Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Honoring the earth, past & present on Earth Day April 22, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Monarch attracting milkweed grows next to a soybean field in southwestern Minnesota. Planting milkweed is one way to help the earth. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2015)

TODAY, APRIL 22, marks Earth Day, a day to focus on our planet, the environment and ways we, individually and globally, can protect both.

This day gives me pause to reflect on an event which began in 1970, when I was nearing young adulthood. I remember the anti-litter campaigns, the energy shortage and even Earth Shoes. Fifty-two years later, the focus has shifted to clean energy, Zero Waste and climate change.

But, taking it down to a personal level, what am I doing to honor the spirit and intent of Earth Day on a daily basis? Some examples follow. What are you doing?

WHEN I WORE FEED SACKS

One of my all-time favorite images of laundry drying outside was taken on the back side of a building along Third Street N.E. in downtown Faribault, just across the alley from the post office. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2015)

I recognize that some of what I do is rooted in my past, where reuse was popular long before it became hip. For example, as a child I wore clothing stitched from feed sacks. Not all clothes, of course, but enough that I remember. Clothing was handed down the line from oldest to youngest siblings and sometimes among cousins. Whenever I got new clothes in my youth, they were either from the sales rack or sewn by my godmother or, later as a teen, by me. When I had children, most of their clothing came from garage sales. To this day, I dislike clothes shopping and gravitate to the discount rack. And, yes, I still occasionally buy second-hand. My approach to apparel is, I figure, earth-friendly.

Likewise when it comes to laundry, I either line dry outdoors or on a rack inside. To me hanging laundry isn’t a chore. I love the methodical rhythm of clipping laundry to the line early in the morning, then pulling it off when the sun has dried the clothes, towels, sheets… In the process, I’ve saved energy by not using my electric dryer.

SAVE THE BOWS, PLEASE, & THE CARDS

Examples of Christmas cards that were recycled into gift tags. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2012)

I also save and reuse gift bags, tissue paper and ribbons/bows. Through the years, I’ve taken a lot of ribbing for that practice. But, frankly, I don’t care. Tossing those items seems wasteful to me. And I am simply following the example set by my mother who, Christmas to Christmas, saved and reused tissue, ribbons, bows and carefully-folded wrapping paper. (We didn’t get birthday gifts.) I don’t reuse paper. Mom’s reasons for reuse were not necessarily rooted in the environment, but rather in finances. Wrapping paper and all the embellishments cost money. She also saved Christmas cards, repurposing them as gift tags, something I also do.

BREAD BAGS & PEACH PAPER

An outhouse repurposed as a storage shed on my middle brother and sister-in-law’s rural acreage near Lamberton. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2015)

I also follow Mom’s example of washing and reusing plastic food storage bags. I don’t save bread bags, though. While growing up, I slid bread bags over my feet before slipping into boots. The bags kept my feet dry and warm, especially if my rubber boots leaked.

Thankfully I don’t need to repurpose the tissue from individually-wrapped crated peaches as toilet paper in the outhouse. Yes, I grew up using an outhouse in the warm weather months and a pot on the porch in the winter because our old farmhouse didn’t have a bathroom. I am quite appreciative of the small solo bathroom in my current house.

OLD IS JUST FINE WITH ME

A display at Reborn Home Furnishings, which recycles/upcycles/repurposes furniture. I discovered this shop during a visit to Luverne in southwestern Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2014)

The one other area in which I’ve really focused on reuse is furniture. I just counted all the furniture pieces in the six rooms on our main level. Of the 20 pieces, we’ve purchased only five new—the sofa, recliner, entertainment center and my office desk and chair. The dining room table and chairs came from two auctions 40 years ago. Other furniture either came from garage sales or from family. Even our bedroom ensemble—hideous 1950s blonde—is used. Not the mattress or boxspring. In the two second floor bedrooms, all of the furniture is second-hand.

RECYCLED ART, OH, HOW I LOVE THEE

Donated art fills a gallery at the Paradise Center for the Arts. The center hosts an annual Recycled Art Sale. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2014)

And then there’s art. I love art and own a stash of it thanks to thrift stores, garage sales, the local recycled art sale and my mom. My “newest” pieces are “Jesus, the Good Shepherd” and “Jesus Knocks,” wedding gifts to my parents in 1954. Budget-friendly sources of art have allowed me to curate pieces I love in an earth-friendly way.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. How do you honor the spirit and intent of Earth Day in your daily life? Let’s learn from one another about ways we can reuse, repurpose, recyle, upcycle, reduce waste…

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Going green in Luverne at ReBorn October 3, 2014

That's ReBorn, in the right corner of the city-owned theatre building at 102 E. Main Street.

That’s ReBorn, photographed in July 2013, in the right corner of the city-owned theatre building at 102 E. Main Street. ReBorn has since relocated to 113 E. Main Street.

TO THINK I ALMOST did not pop into ReBorn Home Furnishings in downtown Luverne because my husband mumbled something about “furniture store.”

But I should have known, given the name “ReBorn,” that this would be an extraordinary place.

Oh, my gosh, readers, to think that I could have missed this homegrown business which restores, recycles, reuses, refinishes, reincarnates, rebuilds and revives home furnishings.

On a July 2013 visit to Luverne in the southwestern corner of Minnesota, after gaping at the fantastic old Palace Theatre entry right next to ReBorn and after photographing other buildings along E. Main Street, I opted to check out the business that didn’t interest my spouse. Note that ReBorn, since my visit, has moved to a new location at 113 E. Main Street.

table

Sorry, readers, the table and chairs are sold as is the hand-painted blue grey Armoire.

Honestly, Randy’s male opinion aside, I loved this place. Loved it. It’s artsy and hip and purposeful and just one incredible source for one-of-a-kind recycled home furnishings.

The red dresser/buffet is priced at $295.

The red dresser/buffet was priced at $295.

I am all about reusing what we have. ReBorn transforms old furniture and furnishings in to incredible functional pieces that pop with color and personality. You won’t find anything cookie cutter here. The business even does custom work.

That magical Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

ReBorn sells furniture transforming Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

The secret to ReBorn’s look, so says Becky Feikema who was tending shop on the Saturday I stopped, is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, a decorative paint that goes over most any surface without prep (such as sanding or priming) and leaves a velvety matte finish. ReBorn also protects the painted project with subtle sheen Annie Sloan Soft Wax.

I was a bit surprised that Becky, who has a degree in agriculture and not in interior design, shared so much, including two hand-outs on Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. But I suppose if you’re selling that paint, as ReBorn does, you push it.

This yellow table can be yours for $160. The chairs are $65/each.

This yellow table could be yours for $160. The chairs were $65/each.

I saw so many pieces of furniture and other merchandise in ReBorn that I loved. There’s that word again. Loved. I suspect, for that reason, Randy tried to steer me away from this incredible store. He knows me well. I resisted, I really did, and walked away (because I didn’t need anything) without a single purchase. Not that I wasn’t tempted…

The butterfly on the signage symbolizes the rebirth aspect of transforming old home furnishings in to something new and unique.

The butterfly symbolizes the rebirth aspect of transforming old home furnishings in to something new and unique.

FYI: Click here to reach the ReBorn Home Furnishings website to see before and after transformations, pieces available for purchase and more. This is one talented crew running this business.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Lots of merchandise to choose from in this corner display.

Lots of merchandise to choose from in this corner display. The hutch on the left was priced at $475.  The black chest of drawers and vintage fainting couch were sold.

The yellow shelving unit can be yours for $88.

The yellow shelving unit could be yours for $88.

This bench, repurposed from a bed, sells for $215.

This bench, repurposed from a bed, sells for $215.

The vanity/desk is marked at $135.

The vanity/desk, marked at $135.

FYI: ReBorn is open from noon to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Saturdays. A Chalk Paint Class is set for this Saturday, October 4, and again on October 9. Click here for details.

Note that all of these photos were taken in July 2013 and therefore may not reflect current stock.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

What art reveals June 15, 2013

An oil painting by P. Willis, purchased Thursday at the Recycled Art Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, downtown Faribault. The sale continues until 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15. The painting now hangs in my living room.

An oil painting by P. Willis, purchased for $15 on Thursday at the Recycled Art Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, downtown Faribault. The sale continues until 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15. The painting now hangs in my living room.

AFTER PURCHASING two original paintings at the Recycled Art Sale at the Paradise Center for the Arts in Faribault this week, I started thinking about the art I choose for my home.

Nearly every single piece I’ve purchased second-hand from thrift stores, garage and yard sales, or that annual Recycled Art Sale. I’ve also been gifted with several works of original art.

Why do I buy what I buy?

You tell me. View examples below of art currently displayed in my home and share what you think the pieces reveal about me and/or why I selected them.

Go.

Displayed on a shelf in my dining room, this watering can was purchased at a craft store many years ago. I bought the Minnesota beverage tray at the Rice County Gas & Steam Engines Flea Market on Memorial Day weekend. I like repurposing like this tray as art.

Displayed on a shelf in my dining room, this watering can was purchased at a craft store many years ago. I bought the Minnesota beverage tray at the Rice County Gas & Steam Engines Flea Market on Memorial Day weekend. I often repurpose items like these as art.

I have yet to find a spot for this gladioli oil painting which I bought for $10 at the Recycled Art Sale.

I have yet to find a spot for this gladioli oil painting which I bought for $10 at the Recycled Art Sale.

I removed the folding legs from this TV tray, attached a ribbon and hung it in my dining room. I have several more of these same trays, purchased at a yard sale.

I removed the folding legs from this TV tray, attached a ribbon and hung it in my dining room. I have several more of these same trays, purchased at a yard sale.

Here's the setting where the fruit tray hangs, next to a vintage family dresser which my husband refinished many years ago. The items on the dresser, with the exception of the candle holder, were purchased at the Faribault Salvation Army (teapot) and at a flea market (wooden box).

Here’s the setting where the fruit tray hangs, next to a vintage family dresser which my husband refinished many years ago. The items on the dresser, with the exception of the candle holder, were purchased at the Faribault Salvation Army (creamer) and at a flea market (wooden box). The embroidered runner came from a garage sale. This is in a corner of my dining room.

Another TV tray, repurposed as art, sits atop the entertainment center in my living room along with dried hydrangea from a bush outside my front door.

Another TV tray, purchased at a garage sale and repurposed as art, sits atop the entertainment center in my living room along with dried hydrangea from bushes outside my front door.

Inside one of the cubbies in the entertainment center, I arranged these books, purchased at an annual used book sale and Faribault, and this alarm clock, bought at the Faribault Salvation Army.

Inside one of the cubbies in the entertainment center, I arranged these books, purchased at an annual used book sale in Faribault, and this alarm clock, bought at the Faribault Salvation Army for a few bucks.

One of my all-time favorite finds is this oblong mirror (only a portion shown here because mirrors are challenging to photograph without getting yourself in the pic)

One of my all-time favorite finds is this oblong mirror (only a portion shown here because mirrors are challenging to photograph without getting yourself in the pic) bought for 50 cents at a garage sale years ago. It hangs in a hallway, reflecting light.

In the guest bedroom, I created this floral scene atop a dresser. The floral print came from a garage sale, bought for under $1. I seldom spend much on any art I buy. The hydrangea are from my frontyard bush and the vase from flowers I once received.

In the guest bedroom, I created this floral scene atop a dresser. The floral print was purchased for less than $1 at a garage sale. I seldom spend much on any art I buy. The hydrangea are from my frontyard bush and the vase from flowers I once received.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The art of reclaiming and repurposing in a Northfield shop April 20, 2013

Makeshift accessories

THE CLEVER CREATIVE sidewalk sign crafted from license plates catches my eye and draws me into a cozy shop in downtown Northfield.

Inside I finger rings formed from spoons, try to slide on bracelets shaped from old license plates and other materials, admire oversized blooms folded from pages.

But I don’t take a single photo to show you, save that outdoor sign.

I Should have asked to photograph the art. I didn’t.

So you will have to imagine a one-of-a-kind home-grown shop featuring handmade merchandise repurposed from reclaimed items.

MakeShift Accessories, owned by artist-enterpreuner Devin Johnson, hometown boy come back home to Northfield, is my kind of store with its authentic artsy vibe.

FYI: To learn more about MakeShift Accessories, 418 Division Street, click here to reach the business website. Or, if you’re at Junk Bonanza today at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, scout out Johnson’s booth.

His work is also sold in Minneapolis at “I like You,” Gallery 360 and Mill City Museum; in New Prague at Cranky Alice; and in other locations.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Why I recycle holiday trimmings and cards December 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:31 AM
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ONCE THE GIFTS are opened—after we’ve played the steal-the-presents game—gift wrap and trimmings are scooped up in a furious rush to rid the room of rubbish.

And if I’m not quick enough, I miss the opportunity to salvage ribbons and bows, tissue paper and gift bags.

I cannot bear to see these items trashed. My extended family knows this about me and they laugh as I hurry to gather in the goods at our annual holiday get together.

I used festive holiday trim and a card from Christmases past to decorate this gift.

I used festive holiday trim and a card from Christmases past to decorate this gift.

But I was raised right, by a Depression era mother who saved everything. As the eldest daughter in a family of six children, I assumed some of her saver traits, including the recycling of holiday trimmings.

I do not, however, rescue wrapping paper as Mom did so many years ago while a farm wife guarding every penny. She would fold each piece of gift wrap with great care, attempting to remove strips of Scotch tape without ripping the paper. And then she would pack the pretty paper away with the previously used bows to reuse the following Christmas.

Examples of Christmas cards in my stash that could be recycled into gift tags.

Examples of Christmas cards in my stash that could be recycled into gift tags.

Like my mom, I also learned to recycle holiday greeting cards into gift tags. Why not? With a few snips of the scissors, I have a lovely tag to adorn a present.

I like to think, as I’m clipping cards and gathering the pretties ripped from presents, that I am honoring my mother, honoring an entire generation of Americans who saved and scrimped and got by as best they could with what they had.

We could all learn from them.

Long before recycling and going green became trendy buzz words, they already understood the importance of reusing/repurposing.

A recycled ribbon and card grace this package.

A recycled ribbon and card grace this package.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Do you recycle anything from the holidays?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling