April 2010        

In This Issue

Trash Free Potomac River Watershed Initiative


The Alice Ferguson Foundation was established in 1954 as a non–profit organization chartered in the state of Maryland. AFF's mission is "to provide experiences that encourage connections between people, the natural environment, farming, and the cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed, leading to personal environmental responsibility."

Please support environmental education in our beautiful region by becoming a member of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, and enjoy the many special events and benefits year 'round. Details



Calendar of Events


Board of Directors
  • Michael Herman, President
  • Nancy Gasparovic, Vice President
  • Linda Lampkin, Secretary
  • Harold Phelps, Treasurer
  • Judith Allen–Leventhal, Director
  • Abraham Haspel, Director
  • Peggy DeStefanis, Director
  • Dan Jackson, Director
  • Steve Kim, Director
  • Stevenson McIlvaine, Director
  • Frank Nicolai, Director
  • Betsy Reid, Director
  • Ken Robinson, Director
  • Liz Theobalds, Director
  • Nancy Weiman, Director
Executive Director
  • Tracy Bowen
  • Matt Alcide, Development Associate
  • Ann Bodling, Naturalist
  • Chelsea Borchini, Naturalist
  • Libby Campbell, Deputy Director
  • Sara Campbell, Naturalist
  • Laura Chamberlin, Coordinator TFPWI
  • Lane Elson, Farm Associate
  • Katrina Fauss, BTW Educator
  • Tom Frezza, BTW Educator
  • Beth Gillan, BTW:YPP Intern
  • Laura A. Gillespie, Web Designer/Editor, BTW
  • Christa Haverly, Outreach Coordinator
  • Becky Horner, PRWC Coordinator
  • Wendy Lind, Office Administrator
  • Deanna Lutz, Financial Administrator
  • Corrie Maxwell, BTW Educator
  • Tawna Mertz, Consultant, TKM Marketing, Inc.
  • Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director
  • Emory Miller, Naturalist
  • Helen Nelson, CPA, Accountant
  • Chris Ordiway, Naturalist
  • Carol Park, Database Specialist
  • Jason Pope, BTW Educator
  • Sharon Rabie, Naturalist
  • Linda Ries, BTW Educator
  • Rhonda Scott, Program Coordinator, BTW
  • Doris Sharp, Arts & Publications Coordinator
  • Ashlea Smith, Intern : TFPFP
  • Jodie Abbott Standish, Web Designer
  • Bill Townsend, Naturalist
  • Jeanne Troy, Program Director, BTW
  • Anna Wadhams, BTW Educator
  • Eileen Watts, Program Director/ Farm Manager
  • Becky Williams, Naturalist
  • Brenda Wright, Naturalist
  • Jonathan Wright, Maintenance Associate
  • David Yarmchuk, Naturalist





An Easy Way to Make Donations!

The Alice Ferguson Foundation has been approved once again for participation in the United Way of the National Capital Area (UWNCA) and the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Our United Way code is #8083 and our CFC code is #62564.

Please consider us!





Spring Farm Festival plant sale.  Photo by Bill TownsendAs you will see in this newsletter winter has been a busy time at AFF. Spring is very welcome this year after our record snow, which completely closed down Hard Bargain Farm for over two weeks. Fortunately, Farm Manager Eileen Watts thought ahead and all of the animals were safe, warm and well:fed. Now that the snow is gone spring is here in all its glory and we are all delighted that the school programs are back in full swing.

Speaking of warm weather : be sure to come on May 1, 2010 from 11 AM to 4 PM for the annual Spring Farm Festival. The extra snow seems to have given all of the flowers a boost and you will enjoy our hill of blooming buttercups and balmy breezes as well as all of the usual fun activities from music and good food to the plant sale and hayrides.

Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

22nd Potomac River Watershed Cleanup
Volunteers at the PRWCApril 10, 2010, 9 AM:noon
Rain or Shine

By Becky Horner, Cleanup Coordinator

The Cleanup on April 10, 2010, 9 AM: noon is right around the corner and there are a lot of ways that you can participate. Over 500 existing cleanup sites are looking for volunteers to help remove tons of trash from parking lots, streams, and parks. If you can't find a location near you, you can organize your own cleanup! Register on our website to get your cleanup listed. And if picking up trash isn't enough for you or your group, you can raise money for the Alice Ferguson Foundation's Potomac River Outreach and Awareness Campaign for Trash (PROACT), a public education campaign, by participating in the Trash:A:Thon!

The annual cleanup is part of the larger Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, which seeks to have the watershed trash:free by 2013. The Trash Free Potomac Watershed (TFPWI) Initiative, formed in 2005, addresses the trash problem from a watershed:wide approach to benefit the entire region. AFF's objectives are to challenge regional leaders to work collaboratively; to bring together key stakeholders to research and explore alternative, innovative, cost:effective solutions that will have long term impact; and to improve general public education and awareness that can shift individual behaviors. Look for our Trash Summit in the fall, scheduled for September 23rd, 2010!

The cleanup, a vital component of this initiative, depends on volunteers to help achieve its goals. To volunteer, please visit the Cleanup Web site at www.PotomacCleanup.org or contact Becky Horner at 202.518.7415. Remember to wear old clothes, sturdy shoes or waterproof boots. Bags will be provided, but bring your own gloves! See you on Saturday!


A Page From Ginny's India Trip Diary : Part II
By Ginny Harris Crake

Visit to the Taj Mahal and Agra University

The Taj Mahal.  Photo by Ginny Harris Crake

Yamuna River directly behind the  Taj Mahal.  Photo by Ginny Harris Crake

Agra University.  Photo by Ginny Harris Crake

Millions of people come to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and now we know why! Stand inside such a historic and wonderful structure is breathtaking. The detailed art work in marble and the intricate designs that seem to tell a story makes you appreciate the labor that went into every notch and flower. Inside were the tombs of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife, Mutaz Mahal. Here the echo of any sound seems to last forever. At the opening, Dick, Subijoy, Sumit and I yelled "Yamuna". It sounded like a prayer chant that echoed all around us. More people need to cry out for the Yamuna River—if they only knew how poisonous and rancid it has become. The Yamuna flows right behind the beautiful Taj and is filled with trash.

After our exploration of the Taj Mahal, the team went to Agra University with about fifty graduate students and faculty waiting for us. We were on Indian time—an hour late. They greeted us excitedly, giving each of us a bouquet of flowers. Once we were introduced, I was the first to speak. Considering their age group, I felt compelled to explain how the Alice Ferguson Foundation stumbled upon trying to solve the problem of trash. The Foundation's first Cleanup started with a few people and two Cleanup sites and now we have grown to 13,500 volunteers and 500 Cleanup sites—and now there are even Cleanup sites in India! I explained how each of the five components of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative work and how they might work for the citizens of India, but I made it abundantly clear that littering is unacceptable. During my speech I felt a connection with the group. All their eyes were on me, no one was on their phone texting. They understood. I felt confident that my point of not littering was clear.

Ram Koduri talked about taking a hard and honest scientific look at the water quality issues; Dick Lahn made the connection between trash and water quality. He spoke about trash and how trash is the visible symptom of a sick river. Sumit Dutta spoke of his personal experience testing water quality in Maryland and offered his support for anyone who was interested in starting a club or organization around water quality issues. Subijoy explained passionately why he has such a deep connection with the Yamuna River. He talked about his projects of working with the sewage treatment plants in the region and told the story of how he helped end the draining of oil into the Yamuna. He also showed his system of an easy, low maintenance way of cleaning the tributaries before they enter the Yamuna. His passion showed the students his dedication to cleaning up the Yamuna for the sake of the people living there and for future generations. Our team had a great story to tell with the hope of inspiring the students to make changes.

Afterwards, the students were invited to have tea and cookies outside the classroom. Our team stepped out shortly thereafter to go to the principal's office; I walked through the litter of the plastic tea cups and paper napkins...and I was losing it. I shouted to the group "You can't do this! This is what is wrong! You can't litter here... What did I just talk about?" The students giggled. Back in the car, I thought "Why am I here? Didn't my words mean anything?" The next day I realized that my message of "Start small and do what you can" is a good message whereas "Don't litter" is not in this case. How can they not litter when trash cans are not provided? And if there are trash cans available, once they are full they get dumped out the window. Regular hauling of waste does not exist. The only landfill is many kilometers away. I felt overwhelmed and helpless.

Our hopes lie in teaching the younger generations that recognize the importance of environmental management and that they are willing to take on the problems and solve them.


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NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE: Environmental Education at the Alice Ferguson Foundation

Bridging the Watershed Update
By Jeanne Troy

Freedom High School conducting soil test
Freedom High School (Prince William
County, VA) tests the soil at a ‘hotspot'
in the reclaimed mine site.

Bridging the Watershed is pleased to announce the Web publication of two new curriculum modules. Learn the story of the restoration of the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine at Prince William Forest Park in "Mine Over Matter", from labor strife, to acid mine drainage, to the slow reemergence of an intact habitat for local flora and fauna. Students test soil and water quality, and examine the connection between the two. "Potomac Gorge" explores the most biodiverse region this side of the Mississippi, and how we all impact it, for good or for bad, when we visit public lands. Students learn about Leave No Trace principles and then visit the C&O Canal National Historical Park or George Washington Memorial Parkway to measure visitor impact.

BTW's park:specific modules weave together watershed science with the story of the parks in which they are taught. While maintaining a strong science foundation, these modules are quite interdisciplinary. Module development unites park staff, both interpretive and resource management, with AFF employees, further solidifying our strong partnership. Other such modules include ‘Herring Highway'at Rock Creek Park, ‘Urban Pools'at the National Mall and Memorial Park, and ‘Water Power'at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.


Facilitator Training for DCEEC
By Christa Haverly

DCEEC Group sledding.  Photo by Christa HaverlyHard Bargain Farm hosted a facilitator training for the District of Columbia Environmental Education Consortium (DCEEC). Participants were trained to be facilitators in Project WET, Project WILD, and Project Learning Tree. Besides taking part in the classes and training, many participants also enjoyed themselves sledding down the hill on the still plentiful remnant snow from February's big storms!


A Little Tiny Acorn
By Brenda Wright

It was a beautiful day in March and I had the opportunity to work with a group of kids from the Center City Public Charter School from Washington, DC. The group was all boys; it just worked out that way. They were very curious of all the things around them. We were looking at a pool of water beneath a massive root ball of a downed oak tree. This is one of my favorite places to stop with kids. When they first saw the root ball, they asked if it was a rock climbing wall. I invited them to look around for other standing trees this size and they were just amazed. One student, making his observations, asked "this huge thing came from one little acorn?" He made the connection! This is why we do what we do at Hard Bargain Farm.

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Farm Update
by Eileen Watts, Farm Manager

Will this chicken bite? Photo by Libby Campbell.In February it might have seemed that all farming progress came to a stop. With a snow cover of a couple of feet for most of the month, just getting around doing the minimum, took more effort and more time. Clearing farm roads required cutting and removing many holly and cedar trees that had broken and/or uprooted. The deep snow was almost more than our tractor could handle, so we practiced patience on some parts and waited for the eventual melting to take place. We are still cleaning up tree debris. But thankfully all shed roofs held up and all animals did fine. A calf was born shortly before all the snow fell (in December) and another shortly after (in February). Some things just pay no attention to the weather!

March has been much different and spring is truly a bustin'out all over. I don't think that blanket of snow was holding anything back! Our flock of chickens almost overnight went from laying one dozen eggs a day to producing over four dozen per day. The grass is fast becoming very green, daffodils and forsythia are showing off, and gardening is in our thoughts again. The children's garden has some nice greens that overwintered (under snow) such as spinach, some hardy lettuces, arugula, and mustard greens. It almost instantly looks like a garden again. Soil is slow to warm up in spite of warm air, but kids will be planting more vegetables and flowers as soon as weather permits.

Last fall, we had the thought of planting a single vegetable in a space representing a year's worth for the average family. This would have to be outside of the fenced children's garden, so we were very limited in our choice. The decision was onions. We hope these do not appeal to deer or groundhogs. Approximately two:thousand onions have been planted in the form of plants, sets or seeds, yellow, white and red. Some sets and plants were also planted inside the fenced garden. Now the waiting begins. We are estimating that the average consumption is perhaps one onion per week per person. Data will follow as this experiment progresses.

Another seven to eight acres of oats were planted end of March. It makes excellent hay as long as the weather at harvest time allows cutting and drying before the seeds develop. To make good hay one wants the leaves of the plants to be at their peak of photosynthesis, i.e. sugar production when the plants are cut. As seeds mature the nutrients in the leaves are used up and the resulting hay is not as palatable or as nutritious to the animal.

Young child with cow.  Photo by Jane Klemer


Our Avian Friends
by Chris Ordiway

Wood Duck.  Photo by Bill Townsend
Osprey.  Photo by Bill Townsend
Great Blue Heron.  Photo by Bill Townsend
The recent warm days and blooming flowers have me ready and excited for Spring migration and let me remember the Christmas Bird Count of '09 with fondness. If you asked me about the count day shortly afterwards I would have carried on, with gusto, about how blasted cold it was; how the frigid 50 mph winds nearly froze our eyeballs solid while foolishly looking for ducks in choppy river water; how we were covered from head to toe with no more than 3 square inches of skin exposed to the 20 degree temperature! Did I mention it was cold?

This was my most challenging count to date. Only one brave birder, Robbi Ross from Virginia, joined me for the adventure. Despite the weather we had a rather nice day of birding. We were well prepared, properly bundled and had realistic expectations for how our day would probably go. Birds were tough to find of course so our final numbers (forty:five species for the farm) were lower than usual, both on the farm and for the CBC as a whole. The Potomac River was frozen for several hundred yards, making it very difficult to scope the few ducks that were hanging around. Most had wisely found coves and creeks to hide in for the day to avoid the wind. Duck numbers stayed low all winter and I didn't see a few of the regular species at all. We did see six Bald Eagles of various ages, a Hermit Thrush and six of the seven woodpeckers species.

Our best and most surprising bird of the day was a seemingly very lost little Blue:Gray Gnatcatcher. We found him busily feeding near Mockley Point, on the inland side of the road, just a few feet from the ground. I don't usually see them down so low but he was probably just avoiding the worst of the winds. We watched him for perhaps ten minutes, no more than five or six feet away, before he wandered back in the tree:line and we continued on our hike.

A few weeks later I saw Robbi again when I led another walk around the Farm, this time for the Audubon Naturalist Society. While at the riverfront, there was the occasional remark from others that it was a little chilly and breezy that day. Amused, I looked at Robbi and she said, "I'll never complain about the cold again after Christmas Bird Count!" My thoughts exactly!


Living Shorelines at Piscataway Park
by Karen Jensen Miles

Shoreline Restoration.  Photo by Karen Miles

Shoreline Restoration.  Photo by Karen Miles

Shoreline Restoration.  Photo by Karen Miles
Despite thick ice across the Potomac River, a blizzard and several other snow storms, high winds and nearly a month of high water from heavy rains, the folks from Shoreline Design have persevered to finish construction of the sills and beach along the South Coast of the project. Those onlookers who have braved the elements on their walks in the park have asked many great questions about what is happening and what it should look like when it is completed.

As of the first week in March, the equipment was transferred 1,000'upriver to the North Coast for work there. The hardscaping (placing rock and sand) should be finished by the end of April and the planting of the new sand berm should commence shortly thereafter. Monitoring of the site will begin immediately upon completion.

The various partners have been very involved and are in touch frequently. This is the way partnerships are supposed to work! We met with Dennis Pogue, the Associate Director for Preservation from Mount Vernon, on George Washington's front lawn to view the construction from the opposite side of the river and could see nary a thing without binoculars. This is good since Piscataway Park was created to preserve the viewshed from Mount Vernon and Fort Washington.

Come and check out the progress.
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Spring Farm Festival
May 1, 2010, 11—4 PM

Kids in the meadow at Spring Farm Festival.  Photo by Bill TownsendEveryone mark your calendars! We are already busy making plans for this event. As always, our annual plant sale will have all you need to get your gardens going. You will be entertained by live music, a touch tank and crafts for the kids. In the barnyard you get a chance to milk a dairy cow, observe wool spinning, wool dying and blacksmithing. Enjoy a wagon ride to the river. Arts and crafts by local artisans will be for sale. Great food and refreshments will be available from Bear Creek Barbeque.

Come and have a wonderful day in the country! Free admission!

Arts and crafts by local artisans.Annual plant sale.

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Hard Bargain Amphitheater.  Photo by Doris SharpThe Hard Bargain Players have planned an exciting season for this year and they kept the ticket prices affordable.

The first show opened on March 26 with A.R. Gurney's Love Letters. It is performed at the Black Box Theatre in Indian Head and runs Fridays and Saturdays through April 10.

Upcoming Performances of the 2010 Season

The Diviners
by Jim Leonard Jr.
Directed by Sean Michael Fraser
Performances: June 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26 at 8:00 PM

by Peter Shaffer
Directed by David M. Thomas
Performances: August 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 8:00 PM

by Bryony Lavery
Directed by Jodie Mueller
Performances: October 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8:00 PM

The Players are offering again the Hard Bargain Kids Theatre Workshop this summer. The summer theatre workshop is designed to introduce newcomers to the world of the theater and to challenge young veterans to manage advanced theatrical concepts and production techniques. The workshop culminates in a final production and promises to engage and entertain participant, as they work in the areas of stage management, acting, costuming, lighting, set design and construction. The workshop runs Mondays—Thursdays, July 19—July 29 and culminates in a performance on July 30 and 31. The fee for the workshop is $150/per participant/$105 for AFF members. The application deadline is June 1, 2010.

For more information please visit the Players'Web site www.hbplayers.org or www.fergusonfoundation.org.


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Meet Our New Staff

Laura Chamberlin It's been a busy month for the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, with preparations for the April 10th Potomac Watershed Cleanup, the departure of the incredible TFPWI manager Ginny Harris, and the hiring of several new staff. One of the new staff members is Laura Chamberlin, who has taken on the role of Coordinator of the TFPWI, where she will focus on the policy and public education aspects of the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative.

Laura, an Eastern Shore, MD, native has spent the last couple years in California working for an environmental non:profit where she focused on environmental education and volunteer restoration activities. Prior to her time in California, Laura served in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa, as an agricultural and natural resource volunteer. Laura is thrilled to be able to bring her experiences throughout the world to the Potomac watershed and she is ready to conquer trash.


Becky HornerHello AFF subscribers! I'm Becky Horner, your new Potomac River Watershed Cleanup (PRWC) Coordinator. I am a recent graduate of the University of Maryland's Environmental Science and Policy program, and formerly worked for The Behnke Nurseries Co. in Potomac, MD, and Summer Creek Farm, a wonderful organic vegetable operation in Thurmont, MD. I also ran cleanups in my spare time! It is such a joy to take my hobby and finally make it a career. As a lifelong resident of the Potomac River watershed, I am particularly excited about working for the River's conservation and protection.

Since I began work in February at AFF, I have been planning for this year's Cleanup with the aid of many long:time site leaders, volunteers, and partners. Thank you all:we could not do this without your help!

As the Cleanup Coordinator, I will be your point of contact for all things PRWC. I am readily available to you by phone 301:292:5665, or email [email protected]. I hope to see you all out on April 10th!


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