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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.

Friends, Romans & Puff-balls

Prairie Notes:
January 31, 2011

1) Field Report: flora & fauna & fungi
2) Cicero speaks from the grave
3) Become a Friend
4) A freakin' classic!
5) Native American Seed
6) Outwalking Alzheimer's

1) Field Report
About the only bright colors to be found at Tandy Hills Natural Area in January were the coats, scarves and hats worn by hikers and Brush Bashers. That and the usual plastic bags decorating the trees. We were also blessed with several colorful sunsets that seem to reflect the equally colorful wildflowers that are busy underground, preparing for their Spring 2011 debut.

One of the many jaw-dropping sunsets over THNA in January, 2011.

When people ask me about Tandy Hills I often describe it as, "The Land That Time Forgot." We have no dinosaurs or unicorns but we do have some very rare plant species. That theme came to mind in early January when unusually warm and moist weather conspired to bring life to a colony of the weirdest little critters I have ever seen. On first encounter I thought they was some kind of fauna - maybe a lizard or snake. Suzanne Tuttle, plant ecologist and Manager of the FW Nature Center & Refuge, ID'd them for me as Earth-Star puff-ball funghi. They are sometimes called Earth-star Barometer because they open only when moisture levels are heavy in the air. The alien-like critters were scattered all over a moist slope near an Oak glade. Check out the pic below.

Go HERE to see an amazing time-lapse video of an Earth Star.

Earth Star Puffball fungus. THNA, 1/05/11

On January 26, I had the pleasure of a close encounter with a Cooper's Hawk at TH. The bird and I were admiring the results of Brush Bash one evening near sunset, but for different reasons. I was admiring the new wide-open view. The hawk was eye-balling the dozens of little sparrows who can't resist playing in piles of fresh cut brush. So entranced was the bird that he refused to budge from his perch, eye-level with me in a tree about 12 feet away. I know this bird. He's very private and always takes flight when he sees me from afar. But with his dinner so close he allowed me a good, long look. I studied his fierce eyes, his determined expression and beautiful reddish-flecked, off-white breast feathers. Breaking the pregnant silence I said something stupid like, "Hello friend". He immediately stretched his blade-like wings and soared off into the psychedelic sunset. Alas, I had left my camera at home. No pics. But it was a memorable encounter. He/She looked a lot like the bird in the pic below.

Cooper's Hawk

2) Cicero speaks
It's only February, but 2011 has already been a good year for FOTHNA. The Manly Men/Wild Women Hike introduced about 40 new people to Tandy Hills. The Brush Bash was an unprecedented success. Our Facebook Friends list has steadily grown. Our nifty new website gets niftier by the day. The future looks shiny bright.

You might think there was time to relax and do a little laurel lounging at FOTHNA HQ. On the contrary, a little thing called Prairie Fest is only 81 days away. For those dedicated volunteers who conjure the fest to life, 81 days feels like a few of rapid heartbeats. Which reminds me of the immortal words spoken by Cicero in the first century BC:

"Ask not what Prairie Fest can do for you. Ask what you can do for Prairie Fest."

Volunteers are needed. EZ sign-up HERE.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

3) Become a Friend
Just who are the "Friends" of Tandy Hills Natural Area, anyway? Good question. When the organization was founded amidst turbulent circumstances in 2004 there was little thought of the future much less paying dues. Back then, the critical issues of the present, were all we had time for. "Friends" meant, anyone willing to help save and protect Tandy Hills. That much is still true.

But times have changed and the organization has evolved. We have 1 City of FW-FOTHNA Friends Agreement, 2 MM-WW Hikes, 3 Brush Bashes, 5 Prairie Fests and, now, 50 Prairie Notes under our belts. To continue growing and succeeding we need our "Friends" to take us all the way to altar.

You may now become an "official" Friend of Tandy Hills Natural Area for the absurdly low price of only $10. a year! (for an Individual) Although all Friends are created and treated equally, some friends want more stuff. To that end we offer five levels of Membership to challenge and inspire everyone.

Check out our NEW membership page HERE and see the stylish FOTHNA cap, one of the perks of becoming a FOTHNA Member.

This hat or one very similar could be yours for a song. "Somewhere over the rainbow..."

4) A freakin' classic!
Of the hundreds of photos taken by various people at the 3rd Annual Brush Bash, one in particular really caught my eye. Scott Ausburn, who is no stranger to Tandy Hills, captured an image that has a certain, je ne se quoi. At first glance, I thought it was a painting. The image titled, Men at Work, brought to mind the work of celebrated American artist, Andrew Wyeth, in it's elegant, poignant placement of humans in nature. The two young boys and the older man working together to restore our prairie is a good omen for the future of Tandy Hills. Scott's photo captured the essence of all that. In other words, it's a classic. Well done, Scott!

Winter 1946, Andrew Wyeth (1946)

Men at Work, by Scott Ausburn. Brush Bash. THNA, 1/22/11

5) Native American Seed
Our friends at Native American Seed were in the news recently. They hit the Big Time with a feature article in the 1/27/11 edition of the New York Times. Bill and Jan Neiman have been at the forefront of the movement away from non-native landscaping to one that is more sensible and sustainable, since they founded NAS in 1989. Whenever FOTHNA needs seed to replant disturbed areas at Tandy Hills, NAS is the go-to source. Check out their website and consider native plantings in your neck of the prairie.


6) Outwalking Alzheimer's

I'm always looking for ways to entice you out to the Tandy Hills. Here's Reason #165: It may prevent Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Andrew Weil recently published a bulletin titled, Outwalking Alzheimer's. He discusses conclusions from a 20-year study that indicates a daily walk prevents cognitive decline. If walking improves your health, I guarantee that walking the Tandy Hills will positively reinvent you. Come on in.

More than 60 Manly Men & Wild Women outwalking Alzheimer's at THNA. 1/08/11

The days are getting longer at THNA. Come on in!