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There is a revolution taking place in the way homeowners and professionals are thinking about backyard gardens and community open spaces. It’s being led by a coalition of groups representing horticulture industry professionals, landscapers, environmentalists, government agencies, nature lovers and home gardeners.

More and more of us want to attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators into our yards, but to welcome them, we have to let go of our old way of thinking about our garden spaces. We can no longer treat our backyards as sterile, bug-free zones that are mere extensions of our living area. Conventional thinking dictates that our gardens should be neat and clean, like the inside of our home—dirt should be swept up, leaves should be removed and shrubs pruned into neat, regular shapes. We believe bugs are bad; even beneficial insects like spiders are something to be eradicated. Our quest to kill everything that moves in the garden has had devastating effects on our own well-being, from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals to endangering the pollinators we need to grow our food.

For the sake of our own survival, we need to change our approach and embrace a new philosophy, the “backyard biosphere”, based on set of sustainable, organic landscape management practices. The simplest definition is one that is in balance with the local climate, and requires minimal resource inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, water, gasoline for lawn mowers and maintenance efforts. The most important characteristic is that it must use only organic pesticides or herbicides should be used, and only when natural methods won’t suffice.

Texas pollinators include fruit bats, beetles, hummingbirds, moths and even flies. If we really want to save our pollinators, we not only must stop spraying them with pesticides, but we also must find ways to replace at least of portion of habitat lost to development. Our backyards are the primary avenue available for us to accomplish that. They are obvious substitutes for natural spaces because they can offer all the essentials of native habitat: homes, food, water and protection. Together, these elements constitute a backyard biosphere. The more diversity the biosphere offers, the greater the range of wildlife it can support and mitigate the damage.

In nature, a new layer of compost is laid each year as leaves, animal waste and other debris that falls to the ground turn into rich, fertile soil. When we rake up the leaves and bag them for collection, we are removing the Earth’s natural fertilizer source, the very thing that makes a garden sustainable. Where possible, backyard biospheres leave the leaves alone to take advantage of this natural supplement. Instead of pruning away valuable nesting materials and shrubby cover, backyard biospheres allow plants to grow in natural shapes that help birds and other small animals hide from predators and find shelter from the weather.

Backyard biospheres also rely on native plants. Studies have shown conclusively that native wildlife prefer foods produced by native plants over non-natives. In fact, many native plants can only be pollinated by native pollinators. Native plants also require less maintenance because they are better adapted to our native soils and climate, so they need less fertilization and are more drought tolerant.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge attempts to create a string a pollinator-friendly gardens from Texas to the Canadian border to provide habitat for Monarch butterflies, and the National Wildlife Federation offers certification that a garden is wildlife-friendly.

Fragmentation separates animals from each other and their sources of food, water and shelter. Much of the Earth’s land area has been cut up into pieces by roads and development. Dams and water diversions have isolated aquatic species. These disjointed chunks may not be large enough or close enough together to support animals that need large territories. Fragmentation also makes it difficult for migratory species to find places to rest and feed along their migration routes.

Backyard Biospheres help connect the pieces. By working cooperatively with our neighbors, homeowner’s associations and local governments, we can knit together larger, more sustainable chunks of habitat that allow animals to move through and around the local environment to get to needed resources such as lakes and rivers.

Unless we can eliminate toxic pesticides and herbicides from our gardening repertoire, our gardens will continue to be graveyards for our pollinators and eventually, ourselves. As millions of acres of native habitat are destroyed every day, building backyard biospheres may be the only way to preserve many of our native plant and animal species.

 

Joyce Connelly is co-owner of Marshall Grains Organic Gardening and Nature Store. For more information contact 817-416-6600 or MGC@marshallgrain.com

 

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Holiday at the Arboretum, from November 4 to January 7 at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden has added an Elf movie night, karaoke, a toy soldier stilt walker and a display of 800 nutcrackers in the historic DeGolyer House, as well as a 12 Days of Christmas exhibition. The outdoor display includes more than half a million lights burning each night in the garden. Holiday tea, Santa sightings and special activities complete a day’s visit to the Dallas Arboretum.

Elaborately decorated Victorian-style gazebos are on display every day throughout the garden. Guests are invited to experience this delightful holiday tradition with a festive stroll through the gardens and revel in The 12 Days of Christmas exhibition with a dozen breathtaking gazebos in the beloved Christmas carol. Each gazebo is encased in glass and extravagantly decorated on all sides to provide a dramatic, three-dimensional experience that adds to its "music box" quality, depicting the old English carol. Each gazebo brings Christmas to life, including a partridge in a pear tree, hidden animals in the eight maids-a-milking and the elegant seven swans a-swimming.

 

For more information, visit DallasArboretum.org.

 

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Prairie Lights takes visitors on a two-mile drive featuring 4 million lights that drew 230,000 visitors in 2016 and will be better than ever in 2017 with new custom displays and attractions with themes like Pirate Christmas, Santa’s Mailroom, Winter Woods, and others. Midway through the drive, families can stop at Holiday Village for concessions, carousel rides, a gift shop and photos with Santa.

Inside Holiday Village, the Snow Maze is a whimsical world of a snowman wonderland that goes through a playful labyrinth of twists and turns. The Holiday Magic Walk-Through Forest contains even more displays and illuminated trees for the perfect spot to take photos and see the lights up close. Then, finish the drive through the park with the always-popular animated tunnel of lights.

Location: Lynn Creek Park on Joe Pool Lake, 5610 Lake Ridge Pkwy., Grand Prairie. For times, dates and more information, call 972-237-8339. Avoid the lines with a Prairie Lights Fast Pass from PrairieLights.org. 

 

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The second annual EARTHxFilm festival for $25,000 in filmmaker prizes to be awarded at EARTHx, the world’s largest annual eco forum, is looking for documentary, narrative and short submissions for April 2018 in Dallas.

All films must have an environmental or social topic. They are seeking stories that encompass climate change, conservation, energy, food and agriculture, water and ocean, wildlife, recycling and conservation, cities and transportation, and social justice. Student shorts made as part of an undergraduate or graduate university college program are also accepted.

Information on deadline dates, fees, and rules can be found at earthxfilm.org. EARTHxFilm is currently accepting submissions via FilmFreeway.com/festival/EARTHxFilmFestival.

 

 

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As a result of challenging plant and market economics, Luminant is set to shutter two coal-fired power plants in Central Texas: Sandow, in Milam County, and Big Brown, in Freestone County, taking approximately 2,300 megawatts (MW) offline in early 2018. These two plants are economically challenged in the competitive Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market, and sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market and low natural gas prices, along with other factors, contributed to the decisions.

Also, Alcoa's energy-intensive smelter operation next to Sandow has closed, which was in effect subsidizing output from the power plant. Accordingly, the Three Oaks Mine, in Bastrop County, is closing, as well. Josh Rhodes, a research fellow at the University of Texas-Austin Energy Institute, says that canceling out this much coal-generated electricity from the Texas grid this quickly is unusual. “We’ve never seen coal numbers move this fast.”

Texas is already the top wind power state in the country, with nearly 36 million megawatt/hours. According to Rhodes, “It looks like we may have already crossed the threshold where we have more wind capacity than we do coal capacity.” If that hasn’t happened yet, he said, the plant closures mean it will definitely happen next year when Texas has the capacity to generate 15 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from coal and 24 GW from wind. Depending on the weather, one GW is enough to power anywhere from 200,000 to 500,000 homes.

The switch away from coal will also have a positive impact on carbon emissions. Dan Cohan, a professor of civil engineering at Rice University, notes the plants that are closing accounted for 11 percent of CO2 emissions from Texas power plants last year.

For more information on wind energy, visit BreezeEnergy.com.

 

 

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The Dallas YMCA will celebrate the golden anniversary of its signature Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot at 9 a.m., November 23, at Dallas City Hall. Nearly 30,000 participants are expected to turn out for the eight-mile race and 5K fun run. There is the option for all participants to be chip-timed in both the eight-mile and 5k race with a $5 timing charge and a timed runner corral. All eight-mile runners will receive commemorative finisher medals.

The Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot benefits YMCA programs that help strengthen the foundation of the community. The excitement that surrounds this event continues to grow each year as more runners and generations of families turn out to experience the fun and family-friendly atmosphere that is the backdrop to the race.

For pricing and registration details, visit TheTrot.com To volunteer, call 214-954-0500.

 

 

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Thousands of pumpkins, gourds and squash have been assembled at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden for the 12th annual Autumn at the Arboretum. This national fall festival running through November 22 has been named one of the best pumpkin picking experiences in the country by Trip Advisor and one of the world's 15 most breathtaking gardens by Architectural Digest magazine. This year’s theme is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,

Now in its 12th year, Autumn at the Arboretum includes the acclaimed Pumpkin Village with pumpkin houses and creative displays using more than 90,000 of the festive vegetables, along with hay bales and cornstalks. Pumpkins, Squash and Gourds, Oh My! takes visitors along an actual yellow-brick road, spiraling through Pecan Grove with stops at each major occurrence in the story of Dorothy and her adventures in the "land of Oz". Vignettes include Auntie Em's house, the Scarecrow's Garden, the Enchanted Forest with the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion, Munchkinland, Emerald City showcasing the carriage pulled by A Horse of A Different Color, and the Wicked Witch's Castle, including a Hay Bale Maze, mimicking the castle walls. Munchkinland is also the home of the Tom Thumb Pumpkin Patch offering pumpkins for purchase and activities for kids.

Adding to the annual Autumn pumpkin exhibit, the Dallas Arboretum recently opened a year-round destination named A Tasteful Place, a garden designed in the center, to mirror an ornamental kitchen garden or potager, as it is called by the French. The 3.5-acre addition is comprised of artfully arranged elements that include a pavilion with event space and a teaching kitchen, an orchard, beds of ornamental display vegetables, herbs and flowers, and a lagoon. The garden will host cooking classes, demonstrations, garden-to-table dinners, daily tastings, a hillside for picnicking and educational opportunities.

Mark Wolf, Dallas Arboretum board chairman, states, “A Tasteful Place aligns with the Arboretum's mission of promoting the beauty and knowledge of horticulture, while providing educational opportunities for knowing where and how our food is grown."

said Location: 8525 Garland Rd., Dallas For more information and a schedule of events, visit DallasArboretum.org.

 

 

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El Centro welding students, faculty create giant v

Students at the nonprofit Moss Haven Farm urban school garden in grades K trough 12 got a treat on October 19, when several very large vegetables they grew were installed as metal sculptures on campus; works of art created by welding students and faculty from the Cedar Valley College Bill J. Priest Institute. The larger-than-life, colorful representations of broccoli, a carrot, a potato and more will serve as a daily reminder of what youngsters can grow.

Taught by “Farmer Kim” Aman, youngsters get hands-on experience growing food and working together in the urban school garden, which is part of Moss Haven Elementary School, in the Richardson Independent School District.

Location: 9202 Moss Farm Lane, Dallas. For more information, call 214-860-5880 or visit MossHavenFarm.org.

 

 

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Irving residents are now able to shop at a new Whole Foods Market grocery store at 6714 North MacArthur Boulevard. There was some delay as a result of the chain’s acquisition by Amazon, but every item sold in the store meets the same rigorous quality standards as ever, free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives and hydrogenated fats.

The 44,000-square-foot store has an in-store bar with 16 beers on tap, growler fillings, wines by the glass and a menu of bar food favorites. New York-style pizzas are sold whole or by the slice. The store also stocks more than 100 specialty cheeses and more than 750 bottled wines. Food offerings include fresh made sushi, a made-to-order sandwich station and a taco venue. A self-serve dessert bar includes macaroons and Japanese mochi ice cream. Outdoors, there is an outdoor patio area that hosts regular events such as happy hour and children’s activities.

For more information, call 469-845-8001 or visit WholeFoodsMarket.com/stores/lascolinas.

 

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The Generational Group Dallas festive, family-friendly Jingle Bell Run, a Dallas tradition for more than 20 years, will take place on December 21, at the Hilton Anatole. Races begin at 6:30 p.m. Contests include a 5k race, one-mile fun run and a lively post-race party at the hotel. Participants re encouraged to come dressed in their spirited holiday attire and will also be given a pair of jingle bells and glow sticks to “jingle all the way” through the race. There will even be carolers and music along the race course to ensure every step is enjoyable.

Proceeds of the Jingle Bell run benefit the Trinity Strand Trail in the heart of the Dallas Design District and the Mavs Foundation. The trail will connect the Katy Trail to the Trinity River and also provide Dallas citizens access to the Southwestern Medical District, Dallas Market Center, downtown and uptown Dallas, Stemmons Corridor businesses and the Dallas Design District. When the project is complete, it will connect more than 73 miles of trail.

 

Location: 2201 N. Stemmon Fwy., Dallas. To register and for more information, visit  DallasJingleBellRun.com.

 

For more stories like this read Natural Awakenings Dallas-Ft Worth magazine at NADallas.com