Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On this May Day: Pigs, horses, bikes & baskets May 1, 2021

Two May Day baskets were dropped on my front steps in 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

HAPPY MAY DAY, dear readers!

Do you hold sweet childhood memories of May Day like me? I remember elementary school days of weaving baskets from strips of colored paper and crafting paper flowers to arrange inside. And then gifting the basket to Mom.

Four homemade chocolate chip cookies were tucked inside a May Day basket. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

And then, a few years back, hearing my doorbell ring on May 1 to find bags and baskets crafted by the children of friends. Homemade chocolate chip cookies and Puppy Chow were tucked inside. Candy centered flowers on another. Their thoughtfulness brought me such joy.

The sweet May Day surprise friends dropped onto my front steps in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

The gifts of May Day had come full circle. Perhaps today you can drop a May Day basket on a front stoop, ring the doorbell and run away before being spotted. Or walk if you can’t run.

An interior view of the swine barn, building #7, set for demolition today.

Or you can give the gift of time, if you live in my area. The Rice County Fair Board is seeking volunteers to dismantle the aged swine barn today. Just show up with your gloves and hammer (and other demo tools) at 9 a.m. at the Rice County Fairgrounds in Faribault. Many hands make light work. The building will eventually be replaced with a new barn.

Fans watch The Kentucky Derby at the Paradise Center for the Arts in 2015.

At the end of the day, you can kick back and enjoy The Kentucky Derby. Typically, the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault holds a watch party, Big Hats & Big Hearts. But, because of the pandemic, that won’t happen this year.

My friend Beth Ann gifted me with official Kentucky Derby from 1986 and 1991 some years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But in my mom’s southwestern Minnesota care center, they’ll host a Derby party for residents, including hats crafted especially for the ladies. I’m thrilled. My mom has always loved The Kentucky Derby. The big hats and finery. Watching the race. If this party sparks memories, brings happiness into her day, then I am grateful. It’s been a difficult past year-plus for our seniors, their families and those who care for them. They need this escape to Kentucky, to watch horses with names like Known Agenda, Midnight Bourbon, and Soup and Sandwich (what kind of name is that?) compete.

It’s motorcycle season in Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2020.

One more interesting event in the region rounds out the weekend, this one beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday in Owatonna. It’s the 25th annual Owatonna Bike Blessing at the Steele County Fairgrounds. Motorcycle riders and others will gather for music (by the Roadside Redemption Band), a guest speaker, food (available from 10 vendors) and blessings.

A May Day basket I received in 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

To you, my dear readers, whatever you do this weekend, may you be blessed. Happy May Day!

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Sisterhood in bloom on May Day May 1, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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


Celebrating May Day, Czech style May 3, 2019

Leaves unfurling in southern Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2018.


MAY IN MINNESOTA. Oh, how I love thy greening, they earthy scent, thy springing of new growth into the landscape.

These early days of May carry winds of warmth, clouds of rain and cause for celebration. In the small southern Minnesota Czech community of Montgomery, folks welcome spring on Saturday, May 4, with the annual Czech May Day Celebration.

It begins with the noon raising of a traditional Czech May Pole followed by a ribbon dance around that pole.


The New Prague Czech Singers. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


Music by the Czech Concertina Band adds to the festivities which continue until 5 p.m. at the corner of Vine and First Streets. Other activities include a car roll-in, wagon rides and face painting.

No celebration is complete without food and drink—in Montgomery authentic Czech beer and cuisine. Chicken paprikash with dumplings, pork, dumplings and sauerkraut and jitrnice (sausage) sandwiches. For the non-Czech foodies, a hot dog stand will be open.


Kolacky, a Czech pastry. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


A bake sale also offers the popular Czech kolacky, poppy seed buchta, zeiniky and bread. And, no, I don’t pretend to know what those are except for kolacky, which I’ve eaten.

So if you want to experience the Czech culture while simultaneously celebrating spring, head on over to Montgomery on Saturday.


Singin’ in the Grain promo photo from Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival website.


And then, on Sunday, learn even more about the Czech in this region of southern Minnesota by attending the screening of the newly-released documentary, Singin’ in the Grain—A Minnesota Czech Story, at 1:30 p.m. in the New Prague High School auditorium.


FYI: Czech May Day attendees are advised to bring their own chairs due to limited seating. And, in the case of inclement weather, listen to KCHK radio for updates.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Launching the Boomerang Bags movement in Faribault May 1, 2018


A May Day basket I received from a young family several years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


MAY DAY BRINGS thoughts of baskets hung on doorknobs or set on doorsteps. A gift to a friend, a family member, a neighbor. A little love on the first day of May.



Today in Faribault, the focus is not on baskets, but on bags. Cloth bags crafted from recycled materials to replace plastic bags. It’s part of the worldwide Boomerang Bags movement being launched locally at Buckham Memorial Library.



I read about this effort recently in the Faribault paper, then saw samples of the cloth bags at the library along with a notice about an informational meeting slated for 10:30 a.m. today in the library’s third floor Makerspace.



I like the concept of choosing cloth over plastic, of making these bags and then passing them along to people in the community. The boomerang effect.

All of this I considered while I checked out books and magazines at the library on Saturday, then waited while the front desk aide slipped my reading materials into a Southeastern Libraries Cooperating bag. Made of plastic.

TELL ME: What are your thoughts on the Boomerang Bags project? Have you heard of it? Do you already use cloth bags when shopping, etc.?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


May Day sweetness from cherished friends May 1, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 2:50 PM
Tags: , , , ,

An artsy edited image of my tulips.

An artsy edited image of my tulips.

TODAY, WHILE TWO LOVED ONES are viewing the tulip fields of Amsterdam, I am delighting in the tulips that brighten my Minnesota front yard.

And I am celebrating May Day with thankfulness for friends who continue to bring joy into my days with sweet surprises.

This morning my doorbell rang. Twice. I glimpsed legs and arms flying as young friends raced to vehicles driven by their mothers. I hurried to a side window, flashed a wave and a smile and mouthed a thank you.

The first May Day basket to arrive included four construction paper flowers with candy centers.

The first May Day basket to arrive included four construction paper flowers with candy centers.

Then I swung open the front door and retrieved May Day baskets from the front steps.

Four homemade chocolate chip cookies were tucked inside the second May Day basket.

Four homemade chocolate chip cookies were tucked inside the second May Day basket.

The kindness of these dear and thoughtful friends continues to touch my heart. These are busy young families—one with five children and another with two and fostering a third—who homeschool their children. It takes time and effort to create May Day baskets, then gather everyone into a vehicle and deliver those treats.

The two May Day baskets dropped on my front steps this morning. The one on the right reminds me of the baskets I wove as a child for my mother.

The two May Day baskets dropped on my front steps this morning. The one on the right reminds me of the baskets I wove as a child for my mother.

What a fine example these parents are setting, encouraging their children’s creativity and showing them the true joy in giving to others. Their sons and daughters are already growing into fine, compassionate and caring young people. It’s not easy raising kids in today’s world. Just last evening when I saw one of these mothers at a church function, she wished aloud that times were like those on the Andy Griffith show. Simpler. I understand. I’ve often wished that myself.

I’ve raised my children into adulthood. It wasn’t always easy and still isn’t at times. But I have that seasoned experience and ability to see that “this too shall pass.” I can offer the gift of encouragement to young families.

And what I’ve gotten in return are true and cherished friendships.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A sweet May Day tradition May 2, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:01 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

THE UNEXPECTED RAPID ring of the doorbell jolted me from my writing.

Who would summon me to the door shortly after 9 a.m.?

I should have known, should have been on alert.

But I’d forgotten all about May Day and the tradition of depositing a basket on a doorstep, pressing the doorbell and then dashing away unseen.


May Day bag gift tag


As in past years, dear friends have gifted me and my husband with a treat on May 1. Magic marker floral artwork. A plastic bag of puppy chow tucked inside a brown paper bag.

Yummy puppy chow bagged and placed inside a decorated brown paper bag.

Yummy puppy chow bagged and placed inside a decorated brown paper bag.


While I appreciate the treat of rice cereal squares blended with peanut butter and chocolate and coated with powdered sugar, I value even more the thoughtfulness and kindness of this family.

Our friends, Tammy and Jesse, are raising their four children to be kind, caring, compassionate and loving, just like them. What a blessing this God-loving family has been in my life.

Their May Day surprise brightened an otherwise gloomy morning of grey skies dripping rain.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Hello, God, this is May 1, not March 1 May 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 4:37 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

SOMETIMES I NEED a reminder.

And in this year of the Minnesota winter which never ends, I’ve needed multiple reminders.

May Day message

Wednesday morning, I received this note attached to a May Day treat bag deposited on my front steps:

This is the “May” that the Lord has made.


As I write, heavy snow is falling. Parts of Minnesota, including my area, are under a winter storm warming until 7 p.m. Thursday. The National Weather Service is predicting a “powerful winter storm” with snow accumulations of six to nine inches.

Happy first day of May!

But thanks to our friends, the Lerass family, this whole day has become brighter, more bearable, with that pointed message and a sweet homemade treat tucked inside an artfully decorated paper bag. To have such friends, reminding me that I should rejoice in whatever day I’ve been given, rates as a wonderful blessing.

Owl card

Added to that May Day delight, my husband and I received an early wedding anniversary card from our future son-in-law’s parents. Another reason to smile on this dreary day, this May 1 which the Lord has made.

Apparently God has a sense of humor.


A few days ago He blessed me with daffodils and sunshine, a redemption, I suppose, for the snowfall to come.

May Day candy

UPDATE 6:59 P.M.: Since publishing this post late this afternoon, my doorbell rang for the second time today. I opened it to find another May basket, this one from the Weeg family. My friends clearly know that I love chocolate and the color green. (Right, Billie Jo?) How blessed I am to have such thoughtful friends.

Weather-wise, snow continues to fall, as shown in these two photos just taken from my bedroom window. No taking the camera outside during snowfall.

Happy March May Day, everyone.

My backyard in the foreground with Willow Street and my neighborhood beyond.

My backyard in the foreground with Willow Street and my neighborhood beyond.

When I showed you my backyard a few days ago, it was snow-free. Not so this evening.

When I showed you my backyard a few days ago, it was snow-free. Not so this evening.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A sweet May Day surprise from dear friends May 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:13 PM
Tags: , , , ,

TODAY IS MAY DAY, dear readers. Did you remember?

I had forgotten, until I opened the front screen door this afternoon and spotted a bag on my front steps. This bag:

The sweet May Day surprise friends dropped onto my front steps sometime today.

I knew, even before reading the tag, that this May Day bag (basket) came from my friends Tammy and Jesse and their children, Noah, Hannah, Jack and Amelia.

They are thoughtful like that—so giving and caring and simply the kind of family that you love because they are good and kind and wonderful and genuine.

I read the note wishing my family a blessed spring, untied the blue ribbon and found, inside, a plastic bag brimming with puppy chow. It is not dog food. I do not have a dog. Rather, this version is for humans and is made from crispy rice cereal squares, chocolate chips, peanut butter and powdered sugar. Yummy and addicting and my friends know just how much I enjoy this treat. I will stash away the puppy chow now or it will be gone before the husband and son taste even a morsel.

Love, love, love puppy chow...

CLICK HERE to find a recipe for puppy chow. Thank you, Tammy, Jesse, Noah, Hannah, Jack and Amelia, for brightening my first day of May with your unexpected gift.

Readers, there’s still time today to surprise someone you care about with an unexpected May Day basket/bag on their front steps.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Forbidden fruit and May Day surprises May 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:31 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I SUPPOSE IMPRESSING me is not all that difficult. After all, I don’t live a lavish lifestyle, don’t own a fancy house, could care less about the latest fashions, etc.

So when I saw this fruit centerpiece on the island in my brother and sister-in-law’s Woodbury kitchen Sunday afternoon, I ooooohed and aaaaaaahed and carried on like Van Gogh himself had created this piece of art.

As diners loaded their plates with chips and salsa, veggies and dip, then tacos and all the fixings, followed by Special K bars, chocolate chip cookies, angel food cake smothered with whip cream and topped with fresh strawberries, and mints handmade by my mom and aunts, we didn’t eat of the forbidden fruit.

The fruit wasn’t truly forbidden. It just seemed that way.

You know what I mean. Just like no one wants to be the first in line at a buffet or wants to sit in the front church pew, no one apparently wanted to be the first to pluck fruit from the lovely, ever so lovely creation of an employee in the deli department of a local, fancy grocery store.

It seemed a shame to destroy such art, but eventually some brave guest reached out and did it, grabbed a piece of fruit or two and the sinful deed was done.

MORE THAN A FRUIT centerpiece impressed me on Sunday. So did this bit of weather news from North Dakota, e-mailed by my soon-to-be-leaving-Minot-and-moving-to-Missouri sister-in-law:

“We have suffered through yet another NoDak blizzard, which began early Saturday and ended early Sunday. There were 2 and 3 foot drifts in our driveway and many of the streets as we drove to church this morning,”

That sort of puts the whole gloomy, few-snowflakes-falling-in-southern- Minnesota-on-Sunday into an appreciative perspective.

FINALLY, TO END my Sunday, I was also impressed by an unexpected act of kindness bestowed upon my family by friends.

When we arrived home from a day of celebrating (Confirmation, not May Day) with family early Sunday evening, we found a decorated brown paper bag sitting outside by the garage. It was a May Day “basket” filled with puppy chow, which is not food for dogs, but food for humans. It’s crispy cereal squares covered with melted chocolate and peanut butter and then coated with powdered sugar. Yummy.

As much as I savored every single bite of puppy chow, I appreciated more the sweetness of Hannah and Noah, who, probably with the help of mom Tammy and the assistance of chauffeur Dad Jesse, pulled together this sweet May Day surprise for my family.

This little surprise brought back fond memories of weaving May Day baskets from lilac lavender and sunny yellow construction paper, cutting out paper tulips and giving the basket to my mom on May 1 so many elementary school years ago.

To think that friends would think to think of my family, to take the time to prepare a treat, decorate the bag and leave this thoughtful surprise touches me, deeply. It’s reassuring and uplifting to the human spirit to be the recipient of such unexpected kindness.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling