Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Autumn in my Minnesota backyard October 15, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Looking up at trees in view of my backyard, from our solo maple, to the neighbor’s tree to the woods behind our garage.

AS I WRITE, a grey-haired man leans into the fierce wind as he walks his black lab along the sidewalk across the street. In the distance, a block away, I note a fiery red maple blazing color into the cityscape. Soon, though, my neighborhood will be devoid of color, trees stripped of leaves, as autumn shifts ever closer to winter.

A leaf on a perennial in my yard.

These days, more than ever, I am cognizant of autumn’s departure, of what I anticipate to be an especially long winter ahead with COVID-19.

Our neighbor’s beautiful backyard maple set against a cobalt sky. The tree is mostly bare now.

But for now, I want to take you into my backyard, to scenes I photographed within the past 10 days. My yard presents a microcosm of autumn in southern Minnesota. Colorful. Ever-changing. Cobalt skies one day, grey skies the next.

I’ve been bagging leaves in our yard to take to the city compost pile.

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked in my yard, emptying pots of flowers, raking and bagging leaves, all those seasonal tasks I’ve put off. As I age, I find I don’t enjoy this work as much. I’d rather do fun activities like hike and spend time with my grandchildren.

When I took this photo within the past 10 days, leaves on our maple were still green. Now they’ve turned yellow and mostly fallen off. That’s the wooded hillside adjoining our property.

We have only one tree, a maple, on our property. But woods abut our yard. And leaves from neighbors’ trees don’t understand boundaries.

Time to put away the tabletop fountain on the patio.

The clock is ticking to complete autumn yard work before the first snowfall. To then stash away the rakes and pull out the snow shovels. And, for Randy, to drain gas from the lawnmower and check the snowblower.

Maple leaves blanket the lawn.

But for now, I want to savor these final days of autumn. To appreciate the colors of autumn leaves clinging stubbornly to branches, to walk across the lawn, leaves crackling underfoot.

The colorful wooded hillside behind our garage. What I most dislike about this scene in winter is that I can see the “tornado trees,” the trees broken by a tornado which went through our city and neighborhood two years ago in September.

For soon enough, winter will overtake the Minnesota landscape, defining our days.

The last of the wildflowers blooming in my backyard.

As we await the arrival of spring and the cycle of seasons continues.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Returning to photography, starting in my Minnesota backyard September 1, 2017

Brilliant red canna lilies splash color into my backyard patio.

 

IN THE THREE MONTHS I couldn’t use my Canon DSLR EOS 20-D this summer because of a broken right shoulder, I feared I would lose my photography skills. But I didn’t. This week, with my muscle strength returning and weight restrictions eased, I did my first photo shoot using my 2.5 pound (with a short lens) Canon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I experienced joy, pure joy, picking up my DSLR and focusing on subjects in glorious light. I started in my backyard, easing myself into the comfortable familiarity of pursuing my passion. I felt giddy with excitement as I photographed a monarch caterpillar clinging to a leaf near milkweeds that free-range seeded.

 

Coleus

 

A segment of a canna leaf.

 

 

I moved to potted plants and blooming flowers and garden perennials.

 

 

And then I noticed, as I roamed about seeking photo ops, a mini chrysalis dangling from the side of the garage and camouflaged against the green siding. I moved in close, delighting in my discovery.

 

Coleus

 

Canna lily seed pods

 

Polka dot plant leaves up close.

 

As I shot more frames, trying different angles, new perspectives, I remembered just how much I love this art. I seek interesting ways to present what I photograph. I seek light that will enhance an image. I consider textures and color and backdrops and distance. I challenge myself to think and photograph outside and beyond the norm.

 

Coleus leaf close-up

 

All of my skills, retained in my rote memory, returned. And so did the passion, full-blown and beautiful and aching to be released.

 

Hibiscus acetosella soar in pots on my patio.

 

It’s good to be back, camera in hand.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Ducks, a frog, bunnies and, oh, yes, crows June 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

IT’S BEEN A BIT of an animal menagerie on my property lately. First, three baby ducks bee-lined across the driveway, around the corner of the garage, up the hill and into the lilies that grow wild at woods’ edge. I have not seen them since their surprise showing on my residential lot blocks from the river.

I was pulling weeds in a flowerbed when I discovered this frog.

I was pulling weeds in a flowerbed when I discovered this frog.

The frog stayed put for a long time so I could photograph it.

The frog stayed put for a long time so I could photograph it.

That leaves me wondering also why a frog would appear, perched on a chunk of limestone rimming a garage side flowerbed. But there this bug-eyed amphibian sat in the sun, unmoving except for the pulse of his heartbeat. Unlike the baby fowl, the frog froze, allowing me to take a multitude of images before he slipped into the flowers.

The bunnies always show up each spring when I plant my flowers.

The bunnies always show up each spring when I plant my flowers.

Petunias are a favorite tried and true annual.

Petunias are a favorite tried and true annual.

No rabbit photos, just more flowers.

No rabbit photos, just more flowers.

And then the rabbits, oh, the rabbits, they have arrived in force since I potted and planted flowers like kale, petunias and impatiens. I’ve noticed a nibble here, a nibble there, but not complete consumption of what, to a rabbit, must seem a salad smorgasbord.

It is the crows, though, which I find bothersome. Ducks are cute. So is a frog in the odd sort of way such a creature can be cute. And bunnies, even if they prefer my flowers to grass, are, undeniably cute.

But crows? There is nothing cute about their annoying and raucous caws that grate at the nerves, that threaten in an unsettling Alfred Hitchock sort of way.

I won't give crows the satisfaction of photographing them. But I did photograph this bird on a tabletop fountain.

I won’t give crows the satisfaction of photographing them. But I did photograph this bird on a tabletop fountain.

And, no, I have never rushed to grab my camera and photograph a crow.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Glorious autumn in my Minnesota backyard October 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I SHOULD HAVE RAKED leaves this week. Should have.

A view of my backyard taken from the back steps shows the one maple tree that has dropped all those leaves.

A view of my backyard taken from the back steps shows the one maple tree that has dropped all those leaves.

But I couldn’t. Couldn’t because there’s something wonderful about stepping out the kitchen door into a backyard blanketed by golden maple leaves.

Focusing up at the leaves still clinging to the maple.

Focusing up at the leaves still clinging to the maple.

Wonderment of color and earthy scent and crackle of dried leaves underfoot.

Garden art given to me by my mom several years ago.

Garden art given to me by my mom several years ago is surrounded by fallen leaves.

Oh, how I love this season, this Autumn.

Garden art still staked outdoors copies the hues of leaves and sky.

Garden art still staked outdoors copies the hues of leaves and sky.

The hues and scents and crispness endear me to October.

Posing Grant Wood style after raking leaves.

Posing Grant Wood style after raking leaves. The ground is once again strewn with a layer of leaves.

I thrilled in watching cousins—my two great nephews and a great niece—gather leaves by rake, hand and wheelbarrow into a pile for hiding and jumping.

My great nephew, who just moved to rural Faribault from Utah, didn't quite know what to think of being placed atop a leaf pile.

My great nephew, who just moved to rural Faribault from Utah, didn’t quite know what to think of being placed atop a leaf pile.

Oh, to be a kid again.

The monster leaf on the left measures nine inches across, here compared to a more normal-sized maple leaf.

The monster leaf on the left measures nine inches across, here compared to a more normal-sized maple leaf.

I marveled, along with Deb visiting from the Iron Range, at the nine-inch span of a leaf dropped by the backyard maple. Neither of us had ever seen a maple leaf so large. She took it back home to show her husband, who’s never traveled south of Minneapolis.

I'm in no hurry to rake the leaves in my backyard. This fountain rests on a patio table.

I’m in no hurry to rake the leaves in my backyard. This fountain rests on a patio table.

Autumn is too fleeting to rake her leaves in, to bag and haul them away in unwelcome dismissal.

I'm still hanging laundry outside and will do so until the snow flies. I noticed how this kitchen towel mimics the hues of autumn.

I’m still hanging laundry outside and will do so until the snow flies. I noticed how this kitchen towel mimics the hues of autumn.

I don’t want this glorious season to depart, so why would I hasten Autumn along?

Flower pots are stacked, waiting to be stashed inside the garage.

Flower pots are stacked, waiting to be stashed inside the garage.

Being a life-long Minnesotan, though, I understand the need to prepare for Winter. And I’ve started. Yes, I have. I’ve emptied flower pots of dead plants. I’ve yanked zinnias from the ground. I’ve hauled fern and cactus indoors.

Every day more leaves drop from my backyard maple. I know I will wake up one morning soon and  the branches will be bare.

Every day more leaves drop from my backyard maple. I know I will wake up one morning soon and the branches will be bare.

The leaves, though, will stay for awhile longer.

A garden art angel I have yet to move indoors.

A garden angel I have yet to move indoors.

Oh, how I love this blessed season of Autumn.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A photo essay: Loving autumn in Minnesota October 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A favorite part of my backyard, vintage lawn chairs along a limestone pathway now covered with leaves.

A favorite part of my backyard, where vintage lawn chairs edge a limestone pathway now strewn with leaves.

OF ALL THE SEASONS, autumn rates as my favorite in Minnesota.

My neighbor's maple tree.

My neighbor’s maple tree.

Crisp days. Cobalt skies. Colors changing.

The bees are busy this time of year, here working a black-eyed Susan.

The bees are busy this time of year, here working a black-eyed Susan, among the native wildflowers in my yard.

Sharp shadows and angled light.

Leaves upon that limestone path.

Leaves upon that limestone path.

Earthy scents rising from fallen leaves and ripening crops.

A bloom in a patio pot.

A bloom in a patio pot.

Bursts of red and orange, mixed with shades of brown, that color the earth.

Hibiscus mahogany splendor, planted in two patio pots, has nearly reached the roof line of the garage.

Hibiscus mahogany splendor, planted in two patio pots, has nearly reached the roof line of the garage.

Dappled light. Dancing leaves. Magical.

An abundance of produce—acorn squash baking, fresh tomatoes thrown into a pot of chili, the crunch of biting into a SweeTango apple from a local orchard.

A backyard campfire.

Prolific zinnias are still blooming.

Prolific zinnias are still blooming.

I love this season.

There's nothing prettier than an autumn leaf.

There’s nothing prettier than an autumn leaf.

This autumn.

Another view of that stunning hibiscus mahogany splendor.

Another view of that stunning hibiscus mahogany splendor.

I do.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A summer evening in my Minnesota backyard June 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:05 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The setting in my southeastern Minnesota backyard Friday evening.

GIVE ME A PERFECT summer evening in my Minnesota backyard.

I set my margarita on a vintage TV tray and settled into a lawn chair next to the fire.

Mix it with a margarita or a bloody Mary.

Add a dash of fire flaming from the fire pit and from tiki torches.

I purchased this garden art at a dollar store many years ago. Tea light candles can be placed below each flower head. It’s one of my favorite pieces of garden art.

Toss in the soft glow of candlelight flickering on a whisper of wind.

My husband relaxes with the local daily newspaper as we enjoy the evening in our backyard.

Give me a magazine or a book and the man I love relaxing next to me, the two of us, side-by-side in our lawn chairs. Quiet conversation and the rustle of papers.

Fireflies court, flitting across the yard on an uncharted course to find love.

Fireflies glow in the sculpture I just purchased in memory of my nephew Justin.

We observe them. I wish aloud to photograph their magical light and my husband rises to capture a firefly, to clasp it between his hands. I try, without success, to photograph a bug I cannot see. “This is impossible,” I say, and settle back into my lawn chair near the fire.

I resume reading, thumbing through recipes for cheesecake until pinpoints of intermittent rain splatter upon my magazine.

It is time to put away the reading materials, to grab the ingredients for smores and roast marshmallows. Just as I extend the marshmallows over the fire, the rain begins falling at a rapid rate, soaking my bent back.

My husband picks up lawn chairs and tiki torches and tends the fire.

I hurry along the toasting and then rush inside to assemble the smores.

Even with the rain, it’s been a perfect summer evening in my Minnesota backyard.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How about this balmy January weather in Minnesota then? January 6, 2012

HEY, ALL YOU MINNESOTA SNOWBIRDS wintering away in Texas, Arizona and Florida. How’s the weather at your winter retreat? As warm as back home?

If you’re detecting a hint of smugness in my inquiry, you are correct.

The temperature reading at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 5, is 28.4 degrees in my backyard. Note that the time is incorrect , so just ignore it.

Let’s step into my backyard and review yesterday’s weather via a series of photos. First, imagine me dressed in a comfy red and black buffalo plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans minus a winter coat. It’s 8:30 a.m.and I’m clipping freshly-laundered flannel sheets onto the clothesline. At 28.4 degrees the cold air nips at my fingers, but I work at a rapid pace.

Notice all of the snow on the ground at 8:30 a.m. when I hang sheets on the clothesline.

Four hours later I step outside to read the temperature; it’s already climbed to 46 degrees.

I scrape the last remnants of snow and ice from the concrete driveway. The snow that had clung to the lawn on the north side of the backyard fence is disappearing in the warmth heat of the day.

By 3:30 p.m., when I visit the backyard again, I read 52.7 degrees on the weather recording station.

My temperature recording device reads a balmy 52.7 degrees @ 3:30 p.m. Again, note that the time is incorrect so you'll just have to trust me on this time and temp.

An hour later I pull the mostly-dry sheets from the line in a backyard nearly free of snow.

How’s that for January 5 in southern Minnesota?

This is my backyard @ 3:30 p.m. See how the snow has all but vanished in the balmy temps.

NOTE: These temperature readings from my Faribault backyard are unofficial.

But officially, Minnesota broke some record temps on Thursday. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures soared into the 60s in southwestern Minnesota.

Reports the NWS: “There has never been a 60 degree temperature recorded in Minnesota during the first week of January…in the modern day record. Click here to read the full NWS summary on Thursday’s record temps.

And for me, personally, this may mark the earliest date I’ve hung laundry on the clothesline in a new year.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tossing the Christmas tree and welcoming spring May 6, 2011

The remains of our dried up Christmas tree, now properly disposed of at the local composting pile.

ON WEDNESDAY EVENING we tossed the Christmas tree which has been buried under snow for, oh, about six months. Well, not quite, but winter seemed to linger into half a year.

I’m serious. As recently as this morning, we had temps in the 30s and several days ago wisps of snowflakes whirled in the sky.

But enough of that. With the official disposal of the Christmas tree at the finally-opened Faribault Compost Site, I can declare that spring has finally arrived here in southeastern Minnesota.

You don’t have to simply take my word for it. Join me on this photographic tour of my yard, where spring has clearly, finally (I hope) ousted winter.

Hostas push through the soil, unfurling bright green leaves. Why does green always seem brighter in the spring?

Most of my tulips are clasped shut yet, waiting for more sun and more warmth.

A plump red tulip about to burst into bloom.

A yellow tulip edges ever closer to full blossom in the spring sunshine.

Unfurling wild raspberry leaves hold the promise of summer.

Dainty violets, so easy to overlook in the splendor of spring.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling