With the calendar turned to November, we are officially on the countdown to Christmas.

Thanks goodness we have an extra hour of sleep today after turning back our clocks to Central Standard Time. I love sleeping in. And I love having more time to accomplish things on my list. I lead a list-driven life. Every weekend there are the givens of "store, laundry, water plants, clean." And every other weekend there is "bank."

And then there are the specials, such as "repot plant" or "make applesauce," "bday card to Mary" or "read book" and "write report." Yes, I write book reports. It's my way of trying to maintain a tenuous grasp on things I have read, lest they fly right out of my mind, despite all the time I devoted to them. By having a report, I can at least go back, if desired, to refresh my memory, be reminded of memorable "quotes." It's one of the ways I try to hang onto my life. I also "journal," which is another constant task on my list.

While I usually do pretty well on my lists, I have noticed through the years that the word "exercise" remains consistently unscratched, week after week. 

Despite our extra hour, I wouldn't be surprised if it remained unscratched this weekend, too.

MYSTERY BOULDERS: Q-C filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle have produced another film, this one a 20-minute documentary that the state of South Dakota will use as an "orientation" film in a visitors center of a new park.

Called Good Earth State Park, near Sioux Falls, it protects an area that was occupied between 1500 and 1725 by ancestors of the present-day Omaha, Ponca, Ioway and Otoe-Missouria tribes. At its peak around 1650, the site was home to 6,000 to 10,000 residents, the largest city in America at the time.

When Europeans arrived around 1725, these people were gone.

Insights into the people's culture can be gleaned by studying what they left behind, including mounds, housing remnants and other artifacts. But one thing they left behind reminds a mystery — boulders that have been purposely pitted on all sides by human hand, something like a big golf ball.

As Kelly Rundle said, "They must have been important."

By why?

If you would like to learn more about this not-so-ancient civilization in our own Midwest, the Rundles' film will be shown at 2 p.m. today at the Putnam, Davenport. Or, go online, typing in "good earth," "blood run," "national historic site" and "pitted boulders."

LATE BLOOMERS: Two readers have sent in photos of plants in recent bloom, long after their normal bloom time, a tree peony and a Primavera rhododendron.

I asked Martha Smith about this. Martha is a horticulture educator for University of Illinois Extension, and she said this is not an uncommon occurrence.

"Spring-blooming woody plants initiate flower buds on previous year's wood and rely on chilling to stimulate maturation of the flower buds," she wrote in an email. "In other words, the flower buds require a certain amount of chilling before they break out of dormancy to open their flowers. In normal years, summer is followed by gradually cooling temperatures.

"This fall has been somewhat of a roller coaster with unusually warm day temps in September followed by cool night temps. That was enough to trigger the plants' flowering mechanisms," she wrote.

"The cool temps were just enough to meet the chilling requirement necessary. Also, day length is important. Most early spring bloomers are short-day plants. The rhododendron had its chilling requirement met and the days are shorter. It is confused!"

Spring bloom will be reduced but overall this shouldn't harm the plant, she said.

BARN OWL RECOVERY: I've written about the peregrine falcon recovery plan developed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources; now my attention has been drawn to another such effort — that of bolstering the population of barn owls.

Barn owls (not to be confused with barred owls) are small birds with a monkey face that have been listed as endangered in Iowa since 1977. Mice are a key component of their diet, and conversion of grasslands, pasture and hay ground to cropland has reduced their numbers.

But this year the department documented 38 barn owl nests in 26 counties, with 71 young barn owls have fledged from those nests. That is a record since the department has been keeping track.

How can you help? If you own property with silver maples and cottonwood trees, you can leave them be, as cavities in these two trees make great barn owl nests. Ditto for grain bins, silos, barns and other out buildings.

And you can contribute to the "chickadee check-off" on your Iowa income tax form. The barn owl project is one of 16 wildlife diversity programs funded by those contributions.

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