Archive for June, 2008

Free plants

For people traveling to the Decorah area in northeast Iowa, Seed Savers Exchange still has some free pepper and tomato plants available.


Abe, at their visitor center, said this morning that a few flats of the plants are left. Already, Seed Savers has given away hundreds of plants to people whose gardens were flooded. Keep in mind, if your garden was flooded by rainwater, it should be safe to continue gardening. If the floodwaters were contaminated with raw sewage, etc., discard any produce that was growing, including root crops like turnips. You’ll need to wait at least 90 days to replant (pretty much the rest of the growing season here) and may want to have your soil tested before you proceed.


This is the notice Seed Savers Exchange sent after the flooding in Iowa earlier this month:


SSE thanks everyone for their concern about flood damage at Heritage Farm and we hope not too much damage occurred in your gardens, farms, and homes.


The gardens at Seed Savers Heritage Farm escaped the floods with minor damage, but the landscape down the valley was damaged along with many trails, bridges and fences.


SSE has many tomato and pepper transplants left from the spring sale.  Many are very tall but still healthy and in need of a garden.  If anyone is still interested in replanting, the plants are free.  Unfortunately they are to tall to be mailed, but they can be picked up at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at Heritage Farm.


Again SSE hopes everyone is safe and recovering from the floods of 2008.


Please come visit and take advantage of our surplus of transplants at the Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at 3074 North Winn Road, Decorah, Iowa.


Best wishes from the the staff of Seed Savers Exchange.


Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of heirloom seeds.

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Practical farmers field day


Susan Jutz, owner of ZJ Farms, is hosting a Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day at her farm near Solon at 5 p.m. this Sunday,  June 29. The field day will include a tour with a light dinner and discussion to follow.  The event also includes an organic essential oil seed treatment demonstration for peas. Traci Bruckner from Center for Rural Affairs will give a presentation about the new Conservation Security Program (CSP). Susan Jutz will talk about an effort funded by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) to create a farmer-led networking group in Eastern Iowa.


“More and more people are looking for food that is locally grown. We don’t have enough farmers to grow the food, specifically the vegetables to meet this expanding market demand,” said Susan. “The SARE project will create a farmer-led networking group where experienced farmers will provide one-on-one support to new or transitioning farmers. These groups will help new and potential growers be successful thus helping supply the growing demand for local food.” If you are interested in joining the farmer support group or attend the field day,  contact Susan at (319)929-5032.


ZJ Farms is an 80-acre diversified farm. Susan direct markets organically raised lambs from a 45-ewe flock, direct markets organically raised hogs, and is a principal partner and vegetable grower for a Community Supported Agriculture program in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area that serves 250 members.


Directions to ZF Farms: 5025 120th St, Solon. From Solon, 3 miles north on Hwy1; 3 miles east on 120th St.; large white house and barn beside road. Space for tents available.


This field day is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sustaining sponsors for Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Days are the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Pork Producers Association, American Natural Soy, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, Midwest Organic Services Association, Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture, and the CROPP Cooperative of Organic Valley/ Organic Prairie Family of Farms. Major sponsors for the Field Days are Wheatsfield Cooperative Natural Foods Grocery, Hubbard Feeds, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council, King Corn and Mosaic Films, and the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. 


PFI is a non-profit sustainable agriculture group dedicated to farming that is profitable, environmentally sound, and healthy for consumers and communities. Founded in 1985, PFI has over 700 farmer and non-farmer members throughout Iowa. For more information, call 515-232-5661 or visit


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Well water testing

Another diversion from gardening, but the following, from University Hygienic Lab, is important flood information for anyone with a private well:

Should I be testing my water?  Many people who are on private well systems are asking that question because of the recent flooding.

Nancy Hall, supervisor of environmental microbiology for the University Hygienic Laboratory, explains that the focus for testing is on wells that have been directly impacted by flood waters.

“People whose drinking water comes from private wells should have their water tested if their wells were covered by flood water or if the well is located close to flood water, which are those located in the 100-year and 500-year flood plain.  We have sent the message for years that people should have their  well water tested once a year, and people should do this.  But our priority now is to first make sure that we test the water for those families impacted by the flood who may be without safe water.”

The University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) distributed hundreds of water testing kits to all county health departments affected by the flooding for this testing. These kits include supplies and instructions for collection and mailing of samples to the Lab on the Oakdale Campus, just north of Iowa City. Contact your county health department to obtain a kit.

The UHL provides consultation on disease prevention, water and food safety, and disinfection of environmental surfaces. These services are particularly helpful to homeowners and businesses as they resume operations following a flood. The toll-free number for the Hygienic Lab is 800-421-IOWA (4692).
Additional information about health concerns related to flooding is also available on the University of Iowa Flood Blog at and on the UHL home page at
The Iowa Department of Public Health provides detailed information about precautions to following recovery and clean-up following a flood on their website at
The University Hygienic Laboratory is part of the University of Iowa and is the state of Iowa’s environmental and public health laboratory. The UHL is the designated laboratory for the Iowa Neonatal Metabolic Screening Program, with facilities located on the Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals and citizens. The UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. 

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Becoming a master at gardening

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener Coordinator Bev Lillie:


  Attention Linn County Gardeners – Iowa State Extension offers classes that will enhance your gardening skills and knowledge.  Classes start Sept. 11 for those interested in becoming a Linn County Master Gardener.

   Classes will be completed by the first week in November. During this time you will receive 40 hours of education including: Botany/Soils, Vegetables, Landscape Trees and Shrubs and Plant Pathology and Entomology. 

   A day will be spent on campus at Iowa State University in Ames visiting various segments of the Horticulture Department. 


   Cost is $125.00 per person.

  For more details call Bev Lillie at: 319-377-9839.


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Milk and honey

       The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:


       It’s a sure sign of spring when the scent of a bouquet of lilacs wafts covers every inch of a room.  And then the sweet smell of peonies penetrates throughout the whole house around Memorial Day.  Now it’s summer and Honeysuckle’s  milk and honey permeates my yard.   We take flower filled vases to Great Grandma as often as we can.  She enjoys them so much and we all want them to last as long as possible.

You can create a lovely bouquet by:       

·         Selecting  flowers that are just coming into bloom

·         Cutting  the stems at an angle

·         Choosing a clean vase and clean flowers

·         Using an upside down plastic mesh strawberry basket to hold cut flower arrangements in place.              

·         Keeping the vase filled with fresh water.

·         Not using chemically softened water.

·         Keeping the arrangement out of direct sunlight and heat, i.e., not on the top of the fridge or T.V.

·         Using a floral preservative for a long lasting arrangement.   Floral preservatives supply sugar for survival and disinfectant that will inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Create your own preservative:

·         One TBL. of sugar and ¼ tsp. of household bleach is a good source of preservative.

·         Tonic water or lemon-lime soda (not diet) at one part soda or tonic water with two parts water works well. 

·         Citric acid, available at drugstores can be used, too.  Use ¼ tsp. per gallon of water.

  Any combination of color and scent is certain to brighten a day.  Enjoy!


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Farmers market changes

Due to flooding in downtown Cedar Rapids, the Eighth Avenue farmers market has been relocated to Noelridge Park, at the corner of Collins Road and Council Street NE. The market is open 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

In addition to the regular Noelridge farmers market, from 4-6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, that means the market operates at the site every day of the week except Sundays.

The multi-block Downtown Farmers Market, which would have been June 21 and July 5, have been canceled.

If you know of other changes to farmers markets or gardening events, please add a comment or send an email to:

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Important information for flooded gardens

Patrick O’Malley, ISU Extension Eastern Iowa Commercial Horticulturist, and Duane Gissel, ISU Extension Scott County Horticulturist, offer insight into recovery for flooded gardens:


   If flooding is from pooled rainwater, it should be safe to continue gardening.


   If the water is from river, creek or other sources that may contain raw sewage, such as untreated release from city waste water plants, septic systems or livestock facilities, some produce will be unsafe to eat.


The safety of unharvested fruits and vegetables depends on:

• Kind of produce

• Maturity of produce at the time of flooding

• Severity of flooding (depth of water and silt)

• Duration of flooding

• Likelihood of contamination from sewage, other bacterial contaminants or industrial pollutants. (Raw sewage contains bacteria that can cause illness if contaminated fruit or vegetables are eaten.)


The safest answer would be to discard all produce that was covered by contaminated flood water. This would include root crops such as carrots, potatoes, and beets.


Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach or other greens should be discarded because it’s not possible to thoroughly clean them, and they have many ridges and crevices that could contain contaminated silt or bacteria. (If they are cut back the regrowth should be fine to eat.)


Vegetables that result from flowers produced on growth that develops after flood waters recede should be acceptable. To increase safety, cook them thoroughly, or at least wash them and peel them before eating.


Tree fruit that remained well above flood water should be fine, but keep in mind currents and splashing could cause bacteria to get higher in the tree than the water line.  Surviving fruit that was submerged should probably not be consumed unless it is more than a month until harvest.  It would be best to peel any peaches that were submerged.   Don’t consume contaminated strawberries. Silt and other contaminants might be embedded in the fruit and could be difficult to remove.


Gardeners should keep in mind that although pathogens will eventually die out, they can remain present in the soil for several months.  If the homeowner knows the area was contaminated with sewage, it is recommended that no produce be used from the garden for at least 90 days.


Remember, as always, fruits and  vegetables should be thoroughly washed prior to consumption.


  More detailed information on gardening in flooded areas comes from South Dakota State University specialists:


Soil in gardens that were recently flooded may not be safe for growing fruit and vegetables, South Dakota State University specialists said.
SDSU Extension Horticulture Specialist Rhoda Burrows said that includes gardens that were unplanted at the time. Depending on the location, floodwaters may contain contaminants such as agricultural or other chemicals, Burrows said, as well as disease-causing organisms from fresh manure, septic systems, and even lagoons.
“Any leafy greens that are eaten fresh, such as lettuce or cabbage, should be destroyed,” Burrows said. “They are at risk of contamination for 90 days following a flood.”
Leafy greens that will be cooked, such as spinach, should be cut back completely and allowed to regrow before using, Burrows advised. Cook them thoroughly before using.
Remove the blossom or set fruit from strawberry plants exposed to floodwaters. Any strawberries that are consumed within in the next 90 days from these plants should be cooked before consuming.
Root crops should be peeled and cooked thoroughly.
“The floods were early enough that few gardeners had peas, beans, squash, or tomatoes present on their plants, but any of these present should also be picked and discarded,” Burrows said. She added that any of these vegetables that contact the ground during the three months following the flood should be either discarded, or peeled and thoroughly cooked.  Underground vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, should also be peeled and thoroughly cooked.  Thoroughly wash produce with thick outer rinds, such as melons and squash, before cutting open.

Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating.  SDSU Extension Food Safety Specialist Joan Hegerfeld recommends washing with running water and using friction. The use of detergents or chlorine bleach is not recommended. Fruits and vegetables are porous and will absorb these chemicals.

Some sprays approved for use on fruits and vegetables are available and may be helpful in removing debris, dirt and surface microorganisms. If the garden produce was flooded, follow Burrows’ recommendations, Hegerfeld said. Don’t attempt to make an unsafe flooded garden product safe by using a fruit and vegetable spray, chlorine bleach or other product.

Hegerfeld said foodborne illness has been associated with garden vegetables contaminated with floodwaters containing pathogenic bacteria, parasites and viruses. The more common pathogens involved in these outbreaks include E. coli 0157:H7, Cryptosporidium parvum, Cyclospora, Giardia, Campylobacter and Hepatitis A. All of these diseases make people very ill and in some instances have long-term complications or may be fatal.

Burrows and Hegerfeld strongly emphasized that gardeners should not attempt to make an unsafe, flooded garden product safe by using chlorine bleach or a similar product. The level of contamination on a flooded garden can be at very dangerous levels.

Gardeners should keep in mind that although pathogens will eventually die out, they can remain present in the soil for several months.  If the homeowner knows the area was contaminated with feedlot or septic overflow, it is recommended that no produce be used from the garden for 90 days. Soil or produce samples can also be submitted to a commercial testing laboratory to verify the presence or absence of pathogens, Burrows added.

Hegerfeld and Burrows strongly encourage gardeners to use good personal hygiene practices. Wash your hands before and after gardening. Leave your garden shoes at the door, and change clothing after working in a flooded garden. Avoid direct contact with floodwaters, including the soil, as much as possible. Young children can be at a high risk for some foodborne illnesses. If a garden plot has been flooded, consider either not having young children in the garden with you, or taking every precaution to utilize good personal hygienic practices.







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Czech Village ghost town

Museum staff make their way Tuesday down 16th Avenue as owners were allowed into Czech Village for the first time since last week\'s floods.    We’re diverging from our gardens a bit to address questions I’ve been hearing about Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, one of the area’s hardest hit by last week’s floods in Iowa.  I was able to go in Tuesday with the business owners and  one of our Gazette photographers, Cliff Jette, for a firsthand look at the devastation. For those of you who went to Houby Days just a few weeks ago, the area is unrecognizable from the vibrant, festive place that it was. What we saw Tuesday looked more like a ghost town, with broken windows, jumbled piles of debris and gray dirt from floodwaters covering every building and every item inside.


   The National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library was the same, with layers of muck on the floors and mud-covered historical artifacts. Ironically, Tuesday would have been a community meeting to discuss the museum’s expansion plans. Now the focus is on cleaning and rebuilding.


   Some business owners plan to clean and reopen; others are unsure. I didn’t see the Sykora’s Bakery owner on Tuesday. I know some people have inquired about that.


    I want to mention one concern for people who are working on cleanup. When I was interviewing the business owners as they waited to get in to Czech Village at the area’s checkpoint, I bent down to talk to one of them and put my hand on the grass. For the next hour or so, until I could wash it off, my hand felt like it was on fire. Health experts are warning about the bacteria and chemicals in the floodwaters and all of that – the gas and oil, and whatever else washed out of garages and elsewhere during the floods –  is now caked onto lawns and everything else it touched. Be careful. Wear rubber gloves when handling anything, as well as respirator masks when you’re going inside these buildings.


   This is the story that ran in today’s Gazette about Czech Village:


Business owners in Czech Village face rebuilding decisions

By Cindy Hadish

The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS  Rebuilding is the obvious answer for some business owners in the Czech Village.

    For others, answers will take time.

   Tuesday was the first day that owners were allowed to see the damage inflicted by last week’s catastrophic floods in the historic business area on 16th Avenue SW.

   “It’s quite the scene,”” said Randy Novak, president of Novak’s Heating and Air Conditioning. “It looks like a tornado hit.””

    As was the case in many stores, mud-encrusted furniture was upside down and items were jumbled into piles by the raging floodwaters.

    Novak is one of the business owners unsure about his future.

   “It’s a tough decision,”” he said. “We like it down here.””

    Rebuilding new elsewhere might be more economical, Novak added.

    The business, in the family since 1934 and in Czech Village since the early 1950s, lost furnaces, air conditioners and other inventory, plus two vehicles.

    Noting that June is typically Novaks’ busiest month and many people would need to replace furnaces that were underwater, Novak said the business is operating from a temporary shop and office.

    Nearby, Nan Barta, owner of the Saddle & Leather Shop, said she would do what she could to rebuild.

    The shop, in the family since 1946, has been a fixture in Czech Village since 1908. A 100-year anniversary celebration was planned for later this year.

     “It’s difficult at best,” Barta, 53, said of the devastation. “This has been my whole life. It has been my parents’ whole life. I loved it.””

    Cookie Vanous, 63, owner of Czech Feather & Down Co., echoed Barta’s sentiments. The business was started by her ancestors in 1875 and has been in Czech Village for 20 years.

   With the help of family, friends and Home Depot, which sent boxes and other materials, Vanous was able to remove nearly everything before the flood, including customers’ orders.

   “I want to save the building because of the history in it,”” she said. “We’ll stay here. It’s our heritage.””

    Engineers will have to determine the structural soundness of the buildings, some of which had flooding near rooflines.

    Al Zindrick, 53, owner of Al’s Red Frog and Zindrick’s Czech Restaurant, hopes to reopen.

    “I really plan on it,”” he said. “I want to be one of the ones to say, `This is not going to get me down.”

    Zindrick lives above the restaurant and was able to get his 92-year-old mother out before the floods came. Their cat was left behind with extra food and water.

   Czech Cottage owner Bob Schaffer left behind his parents’ pets in their apartment above the store. His mother, Jitka, 80, had lived through the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War II.

  “I hope I’ll find three live cats,”” said Schaffer, 53, as he entered the store, a former pharmacy that has been in business for 33 years selling jewelry — which was removed before the flood — and Czech glass and other gift items. The building was built in 1901.

   Schaffer plans to reopen, but Mike Ferguson, 47, owner of the landmark Polehna’s Meat Market, was unsure.

   His priority Tuesday was finding a hazardous material crew to help remove thousands of pounds of rotting meat in the building.

   “There’s a lot of people worse off from me,” Ferguson said, his voice breaking. “But I lost my future.””

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Flood heartache

The following, from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith, describes the heartache that many Iowans are experiencing as they recover from devastating floods:  


     I found a penny today.  It was face-up, so I picked it up because I’m told that is a sign of good luck.  I gave it to my friend and wished him well.  And then we went back to filling a dumpster with possessions from his flooded home.

    The baby book, wedding, and family photos went out with the couch and recliner. Wet books were swollen so much we couldn’t remove them from the book case.   Our boots and gloves were smeared with greasy goo.  The stench was indescribably offensive.  We trekked in and out;  in and out, “ Save this?”  “Throw this away?”  “Let that dry out.”

    There just are no words to explain the level of devastation this flood created.  We have friends who may not have a job to return to.  A friend’s father, sister and mother-in-law all lost their homes.  

   But we rescued a plant today.  It was given to our friend by her grandmother when she was considerably younger.  It will get a good bath tonight.  It will survive.  In time, we will all survive.  I hope you can find time to help someone who is hurting even if it is only to find a penny and wish them well.


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How much water?


   I remember an old western movie in which the town experienced a water shortage. A vigilante group brought out a woman who had used what little water there was to wash her hair. “But it was dirty,” she protested. If I remember correctly, they promptly cut off her hair or otherwise doled out justice, Old West style.

   As Cedar Rapids residents were asked to restrict their water usage in the wake of floods that have devastated some parts of the city, many jumped on board to do what they could, while others apparently ignored the plea to conserve.

   Those restrictions have been relaxed, as of today, allowing short showers, and dishwashing and laundry to be done on odd days if your address is odd-numbered, and on even days for even-numbered addresses, from what I’m told.

   Still, it’s interesting to see how resourceful we could be during this crisis. I’ve found that water from my full dehumidifier is enough to “flush” the toilet once. And although a once a day flush may be a little extreme in the long-term, at least I’ve found a new use for the “gray water.” If anyone has other suggestions – I know people were using rainwater for the same thing – please add your comments below.



The following on water usage comes from the 


 Agricultural Water Management Council:



  Brush your teeth – 2 to 5 gallons


  Wash the car – 50 gallons


  Use the dishwasher – 8 to 15 gallons


  Flush the toilet – 1.5 to 4 gallons (each flush)


  Take a shower or bath – 17 to 24 gallons


  Run the washing machine – 35 to 50 gallons (each load)


  Eat lunch, chicken sandwich – 215.1 gallons


  Drink a glass (8 oz.) of orange juice – 49.1 gallons


  Eat dinner, lasagna, salad, and garlic bread 470 gallons




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