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.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation / Wikimedia Commons

Every once in a while we hear about a child musical prodigy who can play an instrument better than most of us could ever dream of playing.  Few of these prodigies become adult stars, but Chris Thile is an exception. 

Thile started playing mandolin with the band Nickel Creek when he was only 8 years old, and he won his first Grammy at age 16.  Today, he fronts the band Punch Brothers and has been named a MacArthur Genius. Starting in early 2016, he’s going to be taking over as host of A Prairie Home Companion for Garrison Keillor.

Wikimedia Commons

Before modern fencing, farmers planted rows of hedge shrubs to keep their animals on their property. Today those hedges are considered a nuisance. Cows can choke on the fruit shed by the bushes, and while some believe hedge apples repel spiders, hedge balls have widely been considered useless.

That’s until chemist Todd Johnson from Burlington discovered the seeds from the fruit contain some of the same anti-inflammatory properties as aspirin and some of the same antimicrobial properties as penicillin.

Courtesy of Joseph Firecrow

Joseph Firecrow remembers growing up on the reservation and listening to the elders play the flute. He started learning the instrument when he was 18 and says a true Cheyenne flute player hasn’t mastered the craft until he can both play and make a flute.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa-based magician Nate Staniforth wants to bring wonder back to the modern world. He’s been practicing magic since he was about 10 years old and is on a mission to encourage people to embrace the unknown.

“Whatever happens at a magic show is tapping into something that fundamentally human,” he says. “If you perform at a kid’s party, it’s the adults in the back that are watching most closely. I think that’s because it reminds us of something we’ve lost… a sense of wonder, maybe.”

Univ. of Colorado

Nervous about how your son or daughter will do at the big university?  Now, what if she found this assignment on her syllabus: "Understand Batman as an historically and culturally specific character," with one lecture called "Batman: The Long Halloween."  Or how about this assignment: "Does Harry Potter have a role in shaping your decision-making?"  Or this essay assignment: "Loyalty and Wit: Friendship and the Formation of Dumbledore's Army."

Lori L. Stalteri / Flickr

Growing plants organically, whether done on acres of farmland or a backyard garden, can be tricky work. Iowa State University Extension Organic Specialist Kathleen Delate joins Host Charity Nebbe on this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa. Delate explains what cover crops are and how they can improve soil quality by infusing it with nitrogen and carbon and preventing soil erosion, nitrate leaching, and ground water pollution. Delate also discusses the uses and benefits of composting.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

According to the National Retail Federation, 157 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this weekend. As a nation, we’re expected to spend more than $6.9 billion on the holiday, with most of the expense going toward costuming.

Author Lesley Bannatyne says costuming around Halloween has been growing in popularity since the 1880’s.

“When newspapers first started writing articles about the holiday, Victorian hostesses loved it,” she explains. “It has some spookiness. It was edgy. It was a little bit romantic.”

Olivia Godfrey

The 2015 high school cross country season is drawing to a close. The state meet will be hosted this weekend in Fort Dodge, and this marks the first year that girls and boys will race the same distance.

The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has slowly been increasing the distance high school girls race, at the dismay of some rural coaches who warned that the move to a 5k instead of a 4k could destroy the sport. 

Open Road Media

Iowan Ray Young Bear has been publishing poetry since 1968.  His new book, "Manifestation Wolverine" (Open Road Media),  is a comprehensive collection of his work, previously published and new--work that draws on ancient Meskwaki lore and modern popular culture.  He says his poetry is a link to the writings of his grandfathers.

Asia Society / Flickr

Louie Psihoyos first made waves in water and in cinematic circles in 2009 with his Academy Award-winning documentary about dolphins "The Cove." Now, the Dubuque-native is expressing his passion for protecting the Earth once again in his new film "Racing Extinction."

Brittany Stevens / Flickr

Banned Books week was originally conceived around the titular bans. But Maeve Clark, Adult Services Coordinator at the Iowa City Public Library, says, in 2015, there are other issues of intellectual freedom to worry about.

One of those issues is "self-censorship," when librarians choose to solely stock shelves with non-controversial books. One rural librarian in Iowa, who declined to share her name, says rural libraries face different challenges than urban ones.

Alfred A. Knopf

Jane Smiley, who grew up near St. Louis, graduated from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and taught English at Iowa State from 1981 to 1996, has completed her "Last Hundred Years" literary trilogy with the final volume "Golden Age" (Alfred A.

Courtest of 261 Fearless

Runner and author Kathrine Switzer first made headlines in 1967 when the Boston Marathon race commissioner yanked her from the course by her sweatshirt. Today, she’s written three books and tours the world spreading her message that anybody can run a marathon. She was keynote speaker at the IMT Marathon in Des Moines’ pasta dinner which took place Sunday, October 18.

She says it was great to see so many women running the marathon in Des Moines given the fact that women have really only recently been able to enter those races.

Terry Gilliam spent the first 12 years of his life in Minnesota, but he would go on to become the one of the most beloved entertainers in British history.

He is one of the founding members of Monty Python and the man responsible for the art and animation that defined the look of the group.  He has a new memoir out, called Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir.

When asked how he feels about imitators, or people who have been inspired by his work, Gilliam says he feels proud.

Gregory Chittim / Flickr

Not long ago air conditioners were running full blast, but alas, winter is coming. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, home improvement expert Bill McAnally joins host Charity Nebbe to talk heating and cooling alternatives such as the mini split heat pump, and he gives some advice about putting on storm windows to keep the cold outside. 

Wikimedia Commons

Some of Iowa's farmers are crediting optimal growing weather into harvest season for a plentiful bounty this fall. Wayne Johnson, who farms near Forest City, says his yield this year could be a once in a lifetime event. 

"We had five farms go over 70 [bushels per acre]. Our typical is in the 50 to 55 bushel range, so it's a lifetime soybean harvest for us," he says. 

According to Iowa State University Extension Agronomist Mark Licht, Johnson is not alone. 

Pumpkin Season Has Returned

Oct 16, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of your personal feelings about pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin season is here. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, Linda Naeve of the Value Added Agriculture Program at Iowa State University Extension speaks with Charity Nebbe about the squash family, where to find pumpkin patches, and the many dishes pumpkins can create.

"I'm a pumpkin fan myself," Naeve says. "There's pumpkin muffins, pumpkin squash soup, there's pumpkin scones. You can put pumpkin in just about anything and, I think, make it taste good with those spices."

Penguin Random House

Banker, lecturer and co-author of the new book "A Path Appears; Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity," Sheryl WuDunn, was invited to Des Moines to share her ideas from the front lines of social progress with participants in the "Borlaug Dialogue" of the World Food Prize.

Courtesy of Live Like Line's Facebook page / https://www.facebook.com/livelikeline

In August of 2011, 17-year-old Caroline Found of Iowa City died in a moped accident. Two weeks later her mother, Ellyn, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together, grieved, and became stronger.

"You can't get around your grief, you can't get over it, you can't get under it," says Bill Hoeft, author of Live Like Line, Love Like Ellyn; One Community’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph. "But you can move forward and honor the people that you've lost."

Iowa State University College of Design

The act of making art can be powerful on a personal level, but it can also be a powerful force in a community. 

"Public art is like locally grown food," says Tom Stancliffe, art professor and sculptor at the University of Northern Iowa. "There's value in having the people around you shape the space."

Gretchen Dehner

Walter and Wagner Caldas grew up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Their parents introduced them to classical music, urging them to stay away from drugs and violence. That push was the start of a remarkable journey.

"We started by ourselves," says Walter Caldas. "People would make fun of us. But then, this guy in Brazil started teaching music for the kids in the community, so they don't go through the same pattern of drug dealing and stuff. So that made it a little easier for us; we are not alone."

Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan

Whether a person loves squirrels for their acrobatics or wishes they would leave the bird feeders alone, squirrels are here to stay.  Over the years, wildlife biologist Jim Pease has collected more than twenty names Iowans have given ground squirrels, ranging from "squinneys" to "liners." 

During this Talk of Iowa program, he talks with host Charity Nebbe about diets,  habitats, ground squirrels and tree squirrels.

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.”

Daniel Hartwig / Flickr

In Iowa, state-specific history is taught in fourth grade. For most Iowans, that's the last they'll learn about their state's past. Tom Morain, Director of Government Relations at Graceland University and former head of State Historical Society of Iowa, is working to change that. He's developed a curriculum, an online course he's dubbed Iowa 101, that anyone, anywhere in or out of state, can access and participate in.

Louis / Flickr

When Alyssa Varner’s college apartment was torn apart by a tornado in 2006, it got her thinking about the weather.

“I started thinking about tornadoes as villains,” she says. “I was living with 9 other people in a house, and we were all scrambling because of the tornado. It didn’t hit the house next to us, and I got to thinking about how selective severe weather can be.”

Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

  Over the last few months, Beth Howard has traveled more than 30,000 miles and has visited 9 countries and has made 211 pies as a part of her “World Piece” tour. She set out to learn about pie around the world and spread the joy that pie making adds to her life. What she found was both good and bad.

“I went to a refugee camp in Syria with my host to give away some pie, and it was really hard. The family I visited had been living in a tent in the camp for two years,” she says.

Seney Natural History Association

As agriculture and new construction in Iowa continue to expand and occupy Iowa's wildlife habitat, humans are in contact with predators like coyotes more and more. Like a caller said today during the our broadcast, one of the ways to handle that problem is to kill the predators that threaten domestic pets and backyard chickens. 

But author John Shivik says there’s another way. “Moving forward, we need to balance lethal versus non-lethal methods of dealing with predators. We can biologically deal with the issue instead of killing them to make ourselves feel better.”  

Courtesy of the Clinton Lumber Kings

Joyce Wilkerson has been going to as many Clinton Lumber Kings games as she can since the early 1990’s. She keeps coming back because she loves the stadium, the fans and the team. “There’s no time in baseball; I love that.”

Vera Kratochvil/Wikimedia Commons

It may not feel like it yet, but it is officially fall. This hour on Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardnes in Ames, and Iowa State University Extension horticulture expert Richard Jauron about spring blooming bulbs. It’s best to get them in the ground before the first frost, sometime in early fall. 

Jauron says that when you’re talking about tulips and daffodils, it works best to plant between 15 and 20 bulbs in a clump.

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