Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The changing prairie view May 14, 2014

Newly-erected power lines, part of the Cap X2020 transmission line project, northwest of Morgan along Minnesota State Highway 67.

Newly-erected power lines, part of the Cap X2020 transmission line project northwest of Morgan along Minnesota State Highway 67, run seemingly into forever.

I FEEL ABOUT MONSTROSITY power lines as I do about wind turbines. I don’t appreciate their visual impact upon the land.

These towering giants, in my opinion, mar the landscape, distract and detract, cause me to feel small, unsettled and insignificant in their presence.

A farm site along Minnesota Highway 67 seems so small in comparison to the new transmission power poles.

A farm site along Minnesota State Highway 67 dwarfed by a new transmission power pole.

Perhaps it’s just the southwestern Minnesota prairie rooted girl in me who values her horizon wide and broad and vertically interrupted only by grain elevators, water towers, silos and groves of trees.

Old style power lines still run along Brown County Road 29.

Old style power lines still run along Brown County Road 29 between New Ulm and Morgan.

I wonder if my grandparents felt the same about the early rural electric co-op posts and lines strung along gravel township roads, the cement stave silos popping up on farms…old water-pumping windmills abandoned.

A cluster of Harvestore silos define a farm northeast of Vesta along Minnesota State Highway 19.

A cluster of Harvestore silos define a farm northeast of Vesta along Minnesota State Highway 19.

I felt a certain discontent when blue Harvestore silos began soldiering into southwestern Minnesota decades ago. They lacked personality and represented, to me, the demise of the small family farm.

Wind turbines in extreme southwestern Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, July 2013.

Wind turbines in extreme southwestern Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, July 2013.

These are my thoughts as I travel through my native prairie today. Progress does not always please me. Visually or otherwise.

(This post is cross posted at streets.mn.)

Ā© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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26 Responses to “The changing prairie view”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    I wonder if your grandparents looked upon those “vertical sticks tied together with wires” as a wonderful conduit of “power” that made their lives a bit(lot) easier? And there, certainly, has been much said (‘pro’ and ‘con’) regarding the turbines. They are somewhat of a wonderment to me as I gaze at the immense blades slicing through the breezes. Thoughts from a “ridge gal” rather than a “prairie gal”…………………………..

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    We all see different things when we look at the landscape. Where you see “ugly” I see graceful and functional—useful and a means to an end. I am much more tied to the technological world than you are, I suspect, and I see the wind turbines as productive and graceful and somewhat calming. The power lines I view as a necessity for all the “things” that make life easier for me and others. I still can see the beauty breaking through the fields—–to me it is a sign of progress and how far we have come through the years. I also see how they can co-exist with one another—the farms and fields are still thriving despite the obstacles. Same pictures, same landscape, different perspective. Congrats on the cross post!

    • You are right on that you are much more tied to technology than me. I understand/see your viewpoint, too. It’s good that we don’t all think alike, isn’t it? What a boring world this would be.

      As for streetsmn, I post there about once a month.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    I am with you 100% on those power lines…they don’t look so great in towns either. It is too bad that running these lines underground wasn’t more cost-effective. I have mixed feelings about the wind turbines. I get the visual intrusion to the landscape, but I can appreciate their renewable nature. These designs may be short-lived if they perfect the wind turbine that floats high up in the jet stream. If that becomes the next big thing all we will see are huge cables descending from the sky :-/ I have no idea how planes will traverse the skies – yikes.

    • I understand the value and the need for the bigger transmission lines and wind turbines. It’s the visual aspect and impact that I don’t like.

      I was not aware of potential wind turbines that float high in the jet stream. Interesting, to say the least.

  4. A lot of people near us protested the wind turbines that are so prominent now in northern Illinois. People who live very near them seem to have quite a few complaints about them. I don’t know how I’d feel if I lived next door to one, but I kind of like them. I think they are like sculptures. I’m with you on the power lines though.

  5. I am shocked by the number of wind turbines every time I visit our farm in Southwestern Ontario. I just can’t get used to them and don’t want to move to the area as a result.

  6. Beautiful Captures šŸ™‚ Happy Hump Day!

  7. Marilyn Says:

    The changes in our traditional landscapes are happening all over the world and I suspect disliked or not trusted all over, too. Sure there is a beauty in the symmetry of the receding lines, and they are an obvious reminder of the ‘good’ changes of modern living. But does anyone really want to live next door to such progress?

    I remember a conversation between my Dad and my Mama’s grandfather who bemoaned the coming of the power lines because he believed the coursing of the electricity through the lines affected his cow’s milk production. He kept meticulous production records, so maybe he had empirical data to support his fears. Dad thought there were other factors involved (aging cows, aging Grandpa not quite up on modern methods).

    One last thought – there are new wind turbine designs to greatly lessen the noise called “turbine infrasound and low frequency noise (ILFN)” which is said to be the cause of Wind Turbine Syndrome (another worldwide result of various changes in modern living because the symptoms of WTS are also like the symptoms suffered by people “living close to natural gas compressor stations, industrial sewage pumping stations, industrial air conditioners, and other power plants.”) The big question is how soon the design changes can be put into widespread usage, and will it really stop WTS?

    • I’ve learned a lot from your comment, Marilyn.

      What your grandfather said about the power lines affecting milk production is still a source of controversy today, with the new transmission line in Minnesota.

  8. ryanware Says:

    We’ve got a lot of the new transmission lines going in around Chaska and just to the west as people push out of the twin cities. There is no easy answer. People like living in ways that consume evermore amounts of electricity. I think the new power lines are hideous, but for some reason the wind turbines don’t bother me as much. I’d rather see wind turbines than a coal plant I guess. Maybe we just need the utility companies to disguise them as the cell phone companies do some of the cell towers. http://waynesword.palomar.edu/faketree.htm


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