Talk of Iowa

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.

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."

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.

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.

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."

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.

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."

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.

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