Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Obviously ducks can’t read May 2, 2016

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Ducks at a squirrel crossing, 178

…but they are smart enough to realize that words mean nothing to squirrels either. And if there’s corn available, as in this front yard along Fifth Street in Faribault (across from Trinity Lutheran Church), they will partake.

My question, though, is this: How did these ducks find this food? The house is not located anywhere near a water source. Did one of them fly over, spot the corn and call the family? I can never figure out this ducks wandering away from water thing.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

What makes a great park, in my opinion June 23, 2015

IN THE PAST FEW DAYS, after visiting Bridge Square in Northfield and Morehouse Park in Owatonna, I’ve thought about what makes a great community gathering place. When considering a spot for a picnic or simply a place to relax, what do I seek?

A view of the Straight River from the pedestrian bridge in Morehouse Park.

A view of the Straight River from the pedestrian bridge in Morehouse Park.

Water. Whether a river or a fountain or a lake, water tops my list. There’s something about water that soothes, that eases life’s worries. I’m not a water sports person. But I love the sound of rushing water like that of the Straight River roaring over the dam in Morehouse Park or the fountain spraying in Bridge Square, just across the street from the Cannon River.

Water roars over rocks in the Straight River at Moreshouse Park.

Water roars over rocks in the Straight River at Morehouse Park.

A trail of geese in the tranquil part of the Straight River.

A trail of geese in the tranquil part of the Straight River.

On a beautiful summer afternoon, a woman fishes the Straight River.

On a beautiful summer afternoon, a woman fishes the Straight River.

Water offers a place to wish, to think or not, to fish, to canoe, to observe nature. Still as geese gliding. Hopeful as pennies tossed into a fountain. Turbulent water tumbling over rocks as calming as white noise.

A recreational trail slices through Morehouse Park, bridging the Straight River.

A recreational trail slices through Morehouse Park, bridging the Straight River.

I also want a park that’s aesthetically pleasing, clean, green, obviously cared for and appreciated.

Gorgeous flower baskets hang along the recreational bridge.

Gorgeous flower baskets hang along the recreational bridge.

In Morehouse Park, generous baskets of petunias suspended from a pedestrian bridge make a statement that says this community cares. The park is a busy place with a trail winding through that draws bikers, skaters, walkers and photographers like me.

At Bridge Square, the fountain entices all ages to perch beside the water, to rest on benches, to purchase popcorn from the popcorn wagon.

Morehouse Park includes a playground, tennis court and horseshoe pits along with other amenities.

Morehouse Park includes a playground, tennis court and horseshoe pits along with other amenities.

In both parks I feel a sense of community, of closeness in appreciating a beautiful spot in the heart of a city. There’s a certain vibrancy, a rhythm, a definitive weaving of people and place.

Ducks and geese overrun Morehouse Park. So watch for droppings. Everywhere.

Ducks and geese overrun Morehouse Park. So watch for droppings. Everywhere.

And that is what I seek in a park. Not just a picnic table under a tree. But a certain sense of belonging, of connecting with nature and community on a Minnesota summer day.

BONUS PHOTOS from Sunday afternoon at Morehouse Park:

A sign next to the bridge reads: "When we preserve a historic place, we preserve a part of who we are."

A sign next to the bridge reads: “When we preserve a historic place, we preserve a part of who we are.”

A robin hops along the bank of the Straight River in the dappled sunlight of a June afternoon.

A robin hops along the bank of the Straight River in the dappled sunlight of a June afternoon.

Waterfowl aplenty populate sections of the park.

Waterfowl aplenty populate sections of the park.

Geese hug the riverbank.

Geese hug the riverbank.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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

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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

 

A Lake Agnes love story June 24, 2011

IT APPEARED TO BE nothing short of a love story played out on a west central Minnesota lake.

Two love birds—or more accurately, ducks—met along the shoreline of Lake Agnes in Alexandria which, to those of you who do not live in Minnesota, claims to be the birthplace of America what with the Kensington Runestone and all found here.

But I digress.

The mallards cared not one wit about the vikings or the Runestone or even me, watching their every move. The drake and the hen had eyes only for each other.

And so the romance spawned on Lake Agnes, on this lake with the name of Greek (not Scandinavian) origin meaning pure/holy/chaste.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling