Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Wallace Centers of Iowa

When leaving a legacy, some families really know how to do it BIG TIME. The Wallace Family would be one for those families. Who are they? Why should we be interested? I am going to borrow some information from the website to help start off our experience at this wonderful place in rural Adair County.

Four generations of Henry Wallaces have profoundly influenced the development of American agriculture and agricultural policy. The impact of their activities has reached every corner of the world.

The first Henry WallaceHenry Wallace, the first editor of Wallaces' Farmer agricultural journal.The first Henry Wallace came to Iowa in 1862 as a Presbyterian minister, and co-founded  Wallaces' Farmer with his sons Henry C. and John in 1895. Through this publication, he became known as "Uncle Henry", helped establish Iowa State College as a premier agricultural research institution, and promoted the Agricultural Extension Service. When asked to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Wallace deferred to his friend James "Tama Jim" Wilson. He died in 1916. 
Henry C. WallaceHenry C. Wallace: farmer, college professor, editor, US Secretary of Agriculture. Son Henry C. Wallace was a professor at Iowa State College, editor of Wallaces' Farmer, co-founder of the American Farm Bureau Federation, and longtime secretary of the Corn Belt Meat Producers' Association. Henry C. worked hard to help farmers organize in associations and cooperatives. He served as Secretary of Agriculture for two presidents from 1921 until his unexpected death following surgery in 1924. 
Henry A. WallaceHenry A. Wallace: scientist, editor, politician, US Secretary of Agriculture, US Vice President, humanitarian.Grandson Henry A. Wallace graduated from Iowa State College and went to work for Wallaces' Farmer. In high school, Henry A. was already researching and breeding corn. He founded the Hi-Bred Corn Company in 1926, now known as Pioneer, A DuPont Company. Henry A. served as Depression-era U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933-1940, implementing revolutionary farm policies and programs for resource conservation and economic stabilization, many of which have remained in place into recent times. From 1953 to 1996, programs he designed to assure family-scale farmers support of commodity prices in the marketplace through supply management and on-farm grain storage were eventually weakened or phased out. Parallel to this has been a dramatic consolidation of farm units and a massive out-migration of population from America’s rural landscapes into urban settings. As Vice President from 1940-1944, Wallace traveled widely. He became Secretary of Commerce until 1946, and then ran for president in 1948. After his defeat, he retired from politics to write, travel, give speeches and farm. He died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 1965. 
Henry B. (H.B.) WallaceHenry B. Wallace: scientist, businessman, environmentalist.Great-grandson Henry B. (H.B.) Wallace did for chickens what his father had done for corn. In 1939 he took over the fledgling hybrid poultry division of Pioneer Hi-Bred. His efforts icreased egg production and industrialized the egg and broiler business. The pouktry division became Hy-Line Internation, the world's oldest layer genetics company. H.B. died in 2005.  

Now THAT is a family legacy! And lucky for us that legacy continues today at the Wallace Country Life Center nearby Orient, in Adair County. The Country Life Center is a self-sustaining farm and restaurant that showcases seasonal produce grown on the farm. Their goal is to utilize and highlight sustainable agriculture, supporting local food growers and providing an opportunity for education about farming and sustainability.

Also at the Country Life Center is The Gathering Table restaurant, a very unique restaurant experience led by Chef Katie Routh. The menu changes depending on the season and what produce is available, making each experience unique and surprising. Chef Katie also holds cooking classes at different times throughout the year. At our visit I got Sarah to agree to try lunch there. The menu was very unique for a small town. Sarah chose pork and veggie meatballs, made from Bridgewater Farms ground pork, roasted eggplant and tomatoes, served with basil Israeli cous cous.

I chose the Beef and Vegetable Tacos. Braised Cory Farms sirloin tip, shredded, with salsa verde, cilantro lime slaw and pico de gallo. I LOVED the food, the presentation and creative use of ingredients. VERY unexpected in a rural setting.

We also sampled the dessert offerings that day, Sarah had an ice cream filled cookie with a chocolate and caramel sauce and I had a chocolate cake with apricot sauce, almonds and whipped cream.

After dessert we thought we better walk off some of those calories! The Center is a large complex of trails and interesting artworks and restored prairie, fish ponds, wild flowers and loads of beautiful Iowa countryside.

We walked around the working farm gardens as well and got to see the people actually hand weeding and tending to the vegetables that are grown for use in the restaurant and as part of the Center's CSA program. 

The Center is very involved in community activities as well, providing education, entrepreneurial guidance, and standing out as a leader in sustainable farming. They also have rental facilities for meetings, weddings and other activities. Several bed and breakfasts are in the area as well the historic and would make a great overnight visit to rural Iowa!

August 2013 mmc

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Off we go.....into the wild blue yonder.......

Aviation is fascinating to me. From the silly commercials on tv showing the earliest attempts at flight to modern military aircraft, I have always had a love for flying. Even as a little girl when we first moved to Des Moines from Minnesota, we lived near the airport and I loved watching the planes fly over our house. I don't get to fly very much but just getting to see planes in museums and airshows makes me happy. So I was so excited to discover that right here, in Adair County, we have the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame !

It was a baking hot day when Sarah and I made our way around Adair County checking out the interesting places to visit. The aviation museum was one of our first stops early in the day, but an airplane hangar is not a cool place by any means, and bless his heart, the kind gentleman who gave us the tour that day was a real trooper. I was ready to DIE and he was ready to talk all day !

We started off by me just standing in awe of the A7 Corsair mounted outside the building. Growing up in Des Moines the Air National Guard stations and the "Blue Lights" viewing area in a huge part of my childhood. So to get to see this wonderful piece of Iowa military history and actually lay my hands on it......well, it was quite an experience.

Entering the museum, where it was nice and cool, there were loads and loads of interesting items on display. Flight suits, news clippings, photographs, articles in frames. Military and civilian planes and stories and articles of all kinds. Even the newspaper articles about the plane crash that took the life of Buddy Holly and several other musicians was there. 

After looking at many displays in the museum building we were taken on a tour of the hangar. Wow, just wow. So many amazing planes, gliders, engines, engine parts- I don't even think I can list everything we saw!! You really need to experience this amazing place yourself to appreciate the pristine quality of the planes, all of which actually flew into the airport and drove into the hangar and very likely can still fly.

There is no way I can remember everything he told us about each plane- there was just so much information. We just enjoyed story after story and admired the aircraft of days gone by. 

They have a full listing of all the aircraft in the hangar on their website,, some of which are the last or one of the last two in existence. 

We posed for pictures with different equipment. Sarah took the seat at the controls of a DC10. 

We both decided to have a silly pic taken with a cartoon character. It was great fun.

On the north end of the hangar is the Hall of Fame. In this room you will find framed photos of the various flying pioneers with an Iowa connection, from the earliest years of flight to astronauts. 

The USAF SR71 Blackbird- my favorite of all military aircraft, and they were based
at the air force base we lived nearby in England years ago. I got to see them fly everyday.

Display cabinets line the walls with donated collections of memorabilia, and a wall of glass blocks is etched with the names of the many donors that helped make this unique attraction possible.

The Iowa Aviation Museum is really a true treasure to have here in our area. It's a quick drive from Des Moines, and the city of Greenfield offers lots of options for a lunch or dinner to go along with your road trip. This truly is a must-see destination.

August 2013 mmc

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Patriotism, one Iowan's perspective

Patriotism is a big subject during these trying times for our nation. Many people tend to think only the bigger cities have monuments dedicated to our fallen, current and past veterans, and future military men and women, and that the small towns are just farm towns. In Iowa, they couldn't be more mistaken.

Just off of Interstate 80 at the Greenfield, IA exit is one such monument, one that is carefully, thoughtfully and with great dedication, repainted every year before Memorial Day to honor our military heroes. I'm sure the artist has been interview many dozens of times, and told his story many dozens of times, but it's one of such dedication and humbleness that it should be told again and again.

Inspired by the movie "Saving Private Ryan" the artist, Ray "Bubba" Sorensen felt a need to honor our veterans in his own personal way. As a very gifted artist, he does just that, each year starting over and repainting most of the Freedom Rock with a new theme honoring our servicemembers and their sacrifice.

The helicopter side of the Rock will never be repainted, as the green paint contains
the cremains of several Vietnam veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice.
He does this not because he has to, or is paid to, but because it is his way of giving back. The Freedom Rock has become such a dear Iowa treasure, now people donate to help cover the costs of materials needed to complete the new murals each year. That's just how we do things here in the midwest, we support one another. 

Adair County's wonderful treasure has caught on! In the last year a program has been launched in which each of Iowa's 99 counties can raise the funds and provide a boulder and location for their own Freedom Rock, which Ray will travel to, and complete. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and journalist Kyle Munson were important leaders in getting this program off the ground.

Family and friends of those who served often place memorial items
on a pole next to the Rock. It's hard to put into words the sense of loss.
You might also notice many of the small towns in West Central Iowa have large murals in their towns, usually a city park or the side of a very visible building. Ray paints murals all over the country now but has not forgotten the humble beginning in Iowa......that all started with a rock, a dream, and a few cans of paint.......

You can learn more about the Rock, see galleries of past murals and much more at

August 2013, mmc

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Port- Iowa's Best Kept Secret

In Guthrie County, on quiet and beautiful Lake Panorama, sits one of Iowa's true gems. Away from the long waits and unbearable crowds is The Port on Lake Panorama. Whether you're looking for a quiet spot for a romantic evening overlooking the beautiful sunset, or a casual get together with friends at the Tiki Bar, you can experience it all at The Port. Celebrating 40 years in 2013, and open seven days a week they offer a varied menu from appetizers to steaks and seafood, as well as a prime rib buffet on weekend nights, and Sunday brunch each week. Holidays are also special at The Port with Thanksgiving Day Buffet, Mother's Day Brunch and more !

Besides being a wonderful local spot for dining, The Port also offers new special themed events, such as the Olde Main Brewing Co. Beer and Food Pairing Dinner, held on May 31st. Olde Main Brewing Co. opened in October, 2004 led by brewmaster Puff Irvin. The event was a sell out, which tells you- when it comes to food and drink, The Port offers top notch service !

We began our culinary adventure with a brief story shared by the brewmaster, Puff Irvin. He shared how he got his start, how the business came to be, and offered a lot of interesting and informative facts that a lot of beer drinkers probably don't know! He also explained how to get the best tasting experience from your beer and why a glass is so important.

As the first beer, Longface Amber Ale, was being served he explained the brewing process, the flavor notes of that particular beer and the difference in alcohol content. This particular beer had a mild sweetness and a finish with a hint of caramel.  

The chef paired this beer selection with an antipasti platter, a colorful plate of Genoa salami and coppicola, marinated olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and a selection of cheeses. Just like during wine and food pairings, drinking and smelling the beer before and after eating food gives you two totally different flavor profiles.

The second beer was Olde Main Off Kilter Scottish Ale, which was also an amber colored beer. Brewed in the Scottish style without hops and a lot of malt this beer boasted coffee flavors and a subtle sweetness. With this beer the chef paired two light dishes, the first being a cold Cucumber Avocado and Lime soup, which was a smooth, refreshing and sophisticated blend of flavors and textures, with the smooth soup garnished with diced avocado and tomato. 

Served alongside with soup was a Greek salad with fresh green pepper, tomato, kalamata olives and feta cheese tossed in a light Greek vinaigrette.

For the third course Puff introduced us to Olde Main's Dinky Wheat, a Belgian style wheat ale. 

Dinky Wheat has notes of coriander, orange peel and chamomile along with a secret ingredient. A lot of us who like wheat ales like to add a wedge of orange to bring out the citrus notes, but this fabulous brew already had citrus notes brewed in. It was my favorite of the night.

The chef's selection for this delicious beer was a light and flavorful pasta dish. Linguine tossed with sun dried tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, slices of marinated chicken breast, cannellini beans, garlic, olive oil, garlic, a splash of white wine and slices of grilled chorizo tossed in to kick up the flavor. This dish was so delicious and was the perfect match for the Dinky Wheat.

Our fourth and final beer of the evening was the Sodbuster Stout Ale- a dark, thick and rich brew made with malt that had been roasted in a coffee roaster to bring out the deep dark coffee and chocolate flavors. The aroma of the stout in the glass reminded me of a wonderful espresso.

Our dinner was brought to a delicious finale by the chef's amazing Creme Brulee. There was no better dessert to pair with the warm espresso and chocolate notes of the stout. The smooth vanilla custard and crunchy caramelized sugar topping were flawless.

As much as everyone enjoyed Puff's presentation and expertise at his craft, the meal would not have been possible without the amazing kitchen craftwork of Chef Joe Riccio. He spent a lot of evenings brainstorming and planning and researching to come up with a perfect four course dinner. Even though this was a one-time event, Joe is hard at work every week at The Port where they offer nightly specials, homemade soups and a weekend prime rib buffet with an ever-changing menu. Stop in for dinner sometime and enjoy the beautiful scenery, delicious menu and friendly staff.   ~mmc, June 2, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

After all, Iowa IS a farm state, but Windfarms ??

Renewable energy. That's been the buzzword for some time now. Since the gas shortages of the 70s to high prices of today, we are always looking for newer, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly ways to generate power to keep our tech gadget-dependent society plugged in and connected.

Ever since Ben Franklin discovered electricity humans have been studying ways to make more, and more, and more. But who discovered WIND energy ? That's an ages old answer. Humans have been using the wind for centuries, to power windmills to grind grains, to propel sailboats across bodies of water. Years of experimentation and research have led to a new kind of Iowa farm- the Wind Farm.

Adair County is home to one of the largest wind farms in Iowa, and you can see the massive turbines for miles as you drive alone Interstate 80. On the west-bound side of the interstate the Adair rest stop is dedicated to the history and development of the wind farm and features an actual turbine blade. The sheer size of the blade gives you an idea of how MASSIVE these turbines really are, even tho they seem so small spread out over the farmland.

I stood beneath this incredible blade and it just seems to go on forever ! 

At the base of the blade there is a plaque that explains how the turbines work, who the manufacturer is, and a lot of other information.

Even though it's technically a rest area on the interstate, it's also a goldmine of information. The walls are lined with tiles that provide facts and figures about the turbines and how they work. 

For a weather buff like me, the tiles provided a wonderful learning experience- about so many things about Iowa wind and weather patterns I have never heard before. 

Pretty incredible to think about the amount of energy generated, just from the wind that's part of every day life on Earth.

And the wind never goes away..............
~~ Monica, April 5, 2013