As seasons go, Fall is definitely my favorite. Crisp, cool air makes for perfect hiking weather and the colors! The changing colors I just can’t seem to get enough of. But if one thing is for certain, Fall goes by fast, and before we know it those vibrant leaves are all in piles on the ground. Here’s a great DIY to preserve those Fall feels a little longer.
We brought a basket along on our morning nature walk one day, and collected leaves of as many colors as we could find!
We pressed our leaves in books for a couple days, but I’ve also heard of people dipping them fresh.
This is a simple, seasonal project that is fun for all ages. Find the materials & instructions below!
A double boiler/crockpot or microwave-proof bowl, wax is not easy to clean so a good suggestion is picking up something cheap to use solely for this purpose (I used an old double boiler I got from Goodwill)
Something to hang the leaves while they dry. Truth be told, the 1st time around we just put them back on the silicone and it smeared a bit. We used clothespins and string the second time.
Start by melting the beeswax in a double boiler over medium-low heat. I used about 1/2 cup of pellets to start. Alternately, you could melt the beeswax on low in a crockpot or in a microwave-safe bowl at 30-second increments. Stir until melted but keep an eye on it.
Once completely melted, move the pot somewhere accessible for the kids to dip their leaves. Let them know they need to be mindful of the hot pot!
Dip both sides of the leaf until lightly coated. Then hang or place on parchment paper to dry. Once completely dry, you can string your leaves into a garland (we used a sewing needle and fishing line) or use them for some other fun fall craft! The beeswax leaves the leaves smelling delicious and the color will last all season long.
Lately, the nights have been loud with katydids and I’ve been grabbing a sweatshirt for my morning walks. Fall is definitely in the air. The geese flocks in our nearby ponds are getting restless, somehow sensing the southward journey. As the days become shorter, instinctively they’ll know it’s time to migrate.
We’re all familiar with the breathtaking sight of a flock of geese winging overhead in that “V” formation but did you know that it is a pretty perfect example of teamwork?
Scroll through for a complete look.
Go out to an area where geese are present. Typically a wide-open space near a body of water. Observe the geese and their behavior. When you see a flock flying in the “V” formation, think of these lessons and the questions you can ask your kids as you watch and observe.
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the other birds that follow. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock creates 70% less drag than if each bird flew alone.
By working together at a problem or towards a goal we can pool our energies and talents and accomplish more than if we were on our own. Ask your child about an activity they could get done faster when working as a team.
When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow down to help protect it. They stay with the goose until it is able to fly again, or dies. Then together they find another formation, or they catch up with their flock.
It is important to stand by and support one another in both good and difficult times. Ask your child about a time they helped someone else who was having a tough time.
When the goose in the front position gets tired, it rotates all the way to the back of the formation and another goose flies to the front to lead the flock.
It helps when we all share the position of leading. We all have different skills and attributes and taking turns is the best way to highlight every person’s unique qualities. Ask your child what qualities they possess that are unique to them.
A flock of geese can be a noisy bunch. They all honk to encourage the geese ahead of them to keep up their speed. They are constantly supporting one another by their calls.
Everyone can benefit from a little encouragement! It feels good to hear someone say, “nice job” or “keep it up” when we’re working hard at something. Ask your child about a time they felt proud of something they accomplished and if someone recognized their hard work.
That phrase. We hear it, we know it, and if you’re anything like me, you grit your teeth at it. “Go take a little time for yourself, some alone time,” my well-meaning husband says as I head out the door to grocery shop. Alone. “Self-care” echoes hollowly in my ears, a platitude that conjures up unrealistic images — plush, white spa robes, eye-cucumbers, and the tinkling sounds of Enya as you sip that long-stemmed glass of wine.
If there’s an antithesis for “self-care,” it’s motherhood, right? Motherhood is sacrifice. It’s a million mundane actions that add up to the “taking care” of other human beings, most typically, in spite of yourself. Days get lost in their familiarity. We’re exhausted and in this era of immediacy and multi-tasking, we take on more at one time than ever before. Mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, chauffeur, entrepreneur, etc., — All of those spinning plates in the air at once, do you dare add another?
Mindy Miraglia is the founder and tour guide of Berkshire Camino. She provides town-to-town guided walks and hiking journeys here in the Berkshires. If the concept of Camino sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile walk across Northern Spain. During a time of uncertainty in her own life, Mindy made a solo pilgrimage on the Santiago. What she discovered there she refers to now as her “super hero self,” an empowering belief and confidence that comes from walking out the door to greet life’s challenges and meeting your new self on the other side. Mindy has gone on to walk the Santiago a second time and it was these soul journeys that inspired the creation of Berkshire Camino.
My days of selective solitude are far behind me. Adventures tend to get smothered under the weight of ordinary days and most self-care attempts seem to take the form of late-night peanut butter cups and reality tv. So when Mindy asked if I’d like to join her on an upcoming Camino walk, I jumped at the opportunity to make it happen. I got a sitter and shoved all those other plates back into the cabinet, making sure to leave out just one: Taylor.
I didn’t know what to expect. To me, joining a disparate group of strangers for a shared afternoon of walking didn’t seem communal, it was scary and anxiety-inducing. Before we embarked, I mentally planned what I wanted to take away from the experience — a physical challenge, a hiking experience that would push me beyond the 1-milers I’d been getting alongside my kids. I’d focus on pushing my body and shutting off my mind. I’d go inward and let the elevation wind me through canopied forests as the summer sun strobed through the leaves. I’d sweat out the stress, the worry, the exhaustion, all that comes with being a mother.
But what I didn’t realize was that the real magic would happen in the unplanned moments of the Camino — the sharp eyesight of a fellow traveler pointing out a wayward red eft, the first shaky sentences of a new conversation, the peeling back of a small corner of a personal struggle, and the collective appreciation of taking in a vast expanse of pure blue sky.
I had thought looking inwards would be key to the day, but it was in the reaching outwards that gave space for some incremental healing. In those few hours, Berkshire Camino became our own communal mobile sanctuary.
We walked. We talked. We reflected. I finally felt myself let go and walk with no purpose. I walked down the dirt aisles of the forest with no list in my hand, no boxes to check, and it was in that void of purpose, that I found peace.
My sliver of time in this mobile sanctuary left my cup overflowing with gratitude, peace, renewal and connectivity. No, it’s not the imposing trek of the far-off Santiago, it’s the verdant hills and vales of the Berkshire Camino, and that journey is uniquely ours.
“You’ve got to unplug in order to connect.”
This isn’t just a walk in the woods. Believe me, I’ve been on a few. None of those walks have been as uniquely soul-satisfying as Berkshire Camino. I unplugged from my life for 3 hours, and in those hours, I came to understand what Mindy means when she says that, “you’ve got to unplug in order to connect.” We all know that taking a break from screens and getting out into nature is good for us. But unplugging from technology aside, when you manage to shut off the switch of your personal preconceptions, you may find that that is what you really needed in order to truly reboot.
Bird behaviors can be curious and fascinating when we take the time to watch and observe them.
One of the stranger behaviors our feathered friends get up to is called “Anting.”
Basically, anting occurs when a bird rubs ants on themselves. Pretty self-explanatory right? Methods vary, some birds sit directly on an anthill and let the ant colony swarm all over their bodies ::shudder:: Others pick them up in their beaks and rub them over each of their feathers.
Regardless of the method, over 200 different species of birds have been observed engaging in these “anting” antics.
So what gives? Why do they do this?
Since the 1930’s, scientists have been trying to figure out the why behind this wacky behavior, and it’s still unknown! There are many theories, and the most popular hypothesis has to do with formic acid, a substance contained by most ants. When an ant is crushed, it secretes formic acid. Once in contact with a bird’s skin, the acid kills the mites and other parasites that have taken up host on the bird’s body. Formic acid may also soothe irritated skin that occurs during molting. Other scientists think that maybe it just feels good!
The best time to try and catch sight of “anting” behavior is during hot and humid weather, when parasitic pests are most bothersome. This is also the time when molting happens, so although “anting” can be tough to observe out in nature, you’ll have a better opportunity during the summer months. Keep your eyes peeled for Blue Jays and Crows, as they are common birds who practice “anting.”
Bird beaks are perfect for nabbing ants, crushing them and rubbing them on their wings. Investigate how this adaptation works with this fun activity you can do at home:
Put a few different dried foods (we used sunflower seeds), in a bowl and gather some common items to mimic a beak. Dried pasta and cereals also work great!
Tweezers, Straws, Chopsticks, and Pliers can act like a bird beak in action.
Experiment with moving the items from one bowl to another.
Ask questions like, “How easy/difficult is it to pick up?”, “Can you crush the item like a bird would with an ant?”, “Why do you think birds need sharp beaks?”, “Can they eat a little or a lot with this type of mouth?”
Next time you head out for a walk, keep a sharp eye out for birds and their “anting” antics!
Share your Bird-Brained activities with us on Facebook and Instagram! Tag @berkshirefamilyhikes and use the hashtags #berkshirebirds #berkshirefamilyhikes and #berkshirebirdbrains
“…the Mount was to give me country cares and joys, long happy rides and drives through the wooded lanes of that loveliest region, the companionship of a few dear friends, and the freedom from the trivial obligations which was necessary if I was to go on with my writing. The Mount was my first real home…”
Oof. I don’t know about you, but this mama is tyyy-eerd. Lately, it feels like I’m endlessly oscillating between humid days spent meeting the needs of uhh…everyone; to sleepless humid nights worrying if I met the needs of uhh…everyone. Most of the time I don’t even remember to check in with myself. Sound familiar to anyone? Cut to Friday last week. The kids were happily playing at a family members, (thank god for pandemic pods!) and I had 4-wheels and 5 hours ahead of me. What was a girl to do? Go grocery shopping??! NAH, let ’em starve! (I jest! But I actually did do that after…’cause mother guilt is like a real medical condition y’all, or at least it should be.)
That Friday afternoon, I channeled my innermost country aristocrat. I shook off the trappings of my most trivial obligations, stepped on the gas through the wooded lanes of Lenox, and pulled into the Mount’s iron gates towards freedom.
The Mount was home to writer Edith Wharton. In 1902, she bought the 130-acres for $40,600 and set to work building her country retreat. The Grounds are currently open daily to the public, dawn to dusk, and free of charge. Self-guided tours of the Main House resume July 16th and advance reservations are required.
I parked in the upper lot and started the 1/4 mile walk to the Main House under the gracious shade trees. (Vehicles with handicapped plates may drive down and park in the designated spaces next to the Main House.)
I took a short detour onto the Ledge Walk, beckoned by the umbrella-like Ganoderms waiting for rain. The Ledge Walk is one of 3 short trails on the Mount grounds, which also includes the Woodland Walk and the Beaver Pond Trail, a 4-mile loop with pond views and frequent bald eagle sightings.
After a rather buggy but tranquil jaunt, I found myself back on the paved path, close by the Main House and sprawling gardens. To my left, perched on a small hill, is Edith’s pet cemetery. Edith loved her dogs and six little headstones dot the mound, a nighttime stop on seasonal ghost tours. Admittedly, I have a somewhat strange and eccentric fascination with cemeteries, particularly old ones and I never pass up an opportunity to explore.
Down the hill is the French Flower Garden, bursting with color. It was Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Jones Farrand, a budding garden designer that contributed so heavily to the design of the Mount’s incredible gardens and the fruits of their collaboration are nothing beyond breathtaking. If you crave the shade, you’ll find the Woodland Walk & Beaver Pond Trail close-by.
The Terrace Café had just re-opened the day I visited. To elevate your day out considerably, grab some lunch (or a white-peach Sangria!) and picnic on the grounds. Or you can just head to the sunken Italian Garden and breathe in the begonias.
Wharton scholars say that it was here in Lenox that she felt she could do her best work and I can fully understand why. The peace of the grounds is unbeatable. The views, the smells, the colors, and the quiet make it a true sensory feast. It’s easy to pull up a small alcove, lean into the lushness, and find inspiration.
Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year is at hand. Taken literally, solstice means that the sun stands still. But like naturalist Hal Borland said,
“There is no standing still in any season. The earth turns, and the year turns, and sunrise changes, and sunset alters, day by day. And neither man nor his affairs stand still. Change is the only constant.”
It’s a good day for reflection. Here’s 10 quotes to get you started :
“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly. ” – Pablo Neruda
“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer — its dust and lowering skies.” – Toni Morrison
“Then followed that beautiful season, Summer. Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Summer is a gentleman: slowly warming the earth at length before undressing her in the fall.
– Curtis Tyrone Jones
“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” – Maud Hart Lovelace
“The first ear of corn, eaten like a typewriter, means summer to me – intense, but fleeting.”
– Michael Anthony
“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.”
– Deb Caletti
“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” – Wilma Rudolph
“Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this was the first real time of freedom and living; this was the first morning of summer.” – Ray Bradbury