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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.

Staying Tuned In

Prairie Notes #61
January 1, 2012

1) Staying Tuned In
2) Get your Manly Man-Wild Woman on!
3) Field Report
4) A year of Tandy Hills landscapes
5) Wildflower of the Moment
6) Tandy Hills on TV. Again.
7) Meaningful Memberships
8) Prairie Plant Puzzler
9) Brush Bash 4 coming soon
10) Prairie Proverb

1) Staying Tuned In

"If Tandy Hills were in Austin it would be overrun with people hiking the hills seven days a week."

I have often uttered that phrase with an edge of frustration when telling people about the wonders of Tandy Hills. When I reveal that I often have the place all to myself, I get a retort something like this:

"Are you kidding me? A centrally located, 160-acre publicly-owned nature preserve with jaw-dropping plant diversity, gorgeous hilly terrain, open prairie and deep woods all in one place, in a city of nearly 800,000 people and nobody goes there???"

"No, not that many," I reply. The two cities are of similar size. But this is Fort Worth and for some reason people here are different, and not always for their own good. My pet theory is that, Fort Worthians have lost touch with the natural world because nearly all of it is gone. Very little of the beautiful landscape that inspired our ancestors to call Fort Worth, "Queen City of the Prairie" was protected. Tandy Hills survived only because of sheer luck.

By contrast, the Austin greenbelt is, indeed, overrun with people of all ages, blissfully celebrating their connection to the natural world seven days a week. There is a palpable sense of appreciation for nature and an urgency to protect it, expand it and preserve it.

Fort Worthians can and must do better. I have devoted much of my time and energy in the past few years encouraging you to "Get out" to "Come on in" to "See deeper" at Tandy Hills for your own mental, physical and spiritual health and that of the City, itself. More people do so than ever before but the numbers are still pitifully low for a treasure like Tandy Hills.

Looking back over the past years' Prairie Notes, my overriding theme has been urging you to stay "tuned in." Tuned in to the subtle and not so subtle messages of nature and, especially our place in it. This has been the core message of these Notes from the first one in 2004 and it's even more important in 2012.

So what can be done?

Staying connected to the natural world is essential to our well-being. The open prairie, deep woods, hilly terrain and spectacular diversity of Tandy Hills is a kind of microcosm of Spaceship Earth. It's an excellent place to find the solitude necessary to pick up the larger frequency to which we are all connected.

Stay tuned.


Are you tuned in?

2) Get your Manly Man-Wild Woman on!

The Manly Men & Wild Women Hike the Hills is back to challenge and surprise you. Challenge yourself by hiking the entire perimeter of this 160-acre green space. Surprise yourself by seeing hidden corners and beautiful, hilly terrain unobscured by leaf cover. It's also a great introduction to the park for newcomers.

All ages are welcome, but beware: This is a fairly rigorous, 2-hour hike. Wear your hiking boots and bring plenty of water. No restrooms available. Leashed, well-behaved dogs and their humans are welcome. Come get in shape for Brush Bash. (see #8 below)

January 7, 2012. 10:00 AM to about Noon. More details on website.

3) Field Report

-Can you feel it? Since the arrival of Winter Solstice on December 22, daylight has lengthened by about three minutes. As of January 1, 2012 we have 10 hours, 2 minutes and 19 seconds of daylight. By the time Prairie Festx3 rolls around on March 31, the days will be about 2.5 hours longer.

-It is late December 2011, at Tandy Hills Natural Area. A string of sunny days after Christmas has lured me back to the prairie to get my bearings back after the distractions of holidays and freezing, wet weather. Looking up, I see Mockingbirds pecking away at cherry-red Possumhaw Tree fruits (Ilex decidua). Looking down, I see red-hot leaves of Storksbill (Erodium texanum) hiding in plain sight at my feet.

Closing my eyes, I can almost feel the hum of the Earth as it prepares to Spring back from the Great Drought of 2011. Can you feel it, too? Are you tuned in?

Mockingbird candy: Cherry-red Possumhaw Tree berries.

Red-hot leaves of Storksbill are, oddly, usually one per plant.

4) A year of Tandy Hills landscapes

-I nearly titled this year-end issue, While My Prairie Gently Weeps, in reference to the drought. I struggled mightily in 2011 to capture interesting photos, especially the past couple of months. But if smells could pose for my camera, I'd have a gallery of Mona Lisa's prettier sisters for your December viewing pleasure. The right amounts of moisture, limestone and plant material combined to create a virtual, Kimbell Art Museum, for the nose.

Alas, I have no pictures of smells but I do have a gallery of landscape shots from 2011 that might stimulate all your senses and draw you back to see what's new at Tandy Hills.

5) Wildflower of the Moment silently forming underground.

6) Tandy Hills on TV. Again.

For the fourth time in 2011, the local media saw fit to highlight Tandy Hills Natural Area in a news program. This is, of course, part of our Master Plan to turn the citizens of north Texas into grass-hugging prairie-keepers. I never miss an opportunity to jump in front of a camera if it will get more people to know and love Tandy Hills.

Here's a KXAS/NBC-5 report from December 26, 2011:

7) Meaningful Memberships

Rather than hit you over the head with a hard-sell, we prefer to let our 2011 accomplishments speak for themselves. You decide if we are worthy of your support:

- FOTHNA sponsored the 2nd annual Manly Men-Wild Women Hike the Hills that drew many new visitors to Tandy Hills
- FOTHNA sponsored the 3rd annual Brush Bash, an ongoing manifestation of the Master plan
- FOTHNA sponsored a Trout Lily Walk with Master Naturalist, Jim Varnum
- FOTHNA sponsored the 6th annual Prairie Fest, the best attened yet
- FOTHNA initiated our field trip Outreach Program, Kids on the Prairie, for more than 140 FWISD 4th graders
- FOTHNA sponsored a Wildflower Extravaganza with Jim Varnum
- FOTHNA participated in the 1st annual Litter Stomp at Tandy Hills to clean up trash and debris
- FOTHNA installed a wildlife water source at Tandy Hills during the record drought
- Tandy Hills Natural Area was featured on several TV reports including the NBC-5 program, Talk Street
- FOTHNA introduced Prairie Festx3, a leaner event spread over three Saturdays this Spring
- FOTHNA kept you informed, enlightened and entertained with 13 Prairie Notes

Not a bad year. Memberships are on a calendar year starting today and come in all sizes. Please take a sec and Become A Friend. It's easy, right HERE:

8) Prairie Plant Puzzler

I'm a member of the mustard family and a native of eastern Europe and Asia minor. I've become a naturalized citizen all over the USA including, in a few disturbed areas at Tandy Hills. As long as I don't get out of control most people tolerate me for my striking array of triangular or heart-shaped seed pods. They are my best asset! I started a new family just before Christmas, but like rabbits (who will munch my peppery leaves), I can have multiple generations in one year. People and animals have been using me for food and medicine for thousands of years, especially in Oriental cultures but, most people around here barely give me the time of day. One note of caution: human skin may blister from contact with my seeds so, treat me with care. The secret to my name is in the shape of my lovely pods.

Be the first to guess my name and win a beautiful and useful Tandy Hills bandana! No previous winners, please.

9) Brush Bash 4 coming soon

This is our ongoing, once a year conservation effort to remove invasive and unwanted trees and plants. We need all hands on deck. More details later but, mark your calendars for:

Saturday, February 4th

10) Prairie Proverb

"Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find."

-Terry Tempest Williams

Don Young