Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by 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

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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

 

Booting Old Man Winter out the door, for a few days anyway February 28, 2018

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THIS WEEK BRINGS WELCOME warm temps to southern Minnesota. Thirties and forties combined with strong sunshine will melt the ever-heightening snow pack. I am thankful.

 

 

The snow is getting a bit deep around here, especially at the ends of driveways and intersections where mounded snow obscures vision.

 

 

 

 

Parking lot corners and edges now resemble mini Minnesota mountains.

 

 

You can’t see curbs for the snow.

 

 

I laugh at the irony of snow-embraced stop signs, meant for traffic, but in my mind a cue to Old Man Winter to just stop. Stop delivering cold and snow. Pack your bags and head wherever you go when March marches in the door.

 

 

Give me dripping icicles and puddles of slush and sunshine that hints of Spring booting Old Man Winter out the door.

 

 

Yup, I’m ready, so ready, to welcome Spring to southern Minnesota.

 

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note: All images were taken in Faribault on Sunday afternoon and have been edited with an artistic filter.

 

February at forty degrees February 15, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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IN SNOW TINGED with dirt, a curled brown maple leaf lies, a remnant of autumn lingering in this month of February.

Above, the sun flares against a blue sky bordered by bare branches.

Below, laundry hangs on the line. Drying at forty degrees.

I delight in it all—heat of the sun, fence line shadowed on a dwindling snow pack, ice melt dripping from gutters, long johns on clothesline, interior kitchen door flung open. All hold the hope of spring in a Minnesota winter that seems always too cold, too snowy, too long.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Only in Minnesota, North Dakota & Wisconsin February 10, 2018

Ice fishing on Union Lake in rural Rice County, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2017.

 

LIFE CAN BE STRANGER than fiction. As a life-long Minnesotan, I know that to be true.

 

Vang Lutheran Church advertises its annual Lutefisk & Meatball Supper. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

For example, here in Minnesota, we drive onto frozen lakes to drill holes in the ice and then angle for fish. We also organize polar plunges in which we dive into frigid lakes in the winter to raise monies for charities. And we eat cod soaked in lye at annual church dinners. Some of us. Not me, although I’ve tried lutefisk twice.

 

Downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Our neighbors to the east and west can tell similar strange stories. The most recent comes from the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo. On Thursday around lunch-time, a cow escaped from The Little International Livestock Show and roamed the campus for a short time before it was wrangled.

 

This photo, taken in southwestern Minnesota, illustrates the size of the cow which escaped at NDSU on Thursday. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

The NDSU Saddle & Sirloin Club sponsors the show, the largest student-led event on campus with 300 collegiates involved. That likely explains the calm reaction of students in the short video clip I watched of the escape. Students didn’t panic. They continued walking to classes or wherever they were headed. Many of them come from rural areas to this school with numerous ag majors. No reason to get excited about a bulky, wandering bovine.

 

Packers fans houses in Wautoma? Or simply a gold house and a green house? Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2012.

 

Then we have Wisconsin, which never ceases to surprise me, especially with its Packers fanaticism. I’ve seen brat buns and popcorn colored green and gold. And in Wautoma, two neighboring houses are painted in Packers colors. At least they were several years ago.

 

My daughter, Miranda, snapped this scene through the back car window while in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Miranda Boyd.

 

But then along came a February 4 report from my daughter, who lives in eastern Wisconsin and who was in Madison for the weekend. She snapped a photo of a guy riding a motorcycle, or maybe it’s a scooter, as snow fell on a 10-degree day. How crazy is that?

TELL ME: What stranger than fiction story can you share from your community or state?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Wisconsin biker photo courtesy of Miranda Boyd