Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Iowa Prairie!!

Do you miss those old Iowa Native Plants? Would you enjoy seeing them those plants make a come back? Do you even know what type of plants those would be?

One of my Master Gardener Projects involves looking for and identifying Native Iowa plants that are currently in the ditches around our township. We live on the ‘border’ of Florence and Fremont Townships. I would like to do both, but will start with Florence and see how far I get.Each Township appears to be about 6 square miles and with a gravel road each mile. I guess that’s a lie, there’s at least one highway and a couple gravel roads that ‘break’ the one mile rule. Regardless, each Township has many miles of gravel that needs to be checked for Native Plants. What better way to do this than horseback! At least that’s the plan. The highways are State Territory, so no need to worry about those.

The most important ‘job’ of being a Master Gardener is educating others. I thought blogging some of this adventure might educate some of you on the Iowa Native Plants. You may have forgotten about htem, or were never aware of them. So, I’ll be blogging a few of these adventures along the way.

One of the first steps involved to educating me. What better place to go than the Shellsburg School! Yes, they have a “teacher made” Native Iowa Prairie. I spent 3 hours there one evening becoming familiar with what plants to look for and how to identify them.

Tuesday evening I went back out to take a few pictures on my own, and Bill wanted to come along. I warned him not to expect something totally spectacular, but he was welcome to come. This was going to, at first, look like a large grassy area. He seemed to have a good time, and before long he was pointing out plants to me. We’ll go back every few weeks to see the changes in the prairie plants that are currently 12-24” tall, as some of these plants will reach 6-12’ in height!

Here’s a picture of the prairie.

The first one we encountered was the “Cup Plant”.

(This is what it will look like in another month or so)

This Native perennial, a member of the Aster family, gets between 4-10’ tall with yellow ‘sun’ type flowers. The name comes form the way it’s thick leaves are attached to it’s thick stem.

They attached to form a ‘cup’ that literally holds water. The story told to us was that the settlers would find this plant and drink the water held in it’s leaves. It was also used as a chewing gum and the young leaves could be cooked for eating.

This is what it looked like on Tuesday 5/25)

(See the water in the "Cup")

Researchers are also exploring whether the cup plant could be grown in low, moist prairies generally unfit for cropland. It would be grown and processed along with native grasses grown for biomass.

Bill of course thinks we should plant some, so we have water always within reach.

From now on when you’re thirsty you can ask,

“Where’s a good ole' CUP PLANT when you need one!!”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Jack and Jill = GPS

Bill has a Garmin. He LOVES his Garmin, and he calls her Jill. How original! That’s the name that is on the US Women’s voice that comes with the machine!! Me, I call her SYBIL!! She’s not my favorite device, and I’ve threatened more than once to toss her out the window. On one occasion I really MEANT IT!! Her voice just gets on my nerves! Not only that, she’s nasty!

I will admit to using Sybil on a few trips. I will also admit that she has gotten me where I needed to go, even if it wasn’t the most logic route. So, when I headed up to Eau Claire, WI last weekend I took her along. Actually, she was along, but I changed her name to “Jack”, which is the US male voice. I was hoping he would be smarter than Jill.

Jack and Jill are not flexible when it comes to traveling to Eau Claire. I should point out here that there is NOT a good way to get to Eau Claire from Eastern Iowa. GPS always want to take you through Dubuque. If you don’t want to go that way, you have to ‘trick’ it. How insane does one have to be to have to “Trick” a GPS device! Seriously, print out your directions on a piece of paper and be done with it!! Oh no, we LOVE our technology!!

The way I wanted to go involved heading North to 63, toward Rochester, and then taking 90 across the river to WI. Once I got to Spring Valley, MN, Jack gave up and showed me the proper route to get to Eau Claire. Way to go JACK!!

I thought I would be really smart and mark the location of Spring Valley, MN on the GSP so that when it came time to go home I could once again, ‘trick’ it into taking me back to Spring Valley and home. It sure sounded like a good idea to me!!! It didn’t work out that way.

I can truly say that the 4 or so times I’ve been up to Ann’s since we gotten Seeker, I’ve never come home the same way. One time Bill went with me and we were heading home in the dark, on two lane highways dodging horse draw Amish buggies! That was so NOT GOOD! Thanks JILL!! Um, I mean Sybil! Another time we thought we’d go ahead and take the LaCrosse/Dubuque way home and stopped to visit Carrie and Michele at the hotel to see how the agility trial was. I thought that way seemed longer than the 63 route, but it’s hard to tell.

I should have realized I was in trouble when Jack couldn’t find the Days Inn I was to stay at Friday night. In fact, Jack didn’t know $^*!. The address was correct, and he ‘thought’ he knew what he was talking about, but he took me to an empty lot.

The only good thing was it was right next to a nice new Menard’s!! I called home, thank goodness for tracphones, and Bill helped me find the hotel. I marked the location so Jack could find it the following evening.

Sunday afternoon I was all ready to head home. I plugged in Jack and sent him to Spring Valley. Sounds easy enough? Right? Nope, he wanted me to go a different route than I’d come up on. What the heck!! I had a general idea of the first 3 highways I needed, all 2 lane, but after that I wasn’t sure. So, I called home. I TRIED to call home!! Call Failed! Gee, what if this was a real emergency??? I still ended up getting “lost” around 52 and 63, but finally ended up where I needed to be. Jack kept trying to move me over to 218, so I just ‘shut his hole’. Yep, OFF buttons are AWESOME!

Bill pointed out that he’d send me off with directions on how to get there, how to find the hotel and how to get home. All I had to do was look at them. Gosh…..that sounds an awful lot like Effingham!! I wonder if Jack or Jill would have saved Martha and I on that trip?

Monday, May 17, 2010


This isn't good news for all those Ash trees!!!

The Community Forestry Connection

May 14, 2010

Special Report:

Officials with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued the following press release today. 5/14/2010


Invasive Pest Kills Ash Trees, Iowans Asked to Not Move Firewood

DES MOINES – The Iowa Emerald Ash Borer Team confirmed today that the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), an invasive pest that kills ash trees, has been found in Iowa along the Mississippi River two miles south of the Minnesota border in Allamakee County. The land is owned and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is the first confirmed EAB infestation in Iowa.

Four EAB larvae were found in one ash tree by members of Iowa’s EAB team during a survey of the area following the recent announcement that the beetle had been found just across the Minnesota border. An infestation in nearby Victory, Wisconsin was discovered in 2009.

A quarantine prohibiting the movement of firewood, ash nursery stock, ash timber, or any other article that could further spread EAB is pending from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. A federal quarantine would follow the state quarantine.

Iowa State University Extension will issue a separate news release providing EAB management recommendations for homeowners.

This detection of EAB in Iowa was the result of collaborative effort that has been looking for this pest since 2003. Detection efforts have included visual surveys, sentinel trees, trap surveys, nursery stock inspections, sawmill/wood processing site visits, and hundreds of educational programs.

This year EAB team members are in the process of placing 1800 purple traps at high-risk areas in the state, including in a 1.5 mile grid along the Mississippi River. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources also has 412 trap trees in the state this year, 12 of which are in Allamakee County.

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is native to eastern Asia, and was detected in the United States near Detroit, Michigan in 2002. EAB kills all ash (Fraxinus) species by larval burrowing under the bark and eating the actively growing layers.

The metallic-green adult beetles are a half inch long, and are active from late-May to early-August in Iowa. Signs of EAB infestation include one-eighth inch D-shaped exit holes in ash tree bark and serpentine tunnels packed with sawdust under the bark. Tree symptoms of an infestation include crown thinning and dieback when first noticed, epicormic sprouting as insect damage progresses, and woodpecker feeding.

EAB has killed ash trees of various sizes in neighborhoods and woodlands throughout the Midwest. Ash is one of the most abundant native tree species in North America, and has been heavily planted as a landscape tree in yards and other urban areas. According to recent sources, Iowa has an estimated 58 million rural ash trees and approximately 30 million more ash trees in urban areas.

The Iowa Emerald Ash Borer Team includes officials from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the USDA Forest Service.

The movement of firewood throughout Iowa and to other states poses the greatest threat to quickly spread EAB even further. Areas currently infested are under federal and state quarantines, but unknowing campers or others who transport firewood can spark an outbreak. As a result, officials are asking Iowans to not move firewood and instead buy wood where they are staying and burn it completely.

To learn more about EAB please visit the following websites:

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother Day FUN!!!!

It was a BEAUTIFUL day for MOTHER'S Yesterday!!
What a GREAT DAY for more PROJECTS!!

Carrie got Bill a Topsy Turvy on clearance last Fall, so it was time to assemble it.
Bill was a GREAT SPORT about the first 10 pictures,
he got a little grumpy after that!

Here he is reading the directions!
Proof that guys CAN read directions.
He pointed out that it claims this will last for YEARS!
We'll see!
(Note, we are currently getting 25+MPH winds,
we had to move Mr Topsy to a secured area)

This is a Mountain Pride Red Tomato.
Now the trick is to get it inside!


Just like on TV!!

Meanwhile, our oldest cat, Chemi (she's 11) decided to climb on top of a table cloth that was sitting on a large tree pot. The Pot had been used the night before to protect a Hydrangea from the Frost. Chemi thought it made a nice little hammock!

The fun didn't end there!

Bill had broken a tooth on his chain saw on Saturday cutting
up the Silver Maple. Never Fear!! Aaron to the rescue!
Apparently his been know to stop at total strangers homes
in order to help people cut down trees.

Here he is trying to avoid the ole' Plumber's know!

Not to be left out.....Julie took a turn at the wheelbarrow!

Of course Bodee had to give little Cougar a squeeze!

Dude! HOLD ON!!!

Before you think this was total Cat abuse.
Bodee found a stick and a stump, what more
could a boy want????

Cougar was feeling dis'ed.
Here comes Cougar!!!

"Come on kid, I'm MUCH more fun than a stick!"

Hey Bodee!


They were VERY helpful!!

So, after Aaron helped Bill hold the ladder so I could take the piece
of new flashing down. Yes, the siding we JUST had put up. It took them 5 months to
'finish' the job, and one wind storm to knock a piece loose.
Let's not even get into the leaks in the house. Bill's call, the guy hung up on him.
Ben Schulte Construction from Amana - Don't DO IT!

After that fun, we planted the garden, mow the agility yards, put up more electric fence to give the ponies 3 different pastures. Then mowed one of the pastures I didn't get to on Saturday, started to mow the rest of the yard, but Bill took over so I could rearrange my north planter. Sprayed a gallon of my favorite liquid 'Round Up' and came in to take LONG HOT BATH.

Bill, meanwhile took a Raccoon across the road for a 'visit'.

Another really productive, yet exhausting weekend.
Makes Mondays at work down right RELAXING!!

Hope you all had a great Mother's Day too!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Felling Trees!!!


When we moved out to Windy Hill Fowl Farm and Puppy Ranch 10+ years ago, it had a number of Silver Maple Trees. The plus side it that these are fast growing shade trees. The down side is they are a soft tree that doesn’t hold up well to wind, heavy snow or aging. We’ve had at least 2 fall on their own over the years and luckily have never landed on anything of value.

Since we’ve just sided our house, (some trim was already ripped off by the wind, that’s another blog story), we thought it might be good to remove a couple trees that were old, dying, rotting,leaning and a threat to our electrical wire that’s attached to the house.

We picked two trees, for now, to have dropped. One large Silver Maple that has recently been losing more limbs than leaves. It's inside was hollow and a place to drop empty water bottles and broken toys! That needed to STOP! The other an old walnut that was leaning a bit too close to the the electrical line, not to mention, every try to plant any 'pretty' trees next to a black walnut? It's a Death sentence! They excrete a chemical called juglone which a number of plants are sensitive to.

Monday a couple guys stopped out and in 45 minutes had those two trees down! It was quite interesting to watch. I think most of the time was spent getting the 7’ wide truck through the 7’6” wide gate! Somehow I don’t think the phrase, “Suck it in” would have helped! The young guy was really nice, the old guy was kind of grumpy, thus, I didn’t think he’s appreciate my ‘flip video’. So, I had to secretly ‘film’ from inside the house.

I didn’t get all of it, as I was getting ready for work, but they were very good at what they do. We now have two neat piles to cut apart this weekend. At least we have SOMETHING to do!!

Some of my favorite parts. Tying the top limb to the bumper of the truck. Leaving the chain saw, next to the tree. The bucket!! Love the BUCKET!! I sure wish we had one of those!


Enjoy the show!