Cool Spring Blog

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  • Thu, May 28, 2015 9:51 AM | Terri Burhans (Administrator)

    As May comes to end I can’t help but reflect on the ever present dandelions.  As if by magic or possibly mischievous lawn trolls they come in abundance each and every year.  Their presence consistently takes me back to my youth, when dandelions weren’t weeds, they were one of the many playthings in nature’s toy box and wishes waiting to come true.  So there, my secret is out, I’m one of those wackadoodle dandelion lovers.  I truly believe that there is something to learn from every morsel of nature, even the “weeds”.  Just look what dandelions have to teach.

    • ·       Be careful of what you scatter into the wind, because once it’s out there you can never get it back.  The seeds of dandelions can be carried sometimes five miles from their origin.  What if we picture our words as the seeds that rest delicately on the head of this flower, waiting for their chance to be carried away where they can take root, colonize and grow?  It reminds me to spread seeds of kindness, compassion, hope, and creativity because that’s what I want growing in my community.
    • ·       It’s ok to seek shelter from the storm.  The dandelion is one of the most reliable and commonest barometers in nature.  When a storm is approaching its flower shuts much like an umbrella and will stay shut until the chance of getting wet blows over.  If you are willing to take cover and wait it out, even the rainiest of days will pass and the sun will come out again  inviting you to once again open up to the world around you and show your vibrancy.
    • ·       No matter how useful you are, there’s always going to be someone that sees you as a pest.  Very few plant species are as useful as the herbaceous dandelion.  As a matter of fact, every part of the dandelion has some use; the leaves as edible greens, the roots to make coffee, and the flowers to make wine.  They have medicinal uses and make quite the dye preparation, so what’s not to love?  Well, Americans spend millions each year on pesticides and use 30% of our country’s water supply (9 billion gallons a day) to maintain lush, green lawns of non-native grasses and erase “weeds” like dandelions.
    • ·       Be a transformational force in your world.  We’ve all seen the dandelion transform in the obvious way, its yellow blossom turning to a white puff ball, but did you know that dandelions actually transform their environment.  They send down a deep root system to loosen the soil and create an environment that attracts earth worms which deal with toxins creating conditions for dandelions to thrive.  We could all benefit from deep roots and a community of people who are nontoxic.  Use your tools and abilities to transform our environment and our communities into healthier and happier places.
    • ·       Two heads are better than one.  The dandelion is a composite flower, or two flowers in one.  Daisies and sunflowers are also composite flowers.  It takes both flowers to make a whole.  Be open to the ideas of others, there’s always another way to view a problem or a solution.  The genius and the beauty comes is blossoming together as one.
    • ·       Get some rest!  One of the folklore names of the dandelion is the “fairy clock”.  It is light sensitive and closes each evening at dusk and opens the next morning at around 5am.  Just like the dandelion, we all benefit from restorative sleep.  It better prepares us to face each day with the energy that we will need to make a difference in our world and to meet challenges with persistence and resiliency.
    • ·       Most importantly, never miss a chance to make a wish, it just might come true.  A wish is our mind’s way of painting a picture of hope. The truth is if you can wish it, you can probably achieve it.  Childlike wonder, playfulness, honesty and optimism are seeds of innovation and problem solving.  Scatter them everywhere.  

    • Best Wishes!

    A special thank you to artist, nature lover, dad, and educator, Michael Whitaker for inspiring this blog with these images recently captured at CraftWorks.

  • Wed, April 01, 2015 9:00 AM | Terri Burhans (Administrator)

    On Sunday, March 29th, the fledgling Bullskin Watershed Group met at CraftWorks to garner interest from the community and see who was interested in finding out more about Bullskin Run and how to protect it.  As participants trickled in, I’d say the meeting was up to around 8 people, conversations began to take place.  We gathered around maps and brochures asking questions like “How long is the Bullskin?”; “Where does it go?”; “What type of monitoring do we need?”; “Are there pollutants in the water?’.   All very important questions.  Craftworks has an interest in this conversation since Bullskin runs through Cool Spring Farm. 

    Our role in the watershed community is to bring creativity and innovation to the education arena by immersing visitors to Craftworks in art centered watershed education. As I sat in a room filled with passion for nature and our environment I bobbed and weaved through the conversations to find our place in the big picture of the meeting.  And then it happened….. In walked a young family with a little boy who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old.  He was unmistakably taking in his surroundings and sizing them up, as kids often do.  All at once, he spoke and his question was, “do you have a creek around here?”  I promptly responded, “Yes we do, and you asked the best question of the day.”  Just like that, our place became clear to me.  We create experiences for people of all ages to fall in love with nature and art.  He didn’t care about the maps, the regulations, or the technical science behind it, he just wanted to know if there was a creek.  He did indeed find his way to, and in, the Bullskin Run.

    Over the next two days, CraftWorks hosted 4th Graders from South and North Jefferson Elementary Schools, about 130 kids in all.  These two days were coordinated by Potomac Valley Audubon Society and included Cacapon Institute and CraftWorks, each of us in a teaching role at different stations in our outdoor classroom. Each of us offering a different experience and another opportunity to fall in love with nature.  Among the tree plantings and water testing was our paper marbling activity that experimented with the relationships between oil and water.  To hear the kids say how much they liked learning this way or to watch them run up a grassy hill and roll down over and over, all the while giggling makes our mission crystal clear.  That is the connection we are after. It gives meaning and validation to what we do.

    That emotional connection is not limited to kids.  I recall a recent conversation, with an old friend who asked me what I was doing these days.  He’s among the retiree age group.  When I told him about CraftWorks and the work we do, he lit up and went back in his mind to a time that was important to him.  After a pause, he said “I used to trout fish in the Bullskin with my friend.”   You could see the emotion in his face as he thought back to those times.  It is those very kinds of emotional connections; the look I saw on my friend’s face, the wonder and curiosity in that small child’s voice, and the longing to play outside and learn about nature that we saw in those amazing fourth graders that compel us to do what we do.  It is also the very thing that will replenish our volunteer pool and promote the stewardship necessary to impact our environment in a positive way so that future generation may also have a chance to fall in love with nature. 

  • Wed, March 18, 2015 6:54 AM | Terri Burhans (Administrator)
    Recently, I conducted a little experiment on Facebook, just to see what would happen.  I posed this challenge:  Finish this sentence with the first word that pops into your head; craft is…… The responses that I got were diverse, to say the least, and included words like passion, occupation, sanity, crafty, creativity, beer, and let’s not forget macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the responses were all over the board.  The definition of craft is so broad, that it seems defining it would be the equivalent of nailing Jell-o to the wall.  Just when you think you have it nailed down, your certainty about the meaning defiantly slips away.  However, just for the fun of it, I will attempt to bring some clarity to the question “What is craft?” by stringing together a few words.

    Craft is something that is created when your hands and your mind work together.  It is an interaction between people and the world they live in.  A mindful, almost scientific, response to what we are experiencing in the world around us.  It is a multi-generational way to preserve culture and heritage.  It conveys a message by appealing to our curiosity.  It is a joining of forces with nature to make the world more beautiful and interesting.  It is not mass produced.  It is an intimate, sometimes harmonious and sometimes tumultuous, relationship between people and the tools and materials we use to express our creativity.  It is music, art, cooking, aromatherapy, gardening, yoga, photography, beekeeping, word working, acting, writing, architecture, pottery, poetry, dancing, and even graffiti.   It is a moment when the mind and the hands find the time to come together and move to the same rhythm to create something that causes someone to take pause and appreciate the work and talent of another.  Not because it is perfect, but because it is real.   A phenomenon that is becoming more and more rare and elusive in a world that just keeps picking up speed and anonymity.

    Craft is not something you do or make, it something that you experience.  It is an emotional response that is so powerful that it compels us to create.  Sometimes we are compelled to create from necessity, as in the creative and nature-centered vein of Appalachia.  Other times, it out of emotion or a longing for answers. Whatever the reason, craft is something that is universal.  It is a complex and necessary network of bridges that connect people to each other and to places.  It spans barriers; language, age, culture, religion, politics, race, gender, income…have you ever thought about how many barriers exist between us?  Craft gives us a way to overcome them.  To see, taste, hear, smell, or feel something that causes us to share a sense of wonder that knows no barriers.  It is a language in and of itself.  It is our opportunity to catch a glimpse of the creative essence of another.  Craft is diversity celebrated through creativity.  It is a power so great that it can turn a group of people into a community, illuminating our similarities, as if by magic.  At CraftWorks, it is our true north.  It guides us on our mission and lights a path to our little red barn on the marsh inviting everyone to experience a sense of place, community, and camaraderie sewn together by the delicate, iridescent threads of nature and embellished with the jewels of creativity.
  • Wed, March 04, 2015 11:36 AM | Terri Burhans (Administrator)

    Since joining CraftWorks in January, I’ve had some time to immerse myself in all things CraftWorks.  I’ve met with scientists and naturalists and learned a few new words to describe this environmentally rich ecosystem.  I’ve met with artists, who have taught me to relax, be fearless and just create something with your hands.  I’ve met with community leaders who have shown me we’re all in this together. I’ve met with our dedicated board of volunteer directors, who have taught me that if you’re going to do something, do it with your whole heart.   Yes, I have learned a lot in a small amount of time, thanks to the generosity and kindness of people who make up this diverse and eclectic community known as CraftWorks.  As I listened to an array of interesting and talented people tell me their hopes and dreams for CraftWorks, I too had to ask myself, what are my hopes and dreams for CraftWorks?  Could I sum it up in one word?  The answer is yes and that word is…..VIBRANCY.


    Webster’s tells us that vibrancy means “showing great life, activity, and energy”.  I’ve seen other definitions that include words like colorful, thriving, enthusiasm, vitality, rich sound, and sparkle.  My dream for CraftWorks is to reach a state of vibrancy that overflows into the community and reaches artists, educators, children, scientists, naturalists, writers, farmers, planners, and leaders.  That it becomes a hub where people connect in an environment bursting with life.  But how do you measure your success?  How do you know that you have achieved a vibrant sense of place?  Vibrancy isn’t something that you can count or track or monitor.  It’s what you experience when you stand in a place and feel an attachment to its beauty, its rarity, its history, its creative energy, its mysteries, and its openness.   It is the very soul of a place speaking to you.

    I’ve listened to the rhythm of the Bull Skin Run as it makes its way through Cool Spring Farm trying to maintain its path and purity on its journey to the Chesapeake Bay.  I have felt the wind on my face and enjoyed the exhilaration that comes from inhaling the crisp outdoor air.  I have shared conversations along the trails that warmed my heart and will undoubtedly result in friendships and partnerships that blossom into innovative ideas and projects.  I have stood next to people and watched their eyes light up the first time they visit our studio surrounded by beauty and all the little extras that immediately tell you that art lives here.  I have smelled the coffee brewing that beckons you to come in and chat a while.  I have listened as the sound of an undeniable laugh rises above the hum of a crowd and brings a smile to my face.   Most profoundly, I have watched the expressions of gratitude that are so very human when someone shares their time, talent and knowledge with another.  This is what vibrancy feels like!  This is the very thing that I am committed to cultivating at CraftWorks.  I hope that you will join me.

  • Wed, November 09, 2011 9:31 AM | Linda Case (Administrator)

    These cool wet fall mornings make the unseen appear – large spider webs everywhere in the fields.  Dew drops outline them and often reveal the artist – the argiope or garden spider.  They are large and spectacular with black and yellow abdomens and they perch on the zigzag “embroidery” in the center of the web.  The zigzag patterns are called stabilimentum and reflect UV light thought to attract prey to the web.  In the fall you may see the egg sacs on the web.  The eggs hatch in the fall with 400-1400 babies who overwinter in the sac and emerge in the spring. 

  • Sun, October 23, 2011 5:19 PM | Linda Case (Administrator)

    Those green tubes don’t look much like a forest but don’t let them fool you.  Inside every one is a special young tree meant to grow and shade Bullskin Run to make it cooler and to strengthen the riparian buffer here at Cool Spring so that run off is slowed and better filtered.  The tubes are to keep those incessantly nibbling deer away.  There are 350 new trees and bushes along the creek, happily planted by many volunteers and planned and executed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the WV Division of Forestry.  Come watch them grow…

  • Mon, October 10, 2011 11:05 AM | Linda Case (Administrator)

    Saturday was cool, fresh and sunny - the perfect day for such a generous deed.  The Dolley Madison Garden Club has “adopted” CraftWorks and has built three gardens.  This was the day to install perennials contributed by their members’s gardens.  We planted everything from a large nandina to anemone to lambs ear.  Gardening is so much more fun when friends share it and CraftWorks is so grateful for their sharing.

  • Sun, September 11, 2011 9:45 AM | Linda Case (Administrator)

    After a gloomy week of rain, flood and drizzle, Saturday morning was beautiful.  Cars started rolling into CraftWorks.  The Master Naturalists were there to learn about wetlands and the Dolley Madison Garden Club arrived ready to prepare three flower beds for planting in October.  We had a pile of composted horse manure (brown gold!) contributed by Jane and Dick Minard, shovels, wheelbarrows and (sorry conservatives) lots of Washington Post newspaper.  In two hours, three large weedy beds were slumbering under their newspaper sheets with manure comforters.  These will be wonderful

    Friendship Gardenspopulated by plants grown in other gardens in the county.  If you want to join us or just want to bring plants for the Saturday, October 8 (8:30 am) planting day, please do.  We will be using non-invasive perennials.  Can’t wait!

  • Thu, September 08, 2011 8:41 AM | Linda Case (Administrator)
    Getting the Haines Barn painted at CraftWorks came to a standstill because of a 1 1/2" wasp.  Tanner, our land steward ran into a Cicada Killer Wasp nest hidden in a hole in the cinderblock.  While they usually burrow into the ground to lay their larva, this group was inside the wall.  At CraftWorks we love learning more about critters and it has never been easier because of the internet.  Turns out these large, loud wasps feed on flower nectar but the females sting and paralyze the larger cicadas, straddle them and drag them to the nest to store as food for the larva.  Female wasps can sting humans but rarely do.  Males can make quite an aggressive show especially around mating time but don't sting.  Keep your eye out for this impressive predator.
  • Thu, May 19, 2011 5:25 PM | Anonymous
    My first year teaching Young Artists at Craftworks has flown by! I can't believe how far some of my students have come with their artwork. Check out the video below for a glimpse into our Thursday afternoon painting and drawing class.

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