Friday, May 31, 2013

Iowa's Connection to our Nation's Envioronmental Concerns

Maybe our readers are thinking that, judging by the title of this post, that I have lost my marbles!  True, I did say in my last posting that we were moving on to Omaha.  And  yesterday we did travel on through Iowa and towards Nebraska.  We are now parked in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  It is located across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska.    At one of the rest area facilities we stopped at yesterday John and I got a close-up look at the blade of a wind turbine.
Adair County, in which this rest area resides, is the site of one of the largest wind farms in our country.  As of 2010 Iowa has been the second largest wind generator in the nation.  As we learned yesterday, traveling from Cedar Falls to Council Bluff, Iowa is not all flat smooth land;  if it was there would be no wind variations.  However, we saw that Iowa not only has flat farmland, but also rolling hills, valleys, river bluffs and lakes- which creates a highly variable and complex wind regime. In case you are wondering how I became so knowledgeable all of a sudden on wind energy, I do have to admit that at the rest area there are many interpretive signs around the facility providing information on Iowa's wind farm industry.  The rest area also integrates art with science in continuation of the wind energy theme.
The picnic shelters have been constructed with a leg which recalls the grid-work of a Dutch windmill.  The "Dutch Windmill", designed centuries ago, represents a direct connection of the fan-type windmill and the current design of the wind turbine.  At this point allow me to take a bit of a detour back to the Cedar Valley Arboretum, which we visited Wednesday.  Around those gardens were interpretive signs regarding Aldo Leopold.  He was born in Burlington, Iowa in 1887 and his life's work earned him the title of "father" of wildlife management and of the U.S. wilderness systems.  He felt that the our economic well being cannot be separated from the well being of our environment.  All of us have an important role to play in caring for the health of our environment.  Wind farms provide a renewable source of energy and are non-polluting.  Before I close this off I would like to share with you a picture of the pagoda dogwood, which we saw at the arboretum.  It is a most unusual dogwood, we also saw it in some of the yards of Cedar Falls.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cedar Falls, Iowa

We parked in Cedar Falls about two years ago, at Black Hawk State Park.  Unfortunately it is now under water,  but we still had a couple other options opened to us when we arrived last Thursday.  Our second choice was filled up due to the holiday week-end and graduation events.  However, the owner of that park was kind enough to point across the Cedar River and show us where there was a church conference center which had about 10 spots for large recreational vehicles.  That is where we ended up parking.   And from that vantage point we could look over the river bluffs at the swollen Cedar River.

The river continues to flow swiftly and flood the low-lying areas of the city-  it most certainly will be one of the rivers feeding into the Mississippi and causing it also to flood.  John and I have seen a lot of rain in the past week, and according to weather reports, it probably will not let up until the end of this week.  As I commented when we were in St.Louis,  it is hard for John and I to understand all this dampness when we had such a dry winter in Texas!

We are in Cedar Falls for the high school graduation of our niece Martha and her husband Quique’s son Joshua.  They are pictured below along with their other children Becky, Joel and Lydia.  Grandparents Carolyn and Jim came up from Farmington to also join in the week-end festivities, which began with an open-house for Josh at their church on Friday evening.
And, despite the weather, John and I did find some dry time to get better acquainted with Cedar Falls.  Last time we were here we biked around the millrace and historic downtown area of the city.  This time we explored the streets of Cedar Falls which are lined with large Queen Anne and Victorian homes, many of which have been restored.  The older homes were built in the 19th century by successful businessmen who were associated with the numerous mills built along the river.  Cedar Falls is also an arts and entertainment destination.  Yesterday we stopped at the James and Mary Hearst Center for the Arts.  The center is comprised of two galleries, a recital hall and a sculpture garden.  It was while we were strolling around the garden  that we became acquainted with the work of James Hearst, an American poet, philosopher and professor. He has sometimes has been described as "Robert Frost of the Midwest".  Posted in the garden, amid many blooming flowers, are the verses which he has written.
Today, Thursday, we are headed to Omaha, where my sister Gloria and her husband live.

Friday, May 24, 2013

St.Louis Zoo

I apologize to our readers who probably thought we were done with St.Louis!  I had read somewhere, probably the St.Louis Post Dispatch, about a new sculpture at the zoo and got it into my head that I wanted to make a trip to the zoo before leaving town.  The zoo, like the botanical garden, is another gem of the St.Louis metropolitan area.  I have many happy memories there, beginning about 30 years ago when we started taking our children there.  And it has changed a lot over those years!  On Wednesday, when we visited the zoo, we needed a map to find our way around.  And yet I must add that the changes at the zoo have made it an even better place to visit!   An example of one of its changes can be found at the free flight aviary.  It was built in 1904 for the St.Louis World Fair, by the Smithsonian Institute for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.  In 1973 it served as the centerpiece for the creation of the zoo.  Over the years what was once the world's largest bird cage became the home for a variety of bird species, many of them exotic.  Today it is a cypress swamp and home to many native bird species of Missouri.  Upon entering the aviary John and I immediately identified a variety of egrets and ducks in the swamp, and one yellow-crowned night heron perched in a tree.  Cormorants were sunning themselves on the boardwalk and completely oblivious to our presence.  I was able to get quite close to the one pictured below.
It was a perfect day to be at the zoo as many animals were out and active.  In the Red Rock area of the zoo we saw a mother zebra and her baby, as well as a young giraffe.   In the kangaroo pen the animals were zipping back and forth rapidly, making it quite difficult for me to get a picture of a mother and her joey.  Which explains how I happened to get a tail flying across the picture below.  Only the babies' hand is showing out of the pouch.  I thought it made for an interesting picture!
Also in the Red Rock area I was fascinated how an okapi fed off the leaves of a tree located in his enclosure.  Even from a distance away I could see his long tongue stretching up to the lower branches.  In another pen I saw a gerenuk feeding in the same manner.  What makes the zoo so interesting for me are the interpretive signs placed by each animal enclosure.  I learned from the posted information that the gerenuk requires very little water and may not drink at all during its lifetime.  He lives in different parts of Africa.
In the Discovery Corner of the zoo is the Insectarium, Children's Zoo and Living World.  I planned to avoid  looking at bugs until I learned that going though that building was the only way to visit the butterfly house.  It was worth putting up with the bugs!  The butterflies were numerous and beautiful- I could say ditto for the plants in the butterfly house.  A docent guarding the insects informed us that there are about 150- 200 butterflies on any given day located in the green house.  John and I have been in several butterfly houses but I must say that this one has to be one of the best in the country.  I had to restrain myself from taking numerous pictures.  Hopefully I have by now given you an urge to visit the St.Louis Zoo, and there is no entrance fee.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chinese Culture Days at Missouri Botanical Garden

This is my second posting on the Missouri Botanical Garden, and if I remember correctly, when we visited the gardens last summer there was also some sort of Chinese cultural festival going on then.  However, as you will soon discover, this posting will not be a boring repeat of of our last visit there.  I hope all St.Louis citizens realize what a gem they have in the botanical gardens.  And if you live within that metropolitan area and never have paid the gardens a visit, I will just say shame on you!  Over the years we have been there during various seasons of the year. Each time there have been different plants in bloom, and new areas of the garden to explore.  It is just one of those places which never disappoints us.  Sunday afternoon my sisters Julia and Linda joined John and I for our visit to the gardens.  Currently, the big attraction in the garden is a large patch of blooming iris flowers.  What a beautiful riot of color!
Equally thrilling for us was a gorgeous display of blooming evergreen azalea, pictured below.  Also flourishing presently are the fragrant peony flowers, and the rose bushes are also well into their blooming season.
Since 1996 the Garden has collaborated with the Chinese Culture Education and Services Foundation to produce an event celebrating Chinese culture.  Two days of this past weekend were filled with Chinese pageantry, art and dance.  We were there only for the events on Sunday afternoon, which were the dragon dance and parade and the New Shanghai Circus.  The circus offered a juggling act, amazing acrobatics as well as charming mystical dancing.  One of the dances was called the changing of the masks.  We were too far back to figure out how it was done, but mysteriously somehow the dancer frequently changed his face mask.  As you may note in the picture below, his dancing costume was quite elegant.  My sisters, Julia and Linda commented that when they visited China they had seen a similar show there, however it was a bit different in that there more performers on the stage, all changing their masks as they danced.
Perhaps some of you are wondering how much longer we will be staying in St.Louis.  Thursday we are planning on moving our home north to Iowa and then westward.  Stay tuned for more Schramm adventures!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hermann Missouri- Part Two

As I had mentioned in my previous posting, we noticed many vineyards and wineries on Highway 94 coming into Hermann.  According to Hermann Area Visitor's Guide, the Hermann Wine Trail is made up of 7 wineries in and round the historic community, from Hermann to New Haven.  I am sure there are a few more outside of that prescribed area, going back further out of that area  to Augusta.  Back in the mid 1800s the town fathers nurtured the infant wine industry by selling "grape lots", vacant lots which the settlers could buy for $50.00, interest free, over a five-year period.  The only requirement was that the lot had to be planted in grapes.  There are two wineries which we saw, within the city proper, when we visited the town.  We drove past the Hermannhof, and stopped for lunch at the Stone Hill Winery.  As you may notice, from the picture below, the winery and vineyards of the latter winery are on a hill overlooking the town.
Stone Hill Winery and restaurant has been in operation since 1848, if you have not toured the place we would encourage you to do so because of its fascinating history.  Another tourist destination in the town is the Deutscheim State Historic Site, where it is possible to take a tour of two historic residences.  One of them is pictured below.  It is the Carl Strehly House, built in 1842.
It was the site of the radical journal Licht Freund,  published by Ed.Muehl and Carl Strehly.  Muehl was opposed to slavery and his influential voice among Germans helped Missouri to stay in the Union during the Civil War.   The building was enlarged later to include a winery.  We enjoyed our tour of the town,  primarily because it has kept many of its older buildings.  Some of them have been converted into inns as well as bed and breakfast homes. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hermann, Missouri- Part One

Our original plan for today was to stay close to home because the weather forecast predicted numerous rain showers for the St.Louis area.  However, the day started out sunny, and,  as John had a dental appointment out in St.Peters on Highway 94, it just made sense to to keep going west after the appointment to the small town of Hermann.  We have visited the town in past years and have fond memories of our times spent there.  The town is nestled in the river hills of the Missouri river and is famous for its many wineries.  The drive to Hermann, on Highway 94, is quite enjoyable through a countryside of rolling hills and forests.  Many farm houses, barns, pastures and fields also dot the landscape. 
From Highway 94 it is necessary to turn unto Highway 19 to cross the Missouri River into Hermann.  Shortly after entering the town we could not help but pay attention to a small park which has placed in it the statue of a man for whom the town is named.  In A.D. the warrior Hermann led an army of Northern Europeans to oppose Roman intrusion into their homeland.  He successfully annihilated three Roman legions which consequently, according to many historians, changed the course of civilization.  The early German settlers of Hermann were proud to name their town after him.
It was in the spring of 1938 that German immigrants chose a hilly site on the Missouri River for their town.  Today Hermann is still the heart of Missouri's German America.  In the past John and I have usually focused on visiting the wineries of Herman and never gave a good look at the town.  Today we walked its streets, following a map which helped us locate a few of the 100 buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic places.  The buildings we saw certainly are a reflection of the town's German roots.  The building pictured below is the old city hall and fire house, built in 1906.  In a couple of days the town will be celebrating Maifest, a traditional German celebration of spring.
The town has the oldest continually operating tavern west of the Mississippi.  It is located in the town's concert hall, which was built in 1878.   It was a bit of a challenge for us to walk around the town, as the town is situated on a couple of steep hills.  The picture below was taken at the top of one of those hills.
I still have more to write on the history of Hermann,  as well as more pictures to share.  Seems like another posting will be needed to complete the story of our day in that charming town!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Springtime in Missouri

John and I made another trip down to Farmington this past week-end.  Springtime there is at its peak, so we are enjoying a second spring, having had our first sighting of flowering trees and bushes on our way up from the south several weeks ago.  In Farmington, while driving around the town, I noticed a very tall (probably about 30 foot) flowering tree.  The purple flowers are quite beautiful, we thought perhaps it is a catalpa.  The tree is also know as a Mexican bean tree, or as a cigar tree.  In the fall it produces slender bean pods which some people like to light up and smoke.
Also in the town are some massive spirea bushes.
I am always amazed at the medicinal value of many plants.  The spirea bush contains methyl salicylate oil, a compound with the similar medicinal properties of aspirin.  Southern Missouri is also popular for its numerous azalea bushes.  The ones pictured below are located also in Farmington.
Saturday our brother-in-law Jim joined John and I for a hike in Millstream Gardens Conservation area. St.Francis River, a tributary of the Mississippi, has some great white water boating in this park.
In case you are wondering, the kayaker pictured above flipped over seconds after I took his picture.  The river is a bit of a challenge presently for boaters because it is at flood stage.  At the conclusion of our hike in Millstream Gardens we were surprised to discover a patch of irises.  I do believe that the area where they are located was once a part of a farmer's homestead, but I are not too sure about that.  Ordinarily the iris flower does not grow wild without someone first planting them.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Historic Waterloo, Illinois

In my last posting I wrote about the Monroe County Museum.  After we were done touring the museum, we walked the grounds surrounding the building, on which are located a couple of historic cabins as well as the Bell Fontaine House.  "LA Belle Fontaine" is a French word meaning beautiful  springs.
In the late 1700s James Moore led a group of soldiers to this area (at the time it was part of the Northwest Territory) and started the settlement of Bellfontaine.  It was the first truly American settlement in Illinois.  In 1772 Enoch Moore was born, the first American white male born in Illinois.  His natal cabin  has been moved to the museum grounds.  The Bell Fontaine House, pictured below,  has received several additions over the years but the kitchen area of the home was originally a circa 1700s log cabin which was part of the Moore homestead.  The house is not open for tours yet, but the ladies working there allowed us to enter it.
In the background of the picture there is a kettle shed, the southern end of which was used for butchering and washing.  The northern end of the shed was a smoke house.  The neighborhoods in northern Waterloo in the early to mid-1880s were known as Peter's Town.  Emery Peter Rogers, for whom the town was named, was also known as the "Merchant Prince".  He operated a grist mill, woolen and cider mills, rope factory, carding mill, carriage factory, a brickyard and quarry.  Peterstown House stands on a lot which was owned by Peter Rogers.  During restoration of the house it was discovered that  at one time a part of it was used for a country store as well as a tavern. History has it that the house served as a stage coach stop which served travelers on the Kaskaskia Trail leading to Cahokia.  Balls were held on the second floor.  Fortunately we were able to tour this fascinating house, which has two cellars, trapdoors and numerous stairways.  One of the rooms is pictured below. 
The docent, who pointed out the features of the house to us, also had an interesting story to tell us as to how Waterloo ended up with its name.  According to legend, the towns of Bell Fountaine and Peter's Town (inhabited by French and Irish immigrants) were located across a creek from each other and the inhabitants  were constantly feuding.   An Irish man built his home on one side of the creek and his barn on the other side.   He was then said to have commented, " It won't be Bellfontaine and it won't be Peterstown, but begorra, I will give ye your Waterloo!".

History Museum of Monroe County, Illinois

Last fall the Post Dispatch, our local newspaper here in St.Louis, featured an article about the History Museum of Monroe County. The museum is located in the town of Waterloo, and as we were planing on dining at a restaurant north of the town, John and I, as well as my sister Julia and her husband Cal, decided that we would make the trip worthwhile and check out what the museum had to offer.  Until we made that trip all we knew about the town was that it was the home of the Waterloo German band, which we have had the pleasure of hearing in the past.  Our first stop in Waterloo was the history museum, which has many artifacts donated by Colonel Edd Kueker, a Monroe County native and Western trail rider.  Over the years he collected many items representing the settlement of the west, as well as artifacts connected with agriculture, local commerce and transportation.  In that exhibit we saw a milk truck used by the Waterloo Milk Company, Inc. as well as a wagon used in the 1904 St.Louis World's Fair.
Another item in the museum, which caught my eye, was a ice cream sandwich maker.
Recently we toured the Blue Bell Creamery in Texas and saw ice cream sandwiches being created rapidly on an assembly line- we certainly have come a long way since that small tool pictured above was once used!  In the museum was also a number of local historic homes and farms.  The buildings were constructed using pencils.  Below is the homestead of Emma Buck, a pre-civil war home built in the mid 1880s.
There is also a small exhibit in the museum related to the Waterloo Band.  It was interesting to learn that it was formed in 1946.  As far as I know, they are still performing today.  We also learned more of the history of Waterloo by touring some of its historic cabins and buildings located on the grounds of the museum, as well as in another area of Waterloo.  More on that in the next posting.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Des Peres Park, St.Louis

I was reminded yesterday by a faithful reader of this blog that I had not posted anything on this site since April 10.  A thousand pardons to all my readers!  However, we have been quite busy, I think even busier than when we were on the road!  And the weather has been a bit disruptive to some of our activities.  The second night after we had arrived in St.Louis we spent in my sister Julia and her husband's basement waiting out an ominous spring storm which was accompanied with tornado warnings.  A tornado did touch down in a municipality near us in Hazelwood.  We made a trip to Farmington a week later, and then received a call from the authorities at the campground where our rig was parked.  The message was that it was necessary to move our home because there was a chance that the levy near the park could possibly be breached by the rising Mississippi River.  We are now located in St.Charles, Missouri, and as yet the the Missouri River has not proven to be a threat to our home.
Our dental and medical visits turned out to be more numerous than planned, which has also demanded more of our time.  Thankfully some of those issues are now being resolved.  Our daughter Melissa came in for one week-end to assist with her cousin's shower.  It was good seeing her again, as well as two other sisters from out of town.  A couple of funerals also made for more unexpected social activities, and a visit from my brother Marcus who resides in Ohio.   However, it has all been to the good, and catching up with family and friends is important for us.  Through all the unexpected twists and turns of our lives God has been gracious.
John and I have always enjoyed our visits to Des Peres Park.  Our first visit to it was about twenty years ago when our son Daniel played in its soccer fields.  The park went through a lot of changes after that and was not the pretty park which it is presently.  We were surprised this time, also, to see guinea hens running running all over its grounds.  I believe they were present in the past, but kept locked up in a cage.  In the park there is an interpretive sign explaining their presence in the park.  The sign said that the hens are "very noisy birds which look like AWOL army helmets as they run across the yard". 
The sign went on to say that the birds are good for controlling Lyme Disease-bearing deer ticks.  They eat lots of small bugs, including bees and yellow jackets.  Interestingly enough, if kept penned where they can view their surroundings, when released they will not stray from their home.