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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.

Prairie on Fire

Prairie Notes #98
February 1, 2015

01) Prairie on Fire
02) Field Report
03) Brush Bash Bonanza 
04) The Chris Emory Show
05) Missing YOU
06) Vote for Vols
07) PO&PJ
08) OC #2
09) Prairie Fest Update
10) N.A.N.P.A. Meetup
11) Trees vs. Grass
12) Go Tell It On the Prairie
13) Prairie Proverb

01) Prairie on Fire

There is so much happening at Tandy Hills these days I can barely keep up. After years of slow progress, the Strageic Master Plan for Tandy Hills is now spreading like a prairie fire. Outdoor classrooms? Check. Trail restoration? Check. Woody species management? Check. Trail mapping? Check. Public outreach? Check. Prairie fire? Prescribed burns are now happening across the Metroplex amd on the table at Tandy Hills, by golly.

All of these things are on-going into perpetuity but after years of hard work, countless volunteer hours, tens of thousands of words and pictures, frustration and waiting, waiting, waiting, the dream is speeding up and bearing fruit. Partnerships are forming. The Master Plan is becoming a reality.

As Tandy Hills uber-volunteer, John Tandy, would say,

"Dude, I'm tellin' ya. This prairie is on fire, man!"

In more ways than one, Mr. Tandy. Check out the details below, right after the January Field Report.

A "prairie fire" personified. City of FW PACS brush cutting crew and volunteers from FOTHNA and NPAT after the final day of work this quarter.

l-r in sitting:Emanuel Ruiz, Juan Gonzalez. l-r standing:Javier Serrano, Ruben Elizondo, Cedric Moland, Brush Bash Field Commander, John Tandy,Jennifer Chmielewski. John Chmielewski, Debora Young & Olive.

02) Field Report

'Twas rather bleak and chilly on the Tandy prairie in January. I confess to staying in-of-doors most of the month. But when I did venture out there were a few signs of life and the coming Spring. Homo sapiens were everywhere, walking dogs, jogging trails, building outdoor classrooms, cutting brush, putting up signs, mapping trails, etc. (I tell you, those bipeds are out of control!)

Looking around I saw the contoured beauty of the prairie hills in winter. I saw sun-stained shafts of prairie grasses in decline. Looking up by day, I saw hawks and crows and various winged winter visitors. By night, Orion and the Seven Sisters twinkled brightly in the frigid air. Looking down, I saw signs of Mother Nature's arsenal of diversity, right under my every step. 

Here's a few sights that crossed my path in January.

Carpet-like patches of bright green moss are now visible underfoot across the Tandy hills.

The only thing I despise more than Privet are the pollen-laden cones of the male Ashe Juniper trees (Mountain Cedar) that dot the hills.

A message in a limestone fossil deposited in a once-upon-a-time inland sea that is now atop the Tandy Hills.

One of thousands of Indian Blanket seeds that nature has planted at Tandy Hills.

Little sprouts of Rabbit Tobacco are starting to form.

Little Bluestem, reflects the January setting sun in magical ways.

03) Brush Bash Bonanza

In 2009, Friends of Tandy Hills began a modest project to rid the parkland of trash and begin the never-ending work of invasive and unwanted woody species control. Brush Bash was the first organized effort to return this majestic ecosystem to it's native state or a reasonable facsimile. The main problem, stated in the Master Plan document, was as obvious then as it is now: Trees and Privet are shading out prairie grasses and wildflowers. 

At a recent quarterly meeting of Friends of Tandy Hills and the Fort Worth Parks and Community Services Dept. (PACS), the Friends proposed that brush bashing be held quarterly rather than annually. We sweetened the deal for PACS, whose staff does the cutting and hauling away of brush, by offering the manpower and willpower of volunteers to assist PACS staff during cutting days. Our new partnership with the FW chapter of Native Prairies Assoc. of Texas (FWNPAT) helped make that possible. 

So last week, PACS District Superintendent, Jerry McDowell, gave his blessing to quarterly brush clearing. In other words, we hit the bonanza, as they say in Las Vegas! As a result, during the past few weeks, a big chunk of the Tandy prairie has been liberated from privet and other woodies. Special thanks to PACS staff and hard-working on-the-ground crew. HUGE thanks to John Tandy (FOTHNA's, NPAT Liaison) for his significant role in making this happen. 

Come help us clebrate the new views at the rescheduled Brush Bash on Saturday February 7 at 9 a.m. 


....and after the recent brush cutting at Tandy Hills. Those are piles of cut privet on the left. (Photos by John Tandy)

Rescheduled for February 7th, 2015

04) The Chris Emory Show

I first met Fort Worth native, Chris Emory, a couple years ago when he asked about being the Official Photographer of Prairie Fest. My immediate reply was, "Yes!" One less thing to do for an over-worked PF Director. Since then, Chris has made quite a name for himself as a nature photographer in and around FW. His company Sundog Art Photgraphy has a huge following on Facebook, where he posts amazing pics day after day. And photgraphy is not even his day-job. (He's also a pilot, musician and manages a title company.)

Chris will be the guest speaker the February 9th monthly meeting of Fort Worth chapter of Native Prairies Assoc. of Texas (FWNPAT). Read more here:

A Chris Emory sunset selfie taken at Tandy Hills in January.

05) Missing YOU

By this time last year we had many more memberships than now. Where are YOU? Please renew your membership today? Your support is VITAL to helping Friends of Tandy Hills restore our urban prairie and continue to improve our outdoor education programs. Some very cool gifts are a side benefit. Please become a Friend today.

06) Vote for Vols 

When recruiting Prairie Fest Sponsors, I feel obliged to remind them that we are an All-Volunteer organization. There are no paid staff. That is huge. Few organizations with our track record can say that.

Friends of Tandy Hills is honored to have two of our key volunteers nominated for the 2015 Sustainable Leadership Awards by Green Source DFW. Jen Schultes and Anne Alderfer are two of the hardest working volunteeers in Texas. The qulaity and vitality of their contributions are largely responsible for the success of Friends of Tandy Hills and our outreach programs. Please vote every day to help them reach the finals. It's quick and EZ here:

Kids on the Prairie Director, Anne Alderfer, is a tireless and vital volunteer for FOTHNA.

FOTHNA webmaster, Prairie Fest Director, etc, etc, Jen Schultes chatting up some kids on the prairie. Her design for the field jouranl got an A+ from the students.

07) PO&PJ

No, that's not the acronym for a new sandwich, it's shorthand for Post Oak & Prairie Journal, from our friends at Crosstimbers Connection. The very existence of PO&PJ is a sign of renewed interest in the natural world in north Texas. Out of control urban sprawl, insanely invasive natural gas extraction, right wing nut jobs running state and local government, too much Facebook and all the nasty outcomes of those things are finally driving people back to something real, back to the garden, as Joni Mitchell wrote. It's a high caliber journal appealing to both academics and regular old nature mystics, like me. Check out the inaugural issue for free here:

08) OC #2

Great things happen in partnerships. Outdoor Classroom #2 is the latest example of a partnership with Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area and Boy Scout Troop 180. This is the Eagle Project of Scout, Henry Grunow, to whom we are very grateful. Check out this nice little video produced by the Longhorn Council of the BSA on the making and installation of the classrom benches. Sweet. Thanks to FOTHNA Boy Scout Liaison, Paul Rodman for his guidance.

Outdoor Classroom #2, an Eagle project fabricated and installed by Boy Scout, Henry Grunow and his troop.

09) Prairie Fest Update

T-minus 83 days until the 10th anniversary Prairie Fest comes to town. It's been ten years of fun (and a helluva lot of work) for a very good cause for an event that began as a plea, or rather demand, to keep fracking out of the park. Fest Directors, Jen Schultes and James Zametz are putting together a bit of old and new ideas for 2015. Returning to the Prairie Circle are the Tipi Tellers and their giant tipi, many local artists, artisans and plein air painters, green businesses and non-profit organizations and all new kids hikes and games from Prairie Keepers.

Our solar powered stages will have a mix of new and returning performers including Brave Combo and the Brazen Bellies, The Ackermans, Animal Spirit, Everybody's Darlin', Darrin Kobetich and... an over the top closing extravaganza featuring The End of the World Parade. (On a personal note, I'm thrilled to announce the booking of A Taste of Herb, a Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass tribute band. All this is just a small sample of what is planned. More details later.

We think Prairie Fest has made a significant impact in north Texas, maybe the world. Come on in, April 25th for and see for yourself.

Chief promoter of Tandy Hills, Don Young, with help from Debora Young and Olive the Prairie Dog planted a Prairie Fest banner in January.

Yum! Can't wait.

10) N.A.N.P.A. Meetup

Acronyms abound this issue. The North Texas Meetup of the North American Nature Photography Association, have discovered Tandy Hills. Led by Sean Fitzgerald, a group of up to 40 professional photographers will descend on THNA starting February 28 and again on May 2. Sean is hoping their visits will develop as a long-term tool for photo documentaion of Tandy Hills and be an asset to our conservation and restoration efforts. Check out their website here:

11) Trees vs. Grass

The ongoing Brush Bash work at Tandy Hills to remove woody species such as trees is confusing to a lot of people. Why would any card-carrying nature mystic cut down a tree? The simple truth is, trees make shade. That's great for people, especially in July, but not so great for prairie grass and wildflowers and consequently, insect and animal species. The proliferation of trees and privet at Tandy Hills has become a major threat to prairie conservation. Brush Bash is our answer to that.

Biologist, Chris Helzer, has written a compelling essay on this topic on his The Prairie Ecologist blog. I think it's required reading for prairie enthusiasts.

Chris Helzer, keeps an eye on the Nebraska prairie he helps manage.

12) Go Tell It On the Prairie

On January 26, Don and Debora Young made a presentation at a meeting of the Cross Timbers Master Naturalists (CTMN) at Botanic Gardens. Titled, Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it., the slideshow / talk covers the ever-evolving history of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area from the high anxiety days of its founding in 2004 to the fast moving events of the present. A standing room only crowd of more than 70 interested and engaged people attended, illustrating again that, an energized movement to protect the natural world is sweeping north Texas. Thanks to CTMN vice-president, Anne Alderfer, for inviting us. 

Don and Debora Young have made sure things run smoothly at Prairie Fest for nine years running.

13) Prairie Proverb

"If prairie conservation is to succeed, we need to get the public excited about grasslands and combat the perception that prairies would look a lot prettier if they just had some trees growing in them."

Chris Helzer, from his essay. Ruminations on Tree Planting and Prairie Conservation.

Piles of privet and tree limbs line the Hawk Trail on Day 1 of the 2015 brush cutting at Tandy Hills.


Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted.