Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Twenty-seven degrees November 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:06 AM
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THE 17-YEAR-OLD, bundled in his winter coat and stocking cap, poked his head out the kitchen door. “Mom, it’s below freezing.”

“I know. But the sun will come out,” I responded, continuing to pull heavy, wet bath and kitchen towels from the laundry basket and clipping them onto the clothesline.

The door slammed shut.

I smirked, amused that I’d annoyed my son so early in the morning, early being 8:30 given it’s the weekly late-start school day.

As I grabbed the last towel from the basket, my teen stepped out the door, shot me “the look” and shook his head, not even allowing me to reach up and wrap him in a goodbye hug.

“I love you,” I said. “Have a good day at school.”

He didn’t respond. But I saw the speech bubble above his head: “She’s crazy!”

SO, DEAR READERS, are you crazy like me? Crazy enough to hang laundry outside on a crisp, 27-degree morning?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


February heat wave in Minnesota February 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:50 PM
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SEVENTY-FOUR DEGREES and sunny in St. Louis.

Eighty degrees and sunny in Florida.

Foggy and 40-something-degrees in Minnesota.

Thursday held the promise of another warm day in Minnesota. And by warm, I mean anything above freezing. I expected temperatures to reach near the predicted 60 degrees here in southeastern Minnesota. But I had to settle for the 40s, primarily, I think, because the fog failed to lift until late in the day.

But after this long, snowy winter, I’ll take it…because tomorrow winter returns with colder temps and snow on the way for the weekend.

For now, though, for today, patches of grass edge snow banks that are shrinking in February warmth.

Winter, spring and fall. Four seasons captured in this image I took along the edge of my driveway Thursday.

Puddles form in the low dips of the sidewalk. Mud sucks at my boots as I pick up building debris in my yard. Neighborhood children ride their bikes and zoom on their scooters.

Neighbor kids traded winter coats for sweatshirts and rode their scooters and bikes after school Thursday.

In reality, February is still winter and not the spring I await.

I need only click on my computer and open my e-mail for a reality check.

“As for spring, feel free to head our way. It’s 74 degrees and sunny here today, guaranteed to melt any snow you still have hanging around in Minnesota!” writes my editor from St. Louis, Missouri. I send the e-mail to “trash.”


I can’t escape the taunting, the flaunting. My oldest daughter sends me a text message from Florida, where she arrived last night. “…soon we will go to the beach…it is around 80.”


A vintage lawn chair on my backyard patio remains immersed in a sea of snow. The snow level has decreased considerably, though. Only the tip of this chair has been visible most of the winter.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Too cold to walk to school January 22, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:21 AM
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Minnesota Highway 30 in southwestern Minnesota, photographed last winter.

MY SON STAYED HOME from school yesterday. He refused to walk the eight or so blocks to Faribault High School.

I didn’t push the issue. The temperature outside was a bone-chilling, brutal, bitter 25 degrees below zero. Factor in the windchill and the air felt even colder.

I suggested he call a friend for a ride because our car, which has been causing us some problems lately, wouldn’t start—again. And my husband was long gone to work in Northfield with the van.

But my 16-year-old, who isn’t exactly a social butterfly, didn’t know who to call.

So I called the school, explained the situation and he got an excused absence. My son excels academically, so I wasn’t too worried about him missing a day of classes.

I wondered, only briefly, if I qualified as a bad parent by allowing my boy to skip school. But that was simply a fleeting thought as I considered whether I would walk eight blocks in such frigid temperatures. I wouldn’t.

Curious as to exactly how low air temperatures and windchills plunged in southern and central Minnesota from Thursday into Friday morning, I logged onto the National Weather Service Chanhassen office.

Morris, on the wind-swept prairie, recorded the lowest windchill reading, minus 46 degrees at 4 a.m. (I would later learn that International Falls in northern Minnesota recorded an air temperature of 46 degrees below zero.)

Redwood Falls, which lies 20 miles east of my hometown of Vesta, had a minimum windchill reading of minus 39 degrees at 6 a.m. The low temperature was 24 degrees below zero.

Over in Waseca, where two of my sisters and their families live, conditions were a tad warmer with a low windchill of minus 36 degrees at 3 a.m.

Here in Faribault, we had a minus 33 degree windchill reading at 12 a.m. Our lowest temp registered at 29 degrees below zero.

While windchills and air temps vary from one part of Minnesota to the other, the results are the same—it’s simply too darned cold to walk eight blocks to school, or anywhere.

CLICK HERE for a listing of National Weather Service Chanhassen office windchill and temperature readings for central and southern Minnesota.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling