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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.

Vacation Notes

Prairie Notes #81
September 1, 2013

1) Vacation Notes
2) Field Notebook: Signs of Fall
3) Kid's Eye View Contest
4) Prairie Fest #9 Announced
5) State of the Prairie Conference in FW
6) Red Tricycle Awards Announced
7) Marfa Notebook
8) Prairie Proverb

1) Vacation Notes

Prairie Notes doesn't take a vacation. It is published year-round, rain or shine, snow or drought, for your reading and viewing pleasure. Why? The mystical Tandy Hills remain inspiring season after season. Still, after 80-odd issues, inspiration is sometimes dulled in the droughty month of August.

So, last month as Tandy Hills was looking kind of roasted and raggedy, we decided to push the inspiration restart button and take a trip to another mystical place: the scenic and remote Trans-Pecos eco-region of far west Texas, specifically, the Chihuahuan Desert area around the town of Marfa, Texas.

At 4,685' above sea level, Marfa is more than 4,000' higher than Tandy Hills. The Summer days are hot in this semi-arid land but surprisingly less so than Fort Worth. At that elevation, Summer nights are chilly and the night sky is dark. Average annual rainfall in Marfa is about 15" compared to 35+" in Fort Worth. Nevertheless, grasslands and even wildflowers flourish among the agaves, creosote bushes and Ocotillo that define the desert landscape.

Summer is also the monsoon season in the Trans-Pecos. On our August trip we were greeted by a couple of refreshing thunderstorms. The desert was Spring-like blooming with a colorful variety of wildflowers, reminiscent of Tandy Hills in May, and covered in thick stands of Side-oats and Blue Grama grasses.

Our trip to the Chihuahuan desert wilderness, though refreshing, reminded us of the value of our local urban prairie and our roles in keeping it like it was. Check out photos from our inspiration restart trip in, Marfa Notebook, below.


Scenic Loop Drive near, Marfa, Texas: Land of big blue sky, no sprawl and the mystical Chihuahuan desert-grassland.

2) Field Notebook: Signs of Fall

Meanwhile back at Tandy Hills ranch...It may still be mid-summer but signs of Fall have begun to appear. The first specimens of Eryngo, Giant Blue Sage, False Gaura and Snow on the Prairie have bloomed. Those plants combined with shorter days reassure me that Fall will indeed come again this year.

By the way, the Autumn Equinox occurs on, September 22 at 3:44 pm CDT, this year. Read more about that HERE.

The grasses continue to have a fruitful year especially Little Bluestem which is bigger than Big Bluestem this year. (Mother Nature can be complicated sometimes.) Side-oats and Hairy Grama are also peaking.

Insect life at Tandy Hills flourished in August. Butterflies, dragonflies, bees, beetles and spiders were observed in large numbers. Even a Walking-Stick bug crossed my path. You should be so lucky.

As promised, the City of Fort Worth Parks & Community Services Department has posted three No Hunting signs at the park to remind the public of what is surely obvious to most people. This action was taken after some rabbits were killed in July.

Eryngo is a cheerful harbinger of Fall on the Tandy Hills prairie.

Snow on the Prairie lights up the prairie in the August sunshine.

Healthy stands of Little Bluestem grass encircle Outdoor Classroom #1at Tandy Hills. (#2 coming soon.)

Closeup of a ripened Hairy Grama grass seed.

Hairy Grama grass: aka, moustache grass

Fall-blooming Giant Blue Sage is one of the "true blues" at Tandy Hills.

Insects of all kinds are drawn to the floral blooms of tall, slender False Gaura.

A bizarre and slow-moving Texas Walking Stick watches the sunset at Tandy Hills.

And we mean business, hombre.

3) A Kid's-Eye View

Focus is the name of a nature photo contest for kids sponsored by the Arlington Conservation Council. Young people in 3rd - 6th grades may enter to win fame, glory, cash and other prizes. Don & Debora Young have been invited to help judge the contest. Check out the ACC website for details.

4) Prairie Fest #9

Mark your calendars now. The date of the 9th annual Prairie Fest has been set. It's Prairie to the People again on April 26, 2014. Prairie Fest is the real deal, the original and still the greenest of the green fests. 2014 will feature exciting new activities and inspiring hikes for all ages, tasty food and bev and live music all day long in a picturesque setting surrounded by Spring wildflowers.

Stay tuned for details.

5) State of the Prairie Conference in FW

This is an early heads-up to mark your calendars for the Native Prairies Association of Texas, State of the Prairie Conference coming to Fort Worth next Spring. Some of the themes presented will include, prairie restoration; prairie wildlife; water conservation; fire; recent research and oil reclamation. There will also be field trips to area prairie sites.

The annual conference will be held at FW Botanic gardens from May 29 - 31, 2014 will be held. Co-sponsored by Coastal Prairie Partnership. Fort Worth is fortunate to be the host city. Details forthcoming.

6) Red Tricycle Awards Announced

Congratulations to the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge for winning, Most Awesome Family Hiking Trails, in the DFW region. Tandy Hills Natural Area came in a very respectable second place. Not bad a'tall! Thanks for your votes! See complete results HERE.

7) Marfa Notebook

Pics from our August inspiration restart vacation to the mystically technicolored Trans-Pecos region of far west Texas.

Marfa is unlike Fort Worth in so many ways starting with the population count.

The rocky cliffs of the Davis Mountains near Marfa were beautifully adorned with Lindheimer's Senna.

A perky Trans-Pecos variety of Verbena. It's cousin grows at Tandy Hills.

Eye-catching Skyrocket (Ipomopsis aggregata) near McDonald Observatory.

Copper Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea angustifolia) resembles a mini-Hollyhock plant.

The desert near Marfa was abloom in wildflowers such as this Indian Rushpea. (Hoffmannseggia glauca)

Ironweed growing near Marfa also grows at Tandy Hills.

8) Prairie Proverb

"Help me to be in the world for no purpose at all except for the joy of sunlight and rain. Keep me close to the edge, where everything wild begins"

Tom Hennen, from his poem, What the Plants Say, from the book, Crawling Out the Window, Black Hat Press, 1997. (Also included in, Darkness Sticks to Everything, Collected and New Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2013)

Inspiration Restart begins with a Summer thunderstorm near Marfa, Texas with the Davis Mountains in the distance.

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