Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Entrepreneurs, inventors & more at Owatonna Farmer’s Market June 27, 2014

A snapshot scene from the Owatonna Farmer's Market, which covers one-block square Central Park.

A snapshot scene from the Owatonna Farmer’s Market, which covers one-block square Central Park.

AMONG THE VENDORS selling lettuce and rhubarb, onions and the season’s first strawberries and cherry tomatoes, between those marketing jars of salsa, hunks of cheese, pickled asparagus and root beer jelly, mixed with others showcasing embroidered dish towels and bird feeders and fleece blankets and so much more, there are those who offer something just a tad bit different at the Owatonna Farmer’s Market.

Gene Mosher talks to my husband, Randy, about his jar cover opener.

Gene Mosher talks to my husband, Randy, about his jar cover opener.

They are folks like Gene Mosher, who calls himself an inventor. On this Saturday morning, this Owatonna resident has set up a small table to peddle his product, the jar cover opener. Most shoppers simply pass him by.

Gene gives a demo.

Gene gives a demo. So the contents don’t spill when opened, Gene suggests screwing the opener onto a board and mounting it under a cupboard, for example.

But I stop to investigate the V-shaped metal tool which Gene claims will open those hard to open jars. He places a jar inside the saw-toothed grip and, with ease, unscrews the lid. I try. Success.

Slashed price.

Slashed price.

It’s late morning and Gene’s slashed the price from $15 to $10. This is his first time at the market. He has yet to sell a single opener; he’s always given them away. And he insists I take one, too.

I suggest he market his invention at the local senior center, taking the product to those most likely to purchase it. But Gene doesn’t seem too concerned. Pressed a bit, this long ago printer and then machining model maker will tell you about the mud covers he developed for race cars and the piston ring gapping machine which is now sold all over the world. He’s an inventor and tells me I’ve just made his day by stopping to check out the jar cover opener.

Selling the EZ Tomato Cage.

Selling the EZ Tomato Cage, which collapses for storage and also has extensions for those really tall tomato plants.

Just like Gene, gardeners Luther Hanson and Mark Gengler saw a need—for a better tomato cage—and created the EZ Tomato Cage. This 59-inch tall structure made of galvanized steel and aluminum parts appears about as strong as any tomato plant holder-upper I’ve ever seen.

Not that I have a need for this $20 per unit made in America product since I grow only two tomato plants in pots. But I think immediately of my middle brother and his wife who plant dozens of tomatoes and likely would appreciate such sturdy, and collapsible for storage, construction.

Rose Gehrke of Waterville  set up a stand to sell her homemade cupcakes.

Rose Gehrke of Waterville set up a stand to sell her homemade cupcakes.

Nearby, I am impressed by Rose Gehrke, a 15-year-old entrepreneur from Waterville who some day hopes to open a cupcake shop. On this morning, she is at the market with her dad and the 96 cupcakes she baked the day prior. Some 10 hours in the kitchen. Four homemade varieties including the absolutely delectable vanilla with raspberry filling topped by cream cheese frosting and the equally delicious chocolate with a cookie dough filling and cookie dough frosting.

Rosie Cakes cupcakes come with my endorsement.

Rosie Cakes cupcakes come with my endorsement.

Inspired by the television show, Cake Boss, and kids’ birthday party cupcakes, Rose learned to bake from her mom. Now she’s got her own business, Rosie Cakes, the start-up for her dream of one day owning a cupcake shop.

And because I believe in dreams and the young people who dream them, I purchase two $2 cupcakes from Rose of Rosie Cakes.

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BONUS FARMER’S MARKET PHOTOS:

Sweet little girls' dresses stitched by Judy Bliss.

Sweet little girls’ dresses stitched by Judy Bliss.

Dean, 11 months, snuggles against his mom's back while his parents shop at the Farmer's Market. The family recently moved from Houston, Texas, to Owatonna.

Dean, 11 months, snuggles against his mom’s back while his parents shop at the Farmer’s Market. The family recently moved from Houston, Texas, to Owatonna.

Plenty of plants were available for purchase at the market.

Plenty of plants were available for purchase at the market.

Vicki Mendez was selling her handmade LEGO crayons (available in several sizes)

Vicky Mendez of Vicky Lynn Designs was selling her hand-molded LEGO crayons (available in several sizes) plus lots of other merchandise.

Another shot of the busy market, which gets even busier once gardens really begin producing. Then vendors are set up along the sidewalk and on the grass.

Another shot of the busy market, which gets even busier once gardens really begin producing. Then vendors are set up along the sidewalk and on the grass. The massive building on the corner with the green trim is the most famous of Louis Sullivan’s banks and is called “a jewel box of the prairie” done in the Prairie School style of architecture. It’s a must-see if you’re ever in Owatonna.

FYI: The Owatonna Farmer’s Market is open from 7 a.m. – noon, May – October, at Central Park in the city’s downtown. It’s an impressive market.

 

Wisconsin exhibit highlights Leonardo da Vinci’s inventive side November 27, 2012

Another facet of Leonardo da Vinci, on exhibit in Appleton, Wisconsin.

QUICK. When I say “Leonardo da Vinci,” what pops into your mind?

For me, it’s his “The Last Supper” painting.

Inside The History Museum, a sign welcomes visitors to the da Vinci exhibit.

I do not even think of him as a scientist or inventor.

But this Renaissance man surely was, a fact emphasized in a current exhibit originating in Florence, Italy, and currently showing at a northeastern Wisconsin museum through January 6, 2013.

The History Museum at the Castle, 330 W. College Avenue, Appleton, Wisconsin.

Two months ago I toured “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion” at The History Museum at the Castle in downtown Appleton, a hip and historic city some 300 miles from my southeastern Minnesota home and today home to my daughter Miranda.

An overview of one exhibit room, a working crane in the front and a tank in the back, right.

Typically I would not get particularly excited about a show which features mechanical-oriented displays. But given da Vinci’s notoriety and my interest in art and in sharing discoveries with you, I embraced this working models exhibit of 40 da Vinci machines. Modern day scientists and artisans built the machines based on da Vinci’s codices.

This is an interactive exhibit.

Kids will thrill in “Machines in Motion” as much as adults.

An informational sign summarizes well the multiple talents da Vinci possessed:

Perhaps more than anyone before him—and perhaps anyone since—Leonardo was a great scientist, engineer, and artist all in one. He combined a scientist’s passion for exploring how things work and an artist’s ability to vividly illustrate his revelations. His machine designs were ingenious and visionary—often ahead of his time. They illustrate principles at the heart of machines today.

One of da Vinci’s more impressive flight designs, suspended from the ceiling of an auditorium at the History Museum.

In his study of air, water, earth and fire, this genius—and I don’t hesitate to term someone of da Vinci’s intellectual and artistic talent as thus—created ideas which evolved into workable solutions aiding mankind.

See for yourself via these selected photos from the exhibit or by traveling to Appleton to tour this vast, interactive display. Click here for more information about “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion.”

An illustration by the scientist/inventor, Leonardo da Vinci.

Machines created from da Vinci’s codices.

More inventions showcased.

Da Vinci’s version of a horse-drawn armored military tank.

The bird’s wings flap as it moves across the stage during theatrical performances.

A machine in motion.

Da Vinci the artist and da Vinci the scientist.

Da Vinci’s idea to traverse water.

One final exhibit overview.

Disclaimer: I received a $25 gift certificate from Downtown Appleton, Inc., prior to my visit and used that money toward museum admission for myself, daughter and husband. That did not influence my decision to post about the da Vinci exhibit.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling