Title Vol. XXXI, No. 1                                                                                                             February 2011

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
  • 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
Interim Executive Director
  • Libby Campbell
  • Matt Alcide, Development Associate
  • Ann Bodling, Naturalist
  • Chelsea Borchini, Naturalist
  • Tracy Bowen, Consultant
  • Sylvia Brown, Community Outreach
  • Sara Campbell, Naturalist
  • Laura Chamberlin, TFPWI Manager
  • Lane Elson, Farm Associate
  • Katrina Fauss, BTW Field Study Coordinator
  • Tom Frezza, BTW Educator
  • Laura A. Gillespie, Web Designer/Editor, BTW
  • Christa Haverly, Outreach Coordinator
  • Colleen Higgins, CBT CC Intern
  • Becky Horner, PRWC Coordinator
  • Aroni Johnson, BTW Educator
  • Rosalie LaMonica, Development Director
  • Wendy Lind, Office Administrator
  • Deanna Lutz, Financial Administrator
  • Tawna Mertz, Consultant, TKM Marketing, Inc.
  • Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director
  • Tyler Mullan, BTW Educator
  • Helen Nelson, CPA, Accountant
  • Chris Ordiway, Naturalist
  • Carol Park, Database Specialist
  • Natalie Perez, Naturalist
  • Sharon Rabie, Naturalist
  • Linda Ries, BTW Educator
  • Elizabeth Rives, BTW Educator
  • Keith Roumfort, BTW Educator
  • Doris Sharp, Arts & Publications Coordinator
  • Chris Sharpe, BTW Intern
  • Ashlea Smith, TFPWI Coordinator
  • Jodie Abbott Standish, Web Designer
  • Bill Townsend, Naturalist
  • Jeanne Troy, Program Director, BTW
  • Eileen Watts, Program Director/ Farm Manager
  • Becky Williams, Naturalist
  • Brenda Wright, Naturalist
  • Jonathan Wright, Maintenance Associate





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!





Snowy Road.  Photo by Bill Townsend In this cold and stormy season AFF staff are keeping warm by keeping busy. Though field studies are fewer, everyone is meeting, planning and dreaming of all the outdoor things we will be doing in the spring. Read below to see what is happening at AFF this winter.


Change of Leadership at AFF

Tracy Bowen.  Photo by Doris Sharp After twelve years as Executive Director, Tracy Bowen is stepping down to devote more time to her family. In her tenure Tracy has brought new programs, new funding and new vision to the Foundation. Tracy always has held Hard Bargain Farm and its historic legacy dear to her heart and nurtured the onsite education program as the core of AFF and its mission. She has also led AFF in very new and different directions, most notably the Trash:Free Potomac Watershed Initiative (TFPWI), now in its 6th year, and the planned Living Buildings to replace the aging Wareham Lodge. These bold steps showed Tracy's unique style of leadership as she guided AFF to the goal of becoming the pre:eminent environmental organization in the Potomac watershed. Tracy will be sorely missed by staff, board and all of the many partners who developed strong ties to AFF through Tracy's gift of engaging people in all of the AFF programs.

The Board of Directors is currently engaged in an extensive search for our new Executive Director.

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Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Potomac Watershed Cleanup 2011
Saturday April 9th, from 9:00 : noon

By Becky HornerBye Bye Beer Can.  Photo by Emily Wander

It's that time of the year again folks! Site Registration for The PRWC is now open. Each year many of you have joined us streamside in your favorite creek, park, or road to help pick up the plastic bags, bottles, cigarette butts, and tires. It is your passion and dedication that keeps us moving towards our "Trash Free" goal. Please visit www.potomaccleanup.org to find out more about the Cleanup, including the dates of site leader trainings and how to find a Cleanup site near you.

MLK Day of Service Volunteers.  Photo by AFF Trash Team
MLK Day of Service after the cleanup.  Photo by AFF Trash Team
MLK Day of Service Volunteers.  Photo by AFF Trash Team

With winter shifting into high gear, we want you to envision all of these weather obstacles as more of a "spring training": snow shoveling to strengthen your muscles, walking on the ice to better your balance, and withstanding the cold temperatures to increase your resistance to weather—all of which is preparing you to be the strongest cleanup volunteers the Potomac Watershed has ever faced!

This winter there is even more that you can do to help. The Maryland General Assembly will consider legislation to put a five:cent fee on single:use plastic and paper shopping bags. As with the bag fee in Washington, DC, the proceeds will support restoration of impaired waterways in the state, including the Potomac River. We have a goal of collecting 30,000 signatures in support of this bill by March. Please visit www.trashfreemaryland.org for information on how you can help!

Trash Free Deanwood's MLK Day of Service was a huge success! Five vacant lots were transformed from litter hot spots to wonderful starting points for community green spaces this spring. Thank you to Washington Gardener magazine and America the Beautiful for providing our volunteers with seeds to start for spring!


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Boardwalk Across the Accokeek Creek Wetland in Construction Phase
By Karen Miles

Boardwalk bird's eye view. AFF Archives
Boardwalk construction.  Photo by Karen Miles
Boardwalk construction.  Photo by Karen Miles

At long last, the much used and much loved boardwalk across the Accokeek Creek, marsh and swamp is under reconstruction! Folks at National Capital Parks:East (National Park Service) have requested funds for this for several years now:and received it just in the nick of time. Under the watchful eyes of an NPS project supervisor, Garcete Construction is replacing rotted pilings, stringers and decking. Care is being taken to minimize any damage to surrounding habitat. It will remain in the existing footprint of the old one and no large equipment is being used.

The new boardwalk will have railings that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act 201 Standards for Accessible Design. There will also be two "bumpouts", extended areas for group discussion and observation of the natural areas and the new living shoreline restoration. Another exciting addition will be a ramp that leads from the boardwalk to the sand beach near the smaller tidal gut at the NE end. Three informative and beautiful 24" x 42" signs that were designed as part of the living shoreline restoration requirements will be placed along the boardwalk upon completion.

For protection from dangerous conditions during the construction phase, the board walk will be off:limits until work is completed sometime in April of this year. That is a small price to pay for a new, safe walking area that should last for decades.


Farm Update
by Eileen Watts, Farm Manager

Cattle.  Photo by Doris Sharp The year ended with a big chill but thankfully no snow. Our goal with the grass:feeding of the beef cattle (now numbering 25) was met:no supplemental hay until after the first of the year. This is a significant improvement over previous years. The cost of hay for these animals has been nearly cut in half. Last year, heavy snow flattened and essentially ruined the grass for grazing for the remainder of winter. We fed a lot of hay then.

Four good sized "grass finished" steers went to Mt. Airy for processing. Half of the meat was sold ahead of time as quarters or halves. The remaining beef is in freezers here and is for sale. I would prefer to sell it in bundles of 10 lbs. or more, consisting of 60% burger and 40% other cuts. This will enable us to keep the price at $6.00/lb. Steaks and roasts are available but will be priced higher (most will be $10/lb.). Grass:fed beef as opposed to grain:fed is leaner (a very good thing!), yet it's still very tender and flavorful. You must try it!

We also have many tender and flavorful pastured broilers for sale. They range in size from 3.5 to about 5.5 lbs. apiece for $3.50/lb. For inquiries please email to [email protected].


Hands:On Conservation
By Chris Ordiway Wood Duck.  Photo by Bill Townsend

We're very fortunate at Hard Bargain Farm to have a beautiful piece of property to live, work and play upon. We also have a responsibility to take care of the land we enjoy and to preserve it for the future. Several conservation projects were begun in 2010 and a few more are taking shape for 2011.

Dora Tak helps putting wood duck boxes.  Photo by Chris Ordiway In 2010 the Farm received a gift of American Chestnut trees that were planted around the property late in the spring. Some didn't survive the dry summer but, with luck, the rest will make it through the winter and leaf out when warm weather returns. We also received a donation of eight wood boxes with all accessories from the Maryland Wood Duck Initiative last spring. They were installed with the help of volunteer Eudora Tak, my unofficial natural resources assistant and daughter extraordinaire. The boxes weren't used by ducks in 2010 but are in good locations and will probably attract some takers later this year. And finally, as 2010 drew to a close, a number of invasive plants were identified as problems on the property that need to be addressed sooner than later. We've been battling them for years in spurts and bursts but without the concerted effort required to really get rid of them. So we're working harder to coordinate our efforts so we can more effectively tackle the problem in 2011.

New projects for 2011 include an expansion of our nesting box trail for Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows (donations of materials or boxes are much appreciated!); some small unused areas around the property will be set aside for wildlife habitat, and lastly, a small field will be turned into a "Pollinator Acre" to help the beneficial insects that do the hard work of pollinating so many of the foods we enjoy. Stay tuned during 2011 for updates on these new projects.


Christmas Bird Count
By Chris Ordiway

Cardinal on fence.  Photo by Scott Greene Christmas Bird Count fell on Sunday, January 2nd this year, making for a busy weekend. On Saturday, January 1st I spent the day with family birding from pre:sunrise to sunset, starting at Point Lookout State Park in southern St. Mary's county and ending back at home in Accokeek. After a day like that it was tough to get up and listen for owls early the next day. I did hear two Great Horned owls but never heard a Barred owl, which I usually get for the count. It was a sign for the way the day would run.

Joining me this year was my long:time birding buddy Melissa Boyle, coworkers Ann Bodling and Christa Haverly, as well as Roberta Ross (the only brave soul to join me during last year's frigid Christmas Count). We started shortly after sunrise and overall had a very pleasant day. Unfortunately it just wasn't a very "birdy" day. We had good numbers of Carolina Chickadees (64), Downy Woodpeckers (12) and Mallards (146) but low numbers of some regulars like Mourning Dove (3), American Wigeon (2) and White:Breasted Nuthatch (5). We did enjoy two flyover groups of Tundra Swans that totaled 25, and 10 Bald Eagles, 5 of which we saw all at once over Piscataway Creek.

All of the teams that cover the Ft. Belvoir quad, which includes Hard Bargain Farm, had low numbers of many regular, easy finds. The wastewater treatment plant team had all of the waterfowl that the rest of us couldn't find, and a new husband and wife team found the coveted Red:Headed Woodpeckers aplenty along the hiker/biker trail in Charles County. The weather was certainly a contributing factor but you do what you can with whatever kind of day Mother Nature gives you.

If you would like to get involved in some citizen science check into the upcoming May counts at the Southern Maryland Audubon Society (SMAS) webpage: www.somdaudubon.org. Or, if snakes, frogs and salamanders are your thing, check into the new Maryland Amphibian & Reptile Atlas (MARA) at www.marylandnature.org/mara. There will be things to do starting in February.

Geese. Photo by Bill Townsend

Duck Caught in Fishing Gear

Brenda holding duck.  Photo by Chris Ordiway Walking along our Potomac River shoreline on an icy morning, staff spotted a Scaup (duck) struggling terribly. From a distance, we could see that he was tangled in fishing line. At a closer look we discovered that the fishing hook was lodged in the nare (nostril) of his beak. We carefully removed it, and he was very happy to get back on the river.

Fishing line, carelessly left behind on the shore, has been a long:existing problem. Over the years we encountered many water birds caught in fishing line and most of them ultimately died. We are pleased that this time the story had a happy ending.

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

Fort Foote Elementary School Environmental Club Visits Hard Bargain Farm
by Brenda Wright

Students particpating in the Great Terrain Robbery.  Photo by Doris Sharp A group of students from Forte Foote Elementary school visited Hard Bargain Farm in December. Their teacher, Lisa Weber, attended our teacher institute in July 2010 and was determined to get her students to HBF. She applied for and received a grant through the Chesapeake Bay Trust and was able to make this happen.

The students arrived very excited and ready to learn. They asked great questions and had very good ideas about taking action in their own community. It was obvious that they had done some research before visiting the Farm.

They participated in two classes: Rivers and Action and The Great Terrain Robbery. The Rivers in Action lesson is very hands:on where the students are asked to create a community within a watershed along the banks of a river. It was intriguing to see these kids become community planners and discuss the impact of putting houses right on the shoreline or the landfill too close to the water.

The Great Terrain Robbery is a very visual lesson about runoff. The students were given four different surfaces: grass, bare soil, mulch, and asphalt. They were asked to come up with a hypothesis about which surface will have the most runoff. Using the scientific process, they discussed the variables and constants in the scenario and then poured water on each surface. Once all the waters were collected, the students had an interesting discussion about the importance of controlling runoff.

The time passed very quickly and the students did not want to leave. However, they are looking forward to their return trip in May to explore Piscataway Bay by way of canoe. Environmental Education is fun and rewarding for both the teachers and the students.


Hard Bargain Farm Children's Garden
by Ann Bodling

Children's Garden. Photo by Ann Bodling
Children's Garden. Photo by Ann Bodling

As Hard Bargain Farm heads into a new year, I am pleased to report that our new Children's Garden has become an integral part of our agricultural and environmental teaching and outreach at the farm. Through lessons taught by the naturalists and first:hand experience in the garden, we hope to provide students with an expanded understanding of where their food comes from and what is needed for its production. We want them to realize that our soil and its care are fundamental for all of life, that caring for the land ensures an ongoing food supply and that when they bite into their sandwich, crunch on their chips or take a drink from their juice boxes, they are being nourished by what the earth and human labor that have provided.

Thanks to a start:up grant from the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, we have begun working the ground and erecting deer fencing in preparation for the coming growing season. The number of overnight students who have been exposed to and worked in the new Children's Garden, has been impressive, totaling 450 5th grade students from 13 different schools. These students have pitched in to help spread manure and compost, remove rocks from the tilled beds, and plant our garlic and though some were initially hesitant to work with the "dirty" materials of manure, compost and the soil itself, in the end all seemed to enjoy what, for many, was their first experience in a garden setting. Though the lay of the land at the garden site is not what we would have chosen (it is significantly sloped), it has been useful in discussing the concepts of watersheds, water movement and the threat of soil erosion

Though snow now blankets the ground and the newly planted black raspberries and garlic are sleeping snugly in their beds, the work of thinking about spring planting continues in earnest. In the coming months we plan to erect deer and groundhog fencing; purchase needed seeds, equipment, supplies and soil amendments; build or purchase a shed; create a seed starting area; get busy planning our crop rotations and plant seeds that will become our transplants in time. We also plan to write up additional garden lessons for teachers to use in their classrooms as follow up to their Hard Bargain Farm visit and may include some of these on our website.

We are looking forward to showing you around our new children's garden at the Spring Farm Festival and hope you will stop in.


Family Summer Camp This Summer

The Wareham Lodge in Winter.  Photo by Libby Campbell AFF is delighted to announce the first ever Family Camp at Hard Bargain Farm this summer, supported by the National Harbor Community Outreach Grant Fund from The Community Foundation for Prince George's County. Students from Prince George's County who participate in the Hard Bargain Environmental Center or Bridging the Watershed program through their schools will be invited to spend a night in our lodge, having fun in the fields and garden, cooking dinner by the campfire, and otherwise enjoying our beautiful site. A wide variety of activities will be offered by our educators, as well as park rangers and other local professionals. If this pilot project is a success, more family campouts will be in our future. Keep an eye out for more information!

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Fergie's Gardeners
by Betsy Reid

Libby Campbell made her Chrismas wreath On December 2, Fergie's Gardeners created approximately twenty beautiful holiday wreaths. Many were sold and the proceeds are supporting the historic gardens. The wreaths were also used to decorate the farmhouse and brought holiday cheer to many private homes in the area.

The gardens are napping for the winter, but not Fergie's Gardeners. The garden club is ringing in the New Year with a packed calendar of events. Highlights include:

February is for planning our own native gardens in preparation for spring planting. We will have consultants to assist with plant selection and design suggestions.

In March we will learn about native butterflies and how to attract them to our gardens.

In April we will hear from the Southern Maryland Bee Keepers and learn how we can protect and support honey bees.

On May 7, Fergie's Gardeners will hold their annual plant sale during the Spring Farm Festival. Customers will receive consultation on garden problems and tips for successful planting.

Our educational meetings are open to everyone and membership in our garden club supports the improvement and maintenance of the historic gardens at the Ferguson farmhouse. Contact Mary Lee Phelps at [email protected] for information or visit our website at www.gardenclub.fergusonfoundation.org.


A Special Report on the Blue Rhinoceros

Blue Rhinoceros
Blue Rhinoceros, 1937, by Lenore Thomas Straus
Glazed brick, 10 feet

The much:loved Blue Rhino is in need of TLC and your support!

Visitors to Hard Bargain Farm have long loved and enjoyed the large blue rhino crouching in the field near the Farmhouse. But few know much about it. Research by Linda Simmons, Curator Emerita Corcoran Gallery—who has consulted on art matters for the Alice Ferguson Foundation—now can tell the interesting story of this sculpture and how it came to be at Hard Bargain.

In her report Simmons notes: "This work of art is one of the most interesting and among the important pieces in the collection at Hard Bargain Farm... a hefty, humorous sentry to a creative legacy, a physical reminder of the shared interests and impulses of Alice Ferguson and Lenore Thomas, two women artists who played significant roles in the creative life of Hard Bargain Farm. Blue Rhinoceros is simply unforgettable and remains for many the image of their time at Hard Bargain."

The rhinoceros is the creation of Lenore Thomas Straus (1909:1988), a prolific New Deal artist commissioned to create various sculptures for the school and Public Square of nearby Greenbelt, Maryland, a community designed and built during the New Deal. Straus lived and had her studio in the Moyaone Reserve and was a friend of Alice and Henry Ferguson. Their portraits by her grace the gateposts nearby the Blue Rhinoceros and other arts works by her are in the AFF collections.

Part of Straus'work in Greenbelt during the 1930s included the creation of a series of animal sculptures including one of a rhinoceros which was never installed there or at any other New Deal sites. Rather than leave the rhino to languish in storage the artist brought the numbered pieces to Hard Bargain Farm. Photographs from the AFF archives show the sculpture being erected by Lenore (dark jacket and white pants) and others during the fall or winter. Oral tradition recounts how empty bottles from the wine, liquor or champagne consumed as they worked, were tossed in the sculpture's interior cavity.

Construction of rhinoceros
Blue Rhinoceros being erected at Hard Bargain Farm

The Government Services Administration (GSA) is responsible for art works created as part of New Deal projects of the Roosevelt administration (1933:1943). That art remains the property of the federal government. This does not, however mean that the GSA intends to reclaim or retrieve New Deal art work housed in non:federal repositories:museums, educational institutions, etc. AFF acknowledges that Blue Rhinoceros belongs to the Federal Government and is currently in contact with the GSA to formalize the necessary long:term loan agreement. At its annual meeting in November, the Arts Committee made the Blue Rhinoceros a top priority for 2011. Donations for its restoration have already been received from AFF members Bud Biles, Linda Simmons, and Lynn R. Hickerson.

The Blue Rhinoceros Project includes the following elements:

  • Finalization of a long:term loan agreement between the GSA and the AFF
  • Preparation of a plan and budget for conservation and long:term care of the Blue Rhinoceros, including landscaping and security elements for the sculpture's surrounding area
  • Outreach to donors and grant makers for financial support
  • Implementation of these plans

We hope everyone who knows and loves this remarkable sculpture will lend their support to this project and eagerly look forward to the great things to come in the arts at Hard Bargain Farm.

Theater in the Woods

Hard Bargain Amphitheater.  Photo by Doris SharpThe Hard Bargain Players proudly announce the 2011 season:

By Susan Cooper and Hume Cronyn
Dave Costa, Director
June 3:18

Fat Pig
By Neil Labute
Melissa Gilpin, Director
August 5:20

Rocky Horror Show
By Richard O'Brien
Michael Margelos, Director
October 7:22

For more information visit www.hbplayers.org. The dates for the Children's Theater Workshop and the Concert in the Woods series will be announced soon. Stay tuned!

An Icy Day at Hard Bargain Farm

Have a seat and chill out.  Photo by Chris Ordiway
Keeping a cool head.  Photo by Chris Ordiway Keeping a cool head.  Photo by Chris Ordiway


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