Invasion of the Tennis Balls

April 16, 2016. It was a peaceful morning on the Potomac River. The sun was shining, there was hardly a breeze to ripple the river’s surface, and spring’s warmth was finally beating out winter’s brutal cold. It was a perfect April morning. Too perfect. How could we guess at the horrors that awaited us?

10 am. The volunteers began to arrive for the 28th Annual Potomac River Watershed Clean-Up. They checked in, gathered their trash bags and gloves and grabbers, and headed out for the shoreline. They chatted and smiled with one another, and prepared to collect what they thought would be your run-of-the-mill litter–plastic bottles and aluminum cans from the river.

10:30 am. The first tennis ball is found. How funny and whimsical it seemed to find a faded Wilson wash up on the shoreline. Was someone playing fetch with their dog and lost their ball? What is this ball’s story–how did it come to land in Piscataway Park?

10:45 am. More tennis balls. Some look to be brand new, while others are missing their fuzzy yellow shells altogether. Concern began to spread among the trash collectors. Where are they all coming from? How can we possibly collect them all?

11:30 am. Chaos. One group came across a pile of 43 tennis balls, just stacked there in a pyramid, as if the tennis balls were gathering for some sort of ritual. Others began to run out of room in their bags, with no end to the balls in sight. Confusion ran rampant as all those witness to the invasion wondered “Why!?” and “How!?” Where have the tennis balls come from and why do they float so desperately to our shorelines?

We may never know why the tennis balls decided to invade this April. But we do know that it’s thanks to the valiant efforts of those volunteers that stood on the shoreline and bravely fought to stem the tide of the invasion that I live to pass this message on today. Never forget this day, and the lesson that the trash on the streets in your neighborhood could one day make it to our shores to invade again. Never forget.

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Thank you to the volunteers who participated in this year’s Potomac River Watershed Clean-Up!

Your efforts led to the removal of 75 bags of trash and recyclables (including a total of 193 tennis balls!) from the shoreline in Piscataway Park. You also managed to remove almost 300 additional pounds of bulk trash. That’s an impressive haul!

If you have any pictures from the event that you would like to share with us, e-mail outreach@accokeek.org, or tag us on social media: (facebook, instagram, twitter).

Click here to learn more about the Trash Free Potomac Watershed Initiative, and how you can get involved in litter prevention year-round!

That’s a Wrap! Lattes with Lambs 2016

In like a lion and out like a lamb. No, I’m not talking about the month of April, but last Saturday’s annual Lattes with Lambs event at the Foundation. After a blustery week, and a wet and cold start to the morning, the clouds parted and left us with a truly beautiful afternoon to enjoy all of the food and fun happening on the farm.

With cheese making demonstrations, taste testing courtesy of P.A. Bowen Farmstead, and a shake-your-own butter activity, the “Dairy Area” gave everyone a chance to learn hands-on how dairy products go from cow-to-culture. The sheep-to-shawl activities (as well as demonstrations done by The Spinning Loft), which included wool washing, carding, dyeing, and felting, demonstrated how wool straight from the sheep is transformed into your favorite yarns and sweaters.

And let’s not forget the main event: the chance to meet some of the new lambs and calves born on the farm this spring. Visitors got behind the scene tours of the barn and barnyard, experienced life as a free-range chicken from inside the mobile chicken coop, and celebrated Nigel the lamb’s first birthday with a special alfalfa cake made just for him.

Thank you to all who attended this event to help support the Foundation’s Heritage Breed Livestock Preservation program. Your support helps us increase the numbers of these critically endangered breeds, while raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity in livestock.

Check out some of our favorite photos from the event below:

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Farmer Ann demonstrates sheep shearing techniques for a crowd of on-lookers. All of the wool sheared from the sheep each spring is processed into yarn and sold at the Visitor Center to support the heritage livestock program.

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Shemika turns visitors into the farm animal of their choice at the face painting booth.

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Nigel enjoys his birthday cake made from alfalfa.

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Visitors take a cruise around the site on the hay shuttle.

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Break time for some Panera soup and Starbucks Lattes!

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What is rotational grazing, and why do we do it here at the Foundation? These kids and visitors learn by pretending they are cows in “The Hungry Games.”

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Cheese sampling courtesy of P.A. Bowen Farmstead.

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Cheese making demonstrations show how to make your own mozzarella right at home.

Check out more great photos from the event on Instagram #lattes4lambs. Have some photos you want to share? Feel free to send them to us at outreach@accokeek.org, or tag us on Instagram (accokeek_foundation) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/AccokeekFoundation).

We want to extend a huge thank you to all of those who helped make this event a success. To the volunteers who helped staff the activities; to Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Miller Farms for donating coffee and donuts; to Farmer Ann for the sheep shearing demonstrations; to The Spinning Loft for wool and fiber demonstrations; to P.A. Bowen Farmstead for the cheese tasting; and to the National Park Service. 

All photos in this blog entry taken by volunteer Ron Liljedahl. 

Support the livestock (and much more) year-round by joining to become an Accokeek Foundation Member today!

A Peek Inside the Hen House

Among my list of favorite things about working at a farm is that from my office window I get to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the barnyard. This means I get to watch a lot of exciting distractions throughout the day — escapee lambs running wild in the yard, chickens free ranging under my window; I’ve even been greeted by a hog once. Never a dull day at the farm!

High on the list of favorite things is definitely watching the heritage hens free range and be chicken-like.

One afternoon I noticed that Polly, our livestock manager, was having a particularly challenging time getting all of the hens back into their coop for the evening, so I helped. (I’m always eager for the break from the computer screen!) With Polly at the coop guarding the door I rounded up the stragglers. Our dialogue at this point was what inspired this blog post:

Polly: Is that all of them?
Me: Yes, a spotty chick, fluffy cheeks, fuzzy feet, and the Dominque.
Polly: Strangely, I know exactly which breeds you’re talking about!

If you’ve visited the farm this year, you’ve likely to have encountered a few of the heritage chickens ranging freely around our barnyard and offices, each with their distinctive characteristics and personalities. While it’s easy for those who work with the animals regularly (like Polly) to know each animal, including the many breeds of chickens on the farm, for the rest of us it’s not so easy. To help with the identification of the chickens seen at the farm, below is a helpful guide along with my personal translations:

Dominique

aka: “Dominique”
I know these ones so I don’t have an alternative name for them, though they look similar to the Plymouth Barred Rock (or Rock Chick).

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Sussex (Speckled)

aka: “Spotty Chick”
From a distance it looks like it has spots on it.

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Brahma (Light)

aka: “Fuzzy Feet”
This one confused me the most. The light variety of the Sussex above is very similar to ol’ Fuzzy Feet here which looks similar to Delaware chickens, so I gave up trying to remember. But as you can see the Brahma sports leg-warmers, so Fuzzy Feet she shall be!

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Welsummer

aka: “Kaleidoscope Chickey”
A rare bird of Dutch origin, lays beautiful dark brown eggs. In the sunlight their colorful feathers have a “sparkle” to them which is why I call them Kaleidoscope chickens.

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Dorking (Silver Gray)

aka: “Laced Neck”
Her neck feathers look very Elizabethan: lacey and fun! She’s majestic and thinks that she is of higher nobility than the others. This is why she has taken up residence in the barn where she can live like a queen instead of in the coop with the common-folk! Ashley calls them Dorks. I don’t think the Queen likes that.

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Easter Eggers (Ameraucana/Araucana)

aka: “Fluffy Cheeks”
These are among my favorites of all of the breeds. Their cheeks, they’re so fluffy! Like Col. Burnside and his mutton chops. They are called Easter Eggers because they lay a pale blue/green egg.

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This is another Fluffy Cheek chicken with different coloring. She’s showing off a bit here.

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So, why all the different chicken breeds you ask? Two years ago, when our farmers decided to try their hand at egg production, Polly chose a variety of chickens who would produce a colorful array of eggs — from dark spotted brown, light brown, white, and blue/green. The result is a unique brand of eggs that are sold at the farm! Because our ladies are free to roam, these eggs are both delicious and healthy with a deep orange yolk (the sign of a healthy and happy chicken!).

On your next visit, stop in the visitor’s center, pick up a carton or two (or three!), then meet the chickens who laid your eggs!

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photo credit: Jessica Burton

Piscataway Voices: Sharing Cultural Connections

An introduction to Piscataway Voices, a three-part blog series that shares the heritage and culture of Maryland’s Native people — Piscataway — and the individual perspectives of Native people, their relationship to land, stewardship, and each other.

Piscataway Park welcomes visitors all year to experience the history and present day culture of Maryland's Native people.

Piscataway Park welcomes visitors all year to experience an indigenous cultural landscape which invokes the spirit, history, and present day culture of Maryland’s Native people.

Seven years ago, when I arrived at 3400 Bryan Point Road in Accokeek for the very first time I thought, “this is a special place; this feels like home.” At the time I didn’t fully understand why I felt a connection to this place, but I do now. It IS home.

Arriving at work in Piscataway Park every day, I am reminded of my own heritage and culture, and of the significance of this land as a part of the traditional homeland of the Piscataway people — my ancestors. Through my work here, I’ve had the honor to become deeply involved in the telling of Piscataway stories. I’ve worked on a team to develop a traveling exhibit based on oral histories from several Piscataway elders, including my own grandparents! I’ve met scholars and experts in the field of archaeology and indigenous cultural landscapes. I’ve even reconnected with long lost friends and family. I’m beginning to immerse myself into the study of ethnobotany as I explore more ways to tell the stories of my cultural connection to the land.

Knowing that we all have special connections to the places where we live, work, and visit, I want to share more stories about how Native people, and more specifically Piscataway, connect with their culture and the land. To share these stories of stewardship, cultural celebrations, sharing, and reciprocity, and to honor my Native American heritage, I invited my Piscataway sisters and brother to tell you their stories. These are their stories, as told in their own voice. These are Piscataway Voices:

A Homecoming Story by Chris Newman, Piscataway Conoy
The Benefit of Piscataway People to Maryland: It’s Time for Reciprocity by Cryz Proctor, Piscataway Conoy
Honoring Full Circle by Gabrielle Tayac, Piscataway Indian Nation

 

 

 

Piscataway Voices: A Homecoming Story

Piscataway Voices, Part 1 of 3

written by Chris Newman; Choptico Band, Piscataway Conoy; General Manager, Sylvanaqua Farms

Chris Newman stewards the land as a Native farmer. Photo by Sylvanaqua Farms.

“Haha, no I don’t think so.”

This was the lighthearted but decidedly serious response of a good friend of mine when I suggested to his five year old son that, one day, he might be a farmer. The little boy did what all little boys (and little girls) do when they visit an old-school livestock farm: he fell in love. A warm summer sun, the sweet smell of grass, and a shade tree to lounge under while watching animals happily cluck, oink, quack, and grunt in the fields and forests… those things produce a sense of peace and satisfaction that invades your bones and infuses your soul with an elusive kind of happiness. Most people in America will toil away for a lifetime under fluorescent lights, squirreling away a nest egg in the hopes of one day, in the twilight of their years, reclaiming the inner peace of a toddler.

A recent volunteer at our farm made a very salient point. “You say you want to farm for a living, and you might as well say you want to paint oil canvasses for a living. People look at you the same way.”  Young farmers, like young artists, are widely viewed as self-indulgent millennial hipsters avoiding real work and adulthood. Their line of work is one where success is possible but highly improbable; where Picasso and Polyface are impossible economic outliers. The common logic says it’s much better to be “realistic,” which today means taking on six figures in student loan debt to enter a Thunderdome of a workforce; one where Ph.Ds claw one another’s eyes out competing for jobs paying $20 an hour. Parents like the one that visited my farm will tell their kids, “go to college, get a job.” Farming is a hobby best left for your golden years.

That attitude is a whole pile of nonsense. Stewarding the land is the future – economically, ecologically, and socially. This is particularly true for young people of color, and perhaps most of all for young Native people.

Too many writings on Native American Heritage Month are about the past: ancient traditions and historical figures and bold pronouncements about being the ‘first Americans’ and cathartic waxings on Caucasian depredation, all distilled into an anthology – equal parts depressing, enraging, and yawn-inducing – about how exciting it is that our culture isn’t quite dead yet. So let’s instead talk about the future, why young Native people should look for it in the land, and how freaking awesome that is. And while we do, let’s close our ears to our well-intended doubts, fears, prejudices, and projections, even if just for this little while.

Farming is profitable as long as you start small and in the space you already have access to. There are people grossing $80,000 a year in 1,000 square foot greenhouses selling organic microgreens. You can sell produce to practically any upscale restaurant at any time. Literally all of your neighbors would rather buy salad mixes from you than the grocery store. Have you seen the price of basil and mint? You can grow basil and mint, right now, anywhere: on your balcony, on your walls, in your basement, in your yard, on your kitchen counter, in your garage. You can grow herbs in your bathroom and, if you’ve got a bathtub nobody ever uses, you can grow daikons or carrots in it.

Despite what you may have heard, farming does not necessarily mean uprooting your life, buying a hundred acres and pieces of heavy equipment in the middle of nowhere with an ungodly amount of debt, leaving your friends and family, and praying for rain. What it more likely means is this: you start by growing as much stuff in your own home as possible, and sell it to your neighbors until it’s profitable. Then you expand to maybe your yard, or someone else’s yard, or an abandoned city lot. You sell that stuff to more neighbors and maybe a restaurant or two. You keep socking money away. Then maybe you add a few other things that do well in urban settings, like egg laying hens or bees. Sooner than you realize, you’ll find yourself making a living farming without an acre of land or a single tractor to your name.

Maybe, and ideally, you’ll get to the point where you decide to move further out, building acres of food forests and pastures to feed people, restore the land, battle climate change, and give your family and friends an idyllic place to live and work. There’s no higher calling for a Native person than to return to our lands – to the blood and bones of our ancestors – and restore them to health along with those whose faces remain above the ground. And given the enormous demand for this kind of food relative to the tiny amount of it being produced (this is what happens when most of the supply is coming from “prudent” retirees in their golden years), the economics of smallholding will be sound for decades or longer.

Young people that want to farm this way will be entering a business that involves almost no debt, can become profitable in a single year, and has an insatiable demand for a product that can never become obsolete. It’s a workplace with no commutes, no cubicles, no status meetings, no performance reviews, and no office politics. It’s a lifestyle that involves constant physical activity, time outdoors, no need for gym memberships, less need for drugs and doctors, the best food in the world, and the greatest work-life balance of any industry. For the life of me, I can’t understand why parents don’t aggressively insist their children become farmers.

Take time during this month to remember what’s come before. Remember and honor the old ones, our traditions, our values, and the events – good and bad – that have shaped who were are as a people. But ultimately, our past, present, and future are all wrapped up in the land, as they’ve always been. Today, the land and the ancestors dwelling within are calling for us. It’s time to come home.

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Pasture raised hogs at Sylvanaqua Farms near Charlottesville, Virginia.

 

Piscataway Voices: Honoring Full Circle

Piscataway Voices, Part 3 of 3

written by Gabrielle Tayac, Piscataway Indian Nation

Gabrielle Tayac visits ancestral burial site in Piscataway Park. Photo by Edwin Remsberg.

Gabrielle Tayac visits ancestral burial site in Piscataway Park. Photo by Edwin Remsberg, www.remsberg.com

Golden autumn light, amplified through glowing leaves, cast surprisingly unseasonal warmth upon me as I took the deliberate steps in the annual procession during the Piscataway Feast of the Dead Ceremony. Just up the road from the National Colonial Farm lies one of the most significant ancient and historical sites in the DC area that Piscataway people call Moyaone, also known as the Accokeek Creek Site in Piscataway Park.

Here we gather every November with family and dear friends, some from other tribes and many from diverse backgrounds, to honor and recall our beloved ancestors both long gone or newly departed. In this mostly unknown sacred site, we have a few hours to walk along the unseen. Feast of the Dead is a centuries old spiritual practice. It existed in a variety of forms throughout the Eastern Woodlands and persists still within a few Native American communities in the Northeast. Far to the south, with great imperial pomp and festivity, the Aztecs conducted month-long ceremonies for the departed. Their tradition merged with Catholicism after the Spanish invasion and is now known as Dia de los Muertos on November 1. Likely because the Piscataway were converted to Catholicism in 1640, we have also set the ceremonial date loosely around All Soul’s Day.

Indigenous people inhabited the perfect Potomac riverside location at Moyaone for thousands of years, relating to the rich tidal biosphere and creating a succession of cultures on the land. Centuries ago, likely around 1200 AD, things changed. A leader named Uttapoingassanem brought a new way of life to the region, constructing large towns and uniting smaller tribes into a chiefdom. When Captain John Smith mapped the region in 1608 in exploratory forays from Jamestown, he noted Moyaone as a chief’s town. And so it was – the palisaded capital of the Piscataway people until it was burned during conflicts of the Anglo-Powhatan wars.

The Piscataway never forgot their cherished capital, a place once thriving with cornfields, longhouses, and accompanied by the long line of ancestors buried throughout the landscape. The Piscataway buried their dead together in ossuaries during the Feast of the Dead ceremonies for centuries – a people collective in life, they would be a people collective in the Spirit World.

In today’s world, and indeed since the 18th century, Piscataway bury their loved ones in cemeteries much like other Marylanders. One man though, the late Chief Turkey Tayac, my grandfather, wanted to reconnect a new generation of Piscataway directly to the ancestors sleeping at Moyaone. Through an Act of Congress in 1979, one year after his death, Chief Tayac’s wish was fulfilled. He was buried in the ossuary of the old ones, under a red cedar that we now call the Tree of Life that would be a channel from the ancestral remains to the living to the Creator.

It is to this very place, the Tree of Life at Moyaone, that we make a ceremonial march to every year. Accompanied by song and drumbeat, holding small bundles that represent every deceased person that we want to remember that year, we walk a path of prayer and reconciliation. We stop four times at different points, one for each direction, reflective but not sad, along with our children and elders. And every year as I get well into middle-age, I realize that there are more friends and family in whose footsteps I tread, but that they are not with me in life anymore. They are in the bundles, held to my heart as we walk further to the tree.

The cedar tree represents the Tree of Life, where annually Piscataway tribal members convene for a Feast of the Dead celebration in remembrance of the loved ones lost. Photo by Edwin Remsberg, www.remsberg.com.

The cedar tree represents the Tree of Life, where annually Piscataway tribal members convene for a Feast of the Dead celebration in remembrance of the loved ones lost. Photo by Edwin Remsberg, www.remsberg.com.

When the procession arrives at the Tree of Life, we form a half circle on the east side. For the second half of the circle, the one to the west, the one that extends into the Potomac River, is reserved for the spirits. Together we make one circle: Native people, people of all faiths and ethnicities who we are connected to in the past and present. We are unified.

One by one or in family groups, we speak the names of those passed on, tell jokes and stories about them, speak to them a little while. Maybe there are apologies owed. Maybe there was somebody we had to say, “I love you” to one more time. Then we tie the bundles on to the tree so that when the wind blows it carries the message to the Spirit World through our loved ones.

After everyone has tied their bundles, we balance out reflection with feasting. Hosted in the cheerful Education building at the Accokeek Foundation there is much visiting, banter, and yes, always gossip. For a while, we as Piscataway people are back in our ancient home, with our ancestors and with the living. That is how we come full circle.

The Benefit of Piscataway People to Maryland: It’s Time for Reciprocity

Piscataway Voices; Part 2 of 3

written by Cryz Nkechehosi Proctor; Wild Turkey Clan, Cedarville Band of the Piscatawy Conoy

Wild Turkey Clan mother, Gladys Procter and her family pose with Governor O'Malley during the 2012 Piscataway recognition.

Wild Turkey Clan mother, Gladys Procter and her family pose with Governor Martin O’Malley during the 2012 Piscataway recognition.

Growing up as an active member of the Wild Turkey Clan, Cedarville Band of the Piscataway Conoy, I have witnessed and participated in decades of petitioning the state of Maryland to be validated in saying we are who we have always known ourselves to be; the descendants of the Piscataway. Piscataway, in existence by some archaeological estimates for 24,000 years, is the largest Native Nation and head of the 2nd largest confederacy of the Chesapeake region. Within these years I internalized the dedication of our Elders in their efforts to right the wrongs for our people. After many attempts, in 2012 we finally received the state recognition to claim who we have been – long before the English traveled up the Potomac to discover us. Thus, 2012 ushered in a new wave of opportunities as well as exploitation of my people.

As a young child, I watched and was coached in a resurgence of our culture and philosophies. Tight-knit families (bonded together by ancestral exclusivity and historic traumas) created councils, built a museum and cultural center and filled these spaces with programming to build our community up. These efforts were Piscataway community-funded and maintained. Then, I watched helplessly, as a beautiful, strong and knowledgeable people succumbed to internal and public struggle, emotional turmoil and collusion. It would have been a blessing, a relief, a revitalization and proper for us to have received the support of local nonprofits, culture, education and preservation organizations, and government officials who benefited from our history and lives. Many organizations still today benefit from the name, struggles, bones, artifacts, lands, waters and stories of our ancestors. Many want to benefit from the mystique of an ancient people while failing to create reciprocal relationships with those descendants who are still living and rightfully representing Eastern Woodland Native communities. As the inherited 5th generation clan mother, two-spirit healer, and co-chair of the Cedarville Band of the Piscataway, Inc., my life’s work has been and will remain to see my ancestors raised back to their rightful place, to be an advocate for Earth Mother and to be a culture bearer. Mostly, I want to leave a legacy (with actual benefits) that the next generations can prosper from. We are still here and we will continue to share our own stories to rebuild what was lost. To reclaim what we have allowed to be exploited will not be an easy task but it is one that I am willing to spend my lifetime to change.

I am the Executive Producer of a Piscataway designed and facilitated mobile program: Living the American Indian Experience (LAIE). Via several public program models under the LAIE umbrella, we reach young children, students, professionals and the general public as well as partner with existing museums, parks, education systems, governmental agencies and nonprofits to share our culture and history. We do this with emphasis on culturally appropriate and historically accurate ways which employ and benefit tribal members while helping to eradicate long-withstanding stereotypes about Native peoples. In our first season of operation this year, we have reached over 10,000 people and are repairing long-strained relationships. If you are interested in reserving our services or partnering with us in a reciprocal and mutually respectful way, please inquire via our website at: www.piscatawayindians.com.

Teens Spend Summer Learning Ecology by Farming

photo by Andrea Jones, Accokeek Foundation

ACC teen program interns showcase what they learned during an end of season celebration for families, friends, and school administrators. (photo by Andrea Jones, Accokeek Foundation)

According to Shakespeare, parting is such sweet sorrow. This was certainly the case as we said farewell to the first class of the newly launched Agriculture Conservation Corps (ACC) program this August. In collaboration with Prince George’s County’s William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, the Accokeek Foundation developed a 7-week program to introduce area youth to different aspects of agriculture, from animal husbandry to production farming, all while providing a local historical context.

Tyler Reid, 15, shares her experiences on the farm. (photo by Anjela Barnes, Accokeek Foundation)

Tyler Reid, 15, shares her experiences on the farm. (photo by Anjela Barnes, Accokeek Foundation)

Nine teens, from Gwynn Park High School and Oxon Hill High School, spent their summer vacation learning more than just farming. They learned where their food comes from and how to prepare nutritious meals using harvested ingredients, about soil nutrient management and ecology, how to be caretakers of the land, and most importantly about community. “It’s a good program for people who want to get into the science field,” tells Isaiah Nance, a student from Gwynn Park considering a major in marine biology. “I learned about different plants and how to identify the plants.” Tyler Reid, another Gwynn Park student, shares how learning to build wattle fencing and trellises helped her to think more creatively in order to shape the branches and limbs to support the growing beans and squash vines. These experiences provided an interdisciplinary perspective on agriculture and sustainability.

The ACC program will be evaluated and expanded for the 2016 season, with spring and summer sessions available for students. The Accokeek Foundation is a nonprofit education organization that stewards 200 acres of Piscataway Park in Accokeek, Maryland. Its mission is to cultivate a passion for the natural and cultural heritage of Piscataway Park and commitment to stewardship and sustainability. The ACC is one of its many educational programs that integrates environmental sustainability with history for better understanding of human’s impact on the land.

 

Trail Treks: Pawpaws in Piscataway Park

As summer heats up, the forested Pawpaw Trail provides welcome shade from the sun. Tulip trees, oaks, and sycamores stand tall, but the trail would not be complete without an appearance by the tree that bears its name. Its long, thin trunk looks silver in the shade. Its oblong leaves bring to mind the tropics. And its light green fruit hangs too often just out of reach. It is the pawpaw.

Often translated to mean place of the wild fruit, referring to the pawpaw, Accokeek itself is beholden to this native North American tree. The plant whose name is so fun to say runs rampant through Piscataway Park, setting down roots in moist soil and spreading in groves in the lower levels of the forest.

The plant provides food to both animals and humans alike, in the form of soft fruit that ripens in the fall and tastes like a banana and mango cross. Native Americans and European pioneers valued the pawpaw as a wild source of food. George Washington ate chilled pawpaws for dessert, and Thomas Jefferson planted the tree at Monticello. And countless Appalachian folk singers have reminisced about time spent way down yonder in the pawpaw patch.

A light green pawpaw grows along the Pawpaw Trail.

A light green pawpaw grows along the Pawpaw Trail.

Today, the fruit has experienced a resurgence in retail popularity. An  NPR segment on this “forgotten fruit” explores the pawpaw’s recent commercialization, due in large part to plant scientist Neal Peterson. Peterson, inspired in 1975 by a taste of the fruit on a West Virginia hike, has spent more than three decades breeding the plant. Now, six Peterson Pawpaw varieties are being grown in orchards and sold at markets.

While the pawpaw is said to make excellent beer and even better wine, less adventurous eaters can still enjoy the fruit baked into bread or muffins or eaten raw. If you find one, take a bite, and savor the rich custard-like history of one of our favorite native fruits.

8 Reasons Why Growing Up On the Chesapeake is the Best Way to Grow Up

Everyone here at the foundation has a piece of our mission that particularly resonates with them. It’s the reason they come to work in the morning, and the reason they feel good about their job even after a hard day. For some it’s food justice and providing fresh food to the community, for some it’s the culture and history of this place, and for others it’s educating local students and the public. But for me, it’s the park. It’s this beautiful, peaceful piece of shoreline. And it’s the river.

Recently, staff members were asked to think about how we would define sustainability. What does it mean to us? Why do we think it’s important? And in my mind those answers are put into the context of the river, because the Chesapeake and its waterways run through every part of my life. To me, sustainability is about protection–protecting resources, protecting people, protecting systems–so that they can stand the test of time. It’s about protecting the Chesapeake as a resource, and ensuring that those who come after me will also be able to view it as such. It’s about making sure the people and animals who have made a life here can continue to make a life here. It’s about protecting the health of the water so that we can continue to take nourishment from it.

So in honor of protecting a resource as valuable as the Chesapeake or the Potomac, I’ve put together a list of “8 Reasons Why Growing Up On the Chesapeake is the Best Way to Grow Up,” featuring photos from my very own childhood. Enjoy!

 

1. You learned to tie a boat knot before you could tie your shoes

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Who even wore shoes in the summer anyways? You weren’t a real boat kid if you didn’t get dock splinters on the bottom of your feet on a regular basis.

 

2. Fresh seafood is just a pole or net away

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Who wants to eat chicken, when you can use that chicken to catch crabs off the dock? Never mind that the catch of the day for my brother and I was usually jellyfish tangled in a net.

 

3. You can’t have a massive float out in a pool

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Don’t have a float? Macgyver one out of noodles and life jackets! The dogs want to come too? Sure, no problem!

 

4. Life jacket fashion is a way of life

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Is that a zebra life jacket with a yarn fringe mane? Why yes, yes it is.

 

5. If you can’t find an island to hang out at, you can just make your own

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Nothing beats a raft out with good friends.

 

6. You can’t beat the commute

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A “traffic jam” on the water beats a traffic jam in the city any day.

 

7. The landscape is always changing

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With the ebb and flow of the tide, you never have the same view twice. And sometimes low tide means new sandbars to explore.

 

8. There’s always something new to explore

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To sort of quote Samuel Johnson, when a man (or woman, or child) is tired of the river, he is tired of life.