Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The weekend we’ve awaited in winter weary Minnesota April 23, 2018

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GOODBYE, WINTER, and welcome spring.

 

Buds are bursting in these trees along the Cannon River in Dundas.

 

This weekend brought spring to Minnesota, just a week after an historic blizzard. And the mood shifted dramatically to exuberance as Minnesotans soaked up the sunshine and warmth, me among them. I even sport a sunburned forehead.

 

“Thin ice” signs remained in place at Lake Kohlmier in Owatonna on Saturday. Edges of the lake were open, the middle still iced.

 

We haven’t had temps this warm—in the 60s—since October. That’s too many months.

 

In Nerstrand, a contrast of seasons in a melting snowman and yard art.

 

On Sunday afternoon Randy found enough snow for a snowball.

 

Randy and I took a drive in the Rice County countryside this weekend. Snow still remains in shadowed spots.

 

While winter still lingers in melting snowmen, patches of snow and ice on lakes, I see spring everywhere.

 

 

 

 

In budding trees and pussy willows and blooming crocuses. Even in mud baking dry in the afternoon sun.

 

Biking Sunday afternoon along a back gravel road in Rice County south of Northfield.

 

It was shirt sleeve warm weather in Minnesota on Sunday, this scene photographed in Faribault at the intersection of Minnesota State Highway 21 and Seventh Street.

 

People were out and about everywhere—biking, riding motorcycles, pushing strollers, pulling wagons, walking, running, drinking craft beers on brewery decks and patios…

 

A fitting sign outside Chapel Brewing in Dundas on Sunday.

 

There was this feeling of we’ve finally made it. If you’ve ever lived in a cold weather state, you understand that delight, that giddiness, that joy which marks the first really warm and sunny day of spring.

 

Randy pulled on his shades as we each enjoyed a glass of beer on the riverside deck of Chapel Brewing Sunday afternoon.

 

Smiles abound, jackets are shed, sunglasses pulled on, winter released. Even if snow still remains in shadowed patches, we understand that spring has arrived in Minnesota. Finally.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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The artistry of winter in southeastern Minnesota April 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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AS A LITERARY and visual artist, I see artistry in a Minnesota winter.

 

 

 

It’s there, in the shadows,

 

 

the snow,

 

 

the starkness of this season.

 

 

It’s there, too, in the curve of a woods-snugged road,

 

 

the rise and fall of a snow-edged highway,

 

 

the rustic dried grasses of swampland.

 

 

Poetry exists in a lone robin come too early for spring,

 

 

a squirrel clawed to a tree,

 

 

a lawn chair draped in new-fallen snow.

In this extended season of cold and snow, the artistry of winter remains, seemingly unwilling to yield to the artistry of spring.

 

 

But as certain as writer’s bloc vanishes, as certain as molded clay forms a sculpture, this artistry of a Minnesota winter will morph into the artistry of spring. I tell myself that as yet another winter storm storms into southern Minnesota.

 

NOTE: All images were taken from my Faribault yard or along Rice County Road 38.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

From Faribault: I’ve had it with winter April 15, 2018

Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault, photographed late Sunday afternoon as snow continued to fall in my southern Minnesota community. The storm began on Friday.

 

TO SAY THAT I’VE had it with winter in Minnesota would be an understatement. This weekend’s forever snowfall, which pushed us into the snowiest April on record, did it for me. I’ve officially had it with this endless cold and snow.

 

Light snow fell all day Sunday in Faribault as traffic drives here along Minnesota State Highway 60 in the downtown area.

 

I offer no apologies for my negative attitude. Because of this storm, I missed my granddaughter’s second birthday party. And, yes, that was enough to make me cry.

 

Thoughts of spring flash as I pass Farmer Seed and Nursery late Sunday afternoon. Spring planting seems a long ways off with about 14 inches of new snow on the ground.

 

How did I deal? I baked chocolate chip cookies and ate dark chocolate chips by the handfuls straight from the bag.

 

Mountains of snow edge parking lots at the Faribo West Mall.

 

That was after shoveling snow for the second time in less than 24 hours. Heavy, wet snow that took considerable heft to lift from the end of the driveway. Shoveling that left my back aching. It takes hours of effort to remove 12 – 14 inches of snow. Randy ran the snowblower. But there’s still a lot of shovel work. While I was shoveling snow, I should have been at Izzy’s birthday party, watching her open gifts and blow out two candles.

 

A side street just off Central Avenue in downtown Faribault remains partially snow covered.

 

Yes, I’m crabby. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll feel better.

 

The south end of Central Avenue as snow continues to fall late Sunday afternoon.

 

Maybe tomorrow the snow will stop and the sun will shine…before our next predicted snowfall arrives on Wednesday.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The view from Faribault during today’s major winter storm April 14, 2018

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Approaching the intersection of Minnesota State Highway 60 and Division Street in Faribault around 10:30 a.m.

 

ROAD CLOSED. Difficult driving conditions. Travel not advised.

 

I ducked under a canopy to shoot this image in the heart of downtown Faribault late this morning.

 

It’s bad out there folks. Not that I’ve been anywhere except in the downtown area of Faribault today. But that was enough to show me that this major winter storm is exactly as predicted.

 

Driving along Second Avenue toward the intersection with Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault. Lots of folks were out this morning buying groceries and getting video rentals.

 

In the 1.5 hours I was out this morning, precipitation transitioned from light snow to heavy. You couldn’t see a block away with strong winds reducing visibility. I can only imagine the view in the open countryside.

 

That’s Fareway Foods, barely visible from across Minnesota State Highway 60 in Faribault.

 

Right now we’re in a lull. The weather looks deceptively calm. Just like it did this morning when I awakened, observed only a light layer of frozen precip on the ground and thought, “This is it, the big storm they were forecasting.”

 

Eastbound on Minnesota State Highway 60 in downtown Faribault shortly before noon.

 

Hours later I wasn’t thinking that as I braced into the wind-driven snow, head down, heading back to the van.

 

Passing by the Faribault Police Department, right, around 11:30 a.m.

 

I’m home now, about to stir up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and later bake garlic rosemary focaccia. I’d rather be where I was supposed to be today—attending my granddaughter’s second birthday party an hour away. That’s been delayed. And to think, her California family flew in just for the party, only to find themselves in the midst of a major winter storm. Welcome to winter in Minnesota.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Bracing for a strong winter storm in Minnesota April 13, 2018

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A GALLON OF UNOPENED milk sits on the top shelf of the refrigerator. A full loaf of bread is tucked into a kitchen drawer. We are ready. Milk. And bread. Two staples.

Randy and I joke about having milk and bread on hand whenever a major winter storm is forecast for Minnesota. And one is for today in to Saturday with blizzard warnings issued for the western part of the state and a winter storm warning for much of southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities metro.

I’ve heard forecasts of up to a foot of snow in my area. Heavy. Wet. Preceded by rain (already falling), sleet/freezing rain and then snow. Up to an inch of snow an hour. Plus strong winds.

Already people and organizations are rescheduling events like the Echo Fire Relief Association Pork Chop Dinner, the Women’s Cannon River Conference Spring Gathering, a Redwood Senior Dining Potluck…

Saturday will be a good day to hunker down at home and stay off roads. Travel is expected to be difficult, especially on my native prairie where up to 18 inches of snow combined with winds of 40 – 50 mph will create blizzard white-out conditions. Fail to respect those weather conditions and you could find yourself in major trouble if stranded in the countryside. I expect snow gates will be lowered to keep drivers safe and off highways.

Several times in recent weeks, predicted snowfalls have not materialized. But we shouldn’t chance that the weather forecasters are crying wolf. Time will tell…

Be safe, my friends, if you live anywhere in the path of this winter storm.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

This is April in southern Minnesota April 3, 2018

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The snowy scene in my southeastern Minnesota neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.

 

LIVING IN MINNESOTA, I find that winters sometimes get long. Too long. This has been one of them with unseasonably cold temps—try 15 degrees in my part of the state on Easter morning—and now more snow.

 

Snow falls thick and heavy in my Faribault backyard.

 

Heavy, wet snow. Snow globe snow. Beautiful, yet the kind of snow that can slick roadways if it sticks to the surface.

 

Aiming my camera lens upward, I see snow flying against a grey sky bordered by bare branches. Note: I edited this image to make it more visually appealing.

 

The kind of snow, too, that is termed heart attack snow. No explanation needed on that one.

I am wishing for spring. For no more snow. For 50 degrees. Heck, I’ll even take forty.

 

© Copyright 2018 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