Projects for Nature & History Preservation, and Sustainable Living

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Historic Archives and Research

The B. F. Johnson Cash Store in Everton, Missouri circa the 1890s.

To preserve the farm’s history, farm owner Anne (Johnson) Prichard hired Amanda to digitally scan and preserve vast collections of photographs, letters, and papers, and research the Johnson farm and family for various articles or to find answers to questions about a person or place. Documenting this history will help the family more quickly find what they’re looking for, assist future researchers on topics like the fruit industry or WWI, and educate the community about a part of its history that had gone unrecognized until recently. Many Washington County Rieff’s Chapel pioneer families are represented in the collection, as well as families from other states like Missouri, New York, and even around the world. Professional archivist Tony Wappel has organized the archives into files and boxes, and created a finding aid which is easily searchable. Holly Hope with the Arkansas Preservation Program in Little Rock worked with us to nominate the farm as a District for the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, and Rieff’s Chapel Cemetery was listed in 2020.

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Litter and Illegal Dump Cleanups

We pick up litter along Pear Lane and at Rieff’s Chapel Cemetery and orchard areas. There are at least several illegal dumps to report each year, including groupings of torn trash bags or very large items like mattresses and appliances. If possible, we clean up the trash ourselves with the help of Fawn, the farmhouse tenant, and put it out with the weekly trash pickup. When necessary, we call Andrew Coleman with Washington County. We keep an eye out for drug paraphernalia or meth lab activity, and have had to report large amounts of syringes and other signs of drug use to the Sheriff’s office (we took a class on spotting meth waste and using caution when picking up litter).

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Bird Nest Boxes (Nest Watch)

A male and female eastern bluebird at one of the farm’s nest boxes. The female is building a new nest!

Wooden nest boxes for birds is a Johnson Farm tradition that began around the 1930s before the pergola was constructed. Amanda became certified to identify nests and count eggs and fledglings as a nest box monitor through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch citizen science program. Len White and Jay Richard Jones volunteered to help restore the existing bird boxes given by the late Carl Koffler to farm owner Anne (Johnson) Prichard as a Valentine’s Day gift. Monitoring (as opposed to setting up a box and letting it alone) increases the survival rate of birds who use the boxes by decreasing predation and disease. Keeping count of species also helps ornithologists understand population trends and prevent extinctions. During the nesting season, Amanda cleans the boxes, refreshes the marker numbers, applies wasp and ant preventatives, checks each box every few days and submits data on all nests (successful and unsuccessful) to the lab via their website. The main nesting bird species include eastern bluebirds, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmouse, and (on human structures) Carolina wrens. Tree swallows are common also, but Amanda hasn’t seen those nesting in boxes here from 2015-2022.

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Visitor Tours and Events

Above: Sandwiching in History Tour, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, March 3, 2023

We are here to help welcome visitors and answer any historical or ecological questions regarding the farm (if we know the answers). This has included friends of the owner, curious people driving by, representatives from local non-profits, and even a drone film crew! Whether it’s looking up a historical document, or giving a visitor a tour, it’s fun to connect visitors with nature and history. Annual or semi-regular events like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count are hosted at the farm with much fun for all!

Ripples Greeting Cards

“Gingerbird House” was released to sell in stores in 2021 and is printed on Forest Stewardship Council certified paper.

Amanda loves to draw, so in 2014 she began printing her drawings on sustainable paper as a fundraiser for Ripples projects. We incur fees for solar hosting this website, for example. Many aspects of sustainable living projects are not cheap (tools, native plants, etc). Greeting card sales help offset the financial impact of doing these projects, but Amanda also designs cards because she’s passionate about her art. “I hope my drawings bring people joy or make them giggle or feel loved by someone thinking of them!”

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Feral Cat Adoptions

“Percy” pictured before & after his adoption. He had caught and killed a red-bellied woodpecker, female cardinal, and other wildlife. Now he mostly catches Zzzz’s!

Because this is a conservation area, every effort is made to ensure the protection of all native species. Ryan and Amanda socialize feral cats, trap them in humane cages, socialize them, and adopt them out to good families where they will receive proper love and medical attention. Feral cats and kittens at the farm have died from tick-born Bobcat fever, and are fecund, subsidized predators who kill more for entertainment than necessity. We also document wildlife killings and rehabilitate injured wildlife with the help of a licensed rehabilitator.

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Clearing Downed Trees

To keep roads and pathways clear, Ryan occasionally has to chainsaw or remove downed limbs and trees blown over in storms. The neighbors always jump in with larger machinery when a really large tree falls! Amanda picks up smaller branches weekly on walks. Keeping roads clear helps visitors to the cemetery and maintains access to the farmhouse.

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Newspaper Column 'Making Ripples'

Welcome! From August 2012 through March 28, 2021, the “Making Ripples” column was published in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sunday newspaper’s What’s Up insert as well as online with the Fayetteville Free Weekly. Its goal was to promote awareness of sustainable living and making a difference (“making ripples”) in the world. We hope it helps readers achieve their own goals and make a difference in their own way. Read the columns archived here.

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Greywater Rain Garden with Native Plants

Ryan hauls buckets during our greywater garden build in autumn of 2018. Several friends really helped us out, and the Beaver Watershed Alliance offered training and funding for materials like native plants and mulch.

In 2018, we built a native plant greywater mulch basin after the tiny house had been delivered and installed. The native plants include four Dwarf Little Henry Sweetspire bushes, and several swamp milkweeds (asclepias incarnata). The mulch is cypress chips. As of 2021, it’s still doing its job filtering greywater from our sinks and shower, and from the urine diverter in the Separette Villa composting toilet.

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Counting Frog Calls (Frog Watch)

Amanda was certified as a FrogWatch monitor and occasionally identifies the farm’s frog and toad species by their calls after dark. Data is reported online to the FrogWatch citizen science program, which helps keep track of frog and toad populations and their health in any given area. The main species identified at the farm include spring and fall peepers, American toads, Blanchard’s cricket frogs, leopard frogs, and the gray treefrog (Amanda’s favorite!).

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Invasive Plant Removals

Amanda and Ryan try to keep the historic springhouse clear of brush and bush honeysuckle.

In some areas, the farm has become encroached upon by bush honeysuckle, callery pear, and other non-native invasive species that rapidly colonize open spaces, blocking out sunlight and resources so that native plants can’t grow. A healthy ecosystem depends on a diversity of native plants that evolved with native pollinators and wildlife. Certain species of invasive non-native plants also make it harder to walk woodland areas due to undergrowth, inhibits the reproduction of toads, increases the concentration of tick-borne illness, creates a fire hazard, and other problems (such as a proliferation of thorny vines which my bleeding limbs can attest!). This is a lifelong, multi-generational project.

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Releasing Wildlife with Rehabilitators

Licensed turtle rehabilitator Joyce Hicks prepares to release a hatchling red-eared slider into the pond.

As a protected private property with a conservation easement held by the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust, the farm is a fantastic place to release native wildlife that has been rehabilitated. Here, they are at less risk of construction, pond draining, cars, cats, dogs, lawnmowers and other hazards. As of July 2020, more than 10 box turtles and around 8 aquatic turtles have been released. We invite any type of rehabilitator or apprentice to contact us for a site visit to see if our location is a good fit for your releases:

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Bradford Pear Removal and Replacement with Native Trees

Sim chops down a Bradford Pear tree with an electric, solar-charged pole saw.

So far we have removed two invasive non-native non-fruit-producing Bradford Pear trees with the help of our friend Sim, plus a few saplings. We plan to replace all Bradford Pears with Serviceberry and other native trees. This will take some time as there are a couple of dozen of them.

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Presentations and Classes

Amanda & Ryan present at Packrat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville.

Ryan & Amanda occasionally offer presentations in person or online. In the past, Amanda gave a presentation on the Historic Johnson Farm archives for the Fayetteville Public Library via Zoom (see the YouTube video here) and she was also a “human book” on the subject of moving off-grid for the Human Library event. We also did a workshop clinic at Packrat Outdoor Center about living off-grid in a tiny house. In spring 2021, we offered a Zoom/in-person hybrid class through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. During the covid-19 pandemic, we are pivoting to focus more online and hope to offer pre-recorded video tours in the future.

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