Friday, May 17, 2013

Midwest Nature Quote of the Week

Far below, on the floor of the forest, was a constant, mysterious duskiness where the succulent wood sorrel, twinflower, cornel, and goldthread blossomed with a freshness only possible in untrodden spaces. Among the dark green leaves of the flowers was a soft, resilient cover of moss in which the feet of the wild animals and the occasional Indians settled deeply and gently. There were no noises except the noises of nature, no scars except the scars of nature, no sights except the sights which nature had been exhibiting for countless centuries.

Robert Marshall, The People’s Forests

Recipe: Strawberry Angel Food Cake

Strawberry Angel Food Cake 

1 3/4 cups egg whites                              1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries        1/2 teaspoon vanilla
     (sweetened to taste and sliced thin)    1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 teaspoons cream of tartar                  
1 1/8 cups sugar                                     

Place room-temperature egg whites and thawed strawberries in a very large mixing bowl with slanting edges and vigorously whisk a minute or two until frothy. Sprinkle on cream of tartar and salt and add vanilla. Starting on high speed and moving down to medium with an electric mixer, beat until it begins to form soft peaks. While continuing to beat, very gradually add 1 cup of the sugar in five additions until the mixture is just stiffening. (Do not overbeat.)

Sift together the cake flour and remaining 1/8 cup sugar several times. With a wire whisk, gently but firmly fold in the flour, sifting it out in five or six additions. Using a clean, dry, rubber spatula, carefully pour the batter into a 10-inch tube or springform pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes--depending on your oven--on a center shelf. (Walk softly in the kitchen while the cake is baking!)

When done, remove cake from oven and invert pan over a soda bottle or other narrow-necked bottle (for better ventilation) for 1 hour before removing cake from pan.

Frost with Four-Minute Frosting beaten with a drop or two of red food coloring to make it strawberry pink. Top with chopped, toasted walnuts and serve with ice cream if desired. Serves 10 to 12.

Prairie Cooks by Carrie Young

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Butterfly of the Week: Tawny-edged Skipper

Tawny-Edged Skipper

Polites themistocles (Latrielle [1824])
Status: Common breeding resident. 

Flight: Essentially flies continuously from mid May through September. Probably three overlapping broods: adults are more frequently encountered from late May to early June, from late June to mid July, and from early August to early September. 

Distinguishing Features: This small brown skipper is very similar to the Crossline Skipper (Polites Origenes). It differs by having a small, sharp, sinuous sigma on the upper fore wing in males and an orange patch along the upper fore wing costa in females. Females also lack faint light spots on the upper hind wing. Adults of both sexes tend to be smaller than Crossline Skipper adults. Wingspan: about 2.8 cm. 

Distribution and Habitat: Map 184. Abundant throughout the state in a wide variety of native and human-modified open habitats. Although commonly found in native prairies, it is also often seen in old fields and city parks. 

Natural History: Larvae probably use panic grasses as their Iowa food plants, although other hosts have been reported from other states.

Questions: How far do adults travel from their site of emergence? Does this species avoid competition with other panic grass-eating skippers by feeding at different locations on the plant or at different times of the year? 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Iowa Nature Calendar

Upland sandpipers circle whinnying calls during courtship flights over grasslands.

The Iowa Nature Calendar, by Jean C. Prior and James Sandrock