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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.

Keep Keeping It Like It Was

Prairie Notes:#70
October 1, 2012

1) Keep Keeping It Like It Was
2) New! - Guest Columnist: Chris Emory
3) Field Report
4) One Prairie. One Bee. And Me.
5) Wedding Bell Grays
6) Wildflower of the Moment
7) Prairie Plant Puzzler
8) Prairie Proverb

1) Keep Keeping It Like It Was

As I look out my window on the last day of September a refreshing Female Rain is soaking the parched Tandy Hills. This is good news for thirsty prairie grasses, wildflowers and wildlife. It is also good for the humans who interact with this rare and increasingly valuable remnant of bluff prairie.

But the rain is also a reminder that trails are eroding and that invasive, exotic and unwanted species will be thriving, as well, choking out the native species. Only thoughtful and sustained management can protect Tandy Hills and, "keep it like it was." The consequences of doing nothing will eventually spell the death of the prairie.

But WHO is going to keep it like it was?

Working in partnership with the City of FW Parks Dept., Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area (FOTHNA) has, for eight years, done an admirable job of getting and keeping Tandy Hills on the map. But we need new blood. The Master Plan will not come to pass without dedicated volunteers who are passionate about Tandy Hills.

New leaders are essential to sustaining FOTHNA. No experience necessary. Passion, dedication and leadership are required.

Committee leaders are needed now in:
- Conservation (Brush Bash, Master Plan)
- Education (Kids on the Prairie)
- Events (Prairie Fest)
- Fundraising

Please contact me today if you will attend an important FOTHNA meeting on October 13.


2) Guest Columnist: Chris Emory

The past 69 Prairie Notes have been composed mostly by yours truly. But seeing as my trails may soon be diverted, I am seeking out others to whom Tandy Hills is a rewarding muse.

Starting now, you are invited to submit stories, anecdotes, information, photos, poems, etc. related to Tandy Hills for inclusion in upcoming Prairie Notes. It is now an open forum.

After seeing his dramatic sunset photos of Tandy Hills on Facebook, I invited Chris Emory to be the first Guest Columnist. Chris is a 45 year old Fort Worth native and father of three daughters. He wears many hats including that of a commercial real estate title examiner, amateur astronomer, drummer, and aviation enthusiast.

But more than anything, Chris is a gifted photographer. (See much more on his Sundog Art Photography Facebook page, HERE.) His thoughtful essay and recent photos below shows that he's very much connected to the natural world. Take it away Chris!

Fort Worth….Cowtown….Funky Town, called by some, has always been famous for its rich Western heritage and is now becoming world famous for the prestigious quality of the various museums that call the city home. In my opinion, the natural beauty of Tandy Hills Natural Area, rivals every bit of the priceless art work in any one of the museums in the area. Each season in the park heralds a new palette of colors, shapes, textures and smells for all the senses to enjoy.

More and more here of late, I have found myself becoming dependent on the refuge that the park has to offer and use it as an escape from the turmoil, chaos and stress of city life, a/k/a the concrete jungle. I consider my cherished visits to the park as a form of free ecotherapy, which is a term coined by the pastoral counselor Howard Clinebell in 1996. Dr. Clinebell states that nature therapy can have regenerative powers, improving mood and easing anxiety, stress and depression - a fact that I rediscover every time I’m at the park. Other researchers in Essex in the United Kingdom have found that even short visits to a natural setting improves mood, self-esteem and motivation. Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, I have unexpectedly experienced a series of personal setbacks in my life. I have turned to photography, along with spending as much time in nature as possible, as a way to relax, recoup, release and decompress. Tandy Hills offers the perfect place for a quick fix of rejuvenation for my mind, body and spirit.

On every visit to the park I am always amazed at what I find. I invariably feel like a little kid exploring the trails and taking in the expansive vistas and views. The incredible variety of wildlife found there including birds, rabbits, lizards, insects and other various critters sometimes rivals the abundant plant life scattered throughout the area. I love to hike to a secluded area of the park and just stand in one spot and take inventory of the diversity of nature all around me. The smallest, delicate sprout can be as exquisite and alluring to me as the flashiest and showy blossom on any flower I find there.

In addition to the ample bounty of nature found on terra firma, I also regularly savor the heavenly sights and elements of sun and sky on display while I’m visiting the park. The sunsets, stormscapes and other sky shows I have captured with my camera there have been some of my most prized photographs I have ever taken.

And finally, even though I sometimes want this hidden gem to be kept a secret from others, deep down I know the best way to protect this invaluable treasure and resource is for more and more people to come out and enjoy the park and see for themselves how incredibly lucky they are that the citizens of the Metroplex have an oasis of tranquility and solace right here in the heart of Fort Worth!

- Chris Emory, October 1, 2012

ConeButter, by Chris Emory

MorningGlory, by Chris Emory

MoonFlower1, by Chris Emory

SnowOnThePrairie1, by Chris Emory

SunSpiderA, by Chris Emory

Sunset 9-25-12, by Chris Emory

3) Field Report

Hallelujah! Steady rains on the 29th and 30th will pretty much guarantee a perky Fall prairie. Grasses in particular will benefit. Big Bluestem did not fare well this year but most others hung on long enough to reach maturity.

The diversity of grasses at Tandy Hills always surprises me. Here's a few of the dominant grasses as of 9/30/12.

Left to right: Silver Bluestem, Three Awn, Slim Tridens, Side-oats Grama,
Little Bluestem and Switchgrass.

Indian Grass, Hairy Grama and Purple Spangletop.

4) One Prairie. One Bee. And Me.

In mid-September I was snapping pics of some Giant Blue Sage when a strange bee landed on the plant. I have photographed many insects but this one behaved unexpectedly. As I zoomed in with my camera lens his eyes zoomed in on me, very intensely. He seemed to be staring into my very soul. I blinked first.

Look deep, deeper into my eyes.

5) Wedding Bell Grays

With gray skies and a steady rain as a backdrop, a young couple who fell in love at Tandy Hills, got married there last Saturday afternoon. I happened to drive by as the ceremony was ending. Sweet. Someone should write a love song.

True love blooms at Tandy Hills Natural Area

6) Wildflower of the Moment

Unless you count the tiny electric-blue hairs on purple Eryngo flowers, blue is an uncommon color on the Fall prairie. Giant Blue Sage, aka: Pitcher Sage (Salvia azurea var. grandiflora) is not a typical Fall color but its azure-blue blossoms are a lovely sight. Bees love them too.

Giant Blue Sage

7) Prairie Plant Puzzler

When my seed pods pop open they split in two which is a clue to my who. Guess my name an win a prize.

➤ There was no Puzzler in September

October Puzzler

8) Prairie Proverb

"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization that destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself."

- Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, 1968

All photographs by Don Young except where otherwise noted.