Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I’m not anti pumpkin, but… October 30, 2013

The $10 ginormous pumpkins.

The ginormous $10 pumpkins.

JUST DAYS BEFORE HALLOWEEN, Steve Twiehoff of Twiehoff Gardens, a family run produce business on Faribault’s east side, was trying to pitch an 85-pound pumpkin to me. For $10, the pumpkin would be mine and Steve would even load it into the van.

“The neighbor kids will love you,” Steve encouraged.

One of two wagonloads of pumpkins at Twiehoff's Garden.

One of two wagonloads of pumpkins at Twiehoff’ Gardens.

But truth be told, I don’t intend to purchase a pumpkin, big or small, this year.

All sizes of pumpkins are available.

All sizes of pumpkins are available.

Does that cast me in the role of a pumpkin Grinch? Maybe.

Late afternoon sunshine slants through the open poleshed door, spotlighting pumpkins for sale at Twiehoff Gardens.

Late afternoon sunshine slants through the open poleshed door, spotlighting pumpkins for sale at Twiehoff Gardens.

In reality, the lack of a pumpkin purchase projects my present life phase as an empty nester. With no kids in the house, there’s no need to carve a jack-o-lantern. Not that I ever did; that was my husband’s job.

In 1994, my daughters, Amber, left, and Miranda, right, dressed as a butterfly and Dalmatian respectively. Their 10-month-old brother, Caleb, was too young to go trick-or-treating.

In 1994, my daughters, Amber, left, and Miranda, right, dressed as a butterfly and Dalmatian respectively. Their 10-month-old brother, Caleb, was too young to go trick-or-treating.

I focused, instead, on creating homemade costumes for our trio. Those ranged from taping hundreds of cotton balls onto a garbage bag for a sheep costume to stitching strands of red yarn onto trimmed panty hose for Raggedy Ann’s hair to dabbing black spots onto a white t-shirt for a Dalmatian to painting butterfly wings. What moms won’t do.

Five years later Caleb headed out the door dressed as an elephant.

Five years later Caleb headed out the door dressed as an elephant.

I also transformed kids into an elephant, angel, pirate, cowboy and even a skunk, plus a few more characters/animals I’ve long forgotten.

Yes, I’ve done the Halloween thing. So, if for a few years I fail to buy a pumpkin, please excuse me.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flowers from Steve September 9, 2013

Twiehoff Gardens along St. Paul Road in Faribault offers an abundance of fresh produce.

Twiehoff Gardens along St. Paul Road in Faribault offers an abundance of fresh produce. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

“DO YOU HAVE ANY GLADS?” I asked Steve Twiehoff after my husband and I selected fresh baby red potatoes, green beans and a bag of northern Minnesota grown wild rice at Twiehoff Gardens on Faribault’s east side Sunday afternoon.

“I stopped cutting them,” Steve answered. “The deer were eating them.”

Old-fashioned gladiolus have been a mainstay at Twiehoff Gardens for decades.

Old-fashioned gladioli have been a mainstay at Twiehoff Gardens for decades. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I must have looked disappointed or sighed because he told me then and there that I could head out to the field and cut whatever gladioli I wanted—three for $1.

“Where?”

He pointed toward the slim opening in the pole shed doors, past the onions and gourds and pumpkins piled on a trailer, then outside and across the gravel parking lot and up the hill.

This is as close as I got to the glads, standing along the shoulder of the road photographing them.

Gladioli grow in a field near Utica in Winona County. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

“I’ll be back,” I said accepting the clippers this vegetable farmer handed to me. I aimed for the field that held glads, flowers rooted deep in my memory. I can still see the rows of gladioli rising above the greenery of the vegetable garden, splashing pinks and yellow, but mostly orangish red, across the land. My mom’s one small spot of beauty upon soil otherwise designated mostly for crops to feed the family and the livestock.

Steve knew none of this when he gave me the clippers.

But as I worked my way across the uneven and weedy patch of abandoned vegetable and flower garden in my flip flops, I thought of my mom and of her gladioli and how each fall she dug those bulbs—and later I did, too—to winter over in the cellar, to replant in the spring.

The three stems of gladiolus I snipped in Steve's garden.

The three stems of gladiolus I snipped in Steve’s garden.

I snipped three stems of pink blossoms from Steve’s garden, the only trio that appeared salvageable.

Clippers and blooms clutched in my hand, I aimed back for the pole shed to give Steve my dollar.

I laid the flowers on the counter and reached to unclasp my purse. “You can have them,” he said.

I stopped, looked at him. “Are you sure?”

He was.

“Thank you. That is so sweet.”

I picked up the stems. A smile touched my lips. I strode past the onions and gourds and pumpkins piled on the trailer, slipped through the slim opening between the pole shed doors, climbed into the van and considered how Steve had touched my heart with his thoughtfulness and kindness.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling