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Enjoying the Fall Light in Siouxland, Plymouth and Woodbury Counties

10 Nov

I never tire of driving in the rural regions of Siouxland. Looking at the “vistas” of rural America, scenic agricultural depictions that is part of how this country was founded with the westward movement of people two centuries ago.

The light play in the fall makes driving in a “desolate” area all the more enjoyable.

A barn sits in a field in rural Plymouth County, Iowa Monday Oct. 23, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga)

Most of the time these vistas include fields of corn, lots of corn, barns and winding roads that locals still drive to get to their destinations.

Some trees have already shed their fall color as others slowly turn along a county road in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, part of the Sioux City Diocese, Sunday Oct.15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Trees along a fence row begin to change color as fall slowly appears in rural Woodbury County, Iowa, part of the Sioux City Diocese, Sunday Oct.15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I find a sense of peace driving these roadways, away from the noise of larger cities, the use of computers and a chance to just see nature and albeit man’s interpretation of nature as more acreage in rural Iowa is converted into tillable land. But still, it’s good sometimes to take a pause and just enjoy what is there.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Variations on a Theme in Siouxland, Sheldon

13 Oct

When I visited a community in Siouxland a couple of years ago I came across a farm homestead on the outskirts of Sheldon. I don’t know if it was still an active farm or if the land it once cultivated had been sold off for housing and the homestead was all that remains.

A farm homestead still within the city limits of Sheldon, Iowa, Thursday, August 6, 2015. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Having grown up on a farm I am always fascinated with the outbuildings or barns. Once I moved away from home on return visits I always did some photography of the buildings. They change over time and in my estimation gain a little character from the elements of the weather.

This homestead had nice buildings and provided a glimpse of what a farm earlier in the decade looked like. These days, metal buildings are more the norm probably because of cost effectiveness. But the large metal structures take away the charm of a farm.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


Celebrating Fall Harvest in Siouxland at the Heritage Village, Sioux Center

7 Oct

An annual event in Sioux Center is the Heritage Village Harvest Festival that celebrates early pioneer life in Siouxland. The Friday of that particular weekend local schools generally bring some of their school children to visit to see what life was like one or even two centuries ago without the modern convenience of grocery stores or indoor plumbing.

School children try their hand at pumping water during the Heritage Village Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heritage Village volunteer Dave Schelhaas gets a young volunteer to help dig potatoes in the garden during Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Volunteers dress up in period outfits and help to explain to the children and visitors alike the types of life and “appliances” previously used by settlers who first arrived in the immediate area in which the children live and the kind of life they encountered.

Visitors wait their turn to look inside a small sod house which was a normal dwelling during early pioneer days during the Heritage Village Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Heritage Village volunteer Gloria Hoekstra shows young students from a local school how butter is made during Harvest Festival in Sioux Center, Iowa Friday Sept. 15, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Children are rightfully amazed at how people lived decades ago and how much progress has been made. So many, even living within an agricultural area such as Iowa, have never been to a farm and their parents probably don’t have a garden. So a little dose of history and the understanding of so many things we take for granted today is beneficial to them and other visitors too. When I hear of people talking about “simpler” times I must consciously keep from rolling my eyes and asking which times? Before air conditioning or after it. And for whom. Not all people enjoyed the benefits of progress as they were first introduced and so I wonder how much simpler times were then.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying a Day in Siouxland, Dunlap

28 Aug

The more I travel about Siouxland the more I keep encountering small communities such as Dunlap. With a population slightly under 1,000 residents and sitting on the edge of the Loess Hills in southern part of Siouxland it is a community looking to revitalize itself and make it an enjoyable place to live and raise a family.

The surrounding countryside can be seen from downtown Dunlap, Iowa Sunday, June 25, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like so many small Siouxland communities it is sustained by an agricultural economy but seems to be breathing new life into itself with a downtown that is small but “smartly dressed” and welcoming to visitors. On days like the one I visited Dunlap there may not be a lot of activity to do other than to walk around and wonder about its residents who created the town in 1871. The prairie land then and naturally a railroad played a part in its creation. And it’s nice to see community still thriving. So many small towns never reach a potential original founders might have dreamed about, and many succumb to loss of inhabitants and continue a long, slow decay of decline, while others come together and thrive and enjoy the benefits of what they have and continue to create.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Living History, or seeing it, in Siouxland, Wisecup Farm Museum

6 Aug

While visiting southern Siouxland this summer, I came upon another little slice of historical memorabilia. I find it surprising but also wonderful that there are so many museum’s of all stripes in western Iowa. Some in cities and small towns, but others created by people trying to preserve the past and help people understand what pioneers and early settlers lives were like prior to this 21st century. The Wisecup Farm Museum outside of Missouri Valley has a number of restored pieces of farming equipment as well as a one-room school house, a small chapel and homestead. A lot of stuff “stuffed” within the confines of a small space.

A variety of “antique” or former period farm machinery is found at the Wisecup Farm Museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Antique Minneapolis Moline tractors form a line at the Wisecup Farm Museum in Missouri Valley, Iowa Wednesday, June 21, 2017. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I appreciate the aged and no longer viable farm equipment I encounter because it was in use and the tech of the day while I was growing up on a farm. Farming today is as high tech as a number of other industries with satellite guided tractors and sensors to help farmers get the best yield from their tillable fields.

But it’s nice to know the what and how farmers got to this point. But it’s also nice that individuals find it important to share the past and help educate those of today. It’s been written that people are condemned to the past if they don’t know it. But that is another discussion for a better philosopher than myself.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland Historical Places, Grand Meadow Heritage Center

25 May

Wow scouting out some potential places in Siouxland to which I could take photo students I once again came across the Grand Meadow Heritage Center. I have visited it a couple of times previously. The site of a former school which houses a great deal of historical artifacts from the surrounding area. Three floors of the former school plus outlying buildings as well. Once a year generally in early autumn the center hosts an event. There is food, music, people portraying early settlers and a chance to go through the former school and see its contents. It really is worthwhile to get a sense of the area in another era and century.

But this day I was looking at what students in my class could see without getting inside any of the buildings. So it’s a challenge to visually see what might appeal and how they can put newly acquired skills to the test in capturing an image.

Shooting with a neutral density filter and slow shutter the windmill cranks it up at the Grand Meadow Heritage Center near Washta, Iowa Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

When in school I always enjoyed history, but it is different outside of the academic setting and one is standing in a place the ages ago is so very different than what is see today in this 21st century. The old saying of knowing where you have been so you know where you are going is an apt saying, it just depends on whether anyone is listening at the moment. Places like Grand Meadow is a reminder. Harder times for certain, but in some ways, simpler, less chaotic and more centered.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Siouxland Farmers prepare for Spring Planting, Sioux County

17 Apr

While driving and checking out parts of Siouxland up by the Iowa Lakes Region and again returning home, I came across some farmers prepping for planting this spring. The two I saw appeared to be disking their fields, although these days I understand that farmers employ a no-till option and just plant directly without any prep work. It’s been a little wet with rain passing through Siouxland, but not all parts are getting rain. I must admit that when I smell newly turned soil in a field it brings back memories while growing up on a farm. Probably the same for people who grew up near a body of water like a lake or the ocean.

Although reminiscing now is easier than the part of growing up, I still have fond memories.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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