Archive for March 2018

Ironwood Maine Web Update

April is on the doorstep. You can feel it. It’s a bit on the foggy side today, but not from some atmospheric occurrence, it is from what we call here in Maine – “melting snow.“ Yes, all the snow on the ground begins to simultaneously melt causing a charge of melting snow molecules to hit the air at the same time causing such density as to create fog. At least that’s the way it has been explained to me over the years. In any case…this campus, along with everyone in and around it is ready for spring.

Along with the rite of spring comes Easter. Holidays are very special here as staff does an absolutely outstanding job making these difficult moments away from home just a bit more palatable. And of course candy and treats make just about everything easier to take. There will be treats and a home style Easter meal with Ham and all the fixins. And the breakfasts on holidays are always a big hit with welcome doses of breakfast meats and eggs to the liking. The FH kids will head over to the Morrill Town Elementary School to plant eggs for the community Easter Egg Hunt.

This has been one of the strangest Maple Syrup seasons in recent memory with the deep cold holding on very late in the season with holding tanks and lines being froze tight for most days. However, we have managed a few boils and over 600 gallons of raw Sap has been collected and is ready for processing. There will be some tours and tastings for the Family Weekend…yummmmmm.

And I’m happy to report that our new Equestrian resident survived his initial reflection quite well and has actually been allowed in the group and has assumed a new identity. Yes, “Sunbeam”, has joined the IW family. I’m hearing he was named for his propensity to find whatever sunlight was coming in through windows or doors and placing his body in the direct rays. So, Sunbeam it is. And he awaits your introduction, next weekend.

The Farmhouse is experiencing a wonderful phenomenon right now with 7 residents at Level IV and a new Level III who came up this week from Frye to even out the group. When one looks at the IW journey and its culmination in a commencement of new life, it is only fitting that I write this, looking out at what will soon be new life surrounding our campus with hundreds upon hundreds of new flowers and abundant new growth. It is clearly incredible that we have so many residents blossoming into their respective life journeys at this time. You know, IW is just a season, just one season of a year, of many, many years in a life journey. And like the seasons there is the thread of newness and of hope, of a better day, after a winter or storm. Hope does spring eternal, especially when you’re surrounded with so many signs….Happy Easter to all.

Thanks for allowing your child to be part of our lives and we’ll see you soon.

Ironwood Maine Fitness Update

We are always busy at Ironwood and we try to make it a priority to do intentional workouts each morning. This works well, especially at the Farmhouse, which is great because it is the resident’s “second half” before graduating and going home where they will be accountable for their own fitness and exercise routines.

We start early, as exercising first thing has many benefits:
1. You are more likely to accomplish your goal of exercise if you do it first thing in the morning. If you schedule it for later in the day, life has a way of presenting things you have to do instead.
2. Not only does it wake you up, it helps keep your energy up throughout the day.
3. It gives you something that you have accomplished while some people are still in bed. It is great feeling of satisfaction to have met that goal so early and one that you will want to continue.
4. No one is demanding anything of you yet.
5. You start off your day by making a healthy decision, and healthy actions lead to more healthy actions.

Most of the exercises, especially at Frye, are back to basics; calisthenics, running, non-contact sports, hiking. While we do continually progress on strength and all around fitness fundamentals at FH, we do include a plethora of activities in the hopes that each resident graduates with a least one fitness activity that they will continue with on their own. We do this with experiential field trips, different sports and numerous variations of body weight movements. Some activities I have facilitated include Cornish Gig Pilot Rowing, hiking, ice skating, a Highland Games Inspired experiential, ballet jumps, workouts utilizing music, Handball, Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, 5ks, lots of varying callisthenic circuits, trail running, Eugene(a dodge-ball/capture the flag/quidditch hybrid game I made up) and more to come.

It is my goal that every resident graduates with at least one activity that they enjoying doing and will continue to do on their own. We do a variety of things to help them find that activity, but still push fundamentals as well to give them a good foundation. I hope that they don’t see fitness as a chore, but as something that enriches their lives, as one of the many great tools they gain while at Ironwood.

Ironwood Maine Barn Update

New Ironwood Maine Horse: Sunbeam

New Ironwood Maine Horse: Sunbeam

Despite week-to-week Nor’easter storms this month, the sun shines brightly on Ironwood and the barns are abuzz with activity and excitement. At Frye Barn Nappy has been progressing nicely in harness training, with the boys’ group helping one week and the girls’ group the next. The boys had the first opportunity to learn the required parts of a driving sled and introduced Nappy to pulling it. His second such experience, he showed he fully understood by needing little guidance or encouragement from the resident “Header”, who walked next to him with a safety lead line attached. By the time his second driver knelt in the sled, reins in hand, he was eager to go. With Barn Manager approval, the trio trotted happily along the edge of the road, and Nappy even picked up a canter part of the way. What laughter and delight this brought to all present, residents and staff alike! By the next week when it was the girls’ turn, the roads were melted and the shorter trails through the paddock comprised the driving venue. This was harder for Nappy to navigate with the sled attached, as the shoveled paths were narrow and curved and the unshoveled areas were too deep for his short legs to manage-not to mention pulling a person! Still he was cheerful and willing.

​So just when we were tiring of snow, it has become a new treasure. The horses who are not harnessed (yet) show great interest, and Lacey, in particular, runs up and down the fenceline if we are on the road, or right beside the sled in the paddock. The students recognize she has great interest and look forward to when she can also be driven. In recent conversations of students about they have learned about and from horses, students often mention having learned that horses are healthier and happier when they have something -a job- to do. They apply this awareness of a visible work ethic in horses to their own experience and their reflection upon their progress.

​At the Farmhouse, residents have been engaged in finding a special horse who is a good fit for Ironwood. Two weeks ago, a group of residents went to a barn that deals in horses, as well as tack, trucks and trailers for them! They set criteria for an Ironwood horse on the ride there. It must be safe, have a personality of wanting to be with people, be healthy and already trained in at least one of the disciplines taught here, with the build to cross-train. There was considerable variety among students in other desirable traits- size of the horse, breed, color, etc.

​At the stable, they had the chance to meet many horses, and to help decide which ones we would try out. In that process, one resident was “adopted” by a very friendly barn cat, who would not let him put her down. The cat would follow him everywhere and cry out to him or reach up his leg if he set her down. The kids decided that getting along with cats and dogs was an additional standard our new horse would have to meet. We watched the horse dealers ride each of several horses in a very small indoor arena, and students learned to observe for evenness of gait, responsiveness, any stiffness or abruptness, or other indications a horse might have health or agility challenges or training that would better suit more expert riders.

​Then our own Barn Manager rode, and also behavior staff, Heidi, in turn, with the two horses who were “finalists.” It was a tough decision to pick one, as the two who made it this far were both sweet and had met the listed criteria. As a final lesson horse test” a volunteer resident rode each horse, with her IW instructor close by. This resident had never ridden western, and did so with a minimal orientation to neck reining, and instruction that rider “body talk” in the saddle is very similar across disciplines. She was well supported by her peers in taking this positive risk, and the result was a clear picture of the horse being a good fit for our program. The group then asked if I thought he would do well in EAP. Since there were no other horses in the ring, and he was staying right with the group, we decided to remove his bridle and give him an “assignment.” Three students asked him to do a task with them which involved going from place-to-place in the arena and checking out unusual objects. Then the other half of the group did a second task with him. We put the bridle back on, and the second horse was tried out in the same way. During the visit, both horses had the chance to be in the ring together and with additional horses present being tried out by other people. Such a hard choice! So many nice horses to meet.

​When the decision was made, we prepared to leave. The horse dealer mounted this gelding and rode him outside, so we would be confident he will be a good trail horse. He rode him along the road, in the parking area, and right through the tack store! Going in one door, which the rider opened from the horses’ back, through the shop, and out the other person door. Then he stood up on the saddle, set down the reins, hopped off, and scooted underneath the horses’ belly to his other side. All this time, there were people and vehicles coming and going, barn dogs hanging around, an employee in a wheelchair moving equipment around, and truck traffic on the road. We felt we had made a very good decision, and left with a sense of wonder and gratitude.
​The following week, a separate group of residents had the opportunity to go get our new horse. We made sure these students had a chance to observe horses being tried out in the arena, to note their soundness and dispositions, and their overall health and training. Then we visited the stable and pens where they saw many more available horses. As we entered the stall area, they stopped quickly, responding to a sweet horse in the very end stall. As he turned to pay them attention, someone asked, “Wait! Is this him? Is this ours?” He was blanketed and facing away from us when we entered, so I folded back the blanket, and showed them the “SB” brand on his rump which the earlier group had mentioned back at IW. It was a delightful first meeting! And everyone agreed he seemed like a good fit for our IW herd-near in size to Justin and Dancin’, and whimsical like Justin, and solidly built, with nice form. I quickly completed the business part with the dealer while other staff visited him with residents.

​When I returned, I handed the lead rope to a resident, and said, “Take him to the trailer.” She walked him directly onto the trailer without hesitation, and I showed her how to close him in. Upon arrival at IW, a second student was invited to unload him. As she stepped onto the trailer, with his lead rope, he began to back off on his own. She backed up with one hand on him, clipped his lead on as he stepped down, and introduced him to IW’s beautiful views and brisk wind as if she had done so all her life!

​Perhaps the most difficult part of integrating a new horse is the quarantine phase, where are horse has to be kept separate from others until all risk of contagious illness or parasites (which they could carry from traveling long distance closely with many other horses) is past. During his first week here, he developed a runny nose, which caused quarantine measures to be more rigid, though he was already being kept away from other horses. Yesterday, a small StarRiders class researched respiratory illnesses and then did a well-check on him. His symptoms have nearly disappeared and he never did have any of the signs of a high risk illness, such as fever. Still, it is always best practice to exercise the strictest precautions to keep any new horse – and all our other horses – safe. The kids like to refer to this period as “initial reflection.” They follow the quarantine carefully and find within it opportunities to make special connections with him.

​The process of finding a name for him began the first day we met him, but was not finished until today. After nominating many names and much discussion, the Farmhouse crew have chosen the name “Sunbeam”, with “Sunny” as an acceptable nickname. This name wasn’t really part of brainstorming, but emerged from his determination to stand in a sunbeam when turned out in our indoor arena. Also, many residents have commented on his “sunny disposition”, stating that he is the happiest horse they’ve ever met, even though he shows he would like to be out with other horses. The quarantine has to last another week and half, which feels very long. But our veterinarian will check him over on Monday and take some tests to be sure he’s all set.

​Even though he is quarantined and can’t be with other horses, he can be with kids, as long as they change jackets, dip their boots, and wash hands before handling any other horses. So he has been a star for EAPs this week, showing a strong desire to connect with kids. Also three residents have ridden him here, doing walk/trot western with gliding stops, turns-on-the-haunches and patterns and obstacles-even a complex “Shamrock” formation for St. Patrick’s Day. For some, he bowed when they finished and drew him to a stop and reinback. One lucky resident got to finish her ride by standing in the saddle with her peers and staff surrounding her and Sunbeam “spotting” in case he moved. We are excited Sunbeam has joined our team and will keep you updated as he gets acquainted with our other horses. Make sure to stop by the barn on Family Weekend and welcome Sunbeam!

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.