Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter in Minnesota: Oddities, insights, warnings February 1, 2023

Treacherous winter driving conditions along Minnesota State Highway 19 just north of Vesta in southwestern Minnesota in January 2013. These weather conditions are not uncommon on the prairie. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted and edited file photo 2013)

WINTER IN MINNESOTA can be decidedly difficult in the sort of way that challenges us to either adjust, adapt or embrace, or flee to Arizona, Texas or Florida.

That got me thinking. If you’re not from the Bold (Cold) North, you may be unfamiliar with our winter weather obsession and terminology. Wind chill is an oft-referenced word in Minnesota winter weather forecasts. Defined, that’s the feels like temp on skin when wind meets air temperature. The result is not pleasant with repeated warnings of exposed flesh can freeze in just minutes. That’s the time to layer up, don long johns, pull out the heavy parka or down coat, shove hands into mittens (not gloves), wrap your face and neck in a scarf, clamp on a warm hat and lace lined boots over thick wool socks. Or stay indoors. Just for the record, recent Minnesota wind chills have been between 20-35 degrees below zero.

Experts, like the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, advise us to carry winter survival kits in our vehicles and to stay inside should we become stranded or go off the road. Call for help and wait. Exiting your vehicle is risky as in risk becoming disoriented and lost in a snowstorm if in a rural area or risk being hit by a vehicle if your vehicle slides into the ditch along a busy interstate. Just recently a driver was struck while doing exactly that; he’ll be OK.

Ice fishing on Union Lake in Rice County. Some anglers don’t fish in houses, but rather in the open air, sitting on overturned 5-gallon buckets. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

YES, MINNESOTANS REALLY DO DRIVE ONTO FROZEN LAKES

Regarding risk, Minnesotans continue to participate in a sem- risky winter sport. Ice fishing. As absurd as this sounds to those who have never lived in a cold weather state, this is the sport of angling for fish on a frozen lake. It can be (mostly) safe if anglers follow basic rules for ice safety, the first being that no ice is ever 100 percent safe and know your lake. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources offers basic ice thickness guidelines such as stay off ice less than four inches thick. If it’s four inches thick, you can walk on lake ice. Nine to 10 inches of ice will support a small car or SUV. You’ll need 16-17 inches to drive a heavy truck onto a frozen lake and so on. Every winter vehicles plunge through the ice and people lose their lives on Minnesota lakes.

Yet, we Minnesotans continue to embrace the sport, exercising caution. Clusters of simple pop-up temporary day houses to homemade wooden shacks to fancy sleep-overnight factory models create mini villages on our frozen lakes. Anglers hang out therein, drilling holes in the ice, drinking beer, playing cards and doing whatever while waiting for the fish to bite. Decades have passed since I participated in this winter sport. But I did. It was the cracking noise of the ice that got to me.

Randy shovels snow from our house rooftop during a previous winter. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

PENGUINS, FIRE & UP ON THE ROOFTOP

Ice. I quite dislike that aspect of winter. And we’ve had a lot of ice this winter on roads, sidewalks, parking lots, every hard surface. As I age, my fear of falling and breaking a bone is real. I deal with ice by either staying off it or walking like a penguin.

Recently I observed my neighbor trying to remove ice from his driveway with fire fueled by a small portable propane tank. It was the weirdest thing—to see this flame in the black of evening aimed downward onto his cement driveway. It didn’t work well. The next evening, two of them were out chipping at ice the old-fashioned way with a long-handled bladed tool designed for that purpose.

Yes, we chip ice from our sidewalks and driveways. We shovel snow from our roofs in an effort to prevent ice dams (of which there are many this winter). Getting through a Minnesota winter, especially one as snowy as this season, requires fortitude and effort.

This oversized Minnesota driver’s license hangs above a rack of buffalo plaid flannel and other shirts at the A-Pine Restaurant near Pequot Lakes in the central Minnesota lakes region, aka Paul Bunyan land. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo September 2022)

CELEBRATING PAUL BUNYAN STYLE

Winter here also requires plenty of flannel, our unofficial winter attire. I recently purchased two flannel shirts to replace two that I’d worn thread-bare. I love my flannel. It’s comfy and cozy and warm and makes me feel Paul Bunyan authentic. If you’re unfamiliar with Paul, let me explain. He’s a legendary lumberjack, a symbol of strength and endurance. And he wears red buffalo plaid flannel. My community even celebrates flannel with the Faribault Flannel Formal, set for 5:30-9 pm Saturday, March 11, at Craft Beverage Curve (10,000 Drops Craft Distillers and Corks & Pints)). And, yes, that means attendees wear flannel, sample hotdishes (the Minnesota term for casseroles) and participate in lumberjack games. Yeah, sure, ya betcha. This is how we survive winter in the Bold (Cold) North.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter diversion: Vote for Minnesota snowplow names January 26, 2023

Graphic credit: MnDOT website

NEWS THAT VOTING has opened for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s “Name a Snowplow” contest came at just the right time—as two clipper systems bring more snow into a state already overwhelmed by snowfall this winter. Voting comes also as the coldest air since mid-December is about to descend, dropping temps to below zero this weekend in most parts of Minnesota.

It’s been quite the winter. So this MnDOT contest is providing a humorous mental respite from the cold and snowy reality of January in Minnesota, with three months of winter to go.

Three years ago MnDOT launched its first snowplow naming competition, inviting the public to submit names for the big orange trucks that clear our state highways of snow and ice. This year 10,000 names were submitted, which have been narrowed down to 60 choices. Online voting is open until midnight, Friday, February 3. The winning names will grace eight snowplows in MnDOT’s eight districts.

I breezed through the names, quickly choosing my top three. Participants can vote for up to eight. I chose Blader Tot Hotdish (a reference to Minnesota’s culinary delight, Tator Tot Hotdish), Orange You Glad to See Me (picked for obvious reasons) and Spirit of ‘91 (a reference to the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, a multi-day blizzard which dumped single storm record snowfalls throughout the state; three feet in Duluth).

Last year’s winners included Ctrl Salt Delete (an obvious tech reference to the salt used to de-ice roadways), Blizzard of Oz (actress Judy Garland, aka Dorothy, born as Frances Gumm in Grand Rapids, MN.) and No More Mr. Ice Guy.

And in the 2020-2021 contest, Plow Bunyan (honoring legendary Minnesota lumberjack Paul Bunyan), F. Salt Fitzgerald (Minnesota-born novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald) and Duck Duck Orange Truck (a reference to Minnesotans’ insistence that the game Duck, Duck, Goose is, indeed, Duck, Duck, Gray Duck) were among the winning names.

I love this diversion from talking solely about the weather, as we Minnesotans are inclined to do, especially in winter.

This contest also puts a positive spotlight on MnDOT, which too often delivers the bad news of road closures, crashes, road construction, impossible driving conditions and more. “Name a Snowplow” is, simply put, genius creative marketing.

FYI: To vote, click here and follow instructions to cast your ballot. I don’t see any rules requiring Minnesota residency to vote.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A winter-weary Minnesotan writes about snow removal January 20, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:57 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Randy starts down the driveway with the snowblower following a past snow event. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2020)

WAY TO GO, MINNESOTA! We are living up to our reputation as a snowy state. With more than three months of winter remaining, we’ve already surpassed our seasonal annual average snowfall of 51.2 inches by an inch.

Our 2022-2023 seasonal to-date total of 52.1 inches (recorded in the Twin Cities) likely comes as no surprise to anyone who lives in the North Star State. Winter storm after winter storm after winter storm has left us, or at least me, feeling winter-weary. Once again Thursday evening I donned my winter wear, pulled on my practical winter boots and headed outdoors to assist Randy with snow removal. This time some seven inches of new-fallen snow.

The tree shovels we use to removal snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

I work the three shovels while Randy guides our massive hefty ancient snowblower down the sidewalk and driveway. There are places a snowblower can’t go and those spots—the front sidewalk and steps and along the side of the garage by the garbage cans and recycling bin—are my responsibility. I’m happy to help. Well, maybe not exactly happy, but rather willing.

Randy advised me to be careful around the garage due to ice. I appreciated his warning as the last thing I need is to slip, fall and break a bone or suffer a concussion. That’s a concern for both of us as we age. I read a recent report that, if you’re over the age of 45, you should leave the snow shoveling to someone else. I just laughed. While reasonable health advice, it’s not exactly practical for most Minnesotans.

I take baby steps while traversing snow and ice, the penguin shuffle I believe is the proper term. Yet, I realize that’s no guarantee of safety. I also pace myself while shoveling. Thankfully our Wednesday into Thursday snow was low in moisture content, thus light and easy to shovel and blow. It’s the heavy snow that makes for challenging and health-risky snow removal.

It could always be worse… A huge, hard-as-rock snowdrift blocked our driveway in this March 1965 photo taken on my childhood farm, rural Vesta, Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 1965)

But I encountered a new problem on Thursday. On several occasions, the snow I tossed with a scoop shovel tumbled right back onto the surface from which I’d just removed it. The problem: The snow is now banking so high along sidewalk and driveway edges that it needs to be strategically thrown. High enough and far enough.

Once we’d finished our snow removal assignments, Randy and I worked on clearing the driveway of snow down to the concrete. Part of the front metal scraper is broken off our aged snowblower, meaning a layer of snow now remains. Thursday evening I used the wide metal shovel and Randy the plastic one as we attempted to get under the snow and peel it away. Sometimes that approach worked well, sometimes not.

This image expresses how I feel about the ongoing snowfall in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

We remained cognizant of ice underneath. Randy advised caution near the down spout and I pointed out a patch of black ice where the concrete dips. In the end, we did the best we could and called it done…until the next winter storm rolls into southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Where is Paul Bunyan when you need him? January 9, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Paul Bunyan chainsaw art in Hackensack, MN. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2017)

WHEN WINTER WALLOPS MINNESOTA, Minnesotans get resourceful. Or at least that proved true for Randy on Saturday morning when he suited up in his Dickies coveralls and assorted winter gear to remove snow from the end of the sidewalk.

Before he exited the house, I advised him to pace himself given his age and the knowledge that the snow deposited by the city plow would be heavy. We had no idea.

Legendary Paul Bunyan is seen often in central and northern Minnesota, here on an ice machine outside Thurlow Hardware and Rental in Pequot Lakes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2018)

I watched from the window while Randy tossed scoopfuls of rock hard snow onto ever-growing mounds banking the sidewalk. He seemed to be following my take-it-easy advice by occasionally pausing to rest. But then he stopped, headed up the street toward the driveway, then the garage. I figured he was coming inside to warm up.

Not so. Rather he walked out of the garage with an ax. Yes, the tool used to fell trees, split wood or in the recreational competition of ax throwing.

It didn’t take long to see what Randy had in mind. Soon he was swinging the ax into the snow wall lodged at sidewalk’s end. The moisture-heavy snow bladed there by the city plow froze overnight, making it impossible to shovel without first splitting the solid chunks. Unbelievable.

Randy worked tirelessly swinging the ax blade into the rock pack. Swing. Swing. Swing. Then he set the ax aside, grabbed the scoop shovel and flung the snow rocks aside. He repeated the process until the sidewalk end was cleared.

A Paul Bunyan liquor bottle photographed in 2018 at Sarah’s Uniques & Jim Mantiques in St. Charles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2018)

In all the decades of removing snow, and I’ve done plenty of snow-clearing, too (including sidewalk and driveway ends), we’ve never resorted to using an ax. But Paul Bunyan would have been proud of Randy’s resourcefulness. To survive in Minnesota, you sometimes need to think like a legendary lumberjack.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

When another winter storm blasts Minnesota January 5, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Clearing snow from a parked car along Willow Street near my home Wednesday morning. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

HERE IT IS, only a few days into 2023 and Minnesota has already experienced its first major multi-day winter weather event of the new year. Snow. Ice. Freezing rain. Sleet. Drizzle. Everything.

With four months of winter remaining, I am already weary of snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

This storm comes on the heels of a major pre-Christmas snowstorm that essentially shut down travel in the southern half of our state. The fall-out is much the same. Snow-packed, icy roads. Crashes and spin-outs. Schools closed. Flights delayed and cancelled. A Delta jet from Mexico slid off an icy taxiway early Tuesday evening at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. No one was injured.

Snow layers on everything from trees to power and telephone lines. There were power outages in some parts of Minnesota, but not in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Tuesday and Wednesday were a weather mess here. Randy’s commutes, typically a 35-minute drive, took nearly an hour. He drove on several miles of a snow-covered state highway untouched by a snowplow blade and on snow-compacted, icy roads the remainder of the way.

The name on this plow blade indicates this plow truck driver means business when it comes to quick and easy snow removal. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

And then we had to deal with removing snow from our sidewalk and driveway. We are fortunate to own a snowblower. But it is ancient, bulky, subject to break-downs. Sheered pins. A metal ground plate so rusty that Randy finally removed it.

A City of Faribault snowplow truck passes through my neighborhood Wednesday morning. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Heavy, wet snow like this is difficult to blow. The chute clogs, requiring frequent stops to clear the snow with something other than a hand. Chunks of snow bladed from the street into the ends of the driveway and sidewalk can’t be blown. That requires back-breaking shoveling. I felt like I was lifting rocks as I bent, scooped, heaved the heavy, moisture-laden snow atop the ever-growing mounds banking the drive and sidewalk ends. I paced myself, cognizant of my age and this heavy snow being “heart attack” or “widow maker” type snow.

Snowplow trucks have been out in full force for two days clearing snow from residential and business properties. I photographed this truck on Willow Street Wednesday morning. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

Just as I’d nearly finished clearing the driveway end, the guy removing snow from my neighbor’s property with a utility vehicle pushed the remaining snow away from our driveway. I felt such gratitude for this act of kindness. I leaned on the scoop shovel handle with a thankful heart.

As I type this late Wednesday morning, snow continues to fall, as it did overnight. The snow removal of yesterday will repeat today. The ends of the driveway and sidewalk are once again blocked by snow chunks plowed from the street.

Snow layers a neighbors’ yard, tree and fence as snow falls. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2023)

But when I look beyond that to the woods behind my house, to my neighbors’ trees and bushes and rooftops, I glimpse a winter wonderland. This landscape layered in snow is lovely. Almost like paint-by-number artwork. That is the scene I need to remember when I’m out shoveling later and muttering words best left unwritten about winter storms in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter storm delays Christmas homecomings for many December 21, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:02 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
This message hangs on a vintage dresser in my dining room, the mirror reflecting an oil painting of a winter scene by my father-in-law, Tom Helbling. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

I’ll be home for Christmas; you can plan on me…please have snow…

Well, not exactly, Bing (Crosby). You might not get home to see that snow, not the way the forecast is looking. Blizzard conditions are predicted here in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest for Thursday into Friday. That will affect land and air travel, disrupting many homecomings.

A close-up from Tom’s painting shows family members arriving for Christmas via sleigh. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

I realize a snowy landscape seems picturesque and lovely and, oh, so holiday-ish in a song. But if you’re traveling or waiting for loved ones to arrive (like I am), then I’d rather not see new-fallen snow accompanied by frigid temps and strong winds.

Waiting at the door to welcome loved ones home for Christmas. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Dreams of my son being in Minnesota for Christmas are just that, a dream. The predicted winter storm changed everything. Now he will arrive the day after. I’ll take it. A year has passed since I’ve seen Caleb and to not see him at all would have been really really difficult for this mom. His stay will be shorter than planned, only a few days.

It took until 3:30 pm CST Tuesday for Delta to finally issue an advisory allowing passengers to rebook flights. That caused unnecessary angst within my family and I expect many others. United and American had those advisories in place much earlier.

Tom Helbling’s artistic version of a Christmas homecoming. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

In the end, I feel thankful that my son can still travel to Minnesota. He may not be home for Christmas. But he will find plenty of snow when he does arrive. So there you go, Bing.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Dangerously cold in Minnesota, but also beautiful December 20, 2022

Once the grey skies broke, the snow-layered trees looked especially stunning against the cobalt sky. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

THE LANDSCAPE HERE IN MINNESOTA the past week has been undeniably beautiful—a winter wonderland. It’s absolutely stunning with snow layered upon trees and rooftops, creating scenes that could grace any Christmas card. I found myself many times just pausing at a window to admire the beauty of the outdoors.

This image shows snow falling in my backyard last week. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

But four consecutive days of snowfall also brought issues. The heavy snow snapped branches and power lines leaving many, especially in the Brainerd lakes area of central Minnesota, without power. Snow slicked roads, leading to crashes. And for all of us, no matter where we live in the state, all that snow meant snow removal.

The shovels we use to remove snow, all lined up against our house. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

We have a snowblower, albeit massive and ancient, and three different types of shovels. The scoop shovel is good for tossing large quantities of snow, especially the rock-like chunks at the end of the driveway. The wide plastic shovel works well for pushing. And the wide metal shovel serves as an oversized ice scraper to expose bare concrete. I often shovel since I can’t manage the snowblower.

I zoomed in on this branch on a tree in my neighbor’s yard last week. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Weather forecasters warned us to get the snow off sidewalks and driveways without delay. Why? Cold air has moved in. And it’s only going to get worse. The National Weather Service is warning of “life-threatening conditions possible Thursday and Friday with dangerously cold wind chills (into the minus 30s) and blizzard conditions from blowing snow.” So, yeah, not good. Our son is scheduled to fly in from Indiana on Thursday evening. Whether that happens remains to be seen. I don’t even want to consider the possibility of him not getting here for Christmas.

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

When the NWS starts tossing out words like wind chill, frostbite and hypothermia, we Minnesotans recognize the need to stock winter survival kits in our vehicles, dress in layers, don our waterproof boots, wear mittens (not gloves) and more.

Snow layered every branch, every twig in this image taken last week. Beautiful. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

When lines of ice edge door thresholds in our house, I block the bottoms of exterior doors with rag rugs to seal cold air entry points. When cold ices windows on the second level, well, there’s not much I can do.

Already I feel the chill in our old house. I’ve added an extra blanket to our bed. In the morning, I pull my clothes from a cold closet to warm for awhile before getting dressed for the day.

I especially love the contrast of snow against blue sky. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

As I write, light snow falls. A notice on my computer screen warns of dropping temps. Highs later this week will not even reach above zero as “dangerously cold Arctic air” moves into Minnesota, just in time for Christmas.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Sculpture prompts prairie snow & ice memories December 12, 2022

Sakatah Carvers pack their equipment after carving an ice sculpture at the corner of Central Avenue and Fourth Street/Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault during Winterfest. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

ONCE UPON A TIME, which is longer ago than I care to admit, I welcomed winter. Snow equated outdoor fun on the farm of my youth in southwestern Minnesota. Prairie winds swept the snow into rock-hard mountainous drifts around buildings and windbreaks. My siblings and I pulled on our winter gear and for hours played atop those mountains and the snow piles mounded by Dad with the bucket of his tractor.

The completed sculpture. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

And then there were the icicles hanging along the milkhouse roof. Those became swords for hard-fought battles against one another. Ice clashing against ice until a sword, or both, broke. Somehow we avoided poking out each other’s eyes.

I found those icicles, some the length of our torsos, magical. They appeared seemingly overnight, glistening in the sunlight, water frozen clear and beautiful.

The other side of the sculpture, photographed from across the street, with part of the equipment to the left. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

Likewise, I felt the same about ice patches that formed on field’s edge. To slide across that ice in my buckle overshoes proved freeing and powerful. I was a champion figure skater in my own imaginative world. When the ice rink opened in my hometown of Vesta in the shadow of the grain elevator, I donned my Aunt Dorothy’s hand-me-down skates and raced from one end to the other, flying like the fierce prairie wind.

Today I no longer skate or engage in sword fights. Rather I approach ice with the cautiousness of a Baby Boomer who’d rather not break a bone. I avoid ice if possible.

The teddy bear sculpture up close, glistening in the holiday and street lights. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

But there’s an exception. Ice sculptures. These are a thing of beauty, reminding me of long ago ice ponds and ice swords and my once-love of ice. Artists who can carve a block of ice into something magical and beautiful garner my appreciation. That includes the team from Sakatah Carvers, Signs and Creations, who recently sculpted a teddy bear inside a stocking for Faribault’s Winterfest.

The second I snapped this frame, the ice carver blocked my view of the sculpture. But I like the results, highlighting the artist. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo December 2022)

While I didn’t witness the actual creation of the ice sculpture, I saw the warmly-dressed crew packing up their gear afterwards. It takes a love of winter and of ice to engage in this art form, which recalls for me prairie winters past of snow and ice.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

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

 

Southern Minnesota slides toward Christmas with snow, holiday sales & more November 16, 2022

Volunteers vend trees and more at the Christ Lutheran Christmas Market last weekend in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK, and feel, a lot like Christmas in Minnesota. This week brought snow and cold to our state, a reality check for those of us hoping our stretch of gloriously warm autumn days would continue. Yet, as a life-long Minnesotan, I understood winter weather would arrive no matter my wishful thinking.

As I was out and about in Faribault in the biting wind and cold temps pre-snowfall, I hurried in and out of buildings. Temperature spirals to the 20s and lower always require acclimation, no matter how long I’ve lived in the North Star State (my entire life).

A shopper arrives at the Christmas Market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Throughout my community, the spirit of Christmas is emerging in holiday decorations and holiday boutiques/craft sales/marketplaces, whatever term is tagged to an event featuring handcrafted items, food and more.

This festively-decorated vintage pick-up truck set a holiday mood at the market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

I attended my first of the season, a Christmas Market, at Christ Lutheran Church high atop a hill on Faribault’s east side last Saturday. Originally, the market was planned for outdoors. But then wind moved the sale indoors so vendors’ tents wouldn’t blow over. I felt a tad disappointed as I anticipated attending an outdoor market. But I fully understand given the wind and cold.

Holiday boutiques aren’t just about shopping. They are also about community, about connecting. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Inside the church, vendors crammed into limited space under tent canopies and at open tables. There was lefse and jewelry and vintage finds and, oh, a whole lot of merch for sale. I focused my attention, though, on the scene outside the front doors of the church. Here a vintage red pick-up truck set the scene for the holiday market.

Smoke from a barrel drifts around the vintage pick-up truck outside the marketplace/church. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Decked with bows, a wreath, a Christmas tree tossed in the bed, a porch pot aside, strung with unlit lights, the truck presented a postcard scene perfect for photo ops. And those were available for a fee.

Outside the Christmas Market entrance, fire flames. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Near the truck, smoke billowed at times and flames danced from a barrel, adding ambiance and the feeling of warmth in the mid-November cold.

Trees & wreaths sold at the Christ Lutheran Christmas Market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

To the side, porch pots, Christmas trees and wreaths leaned and hunkered, available for purchase by anyone wanting to get a jump on holiday decorating.

The City of Faribault has already put up holiday decorations in the downtown area, here looking toward the historic viaduct near Buckham Memorial Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

November sometimes feels too early for all of this—the Christmas decorations, the holiday sales. But, in reality, it’s not. Minnesotans understand that putting exterior lights and decorations up when the weather is warm is just plain smart. No frozen fingers. No dealing with snow. Too late now. Both are upon us. And so is this season of holidays markets.

Outside Buckham Library, a bold holiday banner marks the season. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

I suppose it’s smart also to get a jump on gift buying to ease the stress, to spread out the spending. There seem to be more local boutiques/craft sales/markets with an emphasis on local. I like that shift toward supporting creatives within our communities whether at church-based sales like those at Christ Lutheran, at art centers, at local shops… There’s a connection to those who use their hands—to stitch, to knit, to saw, to string beads, to roll potato-based dough into lefse rounds…

#

FYI: Here are a few upcoming holiday boutiques/craft sales/markets in my area:

Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Boutique/Craft Sale from 9 am – 3 pm Saturday, November 19, in the auditorium.

Holly Days Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault, November 17 (opening at 5 pm) – December 22, featuring one-of-a-kind art by local artists.

Holiday Boutique, Arts & Heritage Center of Montgomery, now until December 31

Christmas Pop Up Shoppe, Buckham West, Faribault, November 26, 28 & 29, hours vary.

For specifics on each listing, please click on links.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling