Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

What a Red Flag Warning means for Minnesota farmers October 4, 2011

Farmers are in the fields harvesting corn (pictured here) and soybeans under extremely dry conditions.

WHEN I HEARD about the National Weather Service’s “Red Flag Warning” for west central and south central Minnesota Monday evening, it was the first time I had heard that terminology.

What does it mean?

Here’s the definition, direct from the NWS:

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW…OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS…LOW RELATIVE HUMIDTY…AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.

That’s a strongly-worded warning for those folks living in the communities and rural areas along and west of a line from Alexandria to Fairmont.

Farmers, especially, have to be worried about the fire danger given they are in the middle of harvesting corn and soybeans in tinder dry fields. Mix dry plant material, strong winds and the heat of a combine exhaust, for example, and you have the potential for a devastating fire.

Michael, a southwestern Minnesota farmer who blogs at Minnesota Farmer, writes two days ago about fires he spotted last Thursday while combining beans. Click here to read his October 2 post which explains how blazes start and the resulting, devastating financial impact on farmers.

It’s all too easy for those of us who live in town, even if we grew up on a farm, to forget about the dangers that come with harvest. And this year, the fire danger is particularly high.

The Red Flag Warning remains in effect until 7 p.m. Wednesday.

DO YOU LIVE in the Red Flag Warning area? If so, has there been an increase in the number of fires recently? Please submit a comment and share.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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A Sunday drive to view the fall colors in Sogn Valley

A colorful hillside in the Sogn Valley area of southeastern Minnesota.

MINNESOTANS, THIS is your week.

Get outside. View the fall colors. Experience rural Minnesota at the height of harvest. This could be our best week, weather-wise, until next spring. Not that I’m trying to forecast gray skies and cold and that dreaded word, “snow,” but I’ve lived here long enough—55 years—to realize you should “make hay while the sun shines.”

I took my own advice on Sunday when the husband and I went on a fall color drive to the historic agricultural Sogn Valley area of quaint farms and wooded, rolling hills in northwestern Goodhue County.

We originally planned to paint a bedroom ceiling Sunday afternoon. But then, when a friend asked if the ceiling needed to be painted that day, we decided the project could wait. The afternoon was too beautiful to spend indoors with our eyes focused toward a ceiling instead of upward toward clear blue skies accented by the changing leaves of autumn.

So, just to offer you some visual encouragement to do a fall color drive or go for a walk this week, here are some photos I snapped on that Sunday drive.

We followed this gravel road, 20th Avenue, between Goodhue County Road 9 and Vang Lutheran Church.

Along 20th Avenue, I spotted these picturesque farm buildings.

I photographed Vang Lutheran Church across the cornfield west of the Potpourri Mill Log Cabin 10 minutes north of Kenyon or 45 minutes south of the Twin Cities.

An autumn-themed setting greets shoppers at the seasonal Harvest Thyme Craft Show at the Potpourri Mill Log Cabin, 2290 Goodhue County 49 Boulevard, Dennison. Remaining weekend show hours are 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. October 8-9 and October 15 - 16.

We were driving westbound on Goodhue County Road 9 toward Sogn.

You'll see lots of old barns, like this one along 20th Avenue, in this historic agricultural region.

Farmers are in the fields harvesting corn (pictured here) and soybeans.

The Sogn Valley area offers scenic fall color viewing in a rural landscape with little traffic. To truly experience the region, turn off the highway onto back gravel roads. Have a plat book handy and a navigator with a good sense of direction, which would not be me.

CHECK BACK FOR more photos from this autumn drive and for a post on Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, a popular fall color destination. The park parking lot was overflowing on Sunday. Colors were spectacular.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling