Good things

Well, I have been out here in Iowa for a bit over a month and it’s hard to believe there’s an outside world out there. Hellooooo? It has been wonderful to entirely not care about anything except what I am here to do. One of my biggest goals during this program is to accomplish applying myself, as there were way too many periods in my life where I felt like I wasn’t participating enough or gave in too easily. I have a feeling this will be the filthiest months of my life (very okay with this). I also have a feeling that this year will be intense, amazing, and most of it, whatever I choose to make it. I already love the people I work with, and I love the nature of my work, so here’s to the next nine months!

We did a three day mini project with Vinton Parks and Recreation center to test the waters, and it was great! In the course of three eight hours days, I used various new tools and became more comfortable with the ones that I am familiar with. We deconstructed park benches that were partially destroyed in Vinton’s windstorm last year into new benches for the community’s sitting pleasure! We also painted the skate center, installed siding up on a tool shed, and had a whole lot of fun. It was a great preview of what this year would be like.

Part of the program is doing a minimum of 80 independent service hours over the course of the next nine months. Today I volunteered with some of my teammates at Meals on Wheels, an organization that prepares food, packs it up, and delivers it to seniors who are in need of assistance. It was a blast to get out of Vinton for a little bit and get the ball rolling with my volunteer hours. Not only was it a beautiful day to cruise around doing good deeds, but the day ended with delicious Mediterranean food.

I’ve always loved to cook, but now it is even more enjoyable to cook “firefighter” style for all of my teammates. We go grocery shopping together and take turns cooking for one another. In addition, I have started various mini-projects to cancel out buying some products and making them from scratch! By the end of this year, I hope to be able to make anything from scratch. Things to scratch off the “from scratch” list: jalapeno hot sauce and cinnamon almond milk. Many more to come!

In only a week, I’ll be leaving Vinton for six weeks! My first project is in Wapello, IA, which is two hours south of Vinton. Our first project consists of prescribed burnings, trail maintenance, environmental education for elementary students, and invasive species removal. I am so pumped! I will post more details probably when I am actually there, so stay tuned. I will be in Wapello from March 18th-April 27th. Then I’ll be back in Vinton for five days before we leave on our second project, which at this point in time is a mystery (bum bum bummm).

            I plan to volunteer with a community garden for fourth to eighth graders whenever I am back in Vinton. For now, I am donating some of my seeds to the garden, and I hope to garden in Wapello somehow, somewhere. I already started some seeds in anticipation of being able to transplant them very soon. Even if I can’t have any lasting gardens for myself, I would be happy helping and educating communities on how to start gardens (and why they should do it organically).

            I’m setting a goal today to be more productive in my downtime. More writing, reading, and drawing. More plots to garden. …More showers? Scratch that last one.

I would love to hear from you. Please send me a letter (or organic chunky peanut butter) to:

Melissa Eckstrom

Class 18/ Maple 5

AmeriCorps NCCC

1004 G Ave

Vinton, IA 52349

I have been the subject of photographs that I will probably never see for months (which may be a good thing), but I haven’t been taking many photos myself. I don’t have much to show in this post, but here are some photos of town exploration and other oddities:








Vinton Community Garden









Cedar River


















Railroad tracks









Roadside Park









We put siding on this tool shed!







We grinded all day long! (The last photo is by Justine)

Hope everyone is doing well. I miss you all!