“The Best Spring Break Ever!”

Thank you, campers, for such a wonderful week! On Friday we were rewarded for our patience and acceptance of all the cold, wet days. The sunshine provided us with the opportunity to wrap up loose ends and some of our favorite projects.

Campers made final modifications to their bird nests. Some groups put their nest to the test; dropping it to see how far it could fall and still remain in tact. Here is a link that describes how to handle finding a real bird nest that has fallen out of a tree. http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/rehabilitation/baby_birds.htm

The Orange Peppers discovered a Killdeer nest in the middle of a garden bed. These noisy birds fake injury to lure predators away from the nests. This mother was not going to leave her nest, but the campers did notice her nicely camouflage eggs.

In addition to our daily animal chores, campers spent extra time with the goats today. We took our goats on a halted hike and observed their natural inclination to climb and play. The reason we call kids, “kids” and children, “kids” is not a coincidence.

The Red Peppers fed Dexter and Peter and gave them a little extra attention.


Camper groups paired up, Red with Green and Yellow with Orange. They exchanged the maps they had been working on all week and then set off in search of the other group’s rain gauge. They Yellow Pepper rain gauge was found in our garden. It had collected one inch of rain!

We had a delicious day in Garden Kitchen! In the morning we mixed up cornbread and freshly turned butter. Ask your camper how the buttermilk in their cornbread was made. Buttermilk is a byproduct of butter. It is the liquid that is left over when the fat molecules bind to form a solid. The binding process takes a lot of shaking! With our cornbread and butter we enjoyed fresh asparagus (which is almost in season here in Michigan). Campers also prepped their afternoon snack by chopping and sauteing vegetables. The Red Peppers built a great bonfire over which we cooked our split pea soup.

In the afternoon campers gathered around the bonfire to enjoy the split pea soup that everyone contributed too. One camper, declared that it was so good because everyone had a hand in making it.


  • 1 1/2 cups yellow, white, or blue cornmeal (we used yellow)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease the bottom and sides of a 8 inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix all ingredients until well blended. Pour the batter into greased pan and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with fresh turned butter.

Fresh Turned Butter

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • salt to taste (optional)

Pour a pint of heavey cream or whipping cream into a stand mixer or a jar with a tight fitting lid. If using a machine start on low speed. If using a jar, start shaking (you will need some serious elbow grease…or many friends).

Keep shaking until the cream breaks – starts to “thunk” on the side of the jar. Pour off the buttermilk. Rinse the butter by pouring ice water over it and pressing the remaining butter out with a small spatula or spoon. Add salt to taste.

Split Pea Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups split green peas, picked, rinsed, and soaked for 8 hours
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1/4 lemon
  • Pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 carrots, diced

Add olive oil to a big pot over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery; cook until they are soft (about one minute). Add split peas, carrots, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil, dial down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the peas are cooked through.

Using a hand blender puree the soup until it has reached the desired texture. Add cream and additional olive oil. Stir in lemon juice and serve with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.

Thank You!

If you took home a bird feeder, be sure to hang it in a place where you can watch the birds find it. We would love to hear about the different species you see.

We had a few lunch boxes, boots, gloves, jackets, sweatshirts and bird feeders left behind after all of our campers left. If it turns out yours is missing, check back in the Activity Center. There is a bucket of “Lost and Not Yet Found” items sitting on the desk.

We concluded the day with skits and music. The Green Peppers walked us through the life of chickens and the funnies of animal chores. The Yellow Peppers showed us what it is like when kids and kids invade Tollgate. The Orange Peppers were party animals who ordered corn and alfalfa on their pizza after the farmer gave them coffee. The Red Peppers led the audience in Tollgate songs, both old and new.

Many laughs were shared and memories made this week. Thank you for spending your spring break with us. One camper declared that this was his best spring break ever. Let’s do it again next year!!

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