Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Feeling blue about the iconic Sugardale barn along Interstate 35 July 14, 2015

The front section of the barn was being painted as we drove along Interstate 35 Monday morning.

The front section of the barn was being painted as we drove along Interstate 35 Monday morning. In the center section, you can see a faint oval shape wherein Sugardale was painted.

“THEY’RE PAINTING THE BARN BLUE!” I gasped as I swung my camera lens toward the front passenger side window. So surprised was I by the in-process flashy hue application to the Sugardale barn along Interstate 35 north of the Northfield exit that I could barely compose a photo.

You can see how the barn looked before it was painted blue.

On the left side of the barn, you can see the as yet unpainted section. The barn needed paint. But blue?

“It’s NAPA blue,” I hissed to my driver husband, who works as an automotive machinist at the NAPA store in Northfield. He knows how much I dislike the shade of blue that represents this automotive business.

I continued to rant. “Why would anyone paint a barn blue? And they’re covering up that sugar sign.”

All of this I spewed as I shot several quick frames while our car traveled at 70 mph along the interstate.

How the barn looked when I photographed it in February.

How the barn looked when I photographed it in February. (This was before I had a telephoto lens.) Click on the image to enlarge.

I don’t understand why blue, rather than red, was selected for this landmark barn. Before the blue, you could see the fading advertisement for Ohio-based Sugardale Foods, “a leading provider of quality meats and premium foods.” The lettering has been there for years and has made this barn iconic to I-35 travelers in southern Minnesota.

Now the Sugardale sign has been obliterated by that, that, blue. Why?

In February 2011, I published a winter image of the barn. That fall, reader Sara G. commented on the post:

This is my grandparents’ barn. Grandpa, a retired NW Orient pilot, purchased the land in about 65, moved out there in about 74. The barn is post and beam and was built by a guy who would walk around the land and point to trees to chop down for the various posts and beams. Most still have remnants of bark on them. It is an amazing structure. We played in there every chance we got as kids.

Sadly, it will most likely hit the market in the next few years. I cannot imagine driving down 35w and having someone else live there. Or Christmas anywhere else for that matter. Thanks for the pics. You need to go back and shoot it now before the corn comes down while the color is so strong.

I expect Sara’s grandparents no longer own this property. I understand that the current owner can choose any color he/she wishes for the barn. But a vivid blue? And why destroy the memorable Sugardale signage? I feel just plain blue about this piece of rural barn history vanishing under a coat of blue paint.

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UPDATE 1:30 PM: Bob Collins, who pens an online column, NewsCut, at Minnesota Public Radio, followed up on my post after a reader (Faith, Farming & Cowboy Boots) tipped me off that the blue barn might be a project of the Midwestern restaurant chain, Culver’s. Bob contacted Culvers and learned that the I-35 Sugardale barn is, indeed, part of the company’s campaign to thank farmers and financially assist young people going into agriculture. You can read Bob’s post at this link:  http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2015/07/a-barn-turns-blue/

Also, be sure to scroll through the comments section on my post to read an explanation from Paul Pitas, Director of Public Relations and Communications for Culver’s.

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© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Rural driveway May 8, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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I KEEP FLIPPING between the three photos.

Pick-up, unedited

Original.

Pick-up between Sleepy Eye and Morgan

Edited.

Pick-up between Sleepy Eye and Morgan 2

Or edited.

But I can’t choose a favorite.

I like them all.

I like the lines of the field and drive, how my eyes are drawn to follow that pick-up into the farmyard.

I like the muted tones of grey and blue and those splashes of red in truck and outbuildings.

I like the ribbons of greening grass trimming the driveway, the bare trees edging the farm site.

This rural scene, along Brown County Road 29 southeast of Morgan, pleases me for the memories it holds. Not of this farm, but of my childhood on the farm. My heart is happy every time I travel back to southwestern Minnesota, past the fields and farms, gravel roads and grain elevators…through small towns…

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Discovering the beauty of winter in Minnesota December 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:41 AM
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WHEN I LOOKED through the patio doors of my middle brother’s rural Redwood County home on Christmas morning, I saw this picture-perfect postcard scene.

 

A farm place near Lamberton on Christmas Day morning.

The quaint farm place sits along Redwood County Road 6 near Lamberton, just north of the county park I call the “gypsy park” because my paternal grandma told me gypsies once camped there.

From the park, the farm site lies only a short distance from an electrical substation which, during my growing up years, my siblings and I dubbed “the chicken pox factory.” It was a name we gave to all such substations, I suspect around the time chicken pox plagued the area. Ironically, the brother who now lives near the chicken pox factory never had the disease.

But I am getting sidetracked here. I wanted to share this photo with you for several reasons. First, this winter in Minnesota is quickly becoming long and wearisome with all of the snow we’ve gotten recently.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to search for the positive (which I have not been too good at lately) in winter. For me, that means viewing the landscape as a photo opportunity. Photography forces you to really see, not simply look at, the details in your environment.

While composing this image, I noticed the contrast of the red buildings against the pristine white snow, the defined fencelines, the old farmhouse that surely has many stories to tell, the slight rise of the land, the shelter belt of trees protecting the farm from the fierce prairie winds. With a gentle snow falling, the scene possessed a dreamy, peaceful, surreal quality.

So, yes, when you make a conscious effort, you truly will find beauty in this winter of overwhelming snow.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling