Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Garden tour II: Hosta haven in the woods June 30, 2016

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Hostas thrive in the full and dappled shade of the McAdam's yard.

Hostas and lilies thrive in the full and dappled shade of the McAdams’ wooded yard.

EDGED BY WOODS and in the woods, Rita and Colin McAdam’s property perched atop a hill overlooking nearby French Lake west of Faribault offers a shady respite in the heat of the mid-day summer sun.

Vehicles exit the McAdam property along a narrow wooded lane.

Vehicles exit the McAdam property along a narrow wooded lane.

On this June afternoon, I’m touring this couple’s land as part of the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour Garden and Landscape Tour benefiting Full Belly, a local “soup kitchen.”

An inspiring message in garden art.

An inspiring message placed next to lilies.

Rita welcomes me and offers a personal tour of her outdoor retreat 40 years in the making. “If you like digging in the dirt…” her voice trails.

A most impressive hosta with elephant ear sized leaves.

A most impressive hosta with elephant ear sized leaves.

I opt, though, to wander at my own pace through this shaded yard where hostas dominate. Here I see not only everyday common hostas, but a vast variety including one with leaves as large as an elephant’s ears.

Everywhere are multiple varieties of hosta.

Everywhere are multiple varieties of hosta.

And so I meander because the McAdams’ place calls for a slow pace. There’s so much to notice in the abundance of art tucked among plants. The art is an eclectic mix of whatever seemed to catch Rita’s fancy. Statues of deer, a rabbit, a duck, angels…a Road Runner whirly-gig…

A jolt of humor.

A jolt of humor.

The garden art is simultaneously quirky and charming, humorous and inspiring. No unified theme prevails. But it is what it should be—the result of four decades of work at Rita and Colin’s place.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Kitschy art propped against a tree.

Kitschy art propped against a tree.

My favorite sculpture in the McAdam yard.

My favorite sculpture in the McAdam yard. The tiny violets mimic the fawn’s spots.

The sun sculpture bursts color into the shade.

The sun sculpture bursts color into the shade.

A sweet surprise of angels on a ledge next to lilies.

A sweet surprise of angels on a ledge next to lilies.

Another of my favorite sculptures tucked by the hosta.

Another of my favorite sculptures tucked by the hosta.

Staged along the edge of the driveway/parking area.

Staged along the edge of the driveway/parking area.

This lizard sculpture holds jelly, for the birds I presume.

This lizard sculpture holds jelly, for the birds I presume.

FYI: Check back again as I continue my garden tour series. Click here to read my first garden tour post.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Garden tour I: Couple masters the art of landscaping June 29, 2016

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Siegfried garden, 4 lily

 

LOVELY LILIES LEAN.

 

Siegfried garden, 23 clematis, etc.

 

Clematis cascade.

Sixty to seventy fish (guppies and koi) swim in the Siegfrieds' pond.

Sixty to seventy fish (guppies and koi) swim in the Siegfrieds’ pond.

Captive koi circle.

And the sun blazes brilliant on a Sunday summer afternoon in the yard of Karrie and Mike Siegfried.

Pond, pergola and bridge create a focal point in the yard.

Pond, pergola and bridge create a focal point in the yard.

The couple has created an outdoor retreat just off busy Minnesota State Highway 3 on the northern edge of Faribault. I admire the property every time I pass by. But on this late June day, I view the yard up close while on the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour Garden and Landscape Tour benefiting Full Belly, a local soup kitchen.

The Prickly Pear Cactus, which will winter over in Minnesota (and is native to sections of southwestern Minnesota) grows in the Southwest Garden. Mike nearly gave up on the plant ever bloomig

The Prickly Pear Cactus, which will winter over in Minnesota (and is native to sections of southwestern Minnesota) grows in the Southwest Garden. Mike nearly gave up on the plant. But this year it bloomed.

This spacious yard features everything from ponds to shade gardens to a Southwest garden complete with cacti to a lawn sprawling enough for a wedding (Karrie’s son’s).

Dubbed the Southwest Garden, this plot features cacti and Southwest style pottery.

Dubbed the Southwest Garden, this plot features cacti and Southwest style pottery.

Perennials like clematis, coral bells, lamb’s ears, lilies and more fill borders and soften fence lines. Petunias, geraniums and other annuals spill from pots. Clumps of strategically placed ornamental grasses rise and sway, adding visual interest. Just like the art created by Mike.

Mike's copper leaf art.

Mike’s copper leaf and acorn art.

A plumber by trade, Mike took an interest in copper art after attending the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. In 2013, he opened an etsy shop, Mystical Copper. He crafts copper into mostly fish and butterflies, but also does custom pieces. I didn’t ask about the intricacies. But the art involves pounding and then heating the copper to get variations in color.

Mike's copper walleye.

Mike’s copper walleye.

Mike’s one-of-a-kind art enhances the Siegfrieds’ already impressive landscaping. Three patches of tall ornamental grasses front an oversized copper walleye attached to a fence. The scene mimics a lake setting. It takes an artist’s eye and a gardener’s knowledge to create such a vignette.

Shadow the cat greeted garden tour visitors.

Shadow the cat greeted garden tour visitors.

In the Siegfried’s yard, art and plants blend artfully and beautifully into this escape, this retreat, this lovely place bordering a busy Minnesota highway.

FYI: Check back for more stories and photos from gardens featured on the Garden and Landscape Tour. Click here to read my first post about Fully Belly.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Beyond filling bellies at a Faribault “soup kitchen” June 28, 2016

A sign in front of the church advertises the free meals served here twice a week.

A sign in front of the church advertises the free meals served here twice a week.

FOR DONNA STROHKIRCH, finding funding for Full Belly based out of Faribault’s Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour is an ongoing effort. Feeding the 60 -70 people who come for the non-profit’s free meals on a Wednesday evening costs about $100.

The Guild House dining room and kitchen. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The Guild House dining room and kitchen. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from an unrelated event.

It is, says Donna—meal planner, shopper, cook, greeter and so much more—a miracle that the kitchen continues to operate. She’s already had to trim back from serving three meals weekly to just once a week. And even though she’s dipped into her Social Security income to provide for those in need, this seventy-something woman remains prayerfully optimistic. God always provides, she says. With a smile.

The beautifully-designed tickets, complete with directions to the gardens on the back.

The beautifully-designed tickets, complete with directions to the gardens on the back.

Sunday afternoon, Full Belly benefited from a Cathedral-organized Garden and Landscape Tour. I talked with Donna about her meal ministry after touring six Faribault area gardens on a brilliantly sunny and beautiful summer afternoon in southern Minnesota.

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour is the first Episcopal church in the U.S. to be built as a cathedral. Construction began in 1862 and was completed in 1869.

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour is the first Episcopal church in the U.S. to be built as a cathedral. Construction began in 1862 and was completed in 1869. It attracts lots of visitors interested in this historic building.

Inside the air conditioned space connecting the Cathedral and Guild House, Donna answered my questions between welcoming guests to a dessert table. “It’s always been my mission to have a soup kitchen,” she says, referencing the extensive poverty she witnessed in Alaska before moving to Minnesota three years ago. Shortly thereafter, with the support of family, she started Fully Belly. It’s truly a family affair with a daughter-in-law, grandkids and several unpaid volunteers assisting Donna.

Beautiful gardens, complete with benches, grace the area that connects the cathedral to the Guild House.

Beautiful gardens, complete with benches, grace the area that connects the Cathedral to the historic Guild House, left.

They serve full, well-balanced meals, not just soup, to anyone in need. Most diners are elderly, living on fixed incomes. “Food is me,” says Donna, who comes with a broad background in the food profession. “Love and food kind of go together.”

Lovely lilies in a side garden remind me of

Lovely lilies in a Cathedral side garden remind me of Matthew 6:28, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don’t toil, neither do they spin.”

It’s clear from our brief conversation that Donna’s purpose extends beyond filling empty bellies. “It’s my mission from God to help people. I’ve always taken care of people,” she says. Full Belly also provides much-needed fellowship. It is that social aspect, that showing love to others, that food for the soul, which fuels Donna’s passion for feeding others a free meal once a week. She mingles with her dinner guests, talks to them, makes them feel welcome.

Flowers grow alongside the Cathedral and Guild House and in expansive beds.

Flowers grow alongside the Cathedral and Guild House and in expansive beds.

Donna is clearly passionate about feeding the hungry in the Faribault community. And then she mentioned one more thing: She’s always wanted to go on a mission trip. But she lacks money for such a trip and she’s dealing with health issues. Yet, she seems determined. I expect, as she has with Full Belly, that Donna will find a way to finance a mission trip, fulfilling what she views as her life’s mission—to help people.

FYI: Click here to learn more about Full Belly, including information on how you can support this meal ministry. Full Belly serves a free meal from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday evenings at the Cathedral Guild House, behind the church (515 Second Avenue Northwest) near downtown Faribault.

The Community Cathedral Cafe also serves free meals at the Cathedral Guild House from 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays.

Check back as I take you to the gardens featured on the Fully Belly fundraiser garden tour.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Goin’ to the lake June 27, 2016

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Boat, 1 ahead on I-94

 

TRAVELING TO CENTRAL and northern Minnesota on a summer weekend, motorists expect heavy traffic as folks head to lake cabins and resorts. It’s a given. Campers, trucks pulling boats and loaded-down vehicles cram roadways. Ditto for the return trip home Sunday afternoon.

 

Boat, 5 pulled along I-94

 

Even knowing this, I did not expect to see a semi truck transporting an oversized boat along Interstate 94 between Monticello and Clearwater on Saturday morning. As traffic slowed in both lanes, my husband and I wondered if we’d encounter an accident, road construction or what.

 

Boat, 7 close-up of along I-94

 

And then, as speeds picked up again, we saw the or what—the ginormous boat carried by the semi.

That led to speculation: What lake in central/northern Minnesota can handle a boat of this size? How will the owner get this boat into a lake? And what is the value of this boat?

 

Boat, 9 along I-94 in side mirror

 

Randy, who grew up in central Minnesota, unlike me a native of (mostly) lake-less southwestern Minnesota, speculated on Gull Lake near Brainerd as the boat’s destination. Right or wrong, we’ll never know. We lost track of the watercraft after sneaking ahead of the boat-towing-semi just before it crossed the Mississippi River bridge at Clearwater.

IF YOU’RE A MINNESOTAN, I’d like to hear a story about driving north on a summer weekend. If you’re not from Minnesota, tell me about traffic in your state on the weekends, perhaps areas you avoid or wish you could avoid.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Road trip stories: Roadside sermon June 26, 2016

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FOR HUNDREDS OF MILES on the beginning of a recent road trip from Minnesota to Massachusetts, I didn’t snap a single photo. That’s a rarity for me. I can’t explain why, only that I was settling in, simply observing rather than watching for photo ops.

 

Bible verse on billboard, 1 along I-80 in Indiana

 

Not until near mile marker 127 along Interstate 80 in Indiana did I take my first image, of John 14:6 posted on a billboard. It was meant to be. A certain sense of peace washed over me as I read the words. Sometimes timing needs no explanation, only acceptance.

FYI: Check back for more Road Trip Stories as I continue to share images and words from a recent 3,029-mile journey to the East Coast and back to Minnesota.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Should this Minnesota country schoolhouse be saved? June 24, 2016

 

The Le Sueur School District 18 schoolhouse, located at 35278 141st Avenue, rural Montgomery, Minnesota.

The Le Sueur County School District 18 schoolhouse, located at 35278 141st Avenue, rural Montgomery, Minnesota.

THE WEATHERED SCHOOLHOUSE sits on a slight rise along the gravel road, surrounded by a clipped lawn bordered by farm fields.

Hardy daisies thrive next to the schoolhouse.

Hardy daisies thrive next to the schoolhouse.

On this Sunday summer afternoon when I’ve discovered the aged building just off Le Sueur County Road 26 two miles east of Montgomery in Montgomery Township, the wind is rippling grain fields and bending daises nestled into an exterior corner of the schoolhouse.

Windows need repair/replacing.

Windows need repair/replacing.

As I brace myself against the wind, I notice shingle debris scattered across the grass. I notice the weathered grey of unpainted siding, the rotted boards, the barn swallow and wasp nests. I notice how much this schoolhouse needs care and upkeep.

A rear shot of the country school.

A rear shot of the country school.

In 1888, Wencel and Mary Petricka sold this parcel of land to Le Sueur County School District 18 for $1 to build this school. In 1957, when the Le Sueur district consolidated with the Montgomery School District, the little one-room country school closed.

Consider the hands that once turned this knob opening the door to an education.

Consider the hands that once turned this knob opening the door to an education.

And here it stands, a year shy of sixty years after closure, seemingly abandoned. Except for that mowed lawn and that patch of daisies. Someone still cares. And that gives me hope. Hope that someone will find the money and the inclination to save this piece of rural Minnesota’s educational history. Before it’s too late.

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Three rooflines: entry, classroom and bell tower.

Three rooflines: entry, classroom and bell tower.

IT’S EASY FOR ME TO WRITE, Save the School. But the issue of financing often blocks the path to such endeavors. Do you have any creative ideas to fund a repair and restoration project? Perhaps I should first ask, should the schoolhouse be saved? I don’t even know who owns it.

Perhaps an American flag will fly again some day on the corner of the schoolhouse.

Perhaps an American flag will fly again some day on the corner of the schoolhouse.

In September of 2015, Le Sueur County School District 18 held its first ever reunion. With 31 alumni and guests in attendance (including a former teacher), there’s clearly an appreciation for this Minnesota country school.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My favorite small scale Minnesota zoo June 23, 2016

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I grew up on a dairy farmer, thus was excited to see these calves.

I grew up on a dairy farm and am always excited to see calves.

WITH SUMMER OFFICIALLY on the calendar, it’s the perfect time to take the kids or grandkids to the zoo. For many Minnesotans, that most likely would be the Minnesota Zoo or Como Park Zoo.

Just a small section of the Farm, which includes two barns.

Just a small section of the Farm, which includes two barns and a shelter available for rent, right.

But I’ve discovered a much smaller rural-themed zoo in Greater Minnesota that impresses me. And, bonus, no metro traffic or pressing crowds. Welcome to Sibley Farm at Sibley Park in Mankato. I’ve posted previously about this southern Minnesota zoo. But now seems a good time to showcase it again during peak season.

Kids can climb aboard this tractor and another on the adjoining playground.

Kids can climb aboard this tractor and another on the adjoining agriculturally-themed playground.

I last visited Sibley Farm on a cold and windy day in mid-May with minimal time to explore. Even with less than ideal weather, families were there enjoying the baby and other farm animals and the farm-themed playground.

The sheep were snuggling on the spring day I visited Sibley Farm.

The sheep were snuggling on the spring day I visited Sibley Farm.

It is the full-on rural aspect of this zoo which most appeals to me. Most families are so far removed from farm life today that they need this indirect exposure. Even kids who live in the country. Even those who live in Mankato, right in the heart of Minnesota farm land.

A shorn alpaca.

A shorn alpaca.

Sibley Farm provides a place to connect with and learn about farm life. It also preserves Minnesota’s rural heritage. That’s important. My own three grown kids are only a generation removed from the farm. Yet, their knowledge of farming is limited. It’s important to me that they recognize and value the rural heritage that shaped the Kletscher and Helbling families. I expect many farm-raised parents and grandparents feel the same. Sibley Farm is a great place to learn about farming in a fun and interactive way.

Sibley Farm includes a water feature complete with goldfish.

Sibley Farm includes a water feature complete with goldfish.

Tell me, what’s your favorite zoo and why?

FYI: Sibley Farm is located at 900 Mound Avenue, Mankato, within Sibley Park and is open from 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. daily mid-spring through early fall. Admission is free.

Besides the farm, Sibley Park offers softball fields, tennis courts, walking trails, lovely gardens, fishing, a winter sliding hill, poetry and more.

Click here to read my previous post about Sibley Farm. And click here to read a story about Sibley Park.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling