Hard Bargain News: Newsletter of the Alice Ferguson Foundation
Vol. XXXII, No. 4                                                                                                    September 2012
In This Issue
Back to School
School Supplies
The Strudel Queen
Get Active With Trash
Pirates in the Garden
Farm Corner
When Henry Met Alice...29 Years Later
What a Season for the Performing Arts at Hard Bargain!
Quick Links
The Alice Ferguson Foundation's mission is to connect people to the natural world, sustainable agricultural practices and the cultural heritage of their local watershed through education, stewardship and advocacy.


Dear Friends,


The 'sights and sounds of September' are evident in my neighborhood-likely in yours as well.  They include school supplies and clothes on display in stores;  the chatter of children as they gather for the school bus early in the morning; and, of course, the ubiquitous yellow bus itself.  I look forward to seeing those buses, bursting with excited students, arriving soon at the gates of our Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center and at national parks around the region for our environmental education field studies.

Back to school is an exciting time full of anticipation of all that the coming year will hold. It is a time ripe with possibility: for learning, for knowledge, for opportunity, and for development.  For nearly 60 years the Alice Ferguson Foundation has been turning possibility into reality.  Read on to learn more and to learn how you can help. 

Lori Arguelles 
Executive Director
Alice Ferguson Foundation
"Back to School"
By Katrina Fauss and Brenda Wright

Leandra and chicken, Photo by Bill Townsend. Shopping for school supplies; meeting your teacher; learning your way around school; getting your class schedule; catching up with your friends you haven't seen all summer; getting back into the school groove...these are all the exciting things that come with-back-to-school time for most students.  The staff of the Alice Ferguson Foundation are excited as well, though for us it's a little different. It means shopping for wading boots and dip nets; meeting new naturalists and educators; finding out about changes around the Farm and parks; getting our field study schedule sorted out and getting into the field day groove.

In our Hard Bargain Farm program, we welcome new naturalist, Leandra Darden.  When she came for our staff training her goal was to hold a chicken.  During the farm tour the naturalist team approached the chicken coops, Sharon Rabie, a veteran HBF naturalists, asked her which chicken she wanted to pick up.  Leandra surveyed the coop.  Looking at the chickens that were a little scruffy, she said, "oh, none of these chickens.  I want to hold a pretty chicken." Sharon shared with her how farmers like the not so pretty chickens because they are the ones that earn their keep by working harder at producing eggs.   Leandra was appreciative of the lesson, but still decided to hold a pretty chicken. 


In our Bridging the Watershed program, we are happy to welcome new seasonal educator, Zoe Unruh.  In the interview Zoe was engaging, dynamic and energetic and she answered our questions with passion and a true sense of what it means to educate students about the natural world.  She taught a hands-on lesson about native and exotic plants.  Each of us played the part of a native or non-native plant and we gathered the energy, water, and nutrients that we need to survive.  As each round progressed it became harder and harder for the natives to survive, as it became evident when the mighty white oak tree (personified by our very own Director of Programs and Operations, Libby Campbell) literally came crashing down.  It was a wonderful kinesthetic and visual lesson about the harm that invasive plants cause to our ecosystem.  The lesson was epic to all of us in and showed Zoe's passion and ease in her teaching style.  We are excited to welcome Zoe to our team and cannot wait to fill our second seasonal educator position.


And so, as school gets underway we have dusted off our nets and boots; started creating our field study schedules and enthusiasm is running high. Our program staff is poised to educate and inspire the next generation of environmental and National Park stewards.  We are definitely ready to be "back to school."


School Supplies - Hard Bargain Farm Style
By Farley Lord Smith

Students around this region are no doubt parading through the aisles of office supply stores. If they are anything like I was at their age, they are carrying their school supply lists in hand and relishing the feeling of freshness and anticipation as they gather crisp, colorful binders, packets of ink pens, and seeking the perfectly designed notebook.


We're gathering supplies for our students, too, although they have a more-let's say-rugged flair. What's similar, though, about shopping for the students that will come to participate in our environmental education programs and those shopping for more traditional school supplies are the loving and proud people who follow the kids out of the store. Just as moms and dads make sure their children have tools for learning, our faithful members and other funders enable an amazing educational experience to happen at Hard Bargain Farm and in the region's National Parks.


Join them! Join those who follow behind the thousands of students that will benefit from the Alice Ferguson Foundation's education programs this year and help pick up what they need to come learn. Here's a list just to start:



Cost per student

Wading boots 


Water testing kit


Bus transportation


Milking cow

$15/day (to feed the cows)

Garden tools


Life jacket


Seining net






HBF students birdwatching.  Photo by Bill Townsend
Bridging the Watershed Field Study

To get in line and get behind our students, visit our donation page at http://fergusonfoundation.org/support/.  



The Strudel Queen


Oktoberfest Strudel Queen, Doris Sharp Please join the Alice Ferguson Foundation for its 32nd annual Oktoberfest on October 6th from 1-6pm at Hard Bargain Farm. For the past 25 years our Cultural Heritage Coordinator, Doris Sharp, has been an integral part in shepherding this beloved festival. We recently sat down with Doris to learn more about the history of Oktoberfest at Hard Bargain Farm and how she makes this event so special every year. Read our interview with the "Strudel Queen" below.


  1. Tell us about yourself and what you do at the Foundation.

    I started to work part time at the Foundation in 1987. The first assignment was cataloguing the books in the Ferguson collection, then I was working as a naturalist, publications specialist, head gardener of the formal gardens, coordinating Theater in the Woods and Concert in the Woods and many other tasks-in essence I was wearing many hats (sometimes the hat rack was too short!).


  3. What do you know about the history of Oktoberfest at the Foundation?

    Our Oktoberfestmeister, Stafford Allison, a Moyaone community member, presented the idea of Oktoberfest as a fundraiser to then Executive Director Kay Powell. That was thirty-two years ago. In the same community some neighbors were members of the Alt Washingtonia Schuhplattlers and that group performed at the first Oktoberfest and ever since. I've been involved with the event for 25 of those years.


  4. How has the annual Oktoberfest grown over the years you've been involved?

    When I started it was a relatively small community event.  With more and better advertising and reaching out to the DC metro area, the audience grew over the years. The record number was close to 1500 visitors.


  5. What kinds of things will guests find at Oktoberfest and what makes it so special?

    Oktoberfest means beer, bratwurst, potato salad and sauerkraut. And that is what we offer at Hard Bargain Farm.  All homemade! And not to forget the 'real' strudel now! (For the last few years we have been offering vegetarian chili as an alternative food.) We have a "Country Store" where people can buy all kinds of goodies-homemade jams, cookies, brownies and breads etc.


    Oktoberfest is a lot of fun. Besides wonderful food and imported beer (Spaten from Munich), the Alt Washintonia Schuhplattlers are sporting original Bavarian costumes and perform Bavarian and Austrian dances and music (accordion, guitars, dulcimer, tuba, alphorns, even a saw!).


  7. One of the favorite features of Oktoberfest is your homemade strudel.  How did you become the Strudel Queen?

    At the 35th anniversary of the Alice Ferguson Foundation Stafford Allison approached me and said, "You know, we serve all that excellent and delicious food and then there is that stuff they call apple strudel..."  (It was a kind of apple cake).  He didn't say any more and just looked at me.  I simply said, "Okay." Well, I have been baking apple strudels for the Oktoberfest ever since! Stafford generously provides his space and professional ovens to do that and I have an outstanding crew of helpers. Each year we bake about 75 strudels using four bushels of apples that need to be peeled and cut into pieces.  The strudel filling is made totally from scratch. From year to year our visitors are looking forward to it.


  8. What do you enjoy most about Oktoberfest?

    Oktoberfest brings people and cultures together and it gives a glimpse of the original Oktoberfest in Munich on a very small scale. (six  million people descend on Munich over the course of two weeks.)


    At the end of the day, the Schuhplattlers invite the guests onto the stage to dance with them, which is very popular with everyone, especially with the children. 


  9. What is your favorite memory of an Oktoberfest?

    My favorite memory is when my kids went on stage to dance with the Schuhplatters.  They were too shy so I had to coax them.  But then they had lots of fun.


  10. What do you look forward to this year? 

    First, of course, I hope the weather will be on our side.  Then everything will fall into place and a good time will be had by all-Hard Bargain style.

The Dancers.  Photo by Doris Sharp

Get Active With Trash


Potomac River Cleanup Slow Sign.  Photo by Susan Gowing

What do Algonquin Regional Park and ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau have in common? They are both featured on the Alice Ferguson Foundation's brand new Trash Free Potomac Network website.


The Trash Free Potomac Network is an online community that was created to connect volunteers, organizations, businesses and governments in order to address the pervasive trash problem in the Potomac region. The interactive website features information year-round about local cleanups, workshops, and trash monitoring opportunities. We encourage you to use the Network to find volunteer opportunities as well as post your own events to recruit participants and share information.


To celebrate the launch of the Trash Network, you are invited to join us for a cleanup we are hosting as part of the global effort to reduce litter on International Coastal Cleanup Day. Space is limited so please RSVP to Clara:[email protected].


What:   International Coastal Cleanup Day with AFF

Where:  Algonquin Regional Park, Sterling, VA

When:  Saturday, September 15,   9am to noon


The Trash Network also serves as a place for sustained engagement of stakeholders throughout the year and will therefore continue the momentum toward solving the trash issue addressed by our upcoming Trash Summit. Register now for the 7th Annual Trash Summit to hear from our keynote speaker, Jean-Michel Cousteau, as he will share his global perspective on how local communities can and do make a difference in trash reduction.


The Trash Free Potomac Network was made possible by support from REI. Visit  trashnetwork.fergusonfoundation.org to view or post upcoming events.


Pirates in the Garden


Children's Garden Pollinator Patch.  Photo by Laura Chamberlin Though at first glance, the Hard Bargain Farm Children's Garden appears to be a peaceful and harmonious place --- nothing could be further from the truth. First glances can be deceiving and first impressions often reflect what we hope to find, do they not? While it is true that our garden is filled with the beauty of colorful vegetables, flowers and fruit, it is also filled with menacing killers, robbers and marauders, all bent on self-serving destruction. Some of these villains have six legs, some have four and some have two, and of those who have two, some are even human. 


Cicada killers, intimidating but thankfully non-aggressive wasps burrow long, deep tunnels into the soft soil of our garden beds, filling them with stunned cicadas upon which the females lay their eggs. Robber flies, fuzzy predators with large protruding eyes, perch on the garden fence waiting for unsuspecting insect prey, and dragon flies do the same on stakes placed throughout the garden. Groundhogs breach the electric fencing from time to time, pillaging among the sweet potato vines and bush beans, and squirrels commonly survey the garden from nearby trees, assessing their chances of successful retreat, should they find a way in. Sometimes, whole families are involved in garden assaults as adults teach valuable foraging skills to their offspring. When they rightly assume that the gardener is not watching, mockingbird and crow families swoop in to maim and carry off defenseless ripe tomatoes, leaving partially-eaten ones behind to rot on the ground or become food for the ants. Small flocks of goldfinches, tufted titmice and chickadees stealthily work among the sunflowers, snatching away any seeds mature enough to provide ample nourishment.


As students return to the garden this fall, they will have opportunity to witness these "pirates of the garden" and even engage in a bit of plundering themselves. For, when you think about it, what we term "harvesting" is in fact nothing more than appropriating for our own purposes parts of the plant that would allow it to reproduce during the current season, in the case of tomatoes, peppers and beans or during the following season, in the case of carrots, beets, and potatoes. As this school year begins, we look forward to introducing students to the wonders of the natural world in our garden setting, to the food webs found there, to the many and varied pollinators that work among our plants, to the flavors and fragrances of abundant vegetables and herbs, and to the satisfaction of digging the soil and exploring its life. And we look forward to helping students realize that to garden is to be involved in a grand adventure of piracy, provision, and plenty and that doing so is within their grasp, no matter where they live.

Farm Corner
By Eileen Watts


Ticklish Cow.  Photo by Andrea Wlodarczyk In anticipation of students arriving soon, the farm part of our program is gearing up too.  The goats, sheep, donkey, Jersey cows, turkey and chickens have been waiting patiently, but one of the most important animals in a good livestock collection is the pig. Alice Ferguson, back in the 1940's, raised Berkshires, a breed that was black with white feet.  Progressive farmers, back then, were favoring leaner hogs, which Berkshires were, rather than fatter ones. Seems that about the same time lard was not in use as much, since shortening made with vegetable oils was coming into vogue and synthetic detergents were replacing lard-based soaps.  Today the most popular breed for pork production is the Yorkshire.  Our two piglets that are arriving in a few days (purchased) are a mixture of Yorkshire and Hampshire.  They have perky ears, a curious and active personality, curly tails, and a great appetite!


For Sale:
We still have grass-fed beef, processed (vacuum packed) at a local USDA certified butcher last winter.  $6.50/lb. in mixed bundles (steaks, roasts, burger) or by the piece @ varied prices.

Also, broiler chickens, whole, raised on pasture, processed on the farm.  $3.50/lb.

Now taking orders for the purchase of fresh grass-fed beef to be ready in late November.  By the quarter is preferred, but smaller quantities are available too - i.e. 15, 25, or 50 lbs.  Quarters weigh 70 to 85 lbs.  The price will be $6.50/lb.  

Contact us at [email protected] for more information.

The History Corner: When Henry Met Alice...29 Years Later
By Linda Simmons 

Alice and Henry Ferguson.  AFF Archives Alice Lowe wed Henry Ferguson in 1914. The couple began their life together with a wedding voyage to South America returning home to Washington, DC in 1915. For the next three decades they lived, worked,played and had a creative life together at their two homes on California Street in Northwest Washington and at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek, Maryland. Their personal relationship and their shared interests seem to have been many. Their affection for each other appears to have grown, not diminished with time. Some of his love poems for Alice have been recently rediscovered and are being recorded and read to find what they can reveal about these two articulate and intellectually active individuals. One dating from 1943 I found most revealing.


Nine and twenty years ago,

Two little gutter cats

Started out to see the world

In their best shoes and hats

Later we cruised the Indies

Afterward went to Spain;

Maybe the war will quit next year,

Then we can start again.

My choice would be Atlantis-

Hesprides would be swell-

But if you'd rather see Sangri-La,

Twould suit me just as well.


Their passports and other travel documents record the Fergusons' travels to not only Spain but

elsewhere including countries in Scandinavia, and for Henry, the Philippines. The itinerary he

offers Alice is revealing of their awareness of current events and thinking and if not personal at

least local and national longings.


Henry's offer to take Alice to "Sangri-La" -- his personal spelling of "Shangri-la" - tells something about the time when written than might be immediately apparent nearly 60 years later.

For the early 21st century reader the word Shangri-la still has a mysterious quality of an exotic

Utopian paradise to it. But it is unlikely to carry the same import that it did for Alice and Henry, then living in the nation's capitol during the Second World War.


The imaginary lamasery, Shangri-la had entered the American vocabulary-and imagination -  the decade following 1933 when James Hilton's novel, Lost Horizon was published. The story was made widely known and popular when in 1937 Frank Capra directed a movie based on the book.


In Lost Horizonthe story is told of a British diplomat, Hugh Conway who discovers Shangri-la,

a fictional Utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet. What he discovers there are

contented, happy inhabitants who have risen above the war below while preserving precious

elements of culture and human life. They live long, contented lives as long as they remain there

and act as stewards of the finest of world culture. Many readers found in this book an open

expression of their longing for an end to World War II and Shangri-La became a buzz word of

the current longing for peace. Henry and Alice could have known that President Franklin D.

Roosevelt renamed the presidential hideaway in rural Maryland Shangri-la. It has subsequently

been renamed Camp David.


Henry's seemingly light-hearted offer to take Alice to a mythical place of peace, an exotic

paradise, can be seen as possibly offering her an escape to a paradise of peace, tranquility and

long life. he might also have been hoping for the return of "The Gang" that lighted group who

had once congregated at Hard Bargain but been dispersed after that day in December of 1941

when the Japanese attacked on Pearl Harbor. There clearly was much to long for and look

forward to with Alice in 1943.

What a Season for the Performing Arts at Hard Bargain!

by Doris Sharp


Theater in the Woods

Wolf, Whitehead, Hart.  Photo by Bob Christensen Concert in the Woods: Rick Whitehead (guitar), Barry Hart (drums) and Steve Wolf (bass). Photo by Bob Christensen

The season for the Hard Bargain Players is in full swing.  In June they performed the comedy Fuddy Meers by David Lindsay-Abaire, directed by Rachel Wallace.  In August they did the blues-inspired play Hoodoo Love by Katon Hall, directed by Terry Spann.   The shows were superbly executed and had very good audience turnouts.


The next and last performance will be the And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson by Joe Leonard, Jr. It's a powerful, haunting play offering a vivid and deeply affecting account of the agonies inflicted on a young crippled girl growing up in a small-and small-minded-Indiana town. In the final essence the play becomes a moving and poetically evocative plea for understanding and compassion in a world where prejudice and casual cruelty are too often the norm. Show time is 9/142012-9/29/12, Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. Admission is $10, for Foundation members $8.


Concert in the Woods

Our Hard Bargain woods were filled with music this summer: World class musicians and international performers Rick Whitehead (guitar), Barry Hart (drums) and Steve Wolf (bass) put on an outstanding show.  King Street Bluegrass and Beacon Hill Bluegrass performed and the FOB Band (Friends of Old-time Banjos) opened for them. This was a wonderful and stage filling event. As always, the grand finale of the season was a performance by Lynn Hollyfield & Friends.  A big lineup of superb musicians ensured a memorable concert.


View the full list of upcoming concerts and plays.