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Learning About the Loess Hills in Siouxland, Sylvan Runkel State Preserve, rural Monona County

3 Jul

Hikers head out from a group that Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads in the background where he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie, the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently there was an annual Loess Hills Prairie Seminar held in SIouxland in rural Monona County at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve. Runkel was an author of a few books about midwestern wildflowers, including those found in the Loess Hills in western Iowa near the Nebraska border with the Missouri River. I had never previously walked the trail to this particular preserve although I had driven past it numerous times and had seen a sign for it. But I think it rivals the Loess Hills State Park Overlook near the state forest a little further south. And evidently it is a birder’s paradise when it comes to finding those feathered friends.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, center back, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This hike was lead by a professor from Drake University, Dr. Tom Rosburg, an expert in the native plants that exist in the Loess Hills, who did his Ph.D thesis about the plants native to the area. But I will admit, my feeble brain had a hard time keeping up with the scientific and horticultural names for these plants, although I had seen a number of them on hikes through various places in the Loess Hills which I previously had hiked. Rosburg has also written a few books about plant life. This area had recently had a fire prevention and restorative burn done to it so the plants were not at a stage the professor seemed to have liked for examining and talking about the various species and how to recognize them. But he and many in the entourage recognized a great deal of them. Some of those I believe were also students who were taking copious notes and were learning from the best.

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, left, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg, right, of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Remains of a recent fire burn appears Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I did find it fascinating and somewhat exhausting that every few steps taken a native Loess Hills plant was found and the group would stop as Dr. Rosburg explained the species, some of which are only found in this location, while others are spread throughout the Loess Hills. This all has to do with the plants’ own evolution and the kind of soil located within this particular state preserve. He explained that when doing his thesis he plotted out thousands of small areas and tracked the progress of the plants within each plot to better understand conditions and the strengths and weaknesses of each. Quite an undertaking.

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

But as a visual person, I was more interested in the landscape and what I was seeing and what I thought would offer some excellent sunset and possibly fall foliage later this year more intriguing. So I drifted away from the group which then gave me a “mass” for scale to incorporate into the landscape of this particular state preserve. A colorful sky with some clouds some evening will offer up some impressive imagery I believe. Now it’s trying to figure out which of those evenings that will happen.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Dr. Tom Rosburg of Drake University leads a group as he talks about native plant life as he leads a group through an area of Loess Hills prairie at the Sylvan Runkel State Preserve during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in rural Monona County near Onawa, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Spring into Summer in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

1 Jul

Flowers are blooming at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s been a while since I ventured out of Siouxland “proper” to visit surrounding attractions like zoos and gardens and other places south or north. Gas prices are a bit of a hindrance for driving distances these days. When I last visited the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE I had missed the blooming of the field of thousands of daffodils but did see some peonies. The area had a tremendous storm a week or two ago with a lot of hail. I can not imagine what effect if any the storm had on the gardens. But it is always a nice place to escape to and be greets with the seasonal varieties that gardens have to offer.

Flowers are blooming at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

People wander the grounds checking the new blooms at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Flowering trees are blooming at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

One always feels invited to sit a spell and watch and listen. Previous trips down to the Omaha area in similarly hot spells one can always find some shade along the paths of the garden areas to cool off and enjoy what is in season. Photographically I always try to find something different depending on when I am there and what I see. And just to ponder and know that my yard and small garden will never attain such a look. Mostly because I am an occasional gardener and lazy. I don’t mind plucking weeds, but I would rather be out photographing than making my yard appear as a House Beautiful ad. It currently works for the visiting birds and that works for me.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Flowering trees are blooming at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Flowers are blooming at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

People wander the grounds checking the new blooms at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Saturday May 7, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying Jack Frost and his Handy Work in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

31 Dec
Ice crystals on some dried grasses at the Adams Homestead Nature Preserve Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The weather this winter so far has been unpredictable if anything here in Siouxland. Warmer than normal temperatures, F1 tornadoes in December followed by high octane wind gusts and cold temperatures. It has been unusual but I like to be someone who does not complain, especially about missing the cold and snow.

But winter is young yet this season and Jack Frost is probably far from being done with his handiwork. But to enjoy his work, one must venture outside to see it, most of the times. I am happy my abode no longer has frost on its windows after some replacement years ago. The curtains don’t flutter either during wind gusts in winter. Small blessings.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

at the Adams Homestead Nature Preserve Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021 in North Sioux City, SD. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Merry and Bright in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

25 Dec
Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

During the holiday seasons I try to visit various places because of the displays that one can see at them and the work that goes into making visitors appreciate and enjoy such displays. I must say I am never disappointed with what I have seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE. I can only guess that planning must start one to two years out as to what supplies, plants and other accoutrements are necessary for these delightful visions to take life.

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The indoors gardens this year became a visual light play and can only be really appreciated as the sun sets and the lights seen in a darkened environment. And the fascination someone has with train sets as each year the trains that might be running out of doors at a display do shorter runs indoors the during Christmas season.

And I find it a marvel what is done with plants to create various scenes holiday or not and give visitors a chance to walk through and enjoy a small world away from the white noise that seems to be everywhere these days, if only for an hour or two. A brief respite in time to be a child again.

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sometimes I think the staff of the gardens can not possible out do what was done the year before and then am pleasantly surprised to enjoy a new experience and see how creatively plants can be used.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Celebrating with Christmas lighting at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, December 17, 2021. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Bugging Out in Siouxland, Adams Homestead Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

28 Oct
Sometimes seeing details of plant life can be a little creepy seen at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In another life, any life, I know I wold not have been an entomologist. Even in Siouxland life can get a little “buggy”. All creatures are on this earth for a reason, even if I don’t understand that reason. Some bugs and insects are fine, and don’t give me pause. Others, well, make my skin crawl.

A bumblebee search for pollen at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, August 30, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Monarch Butterfly rests on a grass stem at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Like life in general, there are things we like, things we dislike and things we tolerate. I feel that way toward some bugs. And also like the adage: “out of sight, out of mind”. If I don’t see it, I won’t think about it. And maybe sometimes that is best.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Monarch Butterfly retrieves some nourishment from a flower at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Tuesday, July 20, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Learning about Mythology in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

28 Feb
The face of at large gnome in the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” which recounts various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I always find it worthwhile as I travel about Siouxland to learn. About places, history, and other sundries of life. It was a pleasant surprise to see mythology on display at the Laurtizen Gardens in Omaha, NE, and done in such a creative way.

A walk through a fantastical fairy land at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE.

The Gardens touched on various mythological creatures from different parts of the world and ended with a walk through a magical and inventive use of plants in its display of some of these creatures.

The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Information about various mythologies shown at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

For a cold day it was a pleasant way to spend time indoors learning in a fun setting and enjoying someone’s imagination. Since “timed entries” are required it was an uncrowded environment to explore.

Families look over an exhibit at the Lauritzen Gardens which creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A display about world mythologies seen at the Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the coronavirus limiting various aspects of life, it’s nice to see some places behaving responsibly and giving people a chance to get out and take in a little “art” and enjoy a little time away from home.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.With the umbrellas one could almost imagine Mary Poppins dropping in for a visit. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Fairy housing at the Lauritzen Gardens fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
The Lauritzen Gardens creates a fantasy “fairy land” recounting various mythologies from around the world seen in Omaha, NE Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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©)

Imaginative Christmas Decorations in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha

28 Dec
A Christmas tree made of poinsettias seen at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving about it’s easy to find Christmas light decorating on homes that takes one’s imagination to new heights. And with technology it’s easier to sync light strobing and music and it makes for quite the display. But somehow, in my humble mind, that pales in comparison to the tight spent creating a Christmas tree out of different colored poinsettias and placing them to somewhat replicate colored ornaments hanging on a tree. I was simply amazed.

A toy train makes it way around the “Christmas Tree” at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
A decorative scene at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The Gardens then attended small touches still using plants and adding a toy train one easily associates with the bygone days of such a scene at the base of a tree in a family’s home. The came the “stuffed” animals on the other side of the tree, still surrounded by beds of poinsettias. It was a nice break for this different kind of Christmas season and the effort the people at the Gardens put into creating the display. Affording people a chance to safely get out of the house and enjoy something this holiday season with other various precautions in place. And everyone attending at that time were courteous of others, giving space and wearing masks. A nice day outing amid a chaotic season of sorts.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

“Stuffed” animals guard the “Christmas” tree at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Hundreds or maybe more of poinsettias at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
Christmas at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Summer Days in Siouxland, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE

27 Sep

Summer days at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With Fall officially begun in Siouxland and elsewhere recently, summer days are over, even as warm summer-like weather continues to envelope the area. Cooler temps are predicted in the next couple of weeks, but until then, people will relish these last few days of summer warmth and what they will have to wait and enjoy again next year.

Summer days at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Summer days at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Lauritzen Gardens was ablaze in colorful flowers late summer. Visitors could feast in the summer bouquets walking through the landscape. Light play made the the plants dazzle and come alive in a light breeze, dancing one final jig or waltz, knowing their blooms will fade. As will the light quality that a summer sun washes across the landscape, it’s brightness enhancing shapes and objects it touches and lingers into the final hours of a day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Summer days at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Summer days at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Summer days at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha, NE Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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