Tag Archives: iowa

Finding the Rustic in Siouxland, Rural Iowa

1 Nov

A weathered barn near Preparation Canyon State Park located near Moorhead, Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Driving around the Siouxland area that I live in, there are many “rustic” scenes one can find without much effort. Weathered barns are a bit of a staple in rural Iowa. But over the course of the years these barns have begun to diminish as farmers put up more durable buildings that are made of metal. And as the “family farms” that dotted the rural landscape in Iowa for decades get swept up into ever larger conglomerations if just for survival or bought by corporations, these scenes will probably disappear entirely. Many I have seen over the years and able to revisit have fallen into disrepair. And the need for such buildings has disappeared as well as small farms or farms in general no longer have the variety of livestock (milk cows, pigs, chickens, some steers, etc.) there is no need. Another American icon that will eventually fade into memory for those who can remember such scenes.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Tractor parked near Preparation Canyon State Park located near Moorhead, Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Changing Seasons in Siouxland, rural Monona County

30 Oct

Colors are appearing in Monona County, Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Fall colors this year have been a bit spotty. Appearing here and there, just getting started and making one wonder if the colors will mature. Wet weather and heavy winds recently makes me think I am lucky if I find a nice patch of woods to share its beauty as I hunt around the Loess Hills in Monona County and other places.

Fall colors near Preparation Canyon State Park located near Moorhead, Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And sadly, as the light appears later in the morning my personal engine doesn’t rev up as quickly until I down a couple cups of coffee and then bundle up against 35 degree temperature to look for the changing scenery and the fact that soon Christmas music will be heard over the radio airwaves and in stores. I can wait for the weather that comes with that change in season and hope to enjoy one or two, maybe three more weeks of fall and the spectacular display that Mother Nature can on occasion share.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Fall colors near Preparation Canyon State Park located near Moorhead, Iowa Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Small Town away from Siouxland, Mt. Vernon

16 Oct

I enjoy the area of Siouxland in which I live. But it is nice to get out once in a while and visit other places outside of this region. Most places have similarities rather than differences. I enjoy the architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries when many of Iowa’s small communities came into being.

Downtown Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I stopped in at Mt. Vernon because of seeing some architecture along the roadway I was on, historic Rte. 30 or Lincoln Highway. A stretch of roadway that crossed the continental United States giving people with automobiles a chance to see as little or as much of the country without traveling by train. Many of these small communities still have stunning homes and businesses for buildings dating from the mid to late 1800’s. Mt Vernon came into being as a result of the U.S. battle with Chief Black Hawk who fled the area and the tribal lands were confiscated as was the case with many native people’s lands when the expansion west was underway.

A church near downtown Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Downtown Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The community is home to a liberal arts college which keeps it infused with younger people who come and go and possibly stay to raise their own families in a place they call home for at least four years. Quaint with a number of eateries downtown and a short walk from the college.

A mural on a downtown building’s wall in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Historic homes in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The community is extremely walkable and on a nice day it has places to visit and relax and enjoy. I am sure during an academic school year there are many events and other festivities taking place both in town and on the college campus. A nice combination for any community and the possibility to enjoy simple fruits of life in a picture perfect setting.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A city park just off of downtown Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A closed Mt. Vernon visitors center in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Sunday Sep. 1, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Enjoying the Outdoors in Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center

7 May

Hiking a trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I do enjoy a good walk in nature in and around the Siouxland region. I have only spent a few times visiting the Hitchcock Nature Center but enjoy it immensely each time I go. Recently on a very pleasant spring day I went hiking with some friends and enjoyed a warm day, blossoming trees (well greening anyway) and views that always impress.

A trail leads out into the forest at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A rest area along the boardwalk trail looks out over a scenic view at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The nature or interpretive center at the park has lots of information and the folk manning the facility are always friendly and willing to offer suggestions. Views of the emergence of spring and warmer weather while standing on a watch tower near the interpretive center makes finding views accessible.

The lodge and interpretive center at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A watch tower and viewer stand next to the lodge and interpretive center at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A well worn trail at right leading out into the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A trail leads out into the forest at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

On this trip I talked with a woman and told her I was surprised that I could still see flood water in the distance where it should be dry with farmers getting into fields readying to plant. Sections of an interstate highway that runs through there is still closed because of spring flooding and a confluence of events with an early rain, still frozen ground and snow on the ground  too that created conditions where water inundated farm land and some smaller communities causing evacuations. Views of the emergence of spring and warmer weather while standing on a watch tower near the interpretive center makes finding views accessible.

Flood water can still be seen in the distance that inundated small communities and flood water that caused some evacuations in early spring from the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And I find that sweet about revisiting places I seen previously because it is never the same, for good or bad. Changes take place, nature or man can affect what one might encounter at a later time and therein lies the interest that feeds my curiosity besides just enjoying a nice day out, fresh air and hanging out with friends.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Taking a break from walking at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Photographing a vista of the surrounding landscape at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Hillsides are just starting to green up near the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County, near Honey Creek, Iowa Tuesday, April 23, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Looking up in Siouxland Reaps Reward, Rural Iowa

30 Mar

A bald eagle glides past treetops along Highway 12 north of Sioux City, Iowa, Friday, March 22, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s always nice when I am out and about to sometimes find an unexpected photographic pleasure in Siouxland. As the weather warms and driving conditions become easier, at least no ice on the roadways, I am venturing out to see how things have changed with the current flooding and to photograph the area. On a recent and somewhat short drive north I saw a railroad crew working on a track line that was crossing the Little Sioux River from Iowa to South Dakota. And then I saw them.

Bald eagles sit in treetops along Highway 12 north of Sioux City, Iowa, Friday, March 22, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

These days the photographic gear I carry is not what I used when working for newspapers, at least not telephoto gear, and one works with what one has on hand. I saw the two bald eagles sitting in a tree top. Guessing that they were eyeing the flooded river below and looking for a meal. What caught my attention was what looked like a flash of white. One of the heads. Some friends of mine from the local camera club are nature enthusiasts and spend time searching for these majestic birds and capture photographically some very compelling images. My background as a newspaper photographer is dealing with the moment that arises, and in seeing these two lovely creatures spent some time to get a few shots at quite a distance.

 

Geese are on the move in the background, right, as a bald eagle glides over the Little Sioux River running parallel to Highway 12 north of Sioux City, Iowa, Friday, March 22, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Both of the birds alighted at some point while I watched and photographed easily gliding over the river and through the tree line and then back again to the tree they were using at a stopping point. I know eagles populate the area and others have captured some very nice images. I settled for what I could get. Happy that I got a couple “action” photos while enjoying the grace of flight these two birds exhibited.

I know this outing these are fine photos for my blog, but nothing stellar to hang on a wall. But like most outings, it’s nice to return home with images that one enjoys making or able to create, but it’s more of a pleasure for the experience encountered while making the photos.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

a bald eagle comes in to perch in a treetop along Highway 12 north of Sioux City, Iowa, Friday, March 22, 2019. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Siouxland’s part of the Presidential Horserace Begins

24 Mar

Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MASS), center, talks to reporters after her organizing event in the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I recently wrote about the 2015 Iowa caucus campaigns that Republican presidential hopefuls pursued starting around April of that year. This time around the Democrats have started even earlier, beginning in January and most hopefuls have appeared in Siouxland which is a bit more red than a more purplish/blue hue found more in the central and eastern part of the state of Iowa. All are doing “exploratory” visits to see if folk in Iowa actually like them and would support a run for the office of president.

New York City Mayor BILL DE BLASIO, center, a Democrat, shares a joke with VLADIMIR LANDMAN, left, of Sioux City and formerly from Brooklyn and TISHA DUMKRIEGER, right, also of Sioux City, at a meet and greet with local Democrats at Rebos restaurant on Historic 4th Street in Sioux City, Iowa, Saturday evening February 23, 2019, as he explores entering the 2020 presidential race.

 

Former Maryland Congressman JOHN K DELANEY, center, opens a campaign office in Sioux City, Iowa, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019 and greets supporters and others who attend. Delaney has visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties through his 23 trips to the state. THis week Delaney also opened a campaign officein Council Bluffs , did meet and greets in Ft. Dodge and Glenwood and a town hall meeting in Dennison as he pursues a 2020 presidential campaign.

Early on many of these meet and greets happen in local residents’ homes where people get a chance to listen to those politicians visiting and ask questions. Some questions can be softballs, but others prod visiting presidential hopefuls into expanding their comments even though it’s still early in the process. Those very active in Iowa politics, even on a local level get the chance to really learn more about these people and see what they are like. Sometimes it feels a little like a show and tell party, but local, retail politics is just that.

Rep. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), center right standing, and an Iowa native, talks with members of the Truman Club of the Woodbury County Democratic Party in Sioux City, Iowa Saturday evening, Feb. 16, 2019 as he explores his potential in running for President in 2020.

 

Former San Antonio, TX, mayor JULIAN CASTRO,left, meets and talks with members of the Democrat Woodbury County Truman Club in Sioux City, Iowa, Friday evening, February 22, 2019, as he explores entering the 2020 presidential race.

 

Now that spring seems like it has arrived, hopefully these potential candidate visits will become a little more fast and furious as they try to prove themselves within a crowded field, as yet there are still a few folk deciding still if they will be running. But it seems politicians are always running. It just depends on whether you believe what they say, or not.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

U.S. Sen. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), reacts to an attendee during a Woodbury County, Iowa, Democrats first time meet and greet at the residence of a local couple in Sioux City, Iowa Friday evening Jan. 18, 2019, as she explores running for the office of the President.

 

Former Colorado Governor and businessman JOHN HICKENLOOPER, a Democrat, talks members of the public at the Coffeeworks in Sioux City, Iowa, Saturday morning February 23, 2019, as he explores entering the 2020 presidential race.

 

Author and spiritual guru MARIANNE WILLIAMSON speaks at the Donna Reed Theatre and talks about poverty in America, in Denison, Iowa Saturday, March 2, 2018, while exploring a presidential run for 2020.

One last Communion with Fall near Siouxland, Hitchcock Nature Center

4 Nov

I’ve only visited Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County just south of Siouxland once before. But it’s a very nice park of just over 1,200 acres situated in the Loess Hills of western Iowa.

A view of the surrounding countryside from a tower at the lodge atHitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

The lodge and lookout tower sits on a hill for excellent views at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie COunty near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It has a number of trails and a lodge that sits atop a hill and looks out over the surrounding area. There is also a watch tower at the lodge we allows birders to track the various migration periods when the birds are heading either north or south, depending on the season. The one aspect of the park I like is the elevated board walk which allows some accessibility to those with wheelchairs or walkers to “get into the woods” for a quarter mile or so with stops along the way and picnic tables for those who pack a lunch or want to stay a bit and enjoy the quietude and nature.

Part of an elevated board walk trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

An elevated nature trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

It’s just a nice way to spend part of a day putting aside the daily rush of events and happenings and imagining what the area must have looked like to explorers and first settlers when the prairie grass still covered a large portion of land before farming began. And it’s nice to know they are concerned enough citizens who have the foresight to set aside parcels of land for others to enjoy and for future generations as well as themselves. A place to reset one’s thoughts and take a pause in life.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A valley and farmsteads below a hilltop at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

Sunshine after a number of days of rainy fall weather made leaves almost sparkle at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

 

A view from an elevated board walk trail at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawatamie County near Honey Creek, Iowa, Tuesday, Oct. 16 2018. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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