Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Pass the gizzards, please, or not February 28, 2019

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I’VE HEARD OF PIE, hot dog, even sauerkraut, eating contests. But a Grackle Gizzard Eating Contest? Never.

But that contest opportunity happens during Winthrop, Minnesota’s 35th annual Grackle Days from April 5 – 7. What’s a grackle you ask? A blackbird.

Participants won’t gobble down grackle gizzards, though. Rather, organizers of this first-time contest have substituted turkey gizzards.

 

 

Grackle. Turkey. I don’t care what type of gizzard is on the table. I won’t be among those flocking to sign up for a contest limited to 10 competitors on two teams. Just the thought of eating a gizzard grosses me out.

How about you? Would you eat a gizzard? Have you eaten a gizzard?

Hand me a plate of sauerkraut and I’ll happily indulge. But a plate of gizzards? No thank you.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault students: Simply art February 27, 2019

Henry Johnson of Nerstrand Charter School created this vivid work of art for the Student Art Exhibit at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault during a past art show. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

ART, WHETHER VISUAL, literary or performing, enriches our lives.

Art helps us view the world from creative and differing perspectives. It jumpstarts thoughts and conversations, broadens our world, enhances our lives with beauty, causes us to pause and consider. Art stimulates change, builds bridges, enlightens and much more.

We need art. From early on. It’s just as important as math, science, technology…

 

Art from a past exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Give children crayons to scribble, wooden spoons to beat a rhythm upon kettles, books to read or simply turn the pages.

Let them dance. Let them write stories. Let them splash in puddles. Let them create art with chalk and fingerpaints and markers.

Delight in their creativity. Encourage it. Embrace it. Appreciate it. For art holds great value.

 

The art exhibit threads along hallways, into corners and into a room on the second floor of the Paradise. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from a past show.

 

My community values the creativity of young artists. This Friday, March 1, one of my favorite annual local shows, the Faribault Area Student Art Exhibit, opens at the Paradise Center for the Arts in historic downtown Faribault. Student art will line second floor hallways and fill the second floor gallery.

 

Woven art created by students from the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind for the 2017 art exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2017.

 

The student art always impresses me. The simple. The detailed. The colorful. The color-less. The texture, the patterns, the shapes.

 

Roosevelt Elementary fifth grader Jose painted this portrait for a previous student art exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Each artist holds within himself or herself the ability to express creativity. Certainly, some students are more gifted in art than others. But that matters not in this art show. There are no ribbons, no awards, no rankings or ratings. There’s art. Simply art.

 

Bold, vivid art by students from Divine Mercy Catholic School for a previous exhibit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

For young people to have this opportunity within my community to publicly show their art pleases me. We are telling them we value their creativity. We are teaching them the value of art. And that is a good thing in a world that needs art now more than ever.

 

TELL ME: What are your thoughts on the value of art?

FYI: An opening reception for the student artists is set for 5 – 7 p.m. March 1. The exhibit runs through April 6.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The long Minnesota winter February 26, 2019

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I stood in our driveway to show you the height of the snow piled at the end of the drive, on both sides. The stop sign on the street corner is barely visible from this perspective. Backing out of the driveway and pulling onto the roadway require caution as snow piles block vision lines.

 

I’VE COMPLAINED A LOT about winter recently. Both here and in conversation. I’m not alone. Ask almost any Minnesotan (except my friend Jackie) if they are weary of winter and the answer will be a resounding yes.

 

Clearing snow is a seemingly endless task. Here Randy works to clear the sidewalk.

 

The record-breaking snow of February pushed us all to that brink of winter weariness. The endless snow removal, plans canceled by weather, difficult driving conditions, schools closed, brutal temps and winds, and much more combine to make this a challenging winter.

 

A view of Willow Street, an arterial street running past our Faribault home.

 

We need a break. Not everyone has the ability, financial or otherwise, to escape to a warmer place.

 

Another view of the snow piled at the end of our driveway.

 

If I was 50 years younger, my attitude likely would differ. As a child, I embraced winter on the southwestern Minnesota prairie, playing for endless hours atop mountainous, rock-hard snowdrifts and racing across towering snow piles. Sledding and skating. And in between, farm chores, which were finger-numbing cold in winter. Not fun, really, but necessary for our financial survival.

 

The narrow snow banked pathway to our front door.

 

Randy finally decided just to leave the ladder outside, leaning here against the garage. He’s been on the garage and house roofs twice to shovel off the snow.

 

Time warp to today, to adulthood. Snow no longer represents fun. It represents work. Randy has handled the bulk of snow removal using our ancient (I term it Noah’s ark) snowblower. But some shoveling still needs to be done in areas like the roof, front steps and walk.

 

You can barely see Randy’s head over the snow piled at the end of our sidewalk.

 

Shoveling the snow wall built by the city snowplow at the end of the sidewalk.

 

And when the snowplow pushes snow into the end of the sidewalk or driveway, the snow often needs to be sliced apart for the snowblower to chomp through the snow wall. Randy and I sometimes work in tandem on that task, me working the shovel.

 

Finally, through the snow wall and moving down the sidewalk.

 

The snow piles have reached such a height now that when Randy blows the snow, it won’t even go over the tops of some snow mounds.

 

The sidewalk past our house cleared of snow Sunday afternoon.

 

On Sunday afternoon I grabbed my Canon DSLR and shot some images of my neighborhood, including our home, to try and give you a perspective on the height of the snow. All the while I did this, I remained cognizant of ice. The last thing I need is to slip and break another bone.

 

Another look at my neighborhood Sunday afternoon, February 24, 2019.

 

I’d say enjoy the photos. But that seems a ridiculous statement. Rather, appreciate the documentation of what has been an especially notable and memorable winter in southern Minnesota.

 

FOR ANOTHER photo view of snow in southeastern Minnesota, click here to see images from my friend Greg at Almost Iowa. He’s an incredible writer with a great sense of humor. He lives in the country near the Minnesota-Iowa border.

Then click here to view photos by my friend Jackie from Rochester. She’s the Jackie referenced in my opening paragraph. Jackie loves winter. I mean really really loves winter. She’s a talented photographer and does a great job of documenting the blizzard in Rochester, one of the hardest hit areas.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Preserving Trondhjem, a Minnesota country church February 25, 2019

 

Completed in the fall of 1899, the Historic Trondhjem Church sits atop a 100-foot high hill near Lonsdale. Listed on the National Register of Historic Sites in Minnesota, this Norwegian church has walls constructed with 24 corners to brace it against the wind. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

HOW SACRED THESE PLACES. These country churches. These structures built long ago as gathering places for the faithful.

Country churches, at one time, centered worship and social life in rural areas. Their importance in family and community histories continues. Not so much as active entities, although some still are, but as places preserved. Places of value for their connections to family roots, their history, their art, their stories.

 

Volunteers prepare a luncheon at Trondhjem. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Because I’m drawn to the simplicity and beauty of country churches, I’ve toured many in mostly southern Minnesota. I’ve also attended socials and festivals at many. There’s nothing like the cooking and baking of church folks who welcome guests into basements and fellowship halls.

 

Historic Trondhjem Church. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Among the churches I’ve visited is the Historic Trondhjem Church in rural Lonsdale. While years have passed since I attended an event at this hilltop church and museum, I remain appreciative of this Norwegian landmark. And I remain on Trondhjem’s mailing list.

 

Some of the grant monies will fund preservation of the altar painting. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Recently a letter arrived from the Trondhjem Community Preservation Society Board about a matching grant of up to $15,000 from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. Through a program titled “Engaging Artists and Communities to Preserve Nordic Heritage Churches,” the preservation group hopes to fund several repair and restoration projects. Those include painting the exterior of the 1899 building, preserving the original altar painting of Christ in Gethsemane by Marcus Holm, replicating the front stair entry and restoring the “Eye of God” window.

 

Members of the Trondhjem Community Preservation Society/The Hallelujah Chorus sing at an event several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

That’s a lengthy list of projects. But if I know people like I think I do, they will step forward by the March 31, 2019, deadline with enough monies to match that $15,000 grant administered through Partners for Sacred Places.

If you are interested in donating to the preservation and restoration project at this rural Minnesota church, please send your gift to:

TCPS

P.O. Box 259

Lonsdale, MN. 55046

 

TELL ME: Have you supported a similar project? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota blizzard closes interstates, creates difficult or impossible travel February 24, 2019

Red circles mark road closures in Minnesota as of late morning Sunday. Source: MnDOT 511 website

 

GOOD MORNING, DEAR READERS,

Here we are, in the midst of another winter storm in southeastern Minnesota. The good news from Faribault: Our snowfall total this morning was not nearly what I expected. About six inches instead of ten. Yahoo. Snow started falling around 6:30 p.m. Saturday and ended sometime early this morning.

I live in town, in a valley. That means my home is sheltered from the brunt of winds that will reach 50 mph this afternoon. Friends who drove into Faribault from the country for 8 a.m. church reported some drifting, but overall decent roads for the weather we’re experiencing.

I expect that to change as the day progresses and wind speeds increase to create drifts and white-out conditions. A blizzard warning remains for southern Minnesota.

Our governor has declared states of emergency in Steele (the neighboring county to my county of Rice) and Freeborn counties.

One look at the Minnesota Department of Transportation website and the severity of this storm and the resulting impossible travels conditions are clear. Every red circle on the map represents a road closure. That includes Interstate 35 from Owatonna to the Iowa border. For awhile the interstate was closed beginning at Faribault. Interstate 90 along the Minnesota-Iowa border. Closed. U.S. Highway 14. Closed. State Highways 60, 30, 15… Closed. I can’t possibly list all of the road closures.

Here’s the deal. Just stay home. It’s not worth risking your life to travel today (outside of city limits) anywhere in southern Minnesota. End of sermon.

TELL ME: If you live in Minnesota, what are conditions like in your area today? Share your weather stories.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: Awaiting a blizzard February 23, 2019

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A digital blizzard warning posted at Walgreens along Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street in Faribault today.

 

AS I WRITE, the weather offers no hint of what is to come. Except for grey skies.

The temp is 32 degrees. Melting snow and ice drip from the roof. Roads are clearing in the warmth of the day.

But, oh, how deceiving. Southern Minnesota, from western border to eastern, is in a blizzard warning beginning later today and continuing well into tomorrow. My county of Rice could get up to 10 inches of snow.

That southeastern Minnesota is in a blizzard warning is a rarity. I expect this in western Minnesota. Not here. But fierce winds are predicted, swirling that snow, creating white-out conditions and poor travel.

Be safe out there. And heed the warnings.

Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Creative uses for a hair dryer during a Minnesota winter February 22, 2019

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LIKE MANY OF YOU (women), I style and dry my hair with a hair dryer.

But I’ve found other valuable uses for this tool, especially during a Minnesota winter. Several weeks ago when freezing rain iced the front storm door shut, I pulled out the hair dryer and blasted hot air along the bottom of the door. Minutes later I could open that door. I’ve done the same to thaw an iced-over mailbox.

I remember years ago de-icing the eldest daughter’s car windshield and driver’s side door with my hair dryer.

When I washed a stocking cap last week that needed air drying, I hastened that natural process by, you guessed it, turning on the blow dryer.

But probably the best winter use of a hair dryer came to me during a particularly brutal cold snap here in southern Minnesota. Randy, who has been working way too much clearing snow, took a break to warm his hands. As he stood in the kitchen rubbing warmth into his numb hands, I had an aha moment.

“I’ll get the hair dryer,” I said, returning to blow warm (not hot) air onto his hands. Then he removed his gloves and I blasted hot air inside. Now he had nice and toasty warm gloves to wear into that frigid cold. He really needs choppers.

So there you go. Think a hair dryer is just for styling and drying hair? Nope, not during a Minnesota winter.

TELL ME: Have you ever used a blow dryer for anything other than its intended purpose?

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling