Monday, October 31, 2011

Eight Point Star Used in Iron and Wood Truss Bridge

A well maintained county bridge in 42N country was recently reinforced with a few new planks of wood and tightened iron supports. A brilliant orange-red color was applied to the metal portions of the bridge without regard for masking resulting in overspray.

Along the outside of the truss supports are eight pointed star designs. Early astronomers used the eight points, like a compass to mark the four main directions and solstices. The symbol is also connected to ancient Middle East religions. So this bridge, built in the 1880s (old by Iowa standards) is accented architecturally with a symbol that has protected the structure for over a hundred years. Quite the accomplishment. Know that.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Clear Cut Glass Mystery

A fancy glass stopper fits this utilitarian bottle but whether the two match is a different question. Experts on Early American Pressed Glass will have to weigh in on this mystery. Maybe it is Iowa City glass, or Jamestown or even Corning? Maybe you know. Know that.

Breaking Prairie Sod in the Fall

A common sight in past autumns was the cultivation of soybean or corn stubble after harvest. This was accomplished with disk cultivators (like this one) plowing the ground under with the organic material deposited a few inches below the surface while exposing new soil to air and water. Resultant organic recycling leads to a superior seed bed preparation with the side benefit of cleaner looking fields.

But in the late 1980s this practice was phased out for better methods of soil management. Up until that time precious topsoil was often eroded by wind or water which did no one any good. Today fields are generally chisel planted as to be minimally impactual on soil. However there are times when it is necessary to till, such as when soil compaction is discovered, for optimized planting.

These rusting disks show remnants of some of the best soil in America for grain production. Proper soil management is as important as the annual harvest itself. Many farmers already know that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Harvest Done For Some

The fall harvest of soy beans (left field) and corn (right field) is complete for some farmers along the 42N region - in this case near Mount Auburn, Iowa. Many grain farmers are working into the night to complete their harvest while conditions favor the movement of heavy machinery to and from fields without rain and mud delays. Other considerations for late night harvests are the availabilities of equipment (combines, grain trucks and crews.) With near perfect weather conditions in the region for several weeks now, storage bins are filling to capacity. Know that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Changing Roles of Corn Cribs

Use to be that a full corn crib was all you needed to feed livestock. Now shiney stainless steel bins dot the Iowa landscape in addition to conventional silos. During this harvest season much of the corn is either sold directly to market, stored on property for a later sale or stored for livestock feed. Corn cribs now are more likely to be used as equipment storage sheds rather than feed bunkers. Times have changed. Know that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Field of Dreams: Post it and They Will Come

The 1989 movie, The Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster and others was filmed in Iowa (also in Illinois and Massachusetts.)  Just a few miles northeast of Dyersville, Iowa is the farm setting for the movie complete with baseball diamond, lights and of course the magical corn fields. Today the site was visited by the 42N team (our fifth or sixth) and a few photos were taken during a warm October day.

In the movie Ray (Kevin Costner) carves this heart into the top bleacher seat. Its still there 22 years later, weather beaten but still there.

People visiting the site today were from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Visitors take to the field, hit a few balls and run the bases. But the big thrill for most is to walk through the gigantic corn stalks that ring the outfield, then try disappearing like in the movie.

The other big thing are hard core baseball fans paying homage to the field and movie. This NY Yankees fan was wondering around taking photos with his cell phone. Since I was there I offered to take his photo with his camera. Afterwards he sent them to his list of baseball buddies. Build it and they will come. How true it continues to be. Know that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Payphone Watcher

They are disappearing. Payphones, which were available everywhere a decade ago, are now almost gone. Replaced by cell phones, the humble payphone can still be found working in a few surprising places - like Amana, Iowa. Near the airport a working payphone, which might be the last one in the community, is now guarded by a squirrel. Go ahead and try making a 25 cent call. You might have your conversation monitored or head pounced on by the bushy tailed security. Know that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Twilight Riverboat Recalls Olden Days on the Mississippi

The Riverboat Twilight runs a two-day excursion out of Le Claire, Iowa to Dubuque and back. Along the way the boat passes upriver at Lock and Dam #12 at Bellevue. This was the site on Sunday, October 9th. Details of the cruise can be found here.

The 166 mile route is some of the prettiest scenery found anywhere on the Mississippi River. Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin's common borders lay within the Mississippi River's valley. Large hills on either side of the river can be readily seen. On this day note the past water level on the Dam's rocky support behind the Riverboat Twilight. It appears to be down several feet.

As the Riverboat Twilight travels north to the Port of Dubuque for an overnight stay at the Grand Harbor Resort, passengers soak up some the near 80 degree weather for mid October. Upon the return to the home port at Le Claire, be sure to stop at the American Pickers (The History Channel) shop just a few blocks away. At times Danielle can be found there setting up the next trip for Frank and Mike. Know that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Checking Out Rock Staples

Along the 42N latitude, river bridges built in the 1800s and early 1900s with stone supports had a problem; that being the destructive effects of the freeze thaw cycle, ice flows and floods. All of those forces could potentially weaken the stonework and eventually cause bridge failure. To counter the massive pressure on the stonework a simple solution was devised.

Large iron staples were pounded into the finished quarried support blocks. This helped to keep the orientation intact and resistant to outside pressure. Staple examples seen today at this former bridge site were garbled in various positions.

A newer bridge located just a few yards from this site consists of modern materials (steel, iron, concrete.) The former bridge's stonework has been re-purposed as river bank rip-rap.

At this location only three large staples examples were found in the large chiseled stones. Channel your inner King Arthur abilities to pull metal out of rock, otherwise there is no budging these stone staples as souvenirs. But then what would I do with them? Know that.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Colors of Autumn 2011

Vibrant colors are not just reserved for fall foliage. Harvest equipment of all types, in this case soybean related, comes in a wide range of colors too. Absolutely perfect weather conditions for the past few weeks helped to finalize the bean harvest around these Midwest latitudes. Now on to the corn harvest. Know that.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wide Body Over Iowa

Along this portion of 42N many flyover routes line the sky. On clear days east-west air traffic can be observed mainly to the south of the 42N HQ location. A mid-continent navigation tower is located near Hills, Iowa which provides an electronic beacon for coast to coast travellers.

This large plane is southeast to northwest bound - maybe to Minneapolis or Seattle. Its distinctive four contrails alerted me as to this was no regional plane. Air controllers call these wide bodies. Any guesses as to what type of jet this is? Know that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Shadow People Over Deer Creek

About this time of year more ghost stories appear. One mention in many reports is about sightings of so called shadow people. These are roughly human shaped forms that appear and disappear, travel through walls and sometimes talk - or so say the reports. Some of these shadow people have been documented on television shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. I saw two shadow people in broad daylight overlooking Deer Creek. What a coincidence. Know that.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

American Soy Bean Harvest is Underway

October 2011 is providing perfect drying conditions throughout the upper Midwest. That means record soybean and corn crops are being harvested on schedule with a minimal of storage drying needed, if any.

Travel down most rural gravel roads in 42N country right now and you'll be treated to sights like this. Combine harvesters can also be seen on both gravel and hard surface roads traveling between fields. Be careful driving - farmers are doing their jobs, may be working late hours and are operating large, slow moving equipment. Know that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ruben Ely's Three Span Bridge

Recently we found another surprise located in 42N country - a three span stone bridge. Located just west of Monticello, Iowa is this limestone constructed bridge which spans Deer Creek. Farmer Ruben Ely Sr. and son constructed the bridge in 1893 for about $455 using stone from quarries in nearby Anamosa, Iowa. 

Ruben's grandson, Mark Bader helped make repairs on the bridge in 2003. The next year a concrete deck and steel guardrails were added for further stability and safety. 

Running north and south, this unique bridge is only one lane wide. Obviously to survive not being demolished or widened for modern traffic suggests that the bridge is considered special. In 1979 the Ely bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Know that.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just Another Day, Just Another Model A

So many Ford Model A cars have appeared throughout the 42N area all summer and now early fall. What's going on? Are we traveling more in Model A zones? Are new Model As being manufactured and flooding the market? More likely is the explaination that a 1930s time portal has wormholed itself into 42N country. I'll go with that theory. Know that.

What's Next?

Got my beer. Got my hat. Got this Nebraska Huskers emblem around my neck. Two out of three ain't bad. Know that.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Edelweiss at Amana's Oktoberfest 2011

Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen belt out the tune, 'Edelweiss' at the 2011 Amana Oktoberfest. Lots of brats and beer flowed during the three day celebration of all things German. (Ok, I realize that the song, 'Edelweiss' was written as an Austria tribute song from the Sound of Music. But people associate the tune with German fests too.) 

The Amana Colonies, as they were once called, were founded and populated by Germans during the 1800s who came to Iowa to worship as they wished. They lived for a while as a communal society but abandoned much of that after a few years.

This year's weather was perfect for the celebration and helped to draw thousands of people to Amana on Friday night through Sunday. If you left hungry or parched you weren't trying hard enough to celebrate. Know that.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

Locally around 42N the college sports are dominated by Big 10, Big 12 and Mid America Conference schools - like Iowa, Iowa State, Drake and University of Northern Iowa. Today one visitor showed his pride by displaying everyones' school logo. This tactic means equal support for all teams and therefore could not be seen as biased. That idea works fine unless your travels take you into the PAC 10, SEC or Atlantic Coast Conference regions. Then again the car has many more available surfaces for other team logos. Know that.