Twigs & Stems // November 2017

Here are a few links from around the web that caught our attention in recent weeks. Have you seen something that stuck with you that you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! Love what you see here? Follow us on Facebook, as we often post these goodies as we find them. 

"Fox Tales" Available for streaming on through 11/10

"Fox Tales"
Available for streaming on through 11/10

9 Ideas for Bringing the Outside In This Winter

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by Deborah Velto, Educator and Nature Museum Board Member

It was such a glorious fall in the Northeast that it is hard to believe that winter is on its way!  As the temperature starts to drop and the days get shorter, thoughts turn to preparing for the cold and for more time spent indoors. Here are a few ideas for continuing to enjoy and appreciate the gifts of nature while inside your home this winter:

1. Create a seasonal table

Seasonal tables are a wonderful way to pay homage to the natural world and help us focus on the intricate details that make each season beautiful. Decorate your table with flora from the season, leaves, dried flowers, interesting rocks.  If you have trouble coming up with ideas for your seasonal table, there are many resources online.  Check out these great suggestions courtesy of The Green Parent.

2. Forage and freeze

Get those fresh berries, herbs, and other bounties of the fall and summer into the    freezer for a mid winter surprise! Even if you don’t can or make jam, you can still enjoy summer’s flavors from your freezer. Berries are easy to freeze and are always a welcome treat in a winter smoothie. Reminisce about warm summer berry-picking days while you cook up some blueberry pancakes on a snowy morning.  Make some fresh pesto and freeze it into ice cube trays for a burst of summer flavor when the summer seems farthest away!  Freeze the stems and peels from fall veggies and use them to brew a nice vegetable broth on a cold day.        

3. Nature crafts

Dried flowers, pinecones, and other pretty items make great materials for winter crafting days. Decorate wreaths, picture frames, candle holders, greeting cards with natural items you find on your next nature hike. Create unique holiday gifts with love using the little treasures you find outdoors!

4. Plan ahead for indoor nature play

Save those leftover fairy house supplies, keep some interesting bark from the wood pile, and dig up some of that soil before it freezes and store it away in the barn or basement for a few months. Pull it out for a surprise activity when you are buried in snow and ice. A tupperware bin filled with soil, dried flowers, sticks, pinecones, and tree bark can make for hours of fun on a dark winter’s day.  Add some toy cars, animals, or action figures for some extra fun!

5. Rock the house

If your kids are rock lovers, you probably have a plethora of interesting rock collections around your house, in the yard, and in the car. Use particularly nice rocks as decorations in planters or window sills. Paint faces on your rocks to make pet rocks! Build an indoor fountain and fill the bottom with your favorite rocks. Use a rock tumbler and rock identification guide for some fun exploring geology.

6. Nature Journals - not just for summer days!

Nature journals usually bring up visions of leisurely writing on summer hikes and vivid descriptions of green lovely weather, but the extremes of winter can make for some great inspiration for writing too! Take along your journal on a winter hike or cross country ski.  A starry sky on a cold winter’s night can make a great subject for a poem or stream of conscious writing too.

7. Worms!

If you are up for a little preparation, a worm bin can be a fun way to keep the wonder of nature alive in your house.  Worms will manage your natural waste for you, and leave you with plenty of rich compost for spring.  If you have kids, this makes for a fun winter project full of interesting scientific observations! An online search will pull up many options for building a worm bin and obtaining the worms you need, including these step-by-step instructions posted on this straightforward web page. 

8. Picture it

Take the opportunity to appreciate all of the pictures you took while enjoying the outdoors this summer and fall.  Print and frame your favorite photos, and find a perfect spot in your home where you can see them when you are missing those warmer days. Digital photo frames are also a great option, because they will play a slideshow of your pictures continuously. There are many options for making calendars and coffee table books out of your digital photos too

9. Curl up with a good book

Reading some good nature inspired poetry or prose can be a great way to connect with nature while cozied up next to the woodstove. Dickinson, in her poem, "It Sifts" from Leaden Sieves, details a glimpse at a first snowfall.  William Blake explores the mood of each season in a series of four poems, "To Autumn", "To Winter", "To Summer", and "To Spring". Pick up a novel thick with vivid descriptions of the natural landscape, like Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey, or a local fiction writer like Howard Frank Mosher. Plan for action in the spring by taking some time to read up on your favorite outdoor hobby or environmental movement.  Visit your local library for nature themed picture books for the kids! Check out our own list of recommendations from 2016, "14 Delightful Books for Nature-Loving Kids"


Let’s face it, the frigid days of winter can feel endless and can leave us missing the easier days of summer. With some planning, you can continue to keep your love of nature alive within your home this winter. Taking time to focus on the details and beauty of the natural world can be both a fun and therapeutic way to pass the time while we wait for mother nature to wake up from her long winter’s nap.


Honoring Noralee

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For 25 years Noralee Hall has played an integral role in the growth of The Nature Museum.  When I first arrived in Grafton 16 years ago, it was Noralee who helped me feel welcome by inviting me to help establish the north garden at the museum.  Long before my arrival though, Noralee was a loyal member of the board and helped in the transition of the museum from the Town Hall to the Grange.  Noralee has served as a director, board president, secretary, and office manager.  Noralee could always be counted on to lend a hand from gardening to decorating the tents for fairy house festival, helping take tickets, making delicious treats or spreading the word about an event.  

We are sad to see Noralee step down from the museum’s board, but glad that she is doing so because she is deeply involved with another hometown success, Blake Hill Preserves.  We have been searching for a fitting tribute to our long-time partner and have decided to plant a tree in the front yard of the museum in Noralee’s honor.  A tree is a fitting testament to a woman who helped us grow from a small Grafton museum into the regional resource we are today. Thank you, Noralee, for being our longest serving volunteer, and loyal friend, who could always be counted on to accept each task with a smile. 

- Laurie Danforth, President of the Board of Directors

Exciting Turnout for Fall Benefit Concert


Thanks Grafton! 

On Sunday, October 22nd, a picture-perfect day with gorgeous weather, folks left the beautiful outdoors and came inside to support The Nature Museum’s benefit concert featuring Big Woods Voices. A large (90 strong) and enthusiastic audience for the two-set concert which featured the super talents of Will Danforth, Alan Blood, Becky Graber, and Amanda Witman. The Grafton Village Bakery and MKT provided delicious baked goodies to accompany the apple cider at intermission. The generous donations will be used to update our well-used educational materials and keep our programs fresh and fun. 

With warm appreciation,

Laurie Danforth
Board President

The Fairies Are Clapping For YOU!

All of us at The Nature Museum want to thank you for your tremendous support during our 9th Annual Fairy House Festival.  The portal to the fairy world only opens in Grafton for one weekend a year and this year 1100 fairy friends walked through the portal and into the magic of our most fun-filled way of getting all ages closer to nature. 

Hats off to the Volunteers! The parking folks, the ice cream scoopers, the craft helpers, museum docents, set-up and clean-up crew, trail-tenders, fairy-foragers, face-painters, hula-hoopers, bubble wizards, the Royalty of Retail, John the raffle master, magician Em with hair feathers, and a special thanks to the many fairy house architects who have raised the creative and imaginative bar higher each year.  From children to seniors everyone pitched in and worked joyfully in spite of the heat to bring fairy good fortune to the event.

Thank you to our generous donors and local businesses who all help support this unique event. We especially want to thank Helga and Mark Piel and Mary Hudson on whose woodland paths the fairy village magically arrives each year and the Windham Foundation for allowing us to use all their available parking. Thanks to MKT who sold out on Saturday and then worked through the night to bring us another day of delicious food. 

I hope you click on this link to the photo album from this year’s festival and recapture the magic. Check out the 2017 Fairy House Festival program (attached to this email) to get the whole scoop on the festival. This weekend event was such a huge hit and quite a successful fundraiser and so much of the thanks is due to you.

Even before the present year’s festival is over we are already thinking and planning for the next one.  2018 will be our 10th Anniversary!  Each year we work to make improvements in our process, structure, and communications with everyone involved in making this event a success. 

We would LOVE to have your feedback of what worked and what could be improved and perhaps your ideas on how we could make the festival even better for you.  Please take a few minutes to answer after clicking on this link to our easy feedback form.  We would greatly appreciate it.

Bravo to YOU who helped make Fairy House Festival 2017 such a wonderful community event! 

All the best,

Carrie Roy King, Executive Director

Up your family camping game and go backpacking!


Have you ever considered backpacking with your family? There are many reasons it could be a good fit for you. It’s relatively cheap (once everyone is geared up, there’s not much cost) and there are many beautiful, remote places close by. Getting outdoors and exercising is healthy and feels great, even thrilling. Perhaps my favorite thing is that there are so many things a child - as well as the entire family - can learn while backpacking.

Here’s how I’ve introduced backpacking to my family…

Before living in Vermont, my husband Hans and I lived in the remote Upper Peninsula of Michigan and spent much of our free time backpacking and kayak camping. We loved to venture deep into the Michigan wilderness where we got to experience places and see wild animals few others get to see.

We took a hiatus from backpacking when we started our family nearly 8 years ago. We just couldn’t see the magic in carrying all that “baby stuff” and a baby and leave-no-trace diaper style would have been a stinky drag. We stuck to day hikes and car camping. Hans and I didn't love this type of camping, but we knew that we were planting a seed that would grow into future adventures when our children were the right age.

A year ago this October when the kids were ages 4 and 6, we went on our first family backpacking trip. We dusted off and tested our old gear and cobbled together additional items for the kids. Other than a good pair of woolen long johns and puffy coats, there was truly nothing special or technical to the kids’ gear. They even used their school backpacks! We made sure to save the heavy stuff for us and to keep the kids backpacks light and fun. I had scoped a sweet spot with a beautiful shelter on the Long Trail just over a two mile hike from a parking area. The fact that Hans and I had tremendously heavy packs wasn't a huge deal - we could manage the weight fine for a few miles hiking at kid-pace. Once we all arrived in camp, we fished, hiked along the lake, cooked dinner, had a fire, and fell asleep listening to sounds of the nighttime forest. The morning was just as simple and lovely, and we chose to hike the long way out to enjoy lunch at a viewpoint. The trip was a huge success and the kids were hooked!

Our family has gone on two more trips, one to Merck Forest in January and another back to the Long Trail this past summer. Feeling pretty confident about my children's abilities, I even took them backpacking on my own twice this summer during the workweek to avoid the crowds. Backpacking solo with my kids has been among the most rewarding moments of my motherhood. Laying in my tent at night with a kid at each side, planted among the peaceful Green Mountains, I experienced a whole new dimension and richness of the sport I love. I am thrilled to be sharing the joy of backpacking with my kids.

We've learned a few tricks which make our family backpacking trips a bit easier and lots more fun. We load up on what I call “sneaky treats”. Chocolate covered almonds, coconut clusters, instant oatmeal packs, and cured sausage keep the energy coming and the joy factor high. My kids have a brand of tea they love (Good Earth Tea), which has been vital to boost moods and hydrate on chilly mornings. Both kids received light-weight hammocks for their birthdays and I carry these for them as luxury items while in camp. Each child chooses a special place to hang a hammock for his/her own chill-out spot. We've found that the most important factor to prevent the trip from becoming a slog is to hike-in no more than 3 miles to camp. Even then, I can end up carrying my five-year old's pack clipped onto mine with carabiners. It's also important not to hike to new places, but to have scoped the site out ahead of time. We choose destinations which amplify the joy of being on the trail and minimize the work for kids and ourselves.

So does backpacking sound like an activity you might want to try out with your family??

If you and your family have basic camping skills and experience, consider upping your camping game and taking your crew on a backpacking trip. Do your research, find out a sweet and easy spot, borrow or rent whatever gear you are missing (or ask for it as a holiday/birthday gift from the grandparents!), and go for it. Hopefully more young families will set out on backpacking adventures right here in our own Green Mountains. Sharing such experiences brings us not only closer to the natural world, but also to each other. Give backpacking with kids a try!


Bee sure to check out our upgraded hive this weekend at the Fairy House Festival!

Tom Goldschmid and Kathy Leo, our volunteer beekeeping couple, stopped by today to check out our observational bee hive. The bees are still working hard bringing in pollen, making honey and keeping the hive cool on this hot day. This colony is thriving! Stop by to take a look during the Fairy House Festival!