Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Rural reflections in the season of autumn November 22, 2021

Harvest in Monkey Valley near Kenyon. (Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2021)

NOVEMBER MARKS A MONTH of transition from autumn to winter here in Minnesota.

A tree frames an abandoned silo and the remains of a barn in Monkey Valley. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Trees stand against an often grey sky, brisk winds stripping the last of their leaves to bare branches. Nests crafted by squirrels high in treetops appear vulnerable, unsheltered, exposed to the elements while far below these busy oversized rodents munch on maple seeds, hide walnuts, prepare for winter. Their smaller cousins find their way into our aged house and garage, necessitating a daily check of the trap-line.

Harvesting corn in Monkey Valley. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

Harvest is done. Corn and soybeans reaped. A once lush rural landscape now looks drab, awash in muted earth-tones.

Endless acres of corn defined the landscape near Kenyon pre-harvest. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

For farmers, long days and nights in the field are but a memory. Stress and rush easing into a slower rhythm of life.

Spotted along a gravel road near Kenyon, grazing cattle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The early days of autumn hold such beauty in landscape, such promise in anticipation of harvest. I’ve always loved September and October. This autumn, particularly, in the unchanging season of COVID-19, I’ve needed to reconnect with the earth. To witness the harvest. To view farm sites. To follow back country gravel roads, dust trailing the van. To find peace.

A farm site in the ghost town of Aspelund. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

My appreciation for rural traces to my rural roots. I shall always feel gratitude for my 18 years on the farm. The southwestern Minnesota prairie shaped me as a writer and a photographer in that I noticed, still notice, details. The brutal slice of the winter prairie wind. The remarkable beauty of a flaming sun edging down. The taste of earth in potatoes dug from the garden. The sound of silence in hearing nothing. The unmistakable smell of harvest carried from combine to farmyard.

Just another view of the farm site in Monkey Valley. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

These farm memories I carry with me as autumn wanes, as November days move Minnesota toward winter. Harvest done.


NOTE: All of these photos were taken a month ago. The landscape looks much different now. Grey. Stark.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


8 Responses to “Rural reflections in the season of autumn”

  1. I shuttered when I read “checking the trap line…” as I hope that it is more of a catch and release than a line where they become soup or a nice jacket.😂 You can see where my farm memories go to when you write “trap line”.
    Loved the pictures of the old farm with silo and chicken house.
    Hopefully those MN farmers are not worried about commodity prices or how next year will pan out. If I remember winter was never easy as the planning for the next year and where the money was going to come from for planting always was in the background. Support your local farmers, please!

    • Oh, Paula, not to worry about my words, trap line. I didn’t even consider how that might be taken in a negative way. I am referencing snap mouse traps (necessary to keep mice out of the house and garage) and one live trap.

      Thank you for appreciating my rural photos and for offering further insight on the challenges farmers face. Farming is not an occupation without much risk and dependence on weather, prices and much more. As much as I love the farm, I could never be a farmer due to my low risk tolerance and need to feel financially stable.

      • I am with you on market/income predictably. Another reason why it would s romantic to think about it but then the reality sets in and it is high risk, high stress with each season.
        Funny, mice. I thought you were trapping squirrels.😂

      • Nope, no trapping of squirrels, just their “smaller cousins” (aka mice).

        You and I have enough farm experiences to distinguish between reality and romantic notions.

  2. Valerie Says:

    Beautiful photos Audrey. Where is Monkey Valley?

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