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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Springtime in Adair County

It's been one of those looong painful winters. Snowy days, bad roads, just not the best time to be out and about. So when April rolls around Sarah and I have a SERIOUS case of cabin (office) fever and can't wait to get back out there.

We decided on a visit to Adair County this time. With the newly remodeled Warren Cultural Center right on the square, we just had to see what was going on that day. And of course, you can't visit the old Opera House without stopping in Ed & Eva's on the main level.

Ed & Eva's is an amazing shop that showcases artwork from all different kinds of Iowa artisans. Everything from candle to dog biscuits to jewelry and crazy lawn decorations made from old golf clubs, it's a fun store with friendly staff and LOTS to look at, and lots to buy !

I didn't get out of there without spending any money, either. Louie, my dog, got a great big cupcake-shaped dog biscuit, while I picked out a lovely scented candle and the cutest garden bugs to put in the garden- made from old metal pieces, old antique keys and big old fashioned Christmas light bulbs. Sarah loaded up a small bag of goodies as well. Fun stuff.

The day we were visiting the Cultural Center was hosting an art exhibit of drawings done by local school children, and we were also able to tour an available space that would be perfect for a restaurant. It's a fabulous building with so much potential- that alone is worth the drive !

Directly across the street from the Cultural Center is the Adair County Courthouse. The courthouse was built in 1981 in the "Romanesque" style and features beautiful woodwork fixtures, arched doorways and a spiral staircase connecting all floors.

We couldn't spend a day in Adair County without a stop in it's namesake town of Adair, which is right along Interstate 80. Adair is the home to the Smiley Face water tower. Adair is also known as "The Happiest Town on Earth" because of that great big smiling greeting.

The town is named after General John Adair, a general in the War of 1812, and was also the scene of the first train robbery in the west when the Jesse James gang derailed a Rock Island Express train, killing the engineer. The gang escaped with $3,000.

Downtown Adair

Today when you visit Adair, you will be greeted by the brand new sign welcoming you, and announcing events around town.

Adair County is also home to many other attractions, such as The Freedom Rock and the Aviation Museum- we just can't seem to fit it all in one day !!  ~~ Monica, April 5, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Patriotic Spirit of Casey, Iowa

Nowhere is patriotism more alive and well than in America's small towns. The hustle and bustle of city life is not part of the day here, and the relaxed lifestyle gives people more of a chance to reflect on what we have to be thankful for. At a time when America is embroiled in conflicts the rest of us see on television, it hits home in a much larger way when a "hometown kid" is wounded or killed in action.

The town of Casey, Iowa, in Guthrie County, is one of those towns that is very proud of their patriotism. Along the quiet main street, lined with antique shops and businesses long gone is a gap in the facade of brick buildings. In that quiet spot, the town has built a memorial to our men and women in the armed forces.

Veterans Memorial Park was founded in 2000, and features beautifully landscaped gardens, benches for reflecting and quiet moments, a gazebo, and most notably, a huge mural painted by the local artist, Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II.

Like his other patriotic artwork, the mural is dedicated to the United States Military, past, present and future, and depicts scenes from almost every war.

Each scene in this incredibly detailed two-story mural tells the story of war, from the loss of a fellow soldier,

to the brotherhood that develops among soldiers during times of conflict, far from their homes, and often in very dangerous locations.

A Gulf War pilot of memorialized,

as a soldier fighting during the Vietnam War works his way through the jungle.

Generations old images of Uncle Sam recall the "I Want You" campaign nearly a century ago.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is also captured,

as is the landing of American troops on Omaha Beach in World War II.

Above all else, we are reminded to say thank you to all of our servicemen and women, for the freedom we enjoy today, for their sacrifices and that of their families. Veterans Memorial Park is a very fitting and sincere tribute, and an Iowa small town gem that should NOT be missed.

You can learn more about the artist, Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II, and his many beautiful works of art my visiting  ~~Monica, April 5, 2013.

Greene County Part 2

When most people think of rural areas, they think of farm fields as far as you can see, and not much else.  So not true, as Sarah and I have found out on our adventures in West Central Iowa. You just CANNOT fit in the entire county in one day !!

Especially Greene County !! And Greene County has something going on all year long.

Our morning started out with a flat tire.........but once that got taken care of, we were off !! The Greene County Chamber in Jefferson was hosting an Open House that day so that was our first stop- and also gave us a chance to look over the tourism brochures and decide where to go on this trip.

We decided on the John 15 Vineyard as our first destination. The winding roads leading there offer some pretty beautiful scenery and we were so surprised to get to see an American Bald Eagle feasting on roadkill just a few feet from our car.

Getting to the Vineyard itself is an adventure. Turn here, turn there, turn here, turn there, it's right ahead. Driving through the Hyde Park area was so wonderful. The amazing old oaks, even in winter, were tall and majestic and canopied the area. Because of the winding roads, it seemed much farther than the mere six miles north of Scranton the vineyard is. The Vineyard is so worth the drive. We arrived in the winter, but I can only imagine the beauty of this area in the spring, summer and fall. The vineyard is owned by Nancy and Dean Rogers and they raise several different varieties of grapes- not for winemaking, but for other products such as grape jams and jellies from different varieties, grape-filled candies, pies and the most amazing grape filled butter cookie you will ever eat. They also freeze harvested grapes and sell them so that you can take them home and make your own grape goodies.  The Vineyard Barn is a completely restored and modern barn with overnight accommodations as well as the most most amazing  Timber Tree House for camping (they plan on adding another tree house soon). If you wish to find out more about the vineyard, call 712-652-3760 or find them on Facebook at John 15 Vineyard.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the vineyard- they were decorating for the holidays and it was just such a welcoming place, but, unfortunately, there was more to see. So off to Scranton we head and make a quick stop at Peoples Trust and Savings Bank, B&D Manufacturing and Scranton Manufacturing. Who knew this small town had this big garbage truck plant (Scranton Manufacturing) and B&D which manufactures geothermal units? Amazing things come out of little towns in Iowa !

Next on the agenda was a visit to Krieger's Greenhouses and I don't think I need to tell you- it was literally wall to wall poinsettias in there.

Heading back to downtown Jefferson we noticed the majority of the street work is done on the square and too bad it will soon be covered with snow !!!! But I'm sure in the spring, and especially as the new Gardens begin taking their plantings, it will be a lovely town square !!

Like many small towns in Iowa, the town square is dominated by the Courthouse. Built in 1915-17 by Proudfoot, Bord & Rawson, it is a type of architecture known as Beaux Arts.iI 

When we arrived on the courthouse lawn I was awestruck at the close connection to my own heritage- there was placed a large monument in tribute to Captain Darrell R. Lindsey, a Jefferson native who was lost during World War II. This monument had been originally placed in Weisbaden, Germany, my mother's home. I was very moved by this story and amazed that someone from rural Iowa could have been so instrumental in the war.

That's really what makes touring rural Iowa so special. You NEVER know what you're going to find, or how it touches you, or how it connects Iowa to the rest of the world.  ~~ Monica, December 7, 2012.