Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A wannabe dairy princess June 20, 2013

The barn where I labored alongside my father while growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. File photo.

The barn where I labored alongside my father and siblings while growing up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie. File photo.

GROWING UP ON A MINNESOTA DAIRY FARM, I’ve always loved dairy products.

Fresh milk from our herd of Holsteins.

Butter and cheese from the bulk truck driver who picked up milk from our farm.

Singing Hills Coffee Shop's delicious maple bacon sundae.

One of my new favorite ice cream treats, a maple bacon sundae from Singing Hills Coffee Shop in Waterville. File photo.

Ice cream from the Schwans man. (My older brother often sneaked the tin can of vanilla ice cream from the freezer and climbed atop the haystack to eat his fill. He failed to remove his spoon, leaving damning evidence connecting him to the ice cream caper. I was too obedient to attempt such thievery.)

Sliced strawberries, cucumbers and Amablu Gorgonzola cheese added to Romaine lettuce made a perfect salad. I topped the salad with lemon poppyseed dressing.

Sliced strawberries, cucumbers and Amablu Gorgonzola cheese added to Romaine lettuce make a perfect salad. I topped the salad with lemon poppyseed dressing. File photo.

My cheese tastes have, thankfully, expanded beyond American and Velveeta, staples of my childhood. I especially favor the blue cheeses made and aged in sandstone caves right here in Faribault and sold under the names Amablu and St. Pete’s Select. If you like blue cheese, this is your cheese.

Cow sculptures outside The Friendly Confines Cheese Shoppe in LeSueur. File photo.

Cow sculptures outside The Friendly Confines Cheese Shoppe in LeSueur. File photo.

I bring up this topic of dairy products because June marks an annual celebration of all things dairy during “June Dairy Month.” This moniker is imprinted upon my brain. I once ran, albeit unsuccessfully, for Redwood County dairy princess.

Krause Feeds & Supplies in Hope advertised the availability of Hope butter and Bongards cheese. File photo.

Krause Feeds & Supplies in Hope advertises the availability of Hope butter and Bongards cheese. File photo.

Steele County, to the south of my Rice County home, is apparently a big dairy county having at one time served as home to more than 20 creameries. One remains, in the unincorporated village of Hope, producing Hope Creamery butter in small batches. The creamy’s organic butter is especially popular in certain Twin Cities metro eateries.

Owatonna, the county seat, once claimed itself to be “The Butter Capital of the World.” That butter capital title will be the subject of an exhibit opening August 1 and running through November 10 at the Steele County History Center in Owatonna. The exhibit will feature the area’s rich dairy history to current day dairy farming in the county. Events will include a roundtable discussion on the dairy industry and, for the kids, butter making and a visit from a real calf.

Notice the cow art on the milkhouse in this image taken this past summer.

Cow art on the milkhouse of my friends Deb and John, who once milked cows in rural Dundas. File photo.

Calves. I love calves. More than any aspect of farming, I loved feeding calves buckets of warm milk replacer or handfuls of pellets. I once named a calf Princess and she became my “pet,” as much as a farm animal can be a pet. Then my older brother—the one who ate ice cream when he wasn’t supposed to—told me one day that my calf had died. I raced upstairs to my bedroom and sobbed and sobbed. Turns out he made up the whole story of Princess’ early demise. She was very much alive.

The vibrant art of Faribault artist Julie Falker of JMF Studio.

The vibrant art of Faribault artist Julie Faklker of JMF Studio. File image.

And so, on this day when I consider June Dairy Month, my mind churns with thoughts of butter and ice cream, of calves and of the dairy princess crown I never wore.

FYI: Faribault area dairy farmers Ron and Diane Wegner are hosting “A Day on the Farm” from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. this Saturday, June 22. Their farm is located just south of Faribault at 25156 Appleton Avenue. The event includes children’s activities, photos with a baby calf and free cheeseburgers, malts and milk. Event sponsors are the Rice County American Dairy Association and the Minnesota Beef Council. The Wegners’ daughter, Kaylee, is the current Rice County dairy princess.

The Redwood County American Dairy Association in my home county of Redwood in southwestern Minnesota is sponsoring a coloring contest for kids and a trivia contest for adults. Click here for details. 

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “A wannabe dairy princess”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    I love cow art!! I went through a holstein stage when I had a red kitchen and decorated with black and white cows! We even had a cow mailbox at our place in Freeport, IL which our former neighbors told us was just replaced last year after we had been gone for 10 years! I think it was about time. 🙂 Not a blue cheese lover at all but know many who are!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      My mom went through the same phase with her kitchen and cow art everywhere. She still has a lot of cows in her house and cow drinking glasses. Funny about that cow mailbox.

      As for blue cheese, I think either you really love it, or you don’t. And I do. Love it. The daughter is having her wedding reception in the historic building in downtown Faribault which houses The Cheese Cave. And, yes, they are planning on serving local blue cheese (along with other cheeses) prior to dinner.

  2. Love the post. I think I might drag Mark to Waterville for that Sundae! I too love the cheese from the Cheese Cave. The peppercorn garlic Gouda is my favorite. We had dairy on the farm long before I was born, but my mom still talks about it a lot. She misses the big barn!

  3. Do you remember several years ago when there was a Cows on Parade public art exhibit in Chicago? My son Shawn (who is now an artist himself) loved that particular exhibit; we visited Chicago that summer and took scads of cow art photos. The cows were large sculptures that various artists painted/decorated in all kinds of ways and then the cows were placed throughout the streets of downtown Chicago. The cow art in your post made me remember all that. The closest I ever get to cows is at the MN State Fair when I wander through the animal barns. They’re so sweet. I love your memories of calves. And I hope you older brother treats you better now.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, yes, my brother treats me much better now, although he still occasionally picks on me. I was born 14 months after him and he really did not like the new baby girl vying for Mom and Dad’s attention.

      I do remember that Cows on Parade exhibit. That would have been fun to see and so glad your artist son was able to view the cow art.

      My calf memories are mostly fond ones. Oh, how I loved those calves.

  4. O-M-G – that sundae – reeeeallllyyyy – YUMMERS:) I love the baby cows too – oh so cute! Here’s to getting our dairy on for the rest of the month and all year long too! Happy Thursday

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Your reaction to the sundae is interesting. Some people are like, yuck, never. And then there are those like you and me who totally want a bacon maple sundae. Absolutely delish, in my opinion.

  5. Allan Says:

    Caution, a story is coming! Many years ago, my Grandma, Mom’s Mother, had a group of Ladies in for Bridge, and Tea. Along with the tea, Grandma made a shortcake for her home grown strawberries. My Dad, the flat line Swede, came to visit just before the Strawberry Shortcake was served. All the ladies were raving about the wonderful strawberries, and how “Kate” had such beautiful big red Strawberries. Grandma said that she always uses rotten cow manure from her nephews farm, and puts the manure on top of her strawberries. Dad pipes up and said, ” I like Cream and Sugar on mine”! You must understand that my Dad the Swede, married my Mother, a Jew from a very different culture than he grew up with. My Mother laughed the hardest. They were married for over 60 years before she died in 2000. Many have asked me how my parents got along. They were two peas in a pod, both absolute opposites in every way, but love was the tie. Mom was a spit fire, with more talent in one finger than most would ever wish for. She played the piano, and loved to feed and entertain friends and family. Dad would never complain about Mom’s heritage, as he always got his Lutefisk Wholesale.

  6. Julie Fakler Says:

    Thank you Audrey for adding my Rice County Cows painting to your blog about June being Dairy month.

  7. Lanae Says:

    It’s ok that you didn’t win the dairy princess long ago. You still recieved homage and beautiful rings this last Christmas. Besides you are a Queen now. love ya

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      It is OK, because I don’t think I would have made an especially good dairy princess. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the grace and eloquence of the teen who won.

      And, yes, dear sister, your gift of those beautiful rings made me feel like a true princess. Love counts more than votes any day. And I am blessed to have your love.

  8. One of my former students when I used to teach high school was Princess Kay of the Milky Way about 6 or 7 years ago – so fun!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I did not know that you used to teach high school, did I? Or I have forgotten. English.

      Did you hear any Princess Day of the Milky Way stories from your student?

      • I taught English at a tiny Christian school for two years and also taught at the local community college here in town – adjunct – for a few years. I probably did hear stories, but I don’t really remember. I do remember that she was the 50th one (at least I think that was the anniversary), so she got an extra-special crown! and, of course, her butterhead was wonderful!

  9. Marcia Says:

    Hello from WY – found you through The Kitchen Garden. Very nice blog! We have relatives in Stillwater MN and spend some time there and traveling through MN coming and going. Come over and visit me at http://willowcreekranching.blogspot.com if you get a chance.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Just stopped by to check out your blog and will do so again. Welcome to Minnesota. Again. Stillwater is north and east of where I live about an hour south of Minneapolis. I love our state for its diverse geography, incredible beauty and great people. So glad you get to Minnesota once in awhile.

  10. ryanware Says:

    I’ll have to make it to Owatonna to see that exhibit. Hope and the Hope Creamery which is still in operation is nearby too. You can still get Hope butter. That was all my grandparents ever used unless they ran out between pilgrimages to Hope or visits from their daughter who lived in Owatonna.

    Owatonna has a lot of interesting place to photograph and write about.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I want to see the exhibit, too.

      Today I took in the Rice County Dairy Association “A Day on a Farm” event. Photos will be forthcoming soon.

      I may have seen Hope butter in a store here in Faribault. Need to check.

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