Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A vacuum cleaner or roses? February 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:30 PM
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AS RICK MORRIS TELLS the story, he and his friend Charlie Mathern were having breakfast together some 20 years ago shortly before Valentine’s Day when they got the idea.

The two discussed partnering in print advertising. It seemed an unlikely match—Rick being in the floral business and Charlie in the hardware store business, both in Waseca.

But they hatched a plan to pit vacuum cleaners against flowers in a Valentine’s Day promotion. Charlie said he’d put his Hoovers on sale. Rick would advertise his flowers.

Twenty years later, they’re still at it, publishing a joint half-page ad in a recent issue of the Waseca Area Shopper that promises the perfect Valentine’s Day gift:

On Valentine’s Day, Charlie & Rick say—Sweep her off her feet! Vacuum Cleaner?…or Roses?

And then, in heart-shaped speech bubbles of poetic rhyme, Rick of Waseca Floral and Charlie of Charlie’s Hardware, push their product.


As you well know

violets are purple

and roses have thorns.

If she doesn’t get a Hoover

she’ll be truly forlorn!


The Valentine gift of a vacuum is awful.

A beautiful bouquet of flowers is thoughtful!


Flowers demand your time and care.

So give her a Hoover to see love in the air!


Giving a vacuum is utterly stupid.

Your sweetheart should get flowers from Cupid.

The back-and-forth bantering continues amid photos of vacuums intermixed with red hearts on the left side of the ad and images of floral arrangements interspersed with hearts on the right.

Says poet/businessman Rick of his and Charlie’s Valentine’s Day ad partnership: “It’s always been about vacuum cleaners and flowers.”

Nearly the entire half-page Valentine's Day print ad Rick and Charlie ran this year.

DISCLOSURE: My sister, Lanae, is employed by Waseca Floral. But that in no way influenced my decision to write this post. I learned about this 20-year ad partnership while photographing Valentine’s Day preparations at Waseca Floral. I know a great story when I hear one.  And, in my opinion, this rates as one of those interesting and humorous small-town stories that needs to be shared.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Harvesting ice in Waseca February 15, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:06 AM
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ACCORDING TO KLETSCHER family history, my dad and Uncle Mike harvested ice from the Redwood River in Marshall many, many decades ago.

I learned that historical tidbit last year from my Uncle Merlin, who helped me with questions for a family reunion trivia competition. My dad never spoke of this winter work, once common in Minnesota. He died in 2003, Mike in 2001, so I’ll never know anything more about their ice harvesting experience.


Harvesting ice on Clear Lake.

On Wednesday, February 16, anyone interested in learning about this winter activity should head over to Waseca for the 10th annual Ice Harvest from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Clear Lake Park.

There visitors will participate in the traditions of ice scoring, cutting, and then storing blocks of harvested ice, in sawdust, in an ice house.

Local students will be there, too, joining in sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, wood cutting and more.

The Waseca County Historical Society, FarmAmerica and AKorn Productions are hosting the event. For more information, contact the WCHS at (507) 835-7700 or go to www.historical.waseca.mn.us.

READERS, IF YOU have stories to share about harvesting ice, submit a comment. I’d like to hear more about this winter activity.

Photo courtesy of the Waseca County Historical Society


Frogs cast an enchanting spell in my sister’s Minnesota garden August 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:56 AM
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One of the many frogs tucked among the flowers and plants in my sister's yard.

MY SISTER LANAE really doesn’t need a frog. She found and married her prince nine years ago.

Yet, she’s fallen hard for a bunch of frogs (technically an army of frogs) and a few toads. They’ve invaded her yard, taken over fountains and flower beds, bird baths and blossoms, and she’s welcomed them.

They’re all part of her plan, her grand plan to cast an envious spell (in my opinion) upon all who enter the enchanting world that is her backyard.

Now, you may think I’m exaggerating, playing this up, maybe even waving my own magical wand over you. But I’m not. My sister, the floral designer, has subtly tucked some 20 frogs and toads and other sweet little surprises into her gardens.

I marvel at her attention to detail, her designs, her intriguing way of naturally melding collectibles with the plants and flowers she has carefully selected, blended, nurtured. Her creations beckon visitors to pause, to really look, to delight in her artistry, for she is every bit an artist. Her yard is her canvas for the beautiful floral scenes she paints.

Last Sunday, during the Waseca Garden Club Garden Walk, folks noticed what I’ve known about my sister for decades. She colors outside the lines. She dares to make horses pink, cows purple. She is a strong, opinionated, determined, talented woman.

As I photographed Lanae’s vignettes, I eavesdropped, heard the praise, the ooohing and the aaahing, the exclaiming over her creations.

She deserves the gushing words—every single kudo, every single utterance of praise, every compliment—for she gardens with passion, with a love for the earth, with a heart for creating that which is absolutely, undeniably, beautiful.

Lanae created a lovely memory garden in honor of her friend, Vicki Andrejewski, who died in September 2009. Vicki's purple bird bath centers the garden, planted in her favorite colors of lime green and purple.

This gem-covered bowling ball drew the attention of visitors. Lanae applied "gems" to the recycled bowling ball using E6000 glue. The shimmering ball rests in Vicki's bird bath.

A bird bath accents a cluster of sedum. To the right, in the back, Lanae has rooted plants inside a birdcage-style terrarium.

Look closely and you'll discover a tiny frog tucked inside this birdcage terrarium.

I saw a boy grab these squishy frogs from a bird bath and then playfully toss them back into the water.

Using chicken wire and wood, Lanae created a wall garden. She planted hen 'n chicks, creeping Jenny, Mezoo trailing red Dorotheanthus, two types of sedum and two types of thyme and leaned the box against a tree.

A sizable toad lounges under a shade tree next to a Firecracker begonia.

Fairy tale mushrooms brighten foliage in a shady garden spot.

A dreamy blue ball set upon a pedestal accents a bed of blue salvia.

A colorful frog perches, almost naturally, in a gurgling fountain.

Lanae's yard was picture perfect for the garden tour, right down to the summery place setting on her patio table.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling