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Welcome to Iowa

An amazing number of friends and customers have commented that this will be their first summer in the Midwest. Here’s Wallypop’s Handy and Only Slightly Sarcastic Guide to Summer Weather in Iowa.

1. There is either a drought or flooding. There is no middle ground.

2. A tornado watch means that conditions are right for a tornado to develop. A synonym for “tornado watch” is “late spring and summer.”

3. A tornado warning means there either is an actual tornado that someone trained has seen with their eyes, or they’ve seen one on radar. The tornado may or may not be on the ground. It may or may not be anywhere near you – just in your same county. Depending on the size and shape of your county, you may or may not be in any actual danger. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, however.

4. You might think that the distinction above about trained storm spotters is silly. It’s not. For fun, tune into AM 1040 during/after a storm some time when they open the lines up to callers to report in local weather conditions. You’ll learn quickly why you really only take the word of trained storm spotters seriously.

5. Tornado sirens are for the SOLE purpose of warning people who are outside to hustle inside and turn on the radio or TV. You’re not supposed to be able to hear them from indoors, and you’re not supposed to rely on them as your only source of information.

6. Your weather radio is a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s good to know if there’s a tornado bearing down on your house at 2 am. However, you likely don’t care much if there’s a flood watch for your county at 2 am. Your weather radio will alert you regardless. You should have one. They’re inexpensive, widely available, and might save your life.

7. Find a safe place in your basement where you will go during a tornado warning. Preferably well under ground, no or few windows, sturdy structure. Clear it of things that could become airborne menaces during high wind, and make yourself a little safe cave. In your cave, keep a cordless radio with fresh batteries, some food and water, a pair of shoes for everyone in the family, a change of clothes for the whole family, baby items like diapers if you have a baby, a baby carrier even if you no longer have a baby, and whatever else you think you might need. Our tornado area has a Rubbermaid with medical and first aid supplies, some basic tools like a hammer and axe, and other things that I think we’d need in the event our house collapsed around us. Bike helmets are not a bad idea to keep your noggin safe. 🙂

8. Have a plan. Practice your plan. Have a plan for what you’ll do if you’re home and there’s a tornado warning. Practice it with your kids. Drill it with your kids. In the middle of some activity, mimic a tornado warning (beeeep beeeeep beeeep) and have them do what they’re supposed to do. (In our house, the kids practice listening to the weather radio and are old enough to know that if it says tornado warning, they should go to the basement FIRST and text or call me SECOND if I’m not home. If they hear the weather radio alert but miss the talking part, so they’re not sure what the alert was for, basement. If they hear sirens, basement immediately. If they’re outside, come in and basement. If they’re at a friend’s house, basement. Basement, basement, basement. I’d rather have them in the basement and not need to be there than hesitating and die in a tornado.) Have a plan for how you’ll contact your family members if you/they are not home and there is a tornado. It’s a good idea to establish a central point of contact away from your immediate area –  a family member in another state for example. If a tornado were to strike, local circuits would quickly be overwhelmed, but it would be easier to reach someone outside the area. (If my husband and I are unable to reach other during any local disaster, we’d first try reaching each other through a friend of mine who lives about 40 minutes away, and our secondary contact is my sister in Omaha. Now that my oldest has his own cell phone, these numbers are in his phone, as well as a note with instructions on what to do because I’m not counting on him remembering in the heat of the moment.)

Here’s more:

Cloth Diapering/Natural Living in Des Moines – when did it start?

It seems lately, I’ve been hearing lots of scuttlebut about how long cloth diapering has existed in Des Moines. When did it start?

It’s kind of a silly question, in a way. Cloth diapering never went away, of course!

Obviously, many years ago, families in the area used cloth. I was cloth diapered, despite widespread availability of disposables in the late 70s. Twenty years later, when my nephew was born in the mid 90s, my sister in law used a diaper service here in Des Moines.

That service closed several years later, but at least at the time he was born, there were enough families in Des Moines using cloth to warrant a service. Experience shows that, generally speaking, far more people home launder than use a service, so if there were enough families using cloth to warrant a service, there were probably a fair number of families home laundering – quite the community.

When I started diapering Wally five years ago, I was the only one I knew who used cloth. A few months later, another cloth diaperer moved to town (Sara J), and I talked a friend into giving it a try (Louisa) and the three of us discovered another CDer with an older child (Laurie) who was friends with yet another CDer with a child about the same age as her own (Tanya).

I am not under any sort of delusion that we were the only ones in town using cloth, trying to live naturally, and practicing attachment parenting. We were just the only ones we knew.

What’s different now than 13 or 14 years ago when my nephew was born? Community. I decided that the area cloth diaperers needed some sort of community, some sort of organized something, so we didn’t feel so alone, so we could turn to each other for support, so we didn’t have to continually re-invent the wheel. OK, originally, we just wanted to show off our diapers to each other, lol!

I still run into babywearers or cloth diaperers who have no idea that there are others in Des Moines, and they think they’re the only ones!

If you’re local and you know it, clap your hands…

OK, just kidding about the clap hands part. I thought I’d pass along three of my recent local faves…

I am now going to serenade you with some favorite l0cal stuff I’ve used recently, while I work on a post in drafts about buying local.

Prairieland Herbs Breathe Easy Wand. Way better than Vicks. Effective, nonstinky, no watering eyes. Worth the drive to Altoona. I have found him to be fair, honest, fast, and to do quality work for less than big stores.

Metro Sales and Service. (no website). They repair sewing machines and vacuums. Their repair guy is nice and really good. They are reasonably fast, depending on workload and how difficult your repair is. They will consistently try to fix what you have instead of replacing parts. (For example, he’s filed down my bobbin case three times now because I keep scratching it somehow, instead of just replacing it. next time, he says, it’ll need to be replaced, but it’s cheaper to file down than to replace, and it keeps it running longer.)

Natural Living at the State Fair

I’m not going to pretend to know everything about this subject. I spend very little time at the Fair. Usually one day each year.

I’ll be honest…part of it is that the State Fair kind of disgusts me these days. The freakishly giant animals. Those poor pregnant and laboring mamas locked up for noisy onlookers to stare at in the Animal Learning Center. The fried food. I think last year, when I was 30, was the turning point on that one. Suddenly, the idea of eating hot fried food when it’s hot and I’m walking around in the heat just didn’t seem to make any sense. I just wanted something HEALTHY!!


There are healthy food choices at the fair, but they are of course still the more mainstream ideas of healthy. (In other words, not organic, possibly not local.)

  • Salad on a Stick. However, I heard more people criticizing how difficult this was to eat than commenting on its taste.
  • Regular salad in a bowl is available various places. The Iowa State Fair website has a list.
  • The Salad Bowl, which is in the agricultural building and also the cultural center, has salads, wraps, and other non-fried foods.
  • Many places have fresh fruit. Again, the Iowa State Fair website has a list. They left off Applelicious, which has several stands, including one outside the Varied Industries building. They have cut up apples with caramel, and they’ll omit the caramel if you wish.
  • Vegan fairgoers likely already know about the veggie corn dogs from the Veggie Table, north of the varied industries building, close to the KIOA beer tent. (Unless it’s moved in the 10 years since I brought out of state vegan friends to the fair…)
  • Omnivores can find healthy meat choices at the various Producer tents. (Pork, beef, lamb etc.)

Personally, our family is waiting for non-dairy alternatives to all the ice cream walking around the fair. Or even frozen fruit popsicles. We’ve not found any so far…

Non Food

But the fair isn’t just about food. What else can you do to make your State Fair a little more natural-minded? Here are some ideas. Our family doesn’t follow all of these, just so you know.

  • Park at one of the handy Park and Ride locations and take the shuttle in to the fair. (personally, we still drive in and park in the parking lot, as we need ready access to the car. we always perform at the fair, and then need to change our clothes and stash our performance-related things in the car so we don’t have to haul three heavy bags around with us while we stroll the fair.)
  • Bring your own reusable water bottles, filled with water. Depending on how many people you have with you, think about bringing a hydration pack (one of those nifty backpacks with a giant water bladder inside).
  • (not related to natural living, but a good tip nonetheless: pack a cooler with ice and bottles of water. Leave it in your car. When you’re all hot and exhausted, you’ll have nice cold drinks waiting for you for the drive home.)
  • Be mindful of the amount of waste you create, and for goodness’ sake, put your garbage in the plentiful garbage cans.

Please feel free to post your favorite natural living at the fair tips in the comments!