Published by the
IOWA COUNCIL OF THE UNITED BLIND
An American Council of the Blind Affiliate
Bettina Dolinsek, President
304 W. Cedar St.
Goldfield, IA 50542
Don Wirth, Co-Editor
921 9th St., #208
Ames, IA 50010
Sandy Tigges, Co-Editor
2904 34th St.
Des Moines, IA 50310
Table of Contents
I have served in my new role as ICUB President for the past three months and have learned so much in a very short time. I have met with the Board twice. We are hard at work reviewing policies, getting Dropbox set up, putting together the Convention committee, and looking forward to 2023!
Speaking of 2023, our Annual State ICUB Convention has been scheduled. Save the date! We will be holding the State Convention during the weekend of August 25, 2023. We will be returning to the same hotel in Ankeny where we look forward to more fun around the fire pit.
We have a variety of works in progress: Applications for the Hoenig Brailler Award have been sent out to eligible students. ICUB members will again be staffing a table at the Braille Challenge. And, the ACB 2023 Washington Leadership Conference will be held on March 11 -13, where Monica Carpenter has agreed to serve as our delegate.
I want to send out a big thank you to Steven Hunt for promoting this year’s White Cane Safety Day by being out and about with his cane in his home town of Creston, Iowa. As one friend said, “Steven is a very active member of the town. He frequently enjoys community activities.” Way to go, Steven!
We look forward with you to the New Year and all ICUB’s upcoming events.
Bettina Dolinsek, President
Iowa Council of the United Blind
Fungus and Fairies
Editor’s note: Karen Keninger is an ICUB Board member from Newton. She has served as Director of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, and Director of the National Library for the Blind and Print Disabled. She is now retired. Karen has always loved to travel and write about her experiences. During one of her trips, it occurred to her that she was asking questions of natives of the lands she visited that she would have trouble answering if asked about her own home. So, to rectify that, she began to work toward the goal of documenting her life and surroundings on her own Jasper County acreage. Her blog, entitled, “Heartland Safari: Discovering the World around Me,” can be found at: www.heartlandsafari.com . A post from her blog, which she generously allowed us to share in this ICUB Bulletin issue, follows. We are certain that after reading it, you will want to check out more of Karen’s blog. Enjoy!
The other day while we were tramping about near the creek, we came upon a colony of cantaloupe-sized white puffballs growing in the grass. They were past eating, but reminded us of an episode a few years ago while we were living in a big apartment building. One autumn day, Bryan found a puffball as big as a soccer ball growing in a field. He brought it home. Through careful research, we found that if the puffball was pure white on the inside, and had no gills, it was edible. If it had gills it was poisonous. We didn’t find any gills so it was safe to eat. We cut it up and fried it and ate it. It wasn’t wonderful, but it wasn’t bad. We threw the leftover bits in the trash and congratulated ourselves on being good foragers.
A few days later Bryan commented on the handsome metallic green flies on the kitchen window. I was aghast—blow flies or bottle flies! They come from maggots, and maggots come from flies laying their eggs in dead things. Yikes—our neighbors must be terrible housekeepers! We emptied the trash and got rid of the flies, and a few weeks later, to my chagrin, some further reading about puffballs revealed the source of those flies. They had come in as little white maggots in the white flesh of the puffball mushroom, impossible to see. Too late to worry about eating them!
On this fall day in Iowa, nine of these puffballs were scattered around in the grass. They were well past their prime and had probably already sent their billions of spores sailing on the wind.
Giant puffballs are found all over the world. They grow in Europe and Asia as well as in North America. They are common east of the Great Plains, including the vicinity of Owl Acres. They grow in fields and lawns, at the edges of forests, and on a variety of prairie soils.
Giant puffballs are actually the above-ground part of an underground fungus (Calvatia gigantea). This fungus is not a parasite like many fungi. Instead, it is saprobic—that is, it feeds on dead things. You may wonder how a fungus can actually feed on anything. Here’s how it works. The underground part of the fungus is called the mycelium. It is made up of a network of hundreds to thousands of thin tubes. At the tips of these tubes are structures that release digestive enzymes onto dead grass, animal matter, leaf litter, dead wood and similar environmental detritus. These enzymes digest and liquefy the “food” and then the fungus can absorb it to feed itself. In this way, the fungus helps recycle decaying plant and animal matter into nutrients.
The puffballs we see are the fruiting bodies of the underground fungus. They usually occur in late summer and fall. They grow very quickly to form a ball up to 20 inches in diameter. They are pure white as they grow, but turn brownish as they age and mature. The inside is also pure white, and the flesh has the consistency of—well—a mushroom.
The job of the puffball itself is to create and release spores—trillions of them—from within the body of the mushroom. Have you ever stomped on one just to see that green-brown cloud of spores erupt? With that many spores, you’d think there’d be lots more puffballs, but they’re picky about where they land.
The puffballs we found were scattered about, but sometimes puffballs are found in a circle, known as a fairy ring. The fairy rings are created as the underground mycelium spreads out from the center, looking for more dead things to ingest. The mushrooms pop up at the perimeter, forming a ring. Left undisturbed, they may come back year after year in ever larger rings as the underground fungus continues to grow.
These fairy rings have mythologies in a variety of cultures. The Blackfeet Indians who traveled the Midwest prairies believed that the puffballs were stars that had fallen from heaven. The people of the British Isles thought they were places where fairies, elves or pixies danced and played. Some cultures thought they were enchanted spaces—others that they were associated with witches or the devil and should be avoided.
Native Americans found many uses for puffballs. They collected them and created a powder that was used to stop bleeding or to protect open sores from infection. The powder was also used to treat earache, chafing, and the umbilical cords of newborn infants. Compresses made from the spores and spider webs, and held in place with strips of birch bark were also used for wounds and swellings. Research has found that the spores are actually antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial which would explain their effectiveness in treating wounds. Indians and settlers alike harvested young puffballs for medicine and for food.
We didn’t harvest the giant puffballs we found this year. They were too old. However, we’ll be on the lookout late next summer and fall for fresh ones. They don’t taste all that great, but foraging for food in the woods and fields has its own attraction.
Shopping to Benefit ICUB
Are you an online shopper? You can help ICUB secure some additional funds when you shop at smile.amazon.com .
There, enter your e-mail address and password. You will be prompted to shop for the charity Amazon is promoting that day or to select your own. In the dialog box for selecting your own, type our name, Iowa Council of the United Blind. We will then be the charity of choice each time you shop athttps://www.smile.amazon.com . ICUB will get 0.5% of the value of eligible purchases.
You can also support ICUB using the Amazon shopping app on your mobile phone. Download or update the app and then open it. Go to “Settings” in the main menu. Tap on “AmazonSmile” and follow the on-screen instructions to turn on AmazonSmile. You can also find the instructions by going to: https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=15576745011
Those We Have Lost
Editor’s Note: Below you will find articles about three people whom we have lost in 2022 who have made a substantial impact on the lives of blind Iowans: Shirley Wiggins, Sandy Ryan, and Warren Toyoma. Shirley Wiggins was a long-time, dedicated member of ICUB who played an important role in shaping the organization and advocating for blind Iowans. You can find an additional article about Shirley in the Summer, 2015 issue of the Bulletin.
While raising her family and pursuing her career, Sandy Ryan was busy volunteering at the Iowa Department for the Blind, serving on the IDB Commission, and actively participating in the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. Lastly, a native of Hawaii, Warren Toyoma was a friend of the Iowa blind community and was instrumental in bringing the IDB’s positive approach to blindness to Ho’opono, Hawaii’s agency for serving the blind, and thereby greatly improving the lives of hundreds of blind Hawaiians.
Two other individuals who have impacted the lives of blind Iowans need to be mentioned as well. For many years, Mary Ann Nielsen was a dedicated volunteer reader and Board member for the Iowa Radio Reading and Information Service (IRIS). Candy Coleman was a well-loved secretary for the Independent Living Program at the IDB. Candy was meticulous at doing her job, had a great sense of humor, and loved kitties, Frank Sinatra, KFC, and Lindt Truffles.
Shirley Wiggins, 1932-2022
Shirley Mae (Aldeman) Wiggins, 90, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, at the Silver Oak Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Marion, Iowa. Shirley was born on September 8, 1932, in Vinton, Iowa, to Ardell Perry Aldeman and Hattie Mae Edler. She was united in marriage to Lloyd Joseph Hilleshiem, Sr., in 1950, in Oelwein, Iowa. Shirley gave birth to her only son, Lloyd Joseph Hillesheim, Jr., who brought her much pride and joy, in 1951. He preceded her in death in March, 2014. Shirley married Harry Wiggins in 1964. He, too, preceded her in death in May, 1986.
Shirley lived most of her adult life in Cedar Rapids. She enjoyed performing and entertaining for many years, singing and playing her accordion at various venues and volunteering her talents at various area nursing homes. Kim Walford, current administrator of the Independent Living Program at IDB, observed: “Shirley’s unwavering commitment and absolute outstan