March 2008        

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
  • Peggy DeStefanis, President
  • Bryan Logan, Vice President
  • Ann Chab, Secretary
  • Keith Roberts, Treasurer
  • Gilda Allen
  • Judith Allen Leventhal
  • David Bookbinder
  • Daniela Bostic:Clark
  • Michael D. Herman
  • Kent Hibben
  • Nancy Kargahi
  • Marion Mulholland, Ph.D.
  • Shirley Nicolai
  • Edith Patterson
  • Nancy Weiman
Executive Director
  • Tracy Bowen
  • Libby Campbell, Deputy Director
  • Lane Elson, Farm Associate
  • Maureen Fine, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Laura A. Gillespie, Bridging the Watershed Admin. Assistant & Webmaster
  • Ginny Harris, Trash Summit Coordinator
  • Rowan Harris, Naturalist
  • Shelby Laubhan, Naturalist/Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Deanna Lutz, Office Manager
  • Sam Lyon, Farm Hand
  • Richard Marks, Director of Communications
  • Tawna Mertz, Consultant, TKM Marketing, Inc.
  • Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director
  • Alison Mize, Director of Policy
  • Chris Ordiway, Naturalist
  • Carol Park, Database Specialist
  • Sharon Rabie, Naturalist
  • Rebecca Scott, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Rhonda Scott, Naturalist/Bridging the Watershed Program Assistant
  • Doris Sharp, Publications Specialist, Arts Coordinator, Naturalist
  • Regina Slape, Naturalist
  • Tammy Shupard, Naturalist
  • Jodie Abbott Standish, Web Designer
  • Bill Townsend, Naturalist
  • Jeanne Troy, Bridging the Watershed Program Manager
  • Anna Wadhams, Bridging the Watershed Educator
  • Eileen Watts, Farm Manager; Program Director of Agricultural Education and Animal Husbandry; Naturalist
  • Penny Weaver, Development Associate
  • Rebecca Williams, Naturalist
  • Brenda Wright, Naturalist





Welcome to the March edition of our e:newsletter.
There is something for everyone in this issue.

Snow covered boardwalk Read, enjoy, and let us know how you like our newsletter by sending comments to [email protected].

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

By Anna Wadhams

Seton High Students
E. Seton HS students pick up trash at
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC
Elizabeth Seton High School Ladies ‘Talk Trash' at Kenilworth!
In October a small army of excited and highly motivated Elizabeth Seton High School students hauled a massive amount of trash from Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, including a whopping 80 lbs. of recyclable containers! Despite the high tide preventing access to the heavily trashed Anacostia shoreline, these ladies managed to scale the boardwalks and step into the mud to remove items varying from a squirt gun to a shoe. Acclaim must be given to these young women, who removed more trash during their field study than other volunteers at the same site on National Public Lands Day!

The downside to this story is that we all know more trash was brought in with the next tide. Don't forget, more work needs to be done to achieve the Alice Ferguson Foundation's goal of "Trash Free by 2013." Interested in having your students participate in a "Talkin' Trash" field study? SO ARE WE! Visit our website to schedule your field study today!

Summer Teacher Institutes
Teachers are encouraged to bring their students on a BTW field study. Get started by attending one of our week:long training institutes this summer. Participants earn a stipend and graduate credits. For more information, please visit Summer Institutes.


A Fifth:Grade Visit at HBF
On January 10, 2008, fifth:grade students from J. P. Ryon Elementary came to Hard Bargain Farm for their overnight trip. At the end of the day, we gave them a piece of paper with the request to finish three statements. Here are some of their responses (with misspellings and all):

Student with goat
Sparkle and J.P. Ryon Student

Today for the first time I...

  • "rolled down the biggest hill ever." :Austin
  • "saw a donkey up close." :Raven
  • "saw a blue egg that was not painted." :Amber
  • "touched a goat and a turkey and saw a deer skeleton." :Joey
Before today, I never knew that...
  • "an average kid produces 1,000 pounds of trash per year." :Catie
  • "a rock was conected [sic] to cheese" :Austin
  • "sheep grease was in lip gloss." :Joelle
  • "a chiken [sic] can lay an egg that is green." :Glory
The most interesting that happened today was...
  • "that we found deer bones and saw the Potomac River." :Lauren
  • "how a bird reacts when they see human. Unexspetingly [sic], a bird warns others and don't fly away unless there trying to attack" :Dwayne
  • "When we saw Wastington [sic] D.C., Maryland, and Virgina [sic] at the same time." :Amber
Quote of the Day: "cow milking is better than video games" :Cody(?)

Gathering Eggs
J.P. Ryon students gathering eggs


Support the Children's Garden
So many children nowadays have difficulties to come up with the right answer to one of our standard questions "Where does the food come from?" Most of the time we are getting the answer "From Safeway!" (you can interchange any grocery store). For a long time we have wanted to create a children's garden close to the lodge so the students have easy access and the garden can be maintained easily. The kids love it when they plant seedlings or water the growing plants and—best of all—harvest! A garden is such a wonderful teaching tool and a great way to connect students with the earth. They experience where the food really comes from.

You can help and make the children's garden a reality! My Hometown Helper is offering funding for hometown projects and what we are asking you to do is go to and add your comments and your support of this project. The more positive comments and support we get the better the chances for getting funding for the children's garden. Thank you for all your help. We are counting on you!


2008 Summer Teacher Institute Announced

Potomac River & Chesapeake Bay Issue Investigation: Hands:on Science in Action
June 23 :: June 27, 2008 or July 14 :: July 18, 2008

4th to 6th grade & elementary science teachers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Priority will be given to teams of two or more teachers from any given school.

  • A curriculum of wonderful lessons plans, based on MVSC indicators, that can be used to enhance your instruction of scientific inquiry and environmental studies;
  • Nationally recognized issue investigation methods for guiding students in the scientific inquiry of authentic investigations;
  • Hands:on participation in a series of authentic field investigations to identify and investigate environmental problems;
  • 3 MSDE credits upon completion of portfolio; small stipend
  • Overnight lodging available (30 minutes from Washington, D.C. and 50 minutes from Baltimore).

For more information contact Karen Miles at 301:292:5665 or [email protected]

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Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Mark your calendar! The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup is only 5 weeks away!

Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative 2008 Update
By Ginny Harris, Cleanup Coordinator

2007 Cleanup
Volunteers at the 2007 PRWC
The Cleanup on April 5, 2008, 9 a.m.::noon is right around the corner and there are a lot of ways that you can participate. Over 400 existing cleanup sites are looking for you, the volunteer, to help remove tons of trash from parking lots, streams, and parks. If you don't find a location near you, you could organize your own cleanup! Register on our website to get your cleanup listed and we will supply the bags and gloves needed for all your volunteers. And if picking up trash isn't enough for you or your group, you can raise money for the Alice Ferguson Foundation's Regional Education and Awareness Campaign for Trash (REACT) by participating in the Trash:A:Thon!

We are engaging our 8,000 volunteers and 300 partners to participate in our new Trash:A:Thon! What is a Trash:A:Thon you ask? Well, it is structured much like a Walk:A:Thon, where our volunteers who pick up trash on cleanup day, will ask their friends and neighbors who are not picking up trash to donate to the Regional Education and Awareness Campaign for Trash (REACT). We have never asked our volunteers to raise money for REACT before, but it is time to get them engaged and have ownership of this anti:litter message that will help reduce and ultimately eliminate the trash that they pick up annually.

We want to give everyone the opportunity to be part of the solution and engage in the movement around the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative. Trash is a problem we all can help solve.

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Hard Bargain Farm Has Champions of Another sort
Karen Jensen Miles
Tree Measurement
Thanks to the efforts of Sam Lyon, Hard Bargain Farm has two Maryland State Champion trees on it grounds. (Sam's father was the MD State Forester for many years, and Sam was steeped in all things relating to his dad's profession.) When he saw several very large tree and shrub specimens here at the Farm, he sent in the pertinent information to MD Department of Natural Resources Forest Service's Big Tree Program.

In September, four representatives from the Big Tree Measurement Team came to officially measure them. Well, not all of them were state winners, but two tree specimens were:a pawpaw and an American hornbeam.

The American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, has official measurements of:

Tree Measurement
Big Tree Measurement Team at work
  • Circumference: 4 feet, 2 inches
  • Height: 48 feet
  • Average Crown Width: 38 feet
  • Total Points: 108.0 points

The Common Pawpaw, Asimina triloba, has official measurements of:

  • Circumference: 2 feet, 7 inches
  • Height: 48 feet
  • Average Crown Width: 22 feet
  • Total Points 85.0 points

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service has been collecting data on the largest trees of each species growing in our state since 1925. The Big Tree Program recognizes these trees. The goal of the program is to recognize tree owners as good stewards of trees and to educate citizens about the importance of trees in our lives.

The champion for each species is determined by the value of the total points. If a tree is designated a champion, it will be automatically considered for nomination in to the National Register of Big Trees, a program of the conservation organization American Forests.

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Farm Report
By Eileen Watts
Mouse and newborn
Mouse and newborn

The frozen ground of this month has been a good thing, as we drive 14 bales of hay/day to peacefully waiting cattle. Thoughts of pasture improvement for possibly fattening young cattle for sale as grass fed beef are on my mind (droughts are not allowed). Lane Elson and I attended a hay and pasture conference in mid:month and made two good contacts for advice on this issue. In February we will be applying lime to raise the soil pH and soon after that overseeding (frost:seeding, actually) with red clover or lespedeza. Legumes reduce the need to apply other forms of nitrogen which more readily leach into waterways.

The barnyard now has a beautiful pair of Bourbon Red turkeys. A full grown hen was donated last month by Julie and Malcolm Simpson of Marbury, Md. The tom has been with us for about a year. The very friendly couple have been dubbed Rufus and Rosy.

Eggs for sale

The barnyard "family" is sadly missing the presence of goat matriarch, "Mouse". She was born on May 2 (Spring Farm Festival day), 1992. Fifteen and a half years is a very long goat:life. Her daughter, "Sparkle", carries on Mom's lovable personality.

Our farm:fresh eggs from cage free "happy" hens are still a very popular item. After about a two:month lull in laying while the hours of daylight were short, the hens are perking up and giving three dozen a day again (double what they produced in November and December). Our flock is duly registered now, allowing the farm to pack and distribute eggs according to Maryland law.

Quote of the month: A 5th grade boy, while waiting for his turn to milk the cow one morning, couldn't help but notice our very noisy geese just outside the door, said, "Your geese need some 'duck'tape."


What is A Chicken Tractor?
By Eileen Watts
Most commercial chickens, whether layer, fryer, or roaster, are raised in very close quarters with thousands of others, each bird living its entire short life indoors with less space than one square foot without room to even spread its wings. A fast growing idea (but not a new one) among small scale chicken farmers is raising birds outdoors in low bottomless pens on the ground where each has space to fly about, scratch the soil, eat grass and insects, lay eggs and otherwise grow in a more natural way, yet still be confined. The pens are small and moveable, either by a person pulling it, or with the use of a small tractor. Some pens have wheels, but all are built to be predator:proof, fenced around the four sides and over the top, and include a partial roof for shade. The chickens are fed and watered daily, but their diet is nicely supplemented with vegetation and minerals from the soil.

Chicken Tractor
Farm Manager Eileen checks the chicken tractor
Chicken tractors are being used on many organic (or not) farms as weed and insect control between rows of vegetables, and for "clean up" over rows after harvest. Their constant scratching also loosens and mixes the soil, initiating the decomposition of whatever they leave behind. Chickens give this housing method a toe up! It is good for the chickens, good for the soil, and good for the humans. It also makes good marketing sense. People want to buy chickens brought up on natural foods as much as possible, including fresh air and sunshine. We like to think that a happy chicken provides healthier food for us.


FBI Detectives at HBF
By Sam Lyon
Fountain structure
at the frog pond

Funny But Informative (FBI) detectives Ordiway and Lyon, a.k.a. Chris and Sam, solved a 50:year old mystery at Hard Bargain Farm. Downstream from the Ferguson swimming hole (the frog pond) in the ravine sits a strange 5:foot tall brick structure. Nobody knew its purpose—until now. The structure was discovered when the detective team was on a mission to retrieve a very old ram pump from that ravine. (Yes, the ravine is very long and steep, especially when carrying an 80:pound hunk of iron.) The pump was used to pump water up to the farmer's house, and then let gravity carry it to the animals in the barnyard. This 1921 Myers pump will be put in the tool museum where all can see and enjoy this Ferguson relic.

About a hundred yards upstream from the pump's location is the aforementioned brick structure. Chris and Sam—being inquisitive minds—decided to poke a stick into the bottom of the structure. After several pokes it was determined that a sloped solid bottom existed. Sam reached in and dug out 12 inches of silt that had accumulated over many years. A set of bottom bricks was found along with a section of pipe and a bronze faucet. The mystery was thus solved. The strange 5:foot tall brick structure was most likely used by the Fergusons and their friends to acquire a cool refreshing drink of spring water at the frog pond.

Painting of the Frog Pond
"The Frog Pond", painting by Alice L.L. Ferguson


Alice Comes Home From Wonderland
By Linda Crocker Simmons, Curator Emeritus, Corcoran Gallery of Art
Alice L.L. Ferguson (1880:1951) bought Hard Bargain Farm in 1922 while her husband, Henry Gardiner Ferguson (1882:1966) –affectionately called "Fergie"—was away on a business trip. At Hard Bargain Farm she found an outlet for her creative and energetic spirit. It was here she and Fergie brought together their friends and colleagues for a life of inquiry, fun, creativity and action.

"A Day at the Farm", painting by Alice L.L. Ferguson
By mutual agreement Hard Bargain Farm was Alice's and her responsibility. Here she had a place to pursue her many interests including painting. She had been a student in the early 20th century at the Corcoran School of Art (known today as the Corcoran College of Art and Design). At Hard Bargain she used the log cabin (where she also lived while the farmhouse was being built) as her studio. Her paintings were submitted to exhibitions not only in Washington but also to various groups along the East Coast. "A Day at the Farm" was juried into the prestigious Corcoran Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings in 1932. The scenes she painted were the places, people and events she knew:life at Hard Bargain Farm, the landscape along the Potomac River, and scenes of the places she traveled with Fergie in the American Southwest.

The sustained quality of her art and the assurance of her use of materials strongly suggest that the paintings, which survive in the collection at Hard Bargain Farm, are not the only ones Alice painted during a career of at least three decades. During those it is possible she could have created at least 100, 200 or maybe even 300 paintings. Have you ever wondered where those paintings are today? Well, one them has come back to Hard Bargain Farm in a fascinating manner from that online "Wonderland" that is eBay.

"Saguaros", painting by Alice L.L. Ferguson

A dealer, Todd Stephenson of Escondido, California, placed at auction on eBay "1931 Desert Landscape Oil Painting ALICE L L FERGUSON". His entry said there were three exhibition labels on the back which identified it further as by, "Alice L.L. Ferguson of 2330 California Street, Washington, DC". The title was given as "Saguaros" and it had been sent to exhibitions in New Orleans, Palm Beach, Florida as well as the 40th Exhibition of the Society of Washington Artists Feb. 1 to March 1, 1931. The reproduction of the painting in a golden frame looked like a Southwest landscape of mountains and those large native cacti found in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah. Stylistically, it looked like other paintings in the collection at Hard Bargain and it shared with them a similar brush stroke and palette.

I contacted the staff of the Alice Ferguson Foundation to advise them of the on:going auction and determine if they would want it for their collection. The enthusiastic response was, "Yes, if it could be purchased for a reasonable amount". Over the next ten days I anxiously watched to see who might come forward to bid against us. We were lucky. The Alice Ferguson Foundation was the successful bidder. Arrangements were then made to have it shipped to the farm where it arrived about four weeks later.

Now we wanted to learn as much as possible about the painting. Who had owned it? Where had it been painted? What could it tell us about Alice Ferguson and her life as an artist? Mr. Stephenson provided essential information about its provenance. It had been sold by descendants of the last owner, a Mr. Thomas Brennan Nolan (May 21, 1901:August 1, 1992) who served as director of the United States Geological Survey from 1956 to 1965. This was extraordinary! Henry G. Ferguson had been a long:time employee of the USGS and was well:liked and highly respected by his colleagues. At the time of his death the Henry Gardiner Ferguson Fellowship had been established at his alma mater, Yale University. It is still conferred today. But how did Thomas Nolan know about Alice and her paintings? Further research revealed that Nolan was a "birder" and had for many years joined Fergie and friends at Hard Bargain Farm for the annual Christmas bird count. It is likely that he knew the Southwestern landscapes Alice painted and had met her in that region.

Thus in coming home from the "Wonderland" of eBay, this painting has been and can continue to be a catalyst for further inquiry into the creative life of Alice and Fergie. It may lead to the discovery of further works of art. Its story may help us to learn and understand more about these two interesting and still somewhat unknown souls whose lives and actions formed Hard Bargain Farm and made it the place of wonder it remains today.

  • The Mogollon District, New Mexico, by Henry G. Ferguson, 1921, USGS, Bull 715:171:204
  • Geology and Ore Deposits of the Mogollon Mining District, New Mexico by Henry G. Ferguson, 1927, USGS Bull 787

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Capital Improvements : Culvert Project
By Karen Jensen Miles Culvert
As part of a renewed effort to improve the roads at Hard Bargain Farm, we have just completed a Herculean project to replace three culverts at the hairpin turn on the upper road. The project was one of several at the Farm funded by a NPS:Interior Department Grant. Bowling Brothers Excavating of La Plata, MD, spent nine days digging; placing culvert piping and concrete end walls; refilling; packing; seeding; laying Curlex; driving 8' sections of old telephone poles to keep vehicles from sliding down the steep embankment; laying down CR6; grading and packing the new road section. It was a very interesting process to watch and hopefully, will stand us in good stead for decades to come.

Culvert Casualty
Casualty of culvert project : the lumber of this tree will be
milled and used for future building projects on the Farm


My Week on Hog Island
By Brenda Wright
Hog Island
Brenda (on the right) at Audubon camp in Maine

As a child, I never had the opportunity to go to camp and I certainly did not expect to do so as an adult. I am very grateful to the Southern Maryland Audubon Society for granting me the opportunity to attend the Educators Workshop at Hog Island Camp in Muscongus Bay, Maine. It was an experience I did not expect.

Each day started with a bird walk at 6:00 a.m. As a novice birder, I was surprised to find out that bird walks don't necessarily involve a lot of walking. Our group spent most of the time sitting on the porch with binoculars in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. Our amazing guide Tom identified all the different birds fluttering around in spruce, apple and birch trees. (I can finally add some warblers to my list, including the Blackburnian.)

The week was full of amazing opportunities to discover, explore and learn about the natural history of the Maine Coast. An extensive nature walk through the spruce forest and the exploration of several intertidal pools were two of our more interesting and educational activities. During a trip to a nearby island to see puffins and razor bills, we were fortunate to also see a colony of harbor seals and porpoises swimming around our boat. Seeing these animals in the wild was a definite WOW moment for me.

During all the educational sessions the same theme kept recurring: the need to get children outside and use all their senses in the natural world around them. After my experiences at Hog Island I feel very excited about getting back to work and put what I have learned into action with all the children that visit Hard Bargain Farm.

Too quickly the week came to an end. On the last night we shared a special meal, fresh lobster right out of Muscongus Bay—what could be better than that? The next morning we said good bye to Hog Island and all of its beauty, wildlife, and wonder. It is a place I will never forget and hope to be able to visit again someday.

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