Friday, March 22, 2013

Excerpt from Esther's Town

Marshy areas covered much of the area until drainage made the soil highly productive agriculturally. Along the lakes and streams were hardwood trees such as oak, walnut, maple, hickory, and elm. There were wild fruits as well - gooseberries, crabapples, grapes, and plums. But most of the country was a treeless native prairie culture that flourished on the drift soils from Pleistocene glacial deposits. although the prairie was flat, the area was actually of relatively high elevation - 1,298 feet above sea level. Fresh water, both surface and at deep levels, was plentiful. The settlers hose well, as had the Indians, in seeking an environment that would sustain then. And it was the fertility of the soil, the dependable annual rainfall, and the ultimate abundant harvest of grain that sustained the country's trading center, Estherville, which had its beginning only a few months after the first white men arrived in the country.

Deemer Lee, Esther's Town.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Recipes: Cream of Corn Soup

Cream of Corn Soup (from A Cook's Tour of Iowa)

2 slices bacon, finely diced                              2 cups milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion                1 teaspoon salt
2 cups frozen or fresh corn                              1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter                                         2 cups light cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

In a medium saucepan, fry bacon until crisp. Add onion and saute over medium heat until soft. Add corn to bacon and onion and cook until corn begins to brown. Add butter, stir until melted, and then add flour. Cook for 3 minutes. Add milk, salt, and pepper and cook until thickened. Add cream and heat thoroughly. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From the Mamrelund Lutheran Church cookbook, contributed by Mrs. Lester R. Anderson, Mary Hanson, and Mrs. Lyle Wickstrom.

A Cook's Tour of Iowa, by Susan Puckett

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hard Rain from Iowa Now

Heavy rains have become more frequent in the upper Midwest over the past 60 years, according to a study from the University of Iowa. The trend appears to hold true even with the current drought plaguing the region, the study's main author says.
The fact that temperatures over the country's midsection are rising, too, may be more than coincidence.The hotter the surface temperature, which has been the trend in the Midwest and the rest of the world, the more water that can be absorbed by the atmosphere. And the more water available for precipitation means a greater chance for heavy rains, explains Gabriele Villarini, assistant professor in engineering at the UI and lead author of the paper, published in the Journal of Climate, the official publication of the American Meteorological Society.
“We found that there is a tendency toward increasing trends in heavy rainfall in the northern part of the study region, roughly the upper Mississippi River basin,” says Villarini, in the civil and environmental engineering department and an assistant research engineer at the IIHR-Hydroscience and Engineering. “We tried to explain these results in light of changes in temperature. We found that the northern part of the study region—including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois—is also the area experiencing large increasing trends in temperature, resulting in an increase in atmospheric water vapor.“
Villarini notes the current drought affecting the Midwest and other regions of the country has occurred too recently to be included in his study, whose data goes from about 1950 to 2010.
“I’m not looking at the average annual rainfall. I’m studying heavy rainfall events,” he says. “We may currently be in deficit for overall rainfall, but we may also be in the normal range when it comes to the number of heavy rainfall days.”
The map shows location of selected rain gauges, with blue (red) triangles depicting sites with significant increasing (decreasing) trends, and white circles showing sites with little or no change. (Adapted from Villarini et al. (2013))
The map shows location of selected rain gauges, with blue (red) triangles depicting sites with significant increasing (decreasing) trends, and white circles showing sites with little or no change. Adapted from Villarini et al., 2013.
Villarini and his colleagues examined changes in the frequency of heavy rainfall through daily measurements at 447 rain gauge stations in the central and southern United States. The states included were: Minnesota, Wisconsin Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Each rain gauge station has a record of at least 50 years. The data cover much of the 20thcentury and the first decade of this century. For the purposes of the study, heavy rainfall was defined as days in which rainfall exceeded the 95th percentile of the at-site rainfall distribution.
Villarini notes that while his study focused on changes in temperature and the frequency of heavy rainfall over the central United States, other published results have shown rainfall increases to be linked to changes in irrigation over the Ogallala Aquifer, which runs from Nebraska to northern Texas. Based on those studies, he says it is reasonable to assume that changes in land use, land cover and agricultural practice would affect the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere as well.
His colleagues in the study are James Smith, professor at Princeton University; and Gabriel Vecchi, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The paper is titled, “Changing Frequency of Heavy Rainfall over the Central United States.” It was first published in January.
The research was funded by NASA and the Willis Research Network.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Butterfly of the Week: Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Papilio polyxenes (Fabricius 1775)

Status: Breeding resident.

Flight: Multiple brooded, with flights from April through early June, mid June through mid July, late July through August, and September through early October.

Distinguishing features: This easily recognized swallowtail is black, with two rows of submarginal yellow spots. The hind wing has a blue band between the yellow rows of spots, which are more extensive in females. The hind wing has a red spot at the anal angle and always has a black center. Wingspan: 6.7 - 11 cm.

Distribution and habitat: Map 294. Found commonly throughout the state in a variety of open habitats.

Natural history: Larvae of this species are particularly fond of cultivated and naturalized members of the carrot family, including parsley, dill, and carrots (including Queen Anne's lace), often decimating garden plantings of these vegetables. Because of the abundance of its host plants, it is often the most commonly observed swallowtail. Larval appearance changes across each of its four instar stages: the first two are bird-dropping mimics, the third is mostly black, and the fourth is green.

Questions: How often does this species use native members of the carrot family as a larval host? What are the selective advantages of having each larval stage appear different? What factors account for the marked size differences between populations often observed?

The Butterflies of Iowa, by Dennis W. Schlicht, John C. Downey, and Jeffrey C. Nekola