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.

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.”

Liz West / Flickr

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Patricia O'Conner, word maven and founder of “Grammarphobia.” They discuss the word itself, its interesting etymology, what it means in the US and the UK, and the origin of the phrase “knee high by the fourth of July.”

Carla Kishinami

There are 10 species of woodpeckers in Iowa, and while woodpeckers are the type of birds that are sometimes heard but not seen, their drumming does have a purpose. Wildlife biologist Jim Pease explains that it’s like a song.

Iowa Public Radio

Last year in Iowa the foodservice sector added 2,600 jobs. It’s projected the state will see an additional 12,300 new food service jobs in the coming decade, according to a forecast released recently by the National Restaurant Association.

One in three Iowans found their first job in the restaurant industry according to the Iowa Restaurant Association, and during this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe gets a behind the scenes look at what it takes to create a standard of excellent service in a restaurant.

Courtesy of Sean Sherman

Chef Sean Sherman who is Oglala Lakota was raised on a reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. After he started working in a commercial kitchen, he became interested in incorporating some of the ingredients of his heritage into his food. 

"I had this vision of doing a cookbook just focusing on Lakota foods," he says. "But when I started researching, I wasn't finding the information I was looking for. I had to devise my own education plan and found the basics of Native American food." 

John / Flickr

In September, master gardeners from all over the world will gather in Council Bluffs, Iowa to share ideas and learn from each other. On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State horticulturists Richard Jauron and Cindy Haynes about the International Master Gardener’s Conference and about what to plant if you don’t want to plant hostas.

Jasperdo / Flickr

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government incarcerated 110,000 Japanese Americans in interment camps. When the war ended and those Americans were allowed to go home, the thousands of barracks that they called home were left behind. The government sold them to any one who could move them, often for just a dollar a piece.

D Sharon Pruitt / Flickr

According to professor of psychology, Marianne Lafrance, our hair plays a bigger role in our lives than we might think. She says there is a psychological impact of having a bad hair day. 

In her research, Lafrance found that a majority of people are inclined to have lower self-esteem on bad hair days.

Dhammika Heenpella / Flickr

Home improvement expert Bill McAnally often urges people to fix problems in their homes immediately. With roofs, though, sometimes it pays to wait.

"Let's say it isn't leaking, but it's looking pretty bad. Some people say 'I really need a new roof.' Looks-wise, yea. But if it's not leaking, then stretch it out as much as you can."

He says most people in Iowa never get full usage out of their 75-year shingle warranties because of the storms common to the region. 

Graham Wise / Wikimedia Commons

One out of every three mouthfuls of food comes from a plant that required some sort of pollination, so the declining populations of pollinators across the country is a cause for concern, says Iowa State University entomologist Donald Lewis.

“Since 2006, on the action of the U.S. Senate, there is this week in June when we are supposed to focus on pollinators,” says Lewis. “We have changed the habitat around us that are depending on a variety of flowers, and forms are struggling. That’s the point of National Pollinator Week – bring back the pollinators.”

Guimir / Wikimedia Commons

There's more to Madison County than covered bridges, and some significant historical preservation work will be on display at the Preserve Iowa Summit later this month.

Djh57 / Wikimedia Commons

There’s a new music festival, Hinterland, in Des Moines this summer, and other communities in Iowa are looking to get involved in the summer festival scene. This year marks the third anniversary of Fairfield’s “Fairfest,” a free weekend series of concerts and the Gentlemen of the Road Tour is stopping over in Waverly this weekend.

USDA photo by Darin Leach / U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Earth has been through many changes. We can see the evidence when we study the geological record, but looking ahead is harder.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores the science of predicting climate change.  What do we know about the future of our planet, and how can we prepare for what is to come?

courtesy of Dean Bakopoulos

Sex, love, loss, longing, midlife crises, and midnight runs to Kum & Go: a steamy summer in Grinnell, Iowa is the setting for the new novel Summerlong. For his third novel, Dean Bakopoulos, writer-in-residence at Grinnell College, wrote a story that hits close to home.

"I’m a fiction writer but I’m a fiction writer who really mines my personal life for material. [...] My imagination is borne from the anxious mess of personal demons. When you're that type of writer, you really do have to write about where you’re at, at that moment."

Jennifer Percy/Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

Iowa novelist Benjamin Percy is branching out into the world of comics. He was asked to author the newest Green Arrow series for DC Comics.

During this Talk of Iowa interview, host Charity Nebbe talks with Percy about the difference between a novel and a comic, Oliver Queen, and his alter ego.

"It’s been a long apprenticeship," says Percy.

"I started as a reader. I can remember distinctly going to the mercantile with my mother, and I was always permitted one issue. I would read all these comics over and over again."

Courtesy of Molly Iverson

When Abbey Almelien Banh was diagnosed with sarcoma, she knew she had a very small chance of recovery. But that didn't stop her from making the most out of her last five years. She took the time to travel with her husband Luong Banh, camp with her family, and keep her loved ones updated on her progress through a blog.

Isidre blanc / Wikimedia Commons

More and more gardeners and entrepenuers are getting started growing hops in Iowa. Diana Cochran, a horticulture specialist with Iowa State University, says its for good reason; Iowa is a great place to grow hops, as long as a grower can keep the plants disease free. 

"They grow well here. It's the humidity that is a factor because of disease. They need well drained soil, but otherwise, the problems that you'll see here really have to do with disease," she says. 

Courtesy of the Justice Corps of Iowa / Facebook

With comic books, science fiction, and superheroes, geek culture is having a moment. Phil Hester, a comic book illustrator and author from North English, Ia, says that is due to its traction in mainstream movies.

“Now all this stuff that you couldn’t dream of looking real, sounding real, and moving in a real way, now can be done on screen. That has opened it up to a sea of people that wouldn’t be caught dead walking in a comic book store.”

Don Shall / Flickr

When looking at Iowa waterways, it's easy to overlook the furrier creatures--otters, mink, muskrats, and of course, beavers.  

"They are engineers, there's no question about it," says Jim Pease, wildlife expert.

Facilities management arborist at the University of Iowa, Andy Dahl, decided to take advantage of that engineering instinct.

"What they've actually done is help us open the vistas. They are almost the perfect employees," says Dahl. "They work the night shift, they don't call in sick; they're so efficient I'm afraid they may jump over me in the org chart."

Oleg Yunakov / Wikimedia Commons

Why won’t my flowers bloom? They used to.

That’s a question that many gardeners are faced with at some point. Aaron Steil, program manager for Reiman Gardens in Ames, says it’s important to remember that gardens aren’t static. Sometimes spaces that were once full sun can become partial shade.

“Occasionally you’ll see this clump of iris that just won’t produce flowers anymore. Some gardners forget that sometimes our gardeners change. Take a step back and look at it with new eyes," he says.

Emily Woodbury

When you put together your perfect playlist, how much of the music comes from your youth?

A new study says that most people stop seeking out new music around age 33, and some people believe that our most important cultural tastes are set in our teen years.

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Scheib

More than two million couples will get married in the United States this year. Forty percent of those marriages will be second marriages for one or both spouses, and often there are kids involved. What’s the best way to approach a second marriage with children in mind?

Rachel Scheib is a stepmom and mother from Des Moines. She says she did her research before marrying her husband, Tim, who has three daughters from a previous marriage.

David Wade Couch / flickr

Though Iowa is known as an agricultural state,  more than 60 percent of Iowans live in cities, and the gulf between rural and urban Iowa is about much more than distance.

Wikimedia Commons

Now that our landscape is lush and green the impulse to plant something is strong, but how do you pick the perfect tree for your landscape?

Professor and Department Chair of Agriculture at Iowa State University Jeff Iles says that it’s important to remember that planting a tree is not like planting flowers.

“You’ve got to think it out. You’ve got to take into account what’s there already, and hopefully this tree is going to be with you for a while. You’ve got to plan for what it's going to turn into,” he say.  

Paul VanDerWerf / Flickr

The idea was deceptively simple: create a small structure where people could leave books they were okay parting with and find new literature, like a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny jar, just with books. Less than a decade after the first was erected, 20,000 have sprung up in 75 countries. Margret Aldrich, a little free library devotee, says the concept feels weird at first blush.

Lindsey Moon

Last summer Beth Howard hosted her last pitchfork pie stand in Eldon at the American Gothic House. This year, she's reviving the stand, but this time she's opening up shop on the other side of the world. 

Howard will be hosting around 1,200 people at U.S. Embassy in Thailand on the fourth of July this summer as one of her last stops on her “World Piece” tour. She’s leaving Tuesday to travel the world in search of the best pie recipes and will be teaching pie making classes along the way.

pawpaw67 / flickr

Parents want their kids to be safe, but some believe safety concerns have gone too far.

“This kind of environment of being suspicious of everybody around them and giving them no chance to be children or to play is just a horrible disservice to the children," says Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More.

Halvard from Norway

When our horticulture experts are stumped by a caller, they turn to the experts at Iowa State University's Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  They identify plant diseases, weeds, mushrooms and insects.  Host Charity Nebbe talks with Entomologist Laura Jesse and Plant Pathologist Lina Rodreguez-Salamanca about the sleuthing that happens in diagnosing a plant disease or insect infestation.

It’s been about three months since Daniel Finney wrote his first column in the Des Moines Register about his efforts to lose more than 300 pounds. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe speaks with Daniel Finney about his weight loss journey.

"The little things are a tremendous life improvement," says Finney, referring to walking to the mailbox and household chores. "You go from dreading simple basic daily tasks to not really thinking about them, and you become really grateful of the fact that you are on this journey to recover."