Community Spanish Classes

Good Evening!

I am a former Spanish/ESL teacher who is excited to be offering community Spanish classes and private tutoring beginning in January 2022! Class sizes are limited and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Payment in full is required to hold your spot. Click below to download information about classes, pricing, and policies:

Winter 2022 Session

Please contact me if you have questions or are interested in registering!


Jenn Kost

Walden Pond Donated to Winneshiek County Conservation

Schultz Family Creates Lasting Legacy through Walden Pond Donation

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

Southeast Winneshiek County has a new outdoor educational facility and space.

The Schultz Family—James (Jim) and Sharon Schultz and their daughters Wendy Schultz and Rebecca and her husband Michael Perez—have donated their family property in rural Castalia to the Winneshiek County Conservation Board.

The 133-acre property will be known as “Walden Pond: Roy and Genevieve Schultz Memorial Outdoor Discovery Area” and includes a 5-acre pond; several miles of hiking trails; a walnut, oak, and maple “sugar bush” woodland; and restrooms and an enclosed picnic shelter for classroom spaces.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Schultz Family for making this gift to Winneshiek County,” says Barbara Schroeder, executive director of Winneshiek County Conservation, “and we are honored to continue the legacy of land stewardship and education, that their family started many years ago, into the future.”

The Schultz family’s connection with Walden Pond extends back to the early 1900s and sharing the joy and beauty of the property with others has always been central to the family’s approach as caretakers of the land.

Roy and Genevieve, parents of donor Jim Schultz, operated a popular retreat and recreational outfitter and started the tradition of hosting pancake breakfasts for hundreds featuring Alaskan sourdough pancakes and maple syrup made from sap from their own trees. Roy and Genevieve’s children—Sally, Alan, and Jim—continued the pancake breakfasts for years and Jim continues to this day the labor-intensive process of making and sharing maple syrup.

Now, the family has solidified that love for Walden Pond by forever sharing it with others.

“Entrusting this special place to Winneshiek County Conservation means that the Schultz Family has ensured that it will be permanently protected for future generations to enjoy,” says Schroeder. “Walden Pond will become a lasting memorial to the conservation legacy of Jim and Sharon, Wendy, Rebecca and Mike, Roy and Genevieve, and all the Schultzes that came with and before them.”

Winneshiek County Conservation staff have begun the work of carrying on as land managers for Walden Pond, learning from Jim the ins and outs of the maple syrup process and beginning the planning process for how Walden Pond will be incorporated into its educational programs.

Through this donation, the Schultzes laid out a vision for Walden Pond serving the community as a place that helps others, especially children, create their own connections to the outdoors and natural places that are so central to the Schultz family. They wish for it to provide opportunities for children and families to immerse themselves in learning about and experiencing nature.

The education staff at Winneshiek County Conservation is up for the task, already planning how they will be able to use the facilities and grounds at Walden Pond to expand the educational programs they offer through public programs, school field trips, and summer camps. Due to the nature of the property donation, Walden Pond will be operated as a reservation-only special use area and will be closed to public hunting and open fishing.

Walden Pond will also create new opportunities not feasible at existing Winneshiek County Conservation properties by providing outdoor space for schools and youth organizations like scouts and 4-H clubs to expand their own offerings.

“Public lands in Winneshiek County are generally clustered in the northern half of the county,” says Schroeder, “so it is particularly exciting that Walden Pond will significantly increase public greenspace and recreational opportunities in the southeast part of the county. We are looking forward to seeing the first group of kids explore this beautiful property. It will be a momentous day and a testimony to the legacy the Schultz family is leaving.”

For more information, please contact Winneshiek County Conservation at or by calling (563) 534-7145.

Part 2 of this series will cover the history of Walden Pond and the conservation legacy of the Schultz Family.

Winneshiek County Conservation Receives $30,000 for Dry Run Bridge

Winneshiek County Conservation Receives $30,000 for Dry Run Bridge

Winneshiek County Conservation has been awarded a grant from the Arlin Falck Foundation in support of the on-going development of the Dry Run Trail.

The $30,000 grant will be used toward the construction of a walking and biking bridge over Dry Run Creek along the Dry Run Trail route. The bridge will be located less than a half-mile west of the Highway 52 and Highway 9 intersection and is the second construction project of the Dry Run Trail, following the completion of the box culvert under Highway 52.

The completed bridge will form an integral part of the Dry Run Trail, which will eventually connect Decorah’s Trout Run Trail with the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail that runs from Calmar to Cresco.

Once completed, the bridge will open access to further trail-building that will connect users to the Dry Run Greenbelt, more than 100 acres of public land that include hardwood forests, oak savannas, and prairie remnants that harbor at least 284 species of plants and animals, as well as hidden springs and limestone outcroppings.

Development and planning for the overall Dry Run Trail continues as Winneshiek County Conservation acquires right-of-way easements and applies for and secures additional grant funding for the numerous culverts and bridges needed for the first phases of the Dry Run Trail. Construction of the bridge should begin in the Spring of 2022.

The Arlin Falck Foundation awards grants for community development, community promotions, community education, and similar matters that will benefit persons residing in Iowa’s Winneshiek and Allamakee counties and Minnesota’s Fillmore and Houston counties.

Contributions to the Dry Run Trail project can be made in one of several tax-deductible ways. Checks can be sent to the Winneshiek Conservation Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, at PO Box 265, Calmar, Iowa 52132. Online contributions can be made through a fund established at the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. More information is available here or by calling (563) 534-7145.

Winter Bird Feeding and Watching

Winter Bird Feeding and Watching

I have a confession to make. For years, even during my time as an educator with Winneshiek County Conservation, I was a birdfeeding skeptic.

I inwardly guffawed, raised my eyebrows, and even shook my head at the many (many) people in my life who fed birds in their backyards. I couldn’t believe their devotion—the time! the energy! the money!—to their backyard feeders.

Well, I have to eat a little crow here because, I too, am now an avid backyard bird feeder. It all started as something to keep us entertained and distracted during the weird and unnerving spring of 2020. We threw up a tube feeder and some suet and watched in amazement at the swirl of goldfinches, woodpeckers, and cardinals that flocked in. It was just what we needed: ever-changing entertainment, easy chores, and a way to feel some connection to nature when it is not all that nice outside.

So, we added another feeder, and then another. Then we figured out a makeshift birdbath. And soon enough, I was looking for somewhere to hook a third hummingbird feeder and was officially a fully-fledged backyard bird feeder.

Watching and maintaining our feeders is something we do year-round, but the intensity with which we do so—and the intensity of the birds’ use of the feeders—drops off over the summer.

With autumn winding down and winter truly just around the corner, feeder visits will ramp back up as birds begin looking for the sources of food that will sustain them over the winter. They’re making their rounds, charting out where and how they can find some easy meals.

So now is a great time of year to start with backyard bird feeding. The tips and tricks below come from a bit of my own experience, but also from the years of experience and knowledge of some of the birding experts in our local area, including Winneshiek County Conservation Naturalist Larry Reis and ornithologist Paul Skrade.

Download our winter birdfeeding guide outlining the preferred feeder and food types for different species, and our Birding page offers many additional resources.

And, welcome to the club.

Types of Feeders and Food

Birdfeeders come in enough designs, shapes, and colors to satisfy any style and preference, but they can generally be categorized into several types, including platform, tube, hopper, ground, and suet, designed to hold and dispense different foods in different ways.

Different birds use different types of feeders depending on the bird’s feeding style, food preferences, and body shape. Cardinals, for example, don’t do well on small tube feeders because they need long perches to grasp.

Generally, using different feeders with different food types will bring in the most and widest variety of birds. Start with a tube, platform, or hopper feeder that can hold a wide variety of foods, then consider adding feeders built for specific types of food. And keep in mind that birds really don’t care what the feeder looks like. A flat board on a stump makes a perfectly suitable platform feeder.

If you thought there would be lots of decisions to make about the type of feeder to use, wait until you dig into what you put in that feeder. Birds are like people in that they all have their favorite foods. What you fill your feeders with will have a dramatic effect on who visits them.

If you want to keep things simple, you can’t go wrong with black oil sunflower seed in the shell; it’s a great, economical choice for attracting a very wide variety of birds and works in many different feeder types. Adding a bit of shelled sunflower seeds to the mix will make it even more enticing, but slightly more expensive.

After that, you can work on attracting different types of birds with different types of food. Want woodpeckers? Add a suet feeder. Itching to see nuthatches? They like peanuts. Goldfinches? Better try a Nyjer thistle tube feeder. If you really want to up the birdfeeder ante, set up a heated birdbath.

Birdseed mixes that contain cracked corn, white millet, and safflower are a good choice for platform or tray feeders. The pickier birds will messily sort through the mix, thrashing extras down to ground-feeding birds like dark-eyed juncos and mourning doves. Avoid mixes that have lots of red millet, golden millet, or flax, which our birds just don’t like and will leave behind as waste seed that could lead to fungus or bacteria growth.


Location, Location, Location

Where you place your birdfeeders is nearly as important as what you put in them, both for your own enjoyment and for the health and safety of the birds.

Avoid placing feeders where they will increase the chance that birds will hit your windows. Aim to site them more than thirty feet away from your windows, or within about three feet.

Squirrels, raccoons, mice, and other unwanted critters might also be attracted to the food in your feeders, but they don’t have the advantage of flight. Make it harder for them by hanging your feeders from shepherds’ hooks and well away from trees, fences, or overhanging branches that could give them a way to jump onto the feeder.

Birds also need places to hide, rest, and get out of the wind when they are not actively feeding. Planting native shrubs and grasses can provide year-round cover and food for birds, but dense brush piles (or spent Christmas trees, like in my household) can offer great cover in the winter too.

However, cats and other predators can also use cover to sneak up on unsuspecting birds, so keep about five feet of open space between the birdfeeder and the cover.


What to Watch For

Once you’ve got feeder type, food, and location sorted out, the fun of watching begins! Some of our year-round birds in northeast Iowa—including cardinals, blue jays, black-capped chickadees, goldfinches, and various woodpeckers—are all common feeder birds. Dark-eyed juncos are a regular “winter bird” that comes south to Iowa from farther north, and on good years we’ll also see increased numbers of purple finches, house finches, and pine siskins in the winter.

There can also be more unusual winter birds that pop up, especially if food supplies up north are low, and our staff keeps tabs on some of the exciting winter bird sightings across the region. If unusual ones show up, we’ll post ideas and tips for spotting them yourself on the Winneshiek County Conservation Facebook page.


Photo Captions

Photo Credit: Larry Reis, Winneshiek County Conservation

Above: Suet is the best way to attract woodpeckers, like this male downy woodpecker.

Below: Dark-eyed juncos are a winter visitor to northeast Iowa and are perfectly content gathering seed right off the ground.