Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When snow piles force you to play chicken March 6, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I stood in my driveway to show you the height of the snow piled at the end of the drive. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2019.

 

IT’S AKIN TO PLAYING CHICKEN.

That’s the most accurate comparison I can make as we deal with massive snow piles at the ends of driveways and at intersections here in Faribault and throughout Minnesota.

Back out of a snow-banked driveway and you risk hitting a vehicle you may not have seen because of the snow. But even worse, peeking around snow piles at intersections for oncoming traffic.

 

A view of Willow Street, a main arterial street running past my Faribault home. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2019.

 

I live on a corner lot along a heavily-traveled street in Faribault. I am thankful our driveway is on the side street. Most driveways along this arterial route are not. My side street is busy also, serving as a direct route for parents, students and others to get to the Catholic school just blocks away.

I’m surprised I haven’t witnessed a crash at this intersection. I’ve heard vehicles honk warnings. It’s just a matter of time before a collision occurs. That could be serious given the rate at which many vehicles travel. I often wonder at those drivers who exercise no caution when circumstances call for caution.

 

Another snow obscured intersection in Faribault.

 

So what’s the solution? I’d love to see city crews clear the vision-blocking snow piles at the T-intersection by my house. Public safety is at risk. But I also realize crews are overworked and taxed by continual snow removal as storm after storm after winter storm brings record snow to our area. They have done a great job with snow removal during and right after snowfalls.

I’ve observed additional snow clean-up during lulls between snow events. Just last week several blocks around the Catholic school were widened and snow hauled away. I’m OK with that. Those streets needed widening to accommodate on-street parking and room for emergency vehicles.

But my street, a main route through town, could use widening also and removal of vision-blocking snow piles built by city snow removal equipment. Thousands of vehicles, including emergency vehicles, drive this route daily.

For now, drivers continue to nose into the intersection by my house and hope they don’t miss seeing oncoming vehicles.

TELL ME: Are you dealing with vision-blocking snow piles in your community? Have you witnessed or experienced a collision/near-collision because of snow pile issues? What do you suggest as a solution? (Other than fleeing to a warm weather state.)

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Managing an especially cold & snowy Minnesota winter February 15, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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My neighbor across the street moved and put his house on the market several months ago, but has yet to sell it. Now he’s clearing snow from two properties. If you’re looking for a house to buy in Faribault and want to be my neighbor…

 

THE SNOW KEEPS PILING up here in Minnesota in storm after storm after storm. And when snow isn’t falling, brutal cold settles in. This weather is taking its toll, physically and mentally.

 

The snow piles continue to grow in Faribault, here at a gas station along Minnesota State Highway 60/Fourth Street.

 

We long for warmth and sunshine and a day without snow removal. As snow mountains obscure vision at the ends of driveways, sidewalks and street corners, clearing the snow becomes more taxing.

 

Special snow removal equipment works on the Cedar Avenue bridge over the Minnesota River on Wednesday afternoon.

 

This snow-filled truck and snow blowing tractor creep along Interstate 35 in Burnsville Wednesday afternoon.

 

During lulls between storms, snow removal crews work to widen roadways, clear snow from bridges and shoulders.

 

Ice dams and icicles on our house.

 

And then there are those ice dams forming along rooflines. I’ve never seen anything like it, the length of some icicles extending to the ground. Randy has yet to tackle the task of shoveling snow from our house and garage roofs. He can barely keep up with clearing snow from our place and that of a neighbor after a long day of work.

 

Passersby stopped to help push my elderly neighbor’s car up her snowy driveway during a recent storm. Randy warned her of the ice underneath, but…

 

A recent commute home from Northfield took him nearly an hour rather than the usual 22 minutes due to treacherous roads in a snowstorm. As an automotive machinist, he doesn’t have the option of working from home. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid.

Schools across the state closed an unprecedented number of times in past weeks.

 

On a day when highways were clear, Randy and I came upon a five-vehicle crash on Interstate 35 in Burnsville. Vehicles in ditches and endless crashes have marked this winter.

 

Any plans are tentative, based on weather and road conditions. Travel during bad winter weather and you risk going in the ditch, getting in an accident, becoming stuck in metro gridlock or stranded in a rural area. No, thanks. I’ll stay home and read a book.

 

Snow blows from the top of a semi tractor trailer Wednesday afternoon along Interstate 35 north of Faribault.

 

All of these challenges make winter sometimes difficult to navigate. But then I read something that causes me to pull my head out of the snowbank and smile. Like the story in the Faribault Daily News about local high school teacher Dave Wieber whose physics students video recorded kindergartners sledding. With the video data collected, they determine how fast the average student slides down the hill. How fun is that? I love when teachers get creative, make learning fun and exciting.

 

The scene exiting Interstate 35 into Faribault onto Minnesota State Highway 21 from the north.

 

And I love when a community celebrates winter with an event like last weekend’s Faribault Flannel Formal. Although I didn’t attend, I’ve seen enough photos to know this is exactly the type of event Minnesotans need in February. Flannel attire, music, drinks, contests, conversation. And hotdish.

 

A neighborhood near my home, along Fourth Avenue.

 

When I think about it, fun and creativity help many of us manage winter. New York state songwriter Linda Bonney Olin, in her song Praise God From Whom All Blizzards Flow, is a great example. She uses humor to write her “doxology for those blessed with wintry weather and a sense of humor.” It’s well worth your read. Click here and be thankful for shovels, gloves and plows. And the ability to still smile in this longest of winters.

 

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

So…we got a little snow here in Faribault… January 22, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:55 PM
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My patio and backyard photographed around 4 p.m. Monday when the snow let up for a bit. You can see the snow depth by looking at the table and the vintage lawn chairs near the tree to the left.

 

SNOW HAS BEEN FALLING for more than 15 hours now in Faribault with an unofficial accumulation of 14.5 inches measured on my backyard patio.

 

The heavy snow made for some beautiful scenery.

 

Love these snow-laden branches.

 

Strong winds plastered snow to the side of our house, for awhile completely covering the kitchen window.

 

Coupled with high winds, blizzard conditions continue in the region. The Minnesota Department of Transportation advises no travel along roadways like Interstate 35 from Owatonna, past Faribault to just south of the metro. For awhile today, Rice County pulled its snowplows. My husband’s commute home from Northfield along Minnesota State Highway 3 doubled in time to 45 minutes. I convinced him to leave work early, around 12:30 p.m. Conditions were the worst he’s seen on the road in 34 years of driving to and from Northfield.

 

Randy begins the process of clearing snow from our driveway at 4 p.m. Monday.

 

Now, after three hours of tag team snowblowing and shoveling, we have our driveway and sidewalk cleared and that of a senior neighbor. My back aches and I’m tired. It’s been a long time since we’ve had this much snow in one shot.

 

 

Soon I’ll kick back, watch the evening news for snowfall totals across Minnesota. And then sometime during the middle of the night, I’ll startle to the banging of a snowplow blade on Willow Street or the beep of a city plow backing and clearing the intersection.

 

 

When I awaken Tuesday morning, I’ll separate curtain panels and peer outside to see the driveway apron packed with bladed snow. And the process of clearing snow will start all over again.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Back to winter in Faribault February 25, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:48 PM
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WHAT A DIFFERENCE a week makes.

Last Saturday, temps reached nearly 60 degrees here in southern Minnesota in a landscape bare of snow. Today, as I glance out my office window, snow covers the ground and the temp hovers around 30 degrees.

My neighborhood on Friday morning.

My neighborhood on Friday morning. With schools and some businesses closed due to the winter storm, traffic was lighter than usual along this arterial road through Faribault.

Faribault was among cities in the path of a Thursday into Friday storm that dumped a lot of snow. I estimate a foot here. After a string of exceptionally warm spring-like days, the snow is a bit of a shock. It shouldn’t be. Afterall, this is February, not May, in Minnesota.

Randy blows a path around the car so I can sweep the snow from it without walking knee-deep in snow.

Randy blows a path around the car so I can sweep the snow from it without walking knee-deep in snow.

Friday evening my husband and I tag teamed–him with the snowblower and me with the scoop shovel–to clear snow from our property and that of a neighbor. The task took 90 minutes, a lot longer than usual due to ice under the snow. The snowblower couldn’t gain traction and moisture-heavy snow clung to blower blades. I moved slowly, too, nearly slipping twice on the ice.

In the fading light of day, Randy works to blow snow from the driveway.

In the fading light of day, Randy works to blow snow from the driveway.

Add to that, a city snowplow dug into our street, depositing clumps of asphalt at the end of the driveway. Randy figured that out when he hit the hidden chunks with the blower. Not exactly safe to have pavement missiles shooting from the snowblower. So more shoveling ensued.

Snow from the Walmart and mall parking lot if pushed into mini mountains.

Snow from the Walmart and mall parking lot is pushed into mini mountains.

Today compacted snow on city streets is melting. Snow is shoved from parking lots into mini man-made mountains, which, if I was still a kid, I would find ideal for King on the Mountain. The sun shone bright on a Winter Wonderland which just days ago looked nothing like winter.

I grew up playing on snow mountains like this on the farm in southwestern Minnesota.

I grew up playing on snow mountains like this on the farm in southwestern Minnesota.

TELL ME: What’s the weather like in your area? Is your landscape snow-covered? Or is your environment one of warmth and greenery?

Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

Digging out in Faribault from our latest winter storm February 21, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:18 PM
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THERE’S NO DENYING the beauty of Minnesota’s latest snowstorm blizzard, which dumped perhaps eight inches of snow on Faribault. I’m never good at judging snow totals.

Trees are iced with snow.

Trees iced with snow.

Heavy, wet snow layers upon trees and power lines, creating a surreal world of incredible beauty contrasted against a cobalt sky.

The  snow-coated woods behind my house are beautiful this morning.

The snow-coated woods behind my house are beautiful this morning.

But beauty will take winter only so far.

From my fenced backyard, I photographed my neighbor, Bob, blowing snow this morning.

From my fenced backyard, I photographed my neighbor, Bob, blowing snow this morning.

Faced with snow removal, I find that beauty quickly fades.

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, I don't like digging out the snow they plow onto the ends of sidewalks (shown here) and driveways.

As much as I appreciate the hard-working snowplow drivers, I don’t like digging out the snow they plow onto the ends of sidewalks (shown here) and driveways. Sometimes it can be blown out, oftentimes not.

This storm, my husband and I took a two-step approach to getting the snow off our and a neighbor’s driveways and sidewalks. I initiated the plan Thursday afternoon when I realized Randy would never get the car through the snow at the end of the driveway upon his return home from work. The snowplow had gone by, creating a wall of ice and snow chunks.

Miracle of miracles, Randy actually arrived home at 5 p.m., 45 minutes earlier than usual. The boss said if he had to leave early, he could. He commutes to Northfield, 22 minutes distant, on a good day.

Randy opened the garage door this morning to begin the task of snow removal, phase II.

Randy opened the garage door this morning to continue the task of snow removal, phase II.

I had been shoveling for 30 minutes already when my spouse pulled out the snowblower. Our goal was to keep ahead of the storm somewhat. Shovel and blow Thursday and then again Friday morning.

Nearly done clearing our driveway Friday morning.

Nearly done clearing our driveway Friday morning.

And so here it is, nearing noon on Friday. The driveway and sidewalks at our home and our neighbor’s place are cleared, were cleared, by 9 a.m.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can't go.

A scoop shovel worked best for removing this snow. I shovel where the snowblower can’t go or can’t handle.

My back, leg and arm muscles feel it. I’ve shoveled way too much snow this winter.

Snow flies as Randy works the snowblower down the driveway. Fortunately we are not without power, although the lights flickered numerous times Thursday evening.

Snow flies as Randy works the snowblower down the driveway. Fortunately we are not without power, although the lights flickered numerous times Thursday evening.

How about you?

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Up on the rooftop February 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:48 AM
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Rooftop snow removal 1

Ho, ho, ho!
There he goes.
Ho, ho, ho!
There he goes.

Rooftop snow removal, scrape
Up on the rooftop
Scrape, throw, scrape.

Rooftop snow removal, throw
Right through the snow with
Good Saint Minnesotan.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The value of the snow shovel January 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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WE MINNESOTANS VALUE our snow shovels, an essential tool to clear our driveways and sidewalks of the never-ending snow.

A snow shovel at the ready at St. Luke's Church, Faribault.

A snow shovel at the ready at St. Luke’s Church.

When I recently photographed a snow shovel inside the entry to St. Luke’s Church, Faribault, I wondered how many times I’d snapped images that include shovels. So I searched my files and selected a few to show you.

My little neighbor boy shoveling the driveway in February 2013.

My neighbor boy shoveling the driveway in February 2013. We start ’em shoveling young here in Minnesota.

My neighbor across the street shovels snow Saturday morning.

Shoveling snow at the same house during a December 2010 blizzard.

My husband shovels the end of the sidewalk while our neighbor works toward him with the snowblower. What a great neighbor.

My husband shovels the end of the sidewalk while our neighbor works toward him with the snowblower following a December 2010 blizzard that dumped 1 1/2 feet of snow on Faribault. We have two snow shovels, a scoop shovel and a snowblower to handle snow removal at our house and a neighbor’s place.

Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault is prepared with a trio of snow shovels.

Fourth Avenue United Methodist Church in Faribault is prepared with a trio of snow shovels.

My husband shovels snow from our Minnesota backyard patio a year ago.

My spouse shovels snow from our backyard patio in March 2011. Most of that snow was shoveled from the house and garage roofs earlier in the season to prevent ice dams and to reduce the weight of deep snow on the roofs.

What would we do without our snow shovels?

Tell me, if you live in a snowy region, what’s in your snow removal artillery?

Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling