Talk of Iowa

Fall Colored Perennials

Oct 9, 2015
Swallowtail Garden Seeds / Flickr

Watching the trees change color is one of the chief pleasures of fall, but few people consider what hardy perennials can add to scenery. An added benefit is that they are pretty easy to tuck in, where a tree may not fit.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Denny Shrock, Master Gardener Coordinator at Iowa State University, discusses some of his favorite suggestions and he provides an extensive list of beautiful October bloomers as well as perennials with outstanding fall foliage colors.

Courtesy of the Des Moines Register

Iowa has shuttered more than 4300 school districts since 1950 as a result of demographic changes in rural Iowa. What that means for residents and students in rural Iowa is highlighted in a new documentary “Lost Schools.”

University of Iowa

Women's health pioneer Byllye Avery has for more than 40 years been on the front lines of the women's heath movement in the United States.  It was her husband's sudden death at age 33 that was the catalyst for her commitment to improve the health of the African-American community.   She told IPR that it was 1970 and she and her husband, who was close to getting his doctorate, had two small children and a third child on the way.  But she says the health care system at the time did not make it clear to them how deadly high-blood pressure could be and her husband tragically died of a massive h

Iowa DNR

The 98-acre State Forest Nursery in Ames has been losing money since 2007 because of decreasing demand for seedlings. That made it a likely target for closing when the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was looking to trim the budget. District Forester Mark Vitosh says however, the nursery is open and is filling orders for this fall and next spring.

Iowa State University

With Iowa trees readying themselves for fall and the changing colors of leaves, look no further than Ames, Iowa for a new healthy seedling.  Bill Graves, Associate Dean of the Graduate College and Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University, says he is excited about the Swamp White Oaks offered this year.  Graves loves to see people who enthusiastically purchase trees from ISU as well as discovering what becomes of those trees.

Dr. Dan Murphy

Dr. Dan Murphy has spent the past seventeen years working in East Timor, a Southeast Asian nation which gained independence from Indonesia. He grew up in Alton, Iowa and received his medical degree from the University of Iowa but realized his help was needed outside the U.S.

In the last 20 years, he's traveled to Mozambique, Laos, and Nicaragua but found East Timor most in need.

  “East Timor was kicked around worse than any other country I can think of… and it’s a place that cried out for attention.”

Fourth Wall Films

U.S. Highway 6 runs from California to Massachusetts, the longest of all highways.  It has traversed Iowa in one form or another since about 1910, when parts of it were made from wooden planks.  We don't sing songs about Route 6 and it doesn't carry the historical mystique of the Lincoln Highway, but it's a road with a fascinating history and many associated stories from over the decades.

RDECOM / flickr

For most of us middle school is the most awkward time of life. Kevin Brockmeier has plunged back into this difficult years with his new memoir, A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade. Today on Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe revisits middle school with Brockmeier.

Later in the program, Director of the Iowa Youth Writing Project, Dora Malech, talks about the importance of getting kids writing, along with some tips and best practices.

Iowa Digital Library / Flickr

From one room country schools to high tech multi-million dollar facilities, schools in Iowa have changed a lot. What goes on inside the schools has changed a lot too.

“Every decade or two we see these large transformations in what the school is asked to do."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe kicks off "Iowa Week: Then and Now" with a look at education in Iowa over the years.

Mark Kortum / Flickr

Parenting in Iowa has changed a lot over the decades.

“We have the luxury of giving lots and lots of time and energy to kids that our great-grandparents didn’t,” says Pamela Riney-Kehrberg of Iowa State University.


The way we think about food has changed a lot over the last 30 years. Today, we see yogurt and brown rice on mainstream grocery store shelves, but that wasn't always the case. Theresa Carbery, one of the founders of New Pioneer Food Coop in Iowa City, says in the early 1970s, she was a part of a buyers' club to get foods that weren't available in grocery stores. 

Mary Adams

As summer comes to a close, insects and arachnids have a lot of work to do to get ready for winter. That makes them especially visible in the fall. Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis says this year, he's seeing and hearing a lot more than usual about orb-weaver spiders. 

"We always see more spiders in the fall of the year because they reproduce and then die during the winter," Lewis says. "There are more than a hundred different kinds here in North America. This time of year you see those webs in the garden. Its their time to get that last gasp of food." 

Wikimedia Commons

Most of the time, there's more to what we say than the words we use. English language expert Patricia O'Connor says that the tone, volume and pitch of our voice, as well as our body language, plays a huge role in how we communicate. Those aspects of conversation are called paralanguage. 

"The para in paralinguistics  is taken from a Greek word. It means parallel or equal to but outside of language," she explains.  "The message is right there under the surface."

Wikimedia Commons

Thirty years ago this month, a handful of musicians including Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized a benefit concert for Midwestern farmers struggling to make ends meet during the farm crisis of the 1980’s.

George Naylor, who farms near Churdan and went to the first concert in Champaign, Illinois in 1985, says the morale boost the show afforded family farmers in Iowa was invaluable.

Emily Woodbury

The Yes Men have been pulling pranks and engaging in guerilla activism for 20 years. They’ve targeted the World Trade Organization, George W. Bush, big industry, and in their most recent film, they’re battling climate change.

"This latest film is addressed to the people who can actually make change, which is all of us," says Bichlbaum.

Alex / Flickr

It’s called the “makeup tax” – referring to the time, money, and energy spent by those who wear makeup.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion on makeup culture in the U.S. and why the cosmetic industry in the country is worth more than $62 billion.

Joining the show: Gigi Durham, professor and collegiate scholar at the University of Iowa, Rachel Weingarten, beauty historian and author of Hello Gorgeous!: Beauty Products in America '40s-'60s, and Caty Leonetti, a makeup artist from Des Moines.

Rachel Gardner / Flickr

Planting native plants in yards, gardens, fields, and roadsides is more popular than ever before, but maintaining a prairie plot is different from tending a more traditional lawn or landscape.

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks about prairie maintenance with Brad Riphagan, a field coordinator with Trees Forever. He and Iowa State University Extension horticulturist Richard Jauron also answer listener questions.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.