Staycations and Day Tripping

The biggest factor in a successful vacation is achieving a change of perspective, and in these times of rising costs many people are choosing to “get away from it all” while staying close to home. The Quad Cities have a lot to offer – we’re a vacation destination for many. In fact, in an April, 2008 article entitled “Great River Road Trip” the National Geographic Traveler magazine recommends Davenport, Iowa, as the “most rewarding stop.” A family could have more than enough activities to fill a week’s worth of vacation right here at home.

The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau has a wealth of recommendations and ideas for vacationing close to home. And if you’d like to explore surrounding areas, the site also has some great Day Tripping suggestions.

The Davenport Library recommends these titles for Iowa travel:

The Great Iowa Touring Book: 27 Spectacular Auto Tours by Mike Whye

Great Iowa Walks: 50 Strolls, Rambles, Hikes and Treks by Lynn L. Walters

Country Roads of Iowa by Loralee Wenger

Perhaps your family would enjoy a day trip, or longer, to one of the many beautiful Iowa State Parks. And, of course, there are many beautiful state parks across the river in Illinois.

Whatever you do, where ever you go in the QC region, have a great summer!

4 Fun Things to Do with Dad

Looking for something to do with your favorite guy this weekend? Celebrate Father’s Day with one of these fun activities you can share.

1. Ride the River. This fun bike ride on Sunday not only takes you on a tour of the Quad Cities, you get to cross the river on the Celebration Belle. Winding through Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, returning via the Centennial Bridge, this is a great way to see your community up close. Because of expected flooding this year, some of the route will be changed but will still start from the Union Station in Davenport. Be sure to wear your helmet!

2. Go the All-American route and take in a baseball game. The Quad City River Bandits will be playing the Beloit Snappers this Sunday at 1pm, weather and field conditions permitting. Treat Dad to a hot dog and watch the home runs fly.

3. Prefer to stay indoors? Check out the DVD collection at the Davenport Library and pick out a movie (maybe one featuring a superhero to watch with your own hero!) Just add popcorn and soda for your own private screening.

4. Take Dad fishing. West Lake Park just outside of Davenport offers four lakes to fish for bluegill, crappie and largemouth bass. The park also has hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic tables and boat rentals.

Share a memory – they’re ten times better than a tie!

Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America

On Monday, May 12th, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), raided Agriprocessors Inc., a slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. This was not only the largest ICE raid in Iowa, but in fact the largest single-site enforcement operation of it’s kind in the country. The over 300 detainees include Guatemalans, Mexicans, Israelis and Ukrainians. While this story has been widely reported in the local media, little has been said about Agriprocessors Inc., other than that it’s the largest kosher meat packing plant in the country.

Although not a new book, Stephen Bloom’s, Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, is an especially timely read that explains much about what is occurring in the small northeastern Iowa town. In 1987 a Brooklyn butcher purchased an abandoned slaughterhouse just outside the city limits of Postville. The town of about 1500 people had become economically stagnant so they welcomed the opportunity for new business growth, and saw little concern that the new operators of this plant were Lubavitchers, ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews. By 1996, Postville, which had hardly ever had any Jews, now had more rabbis per capita than any other city in the U.S. The success of the plant also brought an onslaught of immigrant workers to the area. Relations between the the Midwestern Lutherans, who dominated Postville, and the Lubavitchers, who traditionally live and work within their own closely knit community, soon broke down.

Bloom, a University of Iowa journalism professor weaves the story of this small divided town into his own search for cultural and religious identity. He does an excellent job of exploring what it means to be an American, the limits of diversity and community, and the nature of community. In light of Monday’s raid, Bloom’s work provides an insightful history of Postville and Agriprocessors Inc.

Iowa Wildflowers

Iowa\'s Wild PlacesAt one time, Iowa had more prairie for it’s size than any other state in the union. Within ten years of the arrival of the pioneers (mid-1800s) nearly all of it was gone. Less than one tenth of one percent remains. Fortunately, there has been a movement lately to not only preserve what is left, but to restore unused land to native prairie.

Prairies are a diverse and complex ecosystem, supporting a wide range of birds and wildlife. They are also very beautiful, ranging from spring ephermals to an explosion of summer color to the drama of the tall grasses (growing taller than a man)

One of the best places to see prairie being restored is at the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City, Iowa (just this side of Des Moines) They have an excellent, kid-friendly museum and interpretive center, walking trails, and a driving tour. As well as the amazing number of grasses and wildflowers that are being restored, there is an elk herd and a buffalo herd. Several native birds that were believed shooting star wildflowerto be extinct or rarely seen in Iowa have again been sighted here.

Closer to home, Rochester Cemetery near Tipton, Iowa offers a unique and memorable experience. Tucked between farms on a hilly site, it is considered one of the best examples of Oak Savanna in the Midwest and is known for it’s huge white oaks and it’s wildflowers. Growing on land that has never been disturbed, the variety and sheer quantity of flowers is astounding, especially in the spring. Especially the shooting stars. There are, literally, thousands of them, blanketing the ground in every direction, an amazing sight. (Please note: if you do visit, remember that this is still an active cemetery; please be respectful of the gravesites and stay on the mown paths)

For a beautiful guide to the prairies and wildflowers of Iowa, take a look at Iowa’s Wild Places by Carl Kurtz, or visit the Iowa Prairie Network for a listing of the remaining Iowa prairies, information on prairies, a calendar of events and volunteer opportunities. Help keep Iowa’s wild places wild.

Honoring Mothers On Their Own Special Day

Some say the holiday we celebrate traces its roots back to the 16th Century British holiday of Mothering Day, the annual custom of visiting one’s mother church annually, which meant that most mothers would be reunited with their children on this day.

In the United States Mother’s Day was first observed in 1907 when Anna Jarvis asked her Philadelphia church to hold a service in memory of all mothers on the anniversary of her mother’s death. Jarvis and friends undertook a letter writing campaign in 1909 lobbying for the creation of a national Mother’s Day. In 1914 Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day is celebrated on different days in other world countries. For example, Spain and Germany honor mothers on the first Sunday in May. In Ireland and the United Kingdom it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Let the Shopping Begin!

Farmer’s Market season is upon us! Despite the flood, The Davenport Freight House Farmer’s Market will be open bright and early Saturday morning. Check out the Radish for a comprehensive list of all the area markets. Besides the great produce, there well be other fun events in which to partake while shopping. The Davenport Public Library will be there for storytelling on the third Wednesday of each month. Cooking demonstrations are scheduled later in the season. Support our local farmers and feel good about helping to reduce the amount of fossil fuelPlenty it takes to get produce from field to fork. Here are a couple of books that helped inspire me to be a locavore.

In Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, a Vancouver couple recount their experiment of living on a diet of foods grown within 100 miles of their home. They went so far as to not use salt or oil since these staples were not locally produced. They also experience the joys of growing some of their own food as well as getting to know local producers of the items they purchase. The authors learn a lot about nutrition, uncommon varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as share their experiences in canning tomatoes and making jam. While not everyone will want to take such a radical approach to being a locavore, this book offers an eye-opening account of what it means to step outside Animal, Vegetable, Miracleof the industrial food system.

Well known novelist, Barbara Kingsolver also took a year to drop out of the industrial food pipeline. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, she chronicles her family’s move to rural Virginia where they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. The Kingsolver’s plant a huge garden and spend considerable time making pickles, canning tomatoes, and even making mozzarella. They even abandon their previous vegetarian ways and discover the pleasures of conscientious carnivory as they raise chickens and turkeys.

Where’s the beef…indeed.

Wendy\'s buyoutArby’s swallowed up Wendy’s last week after a buyout from its parent company. It’s bad news for all you baconaters out there.

Lets remember the good times in the days of Dave Thomas as we weep over our Biggie combos.

Did you know founder Dave Thomas….
-was adopted
-dropped out of high school and earned his GED late in life?
-dreamed of running a hamburger restaurant, since Columbus, Ohio DID NOT HAVE ONE.
-starred in over 800 Wendy’s commercials
-once worked for KFC’s Colonel Sanders as a franchise operator.

Check out the book of an inspiring man who wasn’t skimpy with the portions.

Rest in peace, Dave.

Plant a Tree

Set aside to celebrate trees, National Arbor Day has been observed since 1872. In most states it is observed on the last Friday in April, usually a good time of year to plant throughout most of the country, and it is a state holiday in Nebraska where the founder of Arbor Day, J. Sterling Morton, was born.

Best Trees for Your GardenTrees add tremendous value to your home – they shade your house in the summer (cutting your air conditioning bills), they add oxygen to the air (significantly reducing pollution) and they add beauty in every season. Planting a tree is simple really – just make sure you put the root end in the ground! – but there are a few points you should keep in mind.

-Take some time to pick the right tree for your yard. Think about how big your choice will be when it’s mature. White oaks and sugar maples are magnificent trees, but are they really appropriate for the average suburban plot? Take a look at Best Trees for Your Garden by Allen Paterson which can help you choose from one of the many beautiful small to medium trees that are available.

-Choose the right tree for the right spot. Some prefer some shade, some need full sun. If it’s a flowering tree, will it bloom reliably in our cold springs? Does it require special care, or have problems with pests and diseases? Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates by Nancy Rose is an excellent source for answering these questions and more including planting for wildlife, how to prune and recommendations of best varieties to grow.Growing Shrubs and Trees in Cold Climates

-The number one reason that trees fail to live is improper planting. The number one cause of improper planting is planting the tree too deeply. Do not plant your tree too deeply. Do not pile mulch up around the trunk of the tree. These practices will slowly but surely kill your tree. Remember how you drew a tree when you were a little kid? You probably drew a straight trunk and where it met the ground, you’d draw slanting lines to indicate the roots. That’s called the tree “flare”. You need to plant your new tree so that this shows above ground – just like in your drawing!

Check out the Iowa State University Forestry Extension for lots of tips and information on the best trees to plant in Iowa and how to plant them. Also, try calling the Scott County Extension office at 359-7577 where the Hort Clinic, staffed by Master Gardeners, will answer your tree and gardening questions.

How Does Your Building Grow?

Green Roofs and Living WallsWith the growing concern for the environment and its health, the relatively new (to the United States) practice of installing plants on roofs and walls is beginning to take off. Called green roofs, they provide several environmental benefits including:

-reducing pollution and water run-off

-insulating against heat and cold

-reducing the maintenance needs of buildings

You can see examples of green roofs in action right here in Davenport, including the new Davenport Police Department and and a demonstration garden on the roof of the pump station (located near the fountain) at Vander Veer Botanical Park. Pictures and descriptions of these roofs and others throughout Iowa can be found at Iowa Life Changing, a division of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

To read up on how to add a green roof to your property, including how to install it and what to plant as well as lots of examples of successful green roofs, check out Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls by Nigel Dunnett, and Noel Kingsbury.

Green Tips for Earth Day and Beyond

EarthHere are some small changes that will not only reduce your ecological footprint, but may even save you money and help you live a happier, healthier life!

1. Bring your own bags when shopping. An average American family acquires 60 plastic bags per week and rarely reuses them.

2. Buy local. Produce at a local farmer’s market may be more expensive, but you are almost always guaranteed a high quality product. Buying goods produced locally reduces the fossil fuels needed to transport items across the country and around the globe. Do you really need to eat that banana from Central America?

3. Green your coffee habit. Each year Americans throw away 138 billion straws and stirrers, 110 billion cups, and 58 billion plastic utensils. Many coffee shops give a discount if you bring your own receptacle, so buy a couple of mugs and keep one in your car.

4. Yes you can drive 55! Slowing down really does save gas. For every mile per hour faster than 55 mph, fuel economy drops by 1%. The drop-off increases at a greater rate after 65 mph. Also to remember to keep your tires inflated to the correct air pressure.

5. Stop buying bottled water. Consider buying a reusable container and drinking tap water. Bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single serving bottles made of fossil fuels. It then travels miles to its destination using more energy. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the bottled water industry consumes the equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil annually, the same as having 3 million additional cars on the road.

For more ways to go green at home, check out Easy Green Living: the Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home by Renee Loux for lots of tips and ideas and which urges you to start with small steps that anyone can accomplish. Earth Day is for everyone, every day.