Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Garden connections in Faribault, Part II July 25, 2022

In early July, lilies bloomed in the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

IN MY FARIBAULT BACKYARD, wild tiger lilies stretch above a tangled mess of greenery, popping orange into the hillside. On the other side of town, domesticated orange lilies grace the neatly-cultivated Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens at the Rice County Fairgrounds.

The master gardeners’ milkweed patch. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Also in my yard are scattered milkweeds, food for Monarch caterpillars. In the gardens tended by the experts, a mass of intentionally-planted milkweeds flourishes.

Clematis. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Blocks away from my home, Donahue’s Greenhouse grows one of the largest selections of clematis in the U.S. That’s their specialty. Across town at the master gardeners’ garden, clematis climb an arbor, lovely blooms opening to the summer sky.

The Berry-Go-Round. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Within a short distance of my home is the birthplace of the Tilt-A-Whirl, a carnival ride no longer made in Faribault but in Texas. On the edge of the master gardeners’ garden, a giant strawberry sits. It’s a Berry-Go-Round, a spin ride produced by Sellner Manufacturing beginning in 1987, before the company was sold.

Prickly pear cactus. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

More than 150 miles to the southwest of Faribault near the South Dakota border, prickly pear cactus thrive in the rocky lands of the prairie. I’ve seen them at Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne. And now I’ve seen them in the gardens at the local fairgrounds.

An overview of the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens, photographed in early July, with an historic school and church (part of the county historical society) in the background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

It’s interesting how, in life, so many connections exist. Even in a garden.

One of several benches in the master gardeners’ garden in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Gardens connect us to people, places, memories. A life that touches others goes on forever. I come from a family of gardeners tracing back generations. Vegetables grown in my mother’s massive garden fed me, and my family of origin, for the first 18 years of my life. I worked that garden with her, planting, weeding, tending, harvesting. I left gardening when I left southwestern Minnesota. But I still appreciate gardeners and gardens.

An artsy scene of clematis on arbor. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I value the beauty of flower gardens, the purpose of vegetable gardens to feed. And I appreciate, too, the peace a garden brings. To sit among the blooms and plants in a garden oasis like the Rice County master gardeners created is to feel a calm, a sense of serenity in the midst of chaos and struggles and challenges.

The water feature is shaped like tree stumps. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Water, especially, soothes me. The Rice County master gardeners understand that and added a water feature to their garden plot. I delighted in watching a tiny yellow bird (I think a goldfinch) splash in the water. Such a simple joy.

One of many educational signs in the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

And isn’t that part of a garden’s purpose—to bring joy? Joy to those who work the soil, seed or plant, tend and care for that which grows. Joy to those who delight in the all of it.

A sedum patch planted by the master gardeners. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I feel such gratitude for gardeners, for the nurturing hands that link me to nature. It’s all about connecting to each other in this world we share, in the commonality of humanity.


Please click here to read my first post about the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens. Watch for one final post in this three-part series.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Peace poster contest inspires young artists to celebrate connections January 6, 2022

Maelynn Thoele, award-winning artist. Photo source: Arlington Lions Club Facebook page.

IMAGINE A WORLD OF PEACE. Of minimal division. Of connecting and compassion and care. That seems elusive right now. But one can hope, aim toward, embrace such goals.

The annual Lions International Peace Poster Contest encourages me. Young people from all around the world create art themed to peace. Therein lies the possibility that perhaps some day we can achieve peace and unity. If our young people have anything to say about it.

I invite you to scroll through the grand prize winning art in past peace poster contests by clicking here. Yue Zheng, 13, from China took the top prize in 2020-2021 when “Peace Through Service” themed the competition. During the first “Peace Will Help Us Grow” contest in 1988-1989, Mustapha El Tawokji, 13, of Lebanon earned the grand prize. The award-winning art created by 11-13-year-olds from places like South Africa, Peru, Brazil, Thailand, multiple U.S. states and elsewhere since 1988 inspires.

This year young people were tasked with creating art centered on “We Are All Connected.” The Lions website defines that:

While overcoming new challenges brought on by an unprecedented global pandemic, we’re celebrating the things that keep us connected—to each other, to our communities, all together around the world. This year, we invite young people to envision, explore and visually express these connections.

And that these young artists did. Maelynn Thoele, 13, a seventh grader at Sibley East in Arlington, Minnesota, won multiple district competitions to advance to the international level with her peace poster. Her puzzle art fits visually well with the “We Are All Connected” theme. Just like puzzle pieces fit together to create a scene, peoples and countries connect to create our world.

The details in Maelynn’s art convey peace in the backdrop peace symbol, a dove and more. Her art includes the flags of many countries and hands of multiple skin tones assembling that puzzle. Together. Connected.

A vintage peace tray I purchased in 2015 at an antique shop. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

NOTE: I’d love to see the award-winning art of these students featured on t-shirts, posters, cards, etc. and, in Maelynn’s case, on a puzzle. Thoughts?

A Peace Poster Tabletop Exhibit is available (and loaned at no cost) to Lions groups in the U.S. The peace exhibit has been displayed, for example, in libraries, community events and Lions conventions. Call (630) 203-3812. I’d love to see that come to my Minnesota community.

Also, the Lions sponsor an International Peace Essay Contest for young people. I appreciate that opportunity for creatives who express themselves via words.

Please click here to read an earlier post I wrote about a 12-year-old girl from Rochester, who won the peace poster contest in her Minnesota middle school. Winners of the 2021-2022 peace poster contest will be notified by February 1.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Photo source: Arlington Lions Club Facebook page. That club sponsored Maelynn.


Sisterhood in bloom on May Day May 1, 2020

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The tulip bulbs arrived in a pot and covered by moss.


THE RATE AT WHICH THE TULIP bulbs erupted, then bloomed, surprised even me.


The bulbs, once exposed to light, grew at a rapid pace.


A week after receiving a surprise cluster of bulbs from my blogger friend Paula in the Netherlands, I now have a flower pot of wine-hued tulips in bloom and yellow ones about to open. I’d wondered at the color and that proved part of the fun, waiting to see.


Just beginning to bloom…


What a delight this gift of flowers from someone I’ve never met but to whom I’m connected via writing and being home-grown Minnesotans. But even more, there’s the connection of spirit, of understanding how supporting one another, especially now, is so important.

I can tell you that Paula, who blogs at The Cedar Journal, loves the outdoors, especially canoeing in her cedar strip canoe. She returns to Minnesota often to paddle and explore. She’s a military veteran. Strong. Opinionated. Resilient. Respectful of the natural world and appreciative of its beauty. She’s compassionate and kind.

I’ve never talked to Paula. But I feel like I know her via her blog and the comments she posts on my blog. There’s a sisterhood that comes from a shared love of Minnesota and of blogging and of the simple beauties in life. So when I see those lovely tulips in bloom, I think of Paula so distant, yet so close.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling