June 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
  • Bryan Logan, President
  • Michael Herman, Vice President
  • Nan Kargahi, Secretary
  • Harold Phelps, Treasurer
  • Judy Allen:Leventhal, Director
  • David Bookbinder, Director
  • Peggy DeStefanis, Director
  • Nancy Gasparovic, Director
  • Steve Kim, Director
  • Marion Mulholland, Director
  • Shirley Nicolai, Director
  • Betsy Reid, Director
  • Nancy Weiman, Director
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
  • Benita Jenkins, Director
  • Deanna Lutz, Office Manager
  • Sam Lyon, Farm Hand
  • Shannon Macken, Communication Intern
  • Richard Marks, Director of Communications
  • Tawna Mertz, Consultant, TKM Marketing, Inc.
  • Karen Jensen Miles, Program Director
  • Alison Mize, Director of Policy
  • Helen Nelson, Accountant
  • 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
  • Will Sheppard, Naturalist
  • Tammy Shupard, Naturalist
  • Regina Slape, Naturalist
  • Katie Stewart, Naturalist
  • Jodie Abbott Standish, Web Designer
  • Bill Townsend, Naturalist
  • Jeanne Troy, Bridging the Watershed Program Director
  • 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





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!
Children at the Spring Farm Festival.  Photo by Bill Townsend Welcome to our June e:newsletter!
The successful and busy school year is transitioning into a summer filled with teacher trainings, member and volunteer events, summer concerts and plays, and a chance to catch our breath before the next school season. The Potomac River Watershed Cleanup and our Spring Farm Festival were highly successful, and the 3rd Annual Trash Summit on June 17th will be the best yet. We look forward to a summer of growth and renewal, and rededication to our mission to strengthen our connections to this wondrous place.


Spring in the Air and Flowers Everywhere!
Plant sale.  Photo by Doris Sharp
Fergie's Gardeners plant sale.


Pottery Demonstration.  Photo by Bill Townsend
Pottery demonstration by local artist Diana Manchak

By Brenda Wright
The sun was shining and warm breezes were blowing on the Farm for our annual Spring Farm Festival. More than 500 visitors came to help us celebrate spring.

It was a picture perfect day to enjoy the magnificent view of the Potomac River, to take wagon rides through the hayfields, purchase plants from Fergie's Gardeners plant sale, and enjoy great food provided by Bear Creek BBQ, Bob's Ice Cream and home baked goods at the Friends of the Accokeek Library table.

On top of the hill the "Dirty River" band put on a great show performing blue grass and country rock. Local crafters and artists brought their wares to sell from baskets and gourds to bird boxes, dulcimers, jewelry, paintings, and pottery. Fergie's old Ford "Woodie" was on display, and this seemed to be a very popular place to stop and take a picture.

The barnyard, also a very popular stop at the Spring Farm Festival, had much to offer. Visitors had an opportunity to milk our dairy cow Marmalade; learn how to spin wool; make butter and see how sheep are shorn. The blacksmith's hammer rung out all day and children were trying their hands at this old trade. The antique tool museum was open for hands:on demonstrations as well.

The Wareham Lodge was home base for the touch tank. Children had an opportunity to see and touch the aquatic critters that live in our wetlands. A local 4H:group took over the log cabin and led children's craft activities throughout the day.

The Spring Farm Festival was a great success; we thank our many volunteers who helped make it happen.

Sheep Shearing in the Barnyard. Photo by Bill Townsend
Sheep shearing in the barnyard

"Theater in the Woods" : The Hard Bargain Players
By Suzanne Donohue
Flooded amphitheater.  Photo by Doris Sharp.
Deluge at the amphitheater

The Hard Bargain Players opened their season on May 2 with Lanford Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning play Talley's Folly, directed by Juliet Kelsey Chagnon, stage managed by Jack Donnelly and starring Doug Graupman and Suzanne Donohue. April Weimer, the HBP's resident lighting wizard, was the lighting designer for the production. Although the rain had stopped and the evening was a beautiful one the Players had to cancel their performance on Friday May 9 due to torrential downpours, which washed out the road turning the amphitheatre into a river bed. The next day, HBP members Brian Donohue and David Thomas helped Charlie Burch of Extreme Home Creations getting the theatre back into performance:ready condition, using Bob Johnston's (Baldus Real Estate) tractor to grade the road and remove the gravel and mud from the cement platform. Because of their hard work and kind donations, Talley's Folly performed for the largest audience of the run!

Next on the Players' agenda is the Hard Bargain Kids Theatre Workshop. An annual event, sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation and the Hard Bargain Players, the summer theatre workshop is designed to introduce newcomers to the world of theater and to challenge young veterans to manage advanced theatrical concepts and production techniques. The workshop culminates in a final production and promises to engage and entertain participants, as they work in the areas of stage management, acting, costuming, lighting, set design and construction. This year, due to popular demand the Hard Bargain Kids will create their own production in addition to monologue and scene work. Through the art of improvisation and various theatrical techniques they will become writers, directors, and actors as well. The workshop is for kids 8 : 17 and still has some openings.

In August, the Players' and director David Thomas will bring to the stage Stephen Adly Guirgis'drama Jesus Hopped the "A" Train. The final show of the HBP 2008 season will be Conor McPherson's The Weir, directed by Brooke Howells. The Weir is an ideal show to lead into Halloween.

The Hard Bargain Players are always looking for volunteers to perform on stage, work behind the scenes and direct plays. For more information visit our website www.hbplayers.org or give us call!

The Fifty:Fourth Annual Meeting
On April 20, 2008 the annual meeting took place at the Farmhouse. The nominating committee, consisting of Judy Allen:Leventhal (chair), David Bookbinder, and Marion Mulholland, with the assistance of Ann Chab, placed the following names in nomination for positions on the Alice Ferguson Foundation's Board of Directors:

New Board members.  Photo by Doris Sharp
New board members l—r:
Steve Kim, Betsy Reid, Nancy Gasparovic, Harold Phelps
  • Bryan Logan, President (2011)
  • Michael Herman, Vice President (1:year term ending 2009, replacing Bryan Logan)
  • Nan Kargahi, Secretary (2:year term, 2010)
  • Harold Phelps, Treasurer (1:year term ending 2009, replacing Keith Roberts)
  • Peggy DeStefanis, Director (2011)
  • Nancy Gasparovic, Director (2011)
  • Steve Kim, Director (2010)
  • Shirley Nicolai, Director (2011)
  • Betsy Reid, Director (2011)
The slate was unanimously accepted as presented.

Volunteer Appreciation
Appreciation awards were presented to Jim Pester for his work in helping to greatly improve the formal garden; and to Carolyn Sanford, a former naturalist staff member, who worked in the children's garden, the ozone garden, and created bulletin boards for students in the Lodge. (According to staff she also is an excellent chicken plucker.)

Keith Roberts was recognized with an award for his excellent work as treasurer; and Kent Hibben received an award as well for his many years of Board service and for the numerous other volunteer contributions he makes on a regular basis to the Foundation. Ann Chab was presented with a signed, numbered print of the Ferguson Center and its gardens and a certificate depicting the artist creating the painting. Ann served the Foundation for decades in various capacities and for many years she has served on the Board of Directors.

Ann Chab leaves board of directors.  Photo by Doris Sharp
Ann Chab (center) leaves board of directors

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

Our Very Own Maryland Legislators at Work
We all know that our state and federal legislators are public servants and are elected by the citizens to serve them to the best of their knowledge and ability. This is not always the case, but you will be glad to know that our very own Senator Thomas V. "Mike" Miller and Delegates James E. Proctor, Jr. and Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. work tirelessly to generate state funds through bond bills for the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Recently, they sponsored several bond bills that are helping the Foundation to fund the concept and design of the Potomac River Habitat Study Complex and the Living Buildings, which will house our day and overnight programs.

AFF is the recipient of $150,000 in bond bill funds for the upcoming year, the latest acknowledgement by our hard working legislators of the good work we do for Maryland students and teachers.

By Jeanne Troy

Mystery shrimp.  Photo by Rebecca Scott
Mysterious Decapod
Mayflies, caddis flies, scuds, a water penny if we're lucky … these are some of the critters that Bridging the Watershed (BTW) students see when they do a Water Canaries field study at a national park. This spring, however, students found something different that has scientists abuzz.

Jennifer Dargue, science teacher at T.C. Williams High School (in Alexandria, VA) brought her students to the C&O Canal National Historical Park at Great Falls Tavern on April 9th, expecting some fun learning, a change of pace from the regular classroom activity. Little did she and her students know, they were about to stumble upon a mysterious creature!

During a routine collection of benthic macroinvertebrates (the small backbone:less creatures that live on the bottom of streams and can reveal, through their presence or absence, the long:term quality of a stream's water), students were trying to use dichotomous keys to identify all the little ‘bugs' crawling around on their nets. One seemed to stump the students. The BTW educators on hand, Rebecca Scott and Anna Wadhams, were also stumped:it was an organism neither had seen before. They pulled out an additional reference book, but still no luck.

What was this crustacean?

Even little critters like benthic macroinvertebrates are protected as a natural resource in the park, so our field studies are purely catch:and:release exercises. This meant the critter could not be preserved and taken to the resource manager's office after the field study. Anna and Rebecca took photos that they sent on to several scientists who study the Potomac Gorge:the biologically rich region of the Potomac River basin that includes Great Falls.

In what can only be described as a heated e:debate, scientists from the National Park Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy (the organization helps manage the Potomac Gorge) exchanged hypotheses about identifying the critter. All were satisfied that it was a freshwater shrimp, but the agreements ended there. The two most popular ideas were a grass shrimp and a fairy shrimp. Grass shrimp are normally found in brackish water and a rare find for a non:tidal stream section such as the one students were using for their field study. Fairy shrimp are much more commonly found in the Potomac Gorge, but not a perfect match in appearance.

Findings from BTW field studies can be of significant value to NPS natural resource managers. The presence of a grass shrimp in the freshwater of the C&O Canal could indicate that it is not a native, but rather an exotic species, perhaps introduced by people fishing with live shrimp bait. Exotic species of any organism may spread foreign diseases or parasites to new habitats. If they become invasive:approximately 1 in 100 does according to experts with the Delaware Sea Grant:they can drive out native species and throw local food webs out of balance. NPS personnel will be keeping a close eye on the macroinvertebrates found in BTW field studies and other monitoring programs for a repeat appearance to make a more definitive identification.

Field identification can be extremely difficult. Even with dichotomous keys in hand, many experts require preserved specimens and microscopes to see enough detail for genus and species classification. We may never find out exactly "who" this organism was, but now the scientists in the Potomac Gorge will have reason to look more closely for this mysterious decapod. So will the students and teachers participating in Bridging the Watershed!



Environmental Science Teacher Institutes at Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center
The staff at Hard Bargain Farm is gearing up for two one:week teacher institutes during June and July 2008. We anticipate fifty elementary school teachers from the Chesapeake Bay watershed attending the institutes and they will use our curriculum entitled "Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay Issues". The institutes are sponsored by grants from NOAA's B:Wet program, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and Prince George's County.


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Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative

Join us at the 3rd Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit, Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at The World Bank in Washington, DC

A gathering of 300 key stakeholders to educate, dialogue, plan and take action on strategies that lead to a "Trash Free Potomac Watershed by 2013". This event provides a venue for congressional, state and local elected officials; citizens; business; solid waste professionals; and youth leadership to collaborate on regional public policy and strategies to eliminate trash from our waterways, communities, streets and public lands; model Best Management Practices; business actions; and public education.

Go to www.trashfreepotomac.org for more information.

20th Potomac River Cleanup
Threat of Rain Doesn't Stop Volunteers!

Refrigerator found. Photo by Doris Sharp
A refrigerator was found during the Cleanup
by Ginny Harris, PRWC Coordinator Friday afternoon, before the 20th Potomac River Watershed Cleanup, I was handed an official weather report for Saturday morning, April 5, 2008. It didn't look good! An email was sent out to all site leaders letting them know that Hard Bargain Farm was going to pick up trash rain or shine and that we hope they do the same. The response was overwhelming, "We are on!", "Rain only melts people made of sugar", and "Oh, we will be there". My heart swelled with pride. These hardcore trash babes and hunks were my heroes! Staff also kept a positive attitude when we sang "The Sun will Come out Tomorrow" from the musical Annie.

Saturday morning came with a clear blue sky and sunshine. I couldn't have been happier. All across the watershed over 4,000 volunteers showed up at their 300 cleanup sites in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia to remove about 85 tons of trash within three hours!

We had an unexpected high turnout by the Latino community. This was the result of a public service announcement that ran on the TV station Telemundo. Many site leaders were able to speak Spanish and were very accommodating. This is a positive step in involving and educating people of all walks of life of the importance of being responsible for your trash.

Anacostia Park volunteer.  Photo by Alison Mohler
Dashawn, a 9:year old from Anacostia,
lends a hand to clean:up her community's
river! Anacostia Park, Photo by Alison Moller


Sweet Treat.  Photo by Doris Sharp
A sweet reward after the Cleanup.

Later that day, data came streaming in from site leaders telling us how much fun they had and what interesting items they had found. They included propane tanks; a sand box; pink sleeping bag; boat parts; a mattress and box spring for a double bed; message in small bottle with phone number on it; car top luggage carrier; four Easter eggs with money inside; bras; PVC pipes; and metal barrels.

We are wrapping up the last of the data that is still coming in from other cleanup sites that took place during the whole month of April. We should have our final numbers very soon and they will be officially announced at the 3rd Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit on June 17 at the World Bank in Washington, DC. Everyone is invited!

I can't thank all the site leaders enough for their dedication, hard work and energy before, during and after the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. They were an inspiration to me and I look forward to working with them again next year.

2008 Potomac River Watershed Cleanup's Photo Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Springhill Lake Elementary School in Greenbelt, Maryland, for getting down and dirty during the 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Their 120 volunteers removed 2 tires, 30 bags of trash, 7 shopping carts, and 1 carpet. The total of trash not bagged amounted to 800 pounds! Good Job Everyone!

The photo was entered by Cindy Murray. It was voted upon by our volunteers who visited our website after the cleanup and received 1493 votes. What a great collaboration of staff, students, and parents!

Photo Contest Winner
Springhill Lake Elementary School Cleanup
Photo by Cindy Murray

Our Trash:A:Thon Winner is...
She raised $417 dollars for the Trash:a:Thon during our 20th Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. Her prize is two discount coupons for $30.00 off dinner on the Dandy Restaurant Cruise Ships located in Alexandria, Virginia. Ms. Kutzleb was the Site Leader of Piscataway Hills in Fort Washington, Maryland. We hope you enjoy your evening on the Potomac River that you just helped to make Trash Free!

What is the Trash:A:Thon? Structured like a walk:a:thon, participants ask family, friends, and neighbors to sponsor their clean:up efforts during the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup. All proceeds go toward a watershed:wide Regional Education and Awareness Campaign for Trash (REACT).

REACT is an action:oriented, regional awareness campaign that sends a unified anti:litter message to the public through all media outlets with the help of major jurisdictions, private businesses, and now citizens like Deborah Kutzleb!

Thank you to all who participated!

Ginny Harris, PRWC Coordinator

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Chicken Tractor.  Photo by Doris Sharp
Josh Queen and Eileen Watts
with the new chicken tractor
Farm Report
By Eileen Watts
We are off to what looks like a good growing year. The winter was mild and rainfall has been plentiful. This time last year, though we didn't know it yet, a severe summer:long drought was beginning. Let's hope that doesn't happen again.

Hay cutting began in early May and is continuing as the weather permits. At this point there appears to be no shortage. Portions of hay fields/pastures were overseeded with red clover in March to enhance future forage and other portions were lightly fertilized with a nitrogen compound. Soil samples have been submitted to determine the need for lime.

The herd of beef cattle is growing slowly. Three calves were born in March. We await seven more. Two older steers will become part of a test for home grown grass:fed beef later in the year. Anyone interested in trying this product can let the office know or contact Eileen.

To aid and enhance our broiler project, which was launched in 2007 with great success, Josh Queen and his crew built a chicken tractor for the Foundation. This Eagle Scout project was completed with generous donations of materials from John Denison of Denison Landscaping; the Accokeek/Bryans Road Lions Club; and Home Depot. On May 31, twenty:five four:week old broiler chicks were introduced to their new "outside home on grass" with ceremony.

Sparkle and IRiS.  Photo by Doris Sharp
HBF's goat, Sparkle, and her kid, IRiS

The barnyard can boast of only one new member so far this year. Our friendly goat, Sparkle, had a cute kid on April 15. She's been named IRiS, of course. We thought goslings would have hatched by now (the goose certainly tried) but the eggs have been incubating longer than the twenty:eight days it should take and nothing is happening. Our turkey hen is trying to hatch eggs as well. If successful, the poults will appear on June 3.


The Art of Alice Ferguson:The Discoveries Continue!
By Linda Crocker Simmons, Curator Emeritus, Corcoran Gallery of Art
Last year, the Alice Ferguson Foundation was fortunate to discover and purchase a landscape painting by Alice Ferguson via eBay from the descendants of Thomas Brennen Nolan (May 21, 1901:August 1, 1992). Mr. Nolan was not only a colleague of Fergie's serving at the US Geological Survey, and Director there from 1956 to 1965, but he was also a visitor to the Fergusons at Hard Bargain Farm. From the records of his presence at Hard Bargain it is clear that he shared the lively sense of humor of Alice and Henry but also their affection for the farm, its inhabitants and the essence of the place. Nolan visited year:round and participated in the annual bird censuses as well as surveys of the farm and its structures. At some time either during his contact with the Fergusons in Maryland or during UGSS work in the southwest he acquired one of Alice's paintings, "Sahuaros" . This 1931 work depicts the landscape Henry, Alice and Nolan must have admired in the "four corners" region of the Southwest where the states of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico come together, a region where much of Fergie's professional work took place during the 1920s thru the 1940s.

That painting of the Saguaro Cactus, emblematic of the desert Southwest, is now at Hard Bargain Farm where it is an important part of the art collection. But interestingly, it is not the only rediscovery of Alice's art to emerge. Other paintings have been brought to our attention including one owned by descendants of Henry Ferguson's niece. This spring family members paid their first visit to Hard Bargain Farm and shared with staff information about their genealogy and the fact that they owned a painting by Alice Ferguson. These members of a younger generation descend from Fergie's younger brother, Charles Vaughan Ferguson (August 15, 1885 –March 17, 1964). His daughter, Jean, knew Henry and Alice well as a child and probably received this painting from the settlement of Fergie's estate during the late 1960s.

Western Landscape:Mountains and Sun
Alice L. L. Ferguson, 1880:1951
Western Landscape:Mountains and Sun
Oil on laminated artist's cardboard
26 inches high by 30 inches wide
Privately Owned
This painting, illustrated here, is one of Alice Ferguson's finest. Recently professionally treated, it is a beautiful example of the Southwestern subjects Alice Ferguson seems to have loved to depict. The scene is a sunlit landscape with a dramatic dark ridge of land in the left foreground played against the lighter tonality of a rocky butte in the middle ground to the right. Distant mountains at the left touch a lovely pale turquoise sky brilliantly hot and cloudless.

This composition, the dynamics of its parts, and the luminous palette are all elements which distinguish Alice Ferguson's best work. This palette ranging from silver to slate blues as well as a her signature purple, lilac, and tan earth tones is seen in other works but not often in such a lovely orchestration of tonalities. The marvelous glow which she has captured almost tricks the viewer to into thinking that the scene to be unearthly and ethereal rather than the solid rocks, stones, ridges and mountains she was seeing. In so doing, an abstraction of the tangible subject before her occurs and in this way relates Ferguson's work to the modernist approach being taken by such artists as Georgia O'Keefe in contemporary depictions of similar Southwestern landscapes.

The "re:discovery" of this painting by Alice Ferguson lends encouragement to our search to find more works by this remarkable American woman artist of the first half of the 20th century. The Alice Ferguson Foundation remains committed to bringing her creative talents to light and providing for her artistic achievements the recognition she clearly deserves.

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Mold Remediation at Wareham Lodge
By Karen Jensen Miles
Mold inspection. Photo by Karen Miles
Over time the Wareham Lodge has developed mold issues that need remediation. In order to get a handle on the problem, Michele Courville, an industrial hygienist from Courville and Associates, Inc. was contracted to assess the current situation; take samples from various surfaces and the air at the Lodge and have them tested by a reputable laboratory; write a report; and create a protocol to be used by recommended mold remediation firms and the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Ms. Courville found significant evidence of several mold genera (Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillis, Alternaria, Rhinocladiella, Chaetomium, Ascospores, Basidiospores, Curvularia, Smuts, Periconia, Myxomycetes) that can cause numerous health problems within the confines of the Lodge and she suggested a regime for remediating the problems. When excessive moisture occurs and mold growth results, occupants of the building may begin to report odors and a variety of health problems, such as headaches; breathing difficulties; skin irritation; allergic reactions; and aggravation of asthma symptoms; all of these symptoms could potentially be associated with mold exposure. Mold Remediation in the lodge.  Photo by Karen Miles

Upon receipt of the remediation protocol the firm Begal of Laurel, MD, was chosen to do the work. It should be noted that the protocol for remediation was done with the knowledge that the building was to be demolished in the near:term. Costs for complete removal of mold would be astronomical and would include removal of all tiles and wallboard.

In February, work started on the air ducts and mold remediation. During the process more extensive mold damage was uncovered requiring more work to be done. Upon completion, Ms. Courville inspected the Lodge again and took air samples. After testing we received word that we can start work to get the Lodge back in shape for students to come. New studs and green board were installed replacing the old paneling that separated the bunks. All surfaces in the bathrooms were scrubbed as well as the floors in the bunkrooms and the vestibule. Cinderblock that was exposed behind the baseboards has been sealed and painted to keep in any mold that might be harbored there. New, larger dehumidifiers have been installed with pumps to take the condensate away from the building. Three large window air conditioners have been installed in the two bunkrooms and the big room upstairs.

The health of everyone who uses the Lodge is very important to us and with new procedures in place to maintain the building the mold should not return.

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