hello darling goats!

We went to the Benton County Fair last night & happened upon this! June & Coralee would have hung over the gate & watched this precious pair all night, but candy corn, hamburgers, REAL MILKshakes, nachos, homemade lemonade (my favorite–remember the dirty lemonade man, Ellie?!!?!?), kettle corn, funnel cake & other fair goodies beckoned. I turned this capture into a shutterfly magnet….some of you may be getting a sneak peak at part of your next birthday gift…xoxo

{I think you can order it here if you like}

View the entire collection of cards.

Summer Spoils

My Grandmother Darling's planter on my back porch.

My Grandmother Darling’s planter on my back porch.

Our garden is looking quite lovely at the moment (I should take some pictures!)…I still have high hopes for everything I planted, but I am slowly beginning to realize that gardens, especially home gardens that use zero chemicals and rely on chicken poop compost (overwintered) for fertilizer, are truly a crapshoot–and I say that with love! I always felt that everyone else around me was experiencing the glorious bounty of everything they planted and felt so inadequate summer after summer when something (everything!) of mine just didn’t work out quite as I expected. I have happily come to the conclusion that I was being a loon and gardening is different every year–bugs are different, temperatures are different, moisture is different (especially in Iowa!), soil is different….you probably get my drift. I henceforth vow to just be thrilled with what I can eek out of my garden and view the failures challenges as what they are–challenges to solve with gusto (at a later date or never, whichever fits into the schedule around here).

Here is a little garden update at the Bodeker Coop:

*Anna Swartz Hubbard Squash: we planted 2 mounds & although they began the season spectacularly, the vines seem to have quit growing and do not look well…

*Cornfield Pumpkin: See Squash description above….sad sad sad about this, but hoping they are in a temporary coma due to the heat we have now and monsoons we had last month

*Golden Zucchini: CRAZY PROLIFIC, enough said, more on these below

*Minnesota Midget Melon: Look good, bearing fruit, should get some soon

*Pride of Wisconsin Melon: Look even better than the Minnesota Midgets, although the vines/leaves are getting a bit yellow in spots

*Scarlet Nantes Carrot: Merritt planted these and I think they are ready to harvest…he told me yesterday, however, he changed his mind and does not want them and I can have them all…too bad I’m the cook around here and he eats what’s served! Little bugger!

*Tomatoes–Two cherry & a German Pink: The cherry varieties look great and there are dozens and dozens of green fruits all over; German Pink only seems to have about 3 fruits growing and they look pinched and very green.

*Strawberries: pretty much done for the year, they were yummy

*Blueberry: one pathetic plant that I transplanted last year from a bed in the shade; we got one berry this year

*Lupine: Planted four, one died, two look pretty dismal, the fourth is in a planter out in the front field in the hot sun and it looks wonderful. Really have my fingers crossed I can grow Lupine successfully since it seems to be my father’s favorite flower.

*Spearmint: just planted these Saturday night in pots with Coralee for porch decor.

*Cilantro: planted Saturday night as well in the planter with the Lupine just because we were at the nursery and the herbs were basically being given away.

Our summer squash (Golden Zucchini) is literally going nuts and trying to force us to only eat squash for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have been chopping it up raw and throwing it in whatever I can (really good chopped and used as a topper in fajitas along with some raw onion) or slicing it raw and sprinkling with salt as a snack–thanks, Mom! I cooked a couple Deluxe Squash Casseroles which my husband declared were good but would have been better with some polish sausage rounds thrown in and I said I would ruin the casserole next time by doing that for him (I used to be a vegetarian). I blanched and froze about a dozen squash this morning. Photos below. Coralee is at Girl Scout Camp in northeastern Iowa so I was doing all this slicing and boiling and draining while the younger two were insisting they were getting along on the back porch, when, in fact, I believe they were attempting to order a hit on each other. I did manage to finish and have three gigantic bags of sliced, frozen squash in the freezer. Merritt asked to see the bounty and then declared he would be passing on that as well. The boy truly does not seem to understand how meals work around here….

Boiling the slices.

Boiling the slices.

Cold water bath.

Cold water bath.

Porch Spearmint.

Porch Spearmint.

Hope your garden is giving you joy this season!

Loess Hills Day 1: Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve

The Nature Conservancy of Iowa owns and manages Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve.

The Nature Conservancy of Iowa owns and manages Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve.

Morning breaks as we gather at Broken Kettle Preserve for our Iowa Young Birders field trip.

Morning breaks as we gather at Broken Kettle Preserve for our Iowa Young Birders field trip.

Hiking to the top of the ridge.  It was rather steep and quite uneven due to it being a bison path.

Hiking to the top of the ridge. It was rather steep and quite uneven due to it being a bison path.

Birding group included Carl the executive director of IYB plus four others and our family of five.

Birding group included Carl the executive director of IYB plus four others and our family of five.

Coralee checks out a bird in the scope.

Coralee checks out a bird in the scope.

June was very tired and slept most of the trip on my back.  It was insanely hot and humid, she was pretty much glued there.

June was very tired and slept most of the trip on my back. It was insanely hot and humid, she was pretty much glued there.

Our little prairie baby woke up about two hours into our field trip.  She was enjoying the habitat immensely, so many flowers!

Our little prairie baby woke up about two hours into our field trip. She was enjoying the habitat immensely, so many flowers!

June in the coneflowers.

June in the coneflowers.

We drove to Sioux City, Iowa (on the far western edge of the state) Friday evening after Brian got off work and didn’t get into town until after 11pm. Long day! We stayed downtown at Stoney Creek Inn, an extremely well-kept and accommodating hotel. We will definitely select the hotel on a return trip.

The next morning our Iowa Young Birders (IYB) field trip began at 9AM out at the 3000-acre Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve (north of Sioux City in Plymouth County), owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy in Iowa. Broken Kettle is a sweeping reminder of nature’s beauty. Not only is it the Conservancy’s largest preserve in Iowa, but it contains the largest remaining prairie in Iowa. In 1999, the Conservancy found the prairie rattlesnake, an extremely rare species, at this site, making Broken Kettle even more important to the region. The Nature Conservancy welcomed a herd of 28 bison at Broken Kettle Grasslands preserve in the fall of 2008 — an historic event benefiting the native prairie and the bison herd itself. –The Nature Conservancy

This was our first IYB field trip. Coralee and Merritt were literally in birding heaven. The executive director of IYB Carl Bendorf led the trip, along with Lee Schoenewe and his wife. We found out later in the day that Lee is the Chair of TNC in Iowa’s Board of Trustees and one of the greatest living birders in North America at this time–um, that was quite humbling to realize as he was literally the salt of the earth, both he and his wife. Carl and Lee led our little group all around the main entrance to Broken Kettle, up into the Loess Hills, pointing out every bird they saw or heard. They were incredibly patient helping the children (and adults!) locate the birds on the scope and understand the identifying marks for each species. They answered absolutely every single question Merritt asked (and he talks A LOT!). Lee shared his extensive knowledge of the Loess Hills and birding in Iowa as we hiked. I was truly astounded at the level of knowledge both Carl and Lee imparted to us that morning. We saw (or heard) a couple dozen species, most were new sightings for our family.

Around 11:30 we headed off the hills and back down to the TNC Bison Day staging area and settled under a tent to fill out our birding checklists for the day. It was a stunning day, both aesthetically and in terms of climate–temperatures in the mid-90s and very humid. Sun sun sun out on the prairie.


Species Positively Identified:
*New species to our family

*Orchard Oriole
*Yellow Warbler
Turkey Vulture
Baltimore Oriole
Barn Swallow
*Bell’s Vireo
*Western Meadowlark–Iowa is the far eastern portion of its range
*Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Bluebird
*Grasshopper Sparrow
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
Red-winged Blackbird
Indigo Bunting
American Robin
Field Sparrow
Great Blue Heron–three flying over the hills in a group, never seen more than one flying together before
Blue Grosbeak
*Eastern Towhee
*Lark Sparrow
Wild Turkey
Mourning Dove

We parted ways with Carl and Lee and the rest of the birding group around noon. There were many Bison Day activities taking place at the staging area all day, including showings of a Bald Eagle poisoned and now recovered from lead, aquatic tours of a nearby wetland, a prairie flower hike up into a restricted area due to rattlesnakes (we skipped that one!), kids face-painting & coloring, and the main event–tours of the bison herd. Our bison tour left on little yellow school buses at 1:15, providing us plenty of time to eat our sack lunches, enjoy the activities, drink lots of water, and sit in front of the big cattle fans in the barns while we waited. It was blisteringly hot, even in the open-door lean-to barns. The school buses were air-conditioned, so that was a nice 10-minute reprieve. We got off the buses and boarded a hayrack for the slow, hot tour of one of two bison herds out in the hills. The farmer pulling the hayrack stopped the tractor twice for us to observe the herd and listen to the biologists talk about the herd and its management. June was pretty much done at this point in the day and wanted off the hayrack but there was nowhere to go our there in the hills. Containing her got a bit dicey.

One of two reintroduced bison herds.  This herd totaled around 80 with 15 bulls.  Calving began in May.

One of two reintroduced bison herds. This herd totaled around 80 with 15 bulls. Calving began in May.

Merritt’s highlight of the day came just before we left the bison herd. He spotted a bison horn stuck in the dry mud path behind the hayrack and asked the biologist if that was indeed a horn as he pointed it out from up on the hayrack. The biologist said he didn’t think so, but would go check it out….sure enough, it was a bison horn! Both the biologist and the rest of the TNC crew were amazed. Apparently bison don’t shed their horns like deer shed their antlers (that is probably obvious to most people, I guess I didn’t realize this fact). A new horn will grow back if they lose one in a fight (which is more than likely how it fell off), but the bull will look a bit lopsided. The biologist passed the horn around the hayrack and then told Merritt he had to ask the herd manager if he could keep the horn once we got back…but as long as Scott (the manager) said yes, it was his to take home. To say he was an elated child is putting it mildly!!! There is a very dirty bison horn in my laundry room as I type this…yes, he got to keep it. Now to figure out what to do with it, it is very dirty and heavy! I didn’t realize it would be so heavy. Merritt said it is the best souvenir he’s ever found and he wants to put it in a plastic display case so robbers won’t break in to steal this prized item…that is such a Merritt thing to say!

We went back to the hotel around 4pm. Brian and the older kids swam for a couple of hours in the pool. Bison Day is an annual event for The Nature Conservancy. Highly recommend if you’re in the area next July!

Bison Day!

Loess Hills Bison
We are heading out to western Iowa tonight to the Loess Hills for The Nature Conservancy of Iowa’s 3rd Annual Bison Days. I am EXTREMELY excited! I have wanted to visit the Loess Hills since I moved to Iowa in the summer of 1999 to attend school at Iowa State University. We plan to spend two nights in a hotel (tonight and Saturday) in Sioux City and then camp a third night, not sure where yet, but I have a list of spots to scope out Sunday afternoon before we make a decision. The kids are insanely excited, well the older two, anyway, June doesn’t understand, which makes perfect sense since she is two years old. We have been dragging everything we need to hike and camp up from the basement and collecting it in the kitchen, which now smells like old camping equipment mixed with my parents’ cabin–very fragrant in here! Brings back memories of hiking with my good friend in the summer of 1999 in Isle Royale National Park on Lake Superior, heading out west to the Panhandle National Forest in Idaho the summer before to hike and work on a Sierra Club Youth Service Trip, hiking with my dad up Mt, Kineo in Maine the summer before that…did I mention I’m excited? 🙂

Click here for a local newspaper article written about Bison Days. Click here to learn about The Nature Conservancy in Iowa’s annual Bison Days celebration at Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve.

Coralee is working on her Bronze award for Girl Scouts with her best friend, Emma, this summer. Their project involves planting and maintaining a native prairie plot for Monarch butterfly habitat restoration out at the Benton County Nature Center northwest of Vinton and ultimately registering the site as a Monarch Watch Waystation. She was out there yesterday for about an hour weeding and prepping some plots with Emma and the naturalist. She has to log 20 hours minimum of work for the award, which can include lectures and research on prairies, so she is hoping to add to her hour bank this weekend during Bison Days. Our first Bison Days event starts at 9AM on Saturday, a birding trip. The older two kids are members of the Iowa Young Birders’ Club which holds monthly field trips around the state. July’s field trip takes place at Broken Kettle from 9-noon. Perfect timing! I really think this trip to the Loess Hills was meant to be….photos next week or you can follow me on Instagram and view photos in real time. My IG handle is roosterfaye.

And in completely unrelated news, I am deactivating my Facebook account on Monday. Sent out a bunch of messages to people I am currently working with on knitting projects giving them the heads’ up early this morning. I couldn’t feel more free! I will miss not being able to visit business pages for exclusive deals and it will be unfortunate to not get information/photos from the kids’ classroom teachers and Shellsburg Art Room, but it was becoming a burden to constantly check in and make sure I was up-to-date on people’s lives. There are a few friends whose updates and photos I will definitely miss–my good friend up in northeastern Iowa, my childhood buddies spread all over the country, my best friend down in Burlington–but I still have good old email and this blog and Instagram…I think I’m fairly well-saturated socially even without Facebook. Have you ever thought about ditching your Facebook account?

Hope you have a great weekend wherever your feet take you!