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September 26, 2023

Paula Campbell
Posted 9/26/23

One of my favorite childhood songs “if you go down in the woods tonight you’re in for a big surprise. It continues- “there’s lots of marvelous things to eat and wonderful …

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September 26, 2023


One of my favorite childhood songs “if you go down in the woods tonight you’re in for a big surprise. It continues- “there’s lots of marvelous things to eat and wonderful games to play.” It is The Teddy Bear’s Picnic a children’s song written in 1907 by American composers John Bratton and Jimmy Kennedy. My mother would sing it to me because as a kiddo I was pretty much solidly convinced that bears were having wonderful picnics in the Boston Commons, a very large public park in downtown Boston Massachusetts, where I grew up. Well, there was and still is the Boston Bruins Hockey Team. So, I grew up in a metropolitan environment not particularly populated by bears or any other woodland creatures except the occasional random skunk in our backyard. When I moved up to Highland some thirty years ago, I did not know much about being in the woods and had to learn most things the hard way.

For years now a local writer and a naturalist Laura Chavez Silverman with an expertise in flora, fauna and fungi founded The Outside Institute in the Upper Delaware Valley. For seven years (2010-2017) Laura authored a very popular blog “Glutton For Life” that explored foraging foods, gardening and living in the Catskills. She has also written three Field Guide To The Northeast Books (Summer-Fall/Winter-Spring). The mission of the Outside Institute is to “connect people to the healing powers of the wild and to illuminate new ways of seeing and being in the world.” Probably the most popular activity she does at the Outside Institute is leading walking groups into the woods where she may guide you through a rare Atlantic cedar swamp, teach how to make medicinal herbal tinctures or do a forest immersion-program based on the traditional Japanese practice of shinrin yoku a simple act of walking and a breathing meditation practice that engages all of your senses and is said to have an extraordinary effect on your complete relaxation and mental well-being. 

As luck would have it, Laura Silverman will be a featured speaker at the Sunshine Hall Free Library’s Fall Talk series. On Saturday, September 30th at 4pm Laura will present “How to Forage for Mushrooms Without Dying.”  Heading into the forest unprepared with nothing more than a desire to pick some mushrooms can and frequently does end in a disaster, unless you know the proper way to identify and consume mushrooms or any forged plant or you can be in for a rough ride, intestinal distress or worse. During her Talk Laura will discuss best practices for foraging, the legalities and techniques for foraging in Sullivan County, review the most common edible species found in our woods and then taste some wild morsels that Laura has harvested in our local area woods and fields. The Outside Institute has a new and wonderful Outpost location in Callicoon, New York located at 39 Lower Main Street where they offer classes and workshops on many nature- related topics. There is also a shop stocked with field guides, books, and outdoor gear. The Outpost hours are posted on their website and on Instagram. To find out more go to https://theoutsideinstitute.org.


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