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A Christmas Memory in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE

21 Jan
Childhood memories for some people in remembering putting together model trains with their fathers seen at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas time is a time of joy and a story of birth or new beginning for people. Families share the season and the one day and make memories to last a lifetime if they are lucky. One memory some folk have told me is “building” model train sets with their fathers and running the tracks around the living room making folk a little cautious so they wouldn’t step wrong and end of run over by a slow going locomotive.

The Lauritzen Gardens is a place that seems to like trains. Another exhibit they have on the grounds is a joy in itself to see. And a small train set up in an indoor garden area was a delight to see how it traveled through the area.

Slow motion emphasizes a train passing by a walkway at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A train passes by a walkway at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always like the unexpected little surprises one finds when visiting places. And I’m certain the folk their enjoy giving them as they dream up something different each year to make it special and to keep patrons and guests returning.

Christmas time is special, and these little delights add to that memory of another year in which to remember.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A train passes by a walkway at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A trolley car makes its way in a floral exhibit at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Eagles and some Sunshine in Siouxland, DeSoto Bend Refuge

11 Jan
An eagle watches a field below it at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge Monday, January 4, 2021 in Sioux City, Iowa. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a few occasions I have had the pleasure and delight of coming across eagles in Siouxland. Although I haven’t been lucky enough to find them diving for food or fending off another eagle while in flight, I have enjoyed seeing them in the wild.

An eagle’s feathers are ruffled by a stiff breeze at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A pair of eagles have a nest in a tree top across the Missouri River from a bird blind in the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge that straddles western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. I’s fun to watch them sitting tin the tree or soaring the surrounding air space.

An eagle returns to its nest with a bundle of small sticks in a tree above the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On my last visit the pair seemed to be doing a home makeover, bringing sticks and twigs and performing a little remodeling, maybe changing the look of the nursery. From a bird blind one can watch them and other water fowl who stopped at this juncture of open water on the river. One can watch and see the “new year” progressing and hopefully sometime in the spring get lucky and see a new head bobbing above the nest line.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Two eagles tend to their nest in a tree above the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge which borders western Iowa and eastern Nebraska, Monday, January 4, 2021 near Missouri Valley, Iowa. The last three days the weather consisted of dense fog and colder temperatures. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Nature in Siouxland, DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

1 Jan
A large flock of ducks lift up off of the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With changing seasons it’s always enjoyable to go to the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley to watch the migration of birds. Mainly ducks, geese and some others. Probably more that I don’t recognize. So it’s always a lucky thing to meet an actual “birder” who will sometimes point out species they are excited to see.

Ducks are seen on the shoreline of the Missouri River from a blind at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
An eagle sits atop a tree at another location still along the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Depending on weather one can sometimes find a lot of people or few. Because of the drive time to the refuge I always tend to hit mid-morning which doesn’t find a lot of folk rummaging about yet until later in the day. Unless it’s a really, really special occasion, I never rise before the sun to get there at first light. I realize I am missing photographic opportunities but I like being fully awake while getting to the park. And it seems it’s not until noon or early afternoon that people start showing up in numbers so it’s easy to get about and social distance. Plus, if I don’t see everything at that time, and one doesn’t as various birds continue to migrate on their time table, it gives me another reason to make another trip.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A bicyclist makes his way down a paved road at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An eagle sits atop a tree across the Missouri River at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lighting up the Holidays in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

18 Dec
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On a chilly evening when I would prefer to be at home having coffee in a warm house, the lure and allure of seeing Christmas lights in Siouxland is always a strong pull for me to get outside, bundle up and enjoy.

This year because of the coronavirus pandemic the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve put up Christmas lights on walking paths instead of hosting its annual event where historical buildings on the property are opened up and children can visit Santa in its welcome center. And I always try my hand at capturing the lights. But sometimes it’s also fun to play with the light and just see shapes and designs.

Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I tried making a couple of exposures, one focused and the other slightly out handholding and guesstimating as best as I could my camera position. Basically making one exposure then racking the focus and making the second exposure. While maybe not totally successful, it was fun to see the results. Which I achieved through post processing by layering the two images and then blending them. Nothing ventured…..

Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I will be going out again to Adams Homestead to “hang out” with some fellow camera club photographers and will look to see what else I might find to experiment with and what kind of twist I can make on photographing these lights. One constant is that I go out 30-40 minutes earlier than my last trip as the sun keeps setting earlier which in my mind makes it easier to “brave the cold” while still enjoying the Christmas holiday.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas lights at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Thursday evening, Dec. 10, 2020 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Festive Lights in Siouxland, Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs

14 Dec
Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving around Siouxland is always fun during the Christmas holiday because of the many festive displays of lights that people and communities put up. Some are extensive, some very simple with only a few figures or lamp post decorations.

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bayliss Park in Council Bluffs always seems to have such a nice display with most trees and its fountain lit this opinion informed from photos I have seen of previous years. The park was a nice display, although something was amiss with some lights as they came on, and went, off, with no apparent reason or “timed” response/reaction, as though it might be a planned lighting scheme.

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But with everything, there are challenges. I am sure city crews are not checking out the park at night unless someone lets them know something is amiss. But it was a thing of beauty to hang out until dark to see the trees aglow, and watch a few planes overhead beginning their descent for a nearby airport, adding their own lights to a festive scene.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Holiday Christmas lights at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Holly, Jolly Christmas in Siouxland, Adams Homestead, North Sioux City, SD

6 Dec
A snowman greets visitors checking out the lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The sun has already set as a lighted Christmas display comes on at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Christmas celebrations in Siouxland as elsewhere takes on a different atmosphere this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Normally the Homestead would open its buildings up and upwards of a few thousand folk would pass through to visit and see Santa in the welcome center.

But Ranger Jody Moats this year decided it might be too risky for some folk and so with the help of volunteers strung a lot lights around the grounds allowing people to visit, outdoors and enjoy a Christmas light show.

Park Ranger Jody Moats poses by an angel as she becomes turning on Christmas light displays at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Well, Ranger Moats and the volunteers put up a lot of lights and it makes for a festive walk through which will change once a little snow settles onto the ground casting back some reflective white surfaces for the lights to shine above. The walk will be a destination for people wanting to enjoy the Christmas spirit and a chance to forget about current affairs as they cautiously enjoy the lighted scenes at Adams Homestead.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa


The schoolhouse is lit for a Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A lighted Christmas display will greet visitors to the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve in North Sioux City, SD Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Last Days of Fall in Siouxland, DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge

4 Dec
Visiting the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge during the remaining fall days outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While driving about Siouxland I took a trip to the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge and got lucky with a warmish day and some remaining fall foliage before the first winter storm came with snow the end of October and removed the color from the park’s landscape. While I enjoyed the color during the visit I noticed not many birds appeared to be migrating through at that time.

Visiting the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge during the remaining fall days outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The weather has been so wacky this year. Being cold, then warm, then cold again, that the seasons seem a bit out of the norm. I still hope to return and see if any birds are passing through on their way to warmer climates and their winter homes before the landscape is covered in white and the temperatures drop too much.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Visiting the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge during the remaining fall days outside of Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Some Holiday Cheer in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

26 Nov
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

As holiday events adjust because of the coronavirus pandemic many local places in Siouxland are working to still give local residents a chance to get out and enjoy some holiday cheer, if it’s just a little different than previous years. The Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve isn’t opening up its buildings this year for people to view history but instead has decorated the homestead area with lights and Christmas decorations to give folk a magical respite and a reason to get outside.

Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Homestead will be lit every weekend in December from 5-9 pm every Thursday-Sunday evenings. The logistics of which appear a bit daunting since the area is more a historical look back at history of the area than a haven for modern tech. But led lights and solar devices make some decorations more possible these days than not when needed power outlets are not always available.

Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

So for the month of December area residents will at least have an opportunity to walk beneath the “lighted stars” at the Homestead if not a chance to visit with Santa in the welcome center this year because of crowding and mixing people from various walks in life.

A new reality for the present, but still some Christmas cheer and maybe an opportunity to reflect and remember what Christmas is really about.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area around the Adams Homestead proper at the nature preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area inside the welcome center at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the area inside the welcome center at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas decorations adorn the fireplace inside the welcome center at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. (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

Enjoying a Sunny Day in Siouxland, DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge, Missouri Valley

23 Oct

Everyone enjoys a sunny day in Siouxland, critters included. With fall officially here the colder weather will arrive soon enough.

Birds resting on pilings and enjoying some sunshine at the DeSoto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

While visiting the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley there wasn’t as many migrating birds as one might think passing through the area yet. With warmer temperatures still it appears migration hasn’t really begun in earnest, at least for a lot of creatures.

Pelicans and ducks using a sand bar for some rest and relaxation on a sunny day at the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Generally there can be thousands of ducks and geese passing through this area as a stop or rest area much like one sees along the interstate. Cooler temps are predicted in the following weeks so another trip might be warranted to see what birds are passing through on their journey to a winter habitat while some of us local critters stay put and dream of spring sometime in February after the charm of “winter” has worn off.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Enjoying some sunshine at the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge near Missouri Valley, Iowa Monday Oct. 12, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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