Please welcome our guest photographer, Thursday Scout Herbie! He has quite an eye.









Amazing, huh?


……I am speechless!…….Bobcat1Bobcat2Bobcat3

Autumn is underway. The students at Whole Earth Homeschool have been busy harvesting new skills and creating new memories and stories of their own.

The very first day was no exception. Even after a full day, sometimes nature has her own plans to present. A recently deceased groundhog was found on our driveway, and the tribal minds of the  advanced Wilderness Skills group wasted no debate: swiftly and respectfully they took the animal into their own hands. Greg and Broch carefully explained every detail of the process and the anatomy as they dressed the animal and gave the organs back to mother earth. The fur, meat, and bones were reserved for use.

Groundhod skinning

Each student was enamored. They asked thoughtful questions, examined each step with intense focus and curiosity. The knowledge and talent of our new instructors was deftly demonstrated.

Skills day one fall09 001

Trail to otter bridge

The Pioneers and Scouts seem to embody the old saying “work hard, play hard”. Both the groups work up laughter and sweat first thing in the morning with high octane games. After that the Pioneers head straight into their goal propelled construction project; the first ever Great Hollow primitive TreeHouse . I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

For the Scouts, the order of survival and the village tasks occupy much of their day.  They have worked on fire building, camouflage, wild tea, and lots of nature activities. Patrick and Jen always return with great stories and big smiles from their Scouts!

These are two groups that really fulfill the ingredients for a rich childhood.


Which sometimes requires extra shoes and a tireless good spirit,

Week 2 Scouts

as well as strategy. She looks innocent, doesn’t she? Little do the coyotes know that there is a quiet second deer hiding below, making them immune to being tagged. Deer can be tricksters too.


On the other side of Great Hollow, the Wilderness Challenge group rises to each occasion. This semester they are working hard at building character; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Anyone who witnesses their departure on Thursday mornings knows what I mean; you can’t help but be moved by the pack of them tearing into the woods like a thundering herd of Elk! It is breathtaking. And that’s only the morning. An hour later they’ve added a layer of muscle from their conditioning and are pumped for the day’s adventures.


So far, the ropes courses have been a hot pursuit. One of the most significant challenges they have tackled is Emily’s favorite:  the Giant’s Ladder. This initiative requires an incredible amount of willpower, teamwork, and overcoming of one’s perceived limitations. It provides fertile ground for self discovery and growth… in ways difficult to explain. Perhaps you will see into the photograph and imagine yourself in their position.

Yup I can

GL teamwork

Turning the wheel of energy, we come to the last day of our week. Sweet Fridays. This day is dedicated to absorbing nature on its deeper levels. To understanding the subtleties of song and cloud and wind and soil. To hearing the leaves tickle branches as they fall, and smelling the air as the hours pass. Fridays are dedicated passionately to honing relationship with Nature.



Mist watching with JNats


Bloodroot cuttings

In plant class we are working on a very practical level, with our focus on conservation. Components of this endeavor are three-fold: Conservation of land integrity and biodiversity, Bioregional and traditional alternatives for herbal medicines which replace overuse of endangered plants, and Place-based knowledge. The latter being the founding root of the former two components.

Our classes thus far have reflected this. The first day we studied and planted Goldenseal roots. The second day we studied Elder and made wise Elderberry Elixir to keep everyone healthy this season. The third day we took root cuttings to help propagate our existing Bloodroot, and the students scouted the proper habitat for their transplant. Very well done. The fourth day we assimilated what we have learned about these plants and their  accompanying lessons by creating our own folklore stories. This was an especially challenging and rewarding class – all the stories were fantastic, and if read to a sibling or younger friend, would indeed pass along the intended wisdom in clever and enchanting ways.

And of course our MicroScouts! Oh the fun and play these kids have. Every time I pass them they say something to make me laugh or smile. This group is seriously busy…. exploring the trails, finding bugs, drawing pictures, carving in the mud, baking, and picking lots and lots ….. and lots…. of goldenrod flowers. (This was at least their fourth bushel.)

Gh flower girls2

Happy October!

Haunted Hollow Horror Hike



At the intersection of Route 37 & Haviland Hollow Rd.

New Fairfield, CT





6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
First tour begins Last tour begins


$5 (under 18)$7 (adults)

Operating Rain or Moonshine

Dress Appropriately for the Outdoors

(Wear sturdy shoes & bundle up!)

All proceeds go toward our mission of building strong kids, strong families, strong communities through programming at Great Hollow Wilderness School & the Regional YMCA of Western CT.

Your Fearless Leaders

Fire TendingStaff training was great. As I write this, Wilderness Skills, is already in the woods on their first day. I’ll admit, I watch them go by and a wave of pride and happiness washes over me as they slowly disappear into the trees, with their packs donning handmade bow drills and laces of twirled Milkweed cordage. The land seems to breathe them in as invited company.ST on trail Our fearless leaders this Fall are ready. Most of them you may know, as they are already seasoned Great Hollow staff. This made for an incredibly rewarding and rich training, as everyone had plenty to share and many regulations had already been learned. 
Staff contemplationHere, we have (left to right) Greg, Broch, Ingmar and Joe, discussing various plants suitable for cordage, tinder, and the myriad uses for Artemisia Vulgaris; our locally abundant Mugwort. GRbee The bees hummed along. 
Ingmar harvest packWe toured the trails and blazed some new ones. Beaver bridgeWe stopped to learn about some of the important flora and fauna in the area, and how they affect their surroundings. Fearless leaders 1We practiced looking cool for the kids. Fearless leaders 2… and practiced looking closely; at mystery flowers, beautiful moths, and differentiated toxic plants versus safe plants. We planned games, brainstormed new projects, and taught each other skills.Sweet Everlasting

Staff Training fall 09 004


Staff Training fall 09 024

Here they are! Clockwise starting at left: Greg & Broch, (Skills, Pioneers & JNats) Ingmar (Micros), Jen & Patrick (Scouts), Joe (fort security and inoculations of philosophy and play), and Emily(Challenge and Micros).

Patrick is new to Great Hollow, but comes to us with a wealth of experience as an Eagle Scout, certified lifeguard, skilled archer backpacker, and teacher, all at the accomplished young age of 16. In addition, Patrick has also been homeschooled throughout his life. Welcome Patrick!

Dave managed to escape from the Camera but he is ready for, well, a lot of challenge!  And Joe will be filling in during absences since the Explorers is not running. Thank you Joe! You always fill the Meadows and Woods with joy.

Welcome to Autumn!

Greg Anderson 003Hi everyone!  My name is Greg Anderson and I will be co-teaching the Wilderness Skills, Pioneer and Jr. Naturalist classes here at Great Hollow.  I am very excited to bring my skills as a primitive technologist, craftsman, tracker, and wilderness survival expert to the children I will be working with.  It was my privilege to learn these skills from various books and mentors such as Errett Callahan, Tom Brown Jr., and many less famous but very dedicated friends.

I have been studying the vast scope of wilderness survival and all of its facets (like herbalism, naturalism, ethnobotany, etc.) for eight years now and I am still learning new things daily.  Currently my partner Dena and I work at a local farm, implementing our skills in organic gardening and living closer to our visions of permaculture. Nature itself is limitless in it’s aspects and variations, and it is my passion.  Everything in modern society can be accounted for in a wilderness setting, from basic needs to comfortable leisure, and I find that when living the in the ways that are closest to nature I come closer to understanding my own.

Looking forward to meeting all of you,



Greg, Dena, and their baby Maple joined my kids and I for a hike and orientation at the Hollow last week. As you will see below, it didn’t take long for everyone to feel at home. Greg brings a refreshing combination of openness and knowledge to our staff that I feel will be in perfect alignment with our ways of learning and discovery. Greg, along with Broch (photo and intro hopefully up soon) will be co-teaching each of the courses formerly lead by Ethan. Broch has already been working at great Hollow for some time now, with Nature’s Chorus summer camp and has undergone full Great Hollow staff training. Together I am confident they will provide a wide range of adventure, mentorship, traditions, skills, and accomplishment.

Greg Anderson 011

A look back


Spring was remarkable. Busy, indeed, hence the lack of blog posts. But hey – that’s what can happen when you are busy outside!

We did manage to capture a few gems on camera, and so with fall soon to arrive, I will take advantage of this moment in August to reflect on the wonders had in Spring.

Our advanced Skills course sharpened thier aim with Archery, and I must say they got quite good! I am sorry to report I don’t have photos of that class (they are elusive!) but if any parents have good photos I will happily post them!

Pioneers Thursday May 7, 09 106

Above are the Pioneers, hamming it up in front of what is now a complete animal pen structure, (to accompany the log cabin) hand built from the ground up with Ash logs and a LOT of teamwork and elbow grease!

The swing of things

This group was so intensely proud of the work they accomplished as well as the new stories, games, and good times had by everyone.

Pioneers Thursday May 7, 09 087

And as you can see, sometimes a good time means mucking in the water hole as it is being dug.

Bird Olympics

The Jr. Naturalists sharpened many skills. Here you see them identifying birds in the woods. Many of them don’t even require a field guide any more; they know them by color, shape, size, flight habits or song.

Nest maybe yellow warbler


These young Naturalists also took the leap into gardening… creating a flourishing greenhouse, fertile compost, and doing the groundwork of transplanting all the seedlings into the garden beds when big enough. There may even be a good harvest to return to this fall….. if the animals didn’t get to it first!

Climber in the greenhouse

Ethan holding garter snake

The Explorers were a curious bunch! They touched and learned every creepy crawly they could; big, small, and even microscopic. We studied soil composition, hiked uncharted Great Hollow territory, identified minerals, created a natural sun dial, and learned about maps. The Explorers also logged the process of a decomposing deer carcass, which was a fascinating project which impressed upon us the art of questioning quite beautifully.

Explorers wk 6 Topo Map

Explorers wk 6 and Andy's 039

Grass project

GH week 5 spring 09 009

The Micro Scouts were delightful as always! Laughter, creativity, sharing, and curiosity drive these wonderful nature kids to discoveries that often surprise and teach the instructors.


The games reached new heights this spring … realizing so many complexities of role playing, advantages and handicaps, and predator/prey dynamics which not only kept everyone in good cardiovascular shape, but revealed the endless webs that nature weaves.

McKenzie with Jacob staff

The Wilderness Challenge crew did so many exciting things, both in the spring as well as this past summer. Everything from scaling the wall, making Jacob staffs, verbal mapping, built rafts, did lots of swimming, physical training, and team initiatives. These kids just continue to impress us all with their razor sharp minds and drive for success!

WC Raft project 2

Pioneers week 2 spring 09 021 The Scouts got their fill, too, of story time, fire skills, and of crafting a giant, beautiful burned bowl. They learned edible flowers, hiked high into the outcrops and were especially tolerant of the rain.

Sacred coal

And so… with lots learned and lots more to learn, we turn the wheel of the year and invite in the wonders and bounty of fall…. for all of our natural delight!

Owen's Web