Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

More than a garden…a place of peace & respite August 18, 2022

A coneflower up close in the Rice Country Master Gardeners Teaching Garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

ANYONE WHO GARDENS understands just how quickly plants can grow. Sunshine and rain make all the difference.

Vegetables grow in the foreground in this photo, other plants and flowers beyond. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

A month had passed between visits to the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Garden located at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. And in those few weeks, the vegetables, flowers and other plants grew in length, height and width, some blossoming, some with fruit emerging.

A mini sunflower of sorts (I think) bursts color into the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

There are signs aplenty in this teaching garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

An eggplant blossom. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

To walk here again among the prairie flowers, the zinnias, the hydrangea and hosta, the burpless cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes and much more is to feel a deep connection to the earth. For it is the soil which roots, which feeds these plants watered by the sky, energized by the sun.

Gardening equipment stashed in a secure area next to the conservation building by the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

And it is volunteer gardeners who plant and tend this beautiful garden for the enjoyment of many. Like me. I appreciate their time, their efforts, their desire to create this peaceful place in my community.

This broad-leafed plant name fascinates me. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Aiming the camera down at Silver Mound, a wispy plant that I’ve never seen before. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

A cucumber forming. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

To visit this spot is to understand how much we each need such a contemplative place. A place simply to meander along wood chip or brick pathways, pausing to appreciate the likes of broad-leafed Pig Squeak or the silvery sheen of Silver Mound or a little-finger-sized prickly cucumber or a Prickly Pear Cactus. There’s a lot to take in among the vast plant varieties.

One of the man-made tree stumps gurgles water. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

The water feature is to the right of this centering circle. Across the way are an historic church and school, part of the Rice County Historical Society. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

And then there’s the water, oh, the water. No garden feature soothes more than a fountain. Here five replica tree stumps spill water into a shallow pond, a focal point defined by a circle of bricks connected to brick paths.

I notice details, like a feather in a bird bath. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Even a bird bath drew my attention with a feather floating therein.

A lily blooms in early August. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

The garden also features an arch for climbing clematis, which bloomed profusely earlier in the summer. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

A bee house posted on a tree by the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

Strategically situated benches offer sitting spots to pass the time, chat, read a book or simply take in the garden, the being outdoors, in nature. In this fast-paced world of technology and a deluge of news that is often awful and horrible and unsettling, this garden provides a respite. Nature has a way of working calm into our beings. Easing stress and anxiety. Lifting spirits.

Lovely flowers fill the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2022)

In the challenges which have defined my life in 2022, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this garden. I feel at peace here among the flowers and vegetables, the birds and butterflies, bushes and trees, here under the southern Minnesota sky.

© Copyright 2022 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


An oasis at the Rice County Fairgrounds, Part I July 18, 2022

Next to the conservation building, with an historic church and school in the background, the Teaching Gardens grace the Rice County Fairgrounds. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

AT THE RICE COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS in Faribault, an unexpected oasis brings nature into a setting of buildings, grandstand and roadways. It’s a welcome respite, this Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens.

I love the “tree stump” water feature that blends so naturally into the garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

On a Sunday in early July, Randy and I packed a picnic lunch and set out for the fairgrounds garden, a place we haven’t previously lunched. There we settled onto a fountain-side shaded bench, the soothing rush of water creating a peaceful ambiance.

Clematis. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Sedum. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Lilies. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Afterwards, I ambled through these gardens, admiring the plants and blooming flowers. Clematis climbing an arbor. Sedum. Hosta. Lilies and roses and Pig Squeak. Masses of milkweed for monarch caterpillars. Eggplant, prickly pear cactus, Mugo pine and much more.

An overview of the gardens with vegetables in the foreground. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

If you’re into gardening, and even if you’re not, this compact garden patch showcases a wide variety of plants that are beautiful to behold. Some are grown as seed trial plants for the University of Minnesota.

The Seed Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Seed packets inside the library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

There’s a seed library, too, with packets of seeds tucked into a tiny red house similar to a Little Free Library.

Informational signage in the gardens. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

Strategically-placed signs identify plants and provide information about gardening in general. This is, after all, a teaching garden.

The milkweed patch with the Rice County Historical Society in the background. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)
Roses. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

I believe these are onions gone to seed. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

But for me, these gardens proved primarily a spot to retreat for a bit, to immerse myself in a place that feels restful, soothing, calming. Connecting to nature, whether in a natural or cultivated setting always, always renews my spirit.

TELL ME: Have you found a similar oasis mini garden where you live?

Please check back for more photos from this lovely teaching garden in additional posts.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Potted plants paint loveliness into Faribault yard July 14, 2022

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A mass of potted plants splash color and beauty into a corner lot in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

OH, HOW LOVELY this flush of flowers folding around a corner house in northwest Faribault. The scene proves eye-pleasing in color, composition and height.

I wouldn’t say that about every massive quantity of potted plants. I’ve seen enough scattered-across-the-yard pots to recognize when I see a well-done grouping. This one I like. A lot.

Pots of varied heights and sizes and positioned at various heights create a pleasing visual composition. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

The narrow color palette of purples and pinks mixed with some yellow is simply beautiful. Sweet potato vine and other spillers among the primarily petunias and million bells create a unified look. I also spot backdrop orange lilies and purple clematis in the mix.

Oh, how lovely this potted flower garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

This gardener clearly worked hard to create this floral painting. Choosing all these plants, then potting and arranging them takes time, effort and an artistic eye. And money. Plants are costly as are pots and soil.

I deeply appreciate those who beautify my community via the flowers they plant, grow and tend. In recent years, I’ve cut back on gardening. No longer do pots of flowers grace my front steps, the patio or the driveway next to the garage. But old-fashioned hydrangea still spill around the corner of my house. Ferns wave. The occasional milkweeds, phlox and assorted whatever mix in unruly flower beds that my Grandma Ida would have appreciated. Her flowerbeds were, like mine, a bit of a lovely mess.

Old-fashioned zinnias grown by my friend Al, who sells them at the Faribault Farmers’ Market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2019)

I miss the zinnias I once grew, the zinnias which filled my mother’s garden and then vases inside the southwestern Minnesota farmhouse of my youth. This spring my 3-year-old grandson planted zinnia seeds I gave to his mom, my eldest, on her February birthday. He was so incredibly excited when the seeds sprouted and even more so when the plants grew and blossomed. His mom praised him. “You have a green thumb, Isaac.”

He looked at his thumb and replied, “No, I don’t.” Sometimes we forget how children take everything literally.

Such joy flowers bring. Memories. Inspiring a new generation to perhaps plant flower seeds that will grow into a lovely mess of a garden or contained in a pot.

Lilies rise behind the potted petunias and other plants. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2022)

This summer I celebrate the northwest Faribault gardener who brings beauty into his/her yard near the back employee parking lot of the Faribault Mill with this massive potting of flowers. This shows pride in community, pride in neighborhood and creativity.

TELL ME: Have you spotted a similar potted flower garden in your community? Do you grow flowers, either in beds or pots?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


More than just green fried tomatoes November 18, 2021

The vegetable garden outside Buckham Memorial Library, Faribault, Minnesota.(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

AT THE END of the growing season a few weeks back, I walked into Buckham Memorial Library and spotted a stash of green tomatoes free for the taking. To say that I reacted with joy might be an understatement.

I felt practically giddy at the thought of preparing green fries, a coveted food I haven’t eaten in years because…I don’t have a garden.

A green tomato in the library garden. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo August 2020)

But, back in the day, my mom planted a sprawling garden, growing vegetables to feed our farm family of eight. Green fries were a summer-time to harvest staple as were the tomatoes left to ripen on the vine.

Items grown in the library garden are free for the taking to the community. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2020)

Earlier this summer and fall, when I stopped at The Friends Organic Learning Garden on the library’s east side to look for produce, I noticed choice green tomatoes. I was tempted to pick a few. Who would miss the green orbs? But my conscience prevailed and I walked away empty-handed.

Perfect for making green fries. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

So when those green tomatoes appeared inside the library, I quickly took four, reining in my greedy impulse to grab more.

Step one: Slice the tomatoes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The next day, I sliced two of those beautiful green tomatoes, dipped both sides in all-purpose white flour and laid the slices into a hefty cast iron skillet sizzling with butter. Lots of butter. I ground on fresh black pepper, sprinkled on salt and then waited for the slices to brown, flipping and seasoning and adding butter as needed.

Frying the tomatoes to golden brown. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

The result: golden circles of green-fried tomatoes that tasted of sun and sky and earth. And of yesterday’s garden.

As I forked into the savory rounds, I thought of Mom and how she spaced tomato plants evenly in the tilled soil and ringed each with a rusty tin can opened on both ends. The cans protected the tender plants from the prairie wind and cold. I remember pouring water into those cylinder reservoirs, overflow sometimes flooding the surrounding ground. When the plants edged over the cans, Mom removed the weather shields.

To me, green fries rate as much more than a food I enjoy. They are part of my culinary family history. A connection to my now 89-year-old mom who, though no master chef, did her best to feed her family with food sourced from our farm.

TELL ME: Do you have a favorite food tracing to your childhood and that you crave today? I’d like to hear. And, have you ever eaten, or made, green fried tomatoes?

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


From garden to library, sharing the earth’s bounty November 4, 2021

The beautiful Harvest Box inside the Cannon Falls Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2021)

INSIDE THE ENTRYWAY of the Cannon Falls Library, a multi-tiered mini vegetable stand holds an array of fresh vegetables on a mid-October morning. Green peppers. Green beans. Cucumbers. Squash.

The produce is artfully displayed in a beautifully-crafted wooden shelving unit labeled with an appealing graphic of colorful vegetables and the words, Harvest Box. I figured this was the yield of an on-site garden, similar to the one at Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault.

But assumptions are not always correct as I discovered. Rather local gardeners provide the produce. That includes Quiet Waters Ranch, a 22-acre Sogn Valley farm owned by Ben and Amanda Luther. Their non-profit received a Healthy Eating in Community mini-grant in 2018 from Live Well Goodhue County for a Community Giving Garden. Now they supply free fresh, organic produce to the library’s Harvest Box which launched in June. The library also received Live Well funding in late 2020 for the display unit and a mini fridge.

Cannon Falls Library Director Nicole Miller initiated the Harvest Box project after learning of one in North Carolina. She sought county funding for the display unit and fridge and also connected with Quiet Waters Ranch. All of this was prompted by her concerns about local food insecurity. “It’s a low cost way to help people out and to supplement the Food Shelf on days they aren’t open,” Miller said.

She delights in watching local gardeners drop off their extra produce.

I love this concept, this spin on the Little Free Library movement which saw mini libraries popping up all over. I love when communities work together, contribute, support, share. There’s so much good that comes from unity, from understanding that we have the power as individuals and communities to care for one another in real, tangible ways.

TELL ME: Do you have a similar Harvest Box or fresh food program at your local library or elsewhere in your community? I’d like to hear.

For more info about Quiet Waters Ranch, click here.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


From flowers to cayenne peppers, a birthday celebration October 1, 2021

A beautiful birthday bouquet from my eldest daughter and her family. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I RECENTLY CELEBRATED a milestone birthday and I’ve never been happier to turn another year older. Gone is my absurdly high monthly health insurance premium of $1,245 (with a $4,250 deductible), replaced by affordable (and usable) Medicare coverage. And now I’m also eligible for the Pfizer booster vaccine. Yeah. Here’s to turning sixty-five.

Walking through the prairie at River Bend toward the woods. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I didn’t celebrate my birthday with great fanfare or the usual birthday treat of dining out. (Even though vaccinated, I continue to be cautious and careful in these days of COVID-19.) Rather, Randy and I hiked across the prairie and woods at River Bend Nature Center, a treasured place to connect with nature in Faribault.

Omelet and hashbrowns, along with watermelon from the Faribault Farmers’ Market, comprised my birthday brunch. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Afterwards, I enjoyed a delicious brunch prepared by Randy. We dined al fresco on our patio at a card table draped in one of my many vintage tablecloths.

Then, in the afternoon, we spent time with our eldest daughter, her husband and our precious grandchildren at their home. I appreciated the grilled burger and vegetables with my favorite, cheesecake, for dessert. A wonderful way to celebrate.

The only thing that would have made my birthday even better would have been the presence of our second daughter, her husband and our son. But they called from southeastern Wisconsin and northwestern Indiana and that brought me joy.

Thank you to those who sent cards, this one from my second daughter and her husband. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Some friends and extended family also texted wishes. I got greeting cards, too.

Gladioli from The 3 Glad Girls. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

And flowers. Randy purchased a clutch of gladioli at the Faribault Farmers’ Market. And when he presented them to me with a “Happy birthday!” while I was chatting with Andy Webster of MEG’S Edible Landscapes, Andy took note. “It’s your birthday?” he asked.

“Well, not today, but tomorrow,” I told him.

Smoked cayenne peppers gifted to me by Andy of MEG’S Edible Landscapes. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Then he scooped a baggie of smoked cayenne peppers from the table. “Happy birthday!” Andy said with a smile. Now if that wasn’t the sweetest gesture from a young man who lives on his dream rural acreage in the Sogn Valley, runs his business and is working on a horticulture degree from Oregon University.

Andy’s genuine passion for MEG’S Edible Landscapes showed in his pitch and his personality. He is a genuinely warm and engaging person. To summarize, Andy sells a mobile system for growing vegetables like peppers, basil, beans, lettuce, carrots and more in bags that you can easily pick up and move. It’s ideal, he said, for someone like me without garden space. If enthusiasm and knowledge make for business success, then Andy is certain to succeed.

His unexpected birthday gift of those smoked cayenne peppers touched me in a way that resonated deeply. In these challenging times, I needed that affirmation of an unexpected act of kindness. What a great way to begin my next year of life.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


In praise of the art, gardens & messages in an Atwood Neighborhood September 24, 2020

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Two simple words painted, along with three red hearts, onto a block of wood. And then set on the front steps of a home in the Atwood Neighborhood of Madison, Wisconsin.


A section of the Atwood Neighborhood I walked.


On a recent trip to Wisconsin’s state capital, I retraced a route I previously walked through this east side neighborhood near my son’s apartment. I found in that residential area many uplifting and positive messages that show those who live here care. Deeply. About others. About issues.


One of the many inspiring signs posted in the residential neighborhood where I walked a square block. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


And, in times like this with such chaos and turmoil and hatred in our country, I need to immerse myself in positive and hopeful words that uplift, rather than anger or sadden me.


An example of a front yard mixing plants and art.


Up close in a front yard I spotted this sprawling cactus which adds interest to the landscape.


Besides the messages, I appreciate the art placed in front yards overflowing with plants, including flowers. Not manicured lawns. I welcome that alternative to grass. It’s lovelier and better for the environment.



And in one yard, by a boulevard tree, I once again found a mini garden, a magical world of fairies and rabbits and gnomes. Making music. Dancing, Reading. Waiting.



I paused to photograph the scenes, inwardly praising the efforts of the homeowner who created this fantasy world for passersby to enjoy.



This offers, too, a momentary escape from reality. Something I need now, more than ever.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Up close in the Atwood Neighborhood of Madison, Part II September 16, 2020


PLACE REVEALS ITSELF in the details.


Sunflowers brighten the Atwood Community Gardens.


Put me in a location, like the Atwood Neighborhood on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin, and I will focus on the nuances. The seemingly little things that, when connected, define this as a neighborhood rooted in art, in the outdoors, in a genuine care for one another.


This is one busy bike path, frequented by all ages.


All of this I surmised simply by walking along Atwood area residential streets and past businesses and by following the Capital City State Trail for several blocks.


Flowers, oh, so many flowers…


My post today takes you back to the bike path, to those details that caused me to pause with my camera as bikers zipped past me. To photograph the flowers.


An artsy sign in the community garden.


Inspiring graffiti.


Madison’s capitol is depicted in this manhole cover art.


And the signs—always the signs, the aged brick buildings and, yes, even the manhole covers.


A little seasonal fun added to the Atwood Community Gardens.


And resident garden skeleton.


Cow art by the Goodman Community Center and right next to the bike trail.


What I observed pleases me as a creative, as an appreciator of aged architecture, as a nature lover and as a human being who values respect for others.


Colorful flowers thrive, including this zinnia.


The natural beauty of the Atwood Neighborhood appeals to me.


Spotted in a window of a residence along the bike trail.


The spirit of the Atwood Neighborhood appeals to me, too. With its earthiness. Its embracing of differences. Its sense of neighborhood pride. Its art. I feel comfortable here. Welcome. And that, my friends, is more important than ever in these times of upheaval, discontent, frustration and disconnect.


Note: Like anywhere, no place is utopia, and that includes the East Side of Madison. While visiting my son, who lives in the Atwood Neighborhood, I learned of a recent daytime “shots fired” along his street. He didn’t tell me about this, of course, not wanting to worry his mom. There have been other similar incidents. Does this concern me? Yes. But then I think of my neighborhood in Faribault, considered small town to many, but not to me. In the 36 years I’ve lived here, my section of town has seen violence also. In 1999, a young man was stabbed to death within blocks of my home. We’ve also experienced drive-by shootings only blocks away. Not recently. No matter where you live, no place is fully safe. But, of one thing I am certain. We each have within us the capacity to shine lights of hope in our neighborhoods, to be decent and kind and caring.

Please check back soon for more posts from this section of Madison, Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Exploring Madison’s Atwood Neighborhood via the bike trail, minus the bike, Part I September 15, 2020

A colorful cow sculpture stands next to the bike trail by the Goodman Community Center in the Atwood Neighbohood of Madison, Wisconsin.


BUTTERFLIES. BOOKS. BIKES. Even a bovine. And a sign for burgers and brats.


The bike path teems with bikers of all ages, and some walkers.


All defined a Labor Day weekend walk along the Capital City State Trail on Madison’s east side while visiting family. This Wisconsin state capital fully embraces biking via a city-wide system of connecting trails. Walk the paved pathways rather than wheel them and you best remain vigilant. And to the side. Most bikers zoom by.


By the community center, a Little Free Library sits right next to the bike trail.


With that awareness, I fully enjoyed this opportunity to see more of the thriving and vibrant Atwood Neighborhood.


Next to the trail, an electric bike rental station.


I almost wished I had a bike, though, and I suppose I could have rented an electric one from a rental station positioned along the trail, just another way to get those without bikes out, moving and exploring.


Flowers fill yards and sections of community garden plots.


But, given I had my DSLR camera, walking worked better. I could stop when I wanted—which was often—to document my surroundings. My walking companions—the husband and the son—often paced yards ahead and I finally told them to continue without me. They did. And later returned with an ice cream treat from a trail-side shop.


The community gardens are popular and filled with fruit, vegetables and flowers.


Even in the gardens, you’ll find art in signage.


This fence panel/art graces a corner of a garden plot. The gardens stretch along the bike path.


While they pursued ice cream, I snapped photos in the Atwood Community Gardens next to the trail. There I chatted briefly with a woman harvesting kale. I shared my appreciation for the lovely neighborhood and she told me of the long waiting list to get a garden plot.


Environmental concerns shared in art painted on a sidewalk by the trail.


She also tipped me off to concerns about groundwater and soil contamination from a resident industry (which I later verified online at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources).


Murals stretch along the side of the historic Madison Kipp-Corporation building next to the bike trail. Sail East, Goodman Center Youth, Kipp employees and the Dane Arts Mural Arts worked together on the 2017 project. Please check back for a post focusing on this public art.


It was on that industrial building that I found art. Murals of laborers at work, a fitting discovery on Labor Day weekend. The portraits show the strength of those who work with their hands. I spent many minutes photographing those paintings of blue collar workers.


Wisconsin and brats are synonymous.


A colorful cow sculpture by the Goodman Community Center also drew my attention. It seems fitting given Wisconsin’s “Dairyland State” motto and affinity for cheese curds. In addition to brats and beer.


This is the first photo I took as we walked the bike trail. You’ll find reaffirming messages like this throughout the Atwood Neighborhood in Madison, Wisconsin.


In many ways, my walk along the bike trail offered a mini snapshot of Madison in the context of the Atwood Neighborhood. I saw an appreciation for the arts, for the land, for the outdoors. And I felt, too, a strong sense of community grounded in caring for one another. And that, more than anything, makes me feel…hopeful.


Please check back for more posts from my recent visit to Madison, including a second one of images from this same section of the Capitol City Bike Path.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling