December 2009        

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
  • Nan Kargahi, Secretary
  • Harold Phelps, Treasurer
  • Judith Allen–Leventhal, Director
  • Abraham Haspel, Director
  • Peggy DeStefanis, Director
  • Dan Jackson, Director
  • Steve Kim, Director
  • Linda Lampkin, Director
  • Marion Mulholland, Director
  • Shirley Nicolai, Director
  • Betsy Reid, Director
  • Nancy Weiman, Director
Executive Director
  • Tracy Bowen
  • Matt Alcide, Development Associate
  • Chelsea Borchini, Naturalist
  • Libby Campbell, Deputy Director
  • Sara Campbell, Naturalist
  • Lane Elson, Farm Associate
  • Katrina Fauss, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Laura A. Gillespie, Web Designer/Editor, BTW
  • Ginny Harris Crake, TFPWI Manager
  • Christa Haverly, Outreach 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, Accountant
  • Chris Ordiway, Naturalist
  • Carol Park, Database Specialist
  • Ryan Pleune, Outreach Consultant
  • Sharon Rabie, Naturalist
  • Rhonda Scott, Program Coordinatory, BTW
  • Doris Sharp, Arts Coordinator/ Publications/ Naturalist
  • Tammy Shupard, Naturalist
  • Jodie Abbott Standish, Web Designer
  • Bill Townsend, Naturalist
  • Jeanne Troy, Program Directory
  • Anna Wadhams, Educator, BTW
  • Eileen Watts, Program Director/ Farm Manager
  • Becky Williams, Naturalist
  • Brenda Wright, Naturalist
  • 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!





The Alice Ferguson Foundation is an amazing environmental education organization that changes people's lives and the planet we all live on—one kid at a time.

Chase Community Giving is donating $5,000,000 to charities around the USA. Facebook users are voting for the recipients!

Make your statement to save our world by voting for the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Snowy driveway.  Photo by Libby Campbell

AFF wishes you happy holidays as we celebrate this quieter outdoor time of rest and recuperation from our busy fall school season. We hope you will enjoy reading a bit about the more interesting things that have been happening here from baby chicks to an inspiring Trash Summit.

Modern, Yet Totally Off:The:Grid Chicks

Children visiting the farm since October 27 have gotten a close look at the wonderful motherliness of the common (and tasty) chicken. They see our banty hen lead her brood of thirteen to a breakfast worm or other found food. She picks up the tidbit in her beak, while clucking excitedly, drops it in front of them, then goes to look for more offerings. She seems to eat very little herself. The "kids" come first! When crops (not stomachs) are satisfied and her little ones need to be warmed for awhile, she gives another call that tells them it is naptime under the protection and warmth of her feathery body and stretched out wings. All thirteen quickly disappear! A chicken's daytime body temperature is 107 degrees. After dark, every evening they all sleep under Mom in a hay:lined open dog carrier, which is located within a chicken tractor in our dairy cow's pasture.

Coincidentally, the farm just received forty:five chicks via mail, hatched in Iowa, on the same day as the banty's eggs hatched. The post office bunch is living in an electrically heated brooder house. The first week the thermostat was kept at 95 degrees, the second week at 90 degrees, the third week at 85 degrees, and by the fourth week they are usually feathered enough to tolerate moderate temperatures. This time of year they will need at least wind protection from the unheated building for awhile longer. They will be additional layers come April or so.

Chicks, even without a mother's care and guidance, are amazing survivors by instinct alone. After hatching they need no food or water for three days, having ingested the entire yolk just before exiting the egg. That is just enough time to get used to the world under the hen while all the eggs of a clutch hatch, or be shipped in a small box to Maryland.

Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

4th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit
By Ginny Harris Crake, TFPWI Manager

Potomac Watershed Trash Summit at the House of Sweden, photo by Bill TownsendThe Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative (TFPWSI) has two signature events, the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and the Potomac Watershed Trash Summit. Normally, they are close in date, but not this year. On October 28th, the Alice Ferguson Foundation held its 4th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit hosted at House of Sweden in Georgetown. There wasn't a better day to talk trash in a location with a view of the very River we are all vowing to clean and protect!

Participants could choose from three Roundtables in the morning (Legislation, Enforcement and Stormwater Technologies) and from four in the afternoon (Public Education, Regulation, Composting, and Trash Free Potomac Facility Program 101). At the Morning Plenary the Law Officers, Potomac Champions, Trash Free Potomac Facility Charter Members, and the District of Columbia Mayor's Office and Department of Environment for their first ever Trash Free Tributary to the Anacostia River were honored. The audience of 280 heard Dave Westerholm from NOAA, Linda Howard from Summit Fund, Peggy O'Dell from the National Park Service, and "Coach" Mark Smallwood from Whole Foods Market speak about their commitment and partnership to the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative. Thirty:four elected officials added their signatures to the Potomac Watershed Trash Treaty bringing the total up to 139 signatories.

The keynote speaker was the very inspirational Colin Beavan a.k.a No Impact Man. He began his journey as No Impact Man (where he and his family for one year had no impact on the environment while living in Manhattan) by reducing and eliminating the trash they produced. He started with trash because he thought it would be easy. Well, it wasn't, especially when most of the food comes packaged. So his family started to buy local fresh produce and found that they could make delicious healthy meals while the family is spending time together cooking. They removed the TV, washing machine, and refrigerator—all the luxuries most people couldn't think of living without. They discovered that living "without" enhanced their quality of life. His message was to stop thinking that environmentally conscience living means going "without" and start thinking that it means living with so much more. Happy Planet equals Happy People!

Every Roundtable discussion ends with results, outcomes, and recommendations that shape the Initiative's priorities for the upcoming year. As we move forward, the Alice Ferguson Foundation will be hosting meetings and working groups to continue the fantastic work being done in our Roundtables and with our partners. We hope that all participants will stay engaged and offer their expertise.

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

Bridging the Watershed
By Jeanne Troy, Program Director
Taking water temperature through ice, photo by Libby Campbell
Taking water temperature through the ice.

The Bridging the Watershed (BTW) program is technically a science program for middle and high school students. Yet, like the subject of our inquiry : the Potomac Watershed : BTW is inherently interdisciplinary. The natural world can be a powerfully relevant context for learning the basics, like math and reading, in addition to scientific principles and the history featured in many of our partnering national parks. This fall, many of the students who have joined us on field studies have been inspired by their experiences to create remarkable poems, songs and even one rap. If you feel your feet starting to tap, stop reading and get outside to discover your own inspiration!

We're gonna bridge the watershed (echo)
And find macro invertebrates (echo)
We're gonna march until we're dead (echo)
Cuz we're bridging the watershed (echo)
Sound off: 1,2
Sound off: 3,4
Sound off: 1,2 clap, clap, clap 3, 4!
* Song by students of a private school in Montgomery County, MD

I was squishin'all the dirt
The amount of water in my boots was absurd
as I was lookin'at the invertebrates
my classmates were trying to say
all of their names

I had a lot of fun
too bad that it's done
what an awesome day i had
yeah it was super fab
* Rap by Fairfax County (VA) students

Poems (all by Washington County, MD students)

Mud crawls on my knees
water dancing across rocks;
underneath, I'm free. ::

fun, disgusting, wet, cold,
squishy, eww, interesting, gross,
awesome, swirly, cloudy,
swell, rushing, damp :::

Even though it is a cloudy day,
I shall not run away
For the water is rushing wild
and we swam and swam until we were tired.
Even though it is a cloudy day,
There's always sun on the way
And even though we may grow wary,
There's always sun in Harpers Ferry.


Proper Foot Wear
by Brenda Wright, Naturalist

Boots, photo by Andrea Wlodarzcyk I had the pleasure of working with a group of 4th graders from the Accokeek Academy, formerly known as Henry Ferguson Elementary. They visited the Farm on Monday, November 16, which was the first sunny day for kids after a week of constant rain left behind by hurricane Ida.

Our trails were very muddy. (The kids that visited the Farm on Thursday and Friday prior had to walk through water to get to the Potomac River). As I watched the students get off the bus, I checked their footwear. Most looked okay and then I spotted her—a girl who was wearing her Sunday's best shoes, with no socks! I thought this student did not understand where she was going.

As we were getting her a pair of boots at the lodge she told me her grandmother had a farm in El Salvador and when she is there she always wears boots. When I asked her why she thought she did not need boots today another student spoke up and said, "Oh, I did not know we were coming to a real farm".

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Farm Update
by Eileen Watts, Farm Manager

Solar Cattle, photo by Libby Campbell Solar Cattle: this picture of the cows around the solar panels speaks to energy from the sun on a deeper level. Though the cows are little interested in electricity, they get their energy from the sun like every other living thing on this planet. Since the start of our rotation grazing program last spring, the cows are getting this solar energy by a more direct route—

Effective, January 1, 2010 the winter hours for our Hard Bargain Farm Store will be Tuesdays and Fridays from 3:5 p.m.

Our farm products will be available for pick up from Eileen Watts'office at his time. However, persons who are interested in purchasing our organic meats should contact Eileen or Wendy ahead of time to place their orders. Please contact Eileen at 301:659:1666 or email or Wendy at the office 301:292:5665 or email with your orders. Thank you!

straight from the grass in place of much of the hay they have eaten in the past. Last summer we cut one:third less hay—two thousand instead of our usual 3000+ bales. Haying takes a lot of manpower and means any other project is put aside so we can "make hay while the sun shines" and not miss our window of opportunity of three days of good weather to complete the haying process. By feeding the cattle directly from the pastures instead of cutting and storing the hay they not only get better nutrition, but labor costs are reduced and the rotation improves the quality of the grass by more thorough grazing and manure distribution. Last year, we began the rotational grazing program in December and fed no hay until February 1. This year, our cattle should be able to graze well into February or even March. November is usually the end of the grass and the beginning of hay feeding. The limiting factor may be frozen hoses in our portable water tank (water buffalo) and/or snow cover from time to time.

The result is grass:fed beef to sell that is healthy to eat and a source of income for the Farm.

As always, there are eggs, chicken broilers & stewing hens, beef and pork available for purchase. Please contact Eileen (cell: 301:659:1666).


A Special Thanks to Master Gardener Jim Pester
by Betsy Reid

Master Gardener Jim Pester, photo by Doris Sharp Look in the gardens and you are likely to find Jim Pester there. He is part of the long line of expert gardeners who have volunteered time and backbones to keep Alice's Farmhouse gardens in order.

Ask him why he tends the gardens and he will tell you…it's the serenity of the place. It is the quiet and the spring bloom on the dogwood trees. The view is big from the hilltop. Clouds push across the river on the breeze.

Jim first connected to the Foundation when his daughter, now 35, was a child in the overnight nature program. After that, he and his wife stayed in touch by attending Oktoberfest every year. About three years ago, Jim retired "for good". Fifteen years earlier, he retired from the Navy after a career as an intelligence officer, going on to a second career as a software engineer with Oracle.

Little did he know the gardens would become an avocation, a third act in his work life. When he saw an ad in the paper for volunteers at the Foundation, he answered. He soon after became a Master Gardener in Charles County. These skilled gardeners have gone through intensive training on the A to Z of gardening, provide community service and improve their gardening knowledge each year to retain their certification.

Jim is an avid gardener at his home in Waldorf, too. He started a wildflower garden on the site of an old vegetable garden. Under his picture window, Knock:out roses catch the eye. Coneflowers and Black:eyed Susan are among his favorite flowers.

Jim's garden advice: Mulch everything to keep down the weeds!

Master Gardener Jim Pester working in the Ferguson gardens, photo by Doris Sharp


Living Shoreline at Piscataway Park
by Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director

Living Shorelines work, photo by Karen Miles We are nearly underway with the project! After much preparation, we are about ready to select a construction firm. In the next month or so, you may notice large stockpiles of stone and sand that will be used to create the sills and beaches that will protect the endangered wetlands at Mockley Point and Accokeek Creek, plus the archaeological and cultural resources that are eroding into the Potomac River along this stretch of water.

In order to get the rock and sand to their rightful places, dump trucks will slowly (!) travel down Bryan Point Road, through the lower farm road and into Piscataway Park with multiple trips per day for a couple of months. We have asked that any damage to the farm roads be repaired to at least what they were before construction. One large tulip poplar along the route was taken down in preparation for the trucks. It was hollow and many of the large upper limbs were already dead, so it was just a matter of time before it became a safety issue.

Karen Miles would be glad to show you around and tell you about the native species that will be planted on the landward side of the rock sills to stabilize the sand and protect the marshes and swamps that are rapidly disappearing.

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"Fergie's Gardeners" Launches New Website
By Betsy Reid

Fergie's Gardeners Garden Club invites you to visit our new website There you will find club activities, historical photos of the formal gardens and hilltop landscape, and garden tour information. There's also a blog spot where gardeners can discuss gardening experiences and insights.

The garden club helps the Alice Ferguson Foundation improve and maintain the historic gardens at the Ferguson farmhouse at Hard Bargain Farm. Members also share knowledge of gardening, flower arranging, and visit other gardens in the region. Currently, we are studying the history of the Ferguson gardens and planning renovations consistent with Alice Ferguson's garden design and style. Tours of the garden are available upon request from the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Fergie's Gardeners is a National Garden Club (NGC) at the Alice Ferguson Foundation ( The Alice Ferguson Foundation was recipient of the prestigious 2009 NGC Award of Excellence for their contribution to the protection and conservation of local natural resources, farming, and cultural heritage of the Potomac River Watershed.

Fergie's Gardeners will resume regular meetings after the holidays on the second Thursday of February, March, and April at 7 p.m. at the Farmhouse. Join us! Call Kay Powell, President, at 301:292:5650 or Doris Sharp at the Alice Ferguson Foundation for more information.

Ferguson house front door gardens.

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A Note of Gratitude

By David M. Thomas, Artistic Director

Scene from The Good Doctor
Hard Bargain Players in "The Good Doctor"
With our 2009 season now behind us, I want to formally express my thanks to the many fine people responsible for bringing high quality live theatre to our community. I am aware that by attempting to list everyone, someone will be left out. So I will just say if you were a part of our efforts in any way (you know who you are), I thank you.

Hard Bargain Players in Jesus Hopped the A:Train
Hard Bargain Players in
"Jesus Hopped the A:Train"
We began the season by asking long:time "Queen of the Stage Managers" Melissa Gilpin to make her directorial debut. She chose to do so with the seldom performed Neil Simon comedy, The Good Doctor. Mel made the production a family affair by twisting the arms of her parents and her sister to help both on stage and behind the scenes. She and a very talented group of actors and production staff gave all who saw the show a chance to take a break from tough times and spend an evening of laughter.

I was privileged to direct our second production, Jesus Hopped the A:Train, a hard hitting and thought provoking drama by Steven Adly Guirgis. The play, set in a prison, forced us to ask questions about redemption, justice and if a "great right" outweighs a "little wrong". I was blessed with an exceptional cast, making my job as director almost easy. The Hard Bargain Players were once again able to mount a production that reflects the ethnic make up of our community.

We had planned, cast and even begun rehearsals for what was to be our final play of the season, Brain Friel's beautiful love story Translations when tragedy stuck. The play had to be cancelled due to serious personal matters. My long:time friend Craig Hower stepped up on short notice to bring Neil LaBute's Bash :: latter:day plays to our stage. He assembled a remarkable cast. At the opening night of the play, I have heard audience members use the word ‘compelling'a dozen times.

A successful season is so much more than putting on plays: the theater space must be maintained. Clean up efforts after each play and spring and fall clean up days were well attended. If you pushed a broom, cleaned out the shed or dropped in with your new baby to offer moral support, please know you were appreciated. A special shout:out goes to Connie Hamilton for single handedly taking several pickup loads of trash to be recycled or otherwise disposed of. Our technical chief in residence, April Weimer, made sure all productions and all concerts were beautifully illuminated. People came out of the woodworks and into the woods of Hard Bargain Farm to work house, build sets, supply programs, serve refreshments and so much more. Businesses donated materials for our sets, properties and costumes. Deanna Lutz redesigned our website making it user:friendly and keeping it current ( The local press treated us like gold in reviews and features (Dickson Mercer and Amy). All have my heartfelt gratitude.

In closing, I'd like to express my special gratitude to the Alice Ferguson Foundation for believing that the arts help make a community whole. (Love you Doris Sharp and Tracy Bowen.) Perhaps my most important thank:you goes to our patrons, our community. It is your support that drives us to strive for excellence in the performing arts. Until next year!


Hard Bargain Players—the 2010 Season

The Hard Bargain Players are pleased to announce our 2010 season. As it is our tradition at the Theatre in the Woods, we again feature plays that are off the beaten path, plays that ask questions and allow our patrons to come up with the answers. Plays are subject to change based on availability of royalties and other factors beyond our control.

Bash: latter:day plays "a gaggle of saints", by Neil LaBute
Directed by Craig Hower
January 15th or 16th
Maryland Community Theatre Festival Association
Round House Theatre
8641 Colesville Road
Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland

‘night Mother, by Marsha Norman
Directed by Dave Costa
March 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 & 27
Black Box Theater
Indian Head, Maryland

The Diviners, by Jim Leonard Jr.
Directed by Sean Michael Fraser
June 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, & 26
Theatre in the Woods
Bryan Point Road
Accokeek, Maryland

Equus, by Peter Shaffer
Directed by David M. Thomas
August 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 & 28
Theatre in the Woods
Bryan Point Road
Accokeek, Maryland

Frozen, by Bryony Lavery
Directed by Jodie Mueller
October 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 & 16
Theatre in the Woods
Bryan Point Road
Accokeek, Maryland


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Life without a Refrigerator
by Christa Haverly, Outreach Coordinator

For four months this year (February through May) I lived without a refrigerator. Why, you ask? For many reasons. I wanted to save money on my utility bill. I wanted to save energy (it kills me to think of all that mountain top removal happening everyday to sustain my addiction to electricity). I wanted to see how low my kWh could go monthly because I wanted to figure out how many solar panels I could get by with in order to provide all of my electricity. I wanted to go back to a "simpler" way of life:how did people get by without electricity before? How did they preserve and store food? How close to that way of life can I get without living on a self:sustainable farm? And so began my grand experiment.

The first thing I needed to do was to start cooking and buying less food. Instead of making a huge amount of food on the weekends to create leftovers for the rest of the week, I made enough to eat each day. Instead of buying lots of extra goodies at the grocery store in one shopping spree each weekend, I made shorter more frequent grocery store trips on my way home from work, only picking up what I needed. This very quickly cut down on how much food I was keeping in the fridge on a regular basis. The next thing I needed to do was cut back on condiments. Ketchup, mustards, mayo, jellies, salad dressings, lemon juice, maple syrup, barbeque sauce. Of course these had been purchased in larger containers to save money, but then they were costing me money to keep refrigerated! Once I pared down on food/leftover storage and condiment storage, I was ready to unplug the fridge.

It was winter when I began this experiment, so those few things that needed to be kept cold (like my milk) could be kept on the back porch which got just about as cold as the outdoor temperature. I had chickens at the time, and eggs don't need constant refrigeration (at least not fresh ones), so I could keep those on my counter. The deer my husband at the time brought home that winter was processed and canned:no need for refrigeration. The harvest that started growing in the backyard vegetable garden towards the end of the experiment was cleaned and canned if I could not eat all of it before it would rot. My utility bill immediately showed a significant difference, dropping to around 50 kWh.

OK, so unplugging my fridge was not the only energy:saving thing I did to get down to 50 kWh for one month. I also used candles in the house when it was dark instead of turning on the lights. I had no washer or dryer. Instead I washed most of my laundry by hand (taking only my sheets to the laundromat) and air dried everything. I killed my TV a long time ago. I got rid of my microwave and instead cooked and heated my food on my gas stove. I put all of my electronics (radio, printer, speakers, laptop charger) on a power strip and turned the strip on only when I needed to use one of these items.

One thing I learned about that "simpler" way of life is that it demands a lot of attention. Our culture of having both adults in a household working 40 hours per week necessitates a certain use of these conveniences that have become so commonplace in our daily lives. Otherwise, you end up cooking, harvesting, cleaning, processing, raising, feeding, hunting, and fishing for food in every waking hour that you are not working your nine to five job. And then you have to clean up afterwards. It's a full:time job in and of itself.

That said, when a major storm hit in May and knocked out power to the whole town for four days, I wasn't hurting. When the insurance company I filed a claim with for the damage that occurred to my roof asked me about food spoilage in my fridge, I had none. For four days, people were forced to live like I was living, but they were completely unprepared. I will say that the sense of community it created for that period of time was wonderful, and I was sad to see it go when everyone plugged themselves back in.

So maybe you're not in a position to be able to unplug your refrigerator. But what can you unplug? If you have a light fixture with four light bulbs, do you really need all four light bulbs to illuminate the room? If you have a collection of electronics or appliances grouped together, can you put them on a power strip and keep the power turned off when not in use? Can you lower the temperature on your hot water heater? Can you put your outdoor lights on a motion sensor so instead of being on all night they only come on when someone approaches your house? Can you air dry your laundry instead of using the dryer? Can you turn off the lights in a room when you leave, or better yet, use candles or oil lamps instead of lights? Those oil lamps give off more than enough light to illuminate a dinner table:and it's so much more romantic.

What can you do?


New Staff

Matt Alcide Matt Alcide graduated at James Madison University in May of 2009 with a degree in Political Science and History. His hometown of New Hyde Park, NY, is right outside of Queens on Long Island. Matt comes from a diverse employment background including fund:raising at his university, as well as working at law offices and funeral homes. He decided to move to the D.C. region after an internship on Capitol Hill last summer. Matt joined AFF in September as a TFPWI Coordinator (another "Trash Hunk") and has now accepted a full:time position as a Development Associate, where he will be working mainly out of the Dupont office in DC.

Christa Haverly My name is Christa Haverly. I am the new Outreach Coordinator for Hard Bargain Farm. I taught fourth and fifth grade in Maryland for six years. During that time, I came to a summer teacher institute at the Farm and fell in love with the field of environmental education. It was a marriage of two passions for me: the environment and education. I pursued my master's degree in environmental education, completing a year:long intensive program online through Nova Southeastern University (there are no EE degree programs yet in MD). I spent a year in southern Illinois continuing to develop my EE skills, working part:time with the EE program at the Touch of Nature Center out of Southern Illinois University. I am now living in Accokeek, working at the farm, and enjoying my position of being able to teach kids and teachers about the environment.


Snowy Entrance to AFF, photo by Doris Sharp

Thank you for a wonderful year!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!


Our Wish List:

  • New phone system consisting of a control unit and 15 desk sets with the addition of caller ID, individual voice mail boxes and a conference call bridge.
  • CR6 and grater time to repair farm roads.
  • Four:seat golf carts.
  • We would like to expand our Blue Bird trail with up to 20 more boxes. A 6:foot length of 1 x 6" lumber is all that is needed to add one box to the trail.

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Contact Us at [email protected]