Looking for the Farm to Table Dinner?

The correct link for the Farm to Table Dinner is myalumni.msu.edu/tollgate. Click the link for more details about this awesome event!

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Animal Camp + Winged Wonders Camp: Day One

Hello and welcome to Tollgate Turtle Tells All: A Camp Exposé.

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Coltrane the Turtle. I live in the Activity Center at Tollgate Farm, which allows me to watch camp go down every week. Today, I’m using the Tollgate blog as a platform for my new exposé, which will reveal all the secrets of Tollgate Camp! This week is especially near and dear to my heart because it’s Animal Camp, and I’m an animal! It was also Winged Wonders Camp, which is always a great time. Let’s get into the breakdown of today at camp.

Yours truly

The first thing I noticed about camp this week is how everyone split up. There were five groups: The green peppers (6), the yellow peppers (6-7), the orange peppers (7-9), the red peppers (8-9), and the purple peppers (10-11). After they found their groups, the peppers got busy with animal chores. Animal chores during Animal Camp: how fitting!

Goat milking!

Tag-teaming the goat milking

Making new friends on the first day of camp

After that, campers got to circle the farm on a wagon ride! Campers of both Animal and Winged Wonders got to enjoy a fun ride (even if it was a little hot!)

Ask your camper if they rode in straw or hay; they should know!

Psstt…it was straw!

Camp songs + wagon ride = happy campers

After that, the campers got a chance to tie-dye their shirts. Check out the photo captions below, where I will reveal the brand new color that Ms. Nicole got for this week of camp.

Tie-dying pals

What a masterpiece! Way to use the brand new color: apricot!

The campers also got a chance to play bacteria tag. The MVP of the game? Mr. Mister!

Cooling off with Mr. Mister

Tag, you’re it

By this point, the campers had worked up quite an appetite. We paused for lunch, but it wasn’t long before everyone was ready for the next activity. And it was a good one! Peppers got to take the goats out for a stroll in the woods today. I offered to go, but they said I would “slow everyone down.” Drat.

Girl & Goat

Insider info: the goats just got back from the fair, so they probably enjoyed strolling around back home

Just like walking a dog

After that, campers got to work on not one, but TWO art projects! The first challenge was to create an animal that doesn’t exist. Peppers had to draw and name it. The second was to color a little wheel that displays all the jobs a farmer does.

Insider info: coloring is always nice because we do it in the pavilion AKA in the SHADE

A creation never seen before!

One camper’s finished product– looks great!

Then, peppers learned about ruminants and their four stomach compartments. They did an activity where they had to feel materials inside a bucket and guess which stomach compartment it represented based on how chunky the food inside was.

Insider info: The material in the buckets was not actually chewed up by a goat

Two happy campers

While some campers were busy determining the stomach chambers, others were practicing their fishing skills. Rumors are flying about fishing in the actual pond. My only comment on the matter is that campers might want to dust off their fishing hats by Wednesday.

Fishing with one arm? Easy peasy.

It never hurts to practice your skills

And now, for my insight into Garden Kitchen. The verdict on today’s recipes was nothing short of delicious for both dishes. Take a peek at the cooking action and the recipes:

A five star review from these peppers…

…and these!

Ms. Leah with the assist

Try the recipes for yourself and taste the deliciousness

I even got my hands on the day’s activity card!

And finally, here’s my favorite segment of the exposé: Coltrane’s Captured Moment! Today’s moment is a moment of bliss with Mr. Mister:

Friendship, happiness, and cool water!

Before I go, I want to shed some light on Winged Wonders, because they also did TONS of cool activities. Check some out below.

The migration relay!

Checking out a nest!

Stream hopping

This campers says he found a “twofer” egg– two yolks!

Now, you might be thinking that my exposé isn’t quite up to par because it didn’t even include a photo of your camper. However, my paparazzi skills are even better than what you see here. Check out ALL the photos I took by clicking this link to a Google Folder! 

I’ll be back tomorrow for part II of my exposé, but until then, stay cool!

Posted in 2018 Summer camp, Animal/Winged Wonders, Camp Blog, Summer Camp, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Survival Camp: Day Five

Dear Diary,

OMG! I can’t believe that Survival Camp has come to an end.  The week was so much fun, and today was no exception. It was a stellar end to an awesome week!

First, a reminder that there are WAY MORE pictures than the ones that get included in the blog. To see all of them, visit our Google Folder!

Check out the video below to see Survival Camp highlights!

The day started off with the plank walk challenge. The campers had to use communication and teamwork to step together and reach the finish line. I have to say, even though the planks looked a little tricky, I think the peppers would still beat me in a race!

Talking strategy

A well-oiled machine!

Campers, stewards, and edu-leaders all had to work together!

After each group crossed the finish line, the campers moved on to animal chores. I’ve been in contact with the animals recently, and they told me to thank all the campers who did such a great job taking care of them this week!

Hungry, hungry sheep

It was this camper’s first time ever petting a sheep!

The chicks love him

From there, the peppers went to the gardens one more time to weed, water, and plant Marigolds. The garden is looking better than ever, and it’s all thanks to YOU, campers!

The Yellow Peppers found a brick buried in the gardens– their treasure!

Who is taller?

After that, it was time for a great activity to learn about camouflage! The campers got to decorate a butterfly in a way that they thought would help it blend in, and then they all hid their butterflies in the Children’s Garden for each other to find. I tried to find some myself, and let me tell you, it isn’t easy.

Campers had to be clever with their coloring to ensure maximum camouflage

A butterfly to match the flowers in the background

The Red Peppers look like they may have spotted one!

And finally, we had morning Garden Kitchen! Today, the campers made both their morning snack and their afternoon snack at once, but then saved their afternoon granola bars to have as a destination snack. Their morning snack of kale chips was a huge hit!

Massaging the kale (it was very stressed)

Granola prep

Kale chips and friendships

What a way to wrap up Survival Camp!

Delicious treats you can make at home

After some time for lunch, campers were back at it. Now Diary, you may remember me talking about the shelters that campers have been working on all week. Well today, peppers got a chance to explain the why they built their shelter a certain way and what they would add if they had more time. After that, we remembered our “Leave No Trace” rule and took the shelters down. That way, future campers can have just as much fun building new shelters.

The finished shelter!

The Red and Purple Peppers took turns talking about their forts

Taking apart the shelter as a part of Leave No Trace!

As I mentioned, Farmer Joe hooked our campers up with a sweet wagon ride around the farm. The campers enjoyed their granola bars and sang some camp tunes as they circled the property.

Granola bar enthusiasm

“Baby Shark,” a crowd favorite

Up next was letterboxing! Edu-leaders read clues that led Peppers all around the camp. When they found the stamp, they got to add it to their collection. Here’s one of the clues; see if you can crack the code! “Some may ‘baaa,’ these go ‘cheep,’ under the hens you did peep. From the mother you beg, ’till she gives up her egg, such good care of them you keep!”

Did you guess the chicken coop? Because you’d be right!

The dock by the pond was the answer to another clue.

And so was Garden Kitchen!

And now, for the big finale of Survival Camp AND my week’s diary entries: Capture the Flag! We all came together as peppers for one huge game. It was a tie in the end, and both teams had tons of fun running around– even in the 90 degree weather!

Preparing for the big showdown!

I’d be terrible at this came because it requires speed

Tie game = everyone wins!

And lastly, here’s this week’s final Coltrane’s Captured Moment:


Thank you all for such a wonderful week of Survival Camp. I, for one, learned tons about how to survive and thrive in the wilderness, and I also made some great friends along the way. To those of you who are moving on to other adventures, have a great rest of your summer. For those of you sticking around Tollgate, I’ll see you soon!

-Coltrane 🐢



Posted in 2018 Summer camp, Camp Blog, Summer Camp, Survival, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Survival Camp: Day Four

Dear Diary,

Mood: Happy but tired. And that’s because it was such a fun, busy Thursday! These campers are really trying to make the most of their time here at Tollgate, and today was quite the adventure. It all started with a compass walk! Campers got to follow instructions using their compass to trek across the camp and the upper barn. Not one person got lost!

This camper is great at following “directions”

20 paces North

It always helps to have a travel buddy!

Campers didn’t need their compasses to head to the gardens, however. By now, they know the way  by heart! Today, they got to plant some Marigolds to protect plants like tomatoes from bugs. The garden looked gorgeous after all the flowers were in!

Adding a little color to the garden

Planting pals


Now, you may have heard your camper talk about a little game called Owls and Mice this week, but I haven’t mentioned it before today, and that’s because I was waiting for the biggest Owls and Mice game of the week! The Purple and Red Peppers combined and played a fantastic game featuring Ms. Madeline and Mr. Julian as the owls!

Clever hiding places!

Run, little mice!

And finally, you know them, you love them: animal chores! Today’s focus has feathers and lays eggs: can you guess which animal?

Campers spy chickens!

Inside the coop with the Yellow Peppers

After a quick break for lunch, the campers were back at it with one of my personal favorite activities: Canoeing! It takes place in the water, you get to ride with some friends, and you can take a little break from walking– what’s not to love?

The transfer of the paddle

Preparing for send-off

Ready to search for the aloof Tollgate dolphin!

Can you spot the sleeping camper?

After that, we learned how to signal for help in case we ever get lost in the woods. Before today’s lesson, my “in case of an emergency” plan consisted of one step: curl up in my shell. However, after today’s discussion, I have way more tips and tricks up my sleeve in case something goes wrong.

This position means urgent medical care required

One camper even brought a reflector from World War 2 to use for the demonstration!

The STEAM shelters are looking better than ever! I didn’t quite make it out there today (I’m a turtle, I move slow OK) but here are a few more great building shots from yesterday!

Working hard AND having fun!

Collecting building materials

And of course, Garden Kitchen! Now, Diary, Garden Kitchen is really starting to get interesting; the campers were out by the firepit AGAIN today! The made some great looking “spider dogs” and then some yummy coleslaw in the afternoon.

Spider dog smiles 🙂

Ms. Leah observes the roasting

A speared spider dog

Garden Kitchen thrills

Enjoying the fruits (and veggies) of our labor

See what I mean when I say busy?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to make this coleslaw again!

And now, Diary, it’s time for (insert theme music here) Coltrane’s Captured Moment!

Todays moment? A moment of friendship in Garden Kitchen!

Wishing that I took even more pictures? You’re in luck! Check out the Google Folder for additional snapshots of Survival Camp!

Remember to wear your tie-dye shirts tomorrow! Until then, dear Diary.


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Survival Camp: Day Three

Dear Diary,

Happy hump day! It’s the dead middle of Survival Camp (HA!) and things are really picking up. You will not believe the action that these people crammed into one day! First and foremost: animal chores! The campers are starting to become real pros.

Who says chores aren’t fun?

Chicken crew

Then, it was fishing part two! The older campers got a chance to cast their lines and see what would bite. A ton of fish came to say hi before we released them back into the pond.

The smile of a fishing champion!

Exercising patience

The one that DIDN’T get away

An assist from Mr. Julian

And because it was capital H Hot outside, some peppers got a visit from my good friend Mr. Mister! He gave the campers a much-needed refresher.

Dance party in the mist!

Sliding through the H2O

But humans aren’t the only ones who were in need of water. The garden was also looking fairly thirsty. Luckily, our campers were at the ready with some homemade watering cans.

Sharing the love (and water)

Healthy plant, happy plant

Then, it was time for lunch. The peppers took some time to refuel, and then they were back at it with some fire building! Most of the campers also added to their shelters while they were out in the forest.

Even a small spark can start a fire!

These campers took a more challenging route: starting a fire with a magnifying glass!

This shelter is really taking form!

After that, the name of the game was archery! I stayed in my shell just in case an arrow came flying my way, but I was worried for nothing! All of our campers did an excellent job aiming at (and often hitting) the target!

Ready, Aim, SHOOT!

The targets took a beating. Nice job, campers!

Learning the ins and outs of archery

When your bow (and arrow) matches your shirt

Now Diary, listen to this. Garden Kitchen was totally different today! The campers made a delicious rainbow skewer in the morning, and then got to cook cornbread on the campfire in the afternoon! It was so exciting; I mean, garden kitchen actually left the kitchen!

Grinding away at the corn!

Pouring the batter

Placing the bread on the fire

The finished product: cornbread and chili. Yum!

Today’s day of fun

Make a fire in your backyard and try the cornbread at home!

A yummy, colorful snack! What could be better?

And now, everyone’s favorite part: Coltrane’s Captured Moments! Today’s Moments are both moments of fishing success!

Look closely in Ms. Madeline’s hand- you’ll see my good friend Twitch the fish!

My other pal, Bubbles!

So as you can see, dear Diary, today was packed with tons of activities and opportunities for campers to try something new. If you don’t see your camper in my diary for today, take a peek at the Google Folder for even more awesome pics!

Until tomorrow 🙂




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Survival Camp: Day Two

Dear Diary,

Today was day two of Survival Camp, where we talk about all of the things we need to keep us alive and threats to our survival. One of those threats is allergies, so as a reminder: PLEASE DO NOT BRING TREE NUTS/PEANUTS TO CAMP! That includes peanut butter. Thank you!

Anyway, I’d like to document the day’s activities once again. First, the campers learned more about “Leave No Trace” and what to bring on a hike. We had some really great talks about camping essentials.

Some informative camp conversation

Ms. Claire leads the discussion

Then, the campers got to participate in the Survivor Maze. They each got to take turns walking a path until someone made it all the way through without one wrong step!


On the right track

And of course, the campers did a great job of taking care of our animals. A few were out at the fair this week, but there were still plenty to hang out with.

So fluffy!


Also, Diary, the campers got to go to the garden and eat some berries and kale! I wish someone had brought some back for me!

Locating the perfect raspberry

Nothing like crunchy kale

Also, the green and yellow peppers got to go fishing today! Real, in-the-pond fishing. And the best part? A lot of the campers even caught some! (The rest of the campers go tomorrow.)

Ready to fish

Patience is key


Fish are friends

And that was just the morning, Diary! After lunch, the campers were back at it in the woods. Their shelters are really coming along!

Another great example of teamwork!

Everyone pitched in

The shelter is looking great!

While the campers were out, they picked up some wild edibles! After washing them off in the Activity Center, they gave them a try and ranked them on a thumbs-up/thumbs-middle/thumbs-down system.

The menu included cattail and dandelion

We put everyone’s opinion on a chart

A plant-based snack

These campers are ready and willing to try new things!

After that, campers travelled to the fire pit to talk about the ten hiking essentials, and how we can protect our belongings from bears. They got to practice stringing up a backpack in a tree to protect it from any non-humans who might be looking for a snack.

Securing the pack

Gathering around to talk about hiking essentials

Preparing to tie up the backpack

Now Diary, don’t think that anyone went hungry today. We had some great Garden Kitchen recipes!


Today’s card

The campers had a blast making these yummy treats.

Smoothie prep

Peeling the garlic

“Garden Kitchen rocks!”

Some had sauce, some had naan

And finally, Coltrane’s Captured Moments:

Who needs hands anyway?

Getting messy in the kitchen is half the fun!

So all in all, Diary, it was a splendid day. As always, TONS more pictures can be found in this Google Folder. See you tomorrow!


Posted in 2018 Summer camp, Camp Blog, Summer Camp, Survival | Leave a comment