Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the backroads between Faribault and New Prague October 10, 2018


A MONTH AGO, before the grey of this too rainy autumn settled upon the southern Minnesota landscape, Randy and I followed the backroads from Faribault to New Prague en route to a brewery. We enjoy craft beers and wanted to check out Giesenbrau Bier Company, billed as a German style bier hall and garten.

I am directionally-challenged when roads are not prairie grid perfect. Randy knows this about me. It’s also a source of frustration when I am unable to read a map. Yes, we still rely on paper maps and atlases. But “just drive” seems more Randy’s philosophy. He’s always confident of eventually reaching our destination.

In no particular hurry to get there on this Sunday afternoon, we took some paved, some gravel, roads, occasionally stopping to observe and, for me, to take photos. At the time I jotted down locations, but have since misplaced my notes. We were somewhere northwest of Faribault, well off the interstate. I prefer this type of travel which allows for a close-up look at life.





From a town hall to a grasshopper,






from a lake to the detail of bordering cattails,





from a cornfield to a weathered corn crib to the cobs inside, I notice the overall picture and then the details.



Along the way we often come across small delights. Scenes that remind us of our rural roots. Scenes that remind us that life does not always need to speed, that afternoons like this are meant to be savored.



At one point, Randy parked the van along a gravel road so we could watch a couple baling hay. Not with a massive tractor and baler, but with a small tractor and an old-fashioned baler spitting out rectangular bales. Just like we remember from the farm. When the tractor reached the end of the field, the lean farmer leapt off the trailer and headed toward us.



“You looking for work?” he joked. We told him we’d pass, that we were former farm kids who understood the hard work of baling hay.





We continued on toward New Prague then, winding our way to the bier hall, then to a nearby park for a short walk before taking backroads home,





past another farmer baling hay and an aged barn with a new metal roof and a sturdy rock foundation.



I noted then that we should drive these roads again when autumn hues colored the hilly landscape somewhere between New Prague and Faribault. That would be now.

TELL ME: Do you drive backroads? If yes, where and what have you seen?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


43 Responses to “On the backroads between Faribault and New Prague”

  1. parkerozgood Says:

    I am proud to call New Prague my hometown! Giesenbrau is pretty awesome! You should of went a little further and hit Roets in Jordan!

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    Of course, that first photo is one the caught my eye!! But the one that brought back the most memories was the couple baling hay with the New Holland baler. No farm kids here……just transplanted city folk who bought a place that had the appropriate buildings and thought it a great idea to fill them!!!! Stories abound (some we may have shared with you over lunch?!). Great photos as always!

  3. Sandy Bessingpas Says:

    I grew up in New Prague and my relatives own that brewery. I have yet to visit it in person, so it was fun to read about it in your post. I have many memories of baleing hay with my dad and brothers

  4. Colleen Hondl Gengler Says:

    Yes, I do travel the back roads. It’s fun to try to figure out how to get from “here to there” a new way. About 20 years ago, when my father was sick, I went from southwest Minnesota to the southeast part of the state for several weekends. Each time I experimented and eventually came up with an almost straight shot reducing my mileage a little bit more each time. I still use that route occasionally.

    • If one’s goal is to make time, then backroads aren’t the route to take. But when you have time, oh, so much awaits discovery.

      • Colleen Hondl Gengler Says:

        In this case, I wanted to do it as quickly as possible which did happen with back roads. But your point is well taken. Over the years, it has been interesting to observe the changes in farmhouses and places, the towns, businesses, etc.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    Favorite picture today is of the corn crib. I remember the one at my grandparents and how we loved to shell the corn with the sheller and sometimes got over exuberant doing that and had baskets and baskets of shelled corn which worried my grandfather. My grandma just said “Les, they are having fun and we will use it up eventually so just don’t worry about it.”. 🙂

  6. Wow! Square bales! That is almost never seen anymore. My last year I put up 3500 squares at my parents place in 2011. It was the last year my folks put up that many.
    Your photos are wonderful way to showcase the real Minnesota!

    • Thank you so much.

      That’s a lot of bales. And, yes, you’re right, seeing “old” (by today’s standards) haymaking equipment like this is unusual. That’s why Randy and I stopped to observe and I photographed the scene.

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Ah ha this was the perfect post to read on this chilly wet morning while waiting for the snow to start. Beautiful flowers and you know how much I enjoy seeing farm life.

  8. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Looking at these photos nudges me to think about when I was a kid and my dad would drive all over the state on Sunday afternoons just because he could. He never looked at a map, either; just drove along whichever roads look interesting. I was bored then, but I understand my dad’s meandering now. There is beauty and there are interesting people everywhere. It is good to go get lost once in a while. And it’s good to get out into the country (for those of us who were never farm kids) and look at life from a different angle.

    • A drive in the country is a good way to slow down, to envelope one’s self in peace, to escape for an hour or two the reality and madness of today’s world. I always feel refreshed after drives like this, craft beer or not.

  9. Littlesundog Says:

    We don’t see a lot of corn cribs standing back home anymore. I think they’re beautiful architecture. That “lean” man was how many farm folk used to look, because the work was hard and much of it manual labor like that. Packing hay bales was something even we kids did at a young age. Big bales are moved with machinery now, and ATV’s and UTV’s take us out to check fields and irrigation. Farmer’s don’t have to use their bodies like they used to.

    FD and I often take country drives, especially this time of year. The country roads are always the best.

  10. Almost Iowa Says:

    A farmer is still putting corn cobs in a corn crib? Wow! Talk about a blast from the past.

  11. Nothing better than a road trip and craft beers! Our corn crib had the worst case of nettles around it – ouchie 😦 I remember growing up and helping with hay baling and log splitting – all that moving it about though got old in a hurry as a kid. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  12. Don Says:

    Is that really a yield sign for the train…………..hummmm I would sure yield for a train! Audrey, your pictures of the corn crib got me thinking, have you ever had corn cob jelly? I sure liked it and miss it.

  13. Sue Ready Says:

    Lots of comments from readers who seem to have rural roots and appreciated your photo essay . Indeed you did savor the afternoon with a leisurely drive exploring the countryside. Guess I’m a city person who hurries to get from A to B to C and no doubt misses all those little things you see.

  14. Don Says:

    Corn Cob jelly is made from (as you would expect) shucked corn cobs. Not sure of the exact recipe, however as I understand it you boil the cobs in water to extract the juices and to that add sugar and pectin to make jelly. When growing up the ladies at church used to make it and it has a sweet berry type of taste not a corn taste like you would expect. Great pictures by the way, I do miss the harvest time!

  15. valeriebollinger Says:

    We enjoy taking road trips…a Sunday drive through the country or getting off the freeway when we can.
    It makes me smile that the farmer stopped to chat with you while you were pulled over.

  16. Rebecca Haughn Says:

    I love those square bales and my hubby and I would have stopped and helped. Never know when you meet someone whose lives can be interwoven in our own. Or a meeting and glory of having eased anothers job. Thanks for sharing this wonderful day in a life. We live rurally so yes we travel rural roads in Ohio.

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