Friday, June 27, 2008

The HEART of The Heartland

Some of you may wonder, “Where and what is The Heartland?” The Heartland includes, (in alphabetical order), Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

If you would take a map of the United States and draw a line around the outside of this region, you would notice there is a state in the middle of The Heartland that your line doesn’t touch. That state is Iowa; it is the very Heart of The Heartland. Iowa is my state and when we get bad weather, I don’t care much for her. The heavy rains of spring, (that have continued into summer, this year), require many trips to the basement to check the sump pump, making sure its doing its duty to keep the water out of our house. Frequent tornado warnings necessitate even more trips to the lower level, arms burdened with emergency gear ‘just in case.’ The frequent rain also means Hubby having to drive his gas guzzling pickup back and forth to work instead of being able to ride his budget friendly and testosterone boosting motorcycle.
But when the rains finally cease, I love Iowa’s beauty. From the sky one can look down and see the patchwork quilt of nature with its multiple shades of green showing off the straight rows of crops which have burst forth from planted seeds to break through the soil, reaching for the sun. New baby calves, colts, sheep and rabbits frolic and play, reveling in the pleasures of new life. Riding around the lake, or past small pools of water left behind by rain, the throaty and unmistakable sound of the bull frogs' mating calls fills the evening air.
The clean fragrance of newly blossomed flowers rides the gentle spring breeze, delighting the senses; and before I know it, the landscape is covered with every imaginable color and scent. Fruit trees are already dropping some of their fragile petals, fences of colorful peonies beckon brigades of ants, the spirea bushes overflow with cascades of ‘bridal wreaths’ and there’s the promise of continued beauty for at least a few months. While holding a freshly cut sprig of dainty lilacs to my nose, I breathe in deeply, trying to inhale the entire essence of a flower that too soon will be only a sweet memory.

Sitting on the deck, I watch baby rabbits scurrying around the corner of the garage and young squirrels, leaping from branch to branch in our trees; I hear a saucy Blue Jay’s unsuccessful attempts to drown out the cheerful songs of its fine feathered neighbors. This is springtime in Iowa; the time when I feel the strong pulse of the Heart of The Heartland, as she throbs with the energy of rejuvenation; another growing season; another cycle of life. And now, we're already six days into summer. God is good!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Little About the Heartland

Ahh, the Heartland; the land of my parents and theirs'. The land of tornadoes, floods, heat, humidity, cold, ice, blizzards, bugs, rodents and many, many acres of flat, flat land.

But on the flip side, it's also the land of corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, sorghum and some really good vineyards. We have some wonderful Farmers' Markets, but if you want fresh fish you're out of luck; unless you hanker for catfish or crappie pulled from muddy waterways.

We have many great cooks and chefs; hence our propensity towards obesity in this region. Big, thick pork chops; beef steaks large enough to cover an entire plate; chicken prepared a zillion different ways, but the locals prefer it fried; wild mushrooms/morrels, dipped in egg wash, dredged in cracker crumbs and fried in butter; fried catfish; fried okra; fried anything; jello mixed with cottage cheese, Cool Whip, fruit or whatever's handy; fruit, cherry, blueberry, black raspberry, pear, peach, strawberry, rhubarb; cream pies.....banana, coconut, butterscotch, chocolate, french silk; puddings.....tapioca, Creme Brulee, custard; homemade ice cream. And don't forget the pastries; bread, dutch letters, Kringla, cinnamon rolls, pecan rolls, donuts, fritters, brownies........and on and on it goes. About gives a person heartburn from just reading about it, huh?

If you want to get a glazed look from a neighbor, mention the possibility of having a brunch of baked brie on rye rounds or French baguette slices with grapes or fresh strawberries. They give you that, "Is she nuts?" scarcely trying to be tolerant look. But if you want to win their hearts, invite them to an artery clogging 'all you can eat' buffet; they'll do anything for you, (after they sleep it off).

So these are my cogitations about the Heartland. Love it or hate it, but you can't ignore it. This is where all the rich, black soil is that probably grows much of what you eat.