Monday, July 21, 2014

Mishti Lassie (sweet yogurt drink) recipe—from BITING THROUGH THE SKIN

Need something to cool down this summer? Try this Mishti Lassie recipe from Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America's Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau.

Mishti Lassie (sweet yogurt drink)

Makes 1-2 drinks

1 ripe mango or banana or papaya, peeled and pureed
2 teaspoons honey or sugar (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, steeped in 2 teaspoons hot water (optional)
1 cup water with ice
2 tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)
1 cup plain yogurt

Blend all of the above ingredients in an electric blender, crushing the ice. Lovely served chilled. Optional garnishes for each glass: 1/4 teaspoon crushed pistachio nuts or a sprig of fresh mint.

GRASSES IN YOUR POCKET--tips for identifying the grasses around you

Having trouble identifying grasses in and around Iowa? The Bur Oak Guide Grasses in Your Pocket, by Anna B. Gardner, Michael Hurst, Deborah Lewis and Lynn G. Clark, will help you do just that.

 Beadgrass, thin paspalum
Paspalum setaceum
Native. Jul-Sep. Infrequent to more frequent south. Sand prairies. 25-110 cm, 1-4 ft high. Spikelets all on one side of branches, round in outline, one side flat, one side convex.

IA, IL, IN (MI), (MN), OH, WI

Eastern gamagrass
Tripsacum dactyloides
Native. Jun-Oct. Rare. Wetter areas, limestone outcrops. 100-200 cm, 3-7 ft high. Rhizomes short, knotty; basal part of flowering head branches beadlike.

IA, IL, (IN), (MI), (OH)

Friday, July 18, 2014


The University of Iowa Press is proud to announce the release of Grasses in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Prairie Grasses of the Upper Midwest, by Anna B. Gardner, Michael Hurst, Deborah Lewis, and Lynn G. Clark.

At the time of European settlement, tallgrass prairie was the iconic landscape in much of the Upper Midwest. Although its extent has been drastically reduced, intact prairie remnants exist, prairies species persist along roadsides, and interest in prairie reconstruction has increased. The basic prairie matrix is formed by grasses, yet their diversity and beauty are often under-appreciated because their flowering structures are highly reduced to aid in wind pollination. This much-needed addition to Iowa's popular series of laminated guides—the twenty-sixth in the series—illustrates fifty-five grass species characteristic of or commonly found on prairies of the Upper Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The authors have organized species into groups by their most easily noted field characteristics. Are the flowering heads branched or unbranched? Are the branches dense, narrow, or fingerlike? For each species, its native or exotic status is followed by the months of flowering, abundance, general habitat, height, diagnostic features, geographic range, and, if relevant, threatened or endangered status.

Even amateur naturalists can identify big and little bluestem and prairie dropseed in the field, but both professional and amateur naturalists find certain grasses harder to identify, especially the less common or rare species such as cluster fescue and sand reedgrass. The photographs and descriptions in Grasses in Your Pocket will be an invaluable reference for ourdoor expeditions in midwestern grasslands.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Excerpt from NECESSARY COURAGE, by Lowell J. Soike

In Necessary Courage, historian Lowell J. Soike tells the often forgotten or overlooked stories of Iowans who helped African Americans escaping from slavery in Missouri and points further south. By serving as conductors along the underground railroad, these people risked their lives and livelihoods to ensure that others could live free. 
       Here’s one of these stories, featuring antislavery activists John and Isabel Armstrong, who settled in southern Appanoose County in the 1850s.

Two runaways, John and Archie, quickly encountered difficulties as their escape from central Missouri proved easier to plan than to accomplish. As they struck north toward the Iowa state line, they had to move more slowly than they had expected because John suffered from muscle and joint pains. Archie stayed with his friend even as the trip they thought would take only a few days stretched into three weeks. Finally they entered the woods near the Armstrongs’ house. While John rested, Archie went and knocked on the door in hopes of finding help. His timing could not have been worse.

           Isabel Armstrong…opened the door to see a black man in need, but at that very moment a neighbor unfriendly to the underground railroad sat in the next room. She quietly hurried Archie into the bedroom, where he waited until the visitor left. The relieved Armstrongs then gave him some food to eat and learned from him that his suffering companion lay in the nearby woods. John Armstrong had a reliable neighbor take the fugitive John some food while arranging for the two runaways to be taken that evening to the farm of John Shepherd, Isabel’s brother…. Rested for the night, the two traveled with Shepherd to their next stop at Drakesville.

Friday, July 11, 2014


REGULUS: The Latin word for "a little king, prince" alludes to the small size, colorful "crown," and commanding behavior of birds in this genus. Warbler Family.

calendula: a coined Latin word for "glowing" (from calēre = to glow with heat) that describes the red patch on the crown of the male.

Common name: Ruby-crowned Kinglet for the infrequently seen red crown of the male

Other names: ruby crown, ruby-crowned wren, ruby-crowned warbler

satrapa: The Latin word (Greek satrapēs) for "a viceroy, provincial governor," who might be inclined to wear a crown.

Common name: Golden-crowned Kinglet for the orange patch on the crown of the male, yellow on the female

Other names: gold-crest, flame-crest, fiery-crowned wren

From the Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest, by James Sandrock and Jean C. Prior

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


"To make sure your tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and squash get enough water, sink into the ground a few inches from the plant a large tin can with the top removed and holes punched into the bottom. When watering, water the soil around the plant and also fill the can."—Leone Sauer, Quasqueton Garden Club

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

Monday, July 7, 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.

Lonna motioned for us to sit. Jones and Tozzi took the open chairs as Jacobson and I leaned against the doorjamb.

"How'd you like to go to northern Alberta?" she grinned. "I just got the call, and we're trying to put together a crew. Libby will send a squad, we'll get one each from Eureka, Rexford, and the Cabinet district, and I thought we could send you four. Jones, you'll be our squad boss. They'll be sending Claude Shanley from the Cabinet to run the crew."

Jones sniffed. "What the hell do they want us in Alberta for?"

"Big muskeg fires, they say. It's a ground moss, grows up to five feet deep. Anytime those swampy areas dry out a little bit, like down in the Everglades, you get some bad fires. Once the heat starts skunking around in that moss, it's almost impossible to stop. Anyway, you guys interested?"

"Hell, yes," Tozzi said. We all agreed. Nobody ever turned down an off-forest assignment. With twenty-one straight days on the clock, twelve to fourteen hours a day, the overtime was reason enough. We were all cash-craving college kids except for Jacobson, one of the Troy boys still determined to make a life for himself in our hometown. Jones and Tozzi stood to go, but Lonna waved them back.

"There's something I want you all to know, just to be on the safe side. Claude is a nice guy, but he's not all there. Just two years ago he was crew boss with a hotshot outfit, and one of his guys died on the fire line--tree-felling accident or something. Whatever it was, it got Claude demoted. If it was me, I'd never send him out again, but it's not my call." Lonna leaned forward in her chair. "You guys don't hesitate to call home if you think things aren't safe up there, OK? No heroics. I need you to pay attention and speak up if your gut tells you to. All right?"

She looked at Jones to be sure. He nodded and pulled his cap down over his eyes.