PSC travels to Richfield Springs

Interest is sparked at an early age. Watch children and what they gravitate towards. As a child, I felt comfortable in the barns, gardens and woods. Trace back a few of your favorite things today and I’m sure you’ll find early roots. Whether you’re an artist, teacher, mechanic or writer. Sometimes, we know ourselves better when we’re young—before society tells us what we are and what we should be.

That’s why a component of the Osgood Pond Semester is community outreach and education. This past weekend, Andy and I traveled to Richfield Spring Central School to talk about yurt life and lead a primitive skills demonstration with two sections of seventh graders. Richfield Springs is a small town of about 1,300 people, located in Otsego County NY. Growing up down the road from Richfield Springs, in Cherry Valley, I gained primitive skills experience through working at the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown and at Hawk Circle.

Friday morning greeted us with a double rainbow stretched over my parents’ corn field. Andy and I looked to the clearing sky and hoped the weather would hold for the next two hours. From Cherry Valley, we drove the fifteen minutes to Richfield Springs and met Mrs. Rathbun, the middle school history teacher at RSCS. Mrs. Rathbun and I go way back (she’s my oldest sister). I even slipped up a few times and called her by her first name.

The RSCS seventh graders were engaged and active participants with inquisitive minds and thoughtful questions. A few had heard of Paul Smith’s College and one young man hopes to attend five years down the road.

The golden hour

Today, I start class with a journal prompt: In the past week, please list something you’ve struggled with, enjoyed, and beautiful you’ve seen…
Fingers scribble and thunderheads rise in the south. We share our struggles and they include: Finding routine and balance between yurt life and full course loads at the college, spiders, and muggy humid weather. Our enjoyments are the yurts, biking, community potlucks and games of capture the flag. The list of beauty is long. Prayer flags in the wind, kayaks on water and loons calling back and forth, a bald eagle, mist rising over the meadow after a 93 degree day, the sound of crickets, apples plucked from a nearby tree and enjoyed as a midday snack.
Prayer Flags

Prayer flags in the wind.

Reflection, feedback and problem solving are critical links to Osgood Pond Semester. I believe them to be critical links in relationships and community development as well. We must talk about what’s working and what’s not. We must talk about what we’re struggling and thriving with.
After journaling, it’s time to make a fire pit. The thunderheads rise and release a few fat drops of water. Dominic and Hanna grab shovels while Hyla and I collect rocks. I believe the fire place to be the heart of our community. Fire has power. Cooking, dancing, survival and destruction. Therefore, it’s important to learn basic fire skills.

Osgood’s first fires come to life.

The fire pit comes together nicely. Dominic slides stones into place and I set a large one in the center. The students gather birch bark and hemlock and balsam sticks. The objective today is to start a fire with one flick of a lighter. Nests are pieced together, birch bark interlaced with dry wood and one by one they’re ignited. We watch the flames rise and fall — four fires are in different phases of burning.
Hours later, during the golden hour, I set off with the camera and wander. It has been a full day. I think about the beauty around me. Red maple leaves, soft pine needles, prayer flags and loons. It could be argued that all hours are golden out here. There is a calm, a comfort, even in times of stress and frustration that ebbs and flows forward. And with it, I find my next photograph.

A student kayak rests alongside the shore of Osgood Pond.



Tranquil water as clouds gather.

Good food, good company

Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend brought with it clear skies and warm air, continuing a stretch that felt more like mid-July than the early days of September.

After a two-week stretch that saw the raising of the final two yurts and even a High Peak climb, it seemed a perfect time to take a break from the physical work for a welcoming potluck right on Osgood Pond.

Faculty and friends made the trip out, sharing fresh cantaloupe, apples, rice and beans, and a pixie berry pie with its fruit ingredients sourced just a dozen feet away.

With supper coming to an end and dusk fast approaching, the evening turned from a relaxing dinner to something of a quicker pace: a game of capture the flag. A handful of students from campus joined in, and before long, an eight-on-eight backcountry battle carried on for well over an hour until the “campus” team, its prison crowded with all but two from the “Osgood” squad, took the final flag.

Osgood Events: Community Pot Luck

Come join us this Labor Day weekend for the Osgood Community Pot Luck. Meet the students and instructors, learn about the Osgood Pond Semester, and see the authentic Mongolian yurts that will be called ‘home’ for the coming months.

Sunday, Sept. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Osgood Pond yurt site (across Rte. 86 from the VIC along the Jack Rabbit Trail).

Questions: email Bethany Garretson at

Photo gallery: Yurt-stravaganza

After three consecutive, hard-working days, the Osgood Pond Semester crew banded together for the two final platforms and yurts — capped off with a pizza-and-cake birthday celebration for Brady Butler.

By Sunday night, we were sun-tanned (or burned), blistered and, most of all, ecstatic to have brought the yurt site to life.

Osgood…we have a yurt!

After four days of sun, sweat and downpours, a platform rose, and on it, an authentic Mongolian yurt. See how Joe Orifice, Andy and Phil Johnstone, Bethany Garretson and Alex Hall turned nine holes in the ground into an authentic Mongolian structure.