Getting Homes Winter Ready

2 hours ago
Pat Blank/IPR

People who need help with the cost of getting their home ready for winter can get it from Green Iowa AmeriCorps. Its programs help low income, elderly, disabled, and veteran households with such things as caulking, minor insulation, and eliminating drafts. Outreach coordinator, Brad James, says the program is about both education and assistance.

Flickr / Peter & Joyce Grace

The Friday after Thanksgiving can be a busy day for many of Iowa’s roughly 100 choose-and-harvest Christmas farms, as many growers sell their first trees of the season.

A number of Iowans still prefer buying a real tree, as opposed to an artificial one, though these trees require additional maintenance. One of the most important parts of Christmas tree maintenance is keeping the tree hydrated. 

Daniel Filipe/flickr

Plant fossils at the Palenteology Depository at the University of Iowa are getting a new home and a new reorganization so they can be more useful to researchers around the world. 

Collections manager Tiffany Adrain says more than 20,000 specimens collected over the last ten years will be catalogued for the first time.  

They’re also being rehoused in a safer environment.


It has been 30 years since a plane crash in a Des Moines neighborhood killed several members of the Iowa State University women's cross country team. Thursday, hundreds of people gathered at the crash site to remember those who were lost in that crash.  The team had just surprised even itself by placing second at the NCAA national championships in Milwaukee.

Jack Amick/Flickr

Mike Berners-Lee may not be an expert on the American Thanksgiving. A native of the United Kingdom, he's never actually had the pleasure of experiencing one. But as one of the world's leading researchers on the carbon footprint of—well—everything (he even wrote a book subtitled "The Carbon Footprint of Everything"), he's plenty familiar with the impacts of the foods that star in the traditional Thanksgiving Day spread.

Officials at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown say a new World War II memorial now graces the grounds of the institution, following the earlier placement of monuments for other wars.   

The memorial was dedicated last month, less than a year after a Des Moines service group took on the project.  

Commandante Jodi Tymeson says a veteran at the home requested the memorial.

Courtesy of the Museum of Danish America

When Danish immigrants settled in Western Iowa in the 19th century, they created two very different towns three miles apart: Kimballton and Elk Horn. Kimballton was composed of 'Happy Danes' and Elk Horn of 'Holy Danes.'

"One camp are the followers of a Danish theologian, N.F.S. Grundtvig" says Tova Brandt, curator of the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn. "He embraced a holistic approach to Danish faith and culture and community and he argued that those things couldn't be and shouldn't be separated." 

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Ted Cruz has surged to a virtual tie with Donald Trump according to the latest Quinnipiac poll of likely Republican caucus-goers here in Iowa. Trump continues to lead the polls, even after suggesting that there should be a database keeping track of Muslims in America. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Wayne Moyer of Grinnell Colleg about the new polls and about GOP rhetoric regarding whether the United States needs more intense screening procedures before welcoming Syrian refugees. 

IPR/Tony Dehner

Christmas will be here before we know it, and we firmly believe it's not too early to celebrate. Join IPR at the Basement venue of the Des Moines Social Club on December 3rd for A Conquered Christmas!

Iowa singer-songwriter Christopher The Conquered will be the host for this event, featuring classic songs of the season, along with new songs celebrating thankfulness, unity and love. There will be lots of surprises, including special guests that Chris hasn't even told us about yet!

On this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City's own Soul Phlegm takes the stage with their special brand of "blues roots outlaw funk." 

Listen in to hear host Ben Kieffer catch up with the band on their upcoming project, as well as tracks from their debut EP, "Phlourish." 

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Earlier this year, Des Moines, Iowa, made news when the city announced it would sue farmers in a legal battle over fertilizer. The city's water supply from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers often surpasses the legal limit for nitrates (10 mg/L), which commonly appear in water contaminated by runoff from farm fields.

Tim Sackton/Flickr

Despite the bird flu epidemic that devastated Midwest turkey farmers this spring, the price of a turkey this Thanksgiving is a little cheaper than last year.

This year's turkeys are ringing up one cent less per pound than in 2014, according to the USDA's most recent numbers.

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

On this Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe speaks with Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Nancy Simpson-Brice,  associated with Book Vault in Oskaloosa about their favorite books of the year and recommendations for gifts this holiday season.

Paul’s Picks

Finials: A View of Downtown IC by Marybeth Slonneger

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

The Branstad administration is planning to shift Iowans who benefit from Medicaid to private management on Jan. 1, a move that would impact more than 560,000 recipients.

The governor contends that private management companies can offer more efficient service and save money, while those who rely on the program are worried, including Iowa City resident Heather Young.

“My husband and I are doing everything we can to keep the ship afloat," Young says. "Even with our best efforts, if this thing goes through, this ship is going to get torpedoed."

Clay Masters / IPR

A new poll suggests Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz is gaining support among likely Iowa caucus-goers.  Quinnipiac University poll results released Tuesday show Cruz passing retire neurosurgeon Ben Carson to claim second place behind Donald Trump.  The same poll had Cruz with 10-percent support a month ago.  It now gives him 23-percent.  That’s a statistical tie with Trump’s 25-percent showing.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

About 50 people rallied outside the State Capitol Tuesday afternoon, in response to Gov. Terry Branstad’s order blocking Syrian refugees from settling in Iowa.

"Mr. Branstad I ask you to find it in your heart, to find the courage, and to stop being afraid of people that are different from you," said Samantha Thomas, the one of the rally's organizers and executive director of Global Arts Therapy, which does work with youth and refugees.

Versaland /

In his new book, author Courtney White points to the seemingly intractable challenges faced on earth: the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising food demands from a population that’s projected to rise from the current 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050, and the dwindling supply of fresh water.

Pat Blank/IPR

The Iowa Turkey Federation wants consumers to know that it’s safe to eat their product.

This summer’s avian influenza outbreak wiped out about 25 percent of the state’s turkey production facilities. The USDA has declared the emergency over and producers have begun re-populating their barns.

Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin says people were never in danger because sick birds never entered the food chain.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Iowa clergy submitted a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad’s office Monday afternoon, condemning what they call discrimination against Syrian refugees “on the basis of religion," and to "reject fear and cruelty" by welcoming them to the state.


Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer says the state is proceeding with a controversial plan to privatize the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled, in spite of a legal challenge by unsuccessful bidders for the contract. 

An administrative law judge will rule on complaints of irregularities in the choice of four companies to manage the more than four-billion dollar Medicaid program.     

Palmer says they’re proceeding with what they know.

“We'll operate from whatever we need to in response to that decision,” Palmer says.  

Taysaev / Wikimedia Commons

The terrorist attacks on Paris sparked an outpouring of support for people affected. The attacks in Beirut that day before did not. Why?

Daryl Cameron, assistant professor of social psychology and director at the Iowa Morality Lab at the University of Iowa, says it’s because we don’t respond to the people living in those places in the same way.

“We can imagine what its like to be someone in Paris going through this. It’s harder to think about what it’s like to be someone in Beirut,” he explains.

Rachel Knickmeyer/Flickr

If you receive a parking violation in Cedar Rapids during the next month, it could benefit a needy family or a homeless person. Cedar Rapids is now dismissing parking fines in exchange for gifts to homeless shelters and family service centers.

Downtown Parking Board Director, Doug Neumann, says the gifts should match the fine.


Governor Branstad Monday opened the door to the possibility of settling Syrian refugees in Iowa if a bill before Congress to tighten screening procedures becomes law.  

The bill would require that the director of the FBI and other top security officials approve all applicants from Syria and Iraq and assure they pose no threat.   

Otherwise, Branstad says letting the refugees in is not safe.

“If instead we're working as a country I'd feel much safer and more willing to do that,” Branstad says. 

Flickr / Vicki DeLoach

The Salvation Army kicked off its Red Kettle season on Friday. Bell ringers will collect spare change until Christmas Eve at 62 locations throughout metro Des Moines, and at many locations around Iowa.

The Christian charity organization hopes to raise $1.1 million over the next month in central Iowa.  The drive generates about 40-percent of its overall budget. Last year's kettle drive was disappointing, and the Salvation Army  had to dip into rainy-day reserves.

Blitzen Trapper have told different tales regarding the origin of their name, but the most plausible in the one about vocalist/guitarist Eric Earley's Junior High girlfriend.  She had a Trapper Keeper (loose-leaf binder) in school with pictures of Santa and his reindeer on it.  Her favorite reindeer was Blitzen.  Earley thought "hmmm, good name for my future band."  Actually, when the group began in Portland, Oregon in 2000 they had a totally different name- Garmonbozia.  By 2003 they had come to their senses and became Blitzen Trapper, self-releasing an album with that title.


Christian conservatives are weighing their options as the campaign  continues in Iowa for the Republican nomination for president.   Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson leads in Iowa polls among evangelicals.  Some pastors are shaking their heads that a non-politician is in the lead.   

Ron and Michelle Lovelein came to Des Moines Friday night from Eau Claire, Wisconsin for  a forum sponsored by the Christian conservative group The Family Leader.    They are keen on Ben Carson.

UK Department for International Development / Flickr

Governor Terry Branstad is one of more than 25 governors who have said no to helping Syrian refugees. That didn't stop Mayor Chris Taylor from proclaiming Wednesday that the eastern Iowa town of Swisher welcomes them.

National Weather Service

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jeff Zogg in Johnston describes the criteria for determining if weather events will be storms or if winter weather advisories are more appropriate. He gives advice about driving in the first snow and offers a look ahead to what travelers may expect for Thanksgiving.  


The federal government has reindicted three former Ron Paul staffers, in charges related to secret payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson for his endorsement of Paul for president in late 2011, shortly before the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucuses. A trial last month ended in a hung jury and a new trial for the staffers is set for December 14. 

Iowa State Center

Ring in the holidays with the arts! This month’s Iowa Arts Showcase features: