Iowa’s Oceanfront Property

Oceanfront property in Iowa! Well not really, but the state constantly interacts with our planet’s vast oceans.

Over six inches of rain fell on Winding Pathways in September 2018. Way above average. Not long ago those zillions of raindrops were swirling around in the Gulf of Mexico. Evaporation sucked moisture into the air, leaving salt behind. Winds carried the moisture north until it bumped into cool air. Bingo, heavy rain and flooding.

Rain isn’t the only way Iowa relates to the ocean. From the second it hits the ground rain heads back to the sea. It often carries fertilizer, dirt, and debris into tributaries that flow to the Mississippi River and then down to the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer applied to lawns and fields end up stimulating oceanic algae that die, consume oxygen, and create the notorious “dead zone.”

People ship more than nitrogen to the ocean. Virtually anything that enters a storm sewer, creek, or river can make it to the sea. Cigarette butts, oil, Styrofoam, and plastic of all sorts swirl downstream.

Plastics: Blessing and Curse

Plastic is wonderful. It is made into hundreds of useful products. Even the computer keys we’re typing this blog on are made of the stuff. Unfortunately, too much is tossed away.

Much ends up in the ocean where vast quantities circulate in huge arcs. Birds, seals, and fish sometimes mistake it for something edible and end up with a plugged stomach after swallowing what they think is lunch. Wildlife also gets tangled up in plastic, especially plastic fishing nets.

Although Winding Pathways is a thousand miles from the Jersey Shore or the Gulf of Mexico, we take action to prevent sullying salt water. The aluminum water bottle in our pickup truck reminds us of this every day. Printed on the side says KICK PLASTIC, a slogan of the Costa Company.  They teamed up with Bureo, a company that makes fishing nets. This encourages people to help keep plastic out of the ocean, partly by making products from recycled items. We like their approach.

Ways to “Kick Plastic”

According to Costa

  1.  almost all plastic ever made is still around;
  2. The equivalent of one garbage truck filled with plastic goes into the ocean each minute;
  3. 98% of ocean pollution comes from the land;
  4. One in four ocean fish contains plastic.

The company asks people to do these things to reduce plastic pollution.  Our suggestions follow in italics:

  • Stop Using Plastic Bottles. Use a refillable water bottle.
  • Say Goodbye to Grocery Bags. Bring reusable nylon or canvas bags to the store.
  • Buying in Bulk Makes a Big Impact. Reuse those containers. We bought peanut butter in a large jar in 1976 in Kansas and have refilled it many times with bulk peanut butter from the health food store near home. That jar has been reused well over 100 times!
  • Reel in Old Line. Recycle used fishing line.
    Winding Pathways takes Costa’s suggestions further. Remember that anything put on the ground could find its way to the ocean, even from Iowa.
  • Use fertilizer and pesticides sparingly and carefully, if at all.
  • Buy quality products that last longer than cheap counterparts. Durable items aren’t discarded often.
  • Put anything recyclable in blue plastic bins that most Iowa towns or trash collection companies collect. They make recycling easy.

Iowa oceanfront property? We hope climate change never raises the sea so high that our state has an ocean beach, but many Iowans enjoy delicious seafood and they vacation on the beach. Let’s keep the oceans healthy and safe, even if we live inland.

Note:  The Costa Company did not provide any support to Winding Pathways.  We created this article because we love their message, leadership, and products.  

 

Equinox

It’s turning time for wildlife, chickens, and people

As the Northern Hemisphere of the earth continues its ageless slow wobble away from the sun, days gradually shorten until a wondrous event happens.

The Autumnal Equinox happens around September 21st each year. It’s when daily hours of sunlight equal those of darkness. On only two days each year does every place on earth enjoy roughly 12 hours of sunshine. These are the fall and spring equinoxes.  So, whether someone lives near the tropics or poles they will experience the same amount of light on only those two days.

Light changes quickly around equinox time. Up here in the Northern Hemisphere days shorten quickly and darkness advances until the December 21st Winter Solstice, the year’s darkest day.  The Southern Hemisphere begins to enjoy its longest days through December.

Preparing

At Winding Pathways around the Equinox, we do these things:

  • Stimulate our chickens. We plug in the timer and light bulb in the coop. Chickens lay the most eggs when there are about 15 hours of daylight. So, the coop light is set up to come on about 4:30 a.m. and turn off about three hours later when the sun pokes over the horizon.
  • Drain, clean, and invert our rain barrels. We won’t need extra water until next spring, so we turn the barrels upside down, so they don’t collect winter water that freezes and can split the barrels. We weight them with stones to keep Arctic winds from blowing them away.
  • Watch this short video on how to Prepare Rain Barrels
  • Bring in pumpkins and winter squash. A frost is soon to come, and we don’t want it to bite our squash. We store
    Various Squashes

    Winter Squash vary in color, texture, shape and size.

    pumpkins and squash in a room we rarely use. It stays cool but above freezing. Butternut, Acorn, Hubbard, and most other winter squashes and pumpkins, which actually are a squash, keep for months and give us delicious and vitamin stoked food on cold days.

  • Exclude, or try to, insects and mice. Somehow mice, box elder bugs and Asian beetles sense coming cold and find tiny cracks to enter the house and enjoy winter warmed by our furnace and wood stove. Each fall we caulk up cracks and weather strip doors to encourage them to stay outside where we prefer to see them. It’s never perfect. Some always find their way inside.
  • Enjoy leaves. Each’s fall’s spectacular leaf color peaks in October but some leaves start turning sooner. Our backyard black walnut starts coloring up in early September. The real show is the deep orange, red, and yellows of our sugar maples. They peak in early to mid-October followed by russet oak leaves.
  • Butterfly on Aster

    Fall wildflowers are an important food source for insects and birds.

    Enjoy wildflowers. Asters, Goldenrods, and Maximilian Sunflowers are the very last blooms of the season. Their colors brighten the yard and provide nectar for insects and then seeds for migrating and overwintering birds. But all this comes with sadness as we know we’ll not see wildflowers again until next spring.

  • Watch wildlife. It’s migration time and one of the best seasons for seeing unusual birds. We often look upward and sometimes spot pelicans and waterfowl winging high overhead. By now deer in their subdued winter coats are sleek and well fed on a diet of acorns. Bucks have polished their antlers. Chipmunks and squirrels scurry about caching winter food.

We’d like to hear what you enjoy about the Equinox time.  Please email us your joys and projects in this wondrous season.

High Summer Labyrinth Walks

What fun hosting  Bankers Trust staff and clients and welcoming an out of town visitor to the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  Tuesday, July 11 was steamy and threatening storms.  But, the hardy crew engaged in lively discussions and asked probing questions about the more simple lifestyle we embrace at Winding Pathways.  Now, simple does not mean easy.  Tending a large yard and five circuit labyrinth are work.  Rewarding work. And, people are curious about chickens, managing small gardens, maximizing space, retaining water on our property, heating with wood, and creating diversity that welcomes wildlife. Topics like ways to save energy which saves money to be invested or used caught their attention. And questions on managing pests like ground hogs and deer. We touched on a lot and had a great time.

Go to 1080 Labyrinth for a photo album of the afternoon and evening.

Then, with storms obviously to the south showing off cumulus and anvil clouds but no threat, all walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth.  Mike T’s comment summed it all up.  As he and Terri entered the center a cool breeze touched their faces.  Mike paused and said, “I never want to leave.”

Thanks Terri Doyle for organizing and promoting!

Turkey Time!

Well, the turkey characters are at it, again! Up they come each morning even  before sun up, looking quite fit and hale, and gobbling for breakfast.  At Winding Pathways we get a kick out of the web pages and sporting flyers that detail all the equipment one needs to bag a turkey and how early one has to get up to beat the turkeys out of bed.  Special camo clothes, calls, camo guns, shells. To the credit of the web sites, they do offer intriguing information on strutting, clutches of eggs, turkey senses, and habitat. A Kidzone site shares an interesting story of the “mix-up” of the name. and, of course, Audubon gives a great set of pictures and details about turkeys.  All fun reading.

From the comfort of our home, we sip our coffee and watch a crew of seven meander up from the ridge where they roosted and another eight that saunter over from the neighbor’s trees.  Then, it is the Sharks and the Jets (think West Side Story) as they squabble over the seed tossed out – not for them – but for the song birds. Or look at us with pathetic longing, trying to make us think they are starving.  Ha!

Meanwhile, the less dominant males slide in for a feast.

Same with mating. The dominant males strut and intimidate and the less aggressive males sidle up to a female that is ready and mate. Maybe we will eventually have less pushy turkeys.

Enjoy this gallery of winter and spring turkey antics.

Lions in this Here Country!

Mountain Lion

These big cats have over 40 names. (Courtesy NYPL free digital file.)

Early one December evening a neighbor was driving home near our home when she spotted movement out of the corner of her eye. Thinking a deer was about to dart in front of her car, she immediately stopped to prevent a collision.  She was astounded when a mountain lion crossed about ten feet in front of her  illuminated by headlights.

A mountain lion………in Iowa! Perhaps that’s not so farfetched. Our neighbor would know one when she saw it.

Mountain lions (Puma concolor) are spreading out from their traditional home in western mountains. A couple of decades ago the only known eastern population of the big cats was in Florida, where they are extremely rare and are usually called panthers. These big cats were once common throughout North America except for the far north. They also ranged throughout all of Central and most of South America. As big predators they were heavily persecuted by humans, and their habitat was devastated by settlement. A big blow to cougars was the elimination of deer from much of their range in the late 1800’s.

Much has changed to give lions, or cougars as they are sometimes called, an opportunity to expand.

Most people now appreciate them as beautiful animals and don’t shoot them on sight. Many states protect them from shooting. Also, the woods and deer have returned. In 1900 most of what today is a vast hardwood forest that stretches from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean was farmed.   Many of those farms went out of business and trees move in. Today, there’s near continuous forest for hundreds of miles and much of it is filled with deer, a favorite food of mountain lions.

A few years ago a male cougar walked from his Black Hills home to Connecticut, where he was hit and killed by a car. Most Midwest states have documented the presence of cougars. A few have been hit by cars. More have been photographed by trail cameras put out by hunters to track deer movement.  Some have been shot. Seeing a live one is very rare.

So, a cougar sighting near Winding Pathways in Iowa is neither impossible nor surprising. It was probably a young male cat seeking a mate and place to live.

Do mountain lions pose a threat to people, livestock, or pets? Not really. There have been documented cougar attacks on people, mostly in California where they are not hunted and have lost fear of people, but the risk in most places is trivial. Cougars are shy animals that choose to stay out of sight and prefer eating deer to dogs, sheep, cattle, and cats.

We wish we’d seen the mountain lion that passed through our neighborhood but he’s probably miles away by now.

This is an independently researched column. No money or goods have been exchanged for this information.