Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter in Minnesota: Of snow, flannel, chili, soup & more November 18, 2022

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We use an assortment of shovels for snow removal, to scrape, scoop and push snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

ALTHOUGH THE CALENDAR is about a month out from the official start of winter, we in Minnesota are already in the throes of the season. Cold and snow define winter here and we have both already. Too early, I say.

The snow boots I wear are warm, practical and fashionable. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2020)

Three consecutive days this week found me shoveling snow from the sidewalk and driveway. I allowed Randy the honor of shoveling the first snowfall of the winter. But I figured I best do my part, so I laced on my warm winter boots and headed outdoors on the second day of shovellable snow.

Isaac, waiting to head outdoors to shovel snow at my house in January 2021. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

Thirty-five minutes to the north, my nearly 4-year-old grandson bundled into his snowpants, winter coat, mittens, hat and boots to clear snow from the driveway with his small plastic shovel. As only a child can feel, Isaac was, his mom said, “Loving the snow!” With an exclamation point. I encouraged him to head south and shovel Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway. He never showed.

And so I am accepting that winter is upon us. That means replacing the cotton bed sheets with warm flannel sheets, layering up (inside and out), wearing lots of flannel, cozying under a fleece throw with a good book in the evening, delaying rolling out of bed in the morning because the house is still too cold. The thermostat is programmed to drop to 62 degrees at night, up to 67 during the day, and then bump a notch to 68 in the evening.

Photographed on the door of a Northfield business in April 2022. Shoppers are encouraged to stomp the snow from their boots and shoes. And, yes, we get snow well into April here in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

Staying updated on the weather has become even more important, mostly to determine how bad the roads will be (and when to shovel). Have plows been out sanding and salting? How’s the visibility? Watch those bridge decks and ramps for slippery spots. Slow down. Take it easy. Spin-outs and crashes were a regular part of this week’s vocabulary.

Inside my house, a few changes are happening, too, as I adapt to winter. Laundry, which I typically clip to outdoor clotheslines, now drapes a drying rack. Sheets and towels go in the dryer. Already I miss the fresh scent of linens dried by the sun.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup, one of my favorites, served at a fundraiser in St. Peter. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Wednesday I cooked up a big pot of chili. I crave chili and soup in the winter. I start my morning with a bowl of old-fashioned, fruit-filled oatmeal, the same as always, no matter the season. That is a constant, just like my need to write. Winter doesn’t alter my writing. But it does limit my outdoor photography. Even though I own combo mittens/gloves with the mitten end flipping open to expose half of my fingers (thanks, Randy, for one of the best gifts ever), I take fewer photos in winter. I don’t like freezing my fingertips, just like I don’t enjoy shoveling snow.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Love, Minnesota style January 23, 2019

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Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo from a past snowy Minnesota winter day.

 

I received this loving text message from my husband Tuesday morning: Do not shovel snow. It’s freezing mist now and sidewalks would get icy.

 

Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Taking snow removal to the second level in Minnesota March 1, 2018

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Randy blows snow off our driveway following a February 2014 storm. This winter has been similar in snow and cold to that of four years ago. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2014.

 

IF RESIDENTIAL SNOW REMOVAL in Minnesota involved simply clearing driveways and sidewalks, our work would be easier.

 

In this image, you can see the depth of snow on the roof.

 

But when snow accumulates and no January thaw arrives to reduce the snow pack, we start thinking about problems like too much snow on roofs and those damaging ice dams.

 

 

Sunday afternoon, after our most recent 4-inch snowfall the day prior, Randy pulled out the ladder and climbed to the flatter section of our house roof. He had about 18 inches of accumulated snow to scoop and toss from roof to ground. After awhile, he was working up a sweat in the bright sunshine.

 

 

Just inside the kitchen, I watched him labor. I’ll shovel snow, but only if it’s on the ground.

 

 

My job was to monitor my husband, to see that he stayed safe and didn’t overdo the shoveling. Now that we’re in our sixties, I tend to think more about how shoveling can cause heart attacks and back issues. And then there is that slipping and falling off the roof factor to consider. Randy seems mostly to ignore my concerns. I wish he wouldn’t.

 

Randy guides our ancient snowblower along the driveway following a late January snowfall of about 15 inches. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2018.

 

Already that day he’d fired up the snowblower to clear snow from our sidewalk and that of three neighbors and also blew snow from our drive and a neighbor’s. I shoveled steps and walks and followed with clean-up. Our snowblower is bulky and heavy and so aged it should probably be in a museum. Has any Minnesota museum ever done an exhibit on how Minnesotans deal with snow? That could be interesting, tracing the history of how that process has evolved. There’s the fashion aspect, the equipment facet, the weather factor…

 

 

With the sun shining and temps rising into the balmy forty-ish range this week, all of Randy’s rooftop shoveling paid off with shingles now visible and ice dams melting. We’re good until more snow stacks and temps plunge. Next week.

TELL ME: If you live in a snowy state like Minnesota, how do you handle snow on the roof and ice dams? If you don’t have to deal with these issues, feel free to comment anyway.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Snow removal in my Minnesota neighborhood February 23, 2013

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Shoveling the driveway, take one.

About to begin shoveling the driveway.

“HOW MUCH SNOW did we get?” I asked my husband upon arising Friday morning. I had no desire to bundle up and head outdoors to shovel the sidewalk and driveway. Again.

He guessed about five inches.

“I don’t feel like shoveling.”

“You don’t have to. I’ll blow it out when I get home.”

And so I felt a tinge of guilt, making the mail carrier and the few pedestrians in my neighborhood plow through the snow. But at least school wasn’t in session and kids wouldn’t be trudging through the snow, too, packing it down.

Shoveling the driveway, take two.

The first scoop of snow.

But then, around 2 p.m., the next door neighbor barreled down the sidewalk with his snowblower blazing a trail past our house and then back a second time to clear an even wider path. That Ken did this simply out of the goodness of his heart pleases me.

Up the street, a kindly soul opened the driveway and sidewalks of another neighbor whose property my husband typically clears of snow.

Shoveling the driveway, take three.

Moving right along…

Across the street, the neighbor boy attempted to clear the driveway, a seemingly insurmountable job for the little guy. He was giving it his all, for awhile, clearing only a small section before abandoning the task.

Perhaps someday he’ll blaze a trail through the snow with a snowblower.

Or maybe he’ll just give up and move to Florida.

Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Shoveling snow boulders December 22, 2010

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I’VE JUST COME in from shoveling snow. Nearly 1 ½ hours of scrape and lift and throw. Or bend and scoop and carry and throw.

I could have waited for my husband to do this after work. But he works hard all day and tonight he will have about 45 minutes to eat and shower before leaving for a church meeting. Honestly, who schedules a meeting during Christmas week?

But that is another topic for another day. Today I am focusing on the snow which the city plow scraped from the street and deposited at the end of our driveway and sidewalk. This would be boulder-sized chunks of compacted snow seasoned with salt and sand.

As I labored to clear away the mounds of snow, I grunted and sighed. My back ached. My right hip hurt from the stooping and twisting.  When I stopped occasionally to lean against the scoop shovel handle, I breathed in deeply.

Then I forged onward, determined that this snow would not get the best of me. Soon I was sweating. Even my hands. I unbuttoned by wool pea coat.

I carried more shovels full of snow boulders up the slight incline of the driveway apron. I heaved the snow chunks onto the snow along the sides of the driveway because I could no longer toss it atop the roadside mountains. Finally, I finished…then realized I also needed to open the sidewalk.

When I saw that mountain of snow before me, I nearly gave up and walked away. But, instead, I dug in, determined. Scoop, carry, throw. Scoop, carry, throw. Scoop, carry, throw.

Soon I removed my coat and tossed it atop the snow. Still sweating, I also ditched my stocking cap.

While I worked, I tried to think of some clever sign to post in the yard, for all to see along my busy street. Here are some of my ideas:

FREE SNOW

ENOUGH ALREADY

AND THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND DAY OF WINTER?

WHY WAS SNOW SO MUCH MORE FUN WHEN I WAS A KID?

GET FIT. INQUIRE HERE.

Then, when I finished, I stashed the shovels in the garage, snapped some photos of the major ice dams and icicles hanging from our house (another job for another day) and tossed down three hands full of chocolate chips. After all that shoveling, I deserved some chocolate.

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WHAT WOULD YOU WRITE on that snow sign I contemplated posting in my yard?

How do you reward yourself after shoveling snow? With chocolate, like me?

And, finally, my apologies to my brother-in-law Neil, who just returned from Iraq. He told me I was blogging (complaining) too much about the snow. He’s in Hawaii right now. Enough said.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling