So to those who would disdainfully dismiss the 'fly over middle' of the country, I wish for you a few quite hours to develop more depth of insight; meanwhile, keep on moving fast ...please.

...but as Garrison Keillor has noted in jest, Winter is the season that reaffirms that you ARE alive as mother nature makes a concerted effort to kill you. He's also noted (only half in jest I believe) that we mid-westerners like the Winter weather because it keeps out the riffraff. Admittedly it is not the most overtly scenic part of the country; the beauty here is more subtle. It takes a cycle of the seasons and a sense of the rhythm of life to grasp it; something that will forever elude those who only drive through the I-80 corridor.Perhaps the best expression of a quick impression of our part of the country ever heard came from a traveling musician who noted that, "...while California has the beaches and Colorado has the mountains, in Iowa, you have the clouds."
The tree to the left near the little fishing dock is one of the transplanted walnuts; hardwoods like these and many varieties of Oak were native to the mid-west and, indeed, the first European settlers found as much of this part of 'the new world"(especially the numerous river valleys) covered with hardwood forests as with grassland prairie.Other efforts from time to time to plant back more hardwood trees have been less successful because the large number of white tail deer that seek refuge on our land graze on small tree shoots (it's not uncommon at all to have six to ten deer watering at the pond around sunset as we stand on the opposite bank).

Several years ago while on a business trip to a major eastern city, I was bluntly asked,"So, what is it about Iowa why do you choose to live there?"I struggled at that moment to give a concise answer; but in the long run the questioner had done me a favor because as I mulled this I concluded I live here for the lack of things.... such as violent crime, traffic jams & stress. And in terms of driving time to cultural activities such as plays and concerts, our time spent is no more than that of the typical suburban commuter; I'll bet we pay a lot less for parking too. [Have you ever noticed how seldom the average city dweller takes advantage of city activities because of the hassles with traffic and parking?] Regardless, the average person attends the much touted 'cultural activities' of a major city a few times a month at most while they must contend with the livability of their area continuously. Unwittingly, the guy that asked that question gave rise to me becoming a mid-western chauvinist.

Inevitably when you tell someone you prefer to live in the upper mid-west they bring up the weather... yeah, OK, it snows here sometimes.......
Our home is situated on six acres, about four of which were over tilled & under appreciated rental crop land, with the balance covered by what trees were left after the better native hardwoods were harvested. Anyway - that was how it looked twenty + years ago. Since then we've stabilized the open land with grass & legume cover and a few wild flowers. The open area in our timber land was allowed to revert to meadow populated with native plants, wild plumb & cherry trees.As we've gathered firewood from the downed or standing dead Box Elder and American Elm trees, great care has been taken to avoid harming the Ash and Black Walnut trees that have slowly spread from the few remaining original ones. A number of white, red and black oaks have been established around the property.A couple dozen Black Walnuts were also transplanted almost 20 years ago to an area just North of the original tree line. These can be seen in this shot of our latest property enhancement, a small (1/3 acre) pond....‚Äč