Pic of the Week #3 – May 31

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This week’s Pic of the Week photo was taken during an educational film shoot on the National Colonial Farm.

The history of Mount Vernon...

Can you think of a great caption to go along with this photo? Enter the Pic of the Week photo caption contest and if your caption is selected, we’ll post it along with the photo in the next enewsletter!

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Field Notes: Volume 16, Number 4

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This Week’s Harvest

  • Dill
  • Scallions
  • Garlic Scapes
  • Head Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Pak Choi
  • Kohlrabi
  • Snap Peas
  • Strawberries
  • Summer Squash

While we strive for consistency at the Ecosystem Farm, we ask that our SHAREholders please keep in mind that Friday and Tuesday harvests will not always be the same.

For your convenience, an exact harvest list will be posted in the packing shed.

Although the weather has warmed up, the Ecosystem Farm staff continues to play the waiting game that, in between the mad rushing moments of spring, can characterize life on a farm: waiting for a tractor part, waiting for wet fields to dry, waiting for green tomatoes to turn red. After all, not everything can bring with it the same instant gratification afforded to us by the fast-growing summer squash that has been a part of our harvests these past few weeks; these plants pump out harvestable fruit from a flower in a matter of days. Oftentimes, life calls instead for the same patience that we use when we watch a bed of green tomatoes week after week, waiting for their shoulders to blush.

During this mellow week, the farm staff has spent time cultivating beds, tying up tomato vines, and working to keep ahead of the weeds. As the staff assesses the work that lies ahead of them, they have also begun to assess their work thus far, considering, for instance, to forgo this season’s experimental method of snap pea planting. The snap peas (so beloved by the staff as a refreshing summertime treat) were interplanted with a grass-like plant called triticale, and were expected to trellis themselves up the wheat-and-rye cross. This the sowed-a-little-late peas finally did, but not as well as was hoped. But a “failed” experiment is still a valuable experiment on the Ecosystem Farm, and the staff has continued to learn how to improve their work as high summer has continued to come near.

Up Close With Kohlrabi

This week marks the Ecosystem Farm’s first harvest of kohlrabi (kol-ROB-ee), a member of the Brassica (or cabbage) family whose shape somewhat resembles that of a hot air balloon. With its round, turnip-like base and its tall-reaching crown of cabbage-like leaves, its strange name (from the German words kohl and rube, meaning cabbage and turnip) begins to make sense.

Purple globe and apple-green varieties are grown on the farm, both of which reveal pale green flesh when cut open. Kohlrabi leaves can be cooked like collards or other cooking greens; the bulbs can be eaten a number of ways. From a post about the vegetable on Farmgirl Fare:

Sweet and mildly flavored, kohlrabi can be braised, boiled, stuffed, sliced, scalloped, steamed, julienned, roasted, and sauteed. You can grate it into slaw, toss it into salads, slip it into soups and stews, snack on it raw with dip, and stir-fry it. You can even wrap it in foil and grill it. I’ve seen recipes where kohlrabi was covered in cream, sauteed with anchovies, stuffed into empanadas, fried into cakes, served with hollandaise sauce, and turned into a cinnamon brunch bake. This vegetable is versatile.

To get our SHAREholders started, we’ve included a simple recipe for roasted kohlrabi later in this post.

Below, photos from this week on the Ecosystem Farm. Click images to enlarge, or view them on Flickr.

This Week’s Recipe: Roasted Kohlrabi

Recipe from A Veggie Venture

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds fresh kohlrabi, ends trimmed, thick green skin sliced off with a knife, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic

Salt

Good vinegar

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 450 degrees F. Toss diced kohlrabi with olive oil, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet and put into oven (it needn’t be fully preheated). Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every five minutes after about 20 minutes. Serve sprinkled with a good vinegar.

Upcoming Events

National Trails Day and Captain John Smith Geotrail Kick-Off: Saturday, June 4, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park: Celebrate National Trails Day with a geocaching adventure! In collaboration with volunteer geocachers, the Chesapeake Conservancy, and the National Park Service, the Accokeek Foundation will host the launch of the Captain John Smith Geotrail with a kick-off event featuring geocaching demonstrations, bonus caches, and activities for kids. A geocache (pronounced “geo-cash”) is a hidden treasure that one locates by using a GPS device. A geotrail is a series of geocaches linked by a common theme or topic. The Captain John Smith Geotrail is a unique journey across Chesapeake landscapes evocative of the scenes and stories experienced by Captain Smith 400 years ago.

Local Food Forum: Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 6:30 to 8 p.m., Education Center: The Local Food Forum is a monthly meeting of producers and consumers interested in local food. We discuss locally-grown fruits, vegetables, eggs and meat—from where to find them to how to make them more available.

Ecosystem Farm Volunteer Day: Thursday, June 9, 2011 (Recurring, Second and Fourth Thursdays), 1 to 4 p.m., Ecosystem Farm: Volunteers will join the farm crew in their work and, in the process, learn about organic and sustainable agricultural practices. Please wear appropriate clothing, including long pants, sturdy shoes or boots, sunscreen and/or a hat. Bring snacks and a refillable water bottle. Work will vary depending on the weather.

Organic Gardening Workshop: Weed and Pest Management: Saturday, June 11, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Education Center: Controlling weeds and pests can be a gardener’s worst nightmare. This course—part of our season-long Organic Gardening Workshop Series geared toward backyard gardeners—will provide you with the information needed to identify several common weeds and pests, as well as the most effective ways of getting rid of them. We will discuss both biological and mechanical methods of control. Feel free to bring along a problematic plant or an unknown insect for identification by our instructors.

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A Bad Day to Be a Tadpole

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by Wilton Corkern, President

On any given day this time of year a traveler along Bryan Point Road will almost surely see a Great Blue Heron stalking the aquatic creatures in the Accokeek Creek swamp. Everything about this bird is big: its head and body are four feet long; erect, it stands five feet tall; its wingspan is six feet. Even its bill is over five inches long. Yet it is a graceful flier, able to lift its five pound frame straight into the air with a single flap of its massive wings.

These ubiquitous birds are highly adaptable, and despite huge losses of habitat over the past half-century, they have found a way to survive and flourish. In fact, their ancestors were around some 14 million years ago, according to fossil records. For now, their populations seem to be growing all across North America, and are most dense in the east, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

They nest in trees above swampy areas, usually in large colonies. A few years ago friend and former Trustee Byron Williams arranged for me to visit a nesting colony in a relatively remote area of Charles County. We parked alongside a road followed a narrow trail through dense woods for about a half-mile. “The first thing you notice,” Byron warned, “is the smell.” And then it hit us: the odor from massive amounts of fish-eating bird droppings wafted through the trees. As we approached the edge of the swamp we saw birds flying to and forth overhead. Then, the rookery: About a dozen acres of trees, festooned with hundreds of stick-built nests. Birds came and went, carrying food to noisy nestlings.

The Great Blue Heron is a formidable predator. It eats mostly fish, but may also take amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, small mammals, and even other birds – all swallowed whole. During the past week I have watched our regular visitor devour several fish, a bullfrog tadpole, and a crayfish. According to the Cornell University ornithology lab, an adult Great Blue Heron can swallow a fish up to a foot long. I have video of this one gobbling down an 8” catfish. There are reports of Great Blues actually choking to death on fish too big to swallow. They feed in swamps, along the edges of water bodies, and even in open fields. A few days ago Mary Bruce and I watched a Great Blue perched in an oak tree in our residential neighborhood watching a neighbor’s coy pond for opportunity.

No less an observer than John James Audubon himself described the heron’s habits:

How calm, how silent, how grand is the scene! The tread of the tall bird himself no one hears, so carefully does he place his foot on the moist ground, cautiously suspending it for awhile at each step of his progress. Now his golden eye glances over the surrounding objects, in surveying which he takes advantage of the full stretch of his graceful neck.Satisfied that no danger is near, he lays his head on his shoulders, allows the feathers of his breast to droop, and patiently awaits the approach of his finned prey. You might imagine what you see to be the statue of a bird, so motionless is it. But now, he moves; he has taken a silent step, and with great care be advances; slowly does he raise his head from his shoulders, and now, what a sudden start! his formidable bill has transfixed a perch, which he beats to death on the ground. See with what difficulty he gulps it down his capacious throat! and now his broad wings open, and away he slowly flies to another station, or perhaps to avoid his unwelcome observers.

[Quoted from the online version of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, available at www.Audubon.org. It is from an 1840 “First Octavo Edition” of Audubon’s complete seven volume text and presents Audubon’s images and original text descriptions as written.]

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The Hog Blog: A Hog’s-Eye View of Children’s Day

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by “Sally”

Rocky and Sally on the National Colonial Farm.

When word came down that this year’s Children’s Day would be celebrating the life and work of colonial apprentices, I got a little nervous. Schoolchildren on field trips to the National Colonial Farm are always asked, “What are pigs used for?”—which is followed by a lot of talk about ham and bacon. I was relieved to hear that the apprentice activities planned for “How Things Were Made: Colonial Apprentice” were things like blacksmithing, woodworking, and churning butter. There was no mention of anything involving pork.

I asked Tricia, our Coordinator of Public Programs, if she wanted me to do anything special during the Accokeek Foundation’s annual event. She said, “Well, Sally, it would be really nice if you didn’t spend the whole day napping.” Napping? What does she take me for? A lazy pig? I was about to utter a snide retort, when she added, “After all, you are our star attraction.” Ah, well. She had a point.

A.J. was the first apprentice to run by the pigpen, intent on getting to the blacksmith station. When he stopped by to visit me later, he proudly displayed the S-hook he had crafted with help from my secret flame, blacksmith Tim Buckley, who taught his apprentices the origin of the phrase, “Strike while the iron is hot.” Don’t you just love a man in colonial britches?

Planting tobacco at this year's Children's Day.

All afternoon, the sweet smell of Johnnycakes spread with fresh-churned butter wafted over from the kitchen and the shouts of children playing colonial games echoed out from the Tobacco Yard. It was a fabulous day of fun at the farm. And, though I am a star attraction, please know that the fame has not gone to my head. I am very approachable, and I love having visitors (as do the rest of the farm’s menagerie). You can come see us each and every day—it’s fun, and free!

P.S. Inky, that teenybopper sheep, is now being mentored by Yours Truly. And if you are wondering who that woman is with the lamb following her everywhere, it’s not Mary, but Polly, our new Livestock Manager.

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Field Notes: Volume 16, Number 3

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This Week’s Harvest

  • Cilantro
  • Scallions
  • Pea Vine
  • Green Garlic
  • Salad Mix
  • Head Lettuce or Pak Choi
  • Summer Squash

While we strive for consistency at the Ecosystem Farm, we ask that our SHAREholders please keep in mind that Friday and Tuesday harvests will not always be the same.

For your convenience, an exact harvest list will be posted in the packing shed.

As the season quickens, the atmosphere of the Ecosystem Farm has experienced a positive shift. The garlic have sent up scapes, flower stalks that will soon make their way into our harvests. The summer squash have grown in size, as the staff hand-pollinates the greenhouse-dwelling plants that are screened off from predators and pollinators alike, calling for human hands to do the work of bees and butterflies. And a pair of Prothonotary Warblers have been found nesting in the packing shed, so be on the look-out for the bright yellow birds when you come to the site to pick up your SHAREs (but don’t confuse them with the House Sparrows that are nesting nearby).

Even the farm staff has developed a more positive outlook on the season that lies ahead. This week, the staff met with former manager Shane LaBrake, ever-knowledgeable and helpful in acclimating these three new-to-Accokeek farmers with the place that he helped to build. Shane was the first manager of the Ecosystem Farm, and has returned to the site to help the staff get things in order, offering his perspective on the land’s past and present and encouraging them to come to an understanding rather than an impasse. A well-known quote from Theodore Roosevelt has inspired both Shane and the staff: We must do what we can, with what we have, where we are.

As the four farmers opened up a new channel of communication, the call of the yellow-billed cuckoo rang out. The common but quite elusive bird (its call is heard more often than the creature is seen) is often considered to signal a turn of fate. Whether it is a good turn or a bad turn, we suppose it is up to the staff to decide. And they, of course, are ever the optimists.

Up Close With Cilantro

Cilantro: people love it, and people hate it. Even the New York Times has written about the divisive nature of this green, feathery plant, inspiring as it does “a primal revulsion among an outspoken minority of eaters.” In Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap, For Some, Harold McGee writes of a widespread phobia of the coriander plant. What is so popular in Asia and Latin America is so hated elsewhere. Even Julia Child said in an interview with Larry King that, if she were to find cilantro on her plate, she would “pick it out” and “throw it on the floor.”

Writes McGee:

Ms. Child had plenty of company for her feelings about cilantro … The authoritative Oxford Companion to Food notes that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes” and that “Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to this smell.” There’s an “I Hate Cilantro” Facebook page with hundreds of fans and an I Hate Cilantro blog.

Indeed, “modern cilantrophobes” often complain of the herb’s smell and taste, so reminiscent of soap. But McGee notes that a recent Japanese study suggests that the plant can be “reshaped to make it easier to take,” that the leaves can be crushed to get rid of this soapy smell. So below, we’ve included a recipe for cilantro pesto, which we hope will bridge the great cilantro gap.

Below, photos from this week on the Ecosystem Farm. Click images to enlarge, or view them on Flickr.


This Week’s Recipe: Cilantro Pesto

Recipe from the Seasonal Chef

Ingredients:

3 cups loosely packed cilantro leaves, washed and dried

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup roasted pine nuts, walnuts, or other nuts

2 cloves garlic

Juice one lime

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Strip cilantro leaves from stems and set aside. Coarsely chop the stems and place in food processor or blender.
  2. Add cheese, nuts, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and process to a uniform consistency.
  3. Add cilantro leaves and process until leaves are coarsely chopped.

Upcoming Events

Organic Gardening Workshop: Soil and Compost: Saturday, May 21, 2011, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Education Center: Improve your garden’s health from the bottom up. This course–part of our season-long Organic Gardening Workshop Series geared toward backyard gardeners–will provide you with the information needed to build your soil fertility. We will discuss how to test and improve your soil, how to construct a backyard compost pile, and how to feed the plants that will soon feed you. We will also discuss how to compost with worms.

Monthly Foodways: Where’s The Beef?: Saturday, May 21, 2011, Noon to 1 p.m., National Colonial Farm: Join us for a kitchen table conversation as we introduce you to the epicurean delights of colonial Marylanders. Learn how our tastes and the food itself have changed over 300 years as we explore the “receipts” (recipes) and meal preparation for everything from peas and pottage to food traditions for which Maryland is known. This month’s theme is “Where’s the Beef?” featuring Curing beef, a pretty dish of a breast of venison, a visit from our friends at the National Museum of the American Indian who will present some of their Nation’s culinary traditions, and Muskrat Love!

Film Series: The Last Boat Out: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Education Center: From learning about the lives of America’s young farmers to watching a waterman work the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, come see stories of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation unfold on the silver screen. Our six-part documentary film series includes movies like FRESH, The Plow That Broke the Plains, and The Future of Food. This month, we will show The Last Boat Out, a film that weaves together the tales of a battered Chesapeake Bay and a family of watermen struggling to preserve their way of life. Narrated by actor and activist Sam Waterston, the film is a story of human determination and hope in the face of past mistakes.

Ecosystem Farm Volunteer Day: Recurring, Second and Fourth Thursdays, 1 to 4 p.m., Ecosystem Farm: Volunteers will join the farm crew in their work and, in the process, learn about organic and sustainable agricultural practices. Please wear appropriate clothing, including long pants, sturdy shoes or boots, sunscreen and/or a hat. Bring snacks and a refillable water bottle. Work will vary depending on the weather.

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We Take It, You Name It: Pic of the Week – May 17

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A few weeks ago, we rolled out a Caption Contest for the photographs selected for Pic of the Week. Each week, staff members tour the site—sometimes to enjoy a beautiful day outside, other times to help with work on the National Colonial Farm, in the gardens, or on the Ecosystem Farm—often with cameras in hand, as you never know what you may see!

We share the best of the best with you. You, then, share with us your best idea for a caption. It’s that easy!

Let’s us know what you think the caption for this week’s Pic of Week should be.

Chickens on the National Colonial Farm

Submit your caption entry online today!

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Field Notes: Volume 16, Number 2

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This Week’s Harvest

  • Dill
  • Scallions
  • Pak Choi
  • Turnips
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash

We ask that our SHAREholders please keep in mind that spring harvests are often “light.” This is a result of small growing space and the earliness of the season.

As the season progresses, summer and fall should bring with them heavier boxes.

The staff at the Ecosystem Farm has pushed this week to get seeds and transplants into the ground, sowing beans and cucumbers, peppers and eggplant, tomatoes and summer squash, before the rains return. Last week, we spoke of finding the perfect planting window in between the rainfall. This week, the same holds true. We have also begun to look for the perfect planting space among other in-the-ground crops, seeding radishes in between rows of scallions in an effort to make creative use of the little dry space we have here.

But amidst the rush of planting, the staff has taken some time out to learn. After all, the Ecosystem Farm is not just a place of fruit and vegetable production, but a teaching model for sustainable agriculture and the future of farming.

While Jose attended an on-site workshop on the federal nutrition benefit programs available at farmers markets, Colette and Courtney traveled to The Farm at Sunnyside in Washington, Virginia, as part of the Chesapeake CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) program. The CRAFT program is meant to coordinate and facilitate learning opportunities for farm apprentices, interns, and workers through farm visits, classes, and informal potlucks; Chesapeake CRAFT consists of visits to farms and farm projects in Maryland and Virginia that emphasize successful ecological approaches to agriculture.

The field trips that are taken through programs like this one allow farmers to witness firsthand the ins and outs of a working farm and to meet other growers from the region. It is during farm tours and networking sessions like these where ideas are discussed, plans are made, and exciting things begin to happen. Indeed, we take time out of our production schedule in order to learn, and we often learn how to become better producers. Those whom we meet along the way are honest and open about what does and doesn’t work, and willing to answer our questions. We come together with the deep, collective feeling of wanting this field to succeed.

Up Close with Pak Choi

This week’s harvest includes pak choi, often called Chinese cabbage. Grown for its tender white stalks and dark green leaves, pak choi is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) that is native to eastern Asia. Relatives of the cool-season vegetable include cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, and turnips, all of which are also grown on the Ecosystem Farm.

The Cantonese name “pak choi” (in Mandarin, “pe-tsai” or “pei tsai”) means “white vegetable.” Both the stalks and the leaves are staple ingredients in Chinese cooking. The stalks can be stir-fried, and the leaves are delicious when prepared like other greens. Pak choi can be blanched and frozen to add to soups and stews.

Below, photos from this week at the Ecosystem Farm. Click images to enlarge, or view them on Flickr.

This Week’s Recipe: Stir-Fried Greens with Garlic

Recipe from Pete’s Greens

Ingredients:

1 head pak choi, roughly chopped with bottom end removed

1 bunch kale, radish, turnip, or other tender greens chopped into 2″ pieces

3 tablespoons cooking oil, such as sunflower or peanut

4 garlic scapes chopped fine, or 4 cloves garlic minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional

Directions:

  1. Wash greens and spin dry, or wrap in towel to blot excess moisture. Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or wok over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and salt, and saute about 1 minute. Add greens and red pepper flakes, if using, and toss to coat well. Increase the heat slightly and continue to toss the greens while they cook. Cook just until the leaves begin to wilt. Remove from heat, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Upcoming Events

Presentation: Greening Your Home: Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 6:30 to 8 p.m.: Did you know that installing a programmable thermostat can save you 10 percent on your annual energy bill? Or that planting a shade tree in the proper location can reduce your summer electric bill and increase your home’s value? This presentation will address 30 different strategies for greening your home that will save you money, improve your comfort, and protect the environment. We will discuss changes and improvements that can be made for all budgets, from simple D.I.Y. projects to more complex renovations.

Sprouts: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 11 a.m. to Noon: It’s never too early to get out and garden! Sprouts is a garden-themed educational program geared toward preschoolers. This one-hour, once-a-month program will spotlight fruit, vegetables, and other parts of a backyard garden, and will feature fun activities for parents and children to do together, from singing songs and reading stories to making crafts and playing games. This month, we will learn about rain and water.

Organic Gardening Workshop: Soil and Compost: Saturday, May 21, 2011, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Improve your garden’s health from the bottom up! This course—part of our season-long Organic Gardening Workshop Series geared toward backyard gardeners—will provide you with the information needed to build your soil fertility. We will discuss how to test and improve your soil, how to construct a backyard compost pile, and how to feed the plants that will soon feed you. We will also discuss how to compost with worms.

Monthly Foodways: Where’s the Beef?: Saturday, May 21, 2011, Noon to 1 p.m.: Join us for a kitchen table conversation as we introduce you to the epicurean delights of colonial Marylanders. Learn how our tastes and the food itself have changed over 300 years as we explore the “receipts” (recipes) and meal preparation for everything from peas and pottage to food traditions for which Maryland is known. This month’s theme is “Where’s the Beef?” featuring Curing beef, a pretty dish of a breast of venison, a visit from our friends at the National Museum of the American Indian who will present some of their Nation’s culinary traditions, and Muskrat Love!

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A Walk in the Park: Springtime Meanderings

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Some days it’s just too BEAUTIFUL to be stuck indoors. Today was one of those days–mid 70s and sunny with a slight breeze. Perfect! So I grabbed the camera and headed out for one of my walks in the park. With 6 walking trails and the pedestrian roads connecting the Visitor Center to the barnyard, there are many routes to choose from. Usually I’ll opt for one of the trails; however today I wanted to see what was happening down on the colonial site.

[Read more...]

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High-Tech Treasure Hunt Set to Launch June 4, 2011

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2011
Captain John Smith Geotrail features over 40 Chesapeake sites in Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware

Piscataway Park along the Potomac River

Annapolis – Set to launch on National Trails Day, June 4, 2011 at the Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park, the new Captain John Smith Geotrail is a journey across Chesapeake landscapes that evokes scenes and stories experienced by Captain Smith 400 years ago. Adventurers will have the chance to explore more than 40 sites that highlight places associated with Smith’s explorations, the natural resources of the Chesapeake, and American Indian communities then and now. Located along the James, Rappahannock, Potomac, Susquehanna, and the Nanticoke Rivers, the geotrail’s sites complement and promote the congressionally designated Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

This multi-state initiative is sponsored by the National Park Service and its Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, Maryland Geocaching Society, and Chesapeake Conservancy.

Geocaching, pronounced “geo-cashing,” is a worldwide phenomenon, in which participants use a hand-held GPS (Global Positioning System) to plot map coordinates in order to locate a hidden treasure or “cache.” Searching for a cache is akin to going on a treasure hunt and can involve clues, riddles and visits to multiple locations. Shovels are a forbidden tool – caches are never buried.  A “geotrail” is a series of caches tied together by a common topic or theme.

If you are a journalist or blogger interested in a sneak preview with an experienced geocacher, please contact Susan Kelley or Cindy Chance for a Captain John Smith geocache experience near you.

Geocaching volunteers will be on hand at the kick-off event to teach the basics to people new to the hunt, and extra caches will be placed, including some just for kids. The event begins at 10:00 am and runs until 12:00. Do expect most serious geocachers to bolt as soon as the Smith Geotrail cache coordinates are officially “published” sometime around 11:30 and cachers download to their mobile devices.

Participants will find plenty to explore at Accokeek. Situated on the banks of the Potomac, with Mount Vernon visible on the opposite shore, the Accokeek Foundation and its National Colonial Farm offer a wide range of fun educational events for adults and children.

“The geotrail is a wonderful way to introduce people, especially families, to the wide variety of resources available on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake trail” said Jonathan Doherty, National Park Service Assistant Superintendent. “As a National Historic Trail, we have an obligation to help everyone discover important Chesapeake places and provide an opportunity to have fun learning about our common heritage. Geocaching is good clean fun that gets everyone outside!”

Charles Stek, chairman of the Chesapeake Conservancy, said “The Geotrail will get people to come out and play with the trail, Chesapeake history, and our great natural resources.”

To join the adventure, a geocacher must access the official geocache website at www.Geocaching.com to set up an account. A basic membership is free. Once an account is established, the geocacher can use the advance search function to locate the Captain John Smith account, retrieve the map coordinates, and see the cache details for each Captain John Smith Geocache. Included with the information for each cache location is a description of the site and its significance to the Chesapeake and Smith’s voyages.  The next step is to head outside with a GPS to find geocaches along the Captain John Smith Geotrail!

This is the second Chesapeake-focused geotrail built in partnership with a National Historic Trail. Last year, on a cold February day, the launch of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Geotrail drew nearly 800 weekend visits. In the past year, that trail has drawn nearly 8,000 visitors to its sites.

A collectible, highly coveted, and trackable geocoin will be given to the first 400 geocachers who locate a minimum of 15 geocaches along the trail. To be eligible for the coin, geocachers must download a trail passport from www.smithtrail.net, find and log on www.Geocaching.com at least 15 geocaches from the trail, record the secret code word from each cache on their passport and post a picture of each cache location on the corresponding geocache webpage. After discovering the 15 required caches, geocachers may have their passports validated in person or via mail at the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay office:  410 Severn Avenue, Suite 314, Annapolis, MD 21403.

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About Chesapeake Conservancy

Chesapeake Conservancy is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure conservation, stewardship, access and enjoyment of the Chesapeake’s iconic landscapes, great rivers and cultural and historic assets. The Conservancy advances this mission through education, the marshaling of new resources and the forging of partnerships with governments, businesses, public-interest groups and citizens. The principal focus of the Conservancy is the implementation of: the John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail; the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network; and a Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative. The Conservancy believes that by helping educate citizens about the Chesapeake Bay and by providing new opportunities for improved public access, tourism, recreation and cooperative conservation of its treasured landscapes and ecosystems, we can create a lasting ecological and cultural legacy for the Chesapeake Bay.

About the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, extending approximately 3,000 miles on the Bay and tributaries, is the nation’s first water-based trail. It follows the routes of John Smith’s exploratory voyages in 1607-1609 and offers trail visitors recreational and educational experiences on land portions as well as on the water. Primary interpretive themes center on 17th century American Indian societies and cultures and the natural resources of the Bay.

About the Maryland Geocaching Society

Founded in the fall of 2002, the Maryland Geocaching Society (MGS) was among the first groups to organize around the adventure and passion of geocaching. Over the past eight years, the Society has welcomed nearly 3,000 members to its website and sponsored multiple state-wide activities, including “Cache in Trash Out” programs to assist in the maintenance of parks and trail systems. The MGS promotes geocaching as exciting, earth-friendly and adventurous outdoor recreation for the whole family.

Contact:
Laura Ford, Director of Communications, Accokeek Foundation
Cindy Chance, National Park Service, Chesapeake
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An Observation from the Bayou

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by Wilton C. Corkern, President

I always enjoy visiting my family in Louisiana. There are also a few bonuses that come with the trip: a shoe shine in Louis Armstrong International Airport, the drive across the Bonnet Carre Spillway and the Atchafalaya Basin, oyster po-boys from Chris’s diner and crawfish at Prejean’s in Lafayette, and visiting some great wildlife habitat. One regular spot we visit is Lake Martin, in the edge of St. Martin Parish. It’s a great place to see birds, alligators, snakes, turtles, and other wildlife because one can see big stretches of Bald Cypress swamp without leaving the car (always a plus for my 94 year-old Mom).

On the most recent trip we saw hundreds of Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Louisiana Herons, Great Blue Herons, and Roseate Spoonbills on their nests and in the skies. Large (8” – 12” long) Red Eared Slider Turtles sunned on virtually every snag and log sticking up out of the shallow water. We saw the last of this year’s native Louisiana blue iris blooms. Then, just as we were about to leave the preserve, there was an alligator. We all spotted it about the same time. Anne could see its head; Mom could see its tail. All I could see was something big thrashing around in the green water. Anne said it was eating something. She saw it lunge and bite something, but then we couldn’t see what it was. I stopped the car and got out for a closer look. I stood on the side of the road with a clear view of the five footer’s head and mouth in the tall grass at the water’s edge. My reward was to see a fat Cottonmouth, about three inches in diameter, crosswise in the ‘gator’s mouth. It was chomping and jerking its head from side to side, working its way toward the snake’s head. Once the snake’s head was in its mouth, the alligator gulped it in and began swallowing it – chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp – until the blunt tail disappeared inside. I watched for another half-minute or so as the alligator slowly backed into the water and submerged. Then it was gone.

We headed back to Mom’s apartment in Lafayette where we made coffee and watched Ruby-throated Hummingbirds on the feeder in her garden just outside the living room window.

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