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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.

Vote the Environment

Prairie Notes:
November 1, 2010

1) Vote the Environment!
2) The last Prairie Fest?
3) Field report
4) Wildflower of the moment: Aster
5) Birding news
6) Witchey Tree: R.I.P.
7) FOTHNA website makeover
8) Prairie Proverb

1) Vote the Environment
When asked about the future of environmentalism in 1982, Ed Abbey said, "Well, I think that it has a very good future. The worse the environment gets, the more popular environmentalism becomes... People always get concerned about things they are in danger of losing... though it often comes too late... So I hope we can save what's left."

To "Save what's left" may sound pessimistic but the natural world, especially in Texas, has been eroded to the point that we are left with defending the little that corporate and industrial development has not yet exploited. We can't recover what is lost but on November 2nd we have an urgent duty to vote in defense of what's left.

The accelerated pace of environmental destruction in recent years is alarming. In just the past few years alone, thousands of acres of forest and prairie have been permanently lost to methane mining operations. We were down to less than 1% of prairie lands before the boom started. Yes, the money is good for a handful of landowners, some of whom direct their profits to worthy causes, but at what price?

That price is too steep as long as protections of our land, water, air and wildlife continue to be undermined.

Increasingly, the collective voice of our elected officials has become nothing more than the collective voice of industry and corporate interests. They offer us a false choice between a protected environment and economic growth. Voting the environment is nothing less than a rejection of that false choice.

Whatever your political leanings, please evaluate your candidate choices carefully and Vote the Environment on November 2nd. The following links can help you make informed choices at the voting booth:

Vote the Environment

(Vote the Environment is a campaign of Patagonia, one of the most forward-thinking companies in the world. Their numerous green initiatives and popular clothing line proves that environmentalism and robust business are not mutually exclusive.)

Texas League of Conservation Voters

League of Conservation Voters (national)

League of Women Voters (Tarrant County)

Vote 411

Find your polling place

Save What's Left

Drilling Reform for Texas

DY

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2) The last Prairie Fest?
The award winning event that funds improvements to Tandy Hills Natural Area and so much more needs your help. After five years of producing the largest and greenest independently produced "eco" festival in north Texas, we are at a crossroads.

Prairie Fest has no paid staff. We are 100% dependent on volunteers to plan, manage and operate the fest. Volunteers get burnout, their lives get more complicated and they desire new challenges. The PF planning committee is not immune to these changes.

After the hugely successful and physically demanding 2010 fest, we have lost four key team members. Unless those positions are soon filled the festival may not happen in 2011.

If you care about Prairie Fest and wish to join the planning committee, we are now interviewing candidates for the following positions:

  • Operations leader
  • Plein air art leader
  • Exhibitor Relations leader
  • Business manager

Deadline for submissions is November 15.

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3) Field report for 31 days of October 2010
Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Rain-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect-Perfect.

The perfect weather has confused some Spring-blooming wildflowers into having a second season. Sensitive Briar, Greenthread and Milkwort are just a few of the Fall surprises at THNA.

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One of the 30 perfect days at THNA in October, 2010.

4) Wildflower(s) of the Moment
> The word, "Aster" derives from the Ancient Greek word for "star." That's appropriate considering that both are seemingly numberless. So numberless, in fact, that we often take them for granted. Yet these star-like wildflowers add a handsome splash of color to the Autumn prairie canvas.

Tandy Hills has three varieties, all having a bang-up season. Texas Aster (Symphyotrichum drummondii var. texanum) is the taller of the three varieties. I see it mostly in shady areas. Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides) is distinctive for the miniature, tight-clustered blooms.

The real head-turner, however, is the blue-purple, Sky-drop or Spreading Aster (Symphyotrichum patens). They are usually found in low-growing, carpet-like clumps. Tandy Hills is covered with them.

TIP >>> Nodding Lady's Tresses Orchids (Spiranthes cernua) have just started blooming at THNA. You have a brief window of opportunity to see and smell these rare beauties. Look along the base of east-facing slopes where seeps are likely to exist.

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Texas Aster (Symphyotrichum drummondii var. texanum)

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Heath Aster (Symphyotrichum ericoides)

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Sky-drop or Spreading Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

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Nodding Lady's Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes cernua)

5) Birding news
> Tom Stevens led a birding expedition at THNA on October 16 that was attended by a dozen binocular-clad enthusiasts. Some of us newbies learned a lot such as, what a .... looks like. A wild time was had by all.

> Alton Bowman of the Mound Foundation up in Flower Mound sent me one of the most stunning pics of Red-tailed Hawk I've ever seen. Donna Anderson, is the professional wildlife photographer who snapped it. See more incredible pics from her day at The Mound, here.

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Tom Stevens (far right) leading a birding tour of THNA.

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Red-tailed Hawk and prey at The Mound. Photo by Donna Anderson.

6) Witchey Tree: R.I P.
It is my sad duty to report that, the fabled Tandy Hills Witchey Tree is dead. Many, many years ago, an out-of-control van careened down one of the Tandy hills, slamming into a tree. The badly damaged tree has survived all these years until now. As legend has it, the weird growth that sprouted from the decapitated tree trunk was the trapped soul of a young woman who perished in the accident. Perhaps, her soul is now set free.

On a more uplifting note, there appears to be a young, living tree of the same species growing near the now-dead Witchy Tree. You don't suppose it could be, uhm, no. Dear God, it can't be the... Son of Witchey Tree?!?!? bwaahahahaha!

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7) FOTHNA website makeover
Check out the new and improved FOTHNA website. All previous Prairie Notes are now available along with new pics and easier navigation. Suggestions for additions or further improvement are welcome.

8) Prairie Proverb
"There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew."
~ Marshall McLuhan, 1964

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Spaceship Earth, as seen by Terra: Earth Observing System flagship. NASA

All photos by Don Young unless otherwise noted.

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