Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Where, oh, where has my little dog gone & pet photos July 20, 2017

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Photographed recently along a busy roadway in Cannon Falls. (Yes, I blacked out the phone number.)

 

EVERY SPRING, SUMMER and fall, handcrafted photo signs pop up on street corners with the message, LOST DOG.

DO NOT YELL, APPROACH OR CHASE, the writer advises of a dog lost recently in Cannon Falls.

I often wonder if these canines are ever found or wander home or why they are running loose in the first place. I realize pets sometimes escape…but I appreciate responsible pet owners who keep their animals under control on their property and who clean up after the dogs they’re walking. I’ve stepped in stinky dog poop too often in my yard. Yuck.

A few years ago a woman even posed her dog in the middle of a corner flowerbed by my house for a photo op. In the process, the dog destroyed flowers I’d planted. I was not happy.

 

 

But I was happy to see the owner of a lost (as in deceased) pet post a public notice offering free pet portraits. I spotted the sign recently in a Waterville gift shop. The owner of Chaz the dog is a photographer specializing in pictures of people and their pets, according to the Facebook page for Chazman Photography based in Janesville.

 

 

I haven’t photographed a lot of pets. But the animal images I’ve taken are, I think, notable. I’m not your typical stand, point-and-shoot photographer. I strive to tell a story, using perspective and setting to achieve that. Here are some cat and dog photos I’ve shot, my favorite being the “NO PETS ALLOWED” image shot outside Riverfront Park in Mankato in June of 2011. The dog owner, upset his canine couldn’t enter the park, suggested the photo location, almost daring himself and his dog to cross that line.

Here are those promised pet photos pulled from my files:

 

My sister Lanae’s fat cat, Sable, now deceased. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

Ian with Zephyr in rural Bigelow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him in 2014. He was owned by the Spitzack family of rural Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I photographed this cat outside Hopefull Treasures in Hope, MN., in 2011. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another cat photographed in 2011 in Hope, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another view of that dog outside Mankato’s Riverfront Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

 

Rudi, one friendly collie at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

My friend Mandy’s cat, Gretchen, photographed in 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Taco the dog, photographed at the Faribault Farmers’ Market in Central Park in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Brianna’s cat, in her home in Hayfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

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Touring Simple Harvest Organic Farm, rural Nerstrand July 25, 2016

The Zemans' farmhouse and yard.

The Zemans’ farmhouse and yard, this view looking toward the driveway.

SIBLINGS KATHY AND NICK ZEMAN farm the old-fashioned way.

Visitors park along the county road by Simple Harvest Organic Farm for the Eat Local Tour.

Visitors park along the county road by Simple Harvest Organic Farm on 155th Street East, rural Nerstand, for the recent Eat Local Farm Tour.

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 17 geese close-up

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 79 beehives

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 69 pigs

 

Their 20-acre rural Nerstrand acreage is home to an assortment of animals typical of farms of yesteryear. Chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, pigs, goats, cows and rabbits along with two dogs and bees comprise the collection of critters I spotted on a recent visit.

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 15 back ends of goats

 

Livestock graze in pastures and are fed a vegetarian diet. These animals see sunlight and sky on this organic farm.

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 8 Simple H sign

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm was among sites featured on the recent 2016 Eat Local Farm Tour. As I hiked up the driveway toward the farm yard, I noticed the absence of a barn. I didn’t ask Kathy about that. I was distracted by the goats and then the chickens peering from behind chicken wire in the weathered chicken house.

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 43 bunnies

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 39 goat close-up

 

Then it was on to the rabbits and the sweet bunnies and a single milk goat that preferred chomping on dry leaves over fresh leaves.

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 18 geese walking

 

As I circled the property, I noticed plenty of weeds and droppings from wandering geese. This isn’t a pristine picture perfect farm. But it’s lovely in the sort of way that this is a way of life for Kathy and her brother. Not only do they raise food for themselves, but also for others through their Community Supported Agriculture business.

 

This weathered building houses the chickens, who roam inside and out.

This weathered building houses the chickens, who roam inside and out.

This pair peered through chicken wire in a chicken coop window.

This pair peered through chicken wire in a chicken coop window opening.

The farm store is located in a closed corner of the pole shed which also houses pigs and fowl.

The farm store is located in a an enclosed corner room of the pole shed which also houses pigs and fowl.

On the second Saturday of every month, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., the Zemans open their farm store—housed in a room in a pole shed—to CSA and other customers who stop by to pick up frozen whole chickens, eggs and more. The farm is also open by appointment.

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 81 bikes

 

As I chatted with Kathy, whom I met 30-plus years ago when I was a newspaper reporter and she the Steele County dairy princess, she paused to greet new arrivals. “The neighbors are here,” she enthused. And they really were her neighbors, their bikes leaning against a fence near the end of the farm driveway.

 

Simple Harvest raw honey available for purchase at the farm.

Simple Harvest raw honey available for purchase at the farm.

Friendliness and old-fashioned neighborliness prevail here on Simple Harvest Organic Farm.

BONUS PHOTOS:

On the day I visited, these items were available for purchase from Simple Harvest.

On the day I visited, these items were available for purchase from Simple Harvest.

I photographed this sunflower by the chicken coop.

I photographed this sunflower by the chicken coop.

Customers could also purchase Wildflower Honey from Schoolhouse Apiary during the farm tour.

Customers could also purchase Wildflower Honey from Schoolhouse Apiary, Northfield, during the farm tour.

 

Simple Harvest Organic Farm, 7 Eat Local sign

 

FYI: Check back as I take you several miles away to Shepherd’s Way Farms, also on the 2016 Eat Local Farm Tour.

© 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

 

Christmas tree eating goats to debut at River Bend January 22, 2016

WHEN I FIRST READ about goats eating Christmas trees, I was skeptical. But then I watched a video on Goat Dispatch and saw for myself goats devouring these sharp-needled evergreens.

This Sunday afternoon, January 24, River Bend Nature Center in Faribault will feature the Christmas tree eating goats at Winterfest. The event runs from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Randy unloads our Christmas tree.

Randy unloads our Christmas tree.

Last Sunday afternoon, on one of Minnesota’s coldest winter days thus far this season, my husband and I headed across town to River Bend. The parking lot was empty as we unlatched our Charlie Brown tree from the roof of the van and Randy pulled it onto a pile of discarded holiday trees.

I photographed these goats grazing in a pasture near Northfield in August 2015. They are not a part of Goat Dispatch.

I photographed these goats grazing in a pasture near Northfield in August 2015. They are not a part of Goat Dispatch.

I remember as a child reading that goats will eat tin cans. I may have gotten that idea from The Three Billy Goats Gruff, a favorite childhood fable. Myth or truth? Probably truth.

Goats graze on buckthorn at River Bend Nature Center, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

Goats graze on buckthorn at River Bend Nature Center, Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

Goat Dispatch, a rural Faribault business that rents out goats for land management/brush removal grazing, states online that goats have narrow strong mouths. I would expect that given Goat Dispatch goats have attacked invasive buckthorn at River Bend. I’m quite familiar with the sharp thorns of buckthorn.

This sign was posted on a fence enclosing Goat Dispatch goats at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

This sign was posted on a fence enclosing Goat Dispatch goats at River Bend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2014.

And I personally know Goat Dispatch owners Jake and Amanda Langeslag. This young couple is about as down-to-earth friendly and honest as they come. They are passionate about the environment and their goats and their business. If they say goats eat Christmas trees—and they show that in a video—I believe them.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Oh, for cute…kitties and puppies August 7, 2014

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I GREW UP ON A DAIRY and crop farm where cats and dogs roamed the property.

Although they were pets, they weren’t really pets. Rather, they were there to work. The cats caught mice. The dogs alerted us to wild animals and vehicles arriving in the farm yard.

My parents never bought cat or dog food. Table scraps, of which there were few from our family of eight, and a daily hub cap of milk warm from the cow nourished the cats and dogs.

One of my all-time favorite portraits shows Ian, my blogger friend Gretchen's son, with the family cat, Zephyr.

One of my all-time favorite portraits shows Ian, my blogger friend Gretchen’s son, with the family cat, Zephyr. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo shot in July 2013.

Of course, we kids grew quite fond of dogs like Blackie, Shep, Rex and Fritz Carter Mondale Ferraro and Tommer the cat (why can’t I remember the names of more cats?), …

I recall dressing kittens in doll clothes and pushing them in a doll buggy.

There were endless attempts to teach the dogs to shake hands and fetch balls or sticks.

Spring always brought a search in the hay loft or haystack for newborn kittens.

Yes, my memories of felines and canines are mostly pleasant ones of working farm animals that sometimes allowed us to play with them.

As an adult, considering the cost and care, I’ve never wanted a pet. Plus, I’m just not the type of person who wants an animal living indoors and/or in town. I know I’m in the minority. But that’s OK. I’ll just admire and pet other people’s pets.

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him.

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him.

The other night I met Titan, an adorable seven-week-old puppy, at the Spitzack farm outside Faribault. Puppies are so darned cute. Titan reminded me of the story my mom shared awhile ago. One recent afternoon a man from a nearby town arrived at the senior complex where she lives with nearly a dozen puppies for residents to pet and cuddle. He’d engaged the litter in active play so they’d be worn out. His strategy worked. Mom was so excited about a sweet, cuddly puppy falling asleep in her lap that you’d have thought she won the lottery.

Pets possess the power to comfort and heal and lift spirits.

Lots of dogs and that 1939 date on the right side of the mural.

This image shows a portion of the Pet Parade mural gracing the side of the historic bandshell in Faribault’s Central Park.

This evening, my community of Faribault holds its 78th annual Pet Parade beginning at 7 p.m. I can’t attend. But be assured, if you’re there, you’ll view plenty of cuddly cuteness.

DO YOU OWN A PET or have a favorite pet memory? Feel free to share.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Black squirrels, oh, my May 23, 2014

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Squirrel number one scampers from the park across the street as soon as I approach with my camera. I don't have a telephoto lens, thus the distant view.

Squirrel number one scampers from the park across the street as soon as I approach. (I don’t have a telephoto lens.)

NO, THIS IS NOT one of those “Why did the chicken squirrel cross the road?” joke stories.

Rather, I am wondering, have you ever seen a black squirrel?

I manage to get a bit closer to squirrel number two.

I manage to get a bit closer to squirrel number two.

I hadn’t until last weekend while at City Park in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin.

My second daughter, who attended college in western Wisconsin and now lives on the eastern side of the state, couldn’t believe I’d never, in nearly 60 years of life, seen anything but grey or red squirrels.

My husband also had never spotted a black squirrel although he once saw an albino in the woods on his central Minnesota childhood farm home.

There are plenty of trees in Appleton's City Park, where I snapped one quick shot before the squirrel scooted out of camera range.

There are plenty of trees in Appleton’s City Park, where I snapped one quick shot before the squirrel scooted out of camera range.

I don’t recall any squirrels on my native southwestern Minnesota prairie farm while growing up. Maybe the shortage of trees had something to do with their absence.

In any case, I was intrigued by the two black squirrels in City Park. My daughter found my interest rather amusing. Sometimes it just doesn’t take much to entertain me.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Mistaken identity April 14, 2014

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dog

One of the dogs spotted in a truck at the alpaca expo. Photo edited to make the dog more visible through the side passenger window.

EXITING OUR VAN at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna recently to attend the Minnesota Alpaca Expo, my husband and I did a double take.

An alpaca appeared to be seated in a Ford Excursion hitched to a livestock trailer.

But, no, that couldn’t possibly be.

And it wasn’t. Upon closer inspection, we discovered two shaggy dogs (sorry, I don’t know breeds) inside the SUV.

 

Eyes buried in fleece.

An alpaca.

From a distance, though, they look remarkably similar to alpacas.

Now lest you are concerned that these canines were in danger and we should have phoned animal control, not to worry. Windows were open and temps were in the low sixties.

They did not appear to be in any distress. Just confusing folks like us with their shaggy locks…

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling