Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An essay of barn photos & memories November 25, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Near Poy Sippi, Wisconsin.

Near Poy Sippi, Wisconsin.

MY FONDNESS FOR BARNS, for photographing them, never wanes.

Along Wisconsin State Highway 21.

Along Wisconsin State Highway 21.

When I fit my eye to the viewfinder, swing my camera lens toward a barn and click, it’s as if I’m clicking my heels together and flying into my past.

Also along Wisconsin Highway 21.

Also along Wisconsin Highway 21.

I am trudging down the barn aisle, leaning into the wheelbarrow heaped with ground corn. I am scooping that feed by the shovelful to top silage pitched from the silo and parceled before the Holsteins’ empty stanchions.

Near Poy Sippi, Wisconsin.

Near Poy Sippi, Wisconsin.

Later, as milk pulsates into milking machines and Dad has poured the milk into a tall thin pail, I am lugging the precious liquid to the milkhouse, handle biting into my chore-gloved hand.

Another farm near Poy Sippi.

Another farm near Poy Sippi.

Memories come into focus—the golden booming radio voices from ‘CCO, the slap of a cow’s tail, hot urine splattering into gutters, cats swarming around a battered hubcap, the stench of manure, taut twine snapped with my yellow jackknife and prickly alfalfa itching my exposed wrists.

An old-fashioned farm along Wisconsin Highway 21.

An old-fashioned farm along Wisconsin Highway 21.

But, mostly, I see my farmer dad in those barns I photograph.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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120 Responses to “An essay of barn photos & memories”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Lovely. As always. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  2. You make me miss the farm and exploring the out buildings:) Great Captures – Happy Week!!!

  3. vicki williamson Says:

    I like barns and farms, too! My Grandson and I will pick out “our” farms as we drive by them. He is in first grade and one day he was all serious and says, Grandma, I’m the only farmer in my class. Yup, he says!

  4. Jackie Says:

    You know you share your love of Barns, Loved all the photo’s and the memories of the days you had…back on the farm.

  5. hotlyspiced Says:

    It’s lovely that these images remind you of your father. Your images are stunning. They certainly look like winter is on the approach xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Thank you, Charlie. I took these photos when my husband and I traveled to northeastern Wisconsin in mid-October, toward the end of fall. The landscape has changed significantly since then. Here in southeastern Minnesota, all the leaves have fallen from the trees, yards are brown, crops are harvested and a light dusting of snow dusts the ground. Plus, temps have already plummeted to single digits F. Yes, winter is settling in for the next six months.

  6. Marilyn Says:

    This post was a delightful trip down memory lane. Thanks. I really miss my Grandpa’s old barn. Picture #2 looks much like his did.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Marilyn, I’m always delighted to take readers like you back in time and back to the farm. Glad you enjoyed this post.

  7. Those are great! I like the second and last photos best! 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Those two images you selected show farm sites as they all mostly were at one time. I tend to be drawn to those also.

  8. Thread crazy Says:

    Oh your barn pics bring back my childhood memories too. My early childhood days were spent in northern Ohio and a couple of those barns resembles my grandfather’s. The #2 and #4 barn looks alot like his. Thanks for stirring the memories….

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are welcome. Some of the barns I photographed are most definitely old style and that’s why I was particularly drawn to them.

  9. wiseblooding Says:

    This weekend, workers are dismantling the old weather-worn barn near me. I hate seeing it go.
    http://t.co/ZTCSqiuGWL
    http://t.co/qhU8vCsT4h

  10. seph's salon Says:

    I love barns. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I have always loved traveling through eastern Washington and Oregon, marveling at the beautiful barns. Then, when I traveled in the eastern states, I came to appreciate the differences in barn architecture. Barns so rock!

  11. Greg Urbano Says:

    Thanks for sharing your memories!

  12. My uncle had a big dairy farm, or at least it seemed to me. Plus my cousins lived like they were in a barn themselves. But. there are times I miss it.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      “My cousins lived like they were in a barn themselves…” Interesting observation and I’m uncertain what you mean by that.

  13. Reblogged this on Floyd, Times Are Changin and commented:
    America is a different place than it was. Even where my father grew up is under water. Like it never existed, now a reservoir.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Yes, America certainly has changed. Quite different from my years on the farm decades ago. I’m sorry to hear that the place where your father grew up is under water now.

  14. Jnana Hodson Says:

    It’s not just country barns, either. I’ve already photographed hundreds of small barns here in my small New Hampshire city, I call them urban barns, since most were essentially carriage houses (a term that’s become a tad overblown, even though some here are nice homes and apartments). Makes me wonder about all the hay the horses needed and what happened to the resulting manure.
    Thanks for keeping the faith.

  15. Nikki Says:

    Beautiful! I grew up outside of Poy Sippi (in Pine River) and drove by these farms all the time. Now I’m way out in Oregon. Makes me miss home.

  16. Very nice. There’s a charm old barns possess that captivate me. I wrote about that charm some time ago. Take a look.

    http://triggerfishcriticalreview.com/cliche-by-s-thomas-summers/

  17. wingedprisms Says:

    Lovely pictures. 😀

  18. symplysilent Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I felt like I was walking through that old barn with you, perhaps on a chilly Winter late afternoon, thinking of the warm kitchen stove and the cup of hot chocolate waiting after the chores. Silent

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      What a nice thought–a mug of hot chocolate. Usually, after chores, it would be suppertime and meat, boiled potatoes, gravy and a hot vegetable awaiting me, my dad and siblings.

  19. myammynew Says:

    Very sweet! You have to love Poi Sippy ( Hawaiian Barn Version)

  20. Jean Says:

    Barns are way more interesting than….grain elevators which is a dying heritage architecture in Alberta. But even so, people paint the elevators, etc. It is a piece of local history.

  21. awax1217 Says:

    Stark contrasts in the American heartland.

  22. Nice to find your site. I grew up in Waseca, Minnesota on a farm, (hosted the National plowing contest in 1965!). I will explore more of your blog. Thanks.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, I live in Faribault, but grew up in Redwood County, much further to the west. Two of my sisters and their families live in/near Waseca. Welcome. Glad to have you here.

  23. nilanjanalahiri Says:

    Well it was great reading about the barns.. read about my experience in a hill station too…
    http://nilanjanalahiri.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/the-trip-to-shillong/
    your comments and suggestions are welcome

  24. Sorry but when I mentioned my aunt and uncles farm I meant their house always seemed a mess, especially upstairs. Still I miss that and at the end of the day were playing baseball among other things.

  25. Wow. I love these photos. I really need to get to Wisconsin on my next visit to America. I’m from Australia, and we really don’t have as many barns (our farms are very different over here). Thanks for the images.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Wisconsin, especially, has some fabulous barns, attributed perhaps to the state’s abundance (or once abundant) of dairy farms.

  26. Great photos Always loved pictures of barns.

  27. atzenicarlo Says:

    Nice pictures. No wonder they make good cheese.

  28. debra colby Says:

    When I lived in the country, I loved the old barns as well. I particularly liked coming across one that was abandoned and then wandering thru it. The smells, the creaky floorboards, the slightly scary stairs (scary b/c you never knew if one was going to break away as you stepped on it) or the feeling of being on top of the world as you looked down from the loft. I live closer to town now, but I still take rides back into the country quite often just to relax and feel my breathing slow down. Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos.
    ~Debbie

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You and I sound like kindred spirits, Debra. Thank you for sharing your perspective on barns and why you personally appreciate them.

  29. mithriluna Says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your memories and lovely images with us.

  30. alainafae Says:

    I love the descriptive way you write 🙂 Thank you for posting!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      This post, in particular, possesses a certain poetic approach. When writing such a descriptive piece, I try to engage all of the sense. All too often, we focus on the visual. And there’s so much more to descriptive writing than the visual. I wanted to take you, my reader, inside that barn with me.

  31. Azure James Says:

    I’m particularly fascinated with old-broken down barns. There’s a lot in Canada, for some reason. They sure seem to have their own atmosphere.

  32. There’s still 300 of the 600 bales to put in the barn. It’s 8:30 am and already 90 degrees. I started mowing yesterday morning as soon as the dew was off. It was 103 yesterday and we were raking at 2;00 pm. This was before we had haybines and swathers. My brothers are in the barn stacking, I’m unloading the trailers onto the elevator, pacing, the sweat, the smell of perfect alfalfa. I think you have the concept— Barns! Beautiful!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You clearly know barns, and the definition of hard word. I appreciate your detailed account of making hay and getting those bales into the hayloft.

  33. I love barns. We have one in our backyard that we use as a garage.

  34. Beautiful pictures. We don’t have any that kind in France

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Every country, I’m sure, has distinct rural architecture. I’m delighted I could show you some of Wisconsin’s barns.

  35. djah2 Says:

    such a pretty view!

  36. Jgncs Says:

    Absolutely beautiful photos. Congrats.

  37. twhecht2013 Says:

    I have barn memories of my farm in Illinois. Great times!

  38. […] happened across a blog by a writer/photographer who posted a photo-essay here in which she has captured numerous barns. Her blog is titled Minnesota Prairie Roots and by the […]

  39. queeny411 Says:

    i love barns! Something about them makes me feel home!

  40. mikesight Says:

    Reblogged this on MikeSight and commented:
    I love barns!

  41. castingcathy Says:

    I love it! thank you for bringing back the memories I had when I had horses long ago – the cold winter air in the barn, I could see my breath as I threw hay down the loft at feeding time, the horses nickering for their grain, cleaning the stalls. All of it was hard work but left me with the most peaceful, satisfied feeling when I went home. Thanks again

  42. CultFit Says:

    So excited for you!!! Be inspired my friend. 🙂

  43. I loved this. I grew up on a farm in Iowa. I remember the smell of oat straw in the winter as we’d shake it out for bedding for the pigs in the winter. I’ve told people that and they’ve looked at me like I have 2 heads. That smell and the smell of hay when you’d walk into the barn on a cold winter day…I’ll probably never smell such again, but i have, and treasure, the memories. Thanks for letting me relive a few today.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, then, those two-headed people have never had the pleasure of working in a Midwest barn. Your description of shaking out a bale of oats straw is in my memory bank, too, except I was preparing bedding for cows. Thank you for sharing that sweet memory. I don’t think anything quite beats the earthy smell of freshly-mown alfalfa in a field, except perhaps the smell when you walk into the barn. I hope that someday you can return to your Iowa roots and once again walk through a barn.

  44. elburtruk Says:

    i grew up in a town of 4,500-5,000 people during the 1950s in a town called Durand, in michigan which is the railroad center of the state. my little town was surrounded by farm land. i worked on farms baling hay … maybe the hardest work there is. i’m obsessed with the 1950s. i have crystal clear memories of growing up during this age which i think of as the golden age of america. i feel privlaged to have grown up during this period of our history when small towns were the center of life before shopping malls destroyed the downtowns of small town america. i could go on and on … my goal in life at this point is to bring to the world, what it was like to grow up during this golden age. so …. your photos mean a lot, lot to me. i know what it’s like to be inside of those barns … the cats, the tractors, the light, the tools, the hay loft. it’s all too beautiful and i thank you for sharing. i’m not supposed to do this but, there are two chapters in a series of stories called ‘Sailing With the Wind” where the barn is a cental ‘character’ in the story. i know i’m not supposed to do this but … i’m telling you because i think you might enjoy what you read NOT because i’m trying to promote myself. thank you again for your visions. K.S

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are most welcome and I’m happy to meet another enthusiast for that time period and the simpler way of life. Baling hay is hard work, for sure.

      It sounds like you have some wonderful memories. And no problem with plugging those stories here. That passes the test of what’s allowable in my comments section. Thank you.

  45. shalilah2002 Says:

    I keep seeing myself walking along peaceful beautiful lanes and the beautiful things of my childhood. I’m going to follow you.

  46. Linzie Clayburn Says:

    Hello,
    I ran across you blog on old barns
    And I just wanted to say,that I think it is wonderful
    I truley enjoyed the beautiful photos, nd the story.
    I love riding around in the country and finding old brns and building,and photgraphing them
    I think they are amazing treasures.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I agree, these old buildings are amazing treasures, which need to be preserved in photos if not otherwise.

  47. Linzie Clayburn Says:

    I also have a photo blog at mclaymern.wordpress.om
    And i have photos of old barns on it
    I didn’t add stories though,but i think the photos are very good ones,,
    And thank you for leting me enjoy your blog!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Always happy to share my photos with readers. Thank you, also, for preserving barns via your images.

  48. If you like barns come to the south. We have lots of barns here 🙂

  49. laurap62 Says:

    I love your photos. Takes me back to my own experiences on our Minnesota family farm. Thank you for sharing these.

  50. The sounds, sights and smells you describe take this old granny way back. Thanks for the memories

  51. Reblogged this on Cristian De Leo and commented:
    Fotos y Recuerdos de Minnesota

    Me sentí caminando por el rodaje de una película Norte Americana en los años 80.

    Por: Audrey Kletscher Helbing

  52. i love barns they are so pretty


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