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Mar 02, 2010 12:19PM

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It's maple syrup time in Iowa

The Indian Creek Nature Center, Cedar Rapids, will host its 27th annual Maple Syrup Festival from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 6-7. Festival-goers can see the tapping of trees for syrup collection, gather sap and learn how sap is processed into delicious maple syrup. Advance tickets for the event are $6.50 for adults and $3.50 for ages 3-12. At the door, tickets are $7 for adults and$4 for kids. Ticket holders also are entitled to a full breakfast with pancakes, sausage, juice, milk, coffee and real maple syrup. There will be live music, too. To order tickets or ask questions, call the Indian Creek Nature Center at (319) 362-0664. The center is located at 6665 Otis Road, Cedar Rapids. Its Web site is indiancreeknaturecenter.org.

Also this month, the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center will host a mape-syruping demonstration with naturalist Tom Greene at 1 p.m. March 6. Greene will discuss the history and procedure for tapping trees for syrup. TheWapsi Center is located at 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon, Iowa. To register, call (563) 328-3286.

Iowa City to make sustainable changes in Riverfront Crossings District

The Riverfront Crossings District in IowaCity, Iowa, has been selected as one of five sustainable communities pilot projects in the United States as part of a partnership between EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The goal of the project is to clean up and redevelop the area, which is a mix of student housing, auto-oriented commercial businesses and industrial sites. Iowa City plans to revitalize the District by developing walkable urban neighborhoods that will provide a mix of affordable housing, ground-floor retail and office space, pedestrian-oriented streetscapes, entertainment and recreation facilities, public open space, trails, and other open-space amenities along the Iowa River.

Transportation investments for a light rail system are pending.

Greenie Tots serve up healthy meals for kids of busy parents

Ever wish dinner for the kids would arrive on your doorstep, frozen and ready to heat? Greenie Tots provides frozen vegetarian meals for kids ages 6 months to 12 years old.Meals ship to your home and contain no hormones, pesticides or high-fructose corn syrup. To prepare a Greenie Tots meal, you boil or microwave it. Meals come in eco-friendly containers. They cost $24-$30 for six. For more information, visit GreenieTots.com.

Cat unveils first electric drive tractor

Caterpillar Inc. has unveiled a first-of-its-kind electric drive track-type tractor. The new D7E tractor uses significantly less fuel than other mid-sized tractors. And although it costs about 20 percent more than its conventional counterpart, the D7E does more work while consuming less fuel and fewer parts, "providing customers with lower owning and operating costs," says Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman. "The environmental impact has never been more in the public eye," Oberhelman says, "and that's the way it should be."

Three ways to make a birdhouse

Want to add a birdhouse to your winter and spring landscape? You have three opportunities this month. First, the Hurstville Interpretive Center, 18670 63rd St., Maquoketa, Iowa, will host a birdhouse workshop at 1 p.m. March 7. Cost for the event is the cost of materials for each birdhouse. Houses are $5 for wrens; $7 for bluebirds; and $16 for kestrels. Call (563) 652-3783 to register in advance.

Later in the month, The Wapsi River Environmental Education Center, 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon, Iowa, will hold two birdhouse workshops -- from 1-4 p.m. March 20 and at 6:30 p.m. March 25. The March 10 workshop will teach participants to build houses for wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, swallows, bluebirds, martins, wood ducks, owls and kestrels. Fees are $5 to $30 depending on the house you make The March 25 workshop will teach how to make houses for bluebirds, wrens, kestrels or wood ducks. Fees are $5 to $25. To register for either Wapsi class, call (563) 847-7202. Register for the March 25 class by March 20.

Learn about lighthouse at Winter Glow

The Hurstville Interpretive Center, 18670 63rd St., Maquoketa, Iowa, will host a Winter Glow event from 3 to 7 p.m. March 14. The day begins at 3 p.m. with a program about the RockIslandLighthouse, a lighthouse located at the northern tip ofDoor Peninsula, Wis. The program will be presented by Bill and Wendy Hainstock and Rich and Mary Hayward, who have spent several vacations serving as volunteer guides and lighthouse keepers there. A soup supper will be served from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Guests whould bring their own place settings to save 50 cents on admission. During the event, the Friends of Jackson County Conservation will host a silent auction from 4 to 6 p.m. The program is free, but the dinner requires tickets. Cost for the meal is $7 for adults and $5 for ages 5-10. For more information, call the Hurstville Interpretive Center at (563) 652-3783.

All-Iowa Horticulture Expo is the place to be for all things green

Internationally known horticulturist Dan Heims and garden designer and author Stephanie Cohen will speak this month during the All-Iowa Horticulture Exposition. The event will be held at the Bridge View Center, 102 Church St., Ottumwa, Iowa. Exhibit hall hours will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 20. The event will include more than a dozen eduational presentations and demonstrations on vegetables, nuts, lawn care, hypertufa troughs, lilies, unusual plants and butterflies. Admission is $10 for adults for one day, $15 for two days, $5 for students and free for kids 12 and under. For more information, visit the Iowa State Horticultural Society's Web site, iowahort.org.

Meet a great farmer at CSA fairs in Linn and Johnson counties

If local food is on your radar -- and you'd like to eat more of it -- then a CSA subscription could be for you. CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and the idea is simple: You pay a farmer at the beginning of the season, and he or she provides you with food through the growing months, usually in a cooler that you pick up once a week. To learn more about CSAs, you can attend the Linn County Local Farmer and CSA Fair from 1 to 4 p.m. March 28 at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Road, Hiawatha, Iowa. The Johnson County Fair will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. April 10 at the Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center, 220 South Gilbert St., Iowa City. The events are free and open to everyone.

Log on for a winter 'farminar' on poultry, veggies and grass-fed beef

It's too cold to head into the field for a seminar, so the PracticalFarmers ofIowa are hosting a series of winter Web-based "farminars" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, March 2-23. The March 2 program will feature pastured poultry. Farmer Tim Daley, who produces and markets poultry on pasture, will share his extensive knowledge with beginning farmer Cheryl Ness. The March 9 presentation on vegetable production will feature farmer Gary Guthrie of Growing Harmony Farm, known as the "Carrott King" of Iowa. On March 16, you can learn about vegetable marketing from farmer Susan Jutz of ZJ Farms, who grows vegetables on her farm near Solon, Iowa. Finally, on March 23, you can log in to learn about grass-fed beef with grass-based livestock expert Doug Gunnink of Gunnink Forage Institute. To sign up for a farminar, e-mail Luke@practicalfarmers.org or visit www.practicalfarmers.org/farminar.

Henry FarnamDinner to benefit River Action

The 2010 Henry Farnam Dinner will be held March 12 at the i wireless Center, 1201 River Drive, Moline. The seventh annual dinner will celebrate the sesquicentennial of the 1860 foundation of Augustana College, Rock Island, and the Weyerhaeuser & Denkmann Lumber Company. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails and diplays, with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and a program at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person. A reserved table of 10 is $375.Reservations are due March 9. Reservations and payment may be mailed to River Action, P.O. Box 963, Davenport, IA 52803. For details about the event, call River Action at (563) 322-2969.

Crops workshop to focus on cover crops for conservation

Want to learn how to prevent soil erosion and nitrate loss on your land?Plan to attend the fifth annual workshop of the Midwest Cover Crops Council in the Gallery at the Iowa State Memorial Union in Ames from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 3. "Cover crops definitely are an underutilized conservation tool, especially in Iowa," said USDA plant physiologist Tom Kaspar. "I like to call it a patient investment because cover crops can pay huge dividends in soil health and productivity over the long term." Cost to attend the workshop is $25, but the fee will be waived for farmers. Pre-registration has ended, but walk-ins will be accepted the day of the conference. Meals cannot be guaranteed for walk-ins. For details about the event, visit mccc.msu.edu.

New USDA rules establish standards for pasture and livestock

After over 10 years of lobbying, family farmers across the country, who produce organic milk, are celebrating the release of strict new USDA regulations that establish distinct benchmarks requiring the grazing and pasturing of dairy cows and other livestock. Many hope that the new rule will put an end to the abuses that have flooded the organic market with milk from a handful of large dairies generally confining thousands of animals in feed lots and barns. "We are delighted by the new rules," said Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. To view a brand-by-brand scorecard for organic milks, visit cornucopia.org/2008/01/dairy-report-and-scorecard.

Urban chickens: Learn to raise 'em at New Pioneer

Thinking about raising chickens in your backyard? You can learn the basics at New Pioneer Food Coo-op, 1101 2nd St., Coralville, Iowa. Events are free and open to everyone. From 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 2, Misha Goodman of Iowa City Animal Services will outline what is needed for a suitable chicken house, laying nest boxes and backyard enclosure. She will provide tips on chick sources, proper feeding, keeping the hens safe from predators, and taking care of chicken waste. Then, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 11, Stacey Driscoll and Alicia Diehl of IC Friends of Urban Chickens, will take a light-hearted look at the joys and challenges of raising hens within city limits. For more information, call New Pioneer at (319) 358-5513.

Trudi Temple presents 'Order & Creativity = Economy' at Botanical Center

The Quad City Botanical Center, 2525 4th Ave., Rock Island, will host a garden program from 2 to 4 p.m. March 14. The presenter will be Trudi Temple, whose one-acre garden in Hinsdale, Ill., has been featured on "The Victory Garden" on PBS. At 73 years old, Temple still does all of the planting and most of the garden's maintenance. During the presentation, Temple will share gardening advice, including her secret to compost. Admission to the program is free. For more information, call the Botanical Center at (309) 794-0991.

Annual Illowa Orchid Show moves to Wallace's Garden Center

It's all about orchids at the Illowa Orchid Society's annual Orchid Show. This year's exhibition will be held at Wallace's Garden Center, 2605 Devils Glen Road, Bettendorf,Iowa. Hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 27 and 28. At 10:30 a.m. March 27, Craig Hignight will talk about keeping orchids and houseplants, as well as pest solutions, propagation and general plant care. The Orchid Show is an annual tradition that includes displays, sales, orchid information and presentations by top orchid experts. Admission is free. For more information, visit illowaorchids.org.

'Khrushchev in Iowa' included focus on local foods

When former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Iowa in 1959, he took a meal created by Elizabeth Garst, co-owner of the Garst family in Coon Rapids, Iowa. Last summer, the meal was recreated -- complete with as much locally-grown food as possible -- at two events a full 50 years later. The first meal was served at the Whiterock Conservancy's Garst Farm at an Aug. 2009 luncheon celebrating the induction of the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Farmstead into the National Register of Historic Places. It was served again at the "Khrushchev in Iowa" event held Aug. 28, 2009 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Guests at the luncheon and banquet included a delegation of 31 Russian political and agribusiness leaders. The Russian delegation was also treated to several tours of Iowa farms and factories.

Horticulture in the Heartland slated March 6

The Bickelhaupt Arboretum will host Horticulture in the Heartland, a seminar, at Clinton Community College in Clinton, Iowa, on March 6. Registration is from 8:30 to 9 a.m. The $30 admission fee includes continental breakfast and lunch. Each participant will receive a packet of horticulture information. The day will be divided into three breakout sessions, in which attendees can learn about butterflies, rain gardens, new annuals and perennials, edible plants (including weeds), insects in woody ornamentals, conifers, crabapple trees, bird diversity and habitat, and more. Keynote speaker Jeff Iles, chair of the department of horticulture at Iowa State University, will present "The Best Shade and Ornamental Trees for Iowa" at 11 a.m. For more information, call the arboretum at (563) 242-4771. An event registration form is available online at bick-arb.org.

Mini review: 'Bean Appétit: Hip and Healthy Ways to Have Fun With Food' (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Feb. 2010, 208 pages, $14.99 in hardback)

Bean Appétit, a cookbook and activity book, is geared for parents with young children and a healthy tolerance for silliness. The author's aim is not to disguise healthy food in acceptable forms, like shredded carrots in meatloaf, but to present these foods front and center, in ways that are fun and attractive to kids. Games and crafts, discussion questions and helpful hints are interspersed with healthy recipes. The recipes are very simple, often showcasing unique presentations of basic foods. One that caught my eye was Campfire Crunch, a simple display of grapes, cheddar cheese, carrots and pretzels staged to look like a fire ring filled with leaping flames.

The book includes goofy instructions that are likely to annoy most adults. (I tried to ignore them.) In Ready to Roll Ups, an egg-and-spinach pesto breakfast recipe, the instructions suggest making a "noise like an alarm clock" while spraying the baking pans. Instructions for the otherwise delicious Fla-Mango Soup instruct kids to pretend to surf and hula-hoop while running the blender. Hmm, no thanks.

Despite the ridiculousness, however, the book contains good ideas for encouraging kids to try healthy foods.

-- Terri Nestel, Bettendorf

Home Grown Challenge Boot Camp March 14

The University of Illinois Extension - Rock Island County will host a Home Grown Challenge Vegetable Gardening Boot Camp from noon to 5 p.m. at the Milan Community Center, 2701 1st St. E., Milan, Ill. Participants will learn the basics of vegetable gardening in this intensive, five-hour class. Cost of admission is $15 per person. To register, call the extension at (309) 756-9978 or visit yourextension.org.

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