Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bur Oak Books—Call for Proposals

Readers of this blog know that we’re in love with the natural beauty and diversity of the Midwest, and we’re devoted to its human history as well. Many of the books, recipes, and photographs we feature here come from our Bur Oaks Books series and our Bur Oak Guides.

And we’re always looking for new book projects on the natural and cultural history of Iowa and the upper Midwest. If you’ve got a manuscript in the works in this area, please consider the University of Iowa Press as a publisher. You can find more information about what kind of projects we are interested in and proposal guidelines on our website.

Thanks!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Museums and Events in Iowa

Wondering what to do on these chilly winter days? A bookstore is always our favorite home away from home, but museums are a great choice, too.

If you’re here in eastern Iowa where we are, check out the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. Its current exhibit is “Behind the Beat,” on the history of African American music, and it also features a permanent exhibit on the history of the state’s African American population. Its mission is to be the leading statewide resource on African American history and preserve the history of African Americans in Iowa.

African American Museum of Iowa
Location: 55 12th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA
Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., Monday through Saturday


If you’re on the western side of the state, Sioux City offers two great places to spend a few hours and learn something about Iowa history: the Sioux City Public Museum and the Sergeant Floyd River Museum & Welcome Center. The Public Museum is downtown and features hands-on and interactive exhibits. Located on a dry-docked steamboat, the Sergeant Floyd offers Missouri River history.

Sioux City Public Museum
Location: 607 4th St., Sioux City, IA
Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Tuesday through Saturday, 1:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M. Sunday

Sergeant Floyd River Museum
Location: 1000 Larsen Park Rd, Sioux City, IA

Hours: 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. daily (except major holidays)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Interview with Tom Rosburg, pt. 2

This spring we’re releasing the second edition of Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa’s Wildflowers and Other Plants of Iowa Wetlands. Botanist Tom Rosburg provided all new photographs for the second edition, as well as some additional text. Here, he talks with Bur Oak Books series editor Holly Carver about how he became a plant photographer.

Holly: What has changed in the outdoor world since your first days of photographing these areas? What’s better, what’s worse?
Tom: One thing is that there are more public areas to go to and look for nature subjects. And at least some of them are still pretty good examples of Iowa’s native landscape. In part this is due to the increased emphasis on restoration work. So access to areas is surely better. On the down side—I see increasing problems with non-native, troublesome plant species that threaten the integrity of natural areas. Unfortunately, in some cases this problem is exacerbated by poorly designed and/or executed restoration work. 

Holly: What advice would you give to younger nature photographers? What are the particular challenges of being a botanical photographer?
Tom: I teach nature photography at Drake University and Lakeside Lab, so there is a lot I could say. In short, I stress three components that make an image aesthetic: 1) understand your equipment and how it works, what to use when, correct exposure is critical; 2) understand the role of content in an image, especially elements of design and light quality; and 3) understand the key features of composition, for example, depth of field, perspective, and viewpoint.

Plants are very accessible, but photographing them can be challenging due to bad light and wind. There are several ways of dealing with these problems with the use of accessory equipment. Or quite often, getting out in the field early in the day can make the difference. There is a lot of truth to the saying “the early photographer gets the image.”

Holly: What are your favorite natural areas in Iowa and the Midwest? What areas do you return to constantly, and what’s your favorite newly visited area?
Tom: The state preserves are generally my favorite areas because they offer the best examples of our native ecosystems. These are the places that provide the best opportunities for plants and landscapes. On a larger scale, both the Loess Hills and Paleozoic Plateau landforms offer exceptional opportunities for nature photography.

Areas close to home are the places I return to repeatedly—Ledges State Park and Doolittle Prairie State Preserve are good examples. A newly visited area that has a lot of promise is Whiterock Conservancy in Guthrie County.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Interview with Tom Rosburg

This spring we’re releasing the second edition of Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa’s Wildflowers and Other Plants of Iowa Wetlands. Botanist Tom Rosburg provided all new photographs for the second edition, as well as some additional text. Here, he talks with Bur Oak Books series editor Holly Carver about how he became a plant photographer.

Holly: How long have you been photographing plants?
Tom: I obtained my first 35 mm SLR camera in 1977 as a graduation gift and started doing casual nature photography. In 1986, I switched to Nikon equipment and added several lenses to my gear. That’s when I started pursuing nature photography more seriously and began developing plant photography skills.

Holly: Why have plants kept your photographic attention for so long? What other subjects do you focus on?

Tom: About the same time, in 1986, I began the graduate work that eventually lead to my becoming a botanist. So plants have occupied my interest ever since I began serious photography. There are over 2,000 species of plants in Iowa, so there is a huge list of potential plant subjects to photograph. I’d like to have a photographic record of every one of them. I shoot all nature subjects—landscapes, wildlife, macro subjects as well as plants. Because plants are always available, I tend to gravitate towards them when I am out doing photography and time is limited.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Party-popping Fried Cashews—from BITING THROUGH THE SKIN, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Looking for a snack for tonight's New Year's Eve party? Try this recipe from Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau.

Party-popping Fried Cashews

1/2 pound raw cashews (can be found in most grocery store health food sections)
salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
black pepper to taste

Heat about 1 inch of oil in a small frying pan. When hot, put in all the nuts and stir-fry until medium brown. Drain nuts on a paper towel or in a sieve, sprinkle salt and pepper on them, and slide them onto a serving plate. Fantastic served warm.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Aloo Tikka (spicy potato patties)—from BITING THROUGH THE SKIN, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

Looking for something to spice up your winter? Try this recipe from Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau.

Aloo Tikka

Serves 4

2 potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with a fork
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 green chili, finely sliced
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and form 2- to 3-inch patties. Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan. When hot, place the potato patties in a single layer around the pan. When lightly browned, turn. Serve with taetul (tamarind/date chutney and/or coriander chutney) and slivers of raw onion.

Friday, December 26, 2014

December Gardening Tip—from GARDENING IN IOWA AND SURROUNDING AREAS

"When leaving on vacation, keep potted plants healthy by watering well and covering them with a clear dry-cleaning bag. The plants will stay watered for up to three weeks."—Darlene Lorenz, Independence Garden Club

Gardening in Iowa and Surrounding Areasby Veronica Lorson Fowler with the Federated Garden Clubs of Iowa