Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The greening of spring in southern Minnesota May 9, 2023

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Buds begin to open on my backyard maple. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

AS A WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER, I view the natural world through a creative lens. I appreciate the nuances that comprise the whole. And right now those details are sharp, vivid and nearly visually overwhelming (in a good way) after living for too many months in a monochromatic environment.

The maple flush in unfurling leaves. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

I need only step into my yard to take in the greening of spring. Buds forming and then unfurling on the maple.

Bleeding hearts dangle, preparing to open. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

Clumped, clamped buds about to open into fuchsia bleeding hearts.

A tightly-clasped fiddlehead. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

Curled fiddleheads stretching, soon to unfold into fronds of ferns that wave in the wind.

My tulips are in full bloom. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

Within the perimeters of my property, spring bursts in new growth. Tiny green buds line the thick wood stalks of old-fashioned hydrangea that will soon fill the spaces flanking my front steps. Red and yellow tulips jolt color into flowerbeds, among a jumbo of irises that will eventually blossom in yellow and purple, their sweet scent a reminder of my mother. Iris was her favorite flower.

Tiger lilies grow wild on my backyard hillside, here emerging from winter dormancy. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

Oh, how I love these early days of May. These days when everything appears lush and intensely green. Spring green. Vibrant. It’s as if every bright green in a box of Crayola crayons colors the landscape. And when the sky is intensely blue, the greens seem even more intense.

Even my rake is green. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

These are the days when dandelions pop and grass seemingly grows as you watch. These are the days, too, of raking away the leaf remnants of last fall and cutting back dead flower stems and mentally transitioning into this season we’ve been awaiting since the first snow fell.

My neighbor’s unidentified flowers grow just around the corner of my fence, jolting color into the landscape. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

It was an undeniably long winter in Minnesota with near-record snowfall, with teases of spring (even summer) before snow fell again. We are now only finally beginning to believe that we can put away the snow shovels, shove the snowblowers into the corners of our garages, banish winter coats to the back of the closet.

The wooded hillside behind my garage and house is just beginning to fill in with green. We own the open part of this hillside. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

Every day of warm temps and blue skies and new greens convinces me that this is for real. Spring has finally arrived in southern Minnesota in her poetically beautiful way. I hear it in birdsong, in the piercing whistle of a cardinal flashing red in the wooded hillside behind my house. I hear it in the rhythmic raking of dried leaves. I hear it in the roar of motorcycles flying down my street.

A raspberry vine shadows across the limestone wall Randy built many years ago from the foundation of a fallen barn. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

But mostly I see the shift of seasons in the greening of spring, of trees no longer bare, but spreading in a canopy of green. Of wild raspberries stretching across limestone wall to latch into the earth. Of hostas erupting.

My neighbor’s lovely low-lying flowers, up close. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2023)

This marks a time of renewal, of hope, of emerging from the cocooning quiet and oppressiveness of winter into a world that feels, looks, sounds utterly and joyfully alive.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Goodbye, Faribo Frosty, & welcome, spring April 6, 2023

Faribo Frosty’s smile has turned to a frown. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2023)

FARIBO FROSTY ISN’T RUNNING away with promises to return next winter. Instead, he’s melting in place, his once broad smile replaced by a frown.

But Faribault’s ginormous snowman, crafted by the Andy Hoisington family, may be the only one saddened by the 50 and 60-degree temps forecast for southern Minnesota beginning on Friday. I’m smiling and I expect many others are, too. It’s been an incredibly snowy winter with our seasonal snowfall total in the top three for Minnesota. This has been a forever winter.

In late February, Faribo Frosty was still smiling and making so many people smile. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2023)

And even though it saddens me to see rotund, 17-foot tall Faribo Frosty slimming down and eventually melting into a puddle, I expect he really will be back. The Hoisingtons have built and maintained an over-sized snowman for 18 years, their gift to the community and a reason to smile.

Snow and blowing snow defined areas of Minnesota earlier this week. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2020 used for illustration only)

I am smiling wide these days as the snow pack dwindles, revealing dormant grass. Everywhere I look, lawns are visible. Yes, snow still covers shaded areas and snow piles remain. But mostly, it’s beginning to look like spring here, which if you go by the calendar, it is. Tell that to the good Minnesotans who found themselves in yet another blizzard earlier this week.

Along the foundation on the south side of my house, tulips poked through decaying leaves even as snow fell. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2019)

Here in southern Minnesota, rain, rather than snow, fell. Temps, though, stubbornly continue in the 30s with a raw wind. So winter coats are still the dress code of the day.

These tulips, a gift from blogger friend Paula (a native Minnesotan) in the Netherlands, popped color into my life in 2020. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2020)

But winter is loosening its hold under pressure from the sun. Tulips and other spring perennials are popping through the soil in my yard. A few more weeks and they will blaze bold hues. And if I rooted around, I expect I would find crocuses emerging under a layer of leaf mulch.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo used for illustration only)

Another sure sign of spring are spring openers for the Minnesota Twins and the St. Paul Saints. The major and minor league baseball teams rescheduled their openers this week because of weather. No one really wants to sit in a stadium and watch baseball in 30-degree temps coupled with strong winds. But by the time the ball hits the glove late this afternoon (Saints) and on Friday (Twins), conditions should be comfortable, if not balmy by early April in Minnesota standards.

Crocuses emerge from leaf mulch. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo March 2021)

So, yes, I think we’ve turned the corner. Faribo Frosty will need to accept that and graciously exit while promising to return again some day…long after the crocuses are done blooming.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


The greening of Minnesota May 3, 2020

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THIS TIME OF YEAR—early spring in southern Minnesota—I become a tree watcher.



That may sound odd to an outsider. But to us Minnesotans, who’ve come through another winter, watching trees leaf into a canopy of green doesn’t seem all that strange.



You can almost see the buds grow and leaves unfurl, a process now well underway. Green tints the skyline. And with warmth and sunshine, those once dormant trees are beautiful to behold.



Likewise the hillsides are awash in green with plants pushing through the cold earth.



And tulips open petals, popping vivid hues into the landscape. This is spring in Minnesota. Lovely. In color and in warmth.


These tulips from Paula in Holland are popping color into my life. They are in full bloom now in three vivid hues. Just beautiful!


See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in the land. (Solomon’s Song of Songs 2:11-12 NIV)


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Sisterhood in bloom on May Day May 1, 2020

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The tulip bulbs arrived in a pot and covered by moss.


THE RATE AT WHICH THE TULIP bulbs erupted, then bloomed, surprised even me.


The bulbs, once exposed to light, grew at a rapid pace.


A week after receiving a surprise cluster of bulbs from my blogger friend Paula in the Netherlands, I now have a flower pot of wine-hued tulips in bloom and yellow ones about to open. I’d wondered at the color and that proved part of the fun, waiting to see.


Just beginning to bloom…


What a delight this gift of flowers from someone I’ve never met but to whom I’m connected via writing and being home-grown Minnesotans. But even more, there’s the connection of spirit, of understanding how supporting one another, especially now, is so important.

I can tell you that Paula, who blogs at The Cedar Journal, loves the outdoors, especially canoeing in her cedar strip canoe. She returns to Minnesota often to paddle and explore. She’s a military veteran. Strong. Opinionated. Resilient. Respectful of the natural world and appreciative of its beauty. She’s compassionate and kind.

I’ve never talked to Paula. But I feel like I know her via her blog and the comments she posts on my blog. There’s a sisterhood that comes from a shared love of Minnesota and of blogging and of the simple beauties in life. So when I see those lovely tulips in bloom, I think of Paula so distant, yet so close.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Tulips, through the eyes of a child May 9, 2018

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EACH SPRING, when tulips push through the dark cold soil of Minnesota, as tight buds form and petals unclench in bursts of color, I think of my eldest daughter.

I remember her words, spoken as a toddler: “The flowers are opening their mouths.”

That may not be an exact quote. Amber may have said tulips. Too many decades have passed for me to recall. But, in her mind, those opening blooms resembled open mouths.

This week, as tulips open their mouths in my front and backyard flowerbeds, I remember Amber’s observation and the beautiful poetry of her words.


© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Hope unfurls May 4, 2013

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LAST WEEKEND, MY DAFFODILS bloomed, bright and brilliant in the first blush of spring.

Photographed Saturday afternoon, the seven inches of snow have mostly melted off my daffodils.

My daffodils, photographed Saturday afternoon, emerging from seven inches of disappearing snow.

Today they lie in a pathetic heap, heads bowed, even buried, in a veil of snow.

A tulip bud, bent to the snow.

A tulip bud, bent to the snow.

Nearby, tulip buds droop, leaves splayed, vulnerable to the frigid air and the rough crystals of melting snow in this endless winter.

Determined day lilies.

Determined day lilies.

In my backyard, determined day lilies soldier up through the snow.

Bendy raspberry branches in bud.

Bendy raspberry branches in bud.

A stone’s throw away, wild raspberries defy the weather, arcing branches, buds unfurling into the promise of spring.

A raspberry bud unfurling.

A raspberry bud unfurling.

Hope. I saw hope today that this longest of all winters may finally exit Minnesota.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Tossing the Christmas tree and welcoming spring May 6, 2011

The remains of our dried up Christmas tree, now properly disposed of at the local composting pile.

ON WEDNESDAY EVENING we tossed the Christmas tree which has been buried under snow for, oh, about six months. Well, not quite, but winter seemed to linger into half a year.

I’m serious. As recently as this morning, we had temps in the 30s and several days ago wisps of snowflakes whirled in the sky.

But enough of that. With the official disposal of the Christmas tree at the finally-opened Faribault Compost Site, I can declare that spring has finally arrived here in southeastern Minnesota.

You don’t have to simply take my word for it. Join me on this photographic tour of my yard, where spring has clearly, finally (I hope) ousted winter.

Hostas push through the soil, unfurling bright green leaves. Why does green always seem brighter in the spring?

Most of my tulips are clasped shut yet, waiting for more sun and more warmth.

A plump red tulip about to burst into bloom.

A yellow tulip edges ever closer to full blossom in the spring sunshine.

Unfurling wild raspberry leaves hold the promise of summer.

Dainty violets, so easy to overlook in the splendor of spring.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


No April fooling April 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:03 AM
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IF YOU LIVE in Minnesota, you can get fooled into thinking spring has arrived…until you wake up one morning and snow covers the ground. This is mid-April for gosh sakes, not March.

Weren’t temps a humid 80 degrees a week ago?

Wasn’t I raking leaves in short sleeves?

Digging out the flip flops?

Throwing open the windows to air out the stale, closed-in house after a long, long winter?

Wasn’t I suggesting that I pick up romaine lettuce at the garden shop and plant it? But my husband stopped me, warned me that temps could still drop to freezing. I listened, for once. Thankfully. But he didn’t say anything about snow. Oh, no, not snow.

I was fooled, duped, misled into believing spring had arrived.

Saturday morning I followed the limestone path through my backyard to check on the flowers that had already erupted. I paused to photograph the walkway. The circles, created by snow dripping from tree branches, made an interesting pattern. Faribault received 1 1/2 inches of snow overnight Friday into Saturday morning.

A few days ago I intended to photograph my daffodils, but, of course, I didnt. Now they are drooping in the snow.

Snow encases the daffodils Saturday morning.

I hope the budding tulips can survive the cold and snow.

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling