Back in the 'hood? Friday, 5/27/16

Because of the three-day Memorial Day weekend, we got a move on early to snag a site at first-come, first-served Black Hawk Park in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  We lucked up and got the last available site, signing up for three nights ($18/night) -- in a nice pull thru with electric, at the edge of a forest.

What better place to spend Memorial Day than in the Heartland of America -- Iowa, and all that she conjures:  cornfields and farmland, rolling hills and silos, patriotic and friendly folk, front porches with red, white, and blue bunting, Mom's apple pie (just kidding about that one, I didn't see any apple trees) and even an Iowa boy named Marion Morrison, who might not have been the famous actor he became if he hadn't changed his name to John Wayne.

I had a special reason for being here ... to revisit the city and home where I lived as a youth fresh out of high school, a very long time ago.  Truthfully, more than 50 years have passed since then, a lifetime ago for me.  Cedar Falls is where my paternal grandparents lived, where my Dad and his sisters grew up; a quiet place in middle America.  This was a way station for me, a spot between point A and point B for my gypsy feet -- my home in Niagara Falls and the land where I wanted to be:  California.  I spent nearly a year in this house with my grandmother (Grandpa had passed earlier that year), and I was company for her.  But I couldn't stay; for me, it was, "California, here I come!"

It's still a lovely-looking home, although I didn't see a porch swing.  It looks loved, well cared-for, and I'm glad.  Our family has scattered to the four corners of this nation and I don't think we have relatives in Cedar Falls, none known to me anyway.  Jimmy asked me if I thought I'd ever come back, if I'd ever see the house or the city again.  It wasn't on my radar, I guess, 'cause I didn't think about returning, not in all my travels.  Iowa was just middle America and not a destination, I thought ... till today.  Now, I'm happy to have made it back, relive some good memories, and show it to Jimmy, tell him all about it. 

We have three days to spend, to look around, ride our bikes.  Cedar Valley has extensive bike trails.  Black Hawk c/g is full of holiday revelers, lots of people.  It's very, very green here.  Ponds, sloughs, creeks, streams, low places, and the Cedar River -- water is everywhere.  Weather forecasts call for rain and/or thunderstorms (that stuff is following us or something!).

Cottonwood or Willow "snow" -- airborne fluff that looks like snow dots the pond.

We managed a short bike ride to get an overview of the park, and a look-see at the river.

As we've seen in these Midwestern states, rivers and streams are at or above flood stage, fast and wild.  I had no idea the river was this BIG!  It's cloudy.  Expect more rain!

We had beau coup chores to take care of today, laundry and etc.,  and we got it all done, plus a bit of touring the town.

The old gas station on 1st Street is now a visitor center.

Enlarge the picture if you can't read the text.  A Danish newspaper was printed in Cedar Falls from 1882-1954, which drew a lot of Danish settlers to the city.  My grandmother was from Denmark.  My granddad was a merchant tailor from Sweden.  They married and settled in Cedar Falls in the early 1900's.

Near the visitor center is the Little Red Schoolhouse, which we checked out.

One room for all grades.

This is the teacher?
He's the apple of my eye! 

It may be redundant to say it rained today, but it did.
Happy Memorial Day, everybody!

Down on the dairy farm! Thursday, 5/26/16

Oh my goodness, if this wasn't a fun place to overnight!  When Jimmy called Jeanne at Hansen's Dairy Fresh Farm in Hudson, Iowa, to ask about us staying there Thursday night, her answer was YES.  Hansen's is our fourth Harvest Host stopover this trip, and each HH site has been completely different from the others and each has been good.  Hansen's has been the most entertaining, so far! 

Where in the state is Hudson?  A bit south of Waterloo/Cedar Falls.  An easy drive for us from the night before.  We had no idea what to expect; neither of us had ever been to a dairy farm.  We were willing to give it a try, even tho everybody knows that cows produce, uh ... smelly manure!   Well, we'd find out.

Hansen's is designated as a Heritage Farm, which means it's been owned by the same family for 150 years. It's also a designated site in the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area. Jay and Jeanne Hansen are the sixth generation and their grown sons are actively involved at the farm.  After Jay introduced himself and we chatted about ourselves and the farm, he asked Jimmy if he'd brought fishing poles with him!  Of course he did!  The pond is 27 feet deep and full of Bluegill, so have at it! Jimmy made a quick run to a local store for night crawlers, and we fished.  First time we've been fishing in I-don't-remember-when.  This was just the beginning of a great afternoon.

We caught Bluegills, and I caught one catfish, which we released, and then we both caught "sunnies" repeatedly, which were too small to keep.  I figured it was the same dumb fish over and over!  Maybe we had enough fish in the bucket for dinner!

This was so interesting to me.  The Bluegills were spawning.  The males make a depression in the warm, shallow water, hoping to entice a female to join him.  Sort of like Salmon, only a lot smaller. The females lurked just beyond.  These little guys were fiercely defensive of their nesting holes.  If you enlarge the pic, you'll see a male in nearly each hollow.  (Tergel is parked on the gravel driveway next to the pond, just out of the picture to the left.)

Sunfish suspended?  

A beautiful new dome center is adjacent to the farm.

Farm tours are offered and Jimmy and I decided to "do" a complete hands-on tour, meeting in the dome at 3:30, after fishing. The tour included lots of things, beginning with a small cup of their 1% pasteurized but not homogenized milk, quite tasty and no ill effects ....

First was calf feeding!  This day-old calf just about pulled my arms out of my shoulder sockets, he pulled so hard on the nipple.  Little fella was strong!  The milk in the bottle is his own mom's.  Jimmy fed a calf, too, and said the same thing.  The calves were capital H-hungry!  I didn't wear fancy clothes for touring a dairy farm!

Each calf born is named with the first letter of it's mom; as in, Apple would have a calf named Agatha, and so on.  That way the farm can keep track of the line.

Next up was the air-conditioned milking "shed."  Perhaps a milking "parlor?"  Anyway, the cows are milked right here and they're very, very ready to be relieved.  Nice to be in where it's cool on a hot day.  The cows are milked every day at 4 am and 4 pm.  Every single day.

All right now ... my turn!  Here I am, and if you look closely, I am actually milking this cow; never have before this day.  Milking a cow may not have been on my nonexistent bucket list, but if it was, I can cross it off!  Joyce, our excellent tour guide in the background, was amused.

Ohhh, Jimmy's turn!  He milked the faucet on the right, but he said the cow couldn't turn off the other faucet, the one on the left!!   

Four young people were in our tour group, probably seniors in high school -- one guy and three girls, one of whom was wearing flipflops!  Yikes, in a barn, no less!  The young lady above was trying to protect herself from an overly-friendly cow kiss!  Get back, Bertha!

The Hansen's herd numbers about 175 purebred Holsteins, each with a name.
Hello, Aligator, spelled with one "L".

After visiting the cow barn, learning about silage and hearing about on-farm processing and so much more (most of which neither of us retained, but it seemed interesting at the time), we moved on to:  wait, that's not a cow ... it's a 'roo I'm petting!  A Red Kangaroo, named Pogo, with soft, velvety fur.  A kangaroo serves as mascot for the farm, and they have three here, two friendly females, and one aloof male.  Kangaroos squint, who knew?  She'd dug this round dirt pit, and was still working at it. Geez, we're on a roll here, we'd never been close to a kangaroo before, much less touched one, or watched one hop around!  Cool beans!

Jay, on his tractor, gives trolley rides from the dome to the farm and back.

When Jay returned us to the dome, we were in for a treat.  Joyce handed each of us a small container with cold raw milk.  We were to hold the container in both hands and shake it like mad, till our arms fell off or till we'd made BUTTER!  Both in my case!  By golly, we did it.  Another bucket list item checked off.  Joyce brought a salt shaker to the table and said to add a pinch to our patty of butter, and then handed out saltine crackers.  This was good.  Real good.  Butter and crackers were followed by home made ice cream from the freezer.  I picked the butter pecan as you see, and I tell you true, this was THE BEST ice cream I've ever tasted.  Bar none.  (They only use half the sugar others use.) By now, it was 5 pm, and we've just enjoyed an appetizer and dessert, so supper was "lite!"  We left our shoes by Tergel's door and hosed ourselves down in a cool shower, which felt wonderful.  It was pretty warm in Tergel.

Believe it or not, while parts of our tour included a free manure fragrance, we slept with windows open and smelled nary a whiff of cow flops.  What a great day we had, very enjoyable.

Jimmy cleaned those cute little fishies we caught and we stuck 'em in a baggie in the fridge.  Supper the next night at Black Hawk Park was fresh steamed asparagus, baked potatoes and pan-fried Bluegills.  Small, but delicious!  Yum.

The End!


One down, two to go! May 24/25, 2016

222 miles east of North Platte Nebraska along I-80 is Pawnee State Recreation Area, a sort of off-the-beaten-track pearl on Pawnee Lake.  Situated roughly 25 miles west of Lincoln, Nebraska's state capital, Pawnee SRA isn't a well-known stop for travelers because it isn't easy to get to.  But, I can promise you, it's a beauty.

A bargain at only twenty bucks, with electric hookup, it had convenient water and a dump station.   It was time for all of these things for us.  Quiet, clean and very, very green.  On a bluff with a lake view, our site was still so private that we didn't bother to close curtains or windows ... till later. The sun was shining when we arrived, but the air was warm and humid; you could almost feel rain in the air.    

Jimmy standing with a friend, an unhappy-looking guy.

Nebraska really is this green!

After setting up, we took a nice walk in the park

I am enjoying the view.

I've seen more turkeys in Nebraska than anywhere else.  They were all over the place.

As you may have guessed, a big ol' loud thunderstorm woke us from a sound sleep, lightning like strobe lights flashing through our bedroom window and in our eyes.  I bolted from bed to close the windows.  This is what? the fourth T-storm since we left home!  We aren't used to these showy, loud storms at all.  Volatile spring weather.  No wonder it's so green!

* * * * * * * *

The next morning, under clear skies, we pointed our nose east toward IOWA!  Passing through Lincoln, we crossed the broad Missouri.  Like all the creeks, streams and rivers as we've traveled in Nebraska, the water was muddy-looking.  Here's an oxymoron:  The Blue River that we crisscrossed several times wasn't ... it looked like milk chocolate.

Seward, Nebraska's Courthouse
A pic taken on the fly as Jimmy drove us from Pawnee SRA toward I-80.

Tiny corn plants give a blush of green on a field wet with last night's rain.

A tumbledown old barn makes a good sepia image.
We spied quite a few properties abandoned, gone to rack and ruin.

We didn't expect to see so many wind turbines along the way, but we did, tho not all were mixed in with silos.  Tergel cruised along this stretch with a tail wind, yeehaw!

Have you ever seen one of the wind turbine blades as they're trucked from factory to set-up location? Look at the length of this one blade!  These things are huge!  

This Lazy Daze camper passed us twice on I-80 (prob stopped at a rest area), towing a small sailboat with a hobby horse along for the ride.  It had to make everyone who saw it giggle.

* * * * * * * *

Harvest Hosts asks that you call the location where you want to overnight to give them a courtesy 24-hour notice.  When I called Tracy at Dale Valley Winery in Stuart, Iowa, she said, come on in!  So, that's our  destination.  DVW is actually eight miles north of Stuart on Iowa's scenic Western Skies Byway, a hilly, very pretty drive.  And now we can check Iowa off the "ain't been there list!"  Only two left to go.

Tergel is comfortable at the edge of DVW's vineyard.
We could see tiny clusters of grapes on some of the newly-green vines. 

You can see Tergel parked under the trees in the background (center).

Another warm, humid day, this time in Iowa.  We're not used to humid weather anymore (I never was), but we took off anyway down the gravel driveway for an explore of the town. Town?

First, cross the Raccoon River.

The site of the former Lonsdale Mill (sign reads:  Lonsdale Mill 1858-1914).  Tracy is a direct descendant of the the original settlers of Lonsdale, now shortened to Dale.  If we thought Pawnee SRA was a a bit out of the way, Dale is in the middle of nowhere!  

Small, but personable!  I think we met nearly all 13 people in a few hours and chatted with half.  Most everybody in Dale knew we were California visitors, out walkin' in the heat! Nice people here.

We spotted this ramshackle old house on our walk, convinced it had to be unoccupied.  Nope, Tracy said later, an elderly lady (as in 101-yr-old) still lived there.  Looked like the house might have been even older!  Wowzers!  We didn't meet her, however.

The scenery is just so lush and verdant.

The wine tasting room is Inside the old white schoolhouse.  Jimmy made a friend with Betsy, who loved to be held, as you can see.  It's a great place for wine tasting.  Outside the schoolhouse is an outdoor venue that can accommodate a good-sized crowd.  We were lucky to fit in here when it was quiet.

Above is our peaceful view outside Tergel's dinette window; we were so comfortable here. Tracy and Ed were perfect Harvest Hosts.  Jimmy and I crawled into bed fairly early, again leaving curtains and windows open, inviting in cool air.  I've been wanting to hear owls on this trip, and finally tonight I fell asleep listening to an owl call, hoooo, hoooo.  I smiled to myself.  Then, by gum, if we weren't jolted awake in the middle of the night by a violent thunderstorm! Second night in a row!  I leapt out of bed, dashing to close windows against wind-driven rain.  All but our bedroom window, away from the rain.  When all the storm hullabaloo was over and it grew quiet, I listened and again heard -- Hoooo, hoooo, hoooo.  Very, very cool.