April 21, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Mid to late April here in mid-coast Maine is a real test of one’s patience as well as wardrobe. From one day to the next one does not know what to wear as the weather is so unpredictable. Many staff’s vehicles can be seen with a back seat full of the possible “layers” that may be needed on any given day. Winter has been long and we all want it to be over, and yet we get the real hints some days of the weather that is just around the corner with a stunningly beautiful sun filled day, then followed by a 20 degree overnight and 30 degree mornings. Today struggled to hit 40 with a damp Atlantic breeze nipping at our campus. Warmer days are coming!

Weekly schedules and curriculums are being formatted for summer and outdoor activities. The Character Development class held at the FH School has hit its semester end. The allocated time for that class will now be available for enrichment times with Gardening/Horticulture, Journalism/Photography and outdoor recreation. In addition, we will be having sports recreation including, not just playing but sports experientials. Outdoor sports activities will not just focus on play, but on the introduction of sports that residents have never played. An emphasis on understanding the sport not just for its physical benefit but on the rules, regulation and strategies will be emphasized.

Outdoor beautification takes on a new function as all of the unseen debris from winter, covered by months of snow cover is now ready to be cleaned up. Fallen branches, errant rocks and gravel and displaced sod from shoveling and plowing needs to be removed from the lawns and flower-beds.

FH residents took an afternoon this week and volunteered at a local elderly resident’s home in assisting them with just such aforementioned beautification. In addition, they travelled to Camp Fairhaven, a local summer kid’s camp, to assist in preparing their stable of horses for their upcoming riding season. Our residents brushed horses, picked hooves, primped and fussed over the equines as they shook off their winter dust. It is keen to note that our residents having been schooled with months of equine care and horsemanship and they were confidently able to place all of their best practices as they took their show on the road.

Frye campus, being more geographically located in the forested area of our campus is engaging the new life experiences that occur in the dense woods of Northern New England. Different species of birds arrive daily. Turkeys are gobbling and Ruffed Grouse can be heard “drumming” on a not so distant log. Chipmunks and Red Squirrels are out and about foraging for the little ones tucked into dens in the walls and trees surrounding Frye. The streams that traverse through Frye are filled with the run-off of melting snow all along the south slopes of Frye Mountain. They are swollen with ice cold water and are full of aquatic life. These same streams will be rendered dry pathways by late August. It is a beautiful time of new life, mild weather, and hopes of things to come….much like the Ironwood journey…

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives!

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April 21, 2017

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Why horsing around is good for you: Spending time around stables proven to reduce stress

From DailyMail.com


Horsing around can make teenagers less stressed out, new research has revealed.

A study found that children who spend time with horses or riding have lower levels of stress hormones, according to measurements taken from their saliva.

Researchers looked at 130 teenagers taking part in an after school horsemanship course that lasted 12 weeks.

They spent 90 minutes a week learning about horses: how to care for, groom, handle, and ride the animals.

Each teenager gave six samples of saliva over a two day period before and after the 12 week programme.

Researchers analysed the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the samples.

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April 14, 2017

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Ironwood Maine

A collective exhale could be heard across campus last Sunday as we wrapped up the second Family Weekend 2017. The anticipation leading up to a FW is very high with emotions of excitement, and uncertainty. As the weekend wraps up there is a sense of sadness, and to some degree relief, yet it is usually a time when we see the residents refocus, regroup and genuinely place an emphasis on their individual programs as they strive for the next level of residency or have their eye on the prize of a graduation and going home.

While the most tangible and beautiful part of the weekend is the visible re-unification of families, there is a lot of work that goes on. As you know, many hours are spent in family therapies, group therapies and experientials. It is an understatement to say that there is much happening. Also, it can be very difficult at times. As exhausted as you were with travelling and the activities of the weekend, the kids took time to rest up this week as well.

The Sugar Shack has now closed up for the year. In addition to the samples you enjoyed at the shack, while touring the operation, all families left with an 8 oz. container of pure sweetness. We do hope you will enjoy it and that you equally enjoyed your child’s explanation of the work they put into in producing the end product. Our final tally was approximately 15 gallons of Pure Maple Syrup that will be enjoyed over the next couple months of Sundays!

The journey into spring and warmer weather continues. Sunset is approaching 7:30PM allowing many more outdoor activities after supper and always results in a happier, smoother day. The grasses in our fields are greening up, the horses are losing their winter coats, and the pair of geese have migrated back to our little pond…

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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April 7, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Wow! The first day of Family Weekend is a tremendous whirlwind of activity and emotion. Launched by a family introductory meeting at the Farmhouse School, the day is then set in motion with reunifications, smiles, laughs and yes, tears. All of the emotions you could imagine after not seeing your child for 10 weeks. After that the families head off for a day of family therapies, experientials and some quiet time together

The Level III, and Level IV residents enjoy a much deserved and looked forward to trip off campus   beginning in the mid-afternoon. All Level III’s get to stay off campus on Saturday night. A Level III with their second family weekend get to stay off campus Sunday night as well. Level IV’s will enjoy a complete 3 night family weekend with a return on Monday. Level II residents, while enjoying a great day with family are not allowed off campus for the overnight.

This always leaves the question as to what happens to the Level I residents who’ve not yet been here long enough to enjoy a Family Weekend. Well, staff, usually led by Staff Alex, take great care of our Level I’s, aptly named “Team Orange” to correspond with their Level color, by planning a good mix of activities and work. Today saw them in school for the regular amount of time, followed by a Pita Pizza lunch then a hike with the Frye mini horses. After exercising the small equines, productive time and hikes up to the Totem pole took up much of their afternoon. Tomorrow will see another day of activities, some hiking, all will complete their “cooking over an open fire goal”….and some fun outstanding outdoor fun in the woods and fields of our campus. Early spring is a great time for exploration and they will be seeing a lot of the area hiking, reading, and writing…never a dull moment.

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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March 31, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Happy spring families!!!  I hope everyone is gearing up for the upcoming family weekend!  This past week both campuses were abuzz with the building anticipation for another fun filled weekend with their families and loved ones.  Spring seems to have finally sprung here at Ironwood and we are taking full advantage of the longer days and warmer weather.

Frye’s has seized the opportunity to shake off the winds of winter and welcome the new season.  Students have been enjoying meals freshly cooked over the open fire.  To help work off the amazing meals, the groups have gotten to play rousing games of wiffle ball and other various activities.  On top of the fun filled games and long walks with the Mini-horses, the students have gotten to practice their photography skills, and learn all about the science behind the changing seasons.

The Farmhouse has been keeping pace with all of the Frye activities.  The maple sap is flowing steadily and the collection seems nearly endless!  Both groups are having a ball collecting the sap and learning about the boiling process and creation of delicious maple syrup.   The farmhouse has also been utilizing the warmer weather with long walks and preparation of planting season.   The students were also treated to the unique experience of learning about equine nutrition.

It has been a busy week on both campuses and the students are lively and delighted for the upcoming weekend adventures.   The energy of a new season is palpable and the eagerness for the warmer weather is shared by students and staff alike.  As the days continue to lengthen and the sun begins to warm and melt away the lingering snow, we all will be able to take advantage of the natural Maine beauty around us.

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March 24, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

For a small little school in central Maine, this campus sure has a lot going on throughout each day.

Our recent weekly updates have shared weather summaries, extra-curricular activities and the anticipation of our next Family Weekend gathering…this week has had all of that, as usual.

This week, I seemed to noticed the many layered human interactions that go on around our campus and also to family members, back home.  I have witnessed several communications between residents, staff and family member(s)…and for each interaction that I’m aware of there are likely hundreds that take place that are “under my radar”.  You see, we have over 40 residents in our care, over 50 employees, easily 150 family members, and another 30 or so support personnel that can be circulating on any given day.  That’s a lot of communication and therefore, a lot of potential for human impact on other humans, both positive and negative.

Early in the week, I sat in on a group of residents who were annoyed with one another and the air was charged with negativity.  The group was asked to rate their day together and they replied that it was a 5 out of 10.  We talked about how this 5 had come about and what could be done to move to a higher 7, or 8, perhaps?  Their suggestions we brisk and on point.  “Avoid comments that are negative”…”cut back on sarcasm, because sarcasm can really hurt some of us”…”be more accepting and respectful of one another”…”be less selfish and try more to make a peer’s day better”…”focus more on what I need to do, instead of what I think someone else should do”.  Not bad for a collection of 14-17 year olds!

I then asked, if you are currently in this negative space and you clearly have good ideas on things that can be done to make it better, why are you allowing your day to be a 5?  The replies were equally brisk.  “Habit”…”I don’t feel confident”…”peer pressure/jealousy”.  Wrapping up, it was agreed that it was mostly due to a lack of awareness, that it was a learned fall back behavior, that it was the easier of the two options and most importantly, that the selection of behavior didn’t make any sense at all.

Why are we so quick to judge, to criticize, to undermine, embarrass and humiliate? Why do we do this when we all know how easy it is to offer support, acceptance, understanding and mutual respect?  Why do we move away from these powerful tools of connection, when connection is needed now, more than ever?

Later in the week, I was able to revisit with this group who reported their new day to be a “7”.  Not by chance, their actions reflected an understanding of their conceptual suggestions that were given two days earlier.  They were reporting back on their choices, knowing they were more on course, than before.

This relational contrast has been highly visible at Ironwood this week and I have observed positive and negative actions within each of the groups mentioned above.  When a visible transition takes place that move us to 7+ days (or higher), the resident and family impact can be truly awesome.  These young people showed me that they have an awareness of what they need to do and I suspect that we are all of similar design and capacity.   Perhaps we all just need to try harder to “do it” more (myself included)?

Thank you for putting your trust in Ironwood and we hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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March 17, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

So, we’ve placed springtime on hold and have settled back into winter for the next week or two. We were met with single digit temps the last two mornings with daytime highs barely reaching 30. Like many of you, we spent the last few days recoiling from the March Blizzard of 2017. While many forecasts on the east coast were off quite a bit, Maine held its own receiving between 12-18 inches of new snow with some rain for the finale creating a shiny winter wonderland…in March!

Not to be defeated by the weather there was a group of Frye boys out careening down the sledding hills yesterday afternoon. And much vigilance has been displayed in keeping the buckets attached to the Sugar Maple trees. Forever hopeful, we will have an early spring sap run.

All thoughts on campus are about spring: warm weather, snow birds returning, our friends; the Spring Peepers, the gardens, and a host of other harbingers of better weather. Our Horticulture program is off and running with a 14’X48” “hoop house” (green house) on order, seedlings and all other supplies have been ordered and are on their way. The Farmhouse Garden is the flagship of the fleet, with the Frye Gardens providing a wonderful learning resource as well as fresh veggies and colorful flowers throughout the season. Staff Jacqueline is heading up the program this season and there has been some rumor that she may be getting some Laying Hens to take up residence in the Frye Mini Barn.

Ahhh spring…our little campus is bustling with activity both natural and residential. While no residents migrated to the FH this week, we had a new arrival at the Frye campus and one Frye resident receive their invite to present to Treatment Team next week for a possible move “up the hill”. Thanks so much for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

All eyes and thoughts are on the upcoming family weekend in April. Maybe the snow will be gone by then…

Have a great week!

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March 10, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

The first week of March is always an unknown with the weather. While we’ve been anticipating the below freezing overnight temps and nice warm sunlit days to facilitate the Maple Sap run, we’ve experienced well below normal day time highs and wet and rainy nights. And oh my, have we had the wind and rain. It has been unusually cold and some very high winds. From what I gather much of the country has been experiencing these above average wind speeds. And, of course, here on the side of the mountain we get some very impressive wind gusts. All to be expected in the first week of March.

The Sap run has been slow, but we did manage to garner some 80 gallons this week. We’re hoping for a run today (Friday), but as of late morning temps remain too cold for a daytime run. Although, the last week has not been conducive there is still time left for a solid run.

The snow has melted in all of the fields and there remains a fair amount of snow in the woods. It is that in between season. In between Winter and Spring. It is a very anticipatory time of year and that has been the prevailing mood here on campus. Although not lots and lots of snow, it’s been a long winter, and residents and staff alike are ready for some spring time. As you know, the Maple Syrup operation is running and the planning for the spring planting of the gardens has begun. And, yes, we’re beginning to hear rumblings that the Family Weekend is getting closer.

In a therapeutic setting, with very, very little outside influences to distract one during the day, anticipation of future events becomes ever so important. As an example, the small things, like a hike, or emptying Sap buckets, or horsemanship have enormous meaning. And big things, like a Family Weekend, although 4 weeks away, begins to take a place in day to day conversation.

We had 2 Frye residents come to the Farmhouse this week. The Farmhouse boys are going swimming at the Y on Saturday and we have a Canine Group on Saturday that is being conducted by a Professional Dog Trainer.

We are all in anticipation of the warmth and excitement of the upcoming weeks and months. We hope you are as well. Have a great week and thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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March 3, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

Well, we can say that March has entered as neither a Lion nor a Lamb as we had rather warm, foggy weather for the earlier week, quickly giving way to blinding snow squalls on Thursday, then coooold and windy here in Friday. Daytime highs over the coming weekend are not expected to get above 15 degrees and overnights well into single digits. Our residents are very interested to see such a stark change in weather patterns and seem to relish the many weather patterns.

With our spring type weather we have geared up for, and are taking full advantage of “Maple Syrup Season”. Yes, with the overnight temperatures going below freezing and daytime highs hitting mid-40’s or higher, the sap has been flowing! Many of you had an opportunity to visit our Sugar Shack over the last family weekend and got a quick course on the how to’s of ‘sapping”. The residents, under staff direction have placed over 120 taps and buckets to our Sugar Maple Trees in the sugar orchard.

The sap ran pretty well early in the week with the Frye residents gathering 30 gallons on Sunday. Through Wednesday all residents had gathered about 140 gallons of sap and we began boiling. We finished off the batch to almost 2 gallons of pure, very excellent, maple syrup, and served some up for snack on today on both campuses. Yes, Apple chunks touched with just abit of real syrup was snack after lunch. And what a big hit it was…

Today’s experiential with the Frye girls group was held at the sugar shack. Therapist Nicole T., brought her group to the shack where staff had the evaporator fired up and the waft of maple essence steam filled the air. After an explanation of the maple syrup production process, and then the hands on of actually tapping a tree and placing the bucket in the very cold wind, the group went back inside the shack (where the wood fire was creating great warmth) to discuss the role of sap gathering in early America and its role in families and communities of the time. And then after the ceremonial “tapping” of a spoon against an actually tap, Staff Nicole and Sarah, presented the group with a fine sampling of fresh drawn Maple Syrup. After the entire experience staff asked the group what they just experienced in a few short words each. Here’s some (participant’s first name initial):

A- home, traditions, maple syrup.

A-home, memories, family.

I- sweet, work, warm, olden days.

G- sugar, nature, trees.

B- Filled with nature, sugary, education.

R- happy, content, hopeful

I- maple tree, teamwork, sap

S- maple sugar, fun working together, Native Americans, traditions.

The Farmhouse had a wonderful Ethnic Night, with Russia as the host country. A resident enrolled in the Young Adult Program and a native of Russia, prepared a masterpiece of Beet Borscht, Salad Olivier, Buckwheat, Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, and Dumplings. Oh my, what a wonderful time had by all and an absolute joy to have this young person with us, here at Ironwood…

There is much happening here in our little corner of the planet. We hope you all have a great week and thank you for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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February 24, 2017

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Ironwood Web Update

What happens to the 5 feet of snow that is reduced to 1 foot in a 7 day period of time? It turns into water, and seeps into the ground filling our aquafers and turning our roads into 1 foot deep ruts of soft and very pliable mud! Yes, we’ve experienced a rapid thaw, with seeping snow melt, with no rain, which has emptied many gallons of water into the surrounding landscape. In addition, the once frozen roads, particularly dirt roads, with frost reaching 2-3 feet deep has now begun to surface thaw, and combined with the water rich ground has created the proverbial “mud season” road here on campus just a bit earlier than normal. Alas, we are ready for it, and the hearty stock that are known as “Mainers” here on campus bear with it, and rally forth. In many cases we just pick up the pieces of our vehicles that are scraped off the undercarriage this time of year, place them in the trunk and re-attach after the “mud season” is over.

Along with the above noted phenomena, comes a true tested harbinger of spring; Maple Syrup Sap Season. Yes, for the first time in a number of years we have cleared the Orchard, cleaned and prepped all the buckets, taps, evaporator and all tools, begun tapping trees and are ready to go. Just yesterday as the taps were being drilled into the surface of the trees, the Sap was pouring out…well, dripping out! This is a first for all residents even for one from Maine, and one from Vermont, and the kids are marveling at the process. The best is yet to come however, as the boil will begin in a few weeks and the “sweetness” will be experienced. Residents from both campuses will assist in all aspects of the operation to allow for a complete understanding of a traditional New England Maple Syrup experience. More to come, including some samples!

The Farmhouse girls group went to Harbor Hill Nursing Home this week for a visit. They delivered some goodies and spent the afternoon talking, playing games, singing songs and playing musical instruments for the residents. Need I point out how much this means to the residents of Harbor Hill? Not to mention what it does for our residents? Let’s just say there were tears shared from both groups. Tears of joy and happiness as younger met older, and simply enjoyed one another’s company on a February Winter afternoon. It was quite an experience.

The Farmhouse also made a trip to the Camden Snow Bowl last Sunday, for an afternoon of Cross Country Skiing instruction and enjoyment. The temperatures were warm and the snow plentiful. Speaking of snow, the students at Frye have been working diligently on a large snow-fort, packing large blocks of snow together, the creation is taking an impressive shape.

Hope this update finds you all safe and healthy. Thanks so much for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

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