Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Rooted in the land, still August 4, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The elevator in Lamberton, Minnesota, just to the south of my brother's place.

Grain elevators, like this one in Lamberton to the south of my brother’s place, define rural small town Minnesota skylines.

THERE ARE DAYS, even now after forty years away from the farm, that I yearn to permanently return, to plant my feet upon the land, to follow a gravel road, to breathe in deeply the scent of freshly-mown alfalfa, to step into the blackness of a summer night under a sky pinpointed with an infinity of stars. On land that is mine. It will never happen.

Clover on the edge of a field.

Clover on the edge of a field.

But I am fortunate that my middle brother and his wife live on my native prairie on a rural acreage that they share. It has become the extended family gathering spot, the site that reconnects me to southwestern Minnesota, my childhood home.

Brian and Vicki recently added an outhouse (used for storage) to their property. This reminds me of the first 11 years of my life, living in a house without a bathroom and using a two-holer outhouse.

Brian and Vicki recently added an outhouse (used for storage) to their property. This reminds me of the first 11 years of my life, living in a house without a bathroom and using a two-holer outhouse.

Each time I visit Brian and Vicki’s home 120 miles distant from Faribault, I wander their land with my camera, photographing rural scenes, capturing memories with my lens.

Monarch attracting milkweed grows next to a soybean field.

Monarch attracting milkweed grows along the fence line next to a soybean field.

Scents of clover and of milkweed.

The John Deere tractor roared by my brother's place much of the afternoon

The John Deere tractor roared by my brother’s place much of the afternoon as the farmer baled hay.

Roar of a tractor.

The gravel road that runs past my middle brother's rural acreage just north of Lamberton, Minnesota.

The gravel road that runs past my middle brother’s rural acreage just north of Lamberton.

Crunching of gravel beneath feet.

The sun begins to set.

The sun begins to set.

The undeniable serenity that descends with daylight’s impending departure.

There's something about a leaning fence post that is authentically rural.

There’s something about a leaning fence post that is authentically rural.

Fence posts leaning, sun setting, crops growing. Absence of noise.

Wheat in the field just across the fence line.

Wheat in the field just across the fence line.

This is enough to hold me, to remind me of my roots, to imprint the poetry of the land upon my soul.

BONUS PHOTOS:

A rural home for the birds.

A rural home for the birds.

There's something poetic about an old wooden fence post.

There’s something poetic about an old wooden fence post at dusk.

Beautiful brohm grass. As a child, my siblings and I would play make-believe in the tall grass on our farm.

Beautiful brohm grass. As children, my siblings and I would play make-believe in the tall grass on our farm near Vesta.

Even the sight of this aged insulator sparks memories.

Even the sight of this aged insulator sparks memories.

A birdhouse, perfect in its simplicity.

A birdhouse, perfect in its simplicity.

Growing up on our crop and dairy farm, my eldest brother, Doug, photographed the cows and recorded details about them. My middle brother treasures this compilation of information from our farm. And so do I. Memories...

Growing up on our crop and dairy farm, my eldest brother, Doug, photographed the cows and recorded details about them. My middle brother treasures this compilation of information from our farm. And so do I. Memories… Brian showed this to us on our last visit and I considered it important enough to photograph. It is a piece of rural, and family, history.

FYI: All of these photos were taken on the July Fourth weekend.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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26 Responses to “Rooted in the land, still”

  1. Marneymae Says:

    *swoon*
    Gorgeous photos, Audrey.
    The muted colors hold such a richness & softness.
    I’m happy to know there is a place you can visit in a familiar way which revives something of your youth & rural roots… A place where you can relax into.
    Before I knew what grain elevators were, I used to dream about them as a child.
    I’m always struck when I see them like the way they are in your first photo.
    Thanks you for sharing such a beautiful post.

  2. Almost Iowa Says:

    These photos bring to mind one of Don Draper’s great pitches from the AMC series Mad Men. Draper said this about the Kodak Carousel.

    “Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel, it’s called the carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels – around and around, and back home again, to a place where we know are loved.”

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    Fun memories for you and reminders to the rest of us that things that are valued and treasured are not always the flashy and showy things. I loved the clover pictures and the fence post leaning from years of service. Lovely.

  4. Beautiful Captures – thanks for bringing back the memories of growing up on a farm 🙂 I loved that I had 8 acres to roam on as a child with vegetable gardens and farm animals like pigs and chickens. Plus I spent time on other family and friends’ farms too. When I think of the farm I think of the adventures I went on – pretending to be a pioneer woman, a farmer’s wife, a tourist in a foreign land, etc. Good way to build your imagination!

    Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  5. Christi Powers Says:

    Beautiful, wonderful. I am still such an admirer of your blog and photography, Audrey.

  6. Littlesundog Says:

    Oh, Audrey, I LOVE this post! Your photographs remind me of my Nebraska roots, and the narrative speaks so much like the spirit of my own farm girl heart. My brother still owns the old home place (buildings on eleven acres) – we sold the farm ground after Dad passed as none of us married farmers or could afford to buy each other out. I roam the old buildings, surrounding barnyard and pasture area when I return to visit. Remembering my Grandparents and my Dad… so many memories of my childhood, and knowing those roots are still all that I am. I might only live on ten acres of woodland and pasture now in Oklahoma, but it’s still earth I can run around barefoot on, and it is a place that is “home” to this daughter of the midwestern prairie.

  7. Jackie Says:

    I could almost smell the gravel and farm land in your post. Lovely photo’s of and words to describe the wonders and peace of “country”. My favorite was the Insulator photo, oh… and the gravel road (can never get enough of gravel roads)

  8. A little something for you Audrey.

    My Daddy’s Farm

    I want to feel the earth beneath my feet
    and again to smell the air so sweet
    to remember the days so long and warm
    as when I grew up on my daddy’s farm.

    ~Jake~

  9. Dan Traun Says:

    My wife’s mom’s side of the family is from the Lamberton area – Redman is the name. Ring any bells? There was just a 90th birthday celebration this last weekend that we were not able to make for a cousin. Lovely area. Great photos. I am especially fond of the grass photos.

    • The Redman name is not familiar to me. I actually grew up about 25 miles to the north and west of Lamberton, so am not necessarily familiar with all the names. It is a lovely area. Not everyone appreciates the prairie, so I am glad to hear that you do. Not surprised either.

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    The images in this post are just stunning, Audrey. In your part of the world you have some diverse and contrasting seasons. I love how green everything is in summer. I can’t believe you grew up with an outhouse! It must have been so cold going out there in the middle of winter! I think if you grow up on the land, it’s a very difficult transition to live in the city; so many people I know really miss the country xx

    • Minnesota definitely has four distinct seasons, one of the reasons I love this state, although winters are too long. I used an outhouse until about age 11, when my parents built a new house on the farm to accommodate their growing family. In the winter we used a covered pot on the porch rather than venturing through the snow to the outhouse.

  11. Wow, what stunning pictures. I love the clover. It’s funny that I could almost taste it by just viewing the picture. The out house is unique! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Gud-Sol Says:

    Audrey ….. all pics are speechless


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