a great winter to get outside and explore. We’ve noticed a lot of things that have been different – from the sounds we are hearing to the birds and animals that we are seeing. What have you been noticing on your outdoor adventures this winter?

As each day gets a little longer, that weather that we truly look for in mid- to late- February and into March has arrived (at least some of the time). When we begin to see consistent nights below freezing and days that warm to 40-45 degrees F, we turn our programs and hearts to the sugaring season. Even as we enter March, we have already had an incredible start to the season. Maybe it was the tubing we added to parts of our operation, maybe it has been the right combination of temperatures, but either way we have SYRUP. The evaporator has been going and we are delighted with the bottles lining our shelves waiting for you in the Gift Shop. Stop on in, plan on pancakes or waffles tonight or this weekend and enjoy the sweet season!

There are lots of programs to choose this month – but remember, register early to secure your spot. Love a program and want to make sure it really does happen? Grab a friend or two and register together. Most programs need a minimum of 4-6 people and some programs will sell out quickly.

Knee High Naturalists – Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays, 9:30 am-noon: Using games, songs, art, and plenty of outdoor hands-on/minds-on activities, Miss Patti explores the nature of Moose Hill with your 3-5 year old through the changing seasons. While sessions have begun, we still have some spaces available and you can still register. Contact Patti, 781-784-5691 for the prorated pricing.

Fledgling Fridays – March 6, 13, and 20, 1-2 pm: Designed for you and your child aged 3-5 and focusing on sensory development, each program has it’s own theme all while creating art, participating in STEAM activities, listening to stories, and exploring the outdoors. In March, we explore many different aspects of the sugaring season!

Climate Cafe: Birds and the Changing Climate – March 10, 5:30-7:30 pm: Join Mass Audubon’s Director of Bird Conservation, Jon Atwood and our TerraCorps member, Maddy, for an evening of discussion. Snack and drinks will be provided at the FREE event held at the Sharon Public Library.

Maple Sugaring Behind the Scenes – March 13, 7:00-9:00 pm: This program is designed for the adults! Learn about how we turn raw sap into maple syrup, complete with a variety of tastings of maple – drinks, waters, syrups – plus visiting the sugar shack at night is an experience you don’t want to miss!

Maple Sugaring Weekends – March 14, 15, 21 or 22, tours between 11 am and 3 pm: This 90-minute outdoor, guided tour includes meeting people portraying characters from the past as they go about their daily tasks, including sugaring. Conclude your tour at our operational sugar house and enjoy a taste of the final product. Head back to the Nature Center to get your own bottle of Moose Hill syrup in the Gift Shop and purchase pancakes, sap dogs or maple sugared popcorn. This program often sells out, so be sure to register to secure your spot!

Nature Nerd Trivia Night – March 18, 7:00-9:00 pm: Enjoy a fun evening of nature trivia. You will learn about the passions of the Moose Hill staff and their curiosity – every night brings laughter, discussion, learning, and fun! March’s theme Small Things in Nature.

Junior Conservation Commissioner Program – begins March 25, 4-5:30 pm: In partnership with Walpole’s Conservation Commission and the Walpole Recreation Department, Moose Hill is excited to provide children ages 9-11 years old a chance to become a Junior Conservation Commissioner. This five-session science and civics program led by Julia, a teacher naturalist from Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, will take place at Blackburn Hall in Walpole with one scheduled field trip to Moose Hill.

Moose Hill Walkers – begins March 30, 8:00-9:00 am: Join Patti for a weekly walk to see the arrival of spring while learning the trails for walks later on your own. A great way to kick start your day and the best value is to register for the series!

Curious about what’s coming? April is just around the corner and so is April Vacation Week – plan early to secure your child’s spot in our popular vacation week programming. We are always adding new programs so check out the calendar often or follow-us on Facebook or Instagram. Have a program you would love to see us do? Let us know, we might just have something in the works.

OR are you already hoping for summer? Summer Camp registration and Summer CSA registration are in full swing!

Scheduling your time seem too much – no worries. Come for a hike on your own. Our trails are open when the parking lot is open (7:00 am-7:00 pm), 7 days a week. Stop in the Nature Center before you head out and let us help you plan your hike.

And while you are here, check out our Gift Shop. We have a wide variety of nature-themed products for sale, many from local artists. We also have Moose Hill branded items and snacks and drinks to enjoy.

No matter how you choose to spend your time this February, we hope that Moose Hill will be a part of your plans – we look forward to seeing you here.

Sugar on Snow from a Vermonter’s View

by Danielle Lanson, Administrative Assistant and Office Manager

that sweet, sweet steam

As a Vermont native, maple syrup wasn’t just something you put on pancakes. It was a tradition, a season, and a way of life. I’ve traded chickens for it, I’ve been paid for home improvements with it, and I’ve sat around pots of boiling sap in a room full of white beards and flannel passing down stories while the sweet steam seeped into my clothing creating memories to cherish in years to come. Maple syrup was about community, more than it was about creating a product. As I got older and my life got busier, there was less time to spend hanging out in sugar shacks but one tradition that always remained was sugar on snow.

getting ready to pour some on snow

Every March, the entire family got together to go experience the essence of Vermont in its chewy and caramelized form over hot cocoa, cider donuts, and laughter. The winters are long up in Vermont, so we celebrate the horizon of spring by pouring piping hot maple syrup over packed snow to create the iconic Sugar on Snow that has become a well-loved tradition signaling the end of winter and the beginning of mud season, which then gives hope for spring.

In honor of these northern traditions, we are excited to offer a Sugar on Snow program for all here at Moose Hill to bring you the full experience of the sugaring season.

Want more? Check out all the great Maple Sugaring Programs: Maple Sugaring Weekends, now two full weekends (great for everyone!); Behind the Scenes tour of our sugaring operation (for the adults); and Fledgling Fridays programs (for you and your child age 3-5 years).

We hope to see you here, enjoying our sweetest season!

Teen Leadership Experiences at Moose Hill Nature Day Camp

by Shawn Moriarty, Moose Hill Education Coordinator & Camp Director

 In the world of summer camp, we talk about, explore, and teach leadership a great deal.  We spend time on the topic of leadership because we know as Camp Directors that if we want great staff, we need to train them in the skills we want them to have. And for many camp staff, working at camp is often their first job and they might not have a lot of experience in learning about leadership directly.

Leadership is one of those words that we hear frequently in a wide variety of contexts. There are thousands of takes on leadership in the arenas of business, organizational development, military tactics, athletics, and Ted Talks. There are debates on if leadership is made or innate inside of us.

If you are a parent and you have a young adult who is between 14-16 years of age, and you would like them to develop their skills in leadership, consider having them take part in one of our two leadership experience programs here at Moose Hill Nature Day Camp. We offer two programs: Leaders In Training (LIT) and Counselor In Training (CIT). They are different programs, and they both focus on developing leadership skills.

For those of you who have been with us for a few years, you will notice that we have changed the previous LIT program. It was a great program. And we are making the change to better serve our campers, camper families, and the future of camp. We have noticed two things: 1) We have a great group of older staff coming up through camp, and 2) Older campers can tend to have busy schedules during the summer.

We have redesigned our Leaders In Training (LIT) program and designed a new Counselor In Training (CIT) program to meet these two observations. The new redesigned LIT program is 1-week in length, and the participants will spend the week experiencing leadership first hand. The LITs will help run some activities during the week for the rest of camp, they will take a personal Leadership Skills Self-Assessment, and they will take part in leadership experience initiatives. The LIT program can be taken multiple times over the summer. The format will remain the same, and the activities will change. The LITs will not be assigned with a group of campers, but they will do activities with campers that they create. And while we offer this program at camp, it is not just about working at camp. The skills developed and explored in this program, can help the participants be better leaders outside of camp.

The new CIT program, provides a 2-week training for participants who want to develop skills needed to work at camp. In addition to working on leadership skills, the CITs will also help lead activities, learn topics on child development, participate in team experience challenges, and build their naturalist skills. The program is 2-weeks long and runs in sessions 2/3, 5/6, and 8/9. Sessions 4,7, and 10 are when CITs can come and get a week of experience with a group of campers. The 2-week sessions will allow the group of CITs to learn how to work together, and perhaps more importantly, build their skills together on what it takes to build a community. We are developing this program so that 1) the CIT’s who come out of this program have some great skills as camp staff, naturalists, and leaders, and 2) we get to invest in some of the people who could be the next generation of amazing staff here at Moose Hill Nature Day Camp.

 Leadership is a challenging topic. We will ask for the participants to give each day their best effort. We will ask them to try difficult tasks. We will give them responsibility. And we will give them tools to develop their skills as leaders. If your teen wants to build their leadership skills and understanding, consider giving them the gift of experiencing these programs. 

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Sign up for Leaders in Training

Contact Julia to sign up for Counselor in Training.

February Happenings at Moose Hill

winter can be beautiful!

And just like that we are half-way through January! In our little area of the state, we’ve had some mild weather and it shows. Weekends have been filled with people getting outside, taking a hike and enjoying the mild winter weather. We love seeing you here at Moose Hill – don’t forget, stop in and say hi to our great staff at the front desk (they can even make suggestions on new hikes for you depending on how long you want to be out), warm up (if you need to) and check out the Gift Shop for snacks and drinks.

February is on it’s way and we can’t help but think about Groundhog’s Day. Did you know that Massachusetts has an official groundhog? Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm’s very own Ms. G. We’ll have to see if her prediction (based on shadows don’t you know) will follow along with Punxsutawney Phil of national fame or will it be different?

Finding a mouse house in the bushes.

But no matter what February 2 brings from these furry prognosticators, we do know that there will be lots of things to explore at Moose Hill – from outdoor happenings to programs and vacation week camp! While you are out exploring, what signs are you seeing? Tracks of squirrels, coyotes, red foxes, fisher, raccoons? Are you hearing new things? Some birds will begin their territorial song and woodpeckers will be heard drumming away as they establish their territories. Will you see us out as we tap trees for sugaring season? Who says February is a slow month – so much happening and we even gain an extra day in this Leap Year:

Brunch with the Eagles – February 2, 8 am-4 pm: Sanctuary directors Doug Williams and Karen Stein are excited for their annual outing to Essex, CT in search of bald eagles and a tasty brunch at the historic Griswold Inn.

Knee High Naturalists – Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays, 9:30 am-noon: Using games, songs, art, and plenty of outdoor hands-on/minds-on activities, Miss Patti explores the nature of Moose Hill with your 3-5 year old through the changing seasons.

Mead variety

Introduction to Mead Making – February 6, 6-8 pm: Curious about the oldest fermented beverage ever produced? This class takes you through the history, the variety, the simplicity (or complexity) of making mead. You will leave class with everything you need to begin making your own mead at home.

Tap-a-Tree – February 8, 10:30 am-12:30pm OR 1:30-3:30 pm: This hands-on class takes you through the very basics of tapping a tree in order to collect sap – from selecting your tree to hanging your bucket. We will then take over the hard part of sap collection and boiling it down for the sweet treat we all love.

Cell Phone Portrait Photography – February 8, 2-5 pm: love taking selfies or capturing you and your friends and family while your out on fun adventures but your pictures never quite work? Have we got the tips and tricks for you.

Barred Owl

Owl Moon – February 9, 6:30-7:30 pm: Experience the magic of Moose Hill after dark with a full moon in the sky! This program is especially designed for families with children ages 3-6 although all are welcome.

Fledgling Fridays – February 14 and 28, 1-2 pm: Designed for you and your child aged 3-5 and focusing on sensory development, each program has it’s own theme all while creating art, participating in STEAM activities, listening to stories, and exploring the outdoors.

Conversations and Cocktails: Maple Bourbon Apple Cider – February 15, 4-5:30 pm: Let’s talk maple sugaring while enjoying some snacks and a cocktail. Did we mention that sugaring season is right around the corner and as we gear up for producing our very own maple syrup, let’s enjoy that sweet treat in front of a fire in a few different, tasty ways.

Black-capped Chickadees

Late Winter Bird Identification – February 16, 1-3 pm: From which birds overwinter in our forests to what long distance migrants you might see, join Teacher Naturalist Michael Scutari for a hike to see, and hear, what is happening at Moose Hill and learn some simple techniques for bird identification.

February Vacation Week – February 17-21, 9 am-4 pm: It’s out-of school time that’s fun! Each day has a different theme and we will explore outside as much as the weather allows. Sign up for one day or for all five – before and after care options are available.

stoking the fire

Maple Sugaring Behind-the-Scenes – February 28, 7-9 pm: This program is designed for the adults! Learn about how we turn raw sap into maple syrup, complete with a variety of tastings of maple – drinks, waters, syrups – plus visiting the sugar shack at night is an experience you don’t want to miss!

Digital Photography for Beginners – February 29, 3-5:30 pm: Leap Day seems like the perfect day to learn more about that DSLR camera and gain the confidence to have full control over the image that you are creating. This class has both indoor time and a hike to gain some hands-on experience!

Star Gazing Nights – February 29, 7-9 pm: Let’s check out the stars on this Leap Day!

Curious about what’s coming? March is the height of sugaring season and there are a lot of programs to explore in our busiest, sweetest season! We are always adding new programs so check out the calendar often or follow-us on Facebook or Instagram. Have a program you would love to see us do? Let us know, we might just have something in the works.

OR are you already hoping for summer? Summer Camp registration has begun! And, Our summer CSA early bird registration last through February 29 – register before the price goes up in March.

Scheduling your time seem too much – no worries. Come for a hike on your own. Our trails are open when the parking lot is open (7:00 am-4:00 pm), 7 days a week. Stop in the Nature Center before you head out and let us help you plan your hike.

And while you are here, check out our Gift Shop. We have a wide variety of nature-themed products for sale, many from local artists. We also have Moose Hill branded items and snacks and drinks to enjoy.

No matter how you choose to spend your time this February, we hope that Moose Hill will be a part of your plans – we look forward to seeing you here.

January Happenings at Moose Hill

Chickadees – ever resilient in the winter

Winter is here! The weather is bringing us all the fun mix of winter options – snow, sleet, hail, ice storms, winds – and yet each day we are gaining a little bit more daylight (can you feel it?). As with most things this time of year, take time to think back and reflect…on your nature journey. Did you find time to spend time outside? There are so many ways to enjoy and appreciate the nature that is all around us. Perhaps you enjoyed a walk or a hike in a new location, or maybe you were in just the right spot to capture that wonderful sunset that filled the sky with amazing color, or perhaps nature inspired a story or a poem within you. However you connected, we hope that it was a wonderful year!

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. – Albert Einstein

As we usher in 2020 – a new decade – check out some of the programs we have put together for you:

Fledgling Fridays – January 3, 10, 17, and 31; 1:30-2:30 pm: This program designed for 3-5 year olds with their accompanying adult explores something new each week with STEAM activities, stories, and outdoor exploration. Come for one, or come for all.

Full Moon Hike – January 10; 7:00-8:00 pm: Discover the beauty of Moose Hill under a full moon. This program is designed for ages 6 and old, as well as adults – come call for owls and search the skies for constellations.

learn to paint the nature at Moose Hill

Sip and Paint Nature Night – January 11; 5:00-7:00 pm: Sip, socialize, enjoy a cozy fire, and get creative as local artist Jennifer takes you from a blank canvas to your own masterpiece, brushstroke by brushstroke. You will create a wintery scene inspired by the nature at Moose Hill; perfect for time with friends or family. 

School’s Out Nature Days – January 20; 9:00 am-4:00 pm: Spend your school day off here at Moose Hill. Each Nature Day has a different nature topic and will include outdoor exploration, nature play, crafts, stories, and fun activities. Before and After Care options available!

Nature Nerd Trivia Night – January 22; 7:00-9:00 pm: Enjoy a fun evening of nature trivia. You will learn about the passions of the Moose Hill staff and their curiosity – every night brings laughter, discussion, learning, and fun! January’s theme is mammals.

Star Gazing Night – January 24; 6:30-8:30 pm: Join astronomers from the Astronomical Society of Southern New England for a look at the stars and other night objects through their big telescopes.

coyote tracks in mud

Tracks and Traces – January 26; 2-3 pm: There are many animals that call Moose Hill home, but where are they? Start with the basics of animal track patterns and then head outside to look for evidence of our resident winter wildlife in this family friendly program.

Knee High Naturalists – new session begins January 4 or January 5! Designed for your 2-5 year old who will begin to explore Moose Hill with Miss Patti through games, songs, art, and plenty of outdoor, hands-on/minds-on learning experiences.

summer camp is coming…

Curious about what’s coming? February has plenty of programs to explore as we gear up and head into our busiest, sweetest season in March – sugaring! We are always adding new programs so check out the calendar often or follow-us on Facebook or Instagram. Have a program you would love to see us do? Let us know, we might just have something in the works. OR are you already hoping for summer? Summer Camp registration begins January 3 and our summer CSA registration begins January 7!

Scheduling your time seem too much – no worries. Come for a hike on your own. Our trails are open when the parking lot is open (7:00 am-4:00 pm), 7 days a week. Stop in the Nature Center before you head out and let us help you plan your hike.

And while you are here, check out our Gift Shop. We have a wide variety of nature-themed products for sale, many from local artists. We also have Moose Hill branded items and snacks and drinks to enjoy.

No matter how you choose to spend your time in the new year, we hope that Moose Hill will be a part of your plans – we look forward to seeing you here.

Reflections on the year

It’s hard to believe that 2019 will soon be coming to an end. The holiday rush is on, and yet, I still find time to take a step outside, enjoy a deep breath, and explore the nature at Moose Hill – a perk of working in such an amazing location.

On a recent walk as I was reflecting on the year and I am amazed at all of the programs, events, and activity that happened – it was a good year. One of my favorite programs is a trip I do with fellow sanctuary director, Doug, from Stony Brook down to Essex, Connecticut to search for Bald eagles every February. This year didn’t disappoint and the brunch at the Griswold Inn is always worth the trip! But February always turns our attention to the maple sugar season as trees are tapped and we wait for that weather to turn just perfectly for the sap to begin to flow.

This past year, we added a whole array of new programs to celebrate this short, but sweet, season. All programs that you will once again find this coming February, March, and early April. Tap-a-tree is for anyone who wants to try their hand at tapping one of our trees – the reward, your own bottle of Moose Hill maple syrup fresh from the season. Then we added, Sugar-on-Snow (an iconic tradition), Sweet Treats from Nature (cooking with maple syrup), and Maple Sugaring Behind the Scenes (an evening in the sugar shack). And, of course, we will continued our Maple Sugaring Weekends, a tradition now heading into its 48th season!

But new programs during the maple sugaring season was just getting us started – we continued Forest Bathing programs with Forest Therapy Guide Tam of Toadstool Walks; had fun with Nature Nerd Trivia Nights; re-invigorated the Gift Shop working with local artisans; started a new preschool-aged program for families, Fledgling Fridays to supplement our Knee High Naturalist program; added an artisan fair to our Native Plant Sale; partnered with Patriot Place to lead guided nature walks at the cranberry bog; enjoyed another summer concert with our favorite local band, The Second Precinct Jug Band; started our 70th summer of Nature Day Camp; had an amazing growing year on our 15 year-old organic farm; added Farm Conversations and Cocktails to enjoy the season; worked with friends and an amazing Chef from Farmstead Table Restaurant to highlight the many resources around us in our first Field Meets Fork dinner; welcomed an AmeriCorps team for just over four weeks; enjoyed another Halloween Prowl; developed and ran several nature photography classes; and installed a new electric vehicle charging station thanks to a program through Eversource and the generosity of Horizon Solutions. Like I said, it’s been a good year and this doesn’t even talk about all our school programming and the Youth Climate Summit held with sister sanctuaries Oak Knoll and Stony Brook at Wheaton College. We have a lot to be grateful for this past year.

And yet programming is not all that we do here. We have been charged with stewarding this property – almost 2,000 acres of forest, fields and wetlands. Working with our science team at Mass Audubon and through the efforts of property staff and volunteers, we continued work on several fields removing and keeping down invasive plants. During the Statewide Volunteer Day, we removed debris from the fields and seeded new native flowers and grasses as well as pushing back field edges creating that early forest/field edge habitat that is so needed for a number of native plants and animals. With the help, ideas, and skill of several regular volunteers, we were able to raise the boardwalk through the red maple swamp after it had been under water for almost 6 months following the wet Fall of 2018 and continued wet Spring of 2019. And, thanks to a generous donor, we built and installed a new tower for Chimney Swifts – we truly hope that because we built it they will come.

So how can we accomplish so much? Because of you – our volunteers, our members, our program participants, our shareholders, our visitors, and our donors. As you reflect back on this year, we hope that you find that you enjoyed time in nature on a walk, in a program, at an event, and that you consider making a donation to Moose Hill. Every dollar does count and as you can see, together with you, we can accomplish so much. We thank you for your support.