Hot off the Press……

The Apple press, that is!

Autumn for nature enthusiasts and New Englanders alike usually elicits the insatiable desire to harvest. Since Great Hollow is a former apple orchard, it is a fitting theme for Pioneer living, and a great springboard for the study of many things; fruit, trees, winter food storage, and little fruit eating critters found in the middle of apples.

Despite the years passed between now and the days when the root cellar and cider barrels were full, the apples fresh from the trees are crunchy and amazingly sweet. The collecting of apples is no small task as well…. requiring many upreaching arms and basket hauling teamwork. Ethan’s homemade apple press worked it’s magic and everyone enjoyed fresh cups of juice.

Something interesting you may or may not know about apples, is that they are related to some more of our favorite plants: roses, strawberries, raspberries, peaches and cherries! They are all a part of a larger plant family we call the Rosaceae family. The members of this family all share the same numerical pattern of flowers… five petals and numerous stamens. The leaves usually come in odd numbers with one or two pairs of leaflets and a lone leaf at the tip.

On Friday, the Jr. Naturalists continued branching out on apples, along with the other activities they did such as birdwatching, a root study, hearing a wonderful story about Cicadas from Whendi, and making a track trap. (try saying that 5 x fast!)

From a handout coming next week, here are a few quick apple facts:

~The Pilgrims planted the first apple trees in their colony

~Apple trees take 4-5 years to produce fruit

~An average tree can fill 20 boxes that weigh 42 pounds when harvested

~Americans eat 19.6 pounds or about 65 fresh apples a year

~25% of an apple is air

~The largest apple picked weighed 3 pounds

~It takes the energy of 50 leaves to produce one apple

~One of George Washington’s hobbies was pruning his apple trees

~Apples ripen six times faster in room temperature than in the refrigerator


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~and moving right along… into the brush, is the not so sneaky coordinator out to snap a couple photos of the Wilderness Challenge….

I heard it was an invigorating day!

On Friday, the MicroScouts also had their first day. They were all so cute at lunchtime, circled around drawing in their journals. They day was infused with imagination and wonder, as treasures were uncovered in the forest during a long hike almost to the waterfall. Monarch and Viceroy was the game of the day, proving just how clever a viceroy can be, and how nature creates ingenious ways of keeping her critters alive.


First Day

Ahh yess……. back at the hollow……

We are stepping into the new semester with fruiting ideas and energy, in tandem with the ripe concords, the juicy Russian Olives, and crisp heirloom apples. The breeze whispers invisible lessons of growth, discovery and ancient ways of walking the land.

Within half an hour they were no where to be seen….. traces in the barn of supplies collected, a walkie talkie brought, the pencil box opened and wrappers peeled back from a fresh package of moleskine journals. With hillsides rich in diversity, there wasn’t a chance of missing something astonishing. Stored in the mentors minds are basketfulls of questions and clues just ready …. open to the learning that unearths at any moment. Multiple animal tracks and traces were found and recorded, plants were identified and gathered, and teamwork was practised and tested. A first day foundation is built.

……………..”Cue the music”………..welcome Melissa!

Personally, I can’t help but hear the Allman Brothers’ “Sweet Melissa” when I see her. A bright, shining light of wonder and cheer, Melissa brings us a background in education but a present moment of openness and excitement. Let’s just say Melissa and Ethan are both very lucky – not to mention us!

OK – this really goes without any special narration. Just a goofy celebration of a great first day!

Hi! My name is Dave Schneiderbeck, and I will be leading this years Wilderness Challenge program at Great Hollow. I’m 38, and have lived in the area since 1982, first in New Fairfield, and after college, Sherman. I currently own and have run Rizzos Garage in the center of Sherman for the past eleven years.  

Besides having played outside in the woods most of life, I am also an accomplished mountain bike racer, rock climber, swimmer, and canoeist. I have also skydived, and I am a certified scuba diver and Medical Response Technician. I also am a board member and trail steward of the Nairomi Land Trust . I completed an Outward Bound program as an adolescent in the Adirondack Mountains, which to this day remains on of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I hope to instill some of the lessons I picked up there in your children, while having a good time as well!


UPDATE: So far the weather looks like it will be just fine, maybe even very pretty – but if we do get RAIN and have to cancel, the notice will be sent to the google group AND posted here by 3:00. Make a phone buddy if you won’t be by your PC since I will not have the time to call everyone individually. Thanks and hope for the best!

To all Great Hollow Registrants:

Wow! I can’t believe it’s that time already. Family night is this Saturday! I can’t wait to see all your familiar faces and finally meet all the new families too. I’m looking forward to you all coming together on our common foundations through Great Hollow for a fun night of community. Some of our staff will be there and you’ll have a chance to meet them to!

Andy’s been amazing this week bringing us up to speed on fire building, tracking, nature games, and many traditions of Great Hollow. Emily and Joe who are new to the Homeschool program are bringing fresh energy and creativity just ready to brew up a huge pot of fun and Natural learning. Whendi brings her expertise in Critical thinking, oral traditions, arts, and music for a dynamic new level of understanding. Ethan and Melissa will of course be infusing our programs with seasoned experience in Primitive skills, natural awareness, contagious enthusiasm and wonder, and much more. Our new Wilderness Challenge instructor, Dave, has designed a semester of survival scenarios that will elicit new teamwork and bravery from the students. 

We also have two new adjunct instructors, Justin and Janet! Justin, coming to us from Two Coyotes Wilderness School, brings a well of knowledge in perfect alignment with Great Hollow objectives. Janet comes to us with extensive experience working in areas of environmental education and Audubon volunteer work.

I can’t possibly do them justice here in this short moment, for each of these instructors is slated to have their own profile on here as soon as we can….. but I couldn’t help but give you a little peek into the realm of wisdom that will be ready for your child to utilize.

SO, back to family night. Come between 4:30 and 5:00. We’ll be holding an opening circle at 5:00, hopefully sharp. Then you all can relax into your picnic (BYO) and talk with each other.

This is an informal fundraiser for Great Hollow Homeschool…. please help us raise money for some outstanding adjunct instructors and educational materials!! Please bring some petty cash or change jar extras – thank you!


1)Parking: Please park up at the first lot, where the 5 car garage/barn is. Walk further down, hang a left and follow the noise to the back!

2)The Climbing wall is OFF LIMITS. I’m bringing this to your attention because in a free form atmosphere, the kids are likely to want to climb on it, but it’s not set up for use, or facilitated, so even though they can see it, it cannot be used. Thank you for your attention on this.

3)Alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed.

TIP: Bring a couple good flashlights, and warm layers.

OK I think that covers that. So far I have two helpers for the afternoon to help construct a fire pit (start at 1:00 pm)…… I would LOVE a few more volunteers to help move big rocks and to bring some firewood (or go into the forest and gather), that would be awesome. Just send me an email!

See you there!

Roll Call!

Lower Dip, Great Hollow

Lower Dip, Great Hollow

Families of Great Hollow, and considering families….

This week is staff training! Which means I am fully focused on cultivating great mentors and facilitators for your children. It also means I don’t have the same amount of time or energy to dedicate to replies and registrations.

So, if you are waiting for a response, are unsure of your enrollment, or any other miscellaneous ends that you think are loose, please do EMAIL ME with your question or reminder ……. BUT you must include information so I don’t have to puzzle piece through, even if I know you 🙂 Your FULL Name, your child’s names and ages, plus what program they are in or wish to be in.  I will do my best to answer emails at night.

If you have not yet sent in your registration forms, please do. These records are really important. I will have extra waivers and med forms on the table the first week – but it’s better if we don’t have to eat up time with paperwork.

Thank you for your patience and support while I am in a learning curve and I truly hope I am serving you all well.

Unicorn in the Garden

This little fellow was wriggling around on the rock path. The liquid secretion, and it’s jerky reaction when touched, leads me to think it was preparing to spin it’s chrysalis. The kids and I put it up on an Echinacea leaf in hopes to witness the process. Of course, it has disappeared.

But our curiosity remains …. what IS that caterpillar? Using our observational skills we can see; no hair, it’s about 2 inches long, green underside and purplish top, single black horn, and black spots along the ribs. I can’t tell which is the back or front, but the end opposite the horn has a faint gold band. My guess would be the end opposite the horn is the head. The whole upper body shows little white pore-like raised spots.

So we sent in an inquiry to the Bug Guy at What’s That Bug ….. which you can do too if you find a mystery caterpillar. Be sure to check out the ones already on there … I have never seen such wormy wonders!

I’ll let you know what it turns out to be…. maybe you already know!

Treasures on a Hike

  A simple hike at Great Hollow is never boring. Like a few weeks ago when Andy and I saw a wild mink on the trail. Yesterday we took some friends on a short welcome tour through the Hollow, in the bright sunshine and the lush landscape of August. The river was lower than usual, but crystal clear, showing off the water-polished stones and the wriggly little fish on their way to somewhere important.

Lobelia cardinalis


The landscape smells so peculiar now, with odd notes of sharp citronella-lime from the Walnut trees, and various loamy wood aromas from fallen trees and animal homes. 

By the bridge we spotted this beauty – our Native Lobelia cardinalis, or Cardinal flower. A sister to the blue flowering Lobelia inflata, both species have been used by Native American as a remedy for lung ailments, usually as a tea or chewed fresh. The latter inflata species is also called ‘pukeweed’, as a reminder not to eat the seeds unless you need a fast emetic. One leaf however, can be chewed for it’s pungent taste to alleviate a headache or congestion in the throat. A carrier of alkaloids, you’d want to stop there. Dinner can be harvested around the corner in the giant Nettles patch!

Lobelia inflata

Lobelia inflata