Waxahachie resident prepares Blackland Prairie for wildlife, wildflower adventure event

Ashley Ford | aford@waxahachietx.com
Don Happ, of Waxahachie, has been a member of the Ellis County chapter of the Master Naturalists since 2013. He has worked on the Ellis County Rural Heritage Farm Inc. for the past year to maintain its native Blackland Prairie.

For the better part of the past year, Don Happ has embraced the natural Blackland Prairie that rests between Waxahachie and Maypearl.

As a member of the Indian Trails chapter of Master Naturalists, he has dedicated his time to prepare the property of the McKinney-Aday Family Farm to maintain an authentic feel of the native lands.

In preparation for the Prairie Wildlife and Wildflower Adventure event at the end of April, Happ is currently knee-deep in tall grass and creating fun activities for children.

As he spoke out the property, the 20-year Waxahachie resident explained he pulled up European grass to allow more of the natural silver bluestem grass takes over and admired the puccoon flowers that stood out.

“Most of what we do is educate children, and this is great for our future,” Happ said.

Happ mentioned several tables will be scattered around the historic Aday home with various informative and interactive activities. One activity will have patrons create seed balls that will fertilize the land.

“If you just take the seed that is 26 cents a pound — the cheapest you can get them — you throw them on the ground the birds will eat them, they blow away,” Happ detailed.

Happ has already thrown out several hundred and explained the key is to mix clay, soil and water with the seeds to form little mud balls. Once they dry, throw them in the yard.

“It has to rain three times before the seed falls all apart,” he elaborated. “That means that there is actually enough water in the soil for the plant to live. This was actually invented by Native Americans to plant food.”

Children will also make soil samples out of edible treats, and a chart will be filled out that describes each layer. Another station will cover pollination with plants and wildlife. A woman from the National Audubon Society will also discuss prairie birds.

Happ brought out a box from his vehicle with holes cut out on top. He reached in to pull out a fake worm and explained the animal, a short-tail shrew, is native to the area.

“It’s poisonous but not enough poison to hurt a human,” Happ explained. “They are almost pure carnivores. What I’m going to have them (kids) do is hunt for food like a shrew.”

Happ continued to explain the creature has to eat its own body weight daily and then pulled out a giant toy beetle, and then a small rubber lizard. He pulled out a fake snake and explained the shrew would no longer be the predator but the prey. Happ noted the only shrews he has seen on the property were dead.


Ellis County Rural Heritage Farm Inc. will host two natural events this year, and the first one will take place on Sunday, April 28 from 2 — 4 p.m.

First is the Prairie Wildlife and Wildflower Adventure, which will be co-hosted with the Indian Trail Chapter of the Master Naturalists. At this event, patrons can learn about wildlife, flowers, plants and trees that are native to the rich Blackland Prairie.

The Heritage Farm is an ongoing project to enhance public appreciation or and provide educational opportunities to students and learners of all ages about farm life.

The mission of the Heritage Farms is to preserve and to promote public awareness and appreciation of the natural and farming heritage of rural Ellis County. Through public and school tours, living history programs, and garden, row crop or native prairie demonstration projects, opportunities for future generations have been provided to educate others as they gain an understanding and appreciation of rural life in the late 19th and early to the mid-20th century.

The 145-acre property is currently owned by Lu Ann Aday, and collaborated with the Ellis County Museum on the farmland development that is located on Farm-to-Market Road 66, about two miles west of Waxahachie.

One might only notice the 1913 Prairie style McKinney-Aday Farmhouse driving by. The home was restored in 2011 and received a marker granted by Historic Waxahachie, Inc. in 2012 that acknowledged the historical and architectural significance. The Texas State Historical Commission also designated it as a Recorded Texas Historic landmark the year after.

The farmland currently operates a working farm and native prairie areas. The website reads that the 145-acre Heritage Farm is only a remnant of the original 460-acre Marvin W. and Mattie F. Aday family farm.

According to the website, the Superconducting Super Collider Project appropriated a total of 315 acres in the early 1990s.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450