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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.

Farewell to Summer

Prairie Notes:
September 14, 2009

1) Late Summer report
2) Welcoming Wildlife
3) The Princess of Wink
4) Eco Fest
5) Not quite Nessie but...
6) Falling for Functional Crafts
7) Extremely Edible Gardening
8) School, school on the RANGE...
9) Prairie Park
10) Trinity Perspectives
11) Leapin' Lizard

This and all previous Prairie Notes are now accessible at the Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area website on the Prairie Notes tab.

1) Late Summer on the lone prairie
Delicate, powder-blue Damselflies are still perching on prairie plants, waiting for their prey. Centipedes and Skinks slither along the ground, preparing for the coming cold. Cottontail Rabbits are digging in, watching the skies for the return of the Coopers Hawks. But slender, lavender trumpets of Mock Pennyroyal are still feeding the bumblebees that buzz across Tandy Hills Natural Area. Two-leaf Senna, Greenthread, Maximilian Sunflowers and a scant few other wildflowers are producing last minute marvels of yellow-orange that insects desperately need, just as they did thousands of years ago.

Eryngo and Snow on the Prairie continue their enchanting pas de deux on the prairie and False Gaura rise to the occasion just as they have for thousands of years. The straw-hat-shaped, dried heads of American Basket-flower join them in welcoming the Autumnal Equinox that arrives on September 22. But enough of wildflowers.

September belongs to grass and lovers of grass. Not that imported stuff people call a front yard but a panoply of natives as unique and exotic as the various native Indian tribes that roamed the vast prairies of yesteryear. According to the BRIT Floral Inventory of THNA, there are about 80 different varieties of Poaceae (grass family) present at THNA, most of them native.

The State Grass of Texas
, Sideoats Grama, is probably not seen anywhere near the State Fair of Texas but thousands of the, sideways-seed-studded-stems wave flag-like over Fort Tandy Hills. Dozens of other grasses are lighting up the prairie after the steady rain that began 9/11/09 and is still falling as of 9/14/09. The smell of the damp Earth, grasses and herbs - Eau de Prairie - refreshes the mind, body and spirit of all who enter just as it did for our progenitors thousands of years ago.

Come on in and see why we want to "keep it like it was."

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Fire is good. Two-leaf Senna blooming on a recently burned patch of THNA prairie.

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Eryngo. THNA

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Eryngo fantasia at THNA

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Le parfum du Prairie fills the air on a damp September day at THNA.

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False Gaura rises to the occasion at THNA

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Dried stalks of American Basketflower. THNA

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Little Bluestem grass between patches of Engelmann's Sage. THNA

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Trinity River bound rainwater. THNA

2) Welcoming Wildlife
Of the 50 states in the USA, Texas often ranks near the bottom in all things environmental. Thank God for Austin. The entire City of Austin, Texas has been officially certified as a community habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Austin is now the largest of 32 such community habitats nationwide, which prompted of chorus of Mockingbirds to tweet, "Keep Austin weird!"

Check out the story in the Aug-Sept issue of National Wildlife magazine, How Austin, Texas is Welcoming Wildlife, or read online:

>>> //www.nwf.org/nationalwildlife/article.cfm?issueID=130&articleID=1760

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3) The Princess of Wink loves Tandy Hills
The west Texas town of Wink isn't known for much except as being one of the hottest places in the USA, the hometown of Roy Orbison and a pair of giant sinkholes caused by oil and gas drilling. But Wink is also home to a very special young lady named Annie (sometimes known as the Princess of Wink). Even though she lives 350 miles from Fort Worth and has not yet been to Tandy Hills, nine year old Annie has become inspired by THNA. She saved her money to buy some vacant lots on which to plant her own prairie. Read about Annie's prairie project at her mother's blogsite:

http://jamminmole.blogspot.com/2009/09/annie-draws-inspiration-from-tand...

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4) Eco Fest is coming September 19
The City of Arlington is hosting Eco Fest on September 19 at the Levitt Pavillion/Founder's Plaza in downtown Arlington. Their Zero Waste Agreement with vendors* sets a high standard for other festivals to follow. If you go, please say howdy to the Prairie Fest vendors who are participating. Read more about Eco Fest here:

http://www.arlingtontx.gov/park/ecofest.html

* A few Vendor spots may still be available. Contact Heather Dowell ASAP:

817-277-0434
heather.dowell@arlingtontx.gov

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5) Not quite Nessie but...
Friends of Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge have joined with the FWNC&R to celebrate the 40th anniversary first sighting of the legendary Goat-Man known as, the Lake Worth Monster. Monster Bash takes place October 3rd from 10am to 2pm. There will be canoe rides to Greer Island, monster tracking hikes, story tellers, festival vendors*, hayrides, bison feeding and kids activities. Heck, it ALL sounds like kids stuff to me. Kids of all ages, that is.

http://www.fwnaturecenter.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=...

* Nature-related vendors are welcome to apply for a FREE booth at the Monster Bash. Contact, Michelle Villafranca, for details.

817-392-7423
michelle.villafranca@fortworthgov.org

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Monster Bash

6) Functional Crafts
Certified Permaculturist and community treasure, Kirsten Huber, has begun a new venture called, Functional Crafts. Weekly workshops for "little people and their family" guide you in using your own two hands to create "Make n' Take" projects that are both artistic and functional. Make your own seed balls, solar cooker, bat haus, vermicompost bin, toys and more. Workshops begin October 10. Classes are held at Elizabeth Anna's Olde World Garden. Functional Craft is "barter friendly." Register now at:

http://www.functionalcraft.com/index.html

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7) Extremely Edible
Speaking of Elizabeth Anna, Fort Worth's gardening maverick is hosting the Extreme Edible Workshop at her garden center on October 3rd. Learn about wormery, expanding the growing season in Texas, the many uses of Mesquite, chicken tractors and other novel gardening tricks. Go here for more info and registration:

http://www.elizabethanna.net/fall.htm

8) School, school on the Range...
Don & Debora Young have been invited to lead a discussion on the importance of prairie preservation at All Saints Episcopal School on September 22nd. The school in southwest Fort Worth has a 16 acre tract of wetland prairie on campus that senior students use as an outdoor classroom. In the RANGE 1 classes, instructor, Kimberlee Long, directs studies in conservation and wildlife management, composting, recycling, gardening and the study of the plants, birds, amphibians and insects of the wetland-prairie environment.

9) Fort Worth Prairie Park
It is noteworthy that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board recently endorsed the importance of saving Fort Worth Prairie Park. You can read the editorial here:

http://www.star-telegram.com/242/story/1558540.html

10) Trinity Perspectives

Once upon a time, Tandy Hills and the Trinity River were joined at the hip. But since the 1950's, Interstate 30 has divided them into distinctly different eco-zones. Despite the short distance separating them, the busy highway makes it seem a world apart. Still, the connection is present. The rain swollen drainages and creeks that shape the Tandy hills feed into the Trinity from a big pipe that runs under the highway. With all that in mind, you will want to visit the new art exhibition, Trinity Perspectives: Views of an Urban River. A group of 35 local artists created works that express their personal relationship to the Trinity River. Among them is FOTHNA supporter, Carol Ivey. See her submission and narrative below. The exhibition is hosted by Streams and Valleys, Inc., and runs throughout September at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Details here:

http://www.streamsandvalleys.org/id14.html

http://www.fwcac.com/?exhibition_detail/1075

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One of eight vignettes from, Feathered Brilliance, by Carol Ivey.

Feathered Brilliance
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) on Trinity Trails

I first became aware of the bluebirds near the Trinity Trees last year in the spring. The year before that my friend Jim Marshall had spotted a pair of birds there and contacted Streams and Valleys Inc. to get their OK to put five nesting boxes along the trail between University and Hulen. He maintains those 5 boxes with the help of a few volunteers. The boxes proved to be popular with supporters of Streams and Valleys Inc. and more boxes have been installed along the trail to Benbrook.

I found visiting the boxes and seeing the birds to be a source of hope and inspiration. When I told Jim I wanted to make a painting about the bluebirds he enthusiastically became my collaborator by sharing the portfolio of digital images that he has patiently captured over three seasons. The central image was painted from a still life set in my studio and the eight circular vignettes are painted from the digital images.

Carol Ivey
August 2009

11) Leapin' Lizard!
It would be discourteous of me to write that all Texas Spiny Lizards look alike but I'm just not certain if this little fellow is from the same egg clutch in the pic I shared with you previously. Still, it was recently spotted in the vicinity of those eggs. It was about 4" long and very inquisitive. It looked at me rather quizzically as if we might be related. Distantly, I'm sure.

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A very young Texas Spiny Lizard.

Come to the thousand year old meadow, rain or shine, and be your nine year old self again.

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