Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reaching out, helping Faribault area flood victims October 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:00 PM
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TWO WEEKS AFTER floodwaters inundated many southern Minnesota communities, including Faribault, efforts continue to help those in need. Tonight I attended an all-you-can-eat chili feed at Hy-Vee Food Store. Proceeds will go to the local Red Cross chapter to assist flood victims in the area.

Rice-Le Sueur Counties Red Cross Executive Director Angela Storch, who has been on the job only nine months, was at the feed, passing out hugs and information and sharing her obvious passion for helping others. She is a non-stop bundle of energy and, she readily admits, can’t stop talking.

But that’s a good quality. You need someone with Angela’s leadership abilities and communications skills to handle a disaster like this. As she shared general stories about families who’ve been pushed to the edge, reeling from the loss of their homes, or severe damage to their homes, I could feel her genuine care. About 70 homes in Faribault were affected by floodwaters or sewer back-up.

The Red Cross has been dealing not only with the physical needs of flood victims, but also with the mental health issues that often follow a traumatic event such as this, Angela told me as she grabbed a bowl of chili. She’s referred individuals to other agencies qualified to assist with those health needs.

She’s quick to praise Faribault’s mayor, local emergency directors, the Salvation Army, area food shelves and businesses like Hy-Vee that are reaching out to help. The grocery store donated $9,000 in hand-sanitizers/disinfectants. She’s thankful for the volunteers who’ve aided flood victims, for those who are organizing benefits—there are three more in the next several days—for the spirit of “Minnesota Nice” that prevails.

I asked if volunteers are still needed to help with clean-up. She needs to get updated on that, but suggested calling the coordination center. Angela expects requests now will be for people with wheelbarrows and crow bars and strong backs and arms who can gut and cart building materials up stairs and out of flood-damaged homes.

Through the entire process, this former Faribault United Way director says she’s learned so much. She once considered Red Cross funding requests, but now she understands, really understands, she says, just how much the Red Cross does.

For today, that’s mainly helping victims of the devastating floods that swept through southern Minnesota two weeks ago.

FYI: Call (507) 332-6234 to volunteer with flood relief efforts.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Together let’s make this harvest season safe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:07 PM
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Bishop Jon Anderson, Southwestern Minnesota Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, blesses the Prahl family.


SEVERAL WEEKS AGO I wrote about a Tractor Roll-in and Harvest Blessing Service at Trinity Lutheran Church in rural Gaylord.

Yesterday I received my September 30 issue of The Gaylord Hub, a community newspaper where I worked for two years right out of college. Even after three decades removed from Gaylord, I’m still interested in the happenings in this small town.

As I paged through the issue, I came across a photo on page four from the Trinity harvest blessing service. Pastor William Nelsen had e-mailed the same image, and several others, to me. But they were just sitting in my in-box and I wasn’t sure I would ever publish them on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

But then, yesterday, that blessing service photo in The Hub, followed by a story two pages later, prompted me to write this post. The news article shared information about an accident in which a farmer’s clothing became entangled in a power take off driven rotor shaft. The farmer sustained severe head, chest and arm injuries and was airlifted from the scene. The irony of the harvest blessing photo and the farm accident story publishing in the same issue of The Hub was not lost on me.

Yes, harvest season is well underway here in southern Minnesota. And with it comes the added danger of accidents on the farm and on roadways. Farmers are tired, stressed, overworked.

Motorists are impatient and in a hurry.

This time of year we all need to take great care as we’re out and about in rural Minnesota. If you get “stuck” behind a combine or a tractor or a slow-moving grain truck, exercise caution and don’t be in such an all-fired hurry to zoom around the farm machinery.

If you’re a farmer, please use proper signage, turn signals and flashing lights and stick to the edge of the roadway as much as you can. Bulky farm machinery limits a motorist’s ability to see around you, which can lead to accidents.

Together, with understanding and patience and, yes, even consideration, farmers and non-farmers can join in making this a safer harvest season.



Pastor Bill Nelsen blesses the Klaers family and their harvest during the service.



Pastor Bill Nelsen blesses the Kahle-Giefer family and their harvest. Farmers drove about 40 tractors and combines to the worship service attended by 200-plus worshipers.



I snapped this harvest photo along a rural road near Northfield on Sunday afternoon.


© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photos courtesy of Margie Nelsen


Exploring the Kasota Prairie on an October afternoon



A rock juts into the Kasota Prairie.


I CAN HEAR, in the distance, the steady thrum of traffic, presumably from U.S. Highway 169 or perhaps from nearby Minnesota Highway 22. I’m uncertain because I’ve never been here before and I haven’t consulted a map to pinpoint my location.

If not for the endless drone, I could be standing in the middle of a remote South Dakota or western Minnesota prairie.

But I am in south central Minnesota, at the Kasota Prairie, on a 90-acre remnant of the prairie land which comprised one-third of our state before 1850. Here native prairie grasses remain and grazed lands have been restored.



A view from the parking lot with a stone wall framing the prairie.


On a Friday afternoon, my husband and I discover this scenic spot in the Minnesota River valley two miles from Kasota. Because I favor the sweeping, wide open spaces of the prairie, the place of my roots, to the cramped confines of wooded land, I am comfortably at home here.

Prairie meets sky at Kasota. Stems of grasses dried to the muted earthen shades of autumn sway in the wind, mingling with the wildflowers and the berries I can’t always identify.

Occasionally a block of ancient rock juts through the soil, breaking the vista of plant life.



Water, rock, sky and prairie meld in this scenic Kasota Prairie landscape.


I pause often along the walking trails, even stray from the trampled paths, to examine the mottled stone, to admire a lone, rock-encircled barren tree atop a hill, to identify the red berries of wild roses, to study a clutch of feathers left by a predator, to take in the distant hillside of trees tinted in autumn colors.



My favorite image from the Kasota Prairie, a barren tree encircled in rock.




Wild rose berries on the Kasota Prairie.



Trees on a distant hillside change colors under October skies.


There is so much to appreciate here. Wind. The sky, quickly changing from azure blue wisped with white to the angry gray clouds of a cold front. Land, rolling out before me, unbroken except for sporadic pockets of water, the occasional tree or cluster of trees and those rocks, those hard, ancient rocks that interrupt this land, this Kasota Prairie.



A sign marks the Kasota Prairie entrance.



To truly appreciate the prairie, notice the details, like the berries growing among the grasses.



A narrow path runs along the barbed wire fence border line of the prairie.


FYI: To find the Kasota Prairie, take Le Sueur County Road 21 one mile south of Kasota. Then turn west onto township road 140 and go one mile.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling