Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The season of autumn in images & words October 23, 2018

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AS LEAVES SPIRAL IN BURSTS of wind to the ground, the season of autumn nears the exit here in Minnesota.

 

 

We are all cognizant of that impending departure. The farmers as they hurry to harvest crops. The squirrels as they gather and hide walnuts. And those of us who still have yards to prepare for winter.

 

 

I feel that pressure. To get the leaves raked,

 

 

the flowerbeds cleaned, flowerpots emptied,

 

 

the tabletop fountain hefted above garage rafters.

 

 

I wish for more days of cobalt skies, sunshine blazing warmth onto my back as I rake leaves, stuff them into trash cans.

 

 

 

 

I wish until I realize that by wishing, I am missing the season. So I grab my camera and turn it toward the maple leaves on the solo tree in our backyard, toward the woods edging our property, even to the neighbor’s bare branched trees.

 

 

Of course, I wish I could slow time, grab back summer days, hold onto each leaf stem yanked by the wind. But I can’t.

 

 

Every season brings its joys, its sorrow, its light, its darkness. That is a given. I can yearn for another season. Or I can choose to embrace the season in which I am living.

THOUGHTS?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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When the snow falls too early in southern Minnesota October 14, 2018

Snow whitens the landscape at 7:30 a.m. Sunday at the intersection of Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street and Second Avenue in Faribault.

 

THERE’S A CERTAIN DISBELIEF, even among life-long Minnesotans, when you awaken on a mid-October morning to snow. Snow layering the grass. Snow layering leaves still clinging to trees. Snow still falling.

 

Heavy snow fell late Sunday morning as we drove along Minnesota State Highway 60 west out of Faribault. That’s the Interstate 35 overpass in this photo.

 

That was our Sunday morning here in southeastern Minnesota. I knew snow was in the forecast, but for parts farther south, like the next county south and to the Iowa border along Interstate 90. Not here. Not in Faribault.

 

Snow accumulates on my backyard maple tree.

 

But when I awakened around 6:30 a.m. Sunday, snow was falling and continued into early afternoon. And while I wasn’t exactly happy about a snowfall this early, I admit to retaining a certain excitement about that first snow of the winter. Except it’s not officially winter yet. Or is it?

 

The flowerpots I emptied on Saturday with snow falling and accumulating around them on Sunday.

 

Just yesterday Randy and I were looking for elusive fall colors, driving along back country roads in Rice County, no thought of snow on our minds. Afterward, we did yard work, emptied flowerpots of frozen flowers. No thought of snow on our minds.

 

 

Then today…we’re heading to and from the Fall Harvest Dinner at Trinity Lutheran Church, North Morristown, in a snow globe world.

 

My favorite shot of the day is this rural scene near North Morristown.

 

 

 

 

I needed that drive into the country to view this early snowfall from an artistic perspective and not a gosh darn, it’s way too early for snow mentality. I needed this drive to see a landscape lightened by white, not dimmed by grey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I needed the visual reminder that, even in snow, beauty exists. Snow smudges softness into the landscape. I saw that painterly quality in fields and on barn roofs. In treelines. On a single leaf. And that was all it took for me to appreciate this first snowfall of the season here in Rice County in southeastern Minnesota.

 

 

Remind me of that appreciative attitude come January, February, March and April.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On the backroads between Faribault and New Prague October 10, 2018

 

A MONTH AGO, before the grey of this too rainy autumn settled upon the southern Minnesota landscape, Randy and I followed the backroads from Faribault to New Prague en route to a brewery. We enjoy craft beers and wanted to check out Giesenbrau Bier Company, billed as a German style bier hall and garten.

I am directionally-challenged when roads are not prairie grid perfect. Randy knows this about me. It’s also a source of frustration when I am unable to read a map. Yes, we still rely on paper maps and atlases. But “just drive” seems more Randy’s philosophy. He’s always confident of eventually reaching our destination.

In no particular hurry to get there on this Sunday afternoon, we took some paved, some gravel, roads, occasionally stopping to observe and, for me, to take photos. At the time I jotted down locations, but have since misplaced my notes. We were somewhere northwest of Faribault, well off the interstate. I prefer this type of travel which allows for a close-up look at life.

 

 

 

 

From a town hall to a grasshopper,

 

 

 

 

 

from a lake to the detail of bordering cattails,

 

 

 

 

from a cornfield to a weathered corn crib to the cobs inside, I notice the overall picture and then the details.

 

 

Along the way we often come across small delights. Scenes that remind us of our rural roots. Scenes that remind us that life does not always need to speed, that afternoons like this are meant to be savored.

 

 

At one point, Randy parked the van along a gravel road so we could watch a couple baling hay. Not with a massive tractor and baler, but with a small tractor and an old-fashioned baler spitting out rectangular bales. Just like we remember from the farm. When the tractor reached the end of the field, the lean farmer leapt off the trailer and headed toward us.

 

 

“You looking for work?” he joked. We told him we’d pass, that we were former farm kids who understood the hard work of baling hay.

 

 

 

 

We continued on toward New Prague then, winding our way to the bier hall, then to a nearby park for a short walk before taking backroads home,

 

 

 

 

past another farmer baling hay and an aged barn with a new metal roof and a sturdy rock foundation.

 

 

I noted then that we should drive these roads again when autumn hues colored the hilly landscape somewhere between New Prague and Faribault. That would be now.

TELL ME: Do you drive backroads? If yes, where and what have you seen?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Autumn on a rural Minnesota acreage, a photo essay October 4, 2018

A restored windmill towers above a refurbished mini barn (soon to be art studio) on my brother and sister-in-law’s rural Redwood County acreage.

 

OF SIX FARM-RAISED SIBLINGS, only two live in the country. Neither farmers. But two work in the ag industry, one as the CEO of an ethanol company, the other as part owner in an implement dealership.

 

 

My middle brother remains in our home county of Redwood and welcomes us back for extended family gatherings, most recently our annual autumn tradition of making horseradish—157 jars this year. The tradition honors our deceased farmer father. He dug and processed horseradish roots for many years. Now we do the same but with easier methods than using an old meat grinder powered by a drill. Like Dad, we give away the condiment.

 

Sunflowers ripen and dry under the prairie sky.

 

Our annual gathering in rural Lamberton isn’t about the horseradish as much as it is about family.

 

I’ve always delighted in milkweed pods bursting with seeds.

 

 

 

While I enjoy our time together, I usually slip away to meander, to take in the rural setting, to photograph. I need that peacefulness amid all the chattering and joking and loudness of a group with some strong personalities.

 

How lovely the broom corn rising and swaying in the prairie wind.

 

My artsy sister-in-law creates vignettes like this that change with the seasons.

 

A sunflower, heavy with seed, bows to the earth.

 

I need quiet. And I need to take in the shifting of the seasons, the artful autumn displays, the aged buildings, all the visual reminders of a rural life I still miss decades removed from the country.

 

A gazing ball in a flower garden reflects sky, land and dried black-eyed susan seed heads.

 

I am grateful for the opportunity to escape to this acreage, to reclaim the serenity of rural Minnesota.

 

An old shed recently moved onto the acreage, to be rebuilt or salvaged for the wood.

 

I realize nostalgia tinges my view of country life. Much has changed since I left the farm nearly 45 years ago. But not the love I hold for the land, for the quiet and grace and muted tones of harvest time.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The season of harvest in southwestern Minnesota October 2, 2018

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THE FARMER IN THE HOODED sweatshirt and jeans motions from atop the combine to the trucker across the field. He’s ready to unload just picked corn into the grain truck late on a Sunday morning near Sleepy Eye.

 

 

Scenes like this repeat throughout southern Minnesota as the fall harvest is underway. I embrace this season as much for the memories as for the sights, sounds and smells.

 

 

 

 

The farm-raised girl in me emerges, vicariously experiencing the harvest through a camera lens.

 

 

 

 

I feel this intense desire to return to the land every autumn. And last weekend an annual horseradish making party with extended family took me back to my home county of Redwood. Along the route there and back, I documented the harvest. It is the closest I come now to being part of the process of bringing in the corn and soybeans.

 

 

 

 

I miss the closeness to the earth that comes with growing up on a farm. Sure things have changed a lot in the nearly 45 years since I left rural Redwood County. But the imprint of harvest remains, still strong. You can take the girl from the land. But you can’t take the land from the girl.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Exploring Red Wing Part III: Down by the river August 28, 2018

RED WING IS ABOUT POTTERY and shoes and history. But it’s also about the river. The Mighty Mississippi.

 

A view of Red Wing from the Bay Point Park area shows Barn Bluff and the bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A view of Red Wing from the Bay Point Park area shows Barn Bluff and the bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.

 

A brief visit to this southeastern Minnesota river town in the fall of 2014 led me to the water, to Bay Point Park, a lovely riverside respite. Here, on an afternoon when the autumn wind blew brisk with cold, I photographed boats, bluff, bridge, bins and boat houses.

 

Recreation (boats) and commerce (grain elevator and bins) mingle here.

Recreation (boats) and commerce (grain elevator and bins) mingle along the Mississippi.

 

Red Wing is one of those naturally beautiful communities where the muse of the river lures you in. Water does that. Here, standing in the park, I could see the commerce, the recreation, the history, the appeal and importance the Mississippi River holds in Red Wing.

 

Another view from the Bay Point Park area.

Another view from the Bay Point Park area.

 

And I considered then what power this waterway possesses, flowing 2,350 miles from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, through towns like Red Wing, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

 

BONUS PHOTOS:

 

The historic Boat House Village draws lots of interest.

The historic Boat House Village draws lots of interest.

 

sculpture

This sculpture of a young Charles Lindbergh, famous aviator born in Little Falls, MN., stands in Bay Point Park.

 

Lots and lots of boats.

Lots and lots of boats. The city of Red Wing operates the Ole Miss Marina, in two locations in the city.

 

Trains run along the river by the grain elevators.

Trains run along the river by the grain elevators.

 

The side tourists don't always see, or photograph.

The side tourists don’t always see, or photograph.

 

The iconic Red Wing logo graces a grain elevator.

The iconic Red Wing logo graces a grain elevator.

 

FYI: Click here and here to read my previous posts on Red Wing.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

How I learned to appreciate car shows, Part I May 31, 2018

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A TIME EXISTED WHEN I WANTED nothing to do with a car show. “Go and look at old cars?” I scoffed. “Nope, not interested.”

 

 

 

 

But then I accompanied Randy to a show once and discovered that these were more than just old cars lined up for display. These vehicles represent love, devotion, passion, pride, art, memories, stories. And, yes, a form of transportation, although really that seems secondary.

 

 

What changed my mind about car shows like the recent Drag-On’s Car Club Show in Faribault? Photography. My view of an event is often shaped through the lens of my Canon DSLR. Through photography, I notice details and strive to tell a story with my images.

 

 

I am often drawn to the unusual. A plastic Jesus on the dashboard.

 

 

A plastic rat atop a rat rod.

 

 

Elvis crooning in a car.

 

 

A shiny bumper,

 

 

a unique color,

 

 

an emblem or hood ornament,

 

 

tail fins,

 

even rust draws my interest.

 

 

 

Art more than automotive focuses my attention.

 

 

 

 

I love, also, to people-watch. While I couldn’t sit for hours in a lawn chair next to a car at a car show, many do. Entire families embrace these events.

 

 

I observe genuine enthusiasm for motors, the rev of an engine, the careful restoration of a vintage vehicle.

 

 

Trophies aplenty are handed out at these shows. How do you even begin to judge the hundreds of vehicles? It seems a subjective process to me. I’d look at the artsy side with no interest in what’s under the hood. Randy, an automotive machinist who has worked on plenty of vintage vehicles, would, however, peer at engines and restoration details.

 

 

 

 

Despite our differing perspectives, Randy and I each enjoy car shows. Who would have thought I’d come full circle on this? Not me.

 

Please check back for more photos from the Faribo Drag-On’s annual show.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling