Ironwood Maine Web Update

Did you hear the collective sigh of relief from everyone in the Northeast of the U.S. when the first day of spring arrived? While our campus here in Mid-Coast Maine hardly looks anything like spring, at least the calendar is indicating that it is. Roads are free of the deep frost but present challenges on the warm, “melting” days. Snowpack remains very heavy in the woods and corners of fields and snowshoes are still the common footwear for hikes.

Frye residents enjoyed a journey to do some star gazing the other night. The overnight sky here on campus is very much a living Planetarium during all seasons. We get zero “light pollution” here so the nighttime sky is visible from horizon to horizon. It is not uncommon to see the stunning setting sun colors deep into the 1-2 hours after the sun has actually set. As the sky transitions a literal 180 degree view of the constellations and unknown galaxies can be seen from the foothills of Frye Mountain. Remember that the eastern sky is only about 12 miles of land before hitting the vast expanse of Penobscot Bay and the open Atlantic Ocean.

With the lengthening of day light the Frye mini barn chores can now be tackled after the supper hour with the temps not being that deep, bone chilling cold. Soon water buckets being carried from the lodge. It makes for a more relaxed evening as the residents transition from a busy day into a serene evening.

Maple Mondays are being extended for another two or more weeks as all of this late season cold and delayed thaw has created a sap run that is unrivaled in recent history. While we could not possibly keep up with all the sap being gathered to convert to that amber gold sweetness we are planning on having enough end Maple Syrup on hand for Family Weekend to enjoy with all our culinary treats.

Our most recent intake of a teenager occurred this week. However, this one is starkly different than most as it has four legs and not two. It is from the Eques, not the Sapiens tree! Yes, the new Horse has arrived! A teenager gelding named “Pending”. His name is “pending” until we go through the effervescent process of naming the new dobbin. He is currently on his “initial reflection”, (quarantine) until he passes medical muster and joins the milieu of horses in our Farm House barn. Certain you’ll be hearing much more of him in the letters and conversations home, and will be introduced to him on Family Weekend.

Did I just mention Family Weekend again? Did you know there is one coming up soon? I’m being silly as I’m certain you’re not only aware of, but are planning for, and longingly awaiting a reunion with your child. It is absolutely amazing how the energy on campus shifts as we approach this critically important aspect of our therapeutic program. Family, therapeutic, educational, group and quiet times all come together over a 48 hour period with the objective of bringing families back together in an awakened and healed way. The residents are ready. I’m sure you are too.

Along with the natural world around us, we will be thawing out and reaching for, and embracing the new life that is spring. Please have a good week, and thank you for allowing your child to be part of our lives.

Video: Ironwood Maine Therapeutic Boarding School

View our latest YouTube video about Ironwood Maine.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

We’re hearty and pride ourselves on taking whatever Mother Nature dares throw our way, yet we must admit, like you, we’re growing weary. Three Nor’easters in a row, with another one potentially on the way for next week, can make for some serious cabin fever. In spite of the weariness spirits on campus remains high. Staff views the daily trials as an opportunity to extend the winter fun out just a while longer. And, so we’re inside for a few extra days awaiting the arrival of spring? Great time to plan the summer projects and to engage in some productive and contemplative work.

Farmhouse residents took some time this past week to plan, coordinate and make dog treats to be delivered to the local animal shelter. What a great way to spend a late winter afternoon, thinking of and caring for our friends in the local animal shelter.

The FH boys enjoyed an afternoon at the YMCA this past weekend with some free time, basketball and swimming. The girls group is scheduled to go this weekend (weather permitting, lol). While there is ample time spent out of doors in the fresh and cool March air, there’s nothing like a swim at the local Y to invigorate and relax.

We have a Mentor that has joined us this past week. A Mentor is an IW graduate who wishes to come back for a few days to re-connect, reflect, and to give back to current residents the experiences of their own journey, but to show that there is life after IW. In many cases the Mentor will share with current residents that while their day to day struggle here may seem overwhelming, that there is a long lasting, deep healing and restorative work that is done here that carries them into their post IW life. Mentors will connect with the Therapist that accompanied them through their own journey or to Wes and Sue to express the desire to return. For staff, it is a real treat to see and to hear from residents who’ve moved on with their lives. For current residents it is a refreshing and vital look that the hard work that goes into their program pays huge dividends in a balanced and happy post IW journey.

Big day today on the Equestrian front as the Barn Manager and a few of the FH kids are off to pick up the newest addition to our herd. I do not have a lot of the particulars now and will report buck next week, but I’m certain you’ll hear from your child before I do! It is very exciting.

Maple Monday is “flowing” along. The yield of Sap is nothing short of amazing as the spring thaw keeps being postponed with storm after storm. Each weather event we’ve had adds copious moisture to the ground which in turn gradually thaws. As it thaws, and re-freezes, and thaws, the flow of Sap to the stately old Maples becomes very large. And we’re there to tap into it. We’ve processed a finishing boil at this point and will only do two or three more as we can’t possibly keep up with all that is being put out.

The Level IV resident who was headed out for their home visit a couple weeks ago has returned. Off onto the final leg of her IW journey as she had a wonderful time at home after months of hard work. The home visit is an integral part of the program and one that is much anticipated and welcomed by resident and family.

Another busy week here in the snow covered north. We hope you have a good week. Thanks so much for allowing your child to be a part of our lives.

Press Release: Ironwood Maine Adds to its Leadership Team

Ironwood Maine Adds to its Leadership Team

Chris Johnson Joins Ironwood Maine’s Leadership Team as Program Director

Ironwood Maine, a licensed residential, therapeutic boarding school for struggling teens in Maine, announces the hiring of Chris Johnson as its new Program Director. In his new role as program director, Mr. Johnson will oversee the organization and structure of Ironwood Maine’s licensed and accredited school and treatment program for struggling teens. Mr. Johnson will also develop new strategies and programs to further Ironwood Maine’s mission of helping struggling teens to succeed.

Read More

Ironwood Maine Web Update

Two, not one, but two Nor’easters in one week, with yet another on the Doppler for the first of next week. The most recent event that ended yesterday (Thursday) was a good one. At the very least it was a snow event of 18 inches with resultant drifts in the 24-36 inch range. It was wet, heavy snow that prevented mountainous drifts, but conversely was very hard to move and presented very unique driving challenges. I must say however, that there is nothing like snow to bring out the young child in all of us, evidenced by my early morning trip to Frye to check on the campus and staff only to witness 5 boys out in front of their bunk making “Snow Angels”. No worries, they were fully clothed in their “snow”veralls and were staff monitored. Many of those residents come from climates where 18 inches of snow may never be seen in their lifetimes, so they were taking full advantage of the moment.

Last weekend’s Ice Skating was a big hit with staff making a stop at the Rockland Breakwater (in Penobscot Bay) to view the astronomical High Tide. It was quite a sight and added a bit more to the field trip. Staff is always looking for opportunities to expose the children to the many wonders that Mid-Coast Maine has to offer in all of its seasons.

Maple Monday was a “steamy” one with the Evaporator being filled with freshly drawn Sap and the oven fired up with a cracking hard wood fire! The roof vents were opened within the first half hour and the billows of steam could be seen from the Schoolhouse Hill. The 60+ gallons of Sap was boiled down to about 20 gallons and that will be moved to the “finisher” and the Evaporator vat will be filled back up for this Monday’s boil. The finishing is done in a 15 gallon Stainless Steel vessel and will be accomplished over a propane burner. Bottles are ready and we’ll be capping off this Monday.

Some of the Farmhouse residents will be joining our Barn Manager this weekend for a little bit of Horse shopping. Yes, looking to add to the herd. And the residents will be part of a bit of old fashioned “horse trading”. What a great opportunity for them to take all their acquired horsemanship training and applying it to the actual science of determining the health and disposition of a horse!

France, as the host country for Ethnic Night was a huge hit! Italy is next on the culinary/social geographic world tour. Ethnic night is held once a month at the FH and is usually the last Sunday of the month. Be certain to ask your child about their role in each of the events. Oh, and ask them which food they liked the best.

The FH girls group has house chores this week which means they get to spend the week with staff Eric for the morning physical exercise. Whichever group is not on barn get the luxury of the planned group exercise activities. Light dumbbell upper body work, Handball, Push-Ups, Break Dancing, Squats and Resistance training.

We had 2 Farmhouse Residents move to Level IV this week! And we had 2 Frye Residents graduate to the Farmhouse…and new intakes at Frye…the cycle of Ironwood life continues…

Thank you for allowing your child to be part of our lives!

Ironwood Maine Kitchen Update

This past month we completed our revamped ethnic night dinner series.  Residents were given various assignments from creating and implementing the menu, decorating and creating a lively authentic environment, and giving oral presentations on the selected country.   This is a Farmhouse wide collaboration which allows the residents to be creative and imaginative under the guidance of Ironwood staff.  Each student was responsible for their own individual project, as well as working together to create a cohesive encompassing event.

We started this reboot of ethnic night with the cornerstone of modern cuisine, France.  This country was chosen for its contributions to the world of food and the impact that it has had on other country cuisines.  To put it bluntly, no other culture has surpassed France’s impact on the world as far as cooking technique and the implementation of kitchens as we know them today.

I must say that the residents surpassed my expectations in every way.  Those selected to be cooks poured over every cookbook that was brought in to reference, and each selected a few recipes that caught their eyes.  They were encouraged to push the boundaries of what they were familiar with, and to take chances on selections which would challenge their culinary prowess.  As a group, we met and cultivated a refined, cohesive menu that would flow nicely throughout the night.  Incorporating food restrictions and allergies is always a challenge in a group this size, and through this discussion, we came to a harmonious balance that I would be happy to serve at any of the restaurants I have previously worked at.

Terrine of Duck and Smoked Ham

Profiterole with Baked Brie

Spinach Croquettes

Arugula & Fennel Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Handmade Pasta with Crème Fraiche and Herbs de Province

Steak Diane with Hollandaise & Asparagus

Homemade Sourdough

Pear Tart Tatin

During the coursed-out meal (which was served with pride by the kitchen crew), residents with oral presentations gave short informative speeches on various aspects of France’s culture, such as Art & music, history and government.  The information was well received with a lovely backdrop of a French bistro music and impressing lighting and decorations. Overall it was a memorable night of fun and quality food, and a reminder to all that with persistence and hard work, we can pull off anything we put our minds to.  I am already looking forward to March’s Ethnic Night where we will continue with another ethnicity of undoubted importance to the world’s cuisine, Italy.

New England Psychologist – Pysch Central: Ironwood Maine Article

Educational Treatment Center uses animals to reach teens

Six years ago, Wes and Sue Horton, LMFT were looking for a change. They found it at Ironwood, a residential treatment center and private, co-educational school for teens in Morrill, Maine.

With professional backgrounds in therapy and healthcare, the Hortons took over the facility adding more professional staff and revamping the program for families in crisis.

Ironwood Maine Web Update

“In like a Lion and out like a Lamb”, thus is March here in Mid-Coast Maine. While many of you are feeling the full impact of this Nor’Easter, as I write this, we awoke to freezing rain, slippery roads and snow forecast for the end of the event.  We’re ready and we’ve faced Lion’s before!

Up until this morning the pulse of spring was broadening as our fields are about bare of snow, except in the spots not hit by direct sunlight, and our stable of worthy equines have been flexing their tired winter muscles on our many pastures. Just to see the horses outside is a harbinger of softer weather to come. And my how the horses respond. Like children on a playground at recess there is much frolicking and jumping as they air it out from the confines of January and February. Our stable is top notch, with all residents acquiring advanced degrees of horsemanship. Not just riding, that comes after hours of tending to and learning about our equine friends. Just this morning the Barn Manager was off to our Frye Campus to conduct her weekly “Horsemanship Training”. Prior to ever getting to the Farmhouse and being involved with the larger animals, the Frye residents learn much about the handling, care and physiology of the sturdy little steeds. Recently, they’ve been actually “harness breaking” one of our minis so that it can pull a cart or buggy! How exciting.

Maple Monday is now entering week three with the Orchard of stately Sugar Maples tapped and depositing their liquid gold through the hundreds of “taps” into the scores of old metal buckets. There has been over 250 gallons of Sap gathered thus far and we have our first “boil” scheduled for next Monday. The residents are not just lugging buckets and doing manual labor, they are learning the process of “sugaring”, the history of Maple Syrup rendering from the native peoples to the early New England Settlers. They are engaging in outdoor cooking, tree and plant identification, the “signs” of spring and a good robust hike.

Farmhouse girls group ventured forth to the PAWS animal shelter in Camden yesterday and spent some quality time with the residents there brushing, grooming, exercising and dare I say, sharing some love!

Today, Farmhouse residents will be doing some baking (did I mention that the kids love baking) of items to be donated to the local church in the town of Brooks. Routinely local churches, Grange’s and other philanthropic groups will hold “public suppers” to benefit a local family or their own group in times of need. For us here in the rural reaches of Maine the public “suppah” is a great way to reconnect after a long winter. It is very meaningful for our residents to be part of these events by sharing their bounty in the way of baked goodies.

Sunday will see the Farmhouse residents going for an Ice skating outing. While you may think that this would be on one of our many local ponds, ice conditions are not always best so staff schedules a time at the Public Ice Arena in Rockland. As hard as the resident’s work all week, an outing to just socialize and simply be kids is a very welcomed and cherished event.


In spite of the awful weather, and at times the deep challenges of living in a therapeutic setting, life does carry on. Just this morning as I came into the Farmhouse there was a Level IV resident who was literally jumping up and down with joy as she was preparing to leave for her home visit. In a moment, as I was standing there, sharing in her jubilance, I couldn’t help myself but to picture this resident’s face on the day of her intake many months ago. And having conducted the parental tour those same many months ago, I could now sense the elation the family must be having at that same moment knowing that their child was coming home and on the last leg of her Ironwood journey. Yet, mostly, the joy she was displaying was buoyant and contagious to the entire group. Every resident, and staff, was keenly aware of the preciousness of the moment we were all experiencing. And yes, it is at moments like these that I retire to the office or nearest rest room to wipe the tears of joy from my eye. Why wouldn’t I. In the moment, there was nothing more joyful than being there!

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

Have a great week. And don’t be afraid of the Lion, he’ll soon leave a Lamb.

Ironwood Maine Barn Update

Until now, it has been a matter of establishing consistency in the care of the horses across residents and staff expectations, and providing a foundation of competence for the physical and emotional well-being of our herd. We now have residents demonstrating handling and riding competence and developing deeper understanding and refined skills for riding through heart intention and the use of equus, the horses’ own body language. This has come about in part by continuing and adapting lessons underway when I arrived, and in part by adding new aspects to the equine program: schooling horses in hand from the ground, long-lining, free schooling using equus, bareback riding, and -most recently- practicing emergency safety moves and heading out for brief rides on the IW roads.

Some changes in care have improved the health and willingness of the horses to perform, beginning with a change to Barefoot Natural Balance hoofcare. This week, residents and barn staff will have a class on equine nutrition and supportive research will be provided. I have been researching this topic for some time, and have been working with our farriers on it for about a month, piloting changes I will likely make for IW horses with my own horses at home, with great results. (And applying these principles and practices with four rescue horses at our home barn at the same time, in partnership with vets.)

I am excited to be working with our horses in the verbal language of driving, have starting Duncan in ground training for this, and assessed others for their interest and ability. Residents will have the chance to join this process as interested. So there’s lots more to come as we head into full spring and summer!

Thank you all for your support! -Joy

Ironwood Maine Granted Accreditation by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges

Ironwood Maine, a therapeutic boarding school for struggling teens in Maine, is proud to announce it was granted accreditation by the Commission on Independent Schools from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) at its February 5-6, 2018, meeting.

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