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Prairie Notes are monthly photo/journal observations from Tandy Hills Natural Area by Founder/Director, Don Young. They include field reports, flora and fauna sightings, and more, mixed with a scoop of dry humor and a bit of philosophy. They are available free to all who get on the FOTHNA email list.

Prairie to the People!

Prairie Notes: #72
December 1, 2012

1) Prairie to the People!
2) Guest Columnists: Heather Foote & Greg Hughes
3) Become a "Friend" in 2013
4) Field Report
5) Bobcat on the Prairie
6) Out of Balance
7) Wildflower of the Moment
8) Prairie Plant Puzzler
9) Prairie Proverb

1) Prairie to the People!

Wow! Awesome! Gadzooks! Far out!

It has been a banner month and year for Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area (FOTHNA). Lots going on right now and big changes coming. Check it out!

- FOTHNA now has official Bylaws and a Board of Directors, giving the organization a more formal structure in which to move into its bright future. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with nine Prairie Fests, two years of Kids on the Prairie, four Brush Bashes and three Manly Men/WildWomen Hikes and many more accomplishments under our belt. But as new people come on board and others move on, it is time we got organized.

- FOTHNA is fortunate to have had two, count 'em, two Boy Scout Eagle Projects accomplished this year. See more below about the Outdoor Classroom bench project and the trail marker/map projects nearing completion.

- FOTHNA received another generous grant from the FASH Foundation for our 2013 Kids on the Prairie program. We must be doing something right.

- Speaking of Prairie Fest, FOTHNA's signature Spring fundraising event is back for an eighth straight year. (!) April 27th is the date. Music, food, wildflower walks, outdoor movie and much more. Details forthcoming. Read a short message below from PF 2013 co-directors, Heather Foote and Greg Hughes.

The theme for Prairie Fest 2013 is Prairie to the People! That statement captures the spirit of everything that FOTHNA stands for, past, present and future. We hope you will "become a friend" of your local prairie in 2013. Your support is vital.

DY

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"Nothing but blue sky do I see," for Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area.

2) Guest Columnists: Heather Foote & Greg Hughes

Shared experience shapes culture. As volunteers gather to plan Prairie Fest 2013, we’re investing in future memories for adults who may not know the prairie just yet. We create a chance for children and families to wander ancient hills in a beautiful day of unstructured rambling. Neighbors of the prairie may discover wildflowers they’ll meet for the first time – although those flowers have been in the neighborhood long before its streets where imagined. Making Prairie Fest happen is high privilege, and it’s impossible to measure the impact of this single day of free fun – on hills saved by hard-working volunteers. We’re thrilled by the opportunity to serve Tandy Hills as co-directors of Prairie Fest. Volunteer your time again this year, or join us as a new Friend of Tandy Hills. All are welcome. Prairie to the People!

Heather Foote & Greg Hughes

prairie fest banner

3) Become a "Friend" in 2013

Membership in FOTHNA is on the calendar year ending December 31. Your membership donations make a big difference. Please consider becoming a friend in 2013. Your donations help support programs such as the City of Fort Worth Master Plan for restoring and improving Tandy Hills and the well-received, Kids on the Prairie, that introduces hundreds of school kids a year to their local prairie. We offer cool thank-you gifts to all members. Click HERE to get 'er done, E-Z.

➤ Another way to support FOTHNA is through a Prairie Fest Sponsorship. Sponsors at the $250. level get a free booth space, year-round exposure on the FOTHNA website and a listing on the festival program and poster. Other perks are available at higher levels. Sign up HERE.

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It's that time of year again. Become a "Friend" and get a cool perk.

4) Field Report

- The Winter Solstice arrives on December 21 at 7:12 a.m. CST. According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, this is the earliest Winter since 1896. Be sure and celebrate your connection to the natural world.

- Tandy Hills is mostly at rest (except for that damn Privet!). It's about as dry as 007's martini on the Tandy prairie these days. With only a scant 0.05" of rain in November, both grasses and wildflowers have about peaked for the year. Even so, the hills are grandly serene in their seasonal transition.

- Notable exceptions include a myriad of butterflies including, Sulphur, Fritillary, Queen and Buckeye, all desperately searching for a flower. There's also still plenty of Fall color to see in the Oak savannas that brighten the seams between the hills. See photos below.

- Boy Scout, C.R.Wright, has completed his Eagle Scout project for Tandy Hills. He conceived and managed the creation of 12 trail markers and a new trail map. This is only the first phase of trail markers. It will take several years and a few more Scouts to cover all the trails. The current map is available for download at the FOTHNA website, HERE.

- Boy Scout, Michael Fazi, has ben busy fabricating the eight benches for the Tandy Hills Outdoor Classroom. Installation should be completed in early December. Did I mention that both Scouts are also busy with high school studies while working on these complex projects. Give them a hand!

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Equinox-Solstice cycle (NASA)

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Fall colors abound in every corner of Tandy Hills.

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Late Fall color includes cheerfully red, Sumac bushes. (Photo by Stan Waller)

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Soon to be Eagle Scout, C.R. Wright, poses with a trail marker at Tandy Hills

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New trail map of Tandy Hills created by C.R. Wright.

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Scout, Michael Fazi, proudly showing off a bench he designed for the Outdoor Classroom at THNA.

5) Bobcat on the Prairie

My first Bobcat sighting at Tandy Hills was in 1977. It was 29 years before I saw another one in 2006. The healthy specimen in the photo below was spotted by the team of Boy Scouts who installed the new trail markers on November 24. For a natural area in the heart of the 16th largest city in the USA, the cycle of life at Tandy Hills is fairly vibrant. Roadrunner, Rabbit, Armadillo sightings were also reported this month.

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Predator and prey: A rarely seen Bobcat at THNA (photo by Deran Wright)

6) Kids Out of Balance

Kids on the Prairie© is an innovative and successful program at Tandy Hills but its reach is limited. For every Fort Worth student that FOTHNA introduces to Tandy Hills, many more are missing out on the wonders of the natural world. That is a bigger problem than you might imagine. In his new essay titled, The Great Environmental Crisis No One Talks About, journalist George Monbiot, draws a direct line between the relative lack of protest over increasing attacks on the environment and the disconnection of kids form nature.

In other words, if kids don't get outside to discover the unscripted joys of the great outdoors they won't bother to protest its degradation when they grow up.

Read the short but enlightening essay HERE.

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Bucking a worldwide trend, these Kids on the Prairie are learning how to enjoy, respect and protect the natural world.

7) Wildflower of the Moment

As the wildflowers of 2012 pass from the scene, their seeds safely on the ground, and the leaves of Autumn fall silently in the wind, the limestone hills themselves take center stage. I love this time of year so I can see more clearly Tandy Hills' namesake. They roll and tumble in the most beautiful ways, caressing the eye with light and shadow. Their seeps hold life-giving moisture. The passage of time has sculpted them into a graceful canvas for the grasses, wildflowers and trees for you and I to behold and marvel.

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"Give your heart to the hills," the Tandy Hills, that is.

8) Prairie Plant Puzzler

My leaves are so fragrant they are part of my common and latin names. Crush one in your hand and you will know why. In the Spring I'm covered in hirsute, cherry-red berries among my green leaves. I'm easy to spot in the Fall when my fragrant leaves turn candy-colored shades of purple, red, orange and yellow, reflecting the Oaks that line the Tandy Hills seams. Guess my name and win a prize.

➤ The answer to the October Puzzler is, Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides).

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What's my name?

9) Prairie Proverb

"It is significant that adult memories of childhood, even when nostalgic and romantic, seldom suggest the need to be a child but refer to a deep desire to renew the ability to perceive as a child with the whole bodily self in the forms, colors, and motions, the sights and sounds...of nature."

- Edith Cobb, The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, 1977

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There is much to discover for you and your inner child at your local prairie.

Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area. All photographs by Don Young except where otherwise noted.