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A Drive through rural Siouxland, Harrison County

30 Nov
Sometimes vehicle sunroofs can be beneficial when bird spotting like in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It was nice to get out on a recent weekend to drive about rural Iowa in Siouxland without extreme cold or snowy conditions on the backroads and Loess Hills byways. I enjoy driving through the scenic areas skirting the footballs of what is known as the Loess Hills in Iowa that stretches down into the southwest portion of Iowa.

A gravel road traversing the byways in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular stretch of road and the general direction I was headed kept me driving through hilly areas most of which are wooded and will be necessary to check out come next fall. Coming across various rural scenes and sightings was rewarding and fun. I never drive very fast on the backroads allowing drivers with more “pressing matters” the opportunity to go around me as I look for subjects of interest to point my camera at.

Although at first hard to see, two deer find a lunch time meal in a newly harvested corn field in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A rural scene in Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While the pace of being in the country really isn’t all that less frenetic as city dwellers, it does give one a chance to pause, look around, enjoy the beauty of the countryside if that appeals to a person. Some folk may find that really, really boring, but for others it is that slice of heaven. Time flies by fast enough until one realizes it has, and wonders how that happened. So slow drives on a weekend may not stop time or even slow it down, but I can personally can make an effort to enjoy it for what it is for myself and forgot about other crazy stuff happening in the world around me for a little while.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Spotting an eagle sitting in a tree over a gravel road in rural Harrison County near Magnolia, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter’s Return to Siouxland, Sioux City

24 Nov

Sometimes one hopes for the best in what seems to be a wacky year. And even in Siouxland one hopes for a longer, quiet fall before winter returns and with it colder temperatures, snow to shovel and barren landscapes mostly devoid of color.

A woodpecker enjoys a meal even as a new winter snow falls, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter has returned to Siouxland and this time future forecasts for the month of November are not as rosy with temps staying fairly normal or below. The brief “Indian summer” that visited recently has left for warmer climes, leaving behind a white landscape.

A sparrow seeks shelter in a bush from falling snow, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I like winter, but mostly when it produces some sunshine and temperatures that hover in the 20’s and 30’s, not the below freezing temps and 25-30 mph wind gusts that create a windchill of -20 or more. Maybe that makes me a fair winter weather kind of person, with the hope of getting out still and taking country drives, only being careful not to spend quality time in ditch on some backroad enjoying winter’s beauty.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A woodpecker enjoys a meal during a winter snow, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Changing Holiday Celebration in Siouxland, Le Mars

22 Nov
Workers put up Christmas decorations in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving at the outdoor Olson Cultural Event Center near downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. The City of Le Mars facebook website states: “DonÕt toss your save-the-date just yet! While we were hoping to start a new tradition this year, the COVID-19 pandemic had different plans. We may not be able to gather in person, but weÕre still planning to bring joy this holiday season.” The city still plans a drive-in screening of the movie “Elf” and a video broadcast of originally scheduled main stage events to be viewed online from residents’ homes. Recently Iowa’s governor reversed course about masking and social distancing as coronavirus cases spike in Iowa after attending pre-election Trump campaign rallies while not wearing a mask or encouraging attendees to social distance. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas celebrations in Siouxland communities are changing this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many holiday celebrations are being cancelled. Le Mars was going to start a new tradition in addition to its usual Lighted parade that passed through downtown. The Christmas Village celebration hosted at the county fair gounds has been cancelled.

Workers put up Christmas decorations in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving at the outdoor Olson Cultural Event Center near downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A recently announced proclamation for voluntary masking and social/physical distancing by the state’s governor who previously dismissed such precautions seems to be more urgent as illness and deaths related to the virus continues to rise endangering the area hospitals with patients and COVID-19 related symptoms.

Decorations are being put up around the community but planned performances at a downtown cultural center stage and other activities scheduled for the end of the month have been postponed or will be live streamed virtually to keep people from congregating and thus perpetuating the virus transmission among different groups of people wanting to see the town’s lighting of its Christmas tree or hear performances by local groups.

Workers put up Christmas decorations in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving at the outdoor Olson Cultural Event Center near downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This year is certainly been a departure with previous years and decades of what have for many become traditions for many families and communities alike. One only hopes that people realize how much these traditions mean to one another and will help to combat this disease by working together and thinking of their extended family members and friends and other community residents until life regains some sense of a former normalcy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas decorations are seen in preparation for a hometown Christmas celebration the weekend after Thanksgiving in downtown Le Mars, Iowa Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Angles, Lines and Fall Color in Siouxland, Linn Grove

20 Nov
An old unused bridge frames fall colors in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving around Siouxland like many places presents opportunities to photograph a variety of subjects. And those depend on the taste of a photographer. My background as a newspaper photographer for a few small dailies gave me the opportunity to cover a wide variety of subjects.

From vehicle accidents, house fires, wildfires, storms, blizzards, county fairs, high school and college sports, politics and first baby of the year, I enjoyed the variety. And these days while not needing to cover such events anymore, I like driving around the backroads aimlessly wandering and looking for subjects that I find interesting. Living mostly in agricultural areas while working for newspapers reinforced my desire to look around this broad swath of land called Siouxland. And finding little gems, to my eye, is the reward for the time spent.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An old unused bridge frames fall colors in Linn Grove, Iowa Tuesday, September 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Watching Seasonal Changes in Siouxland, rural Monona County, Iowa

18 Nov
Two weathered out buildings of a former homestead along a gravel backroad in rural Monona County, Iowa near Castana, Iowa Monday, June 22, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I encourage photography students to revisit places they have previously photographed because there will always be changes. Different time of day, time of year, weather, it all plays a part in an image one wants to create.

And it’s fun to witness the change, plus being out in the country away from all the white noise and just cruising a back road listening to music. I also ask students what is a better way to spend a day, that out photographing. Of course I am biased, but still.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying the Light in Siouxland, rural Iowa

12 Nov
The sun sets behind a hill at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always enjoy watching light when I am out photographing in Siouxland and elsewhere. I should get out more this fall as recently a couple of nice sunsets materialized late afternoon within the last few days. But sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

But I enjoy watching how light interacts with its surroundings. And at times it is challenging to capture what I see and make it understood by a viewer.

Insects fly about in late afternoon sun at the Missouri Valley Welcome Center outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And when doing this one hopes that the subject one is photographing isn’t going to bite the photographer. I found shooting the insects above that I needed to get into the shade out of the late afternoon sun for them to leave me alone. The too must sense fall’s waning warm days and cooler temperatures coming.

The subjects will still be there and creating interesting opportunities to photograph them. It just depends on whether or not I want to bundle up to do it. Time will tell.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

An afternoon sun creates strong shadows while visiting the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Forgotten Small Towns in Siouxland, Arcola, rural Monona County

10 Nov
Arcola was an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History is a funny thing. Some things are never forgotten, and then others are never remembered but for sign posts. In Siouxland apparently as well as other places in Iowa there are a number of early towns of which little is known.

Arcola was an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A hillside near where Arcola was situated, an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The only reference I could find doing a little searching online is that once a post office was in a township where Arcola was located from 1861-1187. The town came in to existence prior to the start of the Civil War and lasted for a short bit after the war between the states.

The countryside around the posted sign is hilly, part of the Loess Hills region in western Iowa and only happenstance while driving by allowed me to even catch sight of the sign. Now the area is wooded, with some surrounding farmland and a winding road that drifts off like a trail may have in those days when the state was in its infancy.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Arcola was an early town in rural Monona County, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. A historical reference states there was a post office there in Kenebee Township from 1861- 1887. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Fall Day in Siouxland, rural Monona County

6 Nov
The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Taking a drive in Siouxland on some back country roads is always a joy in the fall. Colors are changing in the landscape and the light play is fun to see and how it might sculpt the landscape.

The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As days begin to grow shorter, even before the change of Daylight Savings, it’s nice that the crack of dawn doesn’t begin before 6:30 or 7 am. The same is true for sunsets. Driving around on the backroads with music on allows one to forget about whatever animosity is occurring in the world.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The look of fall in rural Monona County, Iowa, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Snow in Siouxland, Sioux City

4 Nov
A squirrel pauses while eating at a backyard feeder in a home in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday Oct. 25, 2020 as local weather prognosticators said could expect anywhere from 2 inches up to 7 inches depending on location. Early, even by Iowa standards. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Winter has arrived early in Siouxland. Even though officially it’s a couple months away. The 4-5 inches of snow that fell clearly refutes anyone’s attempt that it’s not here.

Farmers in Iowa and neighboring states are still harvesting their crops. Halloween for some will be cold in addition to the already stressful thought of safely Trick or Treating during a pandemic. The cold and snow is just a reminder or foreshadowing of what’s to come and if it will make this winter’s season feel longer than normal.

I’m always hopeful for maybe a few more fall days, with temperatures in the 50’s and overnight lows no colder than the 30’s.

Hope springs eternal. But at this point, spring seems a far, far distant point on the horizon.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two house sparrows eat a meal at a backyard feeder in a home in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday Oct. 25, 2020 as local weather prognosticators said people could expect anywhere from 2 inches up to 7 inches depending on location. Early, even by Iowa standards. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Last Dandelion Standing in Siouxland, Ida Grove

2 Nov
A dandelion makes a valiant last stand as snow predictions will cover it and the lawn at Moorehead Park in Ida Grove, Iowa Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. Weather people predict anywhere from 2-7 inches depending on location. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While on an outing in Siouxland for a photography class I teach at the local community college, I was surprised to find a lone dandelion still standing, ready to spread its seed to propagate itself for yet another year. A recent snowfall that depended on location brought anywhere from 2-7 inches to the western Iowa area. I am certain this park looks much different now than it did a few days ago.

In a way I was sad to see the lone plant by itself, its seeds undisturbed, as though waiting. And for certain, Godot I did not see.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

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