Friday, August 29, 2014

Missing the Iowa State Fair already?

The Iowa State Fair is over, but that doesn't mean you'll have to wait until next year! This Labor Day weekend check out The Iowa State Fair, by Kurt Ullrich, and relive the magic.

"Riding Pretty" from The Iowa State Fair, by Kurt Ullrich

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Labor Day on the porch

Need a good read for Labor Day? We suggest Sunday Afternoon on the Porch: Reflections of a Small Town in Iowa 1939-1942, by Everett W. Kuntz.

In 1939, just before graduating from high school in the small town of Ridgeway in northeast Iowa, Everett Kuntz spent his entire savings of $12.50 on a 35mm Argus AF camera. He made a camera case from a worn-out boot, scraps from a tin can, and a clasp from his mother's purse. For the next several years, especially during the summers when he worked on his parents' dairy farm, he clicked the shutter of his trusty Argus all around the quiet town.

Everett bought movie reel film in bulk from a mail-order house, rolled his own film, and developed it in a closet at home, but he never had the money to print his photographs. More than two thousand negatives stayed in a box while he married, raised a family, and worked as an electrical engineer in the Twin Cities. When he became ill with cancer in the fall of 2002—sixty years after he had developed the last of his bulk film—Everett opened his time capsule and printed the images from his youth. He died in 2003, having brought his childhood town back to life just as he was leaving it.

A sense of peace radiates from these images. Whether skinny-dipping in the Turkey River, wheelbarrow-racing, threshing oats, milking cows, visiting with relatives after church, or hanging out at the drugstore or the movies, Ridgeway's hardworking citizens are modest and trusting and luminous in their graceful harmony and their unguarded affection for each other. Visiting the town in 2006 as he was writing the text to accompany these photographs, Jim Heynen crafted vignettes that perfectly complement these rediscovered images by blending fact and fiction to give context and voice to Ridgeway's citizens.

Friday, August 22, 2014


When harvesting onions for storage, let the tops hang below the bulbs on the edge of a table. When the onions have dried, trim them to within one and a half inches of the bulb. Twist the stub very tightly. This helps the onions keep better.
—Martha Shibe, Marshalltown Garden Club

Gardening in Iowa and Surrounding Areas, by Veronica Lorson Fowler with the Federated Garden Clubs of Iowa

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Excerpt from DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAINTOP, by Joshua Doležal

Down from the Mountaintop: From Belief to Belonging, by Joshua Doležal, is a coming-of-age memoir about moving from the mountains of northwestern Montana to the Midwest.

There are a few rules for harvesting trash, as I have explained to my team of volunteers: Plastics such as drinking bottles and milk jugs should be drained and separated for recycling, so long as they are not filled with sludge or slime. Anything like a propane or an aerosol can with a hose attached, a bluish valve, or milky residue should be left untouched and reported to the local police as possible methamphetamine gear. If the recyclables and trash can be bagged in different colors, so much the better.

Each castaway item has a story: a flip-flop with a pregnancy kit, a yellow Pennzoil bottle, a foam smiley face from a boat antenna. Tires and propane tanks pile up by the dozens. Sometimes a refrigerator finds its way downstream. Where does it all come from? What is the story? After years of practicing the wilderness ethic of invisibility, I struggle to decipher this new text scribbled over the shoreline. It is too easy to dismiss expansion, a larger view. "The eye is the first circle," Emerson writes; "the horizon which it forms is the second." As I walk the shoreline, searching  (almost hoping) for trash, I begin to think of all of the individual choices made, why someone might choose Arrowhead water over Fiji, and why, after buying clean water--after making that conscious choice--one would toss the bottle into the lake. Soda bottles tell a clearer tale, but nearly half the recyclable detritus in Iowa waterways once held commercial drinking water. How can this be?