Friday, April 12, 2013

Excerpt from Esther's Town

Fishermen caught pike, pickerel, bass, perch, and catfish in huge numbers, particularly in the Okoboji lakes and in Spirit Lake. In 1868 the Vindicator said that "one man with an ordinary pitchfork can secure a wagon-load of fish within a few hours." In 1870 Peter Larson caught a wagonful of fish at Okoboji. In addition to Okoboji, Spirit, and High Lakes, fish were caught plentifully in the west branch of the Des Moines River running through Estherville, the east fork of the Des Moines through Armstrong, and in some of the creeks.

But by the time father and I - during my teen years - were dipping our lines in the Des Moines River in search of walleyed pike and blue-channel catfish and rowing out hands sore probing the rushes and rock piles of Angler's Bay at Spirit Lake, we were grateful for modest catches. We had to employ more subtle lure than a pitchfork. Despite our fancy tackle and carefully selected bait, we were often "skunked," as my maternal grandfather described failure. Mother had to find substitute protein for the fish we planned to catch and she planned to fry.

Esther's Town, by Deemer Lee

Midwest Nature Quote of the Week

The woodlands encountered by settlers in the early 1800s were open and parklike; fires set by native Americans and by lightning kept fast-growing shrubs and trees from overtaking slower-growing plants. But as more people arrived the woodlands, like the tallgrass prairie, were cleared with amazing speed. Now only small portions of this special habitat remain, and many of its animals and plants are endangered or extinct: gone forever.

Many people are working to restore and enlarge what remains so that woodlands can continue to support a rich wildlife community. In 2005, the rediscovery of the magnificent ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, in the Big Woods of Arkansas shows how important it is to conserve woodlands.

Claudia McGehee, A Woodland Counting Book

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Excerpt from The Raptors of Iowa

In childhood, Jim was a doodler. Rarely far from a scrap of paper, he used his pencil to create visual magic. This love of images led to a long career as an advertising artist at the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Designing display ads for cars, chiropractors, banks, and boutiques may have satisfied his doodling passion but left him remote from the birds he loved.

Jim's evenings were spent in his home studio, painting birds with the dream of becoming a successful professional freelance wildlife artist. Helped and mentored by good friend and renowned Canadian wildlife artist J. F. (Fen) Lansdowne, Jim perfected his craft. Eventually he sold a painting. Then another. Then limited-edition prints of his original watercolors began selling.

Jim's dream became reality when, after winning the Iowa waterfowl stamp contest in 1973 with his painting of gadwalls, he became the first three-time winner of the Iowa outdoor stamp design contests. With those awards came celebrity status and more painting and print sales in the golden era of wildlife art. He left the Gazette in 1977 to devote his energy to art.

Jim's work promoted his other passions: conservation and teaching. His art communicated the deep commitment to the protection of nature that permeated the very fabric of his being. Through art he became an effective teacher and motivator. Scan a Landenberger painting and you will see birds, fish, or furry animals surrounded by leaves, grasses, seeds, and sky in utter accuracy. Viewing a Landenberger painting sparks a desire to grab a pair of binoculars, strap on boots, and head for marsh, woods, or stream.

From the essay by Rich Patterson in The Raptors of Iowa , paintings by James F. Landenberger

Monday, April 8, 2013

Midwest Nature Quote of the Week

Many of the Loess Hills’ special qualities lie with upland prairies. Clinging to the westernmost line of hills where porous soil, intense sunlight, and strong winds combine to create a desertlike environment, the native grasslands contain an unusual association of drought-resistant animals and plants typical of the Great Plains. Those species form midheight grasslands that are a radical departure from the lusher, denser tall-grass prairies typical of the remainder of either Iowa or Missouri. Today many Loess Hills prairie species are rare or endangered.

Cornelia F. Mutel, Fragile Giants: A Natural History of the Loess Hills