Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Market Day at Noelridge, June 15

A variety called Wendy.
They tasted as good as they look.
Waiting in line for strawberries.
“Tomatoes are all I grow,” she said. “They’re just yellow tomatoes. We could give ’em a name.”
Community garden at Ellis Park, on the banks of the Cedar River.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kalona’s Quilts and Farms

Though I come from a long line of quilters, the desire to piece a covering from tiny scraps of fabric never took hold with me. I tried. Too tedious. I also think a quilter’s mindset is one that starts from a small place and fashions outward. I tend to paint broad strokes and work gradually to a detail where I will often get lost.

But I love quilts, especially the ones with the provenance of flour sacks, house dresses and little girl’s jumpers. I do own quilts and never tire of looking at the work of others, which is why I went down to Kalona. Calling itself the quilt capital of Iowa, Kalona boasts shops with quilt making supplies and souvenirs, a few restaurants, and quilt patterns of colored bricks set into the sidewalk. The town was hosting a quilt show and I wanted to take a look.

Hung in narrow rows in the small community center were three to four dozen quilts of varying sizes. The centerpiece—at least for me— was a stunning king size quilt in a floral medallion design of puffy appliqué. It was priced at $12,000. If I had made that quilt, I don’t think I would have sold it, no matter what. How many hours did it take?

This was the centerpiece of the show.
Some of this fabric looks hand-painted.

Kalona also is home to the largest Amish and Mennonite community west of the Mississippi. Along the back roads are lovely farms as well as a few Amish run grocery stores and bakery. Extra-wide shoulders along the highway accommodate horse drawn buggies.

Laundry dries on the line at this farm outside Kalona.

Organic milk from the modest and plainly dressed bovines of this area is used in my favorite yogurt, Kalona SuperNatural. Also in Kalona is the Cheese Haus, a factory where you can watch cheese curds being made and, if your timing is just right, you can take home a bag of still-warm squeaky goodness.

You can see the Cheese Haus’ two 500,000 pound milk tanks and other photos in my Kalona set on Flickr. Just click here to view them all.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Repurposed Kalona SuperNatural Milk Bottle as DIY Water Sprinkler

DIY Water Sprinkler from Milk Bottle
We love the milk from Kalona SuperNatural, headquartered just a little ways down the road. Short of having your own cow or owning part of a herd, this organic milk is as good as it gets. It is not homogenized, so you can see the cream line, and it is pasteurized at a low temperature. (The yogurt, by the way, is the best I’ve ever tasted. Ever. The strawberry especially.) Kalona SuperNatural supplies the milk for HyVee’s house brand of organic milk, but not all HyVees carry this product.

But what to do with the plastic bottles with their nice lids? I am all for recycling plastic, but it seems wasteful to immediately recycle perfectly good bottles.

Until I come up with new ideas, I will make sprinkler bottles to water my plants.

It holds a half gallon and is light and easy for houseplants or a deck container garden. It also would be useful for applying liquid fertilizer such as compost tea or fish emulsion.

Because the lid removes easily, you can keep it clean. Sprinkling rosettes on standard watering cans sometimes get clogged with detritus. At least mine do because I leave them exposed to the elements.

Read on to see the directions for a DIY Water Sprinkler from Kalona SuperNatural Milk Bottles.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Watching the Rivers

River watching begins in late winter as thick slabs of ice break and begin their way down stream. Tributaries feed the Cedar, Cedar to Iowa, Iowa to Mississippi, and from there to the world.

I found a stretch of road that runs right up beside the Cedar River. I took these photos from the car (as a passenger).

Spring flooding strikes more fear than it once did. In June 2008, the Cedar River flood devastated some 10 square miles of Cedar Rapids. Homes in the 500 year floodplain and other areas never thought to flood were inundated.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Antiques and Hamburgers in Mt. Vernon

After a drive through Palisades-Kepler State Park last Sunday, we continued over to Mt. Vernon which has several antique shops, including Polly Ann’s. Lots of cool housewares in so many rooms you will easily lose your companion if you are not careful. This place has too many vintage linens and kitchen gadgets for my own good. Next time, we’ll hit the school-turned-antique-mall across the street.
In the basement, enough gloves for a tournament.
The chandelier is a fancy touch in an otherwise casual theme.

I love the floral curtains and the green corner hutch.
Read on to see more.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It Could Be Michigan, But It's Not

Along Hwy 30 east of Mt. Vernon

Have you ever had one of those moments when there's something is different but you can't quite put your finger on it? This happened to me when I was driving to Mt. Vernon on Wednesday. It's a cute small town about 15 miles east of Cedar Rapids. I drove along Hwy 30, a scenic road that passes through farmland and along one stretch you can glimpse through the trees the Cedar River as it winds its way south toward the Iowa, toward the Mississippi. Along Hwy 30 are barns and fences and wooded copses in the cornfields.

It's late winter and everything is in shades of brown, from a pale gold to a dark taupey shade. But it was so beautiful — the shades and textures of corn stubble, grasses, thistles, bare branches. And there was a big blue sky.

"This is so lovely," I kept saying to myself.

And yet it felt strange, as though I had been dropped down into a foreign place. It's Iowa, so how different can an Iowa cornfield be from one in Michigan? Not so much, not really. Still, something was different.
And then it hit me: It's the light. Sunlight. Lots of it. And a big sky.

In late winter/early spring, you don't see a lot of blue skies. It's damp and cloudy. Coming to Iowa, we have simply emerged from under the permacloud of West Michigan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

March 10-11 Birds at Cedar Lake in Cedar Rapids

A juvenile bald eagle perched above the path at Cedar Lake.
Mallards landing on Cedar Lake.
Here's what I've seen the last couple days at Cedar Lake.

Bald Eagle, adult and juvenile, a dozen total on the ice and in the nearby trees. Juveniles do not have their white heads or tails.
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
American Coot a.k.a. Mudhen
Ring Necked Duck
Herring Gull, immature
Ring Billed Gull