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The Federated Garden Club of Maryland (FGCMD) hosted the annual Alice Rush McKeon Fund Tree Planting event on Saturday, September 30, 2023, at Gilmore C. Trout Memorial Park in Walkersville. This year, in her memory, District V of FGCMD was awarded funds to plant trees and chose several sites in Frederick County. Gilmore C. Trout Memorial Park in Walkersville, FCPS Earth Space and Science Lab Arboretum in downtown Frederick, and a park in Thurmont were the chosen locations.

Following a demonstration of the correct way to plant a tree, 24 fifteen-gallon bucket trees were planted by garden club members, Boy Scout Troop 1011, and Walkersville and Frederick County community volunteers. Also participating were representatives from Frederick County Forest Conservancy Board and the Maryland Forestry Service.

The Maryland Forestry Service included this project as part of their Five Million Tree Initiative to plant 5 million trees in Maryland by 2031. To celebrate the morning’s accomplishment, a reception was held at nearby Heritage Farm Park in Walkersville.

Alice Rush McKeon was a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who died in February 1979, at the age of 95. McKeon had led a remarkable life. She served twice as president of the Federated Garden Club of Maryland (FGCMD). She was a pioneer in the conservation and environment movement. She instrumented several programs that generated national attention. McKeon published The Litterbug Family in 1931, containing poems and illustrations about the problem of roadside litter. She is credited with coining the term “litterbug.”

On WBAL during WWII, McKeon started a radio program, “Garden Clubs of the Air,” with the idea of growing a Victory Garden in your backyard. In 1935, she wrote poetry titled “Sonnets for the Scenic Ease.” From the proceeds of her poetry, her son established the Alice Rush McKeon Tree Planting Fund. The FGCMD manages these funds to plant trees throughout Maryland. This is an event that passes sequentially to each of the five districts of FGCMD. Mason Carter, Frederick County Council; Diana Bonner, Past FGCMD President; Patty Kettlestrings, District V Civic Improvement Chair; Anna O’Kelly, Past FGCMD President; Susie Middleton, FGCMD President; Shelley Johnson, Director District V FGCMD, Mary Ann Brodie-Ennis, Walkersville Commissioner, Chad Weddle, Walkersville Burgess; Mary Ann Simmons, Taskers Chance Garden Club; Sonia Demiray, Chair, Frederick County Forestry Conservancy Board; and Anna Twigg, Tree Planting Specialist, MD Forest Service, MD Department of Natural Resources

Members of Catoctin High School National Art Honor Society have spent countless hours working to perfect a painting that will be hung in the FCPS Learning Leadership Center in Walkersville. Each high school was given the challenge to create a painting that represents their school community. The artwork will be displayed at the center in the designated rooms named after each high school.

Under the direction of art teacher, Laura Day, the four seniors who worked on the piece—Skylar Caballero, Natalie Savage, Abigayle Bowley, and Abigail May—wanted to make sure that the majority of the school’s population was represented. Nestled in the heart of the Catoctin Mountains, it’s a place where everyone fits in, from the athletes to the artists, the FFA kids to the skateboarders. Tight-knit friendships and school pride are what bring us all together.

Pictured from left are Skylar Caballero, Abigayle Bowley, Abigail May, and Natalie Savage.

James Rada, Jr.

Having a groundhog as a pet wasn’t part of Harold Long’s plan when he took up the hobby of trapping groundhogs and selling them over ten years ago while working a dairy farm.

Trapping them has helped curb the damage that the groundhogs—considered rodents—can cause to farmland, crops, and farm equipment. It also serves to meet a demand for the consumption of the meat that is a common practice in some cultures.

“Some people came up from Montgomery County and asked if we had any groundhogs,” Long said. “I didn’t. I didn’t have time to be trapping them.”

The idea stayed with him, though, and when he retired from the dairy farm, he decided to start trapping groundhogs. He now has twenty-five traps in Thurmont, Woodsboro, and Walkersville, that he checks twice a day. Last year, Long caught three hundred sixty-one groundhogs.

He has eight clients to whom he sells the groundhogs. The customers travel to Thurmont from Montgomery County just to buy groundhogs. They will buy ten to twenty groundhogs at a time from Long.

His customers use groundhog meat in recipes. Their meat can be used in any recipe calling for small game, and in many other wild game recipes, too. Groundhogs are vegetarians and their meat is considered tender and tasty. However, groundhogs have a scent gland (as do rabbits and raccoons) that needs to be removed as soon as possible to keep from tainting the meat.

A side benefit of Long’s trapping is that gardens near the areas where Long places his traps are free from at least one invader. Harold Long was trapping groundhogs last year when he caught a nice-sized female that he thought his customers would like.

“I took her out, and three little ones came out of the hole after,” Long said. Long took pity on the cubs. They would have died without their mother. Young groundhog cubs are dependent on their mother for at least six weeks.

Long fed the cubs milk from a syringe and, when they got older, grass and ginger snaps. He kept them in a cage in the house. Two of the cubs eventually died, but the third one had a strong will to live and survived.

Long named him Skeeter, and he is now his “pet.” Skeeter sleeps in a cage when he’s in the house, but he is usually in the barn. Long built the groundhog a fort in the barn, where it could hibernate through the winter.

“He will stand on my leg and wait for me to pet him,” Long said. “I’m the only one he will go to. He’ll snap his teeth if anyone else gets close to him.”

Even when Skeeter is in the barn, he will come to Long because he knows that Long is the one who raised him and still feeds him.

Having a groundhog as a pet is not recommended in general. Though they appear cuddly and cute, they are wild animals and they will take action to protect themselves when they feel threatened.


Harold Long and Skeeter the groundhog.

Courtesy Photo