Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter in Minnesota: Of snow, flannel, chili, soup & more November 18, 2022

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We use an assortment of shovels for snow removal, to scrape, scoop and push snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

ALTHOUGH THE CALENDAR is about a month out from the official start of winter, we in Minnesota are already in the throes of the season. Cold and snow define winter here and we have both already. Too early, I say.

The snow boots I wear are warm, practical and fashionable. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2020)

Three consecutive days this week found me shoveling snow from the sidewalk and driveway. I allowed Randy the honor of shoveling the first snowfall of the winter. But I figured I best do my part, so I laced on my warm winter boots and headed outdoors on the second day of shovellable snow.

Isaac, waiting to head outdoors to shovel snow at my house in January 2021. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

Thirty-five minutes to the north, my nearly 4-year-old grandson bundled into his snowpants, winter coat, mittens, hat and boots to clear snow from the driveway with his small plastic shovel. As only a child can feel, Isaac was, his mom said, “Loving the snow!” With an exclamation point. I encouraged him to head south and shovel Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway. He never showed.

And so I am accepting that winter is upon us. That means replacing the cotton bed sheets with warm flannel sheets, layering up (inside and out), wearing lots of flannel, cozying under a fleece throw with a good book in the evening, delaying rolling out of bed in the morning because the house is still too cold. The thermostat is programmed to drop to 62 degrees at night, up to 67 during the day, and then bump a notch to 68 in the evening.

Photographed on the door of a Northfield business in April 2022. Shoppers are encouraged to stomp the snow from their boots and shoes. And, yes, we get snow well into April here in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

Staying updated on the weather has become even more important, mostly to determine how bad the roads will be (and when to shovel). Have plows been out sanding and salting? How’s the visibility? Watch those bridge decks and ramps for slippery spots. Slow down. Take it easy. Spin-outs and crashes were a regular part of this week’s vocabulary.

Inside my house, a few changes are happening, too, as I adapt to winter. Laundry, which I typically clip to outdoor clotheslines, now drapes a drying rack. Sheets and towels go in the dryer. Already I miss the fresh scent of linens dried by the sun.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup, one of my favorites, served at a fundraiser in St. Peter. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Wednesday I cooked up a big pot of chili. I crave chili and soup in the winter. I start my morning with a bowl of old-fashioned, fruit-filled oatmeal, the same as always, no matter the season. That is a constant, just like my need to write. Winter doesn’t alter my writing. But it does limit my outdoor photography. Even though I own combo mittens/gloves with the mitten end flipping open to expose half of my fingers (thanks, Randy, for one of the best gifts ever), I take fewer photos in winter. I don’t like freezing my fingertips, just like I don’t enjoy shoveling snow.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

So, yeah, it’s cold here in Minnesota January 2, 2022

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Frost on the window pane against the backdrop screen. (Minnesota Prairie Roots edited & copyrighted photo January 2022)

I CONSIDERED THIS QUESTION: How can I convey just how cold the weather in Minnesota right now via a photo, without stepping outside?

Ah, not so difficult after all.

I headed upstairs to photograph frost layering a bedroom window. Our second level is undeniably cold with only one air duct opening to two bedrooms. Factor in that the duct runs along an exterior wall and the heat which actually reaches the upper story is minimal. That does not provide for a warm and inviting space for guests. But such is the reality of this old house.

This afternoon I found the warmest spot to be in the kitchen—standing next to a heat vent under the south window, bright sunlight streaming into the room. The sunshine can almost fool me in to thinking it’s nice outside.

I thought momentarily about stepping outdoors, but opted not to do so given the current outdoor temp of four degrees. As cold as that may sound to some of you, consider Ada in the northwestern part of Minnesota. That small town broke a January 2 record from 1892, recording a low today of -39 degrees. I have friends who live near that Norman County community. On New Year’s Eve, my friend texted that the air temp was -17 degrees and falling with wind chills in the -40 to -50 degrees range. Now that’s cold. Their family was hunkering indoors and playing board games.

Our entire state has been in either wind chill warnings or advisories. Exposed flesh can freeze within 10 minutes in temps as cold as we’ve experienced in the past several days.

But change is coming. Monday and Tuesday temps are expected to reach into the 20s and possibly 30s. Downright balmy. Comparatively speaking.

TELL ME: What’s the temp like where you live?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Dreaming of warmer days in Minnesota February 16, 2021

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Contrast of seasons photographed northbound along Interstate 35 near Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2021.

AFTER AN ENDLESS STRETCH of subzero cold, relief is in sight. By Friday, we could see temps reaching the 20s here in southern Minnesota. Finally. That will feel downright warm after recent daytime highs not even reaching zero, temps plunging into the minus 20 degrees range and windchills as low as 50 degrees below zero.

During Arctic snaps like this, we complain a lot, warm up the car, crank up the furnace, bundle up and venture out when necessary, and even when not. After all, we have an image to maintain of hardy Minnesotans.

Secretly, and not so secretly, we dream of warmer days. Days at the lake for some. Fishing from a boat rather than an ice shack on a frozen lake. Camping. Walking outside without concern for frostbite.

As sure as the sun rises and sets, we realize that this cold spell won’t last forever. That winter will end…come April.

TELL ME: What’s the weather like in your parts?

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota kids promote winter preparedness in hit Super Bowl LII music video January 31, 2018

Minnesota kids (and adults) need warm hats and mittens during these cold and snowy Minnesota winters. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

IF YOU GREW UP IN MINNESOTA or any similar cold climate place, you likely heard this directive from your mom whenever you left the house in winter: Remember your hat and mittens. And wear your boots.” I did.

 

The snow boots I wear today are warm, practical and fashionable. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

When I became a pre-teen, though, I thought I knew better and often didn’t listen. I couldn’t muss my hair by wearing, God forbid, a stocking hat or appear unfashionable in clunky, practical boots.

 

Our southwestern Minnesota farmyard is buried in snowdrifts in this March 1965 image. My mom is holding my youngest sister as she stands by the car parked next to the house. My other sister and two brothers and I race down the snowdrifts. My home farm is located near Vesta in Redwood County.

 

But Mom’s warning imprinted upon me enough that I eventually recognized the wisdom of her words and passed the same advice along to my three children. Living on the windswept Minnesota prairie, Mom understood that brutal winter cold could cause frostbite and worse. Best keep safe and warm.

 

I grabbed this quick shot of the students and their teacher, right, on GMA.

 

So when I heard about the music video, “Coats, Hats & Gloves,” created by students at Franklin Middle School in Minneapolis, I thought of all those Minnesota moms (and dads) who have delivered the same message of preparedness through the generations. Except their words were more often than not dismissed.

But now kids from The Futureboys and Futuregirls program at Franklin have made keeping warm decidedly cool in their video gone viral. Tuesday morning the kids and their teacher appeared on Good Morning America to talk about the song that welcomes Super Bowl visitors to Minnesota. Temps here on game day are predicted to be around zero, if that, and even feels-like lower if wind factors in.

Their basic message—when you come to Minnesota, you better be ready…never leave your house without your coats, hats and gloves—is the same my mom delivered. Except they present it in a way that’s decidedly hip, decidedly cool and decidedly memorable. Well done, kids of the Bold North.

#

Click here to watch the video.

Note: The Super Bowl LII Host Committee has branded Minnesota as Bold North in promoting our state. That applies to our climate and beyond.

 

In Minnesota: Neither rain nor snow or… March 12, 2017

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…shall stop my husband from grilling in our Faribault backyard.

Grilling conditions: 19 degrees Fahrenheit and heavy snow falling around 6 p.m. Sunday

On the menu: Chicken breasts, baby red potatoes and asparagus.

Bonus for the husband’s work lunches: brats

TELL ME: Would you grill in these conditions or worse? Let’s hear.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Embracing the arctic cold blasting Minnesota January 5, 2017

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winnesota-truck-19

 

CONTINUING WITH MY It’s arctic cold in Minnesota thread…

 

winnesota-truck-close-up-18

 

I photographed this refrigerated transportation truck along US Highway 14 near Mankato last Saturday. I’m especially impressed by the company name, Winnesota, reflecting bases in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin. Clever, clever. My eyes also filtered out the word win. Subconsciously I already consider Winnesota a winning company.

But how does this relate to the current just above zero and below zero temperatures we’re currently experiencing here in Minnesota? I suppose there’s no direct correlation other than the solo thought of cold.

 

faribault-woolen-mill-blanket

This buffalo plaid Faribault Woolen Mill blanket is among several I have been gifted with through the years.

 

I want to be positive, so here are some good things about the arctic blast:

  • The lakes are making ice, which makes bait shop owners and ice fisherman happy.
  • If you’re short on refrigerator or freezer space, just open the door to one spacious outdoor cooling unit.
  • These are perfect days for homemade soup or chili, both favorites of mine.
  • Skiers, snowboarders and other cold weather sports enthusiasts love these temps which keep snow from melting.
  • The Bartz brothers of New Brighton, who spent 350 hours sculpting snow into a 22-foot high fish, surely must value the art-preserving cold.
  • Appreciation for flannel sheets, quilts, thick comforters, fleece throws and Faribault Woolen Mill throws and blankets deepens.
  • Senses sharpen.
  • Thirty-degree temps will feel downright balmy once this cold snap snaps.

That’s it.

Can you add to my let’s be positive about this arctic blast list?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Minnesota cold December 18, 2016

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Photographed in downtown Faribault at 1:30 p.m.

Photographed in downtown Faribault at 1:30 p.m.

ON DAYS LIKE TODAY, when the windchill plummets to double digits below zero, I have to question the sanity of living in Minnesota.

It’s bitterly cold here. Like 23 degrees below zero in Faribault at 7:30 this morning. The temp mid-afternoon has now reached a balmy minus six degrees. And, yes, 17 degrees make a difference, especially when in the below zero Fahrenheit range.

The sun shines bright against the snow. And if not for the frost edging windows, the sound of car tires crunching on snow as traffic passes my home, the steady thrum of the furnace, the fleece throw warming my lap, I might convince myself that it’s not really that bad outside.

But then I remember the biting cold, the sparse church attendance, the icy car seat, the unattended vehicles warming in parking lots, the state-wide average windchill of minus 35 degrees.

This is reality today in Minnesota. It’s cold. Really cold.

© 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I deal with some of winter’s challenges here in Minnesota January 8, 2015

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AFTER LIVING IN MINNESOTA my entire life, I’m still learning how to best handle these sometimes brutal winters.

I’m not talking big stuff here. But the little stuff that, on a daily basis, can prove bothersome.

Take skin. Dry winter air and cold tend to dry out skin, causing itchiness. About six weeks ago, I was dealing with a break-out (no, not pimples) on my face and elsewhere caused by, I suspect, stress and the changing climate.

That’s when I experienced an ah-ha moment. Consider switching soap brands and washing my face less often.

Now you would think this easy. But for someone who has used Dial soap her entire life because that’s what she grew up with, this seemed almost traitorous. I know. Sounds silly. But I have fond memories of Aunt Dorothy soaping my feet with a Dial lathered washcloth in Grandpa’s pink tiled bathroom. We had no bathroom at home and bathed in a galvanized tub heaved onto the red-and-white checked kitchen linoleum tile every Saturday night. Bathing in a real bathtub in an authentic bathroom impressed upon my memory.

I pushed aside those gold bar memories and purchased a moisturizing soap. Guess what? It’s helped. Why did it take me decades to figure this out? Brand loyalty blinded me.

Winter necessities: lotion and Chap Stick.

Winter necessities: lotion and ChapStick.

Other moisturizers, like ChapStick and lotion, remain staples in my winter arsenal. I had no problem ditching the gel-like Corn Huskers lotion of my youth. It never worked on youthful hands cracked and bleeding from mixing milk replacer in buckets of steaming hot water and then not drying them properly before venturing to the calf barn.

Staying warm in a Minnesota winter, especially during this recent cold snap, can also be challenging. I live in an old house, which chills down, requiring creative ways to add warmth without cranking up the thermostat.

Warm throws top magazines.

Warm throws top corralled magazines in my living room.

Thick flannel sheets replaced summer-weight cotton in November. Fleece and wool throws fill a box next to the sofa and are tossed onto laps on chilly evenings or during the day when I’m writing in my home office.

Fuzzy slipper socks keep my feet warm.

Fuzzy slipper socks keep my feet warm.

Just this year I determined that slipper socks slipped over regular socks keep my whole body warmer. I do layers. Sweatshirt or sweater over flannel shirt, fashion be damned.

But there’s one problem I haven’t resolved. On frigid mornings like those this week with outdoor temps dipping into single and double digits below zero degrees Fahrenheit, I wake up with a profound headache. My back and neck muscles clamp around bone. Achy. Tight. It feels as if I have clenched my teeth all night and perhaps I have.

A soothing hot shower and two Ibuprofen usually resolve the situation.

But I’d rather prevent the problem. What’s the cause and what’s the solution? Wearing a stocking cap to bed?

Given the shortage of sunshine during our long Minnesota winters, vitamin D was suggested by my doctor. Yes, I'm low on the vitamin, as most Minnesotans likely are.

Given the shortage of sunshine during our long Minnesota winters, vitamin D was suggested by my doctor. Yes, I’m low on the vitamin, as most Minnesotans likely are.

IF YOU LIVE IN A COLD WEATHER state like Minnesota, how do you stay warm during the winter, deal with skin issues and more? I’d like to hear.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A brutally cold Sunday in Minnesota January 4, 2015

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TODAY APPEARED deceptively lovely. Blue sky. Sunshine. Fresh layer of snow overnight.

A rural scene along Interstate 35 north of the Northfield, Minnesota, exit.

A rural scene along Interstate 35 north of the Northfield, Minnesota, exit.

But appearance is not reality.

On this Sunday in Southern Minnesota, the temp dipped to minus two degrees Fahrenheit by late afternoon.

A tough job on a cold day, cleaning up after a crash.

A tough job on a cold day, cleaning up after a crash.

On Highway 36 in Roseville, a Minnesota state trooper faced the unenviable task of clearing debris from a crash scene. Only his cheeks and nose appeared visible from behind a black mask as he worked in the brutal cold. He faced the additional danger of two lanes of heavy traffic propelling toward him. All it would take is one inattentive driver…

Steam hangs heavy in the air during cold spells.

Steam hangs heavy in the air during cold spells.

Near downtown Minneapolis, smokestacks billowed steam, always more prominent on days like today.

A sun dog photographed from Interstate 35 between the Northfield and Faribault exits.

A sun dog photographed from Interstate 35 between the Northfield and Faribault exits.

As day shifted to evening, sun dogs showed up, bright columns of light flanking the sun.

Another sun dog, photographed just before the first Interstate 35 exit southbound into Faribault.

Another sun dog, photographed just before the first Interstate 35 exit southbound into Faribault.

It’s been one cold day in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Brrrutally cold in Minnesota January 27, 2014

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The temperature monitor in my home registered the outdoor air temp at minus 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m. Yes, I know the time is wrong.

The temperature monitor in my Faribault, Minnesota, home registered the outdoor air temp at minus 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m. today. (Yes, I know the time is wrong.) Temps, unfortunately, are correct.

MINNESOTANS AWAKENED to another brutally cold morning with windchills plunging more than 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Monday.

A screen shot of MarshallRadio.net's weather-related closings list this morning. This shows only a portion of the closings listed for that area of southwestern Minnesota.

A screen shot of MarshallRadio.net’s weather-related closings list this morning. This shows only a portion of the closings listed for that area of southwestern Minnesota.

Across the state, hundreds of schools are closed and activities canceled.

KLGR radio in Redwood Falls listed these area roads as still closed this morning. Minnesota State Highway 19 in both directions between Marshall and my hometown of Vesta is closed due to white out conditions.

KLGR radio in Redwood Falls listed these area roads as still closed this morning. Minnesota State Highway 19 in both directions between Marshall and Redwood Falls is closed due to white out conditions. My hometown of Vesta lies half-way between Marshall and Redwood Falls.

Some roadways, especially in the southwestern region of Minnsota, remain closed due to white conditions and snow drifts blocking traffic lanes.

A screen shot of the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website shows road closures and conditions in Minnesota at 8:45 a.m. today.

A screen shot of the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website shows road closures and conditions in Minnesota at 8:45 a.m. today.

We’ve been advised to carry winter survival kits if we must travel, to watch for black ice and that exposed skin can freeze in five minutes.

Students in my community, like many through-out Minnesota, have another day off from classes due to the brutal weather conditions.

Students in my community, like many through-out Minnesota, have another day off from classes due to the brutal weather conditions.

Stay home if you can. That’s my best advice.