The New Year has begun here at Pathfinder Ranch and all of the Naturalists are excited for the fresh scent of 2016 in the winter air. After the joyful and busy fall season, we were all excited for winter break and many of us did what we do best with our free time… spent it outside in nature! Many of the staff started their winter migration by flying back to their home towns. We enjoyed the holidays with family, friends, food, critters, and nature!
Shortly after New Year’s, we flocked back to the Ranch, excited to start anew in 2016. The snowy winter weather blew in three new naturalists to join our amazing team of Outdoor Educators. Winter training started off with beautiful, sunny, California weather, but the sunshine did not last very long. We were greeted with the biggest storm we have had here at Pathfinder in quite some time! Many inches of powdery snow fell on the Ranch. Everyone put on our best snow attire and rushed outside to make snowmen, throw snowballs, and attempt a new science experiment by making ice cream with the fresh snow. The beautiful harsh weather gave us plenty of time to revamp old lesson plans and activities, and to train our new Naturalists.
We are all very excited to start see what El Nino has in store for us here at the Ranch and we are ready for the schools to attend this winter season so that they can experience the joy of learning in the beautiful outdoors!
Believe it or not, many types of wild creatures may be closer than you think. Nature is not something you necessarily need to travel to or “go and see”. It’s right outside your door, even if you live in an urban-city environment. As human populations grow and cities expand, animals are either restricted to smaller habitats or adapt to the new man-made ones. Songbirds, reptiles, deer and even large predatory mammals are becoming ever more common in populated areas. While it is incredibly important to protect and preserve natural spaces, there are ways we can help these critters continue to thrive and co-exist in an urban setting.
Songbirds: These musical creatures are a joy to watch and listen to. They are easily attracted to your home with a well-stocked bird feeder (sunflower and nyjer seeds will do the trick). Take care not to place a feed too close to a window as many birds meet their end by window strike. How else can we protect the little chirpers? Keep your cats indoors! One of the greatest threats to wild bird populations is outdoor cats. In the United States, outdoor housecats have been estimates to kill up to 3.7 billion songbirds annually! That is an average of 1 bird every 17 hours per cat! With the addition of this domestic predator, many species of songbird are on the decline. So keep the kitties indoors, it is generally better for the health of the cat as well as surrounding bird populations. Additionally, many of us are under the false assumption that if a baby bird is found on the ground, it cannot be touched or else the parents will reject it. Birds actually have a terrible sense of smell and a very strong parental instinct. If you find a baby bird, the best thing to do it to try to get it elevated off the ground, ideally back in its nest. If the nest cannot be found or is super high up, putting the chick on a lower branch will do the trick. The parents are likely nearby and will resume care once you leave the area.
Reptiles: While snakes are not everyone’s favorite critter, especially those with a venomous bite, they are an intricate part of keeping a balanced ecosystem. In other words, they prevent the world from being overrun by rodents! There are a couple key ways to keep snakes around without having them too close to home. Keeping the area around your home mowed and clutter-free will deter snakes and their rodent prey from taking up residence there. They love to take shelter in tall grass, brush, rock piles and wood piles so it is prudent to keep these possible snake dwellings away from your home. For example, construct your wood pile on the edge of your property rather than against a building and always take care when removing the wood. Lastly, know your snakes. Kingsnakes and gopher snakes are both non-venomous competitors of rattlesnakes. Having them around will serve a dual purpose of rodent and rattlesnake control. If you can safely identify that you have one of these guys in your yard, it may be in your best interest to let them be.
Deer and Large Predators: Deer are incredibly adaptable creatures and have made their way into many of our back yards. They often even bare their young there. When a baby deer, or fawn, is born the mother will leave it in the grass for several hours at a time while she browses. Instinctually, the fawn will lie still until the mother returns. One of the biggest, though well intentioned, mistakes we can make is to disturb or move a fawn. While it may appear abandoned, it is likely just waiting patiently for its mother to return. Later in the season, as the fawns grow, they will join their mother in the search for green things to eat. To our dismay, they often make their way into our gardens. While many people are choosing to plant native plants and share with these agile creatures, there are ways to keep them from munching up all of your plants. If possible, a fence that is at least 8 feet high will do the trick. For a less invasive solution, laying bird netting (often sold at plant nurseries) over your plant beds can allow the plants to get the necessary moisture and sunlight while deterring deer from plucking up the succulent shoots.
With the deer moving into urban areas, the animals that prey upon them may also join the party. These include coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. To protect yourselves and your furry friends, be sure to keep all trash in secure bins/cans and don’t leave pet food outside. These animals are especially opportunistic in urban habitats and will take whatever food they can get. Keep your yard space clear of brush that can provide a hiding spot for a predator or its prey. Being canines themselves, coyotes are often attracted to the scent of domestic dogs; especially if your dog is not spayed or neutered.
In general, these animals don’t really care to be around people, they are just trying to get by in a changed world. If we make our presence known and set environmental boundaries, we can hopefully limit conflict.
Another sensational season of outdoor education here at Pathfinder Ranch is coming to an end. We would like to extend a mountainous amount of gratitude to our students, chaperones, and teachers who made this program possible. This season we reached approximately 2,400 students from 29 schools.
This season has been full of exciting new additions and continuing traditions. Teachers and students have enjoyed our new catapult evening program, where students practice their engineering skills to build weapons to fight ferocious dragons. Meher Montessori gave us the opportunity to teach our newest class, Farm Energetics, which is the study of energy transfer focusing on farms and food. Free time has also gotten a face lift. Thanks to our fantastic donors, the Rock and Rec room has a new foosball table, a new basketball free throw game, and lots of new board games and books. Pathfinder Ranch also has a new program where students can learn about weather. Now, we are prepared for any storms that El Nino might throw our way. With all of these new changes we’re still maintaining our old traditions and keeping the culture of Pathfinder Ranch alive.
We would like to thank all of our schools who attended this Fall, and wish them Happy Holidays. To all of the schools joining us in the Winter and Spring, we are looking forward to seeing you!
The Pathfinder Ranch 2nd annual Friend Raiser at the Living Desert was a hit! A big thanks to everyone who came out to see us! Attendees had fun participating in SAFE archery, making their own brands on wood cookies, and learning about the nature activities at Pathfinder Ranch.
Live music was performed by Blue Daddy throughout the event. Guests socialized with Pathfinder Ranch outdoor education and summer camp staff, while learning more about the program through activities.
Other activities included a raffle, food provided by Living Desert and drinks provided by La Quinta Brewing Company, and entrance into the Living Desert Park. We look forward to spending more time with the friends of Pathfinder!
When students of Vanguard Elementary stepped into the Dinning Hall on the evening of October 28th they were in for a real Halloween surprise. The kitchen had prepared zombie brains (fully cooked) for them to eat, toxic sludge, with human hands and eyeballs, to drink and delicious pumpkin cupcakes for desert! At the end of the meal the students left for free time feeling full and in the Halloween spirit.
Just like any other night, the bell for evening program rang promptly at 7:30. Students ran all over the basketball courts to find their animal sign, line up, and get ready for their night hike. Study groups were just about to leave for their hike when all of a sudden Ryan sped over to the basketball court on the Pathfinder Ranch space bus. He exclaimed that Dingo, the Summer Camp Director, had been too eager and had eaten the zombie brains before they had been properly cooked and had turned into a zombie!! He urged the Vanguard students to find the cure so that more people would not be turned into zombies.
Knowing that strength is in numbers, study groups paired off and set out to, different places on campus to try to find the zombie cure. At the swinging bridge students encountered a troll that would not let them cross until they worked together to solve the ‘just one long word’ challenge. At the freshwater lab study groups found a mad scientist who tested their cure-handling and assembling skills by making radioactive, glow in the dark, slime. In the forest a one-eyed witch asked students to solve riddles in order to give them a part of the cure. And at the fort students learned how this wasn’t the first time there were zombies at Pathfinder. Throughout the night the zombie count grew as Ryan and naturalist Juniper joined the zombie crew with Dingo. Students encountered these zombies but did very well, staying quiet and still, to avoid them.
Suddenly, a call came over the radio; the study groups coyotes and deer had found a part of the cure and were heading to the fort to meet everyone! Next, the antelopes and bobcats exclaimed that they had also found their part of the cure and were heading to meet the others. Soon after, the last few study groups joined the rest with their parts of the cure. With the help of the naturalists the students combined the different parts of the cure and called in the zombies. When the zombies came into the fort students and naturalists threw the cure on them and the zombies slowly turned back into their former selves. The students of Vanguard Elementary had saved the day!
Hope you had a Happy Zombie-Free Halloween!
The heat of summer in Southern California is dwindling so let’s get outside and check out some of the fantastic parks and outdoor attractions we have! Hopefully after your time at Pathfinder, you got a bit more comfortable hiking and being in nature, that’s great! Here in SoCal we have incredible parks with some of the greatest hikes around. Near San Diego? Check out the beautiful Balboa Park, Lake Murray, Cowles Mountain, or Torrey Pines State Park. Closer to Los Angeles? Go to Crystal Cove State Park by Laguna Beach, Mount Baldy, or go to Catalina Island! In the Inland Empire? Check out Lake Perris, Mount Palomar, or the San Bernadino National Forest. Up for an adventure? Take a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park or Death Valley, amazing locations to see awesome plants, animals, and rocks, along with some of the best stargazing in all of the country.
Along with great day and weekend trips that you can do, Southern California has some great outdoor events coming up soon. Maybe you are into the movies and the outdoors, well the Reel Rock 8 film festival is beginning soon in Pomona at Rose Hills Theater. The films include some of the best climbing and adventure footage from around the world. The festival is on November 14th starting at 7 PM. Did Pathfinder get you into rock climbing? Well you can go to the grand opening of , San Diego on November 7th for free climbing and yoga! Speaking of yoga, in the nearby town of Anza, Yoga Skies hosts yoga on the lawn of the Hamilton Musem every Saturday, for only $10. These parks and events barely scratch the surface of all we have at our disposal in Southern California. Get out there and start exploring!
In bowl, stir pumpkin and cumin; season. Spread over 4 tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts. Top with remaining tortillas. In large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. oil over medium-low. Cook quesadillas 1 at a time, turning once and adding more oil between batches, until browned, 3 minutes. Cut into wedges.
In large pan over medium, cook onion in butter until softened, 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; cook 3 minutes, then season. Serve with pork.
In small pan, melt butter; whisk in hot sauce, honey and 1/2 tsp. salt. Place popcorn in large bowl. Drizzle with butter mixture; toss and season.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend squash, coconut milk, eggs and syrup; pour into 8-inch baking dish. Put dish in roasting pan; pour boiling water halfway up dish to make water bath. Bake, 1 hour. Top with cream.
It’s time to harvest the garden at Pathfinder. We have lots of pumpkins, zucchinis, and tomatoes to harvest from the garden. With harvest time comes a chance to try new recipes.
Here at Pathfinder we talk a lot about conserving the food that we eat because a lot of time and energy went into putting that food onto the table. When collecting food from the garden, we should also respect the time and energy that went into growing each individual plant. This harvest season, let’s respect that energy by using every part of the plant that we can.
When harvesting the pumpkins in your garden, don’t forget to harvest the leaves as well! Pumpkin leaves are not only edible, but they are rich in iron, protein, and vitamins A & C. They help us grow and survive! You could try to use pumpkin leaves in a salad, stir fry, soup, or even as a wrap (http://savingdinner.com/7-edibles-you-might-be-ignoring/). Also, you could bake the pumpkin seeds up and add them to the salad that you put the pumpkin leaves in.
If you don’t have a garden, but you are looking for local harvest nutrients check out these farmers markets:
Harvard Street & Latham Street
Hemet, California 92543
Saturdays 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Old Town Temecula CFM
6th & Front Streets
Temecula, California 92590
Saturday 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM
2300 E. Baristo Road
Palm Springs, California
Saturdays from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm
78100 Main Street
La Quinta, California
Sundays from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm
Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce
72-559 Highway 111
Palm Desert, California
Wednesdays 4:00 pm to 8 pm
This past Saturday, September 19th, Pathfinder Ranch opened its doors for our bi-annual Open House Event. About 40 people attended, from as far as Riverside, to become acquainted with the staff and facilities at the ranch. Most attendees were curious future campers and their families. They attended talks and tours given by our Kitchen Director, Summer Camp Director, Outdoor Education Director, medical staff, and teaching naturalists. These talks included information and answered questions about Pathfinder’s history, food services, and medical concerns. Highlights of the tour for the attendees included petting the horses, visiting with the farm animals, seeing the cabins, and eating our yummy homemade snacks!
Getting to talk to the staff and tour the ranch is a great way to get future campers excited and relieve the families’ anxieties about sending their loved ones to camp. Our next Open House will be in March 2016 – so keep an eye on our website and Facebook Page for the exact date!