Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflections on Autumn’s arrival in Minnesota October 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
A tree line tinged in color at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in southeastern Minnesota.

A tree line tinged in color at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in southeastern Minnesota.

AUTUMN GRIPS ME like no other season.

Autumn reveals herself in fields ripening along Rice County Road 24 between Faribault and Kenyon, Minnesota.

Autumn reveals herself in fields ripening along Rice County Road 24 between Faribault and Kenyon, Minnesota.

She draws me into fields drying in russet shades,

Maples are flaming, like this one alongside Minnesota State Highway 60 on the east side of Faribault.

Maples are flaming, like this one alongside Minnesota State Highway 60 on the east side of Faribault.

to maples flaming red,

An idyllic rural scene of drying soybeans and gravel road just off Rice County Road 24.

An idyllic rural scene of drying soybeans and gravel road just off Rice County Road 24.

to the aged scent of earth and fire,

Bins await the new crop.

Bins await the new crop.

to the hope of a farmer

Soybeans await harvest.

Soybeans ripe for harvest in Rice County.

and the end of the growing season.

Days of cobalt blue skies or pressing grey give way to evenings that welcome the flicker of candles, apple crisp warm from the oven, sweaters pulled on.

Drying cornfields herald the arrival of Autumn.

Drying cornfields herald the arrival of Autumn in southeastern Minnesota.

These days, as my flip flops crunch upon fallen leaves, I long to hold on to Autumn, to yank her away from Winter’s pull.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

History comes to life at Rice County museum September 30, 2014

THE SCENES COULD HAVE AIRED on Little House on the Prairie:

Wash basin and water cooler inside the schoolhouse entry.

Wash basin and water cooler inside the schoolhouse entry.

Harsh clang of the bell summons students inside the one-room Pleasant Valley School—girls to the left, boys to the right.

Youth role-playing Pleasant Valley School students.

Youth role-play Pleasant Valley School students.

Lessons written on slate.

Lessons written on slate.

Girls in prairie dresses scratch chalk across slate.

Attendees and participants in A Night at the Museum filled the one-room school.

Inside the one-room school.

My friend Duane role-plays the Pleasant Valley teacher.

My friend Duane role-plays the Pleasant Valley teacher.

Teacher praises his students with “Good, very good.”

Kids loved trying to walk on stilts.

Kids loved trying to walk on stilts.

Outside, during recess, legs fly in a game of tag while others flail in attempts to walk on stilts.

Luke, 13 months, finds an apple outside the log cabin.

Luke, 13 months, finds an apple outside the log cabin.

Across the way, in an 1856 log cabin, the scent of baking bread lingers while a steady hand cranks a butter churn.

Mike and Pat bring their horses and wagon to many area events.

Mike and Pat bring their horses and wagon to many area events.

Wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

Wagon rides around the Rice County Fairgrounds proved popular.

A team of Belgian horses pulls a wagon, not a covered wagon like Pa Ingalls’, but still, a welcome mode of transportation on a stunning autumn afternoon and evening in southeastern Minnesota.

Pleasant Valley School, left, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church.

Pleasant Valley School, left, and Holy Innocents Episcopal Church at the Rice County Historical Society, Faribault, Minnesota.

Fast forward to July 15, 1944, and Helen Greenville walks the worn floorboards of Holy Innocents Episcopal Church as she prepares for her daughter, Lilas’, wedding. “Oh the Deep, Deep Love” slides from bow to violin strings.

A Night at the Museum attendees visit with Mrs. Morris, who was peeling apples in her kitchen.

Visitors chat with Mrs. Morris, who is peeling apples in her kitchen.

Next door, Mrs. Morris peels apples for applesauce.

Barber Tom with customer LeRoy inside the museum barbershop.

Barber Tom with customer LeRoy inside the museum barbershop.

In another building, Hopalong Tenacity taps out Morse Code and the barber razors hair and Civil War veteran and businessman John Hutchinson greets guests, all dapper in top hat and tails.

Friends.

Friends.

These scenes and more were part of the Rice County Historical Society’s second annual Night at the Museum, an event which brings history to life inside and outside museum buildings.

Kaylee, role-playing Katie, struggles to push an old-fashioned lawnmower across the lawn outside the log cabin.

Kaylee, role-playing Katie, struggles to push an old-fashioned lawnmower across the lawn outside the log cabin.

I loved it. This is how I learn history best—through voices and stories and action.

Dad and daughter enter the historic church.

Dad and daughter enter the historic church. A Night at the Museum is definitely a family-oriented event.

And, based on my observations, adults and kids attending and participating likewise embrace this style of sharing history.

Kaylee and William (AKA Katie and Jim for the evening) raved about the apples.

Siblings Kaylee and William (AKA Katie and Jim for the evening) raved about the apples.

I’d like to see more of these living history events in my community of Faribault, one of Minnesota’s oldest cities founded in 1852 by fur trader Alexander Faribault. Our historic downtown would provide an ideal stage as would the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour and so many other aged buildings in and around town.

HOW DO YOU BEST learn history? How does your community share its local history?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Brainstorming on Faribault’s future September 29, 2014

NEVER HAVE I BEEN PART of a community’s visioning process.

Until Thursday evening, when eleven of us gathered at the Historic Hutchinson House Bed & Breakfast to discuss Faribault’s strengths, challenges and future under the guidance of hosts Doug and Tami Schluter.

In the distance you can see the clock tower on Shumway Hall at Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Faribault, photographed last fall from City View Park.

A stunning autumn view of Faribault taken at City View Park show the campus of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

For nearly three hours, our baker’s dozen of Baby Boomers focused on our southeastern Minnesota community through this “Meeting in a Box” session. It was a thoughtful process which allowed every single person the opportunity to speak as we rounded the dining room table, one-by-one taking our turns.

To have this grassroots chance to voice one’s opinion, without interruption (mostly) and in an informal setting, will provide invaluable information to the City of Faribault, which has launched this seven-month-long community visioning process tagged as Community Vision—Faribault 2040.

Leaving the show and driving southbound on Central Avenue through historic downtown Faribault.

A recent shot of a section of historic downtown Faribault’s Central Avenue. This scene represents to me Faribault’s past, present and future.

Projecting 25 years into the future allows our community to be proactive, to plan, to build on strengths, to identify weaknesses, to grow a stronger and better Faribault.

I couldn’t help but think, during this brainstorming session, how my second daughter recently reacted to news of a nephew’s upcoming move from Utah to rural Faribault. “It’s Faribault, Mom,” she said, a definite disdain tinging her words. I wondered how many other twenty-somethings share her attitude, how they can’t wait to graduate and move away.

Keeping our young people here popped up as a challenge facing Faribault. But I expect residents of almost every city or small town feel the same about the exit of their youth. I left my native southwestern Minnesota prairie at age seventeen.

A mural, one of several in the downtown area, promotes historic Faribault.

A mural, one of several in the downtown area, promotes historic Faribault. Our community’s rich history and architecture came up repeatedly as strong assets during the “Meeting in a Box” conversation.

Our discussion, among Faribault natives and those of us who relocated here, began with this statement: “My community is great, because……”

The Cheese Cave is housed in a beautifully-restored building in historic downtown Faribault. The interior, with an arched ceiling and sandstone-colored walls, mimics the caves where Faribault Dairy ages its cheeses.

The Cheese Cave is housed in a beautifully-restored building in historic downtown Faribault, site of many old and well-preserved buildings. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

We could jot down three answers before circling the table and sharing. Once all answers were listed, we voted these as the top five reason’s Faribault is great: variety of educational choices, downtown architecture and rich history, efforts to preserve the past, good mix of businesses and people who care about one another.

Then it was on to the next question, which proved much more difficult: When you look 25 years into Faribault’s future, what are the most important community strengths we should build upon as we plan for Faribault’s future?

Note the Faribault Ochs store in this mid-1920s photo from the private collection of Daniel J. Hoisington.

This mid-1920s photo from the private collection of Daniel J. Hoisington was shot in downtown Faribault. Preserving our rich history and architecture ranked high in discussion at the “Meeting in a Box.”

After significant effort to even understand the question, we responded, then voted for our top five most important community strengths: educational opportunities, grow industries, preserve small town feel, tourism opportunities and preserving historical buildings and history.

Finally, the last question asked us to identify Faribault’s most pressing challenges as we plan for the future.

A Somali family waits to cross a street in downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

A Somali family waits to cross a street in downtown Faribault. Diversity-related issues rated high in conversation. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

Those responses flowed fast and easy with the following marked as Faribault’s top challenges: housing code enforcement, crime (specifically domestic violence, drugs and DWIs identified), diversity related issues, city/county/citizen leadership, community planning and poor community pride.

Not much revealed at this “Meeting in a Box” session surprised me.

Yet, it’s good to get our thoughts out there so city leaders are aware of Average Joe or Jane Resident’s concerns. Our long lists of answers—all of them, not just the top five—will be forwarded to city officials. That’s reaffirming, to know that every single response will be passed along.

This week, from 7 – 9 p.m. Thursday, October 2, the Schluters are hosting another “Meeting in a Box.” They’re looking for participants. So, if you want a voice in the conversation about Faribault, contact them.

These sessions are being held through-out the community as the second step in the visioning process. Focus groups and community forums will follow.

For this process to truly reflect Faribault, though, more than just grey-haired Caucasian Baby Boomers will need to provide input. Opinions from all races and ages are needed.

Young people are our future. They will live the longest with the decisions made today. Unless they leave Faribault. Like my two daughters and son.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating my birthday Faribault Falcon style September 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:17 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

THEY THREW A PARADE for me in Faribault.

Not really. But my friend Beth Ann and I decided that, yes, the Faribault High School homecoming parade Friday afternoon was also my birthday parade.

We had just finished to-die-for individual pizzas—mine pear paired with award-winning blue cheese made in Faribault and Beth Ann’s a Caprese with fresh basil pesto, mozzarella and tomatoes—at The Cheese Cave and toured the Paradise Center for the Arts when we stepped outside to find a throng of young people.

I deduced that it must be homecoming.

Every parade needs a band.

Every parade needs a band.

In minutes, a police car was leading the band

Faribault High School homecoming king

Faribault High School homecoming queen, Nyamal Tut, and king, Danny Ehlers.

Even the convertible was in the school color.

Even the convertible was in the school color.

and homecoming court candidates and the newly-crowned king and queen

A senior class float.

Senior football players.

and lots of raucous FHS students along Central Avenue.

My favorite float featured the theme of preferring Miracle Whip over Mayo, as in the Faribault Falcon's opponent, Rochester Mayo High School.

My favorite float featured the theme of preferring Miracle Whip over Mayo, as in the Faribault Falcon’s opponent, Rochester Mayo High School.

We were in on this parade whether we wanted to be or not and we wanted to be. How can you resist the youthful excitement of teens on an autumn day as perfect as they come in Minnesota?

Appreciated this message.

Appreciated this message.

Lots of green hair...

Lots of green hair…

Humor at the expense of the Mayo Spartans. The Falcons beat the Spartans 23 - 21 in the homecoming football game.

Humor at the expense of the Mayo Spartans. The Falcons beat the Spartans 23 – 21 in the homecoming football game.

Sophomore football players.

Sophomore football players.

Cheers and noise and drum beats and hair colored green and humor and throbbing energy and candy tossed onto pavement. A homecoming parade. For a moment or ten, I wished I was sixteen again.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Time passages September 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , ,
I recently started collecting alarm clocks and now have four, three Westclox and one General Electric.

I recently started collecting alarm clocks and now have four, three Westclox and one General Electric.

NEVER HAVE I BEEN MORE COGNIZANT of the passage of time than during this past year.

I can’t pinpoint a precise reason for this deep sense of time fleeting. Rather, a combination of life events has spawned this feeling.

A year ago, my eldest married. Although she graduated and left home 10 years ago and her sister two years later, only two years have passed since my youngest started college. He’s in his third year now, his second in Boston. He spent the summer there, too, working. I haven’t seen him in three months, won’t see him for another three.

I miss him and the girls—their closeness, the hugs, the conversation, the everything (almost) that comes with parenting children you love beyond words. Too many days I wish only to turn back the moments.

I wish again to be that young mom, with issues no bigger than the occasional two-year-old’s tantrum or the snarky teen or a kid I can’t rouse from bed or the picky eater. But when you’re handling such challenges, they seem ominous and big and looming. Ridiculous.

If only we knew.

Granted, I am, as the old adage says, “older and wiser.” But such wisdom comes via life experiences that color hair gray. Or maybe not solely. Time does that, too.

I am now the daughter with a mother in a nursing home, my father in his grave for nearly a dozen years. A friend noted the other day that he never saw his parents grow old to the age of needing his care. And I wondered if that was good or bad and then I didn’t want to think about it anymore.

I am now so close to age sixty that I feel my fingers reflexively curving around the numbers.

Which brings me to today, my birthday.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Part II: Inside the artsy Rancho Deluxe Z Garden in Mason City September 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

A PRECISE WORD EDLUDES me to describe the Rancho Deluxe Z Garden in Mason City, Iowa.

A sign welcomes visitors to this unofficial, privately-owned Mason City sculpture garden.

A sign welcomes visitors to this unofficial, privately-owned Mason City sculpture garden.

Rather, I must choose a list of words for this half-acre garden created by local Max Weaver: quirky, odd, unique, creative, unbelievable. And, yes, even a bit weird.

See for yourself in these images snapped during a recent visit to 500 Second Street Northeast:

While touring here, you certainly will ask yourself about the meaning of many objects and displays.

While touring here, you certainly will ask yourself about the meaning of many objects and displays.

An outside the fence view.

An outside the fence view.

I really liked this circular garden art placed next to ornamental grass.

I really liked this circular garden art placed next to ornamental grass.

An eclectic mix.

An eclectic mix.

boat

An “air boat.”

I simply love this repurposing of 4,000 pound cement blocks as canvas for art.

I simply love this repurposing of 4,000 pound cement blocks as canvas for art.

Love this message in a maze of blocks.

Love this message in the maze of blocks.

Even old signage proves artful.

Even old signage proves artful.

One of my favorite sculptures features wheel covers.

One of my favorite sculptures features wheel covers.

The garden even includes a veterans' memorial.

The garden even includes a veterans’ memorial.

More projects and/or space for future expansion spotted through bars on the property.

More projects and/or space for future expansion spotted through a barred barrier on the property.

FYI: Click here to read my first post about Rancho Deluxe Z Garden.

Please check back next week for more stories from my visit to Mason City.

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

One quirky sculpture garden in Mason City, Iowa September 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

YOU LIKELY WILL NOT FIND this Mason City attraction listed on any official tourism website.

The official sign marking this unofficial sculpture park in Mason City.

The official sign marking this unofficial sculpture park in Mason City.

But Rancho Deluxe Z Garden, a quirky sculpture garden created on a half-acre of land in this northeastern Iowa community, is precisely the type of homespun arts spot that draws my interest.

An overview upon arriving at Rancho Deluxe Z Garden.

An overview upon arriving at Rancho Deluxe Z Garden.

If not for Mason City resident, blogger and friend, Beth Ann Chiles, though, I likely never would have visited this community, thus missing out on Max Weaver’s creative oddity located at 500 Second Street Northeast. Beth Ann knows me well enough to know I would want to visit the Rancho while visiting her.

The freaky portrait I captured.

The freaky portrait I captured.

So off we drove, aiming for this sculpture garden at the end of a dead end street on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon in late August. We weren’t the only ones there. A photographer was doing a senior photo shoot in a spot apparently popular for such portraits.

The garden features an abundance of bikes.

The garden features an abundance of bikes.

Another suspended bike...

The other side of the suspended bike.

Signatures of Ragbrai 2014 participants who stopped here.

Signatures of Ragbrai 2014 participants who stopped here.

And this summer, participants in Iowa’s Ragbrai, an annual bike ride across the state, toured the Rancho, a stop documented in signatures upon a cement block. The garden features bikes suspended from trees, fences and elsewhere, incorporated as works of art, making this Ragbrai visit especially appropriate.

Randy found his way inside the castle.

Randy found his way inside the castle.

Beth Ann and I, cameras in hand, meandered through the garden while my husband, Randy, clipped along. The Rancho calls for a slow study and multiple times walking through the garden to take in every detail. I expect I missed much, even at my snail’s pace. And, noted, Beth Ann, the garden is ever evolving.

Do loiter here. Especially take time to look at the many 3 x 3-feet painted cement blocks weighing 4,000 pounds.

Do loiter here. Especially take time to look at the many 3-foot square painted cement blocks weighing 4,000 pounds.

From signs to hub caps, bikes, dolls, license plates, rocks, statues, wheels, painted cement blocks and more, this garden presents an eclectic mix of stuff artfully placed on this plot of land.

I'm always a little creeped by misplaced dolls.

I’m always a little creeped by misplaced dolls.

You just have to see Rancho Deluxe Z Garden to believe this almost indescribable place. If you appreciate odd and quirky and art outside the box, then head for Mason City and Max Weaver’s unique sculpture garden.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Love this flower arcing above the garden.

Love this flower arcing above the garden.

More stuff suspended from trees.

More stuff suspended from trees.

Love the vibrant colors and the art painted on a cement block.

Love the vibrant colors and the art painted on a cement block. As I understand, the painted art has been created by many local artists.

Will you always understand what you see? Nope. Bowling balls in a bathtub...

Will you always understand what you see? Nope. Bowling balls in a bathtub…

FYI: Check back tomorrow for more photos from this sculpture garden.

If you like quirky places, consider also touring the “antique theme park” at Hot Sam’s Antiques, rural Lakeville, Minnesota. Click here to read about my visit there two years ago.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,043 other followers