Hopefully a Food Critic doesn’t read this…

Eight Blue berry preservers and Chorizo on cinnamon raisin bread, 12 cheese sticks, 10 little Debbie cookies, half a container of strawberry watermelon MIO liquid water enhancer, and more fun and delicious food from the cafeteria at Oakwood Friends Café; that’s all I ate this week, on the Travel trip.  The Travel trip we took was very, interesting, this year, and that’s not even food wise.

This year we headed off to Eleanor Roosevelt Estate (ELRO) in Hyde Park New York.  Very scenic all around, going up we saw brilliant landscapes and giant rolling mountains, at ELRO they had a beautiful pasture with multiple rolled hay bales, and staying at Oakwood Friends School we were able to see a glistening morning fog. On work time however all of us didn’t quite care about the scenery, the average temperature was around 87, with very little clouds. All of us worked almost all day, weeding, hoeing, shoveling and moving great stone slabs in the blazing sun.

When we first got to work we were split up into three groups, Garden group, Patio group and Front door group. I was sent to the Front door group, the front door was actually in back, which is pretty odd. We had to hoe out swaths of weed infested gravel, find and edge an over ground lawn line, plant a rare and beautiful shrub as well as create mini trenches… and then fill them back up with more soil! Thankfully as a team of 8, we got most of the work done in the first day, before it reached 93 the next day. Also on our team of 8 we had the Legendary CHARLES L. PEPPER. Charlie, as he likes to be called, helped us out in our team as our ‘Professional Expert’.

With the help of Charlie and Michelle, the team dug, hoed, edged, planted, unloaded dozens of wheel barrows full of soil, seeded, over-seeded and even reseeded! We used everything from a Maddox, pickaxe and axe hybrid, to a five part sieve to our hands, just to make our project look as professional as we could, and I do believe that we did the best out of any team. We got to use these tools to make the Front Back entrance, were Winston Churchill, JFK, Emperors of China, Presidents and Kings of Foreign Lands would come to see the great Eleanor Roosevelts and understand her wisdom, look as historically accurate as we could.

On our off time, the Field Team, Park Based Interns, Mather Students and the OCLP Leadership came together to have a fun time. Either staying at the Oakwood Friends Dorms and playing games there or traveling to different places. One night some of us traveled to the local movie theater to see different movies, and only for $5! Most of the group went to see Paper towns, they came out… changed, and confused, but that’s another story. The next night we went to a local skating rink; many of us didn’t know how to skate so it was incredibly funny watching each other try! I however got some help from the locals and at the end was doing pretty well.

Now you may be thinking: “Wait, who are these Mather Students?” The Mather school is a CTI, Career and Technical Institute, similar to my own high school Minuteman. However they have a written agreement with the National Parks and concentrates on preservation in, Masonry, Carpentry and Landscaping. While the school is in upper New York City, in the same building as two other schools, they sometimes travel to different National Parks and Cites to help them in any projects that they may need. This week they traveled up the Hyde Park to meet up with us and help with the projects. We met three guys, Guerimo, John and Manny, all three in the Carpentry shop.

Over the week the groups worked on their separate project and then came together at the end of the day to discuss what they had done, and went back to the dorms to do whatever they needed/wanted to do, go to sleep and then repeat the same process the next day. But every day we learned something new. Saw something amazing and met someone new. We were a world away from our homes, working in a distant Park with new people. Yet in the searing heat, The Team made the most of it and came together like I had never seen before. It was spectacular, and I can’t wait till I get to work with them again.

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Regrading the planting bed with our technical expert, Charlie Pepper.

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During our teach-back, showing the audience participants how we re-seeded the planting bed.

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