Posts By Pathfinder

The end is here…

It’s that time of the year again folks! Our Outdoor Education season has coming to a close. While it been sad to say goodbye to all of the Naturalists and staff, we are proud to look back and remember all the differences we’ve made in kid’s lives this season. In fact, taking a look at some statistics, we have had….

5436 Amazing Students          11 Crazy Naturalists

274 Awesome Adult Chaperones          16 Hard-working Horses

706  Dedicated Teachers          37 Fun-filled Weeks

67 Fabulous Schools           1 Perfect Mountain Home

 …but even that doesn’t seem to capture it. I guess you will just have to see what we are talking about in person. Come join us for a fun-filled week of summer camp! Or bring the whole family for a Saturday afternoon of adventure at a round-up! Check out our website and Facebook page to stay up to date on all the great ways you can stay in touch with Pathfinder Ranch. Until we meet again, keep enjoying nature!

 

Perma-what?

Often, students enjoy our surplus produce in the form of mid-class snacks!

Often, students enjoy our surplus produce in the form of mid-class snacks!

It’s the middle of spring, and that can only mean one thing… Permaculture is in the air. What is permaculture? Well, it’s a philosophy, it’s a style of gardening, it’s classes we teach here at the ranch, and it’s super easy to understand and practice!

Permaculture starts with three basic principles: care for people, care for the Earth, and return the surplus. Caring for people is as easy as feeding folks good food. Using water appropriately is one example of caring for the Earth. And return the surplus? Do birds ever eat out of your garden? Do you have a compost pile? These are both excellent ways to return the surplus.
It’s also important to recognize the work done by some of our non-human friends. That pesky gopher is aerating and loosening the soil making it easier for new roots to grow later.  Here at the ranch we’ve paid our gophers with at least one Swiss chard, two beets, and a spinach plant (but it was on its way out). That Peter Cottontail who keeps visiting your carrots also helps fertilize for next season. Those annoying insects that buzz around our heads pollinate crops like zucchini and pumpkins. Everybody likes a healthy garden, especially naturalists and their students!

The Pathfinder garden features an herb spiral from which students can taste new flavors and Nauralists can spice up their meals!

The Pathfinder garden features an herb spiral from which students can taste new flavors and Nauralists can spice up their meals!

So you may be wondering, “How can I put these ideas to use?” Where do we start!? Support local farms who practice permaculture principles. Start a garden bed for veggies or native flowers. The Monarch butterfly looooooves milkweed; so check your local native plant nursery. If you have the space, you can start a compost pile for your food scraps and napkins. If you already have a compost pile and you use it for you own garden, you can encourage others in your community to do the same. Then you’ll have someone to trade veggies with. Even if you only have a small space, gardening will help you “take care of people”, by growing your own cooking herbs on your windowsill or maybe a potato tower on your porch. Here’s one more link on how to grow some of your own vegetables in containers.

Spring’s halfway through, but for us here in sunny southern California we still have a long growing season ahead. Happy planting from everyone here at Pathfinder Ranch.

Marathons and Picnics and Round-ups…Oh, my!

Even though our blog generally focuses on the Outdoor Education program here at Pathfinder Ranch, we have lots of opportunities during the year for many different people to visit our beautiful mountain location. Here are a few of our recent and up-coming events:

In our minds, everyone who ran in these ultras is a winner!

In our minds, everyone who ran in these ultras is a winner!

Runners in the Beyond Limits Running Ultra Marathon enjoyed some beautiful scenery for their runs!

Runners in the Beyond Limits Running Ultra Marathon enjoyed some beautiful scenery!

The end of March saw two great events: the Beyond Limits Run and the Pathfinder Picnic. This was the third year that the Beyond Limits Running group joined us for an ultra-marathon through our retreats/conferences program. Runners were able to participate in several running events throughout the weekend, including 100 mile, 50 mile, 50K, and 24 hour marathons. Everyone who witnessed these amazing athletes’ feats of strength and endurance were in awe! Think you have what it takes to run this ultra-marathon? Check their website to learn more! Or, visit our retreats/conferences page to find out how you can schedule a weekend event for your group.

The Pathfinder Picnic was a bit more of an exclusive event that was held to show appreciation to the Palm Springs Pathfinders, a non-profit women’s group that has helped to support Pathfinder Ranch since its founding in 1964. Visiting Pathfinders were treated to tours of the program areas and facilities, as well as a celebratory bar-b-que. It was an idyllic spring day, and the event was a great success. Our thanks to everyone who participated!

Staff and climbers ready to go at our climbing tower

Staff and climbers ready to go at our climbing tower

Coming soon in May, we will begin hosting new weekend events that are open to the public! Called Round-ups, these day programs have been created specifically with families in mind, and will provide opportunities for families, neighbors, and former campers to join us for a day of fun activities. Our first Round-up, scheduled for May 16th, will include climbing and ascent programs facilitated by our fantastic staff and volunteers. Pre-registration is open now! Round-up your adventurers and check it out!

Hope to see you soon!

Participating on our Pamper Pole is a little bit like pretending you're Superman...

Participating on our Pamper Pole is a little bit like pretending you’re Superman…

Climbers of all ages love challenging themselves on our Alpine Tower!

Climbers of all ages love challenging themselves on our Alpine Tower!

CSA’s and Spring Garden Time

Hello again from Pathfinder Ranch! Now that spring has sprung on the mountain, we wanted to take a moment to tell you all about some ways to get involved with your local community and get some great food while you’re at it. While Farmers Markets have risen in popularity the past few years, most people don’t know there is another way to get farm fresh produce and meat.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a perfect way to get to know and directly support your local farmers. Farms that offer a CSA will usually have a “box” filled with that week’s harvest. Depending on the farm, there may be produce, meat, or even processed products. Buying directly from the farm is cheaper for both you and the farmers as products sold at farmers markets have to be priced up to cover the cost of staffing the stall and renting the space.

Here is a list of some of our local farms that offer a CSA. If these are not convenient to you, look for a CSA in your area!

When students visit the garden in the spring, they havee the opportunity to help out by planting seeds or transplanting seedlings.

When students visit the garden in the spring, they have the opportunity to help out by planting seeds or transplanting seedlings.

Every summer brings a bountiful crop of tomatillos at Pathfinder Ranch.

Every summer brings a bountiful crop of tomatillos at Pathfinder Ranch.

 

Inland Empire CSA – a partnership between Sage Mountain Farm and De Luz Farms

Sage Mountain Farm – produce and beef

Primal Pastures – lamb, beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish, and honey

Da-Le Ranch – many different types of meat

 

Meanwhile at Pathfinder we are connecting with our food by planting it for ourselves! The garden is currently producing Brussel’s sprouts, lettuce and carrots from the winter, but in the high tunnel we are gearing up for a delicious and colorful summer. The students are helping us by seeding and transplanting melons, beans, and California Poppies among many other things. We hope a little time here in our garden will inspire our guests to go home and grow food and flowers for themselves!!

Capture the Sun

We only utilize a small fraction of the sun’s energy for human purposes. A larger amount of sunlight is used in photosynthesis and warms the planet, but much of the light from the sun simply goes unused. Wouldn’t it be great if we could find ways to harness more of the sun’s energy?

Students gathered around to witness the cooking power of the sun.

Students gathered around to witness the cooking power of the sun.

One simple way people can harness the sun’s unused light energy is to use a solar oven. Here at Pathfinder, we have a professionally built solar oven that we bring out for students. On a warm January day, it will reach over 250 degrees Fahrenheit! In summer, our oven can easily top the 300 degree Fahrenheit thermometer in the oven. We’ve made many the tasty treat for our students using this great piece of technology.

Solar Salsa, cooked in our solar oven

Solar Salsa, cooked in our solar oven.

There are also plans on the internet about how to build your own solar oven out of simple supplies like a pizza box and aluminum foil. Follow this link to one such project, courtesy of Scientific American. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sunny-science-build-a-pizza-box-solar-oven/) Your pizza box oven can get up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s warm enough to melt cheese and chocolate!

There are also many kits that can be purchased to help students learn about how solar energy can be transformed into electrical energy. These kits utilize small solar panels so that students can experience solar engineering first hand.  To find the right kit for you, try using the search terms solar energy kit or renewable energy kit.

Students used their engineering skills to construct a solar windmill.

Students used their engineering skills to construct a solar windmill.

 

Solar energy is a growing field of energy production. Who knows? Perhaps a student of today will innovate the next great leap in harnessing the sun’s rays for human use.

The sun is shining and waiting for us to use it!

No one here but us chickens….

I am very pleased to introduce you to some of Pathfinder Ranch’s lovely animals, the chickens.

There are a wide variety of chicken breeds that all have unique traits and personalities, and these are able to fill different purposes such as food, pets, or novelty.  Here at Pathfinder Ranch, we have a mix of all three.

Red Star chickens are great egg layers!

Red Star chickens are great egg layers!

Silkie chickens are usually raised as pets or as show animals.

Silkie chickens are usually raised as pets or as show animals.

Our Red Stars, Ameraucanas, Leghorns, and Wyandottes lay on average one egg every 26 hours (yum!). We also have our delightful Silkie chickens that make great pets and look amazing.

And of course, normally used for novelty, we have a magnificent Polish hen. Only at Pathfinder Ranch can you find our very own Beyoncé. As one can tell from the pictures of the glorious black and white hen with the crown of feathers on the top of her head, Beyoncé is one beautiful bird. Beyoncé had her name bestowed upon her due to a trial equal to her glamor.

One fateful day our then-nameless Polish hen was discovered with a mysterious leg injury that left her unable to walk. Now, any normal chicken would have been the next pot pie for dinner, but not this one!  No! Instead, one of our staff members gave her just the chance she needed: a safe place to heal with food and water in pecking distance. Slowly but surely each day she could move a little more, and after a week she could prop herself up. Then, a fortnight after the fateful day of her injury, this hen was hopping around. And finally, after a month of recuperation, our polish hen could walk again. She was indeed a survivor. Needless to say, any animal, man, or beast, that is such a survivor and still has such great hair should be given a proper name. Thus Beyoncé earned her keep as well as her name.

Beyonce, our Polish Hen, has a unique story.

Beyonce, our Polish Hen, has a unique story.

Beyonce sports an epic crown of feathers.

Beyonce sports an epic crown of feathers.

Come be in awe and visit her soon!

March Night Skies

An extraordinary view of constellation Orion.

An extraordinary view of constellation Orion. You can see the three stars in the center make up his belt, and the two below and above make up his feet and shoulders.

We have had some great nights of astronomy class recently here at Pathfinder Ranch. If you are a star gazer yourself, make an effort to get out on those nights around the new moon when the stars will be easier to see! If you look into the sky tonight from somewhere on the northern hemisphere, you will see some northern winter constellations glowing brightly – Orion the hunter is by far the most distinct in the sky at this time, and can easily be found by looking for the three bright stars of his belt.

During these moonless nights, you may also be able to spot Comet Lovejoy in the early-evening, as it slowly makes its way from the foot of Andromeda towards Cassiopeia.

Comet LoveJoy C/2014 Q2 on February 13th, 2015

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2 on February 13th, 2015

Remember that a comet is an object with a nucleus made up of rocks that are trapped in ice! When passing close to the sun, the ice heats up and turns to gas and the particles within are released as dust. This is why many comets have a tail! You can use this online finder chart  from Sky and Telescope to see where it will be tonight!

Happy star gazing from all of us here at Pathfinder Ranch!

Announcing the New Zero Waste Awards!

Household food waste in New York

Household food waste in New York (Image courtesy of WikiCommons)

DID YOU KNOW?

In the United States, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, which averages to more than 20 pounds of food waste per person per month.[i]

And…..

Ninety-seven percent of our food waste goes to landfills.  This means that 33 million tons of food goes into landfills each year.[ii]

THAT’S A LOT OF WASTE!!!

Help win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Plate for your school!

Help win a Gold, Silver, or Bronze Plate for your school!

 

BUT WAIT!!!

There are things that we can do!  If you have already been to Pathfinder, you know all about Garbology and how you can do Garbology at home.  If you are new to Pathfinder, check out this blog from March 6th to find out all about how Garbology works.  Then, you can practice at home and at school before you come up to Pathfinder.  Practice will be important because we are starting an awards program for schools that achieve zero waste at meals.  In addition to the pride of knowing they are awesome and have zero waste meals, schools can now earn awards for zero waste meals! Schools that have zero waste for three or more meals are awarded the Gold Plate.  Schools that have two meals of zero waste are awarded the Silver Plate, and schools that have one meal of zero waste are awarded the Bronze Plate.  So start practicing, and get ready to earn your school the Gold Plate award!



[i] United Nations Environment Programme. (2015, January 1). Food Waste: The Facts. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/food_waste_the_facts

[ii]  USDA and US EPA. Waste Not, Want Not. Feeding the Hungry and Reducing Solid Waste Through Food Recovery. EPA 530­R­99­040

Winter Reflections

Tracks in the snow

Tracks in the snow

After three fun-filled weeks of training, school groups, and classes, it’s hard to believe that winter break was less than a month ago! As January comes to a close, we have been reflecting on how important it is to step away, and how exciting it is to come back.

Frosty sage and a frozen lake

Frosty sage and a frozen lake

Our staff comes from all over, and when we closed for the holidays, we spread out to every corner of the United States. Naturalists could be found frolicking in the forests of Vermont, snow-shoeing in Montana, reuniting with their dogs in Texas, spending family time in Washington, and even road-tripping through the Midwest. Those who relaxed up here at the ranch were able to witness something exciting, too – the first snow of the season! Whether watched through a window with hot cocoa in hand, or caught on tongues and rolled around in, the snow was enjoyed by everyone lucky enough to see it, and pictures were sent to those of us who were too far away.

No matter where we spent our break or what we spent time doing, a common thread between us all was the time spent with family and friends. Living a wanderer’s life, it is so wonderful to have the opportunity to wander back to the people we love, even just for a week or two. That time spent away from work, reflecting on our lives, friendships, and growth, was truly a blessing. It was a nice reminder that no matter how long you are away, you can always go back home.

We hope everyone had a happy holiday season! Whether you spent it on a faraway adventure or snuggled up in your living room, we hope you spent some time reflecting and celebrating with the people who matter the most.

Happy winter, from our family to yours!

Seasons Greetings

Season’s Reflections

As yet another season comes to an end here at Pathfinder Ranch we take a moment to reflect back on this fall’s accomplishments. By the end of this week we will have seen almost 2,400 students. We started the season with sunshine and some thunderstorms, and will be ending with rain and cold. Through it all staff and students alike have kept positive and enthusiastic attitudes.

We were lucky enough to make it through this busy fall with minimal illness for Ranch residents including our horses, farm and nature center animals. Unfortunately, some of our free range chickens were taken away by local coyotes, but we’re hopeful for new Silkie chicks in the next few weeks! Hopefully our January and February schools will get a chance to see newly hatched chicks!

One of our most exciting additions to the Ranch is the High Tunnel. It is currently home to many seeds and starter plants that will weather the winter inside, and give us a head start on next spring’s garden plans. It has also proven an excellent shelter from the much needed rain showers over the past few weeks.

Overall this season has been full of improvements, growth and excitement. Here’s looking forward to an equally amazing spring!

Students enjoying a geology class in the National Forest.

Students enjoying a geology class in the National Forest.