Monday, October 27, 2014

Iowa October

Iowa is at its best in October I believe.  My past two trips there have been in October, and the rolling farmlands are in autumn-glow finery during this time, the weather whispers of coming winter, the temperature begs for a coat but doesn't leave your fingers numb, and the trees are an explosion of so-good-you-want-to-drink-them-up warm-colored hues.

But I digress.

The real reason for the trip was to celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday.  Unfortunately, I could only get away for 3 days but those three days were filled with an overflow of treasured time with family and the gift of several outdoor experiences in a true autumn (something most of California lacks).

I arrived late afternoon on Friday.  Our first stop was a drive past the old family farm that my dad grew up on.  After that, we had a short walk around Iowa Lake and then continued on to my grandparents' home town to help set up for the birthday party.  It was a late night of party set-up, but the entire evening was also spent with my grandparents + two aunts so I couldn't have thought of anywhere I'd rather be or anything I'd rather be doing.

Past Family farm (now owned by others)
Iowa Lake

Saturday I had an early morning run out on the gravel roads leading away from my parents' friends' "farm house"... see the picture below, not what you expected of a farmstead, huh?  Besides running a very successful farm, they also are the owners of a very successful winery.  They were most kind to put us up...and honestly it felt like staying in a bed & breakfast resort.

Iowa "Farm House"



Evidence of my white-tailed deer siting that morning :)



My parents and I even got a taste of the daily farm life during harvest time with a ride in the corn combine and auger wagon...both (but the former especially are quite the impressive bit of machinery).  It was sincerely quite a thrill to be able to ride in one, and I know if any farmer reads this they would chuckle at my enthusiasm when it's all in a day's work for them.  However, for anyone, the realization of how quickly this machine gets the job done compared to de-kerneling by hand is awe-inspiring.  We had a mountain of kernels within mere minutes.






The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent with the family finishing the set-up for and then helping with the running of the birthday party event.  The attendance was quite impressive, a true testament to the man my grandfather is and has always been and to so many.  I felt quite proud to stand by and call myself his kin.  And...once handsome always handsome I say (see the pictures below).  When the evening came to a close, he gave me a picture of himself as a young chap, about the age I am now, and told me to tell others that "this is my boyfriend." I plan to do just that Grandpa and make all the other girls jealous of my good fortune.


My aunt put together an impressive display of photos of my grandfather over the years, memorabilia of his life and hobbies, and also a collection of things he had written...one of which was a poem he wrote for me shortly after I was born (he wrote a poem for each of his grandchildren in such a fashion), so couldn't help but share that as well:


Sunday was spent with my mom's side of the family in another town close by.  We met one of my aunts and she took us to a prairie restoration site.  This is an area where volunteers have collected native prairie grass seed form elsewhere, rescattered it in this area, and helped the land return to what it was before Iowa became a sea of corn and soybean fields.  The autumn light made it even more beautiful and it was great fun to walk through native grasses that towered over our heads at points.  This area also has a great selection of hiking trails through a small forest...if I had more time I would have spent hours here.






Our next few stops were a walk down memory lane for my mom past her old house, high school, and junior high.  We stopped at a few other parks - one of which was the location of my parents' second date back when they were courting.

Ellis Park  




Location of parents' 2nd date
All too soon, it was time for me to return to the airport and fly back home.  Still: I savored the time with family and the time I was able to wrap myself in a true autumn.  

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