Talk of Iowa

Weekdays at 10 a.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 9 p.m. on IPR News

Talk of Iowa brings a mix of regular guests and a range of experts to the microphone to discuss what’s happening in Iowa and what makes this a special place to live. Guests include wildlife expert Jim Pease and the Hort Gang on Fridays.

Talk of Iowa is hosted by Charity Nebbe @CharityNebbe.  It’s produced by Dennis Reese, Emily Woodbury @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

PaulAdamsPhotography / flickr

The history of Iowa isn't flashy, but the state is home to many fascinating stories and hidden treasures.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with Jessica Rundlett of the Iowa State Historical Society to learn about some of Iowa's most interesting hidden gems. Rundlett helped create the new Iowa Culture Mobile App, that can act as your guide on a road trip or reveal some of the historical treasures around at any given time.

Larry Cotlar of Des Moines has been a fixture in Iowa sports broadcasting for many decades.  And with that kind of history, including sports reporting on WHO, Cotlar has a wealth of stories to share. And make no mistake, he's a good story-teller.   In fact, one can expect new stories as Cotlar continues his career in sports as the play-by-play voice of the Drake Bulldogs.

Michael Leland

If  you’re paddling one of Iowa’s rivers, out for a walk, or even driving down a highway the sight of a big white bird passing overhead has become common, but that wasn’t always the case.

On this wildlife day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with wildlife biologist Jim Pease to discuss Iowa’s big white birds. These birds, including pelicans, great egrets and trumpeter swans, almost disappeared from the state, but are once again common.

Chlot's Run / Flickr

Instead of a compact disc, people who preordered The Awful Purdies' album, "All Recipes Are Home," got a different, but no less meaningful physical manifestation of the album--a packet of seeds.

"The people who preordered the album planted the seeds in the spring and at the record release on June 27th, you could see the photos of the food they’d already grown. People were actually eating the food they'd grown from the album," Katie Roche, a member of The Awful Purdies, says.

Arno Wesselink / Iowa Public Radio

If you listen to Talk of Iowa and River to River regularly, you have probably heard Iowa State University psychologist Doug Gentile talk about the science behind video games and the aspect of violence media, video games, and kids; but Doug is also a member of the band, Tom and Doug.

On this Talk of Iowa segment, Charity Nebbe talks with Gentile and bandmate, Tom Florek, a computer programmer in New Jersey. The band’s goal is to take serious issues and talk about them through the lens of comedy.

Tannaz / Wikimedia Commons, Licensed under Creative Commons

Fresh herbs are one of the most versatile plants available to home gardeners. Iowa State University Extension Program specialist in Value-added Agriculture, Linda Naeve, says they're an easy way to add color and texture to the landscape without the risk of a plant getting too big. The exception to that rule is mint, which is very aggressive. Naeve says it should be planted in a container, and then added to the garden, to help keep it in check.

This hour, we'll look at why at least a couple of million people have paid $99 (and often lots more) to have their DNA tested to find out about their ancestry and in some cases, their family's health traits.   Leading web sites and have had more than a million people each pay the fee to receive long and detailed reports on their ancestry going back usually five generations.

Barcelona IVF / Flickr

In Vitro Fertilization has allowed millions of people to become parents, but the question of what to do with unused frozen embryos can be a difficult one.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks  with a mom who decided to donate her frozen embryos to another couple, and the mom who will receive them.

"I took some time to think about what decision I could live with for the rest of my life," says embryo donor Lydia Fine of Iowa City.

Orbspiders / Flickr

Garrison Keillor is leaving A Prairie Home Companion, the hit public radio show he created. 

"You can't go on like this. You don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of other people paying money to see it. Even if it may be what some of them would like to see," Keillor says. "So I thought this was a good time."

First though, he's visiting Iowa one last time. His "America the Beautiful" tour stops by Cedar Rapids Aug. 20.

Daughter#3 / Flickr

Millions of people around the world are outraged over the death of Cecil the Lion, killed by a trophy hunting dentist from Minnesota. This is not an isolated case.

"Hunters by and large don't want to feel that their experience is fake, but at the same time if they're paying $50,000 or more there is a lot of pressure on the outfitters to deliver the goods," says author Meg Brown. "I think [the Minnesota hunter] might have relied on his guides and his guides were under a lot of pressure, so they acted illegally to make sure he got the trophy he paid for."

Jaknouse / English Language Wikipedia/Creative Commons

As the work begins to replant Iowa's ash trees due to destruction by the Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB, the Chair of the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University Jeff Iles says we need to think about maintaining trees over the long term. Iles says as municipalities begin the task of replacing trees, they need to budget for ongoing maintenance. 

And EAB isn't the only good reason to replant.  It may also be needed as tree populations age.  Iles says individuals and volunteers can make a big difference in this effort, as most city budgets are tight.

There was a time when you could tell where you were in the country just by looking at the architecture of the homes. Recently, however, there’s been a trend toward building subdivisions that look pretty much the same no matter where you are.

Kevin Nordmeyer, Principal at BNIM Architects in Des Moines, says that shift is partially due to modern technology that allows climate control inside new buildings and homes. 

Two years ago Iowa Public Radio was in turmoil. There was a change in leadership and a hole in the budget, a difficult time for an organization that relies on the support of listeners.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Myrna Johnson, Executive Director and Mary Kramer, Chair of Iowa Public Radio’s Board of Directors. According to both leaders at IPR, a lot has changed in the last two years.

Denise Krebs / Flickr

When Allan Johnson asked his dying father what he would like to have done with his ashes, his father told him that it made no difference at all.  That answer left Johnson with a lot of questions and was the starting point for a powerful journey.

ReSurge International / Flickr

Chuck Wheeler felt sick going to work. Literally sick. 

"The last four, five years, I'd drive to work. And I'd start out okay, but the closer I'd get to work, I'd get a terrible stomachache, and by the time I pulled into my parking spot...I'm not going to say it was unbearable, but it was really irritating to have a stomachache every day when you're going into work. It seemed to never go away."

Phil Roeder / Flickr

It’s county fair season, which means the quest for blue ribbons is on. During this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with horticulturists Richard Jauron and Cindy Haynes about the vegetable, fruit and flower competitions that bring so many people to the fair.

"You don't know who is exhibiting," says Haynes. "It could be someone who raises vegetables for sale or it could be a 10-year-old."

She says that when she's faced with a table of tomatoes, she looks for those that are ripe, blemish free and firm enough to hold up for a few days. 

Courtesy of Lauren Hanna

When Solon resident Lauren Hanna first saw her dog Clifford taking care of a blind rooster named Hedwig, she didn't believe it; but the two became fast friends.

"Hedwig will get lost out in the yard," Hanna says. "After a night when an animal attacked Hedwig and pulled some of his tail feathers out, Clifford took him under his wing."

"To see it be this ongoing relationship is amazing."

Running to the Fire

Jul 23, 2015
Waldorf College

Tim Bascom, author of the novel "Squatters' Rights" and the essay collection "The Comfort Trap" is out with a new memoir about his time growing up in the 1970's in Ethiopia, "Running to the Fire: An American Missionary Comes of Age in Revolutionary Ethiopia." (University of Iowa Press)

Photo Courtesy of Sally Olsen

Making lace as a hobby isn't all that common, but there is a small yet dedicated group of women in Eastern Iowa who spend their time weaving bobbin lace.

Ruth Lyons is local chair for the International Organization of Lace Incorporated’s Annual Convention which will be hosted in Coralville July 27-August 2. She says making lace is one of the most difficult things she’s ever done.

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

Gym class used to be as simple as learning the rules to a sport, practicing that sport, playing a scrimmage, and moving on. Now, the bar is set a bit higher. Charity Campbell is a physical education teacher at Norwalk Middle School. She says physical education has shifted to instilling habits that go beyond the classroom.

"As we're making that shift with our health crisis today, we're making sure our students are active the entire class. We're giving them a variety of activities to try and do, but not perfect the skills."

TechShop / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons

Iowa's unemployment rate of 3.8% reflects nearly full employment across the state. But there are many industries that need workers, and that demand is reflected in the Iowa Hot Jobs report. Deputy Director of Iowa Workforce Development and the State Labor Market Information Administrator, Ed Wallace says jobs in the biosciences, health care, education, and agriculture continue to grow. The challenge lies in making sure those looking for work know which jobs are in most demand.

GollyGforce / Flickr

Even when the growing season is ideal, there are problems and diseases that crop up in yards and gardens. As Iowa has experienced this year, extra moisture can really set things off.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with horticulturists to find out how to deal with this summer’s common plant maladies, including a problem many Midwesterners have seen - some trees are already changing colors.

Consider the history of the washing machine, in which Iowa played an integral part.  You may think that the Maytag, developed in Newton, was a product of the work of company founder F.L. Maytag.  But retired educator and amateur historian Tom Hoover says Mr. Maytag was really more of a shrewd businessman who could spot genius engineers and innovators when he saw them.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr

After nine years of travel, the space probe New Horizons finally flew by its target this Tuesday. Jasper Halekas, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, worked on a similar project, MAVEN, that focused on Mars. He says the New Horizons mission is historic.

Martin Lewison / Wikimedia Commons

Adventureland hasn’t put in a new roller coaster since the Outlaw in 1993, but that’s changing next summer when the park will debut their newest coaster, “The Monster.”

After more than 20 years since they put in their newest roller coaster in the park, Spokeswoman Molly Vincent says it was time. “The Monster” will replace the beloved log ride.

Phil Roeder / Flickr

Education and landing a job are inextricably linked in the minds of most Americans, but after the Great Recession it wasn't as clear whether getting a college diploma meant getting, and keeping, a job.

Saba Ali, associate professor in the College of Education at the University of Iowa, says that while statistics bear out the correlation between college degrees and higher paying employment, the question of whether college prepares students to do their jobs well is more nuanced.

Wikimedia Commons

It's mid-summer in Iowa which means it's two things: hot and muggy. This hour on Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulture expert Richard Jauron and Denny Schrock, coordinator for the Iowa Master Gardener's Program.

Schrock says there are some plants that thrive in the heat and humidity.

All Iowa Lawn Tennis Club

Wimbledon is known for its iconic bentgrass courts, but London isn’t the only place where you can play on that type of lawn. Mark Kuhn lives on a farm near Charles City and converted a cattle feed lot into a replica of the famous center court at Wimbledon in 2002, 50 years after he first heard of the court on a BBC radio broadcast.

He spoke with Charity Nebbe Friday on the Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa. He says converting the cattle feed lot to a tennis green was quite the task.

Michael Perry is well-known for his humorous memoirs about rural living in Wisconsin. He's turned towards fiction with his first novel, The Jesus Cow, which was inspired by his rural upbringing.

"As a farm kid, I grew up raising cows. We even named one of our cows trigger because she had a mark that looked like a gun. And I just thought, what if someone goes out on Christmas Eve and has a cow who births a calf that has a mark that could be the face of Christ."

Orchestra Iowa has a new concert master, Dawn Gingrich. She says she fell in love with the violin when she was three.

“I was constantly exposed to lots of great concerts,” she says. “When I was three years old, there was a women playing the violin at a concert I attended with my parents, and she had a terrific dress on. That’s really what stuck with me. I was reportedly insistent about violin lessons after that.”