Vol. XXXII, No. 1
In This IssueWHAT'S HAPPENING? NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE: Environmental Education at AFF TRASH FREE BY 2013! HARD BARGAIN FARM THE ARTS AT HARD BARGAIN FARM HISTORY CORNER
The Alice Ferguson Foundation was established in 1954 as a nonprofit 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."
Calendar of Events
Board of Directors
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!
Love is in the air this time of year and there are many ways in which to share and celebrate it. In this edition of Hard Bargain News learn more about Alice and Henry Ferguson's own love story; discover a special way to celebrate Valentine's Day thanks to a fungus focus by Fergie's Gardeners; and share your love of the Alice Ferguson Foundation by supporting our efforts.†
And we love what the future holds too! We are making great progress on the much anticipated Potomac Watershed Study Center and we are also preparing for our annual Membership Meeting, where we will celebrate the lives of three remarkable local, far:sighted ladies, Thelma Gasparovic, Belva Jensen and Nancy Wagner. Please mark your calendar for March 18th for this honors:filled, information:sharing, neighborhood gathering, and also be sure to check out the just:announced summer season for our very own Hard Bargain Players.
When Henry Met Alice
The annual celebration of Valentine's Day prompted us to wonder about the romance of the courtship and marriage of Alice and Henry, affectionately known as "Fergie," once owners of Hard Bargain Farm and eternal residents here :: yes, the mortal remains of both are interred in the Farmhouse garden. How did they meet, when were they married and where did they honeymoon? One might think these questions impossible to answer even though Alice and Henry did not live that long ago; she died in 1951 and he in 1966. The couple had no children, only a few people alive today knew them, and so far as can be determined, virtually no one has been found who knew them over a century ago when they were young. So, how can we learn anything about their meeting, courtship and marriage? The answer to such questions has been found very close at hand, at Hard Bargain Farm in the archival records of the Alice Ferguson Foundation.
Among the fascinating items found there are assorted photographs, albums, etc. from Edith Lowe, Alice's sister. Some visitors to the farmhouse at Hard Bargain may recollect being told that one wing (today offices) was once called Edith's wing. This is where she had a bedroom and bath when she stayed at the Farm. Edith and Alice were close all their lives and Henry continued to care for and support his sister:in:law after Alice's death. When Edith died she willed her papers and among them is a large scrapbook of family photographs where she discussed in a running narrative the people depicted as well as some of the events in their lives. Not long after the first page is found the story of how and when Henry met Alice:
When the dancing club met at our house various gentlemen were presented to us, including a Mr. Ferguson and a Mr. Mendenhall and others, but nothing at all was said of anything serious. We were a little surprised then at Christmastime for three packages to come to Alice. The first one six roses, the fragrance from which filled the house; the second one three high:bred apples in a beautiful carton; third, six dozen roses. The fragrance from these just as fine as the first six...
The significance of the roses is easily understood as expressing Henry's love for Alice but the three apples seem puzzling to a twenty:first century audience many of whom have never received the type of classical education which Henry and Alice must have been given. It is likely that Henry in sending apples to Alice was declaring his love as the ancient Greeks would have, using the apple to represent his declaration of love. But he was stating more than his love by sending her three apples. In Greek mythology three apples represented a declaration of marriage. They referred to the legend of Atalanta and Hippomenes in which Atalanta, a beautiful, athletic woman agreed to marry any man who could defeat her in a foot race. Hippomenes, a suitor, prayed to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to help him win that race. Aphrodite gave him three golden apples to toss in Atalanta's path to distract and slow her each time she stopped to pick it up. He won the race and his bride. Edith notes that later in the spring Alice announced:
Mr. Ferguson and I decided to get married last night.
Then Edith added her own comment:
The apples had won.
The couple planned a September 14th wedding to be conducted at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. by the groom's father, Dr. Henry Ferguson, an Episcopalian minister. A number of pre:wedding parties were held including one at the Powhatan Club where Edith noted much of the courting had taken place. That party, with Mrs. Vaughan Ferguson as chaperon, included "a delightful afternoon on the river and a bountiful dinner out:of:doors at the Midriver Club" before the young men returned to the city and the young ladies "had a very delightful night and a splendid day, going back to the city barely in time for" a dinner hosted by the groom's father.
The wedding, the next day, on Monday was reported to be a quiet affair:
Alice never looked so pretty as then in an old rose silk with Mother's Fayal lace shawl draped across it.
There were: no official bridesmaids, but her friends shown to the front pew. There followed a wedding breakfast... Finally the assembled guests were told by the best man they could not shower the departing couple with rice: It's no use waiting. She just will not come down.
But Alice and Henry did depart on a trip soon after. Two weeks before the wedding on September 2nd Henry had applied for a passport stating that he was going abroad with Alice and also stating he was taking a year's leave from the United States Geological Service. Although no itinerary was given the trip concluded along the east coast of South America. The couple is recorded as sailing to the United States from Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, February 1915 on the S.S. Vasari of the Holt and Lamport Line. Their arrival in the port of New York City on March 15th is noted on the ship's passenger list.
We can only speculate about the significance of their choice of vessels for this final leg of the trip. It is not likely to have escaped their notice that the vessel's name, Vasari, is the same as that of the famous 16th:century Italian, long renowned for his artist's biographies that provided the ideological foundation of the field of art history. Alice, a professionally trained painter, must have read Vasari's Lives and even though she could not have known of the full artistic and creative life that lay ahead of her and Henry at Hard Bargain Farm it is likely the newlyweds might have found it amusing to sail home to their new life together on such a prophetically named vessel.
WHAT'S HAPPENING?†Potomac Watershed Study Complex
By Lori Arguelles
At AFF, we are privileged to be the beneficiary of the vision and legacy of the love that Alice and Fergie had for each other and for their land. And we are privileged to extend their vision and embrace the very greenest of building standards as we prepare to construct our Potomac Watershed Study Center. These buildings are designed to meet the Living Building Challenge and will be among the most energy efficient and progressive ever to be built.
In keeping with the Foundation's mission, our high:performance green buildings will work in harmony with nature, allowing us to make use of the sun and rain to achieve a no net energy, no net water and carbon neutral facility.
The Moss building will replace our current lodge and its roof will gather rain that will be purified for use in both buildings. In addition, the surrounding landscape will channel and filter stormwater runoff and gray water from sinks and showers to help recharge the underground aquifers. The Grass Building will be located at the sunny edge of a field, its roof spreading out like wings to collect solar energy for the entire complex. A boardwalk across the marshy wetlands on Bryan Point Road and two additional sleeping cabins will round out the Center.
These new buildings will allow AFF to once again provide summer camps for children, host summer teacher institutes and school outreach programs as well as benefits for the local community including space for classes, workshops, meetings and other events. We look forward to sharing the knowledge that we've gained thus far in the design process and are committed to sharing our experiences as we prepare to begin construction. We expect to break ground in the spring of 2012 and look forward to keeping all of you informed of our progress and engaged in our efforts.
TRASH FREE BY 2013!
What do we need in order to achieve a trash:free Potomac watershed? AFF believes we need institutions, infrastructure, and policies in place that will reduce litter at its source and change behavior, leading to a lasting solution to litter. One example of these policies is the five:cent bag fee on single:use bags that would reduce the use of plastic bags in the watershed. The District of Columbia has led the way with this fee and Montgomery County began using a similar approach at the beginning of this year. Businesses are saving money, residents are changing their behavior, and litter is being reduced.
A similar statewide bag fee is being considered during this year's legislative session in Maryland, with the Community Cleanup and Greening Act. Please join us in support of this effort by contacting your state representatives. A quick phone call is most valuable, but you can also sign this online petition. To stay up:to:date on progress of the legislation and to learn how you can help go to www.trashfreemaryland.org.
In 2010 and 2011, our Potomac River Watershed Cleanup volunteers found less plastic bags in the District of Columbia. We hope to continue to see similar reductions in the Cleanup this year. Join us on April 14th for the 24th annual Cleanup at your favorite place and collect valuable data for tracking litter in the watershed. For more information about becoming a site leader or to volunteer go to www.potomaccleanup.org.
NO CHILD LEFT INSIDE: Environmental Education at the Alice Ferguson Foundation
During the fall 2011 field study season, Bridging the Watershed (BTW) had a fantastic opportunity to help re:introduce outdoor education for North Hagerstown High. Through a Park Stewards grant, teacher Wendy Fraker and National Park Service Ranger Debbie Mills at Catoctin Mountain Park gathered fifty students to spend two days at Camp Greentop (in Catoctin Mountain Park) and experience the outdoors. Learning how to identify invasive plant species they worked with Natural Resource Rangers to... spray and pull Japanese barberry, an invasive species.
The students spent the night in the cabin camps (built by the Works Progress Administration), experienced the outdoors and the joys of cabin camping. The next morning, BTW educators helped them to explore the nearby streams and discover the macroinvertebrate communities within. They had a wonderful time identifying and discovering the vast amounts of stoneflies, crayfish, mayflies, hellgrammites and more (a rogue, wandering chicken even joined in the fun). These high school students will get a chance to teach middle school students about invasive species they learned about and get to accompany them to the park. It was an extraordinary chance for BTW, in partnership with the National Park Service, to try something a bit different and be part of the students'great experience. We are looking forward to building on this program with Catoctin Mountain Park.
I'm sure there is some old saying about gardeners never suspending their gardening efforts during winter; they just transition from working the soil to working their brains. If there isn't such a saying, there should be. Such is the case with the Children's Garden and gardener as we look to the coming growing season with anticipation and excitement. Thanks to the original grant from Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, the garden got off to an outstanding year of production and education for the 3850 students and 670 adults who have visited our plots since their inception during the fall of 2010.
Though the garden is now sleeping peacefully under its blankets of mulch and cover crops, the tiny soil organisms that do the bulk of the work of providing nutrients to our plants continue to be hard at work. We have supplied them with ... abundant organic matter and they will ingest, break down and make available that same matter in forms that will best feed this coming season's plants. Now and then, when I lift and peek under the mulches of cardboard and old hay, I invariably find the soil surface riddled with tiny tunnels and holes that have been created by worms and other garden fauna going about their business even in the depths of winter. Those tunnels and holes will provide channels for plant roots and the castings will improve the soil's tilth and structure, as well as allowing oxygen and moisture to better penetrate the soil.
We hope to add some new plantings to the garden this season, especially small fruits and nuts are working on an expanded herb area that will enable students to wander and smell to their heart's content. Supporting wildlife in the garden is an important component of our mission and we are also planning on adding additional plants for native pollinators and beneficial insects, and erecting and maintaining bluebird houses in time for the birds to find and claim them before nesting season begins.
There is always something happening in a garden, whether immediately obvious or not. This winter, in addition to all the soil fauna, we are hosting a myriad of mockingbirds, bluebirds, goldfinches, chickadees, titmice, robins, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, juncos and crows...and those are only the birds that I have seen when I am there or passing by. It is an honor and a joy to witness and to provide for the life that comes and makes use of this patch of land, even during the "off season" and I look forward to spring when all will be busyness and song in the garden once again.
HARD BARGAIN FARM
This mild winter weather is to everyone's liking but the punch could still come. Some frozen ground would make farm work easier. Two new beef calves arrived in January, beating winter to its punch, if it comes.
This is the time to think about re:seeding
Our grass:fed beef supply for the year was picked up from the butcher in December. About 75% of the meat was quickly sold, much of which became Christmas gifts. There is plenty left for sale as individual pieces, combination packs, and quarters. Frozen broilers are available as well, and our layer hens are picking up speed in egg production. Check us out on the web site or phone the office 301.292.5665.hay fields and pastures. Overseeding any of our fields with a legume such as white or red clover is a good idea. It is best done when there is a light snow on the field. Not only can the farmer see where he's driven, but as the snow melts the small seed is carried down to the soil. Daily freezing and thawing of the soil effectively works the seed in for good germination.
Orchardgrass is so palatable to animals as pasture or hay that it is definitely worth an increased effort to preserve it. Other suggested strategies for farmers is to try new seed varieties; plant mixtures of seeds rather than pure stands; choose the best fields; be observant about insects and disease and get them identified by a laboratory; practice crop rotation if necessary; and keep the cutter bar high when making hay.
Hard Bargain Farm has a long history of "birdbrains" ever since Henry G. Ferguson. Are you one of them? I am and happily so. To help further the tradition of birding I recently led a mixed flock of birders around Hard Bargain Farm and Piscataway Park. The hike was hosted by both Southern Maryland Audubon Society and the Audubon Naturalist Society... and consisted of eleven friendly folks. Some were familiar faces and some hadn't been to, or probably even heard of, Accokeek before. After a short visit to the Wharf Road boat launch we spent the remainder of our morning walking around Piscataway Park and Hard Bargain Farm. Considering it was the third week of January, we had delightful weather with no more to deal with than a chilly breeze. A few of our group were rewarded with Life birds (a species one has never seen before) and we were all tickled to see numerous Red:Headed woodpeckers and Bald eagles. The find of the day was four American Pipits foraging in the lower farm fields. The last time I spotted one was three or four years ago in the same field on another SMAS/ANS hike I was leading. The day ended with a traditional snack made by a fellow birder (delicious pumpkin bread). If you'd like to become a "birdbrain", check out the Southern Maryland Audubon Society website www.somdaudubon.org for future hikes and meetings. We'd love to see you!
THE ARTS AT HARD BARGAIN FARM
Even in winter, Fergie's Gardeners are actively learning and planning for the upcoming spring. This season we are presenting two programs by local experts.
On February 14, Bill Suworoff, expert Moyaone forager, will share insights into hunting mushrooms in our woods. Bill will talk about how to find the tasty treasures and how to stay healthy by avoiding the dangerous ones. Valentine treats will be served.
On March 13, Shane LaBrake, expert gardener, will help us get our gardens ready for spring planting. Shane will talk about the care and feeding of the soil to ensure a bountiful harvest and will share valuable tips and information.
Both programs will be held at the Farmhouse at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome. If you would like to attend RSVP at 301.292.5665. Space is limited.
The Hard Bargain Players will have another exciting season this year starting in June at the wonderful outdoors Amphitheater at Hard Bargain Farm. They also are planning on a Theater Workshop for kids this summer culminating in a performance, which will be held in July.
Stay tuned for more information on the Children's Theater Workshop.
Three plays are on the program:
The Players welcome everybody to participate. If you are interested in auditions or to volunteer find more information at www.hbplayers.org.