Rick's Journal

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Back on 2009

It's my last blog post of 2009, and I wanted to share a few highlights from this past year's adventures!

One: The Ca
mp Bonfires.
This year we had some really great bonfires that lit up the night and burned high, sending sparks over twenty feet high into the sky! It was magical and powerf
ul and exciting, and one of my favorite memories of the year.

Two: Gathering Hickory Nuts, Acorns & Autumn Olives.
It was a bumper crop of hickory nuts, which was fantastic beca
use it has been a few years. We had fantastic weather, warm, sunny, with winds blowing the nuts down on our heads and all around us. Javi liked picking up the nuts and husks, which Trista and the Fall Apprentices used for dying yarn. The autumn olives made the most amazing tart jam that is the best wild jam I have ever tasted.

Three: The Natu
re Fashion Show from Painted Arrow Camp.
The staff and campers created clothi
ng, jewelry, accessories and props out of natural materials (bark, leaves, feathers, plant fibers, wild flowers, cattails and more!). It was awesome!

Four: The Timber Fr
amed Beds.
This fall, the Apprentices here at Hawk Circle made beautiful hand made beds for their rooms, which they crafted using hard wood pegs carved from white ash. The head and foot boards were made with larch and pine, and everyone sanded and carved them carefully to last for decades of use in the farmhouse! Thanks, Joel,
Miles, Virginia and Nate!

Meeting all of you is a powerful memory.

Finishing a couple of sets of our timberframed bunk beds for the cabins is

What about cooking meat over the fire in the Winter I
ntensive last January?

All of the school groups and school visits were awesome.

The CROP Afterschool Program partnership with Hawk
Circle was a highlight.

Going to Wintergreen Gorge was a highlight.

Teaching many of you to make pegs, chop wood or throw tomahawks was a highlight!

Tracking Bobcats was a highlight, too, and seeing the baby bobcats hunting eastern cottontail rabbits in the brush while bow hunting was totally awesome!

Timberframing in our barn was a highlight, listening to good music and teaching others about carving pine, larch, hemlock and white oak beams.

Seeing my son Javier growing up, learning to read and seeing him change and mature is an ongoing favorite of mine. It hasn't always been easy with all of his special needs, but this year, he hasn't had any big issues or anything. For that, I am always grateful.

As always, I am loving the amazing wildlife, nature, plants and trees, sunrises and sunsets, thunderstorms, snowstorms, flowers, fruits, smells, fresh air, beautiful animals and birds.... man, I could go on and on and on!

Thank you all
for your support, encouragement,
friendship and hard work. It is a blessing having all of you in our lives.

Ricardo Sierra & Trista Haggerty
Hawk Circle Wilderness Education

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Hawk Circle Annual Appeal. Just a few days left in 2009!

Well, 2009 is just about in the books, and it has been a good year for us at Hawk Circle. Hard in some ways, but we are still here and we are poised to make 2010 great too, as a year and as a decade, even. There is a lot of work to do, but we are on our way!

I wanted to share a letter that one of our camper parents wrote in support of our work, as part of our annual appeal, etc. Thanks Colleen! We really appreciate your efforts on our behalf, and for the youth and adults too.

Here is the letter:

December 7, 2009 Dear Hawk Circle Family,

There is a place where people, young and old alike, gather around a camp fire. Sometimes they sing, sometimes they talk, often they are silent, feeling the awesome companionship of nature and one another. This is a place where children and teenagers learn to create from the gifts of the wild and adults learn new ways to survive using natural resources that have always been there. Time slows down and thoughts deepen. Senses quicken and lives are set on new paths.

Hawk Circle has been providing quality programming in wilderness education for two decades. They have been working hard to ensure that these experiences are available for children and adults alike. Their small community of mentors is dedicated and committed to creating an environment where students can come and study; to reaffirm the interconnectedness of the human world and the wild world of nature.

My name is Colleen Langdon. My family and I met Ricardo Sierra several years ago when we attended a one day workshop outside of Baltimore. It was a memorable experience for my family. The children made wooden spoons, learned to build a fire, learned about knife safety and listened to Ricardo tell stories about nature. The activities were meaningful, engaging and deeply satisfying to my children. I picked up a camp flyer from Ricardo and knew we’d find our way to Hawk Circle soon. As so often happens, events in our life prevented us from going for several years, however, I knew one day we would find a way there. The summer of 2009 was that time. My two sons were scheduled to attend camp and I came at the last minute when my youngest son asked me if I could come and stay also. Trista graciously allowed me to come and the next thing I knew I was pitching my tent in the Caretaker field. As my sons went off with the counselors, I wandered around the camp. Wandering lasted about five minutes. Why is it so hard to do nothing? I almost felt a sense of panic at not having a purpose. My children’s needs were being met by the camp and I was so used to cultivating busyness. The previous six years had brought plenty of challenges to my family and I had not taken the time to rest and reflect. I was spinning and I felt like I could not find solid ground to stand on.

I was soon comforted and gently rooted by the rhythm of the day that the staff and community
create. I had a unique position to see the staff and youth as I was able to weave in and out of various activities from sitting in on a fire circle, to helping out in the kitchen or garden. I was able to observe from many angles the magic that Hawk Circle offers. During my visit I was impressed by the high level of teaching done by the staff. The counselors were passionate men- tors who took the time to teach the students with patience and dedication. They engaged each student yet allowed them space to explore their own abilities. I was amazed at the creativity in which the counselors wove stories throughout their teachings encouraging the students to develop critical thinking and to see the relationships between themselves and all living things.

Hawk Circle intentionally keeps their camps small to insure safety, high quality mentoring, and authentic bonding among campers and staff.

By the end of the first week I noticed that students were excited and more confident. From building a fire and a campsite to tracking and hunting, the students knew the work they were doing was authentic and it showed in how they carried themselves. Engaging in these activities allowed the natural world to come alive in a real way for these students.

Children who immerse themselves in nature have a deeper sense of awe and wonder for the world.

After my experience this summer, I am recommitted to this belief. But not only for children. For all of us. Stepping out of the b
usy world I had created and into nature awakened in me the power of healing and creativity. One special night, Trista offered a women’s circle that was simple, powerful and transformative. There was a true sense of connectedness to these women I had just met only days ago. There was no false sense of ‘spiritual rightness’, no forced rules of what it is to be sacred. There was only the simple but powerful quality of being embraced.

Without a doubt, Trista Haggerty and Ricardo Sierra have created a special community where they offer a respite from the hectic modern world and a place to rejuvenate and deeply nurture our essential selves. They are incredibly generous, have a well-thought
out vision of the future they are creating, and the leadership to move forward.

Please support this awesome work.

After twenty years, Ricardo Sierra continues to pass on his stories of survival, adventure and magic in the wilderness to the ‘eager to learn’ , next generation.A donation to Hawk Circle is an investment in a rich program that offers young and old alike a place to make deep connections to the earth, to one another and to ourselves. Without this connection our future would be truly uncertain.

Your donation will help to insure the protection of the earth and its beauty by supporting our youth in establishing passionate and reverent relationships with the natural world.

If you have also experienced the power of Hawk Circle--its people and its land--please take this opportunity to honor that experience and safeguard it for others. Make an investment, any amount will help, towards the future of Hawk Circle.
Please consider a donation to Hawk Circle Wilderness programs this year. Your donation will help fund the education programs that profoundly affect our children, the community and our future. With much love,

Colleen Langdon
Hawk Circle Parent

Hawk Circle Wilderness Education (The Earth Mentoring Institute) is a
501C3, not-for-profit organization. Your donation is fully tax deductible as allowed by law.

Hawk Circle is the kind of place that needs to exist. It is essential for people’s psychic and emotional well-being. If there aren’t institutions that offer this kind of education, we are lost.
---Earth Skills Student

Thanks for reading, and many blessings for you and your families/communities in the new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Survival Decoded: The Hawk Circle Winter Intensive

There is a big difference between knowing about how to do something, and actually doing it. Theory vs Experience counts in the wilderness, and no where is this more true than in the winter season. Everything is more intense and when it is 14ºF outside, and you are trying to make a fire, you can feel that the need for that fire is real. Your hunger is more like a growling wolf in your belly, and you know you need food. Energy rich food, too. Water is key, both tea, hot chocolate and clean spring water. Your gear, and your mind and your body is all that comes between you and sure, frozen death.

But one thing that I like to keep in mind is this: As hard as it seems like winter is, all of our ancestors knew how to get through just fine. And aboriginal peoples have been living in extreme environments for thousands of years. Not hundreds. Thousands. Seriously! Isn't that a little comforting?

So, about seven years ago, I put together a course that I tried out on my apprentices and staff, and later evolved into The Hawk Circle Winter Intensive. In it, we put together as many skills of winter earth skills as we could pack, and made it in January, so there would be snow and cold and it would be real! We even put together a little trek to put the skill in action, too.

So, the dates are January 3-16, 2010. What better way to start the new year than by roasting chestnuts by the fire, making winter teas, learning to track winter predators and stay comfortable no matter what the temperature! Join us if you can, because after that, it's time to get ready for maple syrup season, and start timberframing again, too....

One of the things I like about this course is that it is gentle on new winter neophytes. We aren't going to just throw you into the cold without being prepared, and we take it step by step. So you can learn without feeling like you are being pushed too fast, too far, too soon. Which is important. On the other hand, if you want to go further, faster, more intense, we can do that for you too.

Another thing I like about being part of a class like this is the fellowship, the community of students and staff that is formed when we all come together to learn and grow. After all of my years of study of skills and practicing, I know how it feels to work on my skills alone, by myself, and then to experience it in a group, at a class or a circle of good friends. It is one hundred percent different, more fun, amazing, with a group of friends and the learning is just accelerated too. Sometimes it is hard to tell what is more awesome, the class or just cooking great meals and hanging out by the woodstove, enjoying the evening carving crafts and drying meat or making cookies!

Feel free to write or call us for more info. 607-264-3396. And if you aren't up for the winter adventure, have fun in your own way, and enjoy it as best you can. Set up a bird feeder for the winter birds, or catch up on your reading, or get your seeds ready for next year's garden. I know I will be trying to do all of those things too. Have a great winter!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Raising the Frame in the Snow

Earlier this month, we raised the cabin I was building for the last two months. Nate Johnson, Miles McAllister, Joel Haines and I spent a good number of days making pegs, carving rafters, moving heavy beams and checking everything to make sure it was all set, and then we delivered them. Then, the raising happened. We were just in time, too. The warm weather held out as long as it could, but as we were putting it together, it started to snow. You can see it in the pics.

Anyway, it was a great raising, and took two days, but it looks great. Let me know what you think! It was great to see how it all came together, fitting tenon and mortise with hand carved pegs, etc. I am just glad it was done before it really started snowing!

Now I am back to getting the barn ready for more winter framing, sealing up cracks in the siding, installing a woodstove to let my workshop area be semi-warm, and making lots more pegs for the coming frames!