Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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

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

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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

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