Indian Creek Clean Up


Indian Creek is finely running clear, but its not clean

Indian Creek is finely running clear, but its not clean

Teal takes the tire, but loses a boot in the sand

Teal takes the tire, but loses a boot in the sand


Back in June of 2009, Project AWARE volunteers removed 103 tires from the waterways in this area, as part of a 33 mile river cleanup project that netted 42 tons of rubbish. In 2008, Project AWARE had tackled 80 miles upstream of here just after the floods of 2008, and removed 816 tires as part of their 47 ton trash haul.

Now the flood waters of 2013 have subsided, Indian Creek is running clear, the weather is cool and the wildflowers are in full bloom, and this beautiful late summer was marred by a tire in Indian Creek. Whoever dumped it may not have dumped it in the creek-I’ve plucked plenty of tires out of road ditches and gullies—but everything ultimately ends up downhill, downstream, and in the creek. While they sit abandoned in the environment, before they reach the water, they provide perfect habitat for mosquito larvae.

Teal and I went out to fetch it, and we will take it to the Linn County Landfill and Composting Facility. Located at the corner of County Home Road and Highway 13, the facility charges a single dollar to drop a tire off there, and they can recycle the material. Meanwhile, Project AWARE sponsors and volunteers are preparing to clean up the Iowa River, downstream from us, this September.

Joe-pye weed

Native bee on Joe-pye weed

Native bee on Joe-pye weed

joe pyweed2 ironweedRight now, the thing to do is stop and smell the Joe-pye weed (Eupatoreum maculatum). It is tall and lanky, like most of the late-summer bloomers, so it doesn’t always get the attention it warrants from urban dwellers. At six feet tall, it can be a bit much. But in a wide open setting, or as a backdrop to smaller flowers, it is perfect. Its pale lavender flowers harmonize beautifully with the deep purple of ironweed (Vernonia fasciculate), and the smell is intoxicating. Obviously the bees love it, and the butterflies do as well. The best spot to see it right now is right beside the barn, along the picket fence. There is some ironweed there as well. About a quarter mile west of the barn along Otis Road there is an entire field of the ironweed blooming, clusters of purple mixed in with the yellow of cup plants. An easy way to tell the Joe-pye weed and the ironweed apart, if they aren’t quite in bloom or it is the seeds you’re stalking, is to check out the leaves. The Joe-pye weed leaves are in a whorl around the stem, and the iron weed leaves are opposite.



Other than the occasional visit from a leashed dog, the bones are fading into the landscape quickly. I was delighted to see an opossum visit the site for the first time. I love opossums, because they give me a chance to work words like crepuscular and marsupial into the same sentence. In North America, the opossum is the only animal that cares for its young in a pouch and the only animal with fifty teeth. With its prehensile tail and the ability to play dead, it’s a delightful animal to find. As scavenging omnivores, I had expected them to visit the carcass much sooner. Twice I have come across young “dead” ones who scampered off before I could return with a camera or an eye-witness, and I frequently come across adults ambling through the savannas.


Honeybee Queen Rearing Class


This is a two day, hands on class June 1 -2 (Saturday and Sunday).  It starts at 9:00am and runs to approximately 3:30pm each day at the Indian Creek Nature Center’s apiary. This is a great opportunity for you to learn how to raise your own honeybee queens. No prior knowledge of queen rearing is required. The objective of the class is to provide experienced beekeepers a method of rearing their own queens. This reduces the need to purchase new queens, and allows beekeepers to selectively promote the lines they like in their apiary. The class is tailored after the Larry Conner queen rearing method. Each class member should receive one or two queen grafts at the end of the session. These grafts will require finishing in  student’s apiary. Recommended reading before the class is “Queen Rearing Essentials” by Larry Connor. This book is available on line for $20.00 plus shipping @

BEE sure to send your registration in early as the class size is limited to 15. Contact the registrar at (319) 362-0664 to sign up. Cost is $65 for Nature Center members and $75 for nonmembers.

I recommend students bring lunch both days. Because of the location of the Nature Center and the intensive nature of the class, there will not be time to go off-site for lunch.