Tag Archives: outdoors

Exploring Siouxland, rural Monona County

7 Jul

A winding country road beckons one to explore in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I sometimes feel like I haven’t been exploring Siouxland as much as I have in the past. Other concerns and work tends to keep one busy, as well as higher gas prices. But slowly driving about back country roads is always a joy because one never knows what to expect or what one might see. Sometimes nothing and then again.

A wood barn still stands seen off a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

The setting sun creates a dramatic look as it peers through western horizon clouds spotlighting an outbuilding off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

This particular area I have driven many times but recently found out about a wildlife management area I have never hiked and it has some amazing views. So I drove out this direction a couple of times before a prairie seminar was to take place so I could actually find it and attend. Nothing worse than going somewhere and never arriving because one couldn’t find it.

A farmer makes his way to his next field for spring planting preparation on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Cattle graze in a field just off a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa Monday, May 23, 2022.. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

And on a coolish evening as the sun begins to set, the light doesn’t magical things to the surrounding countryside and all within it. A better way to end an evening that some I have had in the past. Just wandering, listening to music and enjoying the moment.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

The setting sun creates a dramatic look as it peers through western horizon clouds spotlighting an outbuilding off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

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©)

Photographing the Best Side in Siouxland, Sioux City

29 Jun

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

With the recent heat wave and high temperatures I haven’t been sitting outside much to watch my backyard friends in Siouxland. Although I keep them fed and watered and really early on those mornings when the temps are hovering in the 60’s I sit outside listening to bird song before the temperature spike to the 90’s as the day wears on.

It’s just fun to watch these creatures, some of which I think are conscious of being watched as they appear to keep checking and posing, which I guess is my cue to only capture their best side, the famous quote mentions, “Ready for my close up, Mr DeMille.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A goldfinch grabs a snack at a bird feeder in the backyard of a residence Saturday, February 5, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. (Photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Managing the Heatwave in Siouxland, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, North Sioux City, SD

27 Jun

A couple of Canada geese enjoy a sunshine day at the Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve, Sunday, March 13 2022 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Life in Siouxland has been heating up as it were. Like most of the country it seems the heat has settled for a few days with only intermittent rain showers to cool things down. On those days I wistfully think back to brisk walks I have taken outdoors, mostly at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve looking for critters and enjoying the time when I get back home and I put some coffee on to sit down with and enjoy the warmth.

Oh we humans are a fickle lot.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Canada geese find some open water on an iced over Mud Lake at Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 in North Sioux City, South Dakota. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Mr. Finch Goes A’Courting in Siouxland, Sioux City

25 Jun

A male House Finch joins a female House Finch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Nature seems to always be surprising me, even when I don’t know that it is. But I keep learning even if by mistake. Spring time is filled with love in the air, even in Siouxland. Finding these two finches becoming animated a birder friend explained to me the male house finch is courting the female house finch and in the process showing its ability to be a good provider. Seems love the kind of thing that crosses the line of all species. And as the saying goes, “Watch and Learn.”

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A male House Finch courts a female House finch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A male House Finch courts a female House Finch in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Tuesday May 10, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

History in Siouxland, South Jordan Cemetery, rural Monona County

21 Jun

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Recently I attended a Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in Siouxland which is going on 40 plus years. But because of previous work commitments in past years, I have never attended one. It is fascinating the wealth of information learned during this outing. The downside is that I couldn’t be in more than one place at a time and so while able to photograph different seminar events, learning about various subjects was limited because of that pesky timeline/time warp continuum thingy.

One of the outings focused on a cemetery I have previously driven past while cruising some of the backroads in Siouxland but had never stopped. The South Jordan Cemetery is an early Negro burial site located in rural Monona County. It was recently placed on the National Register of Historic places in 2021. A long time coming. And just as recently signage about the cemetery was put up. But without attending the hike and talk the information I have found is limited to what is available online.

Recent signage posts the way to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Off of a country gravel road the South Jordan Cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021 and was visited during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A gravestone at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

According to a Wikipedia account African Americans may have made their way to western Iowa using the Underground Railroad. Iowa became a state in 1846 but some believe the Underground Railroad theory is not correct because settlement in this part of the state took place after the Civil War. Of the known 20 or so burials, all but a couple are believed to be African American. Some if not all of the headstones were a bit hard to read, yet, they are there celebrating the lives of people who lived in the area prior to those of us now passing through.

I am still awed by the fact that places my feet have traversed others passed through decades if not a century or two prior. That timeline/continuum of life thingy stands the eons and knowledge that came before and will follow later is there. It’s just figuring out how to access it.

Jerry Mennenga
Sioux City, Iowa

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Backcountry gravel roads to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A visit to the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

An aged gravestone marker at the South Jordan Cemetery during the 45th Loess Hills Prairie Seminar at a Loess Hills Wildlife Area in rural Monona County near Turin, Iowa Saturday June 4, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Walk Around Little Sioux Park, Correctionville

15 Jun

A look across the Little Sioux River at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Sometimes when driving about Siouxland I don’t always stop to visit places I thought I should. Then one day, I do. Nothing spectacular, or special on such a dreary day, but a chance to visit a place I have passed by a few times. If not now, when? This day was that day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A cut path along a meadow area at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A song sparrow clings to a dried grass stem as a strong gust of winde blows it about at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Red Wing black bird nestles itself in a bush against strong wind gusts at Little Sioux Park near Correctionville, Iowa Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Enjoying a Sunset in Siouxland, rural Monona County

13 Jun

A muskrat has a snack in a pond off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Everyone seems to have a routine when it comes to the end of day and the sun sets a little lower in the sky before dropping behind the horizon as nighttime falls. Even in Siouxland it seems critters use the remaining daylight hours to enjoy the moment before the coming night.

What appears to be a muskrat slips away after enjoying a meal away in a pond on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Red Wing Blackbird sings its heart as the suns begins to reach the horizon line out on a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

I enjoy driving about this time of day, and if parked somewhere in the country, the bird song fills the air almost up until evening is fully descended. Restoring a sense of calm and quiet, it’s a pleasant way to end one’s day. As the days get a bit longer there will be more time to enjoy the countryside and its residents if they care to share with a visitor passing through.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

Possibly a Cooper’s Hawk sits almost unnoticed in the distance in a treetop as the sun sets and it looks for maybe one last meal in a field off of a country road in rural Monona County near Whiting, Iowa, Saturday, May 21, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Public Grooming in Siouxland, Sioux City

11 Jun

A Cooper’s Hawk checks its surrounding while perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

In my neck of the woods in Siouxland there seems to be a single or pair of Cooper’s Hawks that live about the area. I see one, rarely both, flying above or landing nearby, sometimes closer than I personally would like.

The weather this particular day had been off and on with a rain shower, although mostly off in the immediate area. So I was surprised when the hawk showed up looking a little ruffled and damp. Possibly getting caught in a down pout nearby and then finding a place to do a little drying off. The towel guy wasn’t available this particular day.

Jerry Mennenga

Sioux City, Iowa

A Cooper’s Hawk checks its surrounding while perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Cooper’s Hawk does a little grooming perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

Getting to all those difficult spots a Cooper’s Hawk does a little grooming perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)

A Cooper’s Hawk checks its surroundings while it does a little grooming perched in a tree in the backyard of a residence in Sioux City, Iowa Sunday May 8, 2022. (photo by Jerry L Mennenga©)
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