Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:06 PM
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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

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:29 PM
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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

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:00 PM
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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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:28 AM
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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.

 

Dreading our next Arctic blast here in Minnesota January 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I’VE EVOLVED INTO A WINTER weather wimp. Truly.

I photographed these winter enthusiasts heading up the hill to the park to go sledding.

I photographed these winter enthusiasts across the street from my home a few days ago as they headed up the hill to the park to go sledding. And, yes, I shot this image through a window so I didn’t have to step outside.

There was a time, many decades ago, when I actually thrilled in snow and cold—tunneling into snowbanks, building snow forts, packing snowballs, sledding, running up and down the mounds of snow Dad pushed from the driveway and farmyard into make-believe mountains.

I role-played a Canadian Mountie driving a dogsled across those mountains and across rock-hard snowdrifts.

I battled against my brothers with stockpiled snowballs.

I gripped the baler twine handle of the old runner sled as I raced across the yard.

I loved to skate upon patches of ice in the field or at the ice pond in town.

Those were the days.

Later, when I had my own kids, I played outside in the snow with them, slid down the hill at the nearby park, even ice skated occasionally and once snowshoed with my family at the local nature center.

On New Year’s Day, I suggested to my husband that we take a walk at River Bend Nature Center. But then I stepped outside to shake out a rug.

“Uh, I’ve changed my mind about that walk,” I said. “It’s too cold.” Temps were in the sub-zero to slightly above zero Fahrenheit range. Too cold. Way too cold.

The low temp in Embarrass, 90 miles north of Duluth on Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, plunged to 46 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Thursday. That’s cold. Way too cold.

Winter no longer appeals to me. Rather, it rates as mostly an unpleasant season to endure with snow to shovel, icy/snowy surfaces to traverse and travel, and frigid cold to withstand, although beauty does exist in a snowy landscape.

The upcoming days will surely test my winter endurance. The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, Minnesota, is forecasting the following:

SOME OF THE COLDEST WEATHER IN THE PAST 20 YEARS IS EXPECTED ON
SUNDAY NIGHT INTO TUESDAY MORNING WITH THE POTENTIAL FOR 40 TO 60
DEGREE BELOW ZERO WIND CHILLS. WIND CHILL WARNINGS APPEAR VERY
LIKELY TO BE NEEDED.

Now doesn’t that sound fabulous?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Battling winter in Fargo February 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:02 AM
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A sign along a city street welcomes us to Fargo, North Dakota, from Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the Red River.

A sign along a city street welcomes visitors to Fargo, North Dakota, from Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the Red River.  I might change that “city of parks” to “The windy city.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA, is flat. That is a fact.

The wind blows in Fargo. A lot. That is a fact.

Therefore, one could rightly conclude that staying warm during winter in flat and windy Fargo would present a challenge, even to a hardy Minnesotan.

During a recent cold snap, with wind chill readings in the minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit in Fargo, I received this text from my son, who attends North Dakota State University:

This cheap Walmart hat stands zero chance against the Fargo wind.

OK, I am 300 miles away so it’s not like I can run out and buy my boy a new hat. I suggested he take the $20 I’d recently sent and purchase warmer head attire.

Apparently, though, my son did not need my motherly assistance. He’d already gone online the previous evening and ordered a “nice Russian military surplus hat.” Alright, that ought to work in Fargo.

But then he mentioned one minor issue, which may or may not be an issue:

Unfortunately it has the good ol’ USSR sickle and hammer on the front. I’m hoping that I will be able to remove that.

When I expressed my concern about the symbol, he fired back:

We aren’t in the cold war anymore…

Ah, yes, my son, but you are.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Too cold to walk to school January 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:21 AM
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Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota, photographed last winter.

MY SON STAYED HOME from school yesterday. He refused to walk the eight or so blocks to Faribault High School.

I didn’t push the issue. The temperature outside was a bone-chilling, brutal, bitter 25 degrees below zero. Factor in the windchill and the air felt even colder.

I suggested he call a friend for a ride because our car, which has been causing us some problems lately, wouldn’t start—again. And my husband was long gone to work in Northfield with the van.

But my 16-year-old, who isn’t exactly a social butterfly, didn’t know who to call.

So I called the school, explained the situation and he got an excused absence. My son excels academically, so I wasn’t too worried about him missing a day of classes.

I wondered, only briefly, if I qualified as a bad parent by allowing my boy to skip school. But that was simply a fleeting thought as I considered whether I would walk eight blocks in such frigid temperatures. I wouldn’t.

Curious as to exactly how low air temperatures and windchills plunged in southern and central Minnesota from Thursday into Friday morning, I logged onto the National Weather Service Chanhassen office.

Morris, on the wind-swept prairie, recorded the lowest windchill reading, minus 46 degrees at 4 a.m. (I would later learn that International Falls in northern Minnesota recorded an air temperature of 46 degrees below zero.)

Redwood Falls, which lies 20 miles east of my hometown of Vesta, had a minimum windchill reading of minus 39 degrees at 6 a.m. The low temperature was 24 degrees below zero.

Over in Waseca, where two of my sisters and their families live, conditions were a tad warmer with a low windchill of minus 36 degrees at 3 a.m.

Here in Faribault, we had a minus 33 degree windchill reading at 12 a.m. Our lowest temp registered at 29 degrees below zero.

While windchills and air temps vary from one part of Minnesota to the other, the results are the same—it’s simply too darned cold to walk eight blocks to school, or anywhere.

CLICK HERE for a listing of National Weather Service Chanhassen office windchill and temperature readings for central and southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling