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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.

Calendar of the Soul

Prairie Notes: #52
April 3, 2011

Prairie Notes #52 April 1, 2011 Calendar of the Soul

  1. Calendar of the Soul
  2. Field Report
  3. Tandy Hills has the Blues
  4. Bird Notes
  5. Prairie Fest Notes
  6. Buffalo Boogie
  7. Prairie Proverb

1) Calendar of the Soul

Happy New Year ya'll ! No, I've not lost track of time or my mind. If you are a nature mystic, a gardener or ancient Egyptian you know that March not January begins the real new year. Isn't it ironic that, Mr. "Ides of March" himself, Julius Caesar, was the guy who decreed January 1 the beginning of the calendar year. What prompted him to do such a thing, you may ask? Most experts agree that there is nothing special about that date, but for whatever reason we are bound by Caesar's edict. To the ancient Egyptians, Jews and Greeks, the month of March was the first page on the calendar. Sound instinct told them that March, not January, was when the Earth was created anew. And so it still is. March is when "the calendar of the soul begins." I borrowed that lovely phrase from one of my heroes, the late, great, naturalist and writer, Joseph Wood Krutch. His 1949 book of essays, The Twelve Seasons, sits on my bedside table year-round. It has more wisdom in one chapter than what I get from Facebook in a year. Krutch points out that, by changing the calendar an important link between humankind and nature was broken. It wasn't much later that, the important myth and ritual connected with the Solstice and Equinox began to fade away. The trend has extended into recent history as electronic gadgets now distract even kids from exploring the natural world. For most people nowadays, the calendar is just a bunch of abstract numbers, "Hallmark holidays" and things to do. The soul has little use for such things. What of the stars, the moon, the ebb and flow and natural rhythms of the seasons that we all share but from which we are mostly disconnected? Many of us have never learned the names of native flora and fauna but have PIN numbers and passwords digitized on our animal brains. We've relegated much of nature to museums or buried under concrete and act mostly indifferent to our personal role in the extinction of plants and animals. At the same time we fiercely protect and insure our various machines at great expense. The result of our disconnect is that nature is unprotected and becomes a commodity for sale to the highest bidder. But hey, don't despair. It's Spring and hope is afoot. The promise of the new year has arrived in the poetic form of, Fringed Puccoon, Purple Paintbrush, Prairie Celestial and a sky-full of butterflies and birds. I maintain that, by nurturing our connection to Mother Nature we discover more about our own Human Nature. With any luck that knowledge will inspire us to be vigilant stewards of what remains of the natural world, including that of Tandy Hills. All of which is exactly why Prairie Fest was founded and why the slogan of Prairie Fest has always been:

"Celebrating our connection to the natural world."

Spring 2011 was just over the horizon in early March at THNA.

2) Field Report

The so-called, "super moon", upstaged the March 20th arrival of Spring Equinox by exactly one day, bathing the midnight prairie in surreal light. Looking out across the meadow the next day I see mostly the buff-colored remnants of September grass. On closer inspection, however, wildflower wonders are rising up from the parched earth. The second driest March on record has slowed but certainly not stopped Spring growth. Come see for yourself. But be careful out there. You need legs like a spider to avoid stepping on wildflowers at Tandy Hills Natural Area in the Spring. The hills are brimming with bits of color and getting more so by the hour. > One of the first wildflowers of Spring, the bright yellow, orchid-like, Fringed Puccoon, appeared on March 12 and seemed to trigger a tidal wave of color, texture and diversity that is unequaled in north Texas. Unequaled, I say! I didn't decide that all by myself. A respectable number of Master Naturalists agree with me. If there is any justice in this crazy world the three "mesas" along View Street will one day have federal protection. There is something very special that soil that cannot be duplicated or recreated. > A Tale of two Stork's Bill: Being an armchair naturalist I'm sometimes fooled in my plant identification. Last month I wrote about how Stork's Bill was one of the first bloomers of the Spring at Tandy Hills. That was not quite right. The plant I observed was actually, Pin Clover (Erodium cicutarium) which is native to Europe. It has distinctive, needle-like fruits, or "bills" and grows mainly in disturbed areas of Tandy Hills. The real Texas Stork's Bill (Erodium texanum) has very similar "bills" but is an entirely different and native species. It also blooms several weeks later than Pin Clover and is more widespread in the park. Special thanks to botanist, Jeff Quayle, for setting me straight on Stork's Bill. I often rely on his vast knowledge of native Texas plants when composing these Prairie Notes. Fringed Puccoon always arrives early for Spring Fling on the prairie. The distinctive foliage of pre-blooming, Texas Stork's Bill, are a feast for the eyes.

3) Tandy Hills has the Blues

Mother Nature of the Prairie delivers some of the most cherished, blue-tinted wildflowers in her Spring palette. During the month of March and into April, Blue-eyed Grass, Texas Blue Star, Prairie Celestial, Blue Wild-Hyacinth, Meadow Flax and others, reach their highest potential. Some are blue by name, others just by color. By any name they are part of what makes Spring at THNA so special. Surprisingly, Texas Bluebonnets are very uncommon among more than 500 plant species. But we have lots of other "blues." Mo' better blues IMHO. Here are a few pages from my Spring Blue Book: Blue-eyed Grass packs a lot of color in a tiny package. Texas Blue Star's icy blue flowers are renowned for their beauty and fragrance. Exotic is best word I have to describe the aptly named, Prairie Celestial. A close-up view of Nemastylis geminiflora, reveals a sparkling universe. Imagine how it looks to a bee. Blue Wild-Hyacinth flowers grow on a tall, erect stem that's hard to miss. The tiny flowers of Meadow Flax are one of the purest "blues" at THNA.

4) Bird Notes

> Winged creatures of many kinds seemed especially glad to see Spring's 2011 arrival at Tandy Hills. A large murder of Crows took roost in park in early March. The big, noisy birds remind me of circus clowns. I spent a pleasant afternoon secretly watching them diving and swooping, seemingly without reason other than the pure joy of being alive. (Note to self: Be like a Crow.) A little research turned up the fact that Crows are considered THE most intelligent of all birds. (Note to self: Think like a Crow.) For example, Crows are able to sharpen sticks they use to dig for bugs and larvae. Not bad for a bunch of clowns. Learn more about Crows HERE. > I saw my first Robin of the year at THNA on 3/04, a solitary bird. It seemed rather forlorn in the fading light of a chilly evening, as if it had lost its flock. The first Screech Owl swept in on 3/25. I'm pretty sure it's the same one that I had a brief affair with last Fall. Read more about that scandalous event HERE. > By far, the most exciting "bird event" of the early Spring was, The Return of Roadrunner. For three straight years this big, beautiful bird has returned to the same spot. Perhaps not coincidentally, I saw a Texas Spiny Lizard the day before in that spot. The Roadrunner stuck around for about a week before moving on. For a few days after, I found myself haunted by a song that drove me loony tunes. Listen HERE. > March 2011 ended just as it did in 2009 with a Carolina Wren commandeering our US mailbox. As of March 30 her nest was nearly ready for the eggs that will hatch in early April. Life is sweet. See pics from 2009 HERE. A solitary Robin surveys a leafless outpost at Tandy Hills, pre-Equinox, 2011. This is the best pic I could get of the skittish but hungry Roadrunner who's paid us a visit three years in a row.

5) Prairie Fest Notes

> In our aim for the smallest possible carbon footprint, we like to brag that Prairie Fest is the "greenest" of the "green festivals". Exhibit A for that claim are the two solar-powered stages that provide ALL the power needed for our 17 performers. Musicians rightfully proclaim that they sound better when plugged into the Sun. Prairie Fest Power & Light has always been produced and directed by, Dan Lepinski, senior engineer at EXELTECH. His portable system gets more advanced each year, providing 100% clean energy form the sun. Even more amazing, Dan donates this priceless service to Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, for which we are very grateful. When at the fest on April 23, be sure to check out Dan's "booth" and shake his hand. See some pics of his Solar Shuttle, HERE. BTW: Prairie Fest is proud to be the ONLY big local Spring festival that is NOT sponsored by dirty energy companies. > Jane Fazi, is one of the lucky few whose backyard is literally Tandy Hills Natural Area. She and her family know and appreciate the park for the marvel that it is. When Jane graciously approached me with an idea to create a limited edition, 12 month calendar using some of my Tandy Hills photos, I was flattered. When she offered to make a donation to FOTHNA for every calendar sold... I was sold. Buy a calendar, save a prairie. What a concept! Check out her booth at Prairie Fest or place your order HERE. > Have you heard the news? KXT 91.7 radio host, Paul Slavens, is the Prairie Fest emcee for 2011. Paul's diverse musical show, airing Sunday evenings from 8 - 10 pm is the most interesting and eclectic on local radio. Prairie Fest is honored to have Paul and his golden voice on our stage. Read his profile HERE. > Speaking of "blues", have you noticed the Favicon on the Tandy Hills website? If, like me, that word is new to you, a favicon is that little icon you see in the address bar of a website page. Many websites just have the generic, blue-ball flavicon. But we now have our own thanks to talented, volunteer web-mistress, Jen Schultes. Here's a hearty shout-out to Jen for keeping our website so good-looking, user-friendly and up-to-date. Check out Jen's website right HERE. > Lastly but not leastly, after admiring our new website favicon, check out the IMPRESSIVE list of Exhibitors and Sponsors coming to Prairie Fest on April 23. For an event that almost didn't happen this is pretty darn incredible. See you on the prairie, April 23! Our blue wildflower logo (and now, favicon) is your reminder to visit Tandy Hills before, during and after Prairie Fest. (Artwork originally created by Mimi Kayl-Vaughan)

6) Buffalo Boogie

If you like to watch large furry mammals boogie-woogie in tank tops and running shoes (to each his own...), all your dreams are about to come true. Sort of. The annual Buffalo Boogie, a fundraising event for the Fort Worth Nature Center & Reserve takes place May 7, 2011. It's actually a walk/fun-run/family event with music, games, exhibits, kids stuff and food. Get all your details HERE.

7) Prairie Proverb

"Whenever man forgets that man is an animal, the result is always to make him less humane."

-Joseph Wood Krutch from The Twelve Seasons, 1949 Joseph Wood Krutch. 1893 - 1970 Don Young