Talk of Iowa

Weekdays at 10 a.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 9 p.m. on IPR News

Talk of Iowa brings a mix of regular guests and a range of experts to the microphone to discuss what’s happening in Iowa and what makes this a special place to live. Guests include wildlife expert Jim Pease and the Hort Gang on Fridays.

Talk of Iowa is hosted by Charity Nebbe @CharityNebbe. It’s produced by Dennis Reese, Emily Woodbury @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Katelyn Harrop @KatelynHarrop. Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins. Our theme music is by The River Monks.

Artemisia Fioristi

More cut flowers are purchased on Valentine’s Day than on any other day of the year, in spite of the fact that the holiday falls in the dead of winter.

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks to horticulturists Richard Jauron and Cindy Haynes about how to get the most out of your cut flowers. They also share tips for how to bring springtime into our homes by forcing flowering tree and shrub branches into bloom. Later in the hour, Haynes and Jauron answer listener questions. 

Salman Javed

William Shakespeare has been dead for over 400 years, but we still turn to his words and his work for wisdom and inspiration, particularly when it comes to matters of love. 

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with James Anthony, who rewrote every one of Shakespeare’s sonnets following the rules of rhyme and iambic pentameter, but using modern, accessible language. His collection is titled, “Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold: Classic Love Poems with a Modern Twist.”

dion gillard / flickr

Very few people actually like going to the dentist, but oral health is an essential part of our overall health. We also live in a culture that values good teeth and beautiful smiles, and new technologies are making some of the things dentists and orthodontists have always done a lot easier and faster.

Penguin Random House

English is a living language, which means that we're constantly coming up with both new words and new ways to use old words. While the fundamentals of grammar remain largely the same, these constant changes in language mean that even our steadfast grammar rules may begin to shift over time.


Emily Woodbury/Iowa Public Radio


In 1995, at 16-years-old,  Jamie Ross was sent to prison, convicted of second degree murder. She was sentenced to 50 years, but was released after less than nine. That time spent in prison was powerful for her, and she says it turned her life around.  


Ross has built a life for herself in the 15 years that have passed since she was released from prison. She’s married, raising two sons, and has built a successful career that she loves. She has moved on, but she has chosen not to leave her past behind.



Harriet Tubman and Muhammad Ali are both recognized for their notable contributions to American history, but according to the cofounders of Humanize My Hoodie, and a new Black History Month clothing line released by the project,  Tubman and Ali are so much more than a textbook might show.

James Pritchett

A Lot of Iowans have been planting milkweed over the years in an effort to bring Monarch butterflies back from the brink, and there has been some success. But dramatic changes in the landscape due to large scale agriculture and our own personal landscapes have such an impact, that planting milkweed is just a drop in the bucket.

Dave Kolpack

High school students have been reading authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dickens, and Hemingway in the same way for generations.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion with educators who are rethinking high school literature classes for the 21st Century.

PIVISO / flickr

Scott Searle of Davenport is better known as the "yo-yo man" to many in the Quad Cities-area who see him log hundreds of miles while yo-yo-ing. The hobby sprang from a dark place for Searle, and he's used it to help battle his alcoholism and drug addiction.

"I discovered that the sidewalk was your infinite treadmill," he says. 

Searle says his family made many attempts to intervene to help him stop drinking, but his focus didn't shift until he started exercising at his local YMCA. 



Tiffany Patterson is an Associate Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies and a professor of history at Vanderbilt University, but before she headed to Tennessee, Patterson lead the African and African American Studies Department at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.


On Thursday, Patterson will return to Luther for the first time since she left her position at the college and will give the spring convocation address as part of the 50th anniversary of the Black Student Union at Luther.


Extension Master Gardener

We’ve just endured a polar vortex, which brought wind chills approaching -60F to some parts of Iowa. As the state begins to defrost, it would be nice to think this extreme cold could be a setback for some of our least favorite invasive insects—but will it impact our beloved plants, too? 

Courtesy of University of Iowa Dance Marathon

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the University of Iowa's Dance Marathon. For 24 hours, more than 2,000 students dance to raise funds for children with cancer. A founding member of the event Sheila Baldwin says through the years the event has not only helped children but also shaped the lives of some students who take part in staging the event. 

Ventured Away Photography Follow / flickr

Parents are finding it increasingly difficult to secure care for their kids following what the Iowa Women's Foundation identifies as a 42 percent decline in child care services across Iowa in the last five years.

Photo Courtesy of Courtney Crowder / Wes Craft Photography

After years spent struggling with and recovering from severe anorexia Courtney Crowder experienced a painful moment when she was preparing for her wedding, the kind of moment that could trigger a relapse. After she dried her tears, she opened up and shared that moment and her years of struggle with readers in the Des Moines Register. 

"Keeping myself thin and keeping the disease a secret became my life," she says. "There was a time when I was eating 400 calories a day."

tygerbelton / flickr

History is dependent on written records and the stories we share. Native American history has been shaped and misunderstood based on a series of cultural assumptions. That's according to David Treuer.

Treuer is an Ojibwe novelist who is working to correct the largely misinterpreted understandings of Native American culture after the publication of the 1970s novel Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and other similar works.

Kathy Werner

For most animals, spring is baby season, but there are a number of mama goats in Iowa expecting right now.

In this Talk of Iowa segment, host Charity Nebbe talks with goat breeders around the state to find out why the coldest month of the year is also a popular kidding season for goat farmers.

John Schneider / flickr

It takes 30 plastic water bottles to make a recycled plastic prosthetic hand. Crazy, right? 

A few years ago, Chris Moriarty woke up in the middle of the night with an idea. Two weeks later, A Million Waves was born. The company, founded by two Iowans and based in Seattle, 3D prints prosthetic limbs made from repurposed ocean plastic. A entirely volunteer run operation, they have a network of more than 2,000 people who can print limbs around the world to distribute to those in need.

Wapsipinicon Almanac

In 1988, Tim Fay of Anamosa, Iowa had an idea: to publish on an antique letterpress assembled of parts he found all over the country, a yearly (or occasional) journal "to silence anyone who thinks Iowa doesn't have a literary culture."  The Wapsipincon Almanac was born, named after the scenic river that runs through Fay's Anamosa and Northeast Iowa.

Carl Wycoff / Flickr

Cayson Irlbeck is 10-years-old, and until a few months ago, he'd never seen the green of the grass or the red of a stop sign. That all changed one afternoon when his parents surprised him with a pair of Enchroma glasses, which allow some people who are red-green colorblind to see in full color. He says it's been life changing for him. 

"Stoplights. Stop signs. The grass," he says. "My dad will wake me up really early, and I'll see the purple and orange in the sunrise. The sunsets are awesome too." 

Brandon Giesbrecht / flickr

The National Alliance for Audition Support is celebrating its first birthday this month. The alliance was formed to make major orchestras look more like the cities in which they're located. 

russellstreet / flickr

What do the poetic line "my love is like a red, red rose," and the lyrics to Auld Lange Syne have in common? A  Scottish man named Robert Burns. 

Burns was a working-class Scot who gained notoriety among the aristocracy in Scotland in the late 1700's for his poetry and for creating perfectly metered couplets off the top of his head. His work and life have continued to capture the imaginations of poetry fans in Scotland and around the world since his death. 

Phee/Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever heard a noise that you just can’t stand? Think about someone chewing with their mouth open, or someone sniffling with a cold. 

Irritation is one thing, but in extreme cases for people living with hyperacusis or misophonia, these sorts of annoying sounds can trigger fear or even pain. Matthew Manz is one of those people; he carries earplugs and headphones with him everywhere.

Flickr / Out in the West

  A flowering plant makes a wonderful gift or a great pick-me-up during the dark, cold months of winter. These bright blooms bring joy, but they aren’t necessarily meant to last.


On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks to horticulturalists Richard Jauron and Cindy Haynes about about forced bulbs, shamrock, Easter Lily, and many other beautiful but fleeting blooms. Later in the hour, Jauron and Haynes answer listener questions.


Courtesy of Dean Bakopoulos

"When I was 16, my father went to the moon..." 

That's how the new movie "Don't Come Back From the Moon" begins. It's a new major motion picture starring James Franco and Rashida Jones and is based on Iowa author Dean Bakopoulos's first novel Please Don't Come Back From the Moon. 

In both the book and the film, fathers disappear, leaving families to wonder what happened to them. 

Courtesy of Jason Neises


The challenges facing small Iowa towns seem to multiply with each passing year. These challenges are not unique to Iowa and the Orton Family Foundation, a small and rural community-focused non-profit based out of Vermont, has developed an approach aimed at improving community success and wellbeing from the inside out.


Rob Dubbin

Living with schizophrenia presented Sandy Allen’s Uncle Bob with lifelong obstacles. Bob was labeled as a psychotic paranoid schizophrenic, and lived a life consisting of isolation, various medications, and time in mental hospitals. Though Sandy didn’t know their uncle well, in 2009 Bob sent Sandy what he called his autobiography, asking them to share his story.

Matt Duboff / flickr

Last winter the AAU hosted a girls wrestling tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. It was the first ever hosted in Iowa. This year, the AAU is hosting another all girls tournament on February 24. The Iowa Coaches and Officials Association is also hosting a girls state tournament on Janury 19 in Waverly. 

Kamyar Enshayan immigrated to the United States 40 years ago from Iran to go to college. He tried to attend school there, but he says that classes and whole semesters were getting cancelled due to governmental and cultural discontent. 

Amidst the current immigration debate, he's been asking himself a question: "how long someone stays an immigrant?"

Karla Conrad

With 99 counties and some serious driving time between major metropolitan centers, it’s easy for Iowa’s artists community to feel decentralized and sprawing. The Iowa Arts Council wants that to change.

2014 marked the first class of fellows under the Iowa Artist Fellowship, and five years later, the program continues, with five Iowa artists receiving $10,000 each to support their artistic endeavors and professional development.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores the work of three fellows to learn more about the breadth of artistic work happening here in Iowa.


Noah Doely is a cross-discipline artist, working in photography, sculpture, and video. Most recently, Doely has focused his energy on a series of constructed, tableau-based cyanotypes -- a 19th century iron-based photography process that creates monochromatic images in a striking shade of blue. Doely is an assistant professor of photography at the University of Northern Iowa and has exhibited his work nationally and internationally in venues including the San Diego Museum of Art, Des Moines Art Center, and Viafarini in Milan, Italy.


Michele Dorsey Walfred / flickr

With a palette of grays, browns, and whites, winter in Iowa can be pretty drab, but flowering plants can brighten things up.

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron and Aaron Steil of Reiman Gardens join host Charity Nebbe and introduce us to flowering houseplants that are easy to grow and bloom reliably. They also answer listener questions.