Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Winter in Minnesota: Of snow, flannel, chili, soup & more November 18, 2022

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We use an assortment of shovels for snow removal, to scrape, scoop and push snow. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2021)

ALTHOUGH THE CALENDAR is about a month out from the official start of winter, we in Minnesota are already in the throes of the season. Cold and snow define winter here and we have both already. Too early, I say.

The snow boots I wear are warm, practical and fashionable. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2020)

Three consecutive days this week found me shoveling snow from the sidewalk and driveway. I allowed Randy the honor of shoveling the first snowfall of the winter. But I figured I best do my part, so I laced on my warm winter boots and headed outdoors on the second day of shovellable snow.

Isaac, waiting to head outdoors to shovel snow at my house in January 2021. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo 2021)

Thirty-five minutes to the north, my nearly 4-year-old grandson bundled into his snowpants, winter coat, mittens, hat and boots to clear snow from the driveway with his small plastic shovel. As only a child can feel, Isaac was, his mom said, “Loving the snow!” With an exclamation point. I encouraged him to head south and shovel Grandma and Grandpa’s driveway. He never showed.

And so I am accepting that winter is upon us. That means replacing the cotton bed sheets with warm flannel sheets, layering up (inside and out), wearing lots of flannel, cozying under a fleece throw with a good book in the evening, delaying rolling out of bed in the morning because the house is still too cold. The thermostat is programmed to drop to 62 degrees at night, up to 67 during the day, and then bump a notch to 68 in the evening.

Photographed on the door of a Northfield business in April 2022. Shoppers are encouraged to stomp the snow from their boots and shoes. And, yes, we get snow well into April here in Minnesota. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo April 2022)

Staying updated on the weather has become even more important, mostly to determine how bad the roads will be (and when to shovel). Have plows been out sanding and salting? How’s the visibility? Watch those bridge decks and ramps for slippery spots. Slow down. Take it easy. Spin-outs and crashes were a regular part of this week’s vocabulary.

Inside my house, a few changes are happening, too, as I adapt to winter. Laundry, which I typically clip to outdoor clotheslines, now drapes a drying rack. Sheets and towels go in the dryer. Already I miss the fresh scent of linens dried by the sun.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup, one of my favorites, served at a fundraiser in St. Peter. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

Wednesday I cooked up a big pot of chili. I crave chili and soup in the winter. I start my morning with a bowl of old-fashioned, fruit-filled oatmeal, the same as always, no matter the season. That is a constant, just like my need to write. Winter doesn’t alter my writing. But it does limit my outdoor photography. Even though I own combo mittens/gloves with the mitten end flipping open to expose half of my fingers (thanks, Randy, for one of the best gifts ever), I take fewer photos in winter. I don’t like freezing my fingertips, just like I don’t enjoy shoveling snow.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Southern Minnesota slides toward Christmas with snow, holiday sales & more November 16, 2022

Volunteers vend trees and more at the Christ Lutheran Christmas Market last weekend in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK, and feel, a lot like Christmas in Minnesota. This week brought snow and cold to our state, a reality check for those of us hoping our stretch of gloriously warm autumn days would continue. Yet, as a life-long Minnesotan, I understood winter weather would arrive no matter my wishful thinking.

As I was out and about in Faribault in the biting wind and cold temps pre-snowfall, I hurried in and out of buildings. Temperature spirals to the 20s and lower always require acclimation, no matter how long I’ve lived in the North Star State (my entire life).

A shopper arrives at the Christmas Market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Throughout my community, the spirit of Christmas is emerging in holiday decorations and holiday boutiques/craft sales/marketplaces, whatever term is tagged to an event featuring handcrafted items, food and more.

This festively-decorated vintage pick-up truck set a holiday mood at the market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

I attended my first of the season, a Christmas Market, at Christ Lutheran Church high atop a hill on Faribault’s east side last Saturday. Originally, the market was planned for outdoors. But then wind moved the sale indoors so vendors’ tents wouldn’t blow over. I felt a tad disappointed as I anticipated attending an outdoor market. But I fully understand given the wind and cold.

Holiday boutiques aren’t just about shopping. They are also about community, about connecting. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Inside the church, vendors crammed into limited space under tent canopies and at open tables. There was lefse and jewelry and vintage finds and, oh, a whole lot of merch for sale. I focused my attention, though, on the scene outside the front doors of the church. Here a vintage red pick-up truck set the scene for the holiday market.

Smoke from a barrel drifts around the vintage pick-up truck outside the marketplace/church. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Decked with bows, a wreath, a Christmas tree tossed in the bed, a porch pot aside, strung with unlit lights, the truck presented a postcard scene perfect for photo ops. And those were available for a fee.

Outside the Christmas Market entrance, fire flames. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

Near the truck, smoke billowed at times and flames danced from a barrel, adding ambiance and the feeling of warmth in the mid-November cold.

Trees & wreaths sold at the Christ Lutheran Christmas Market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

To the side, porch pots, Christmas trees and wreaths leaned and hunkered, available for purchase by anyone wanting to get a jump on holiday decorating.

The City of Faribault has already put up holiday decorations in the downtown area, here looking toward the historic viaduct near Buckham Memorial Library. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

November sometimes feels too early for all of this—the Christmas decorations, the holiday sales. But, in reality, it’s not. Minnesotans understand that putting exterior lights and decorations up when the weather is warm is just plain smart. No frozen fingers. No dealing with snow. Too late now. Both are upon us. And so is this season of holidays markets.

Outside Buckham Library, a bold holiday banner marks the season. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo November 2022)

I suppose it’s smart also to get a jump on gift buying to ease the stress, to spread out the spending. There seem to be more local boutiques/craft sales/markets with an emphasis on local. I like that shift toward supporting creatives within our communities whether at church-based sales like those at Christ Lutheran, at art centers, at local shops… There’s a connection to those who use their hands—to stitch, to knit, to saw, to string beads, to roll potato-based dough into lefse rounds…

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FYI: Here are a few upcoming holiday boutiques/craft sales/markets in my area:

Trinity Lutheran Church, Faribault, Boutique/Craft Sale from 9 am – 3 pm Saturday, November 19, in the auditorium.

Holly Days Sale, Paradise Center for the Arts, Faribault, November 17 (opening at 5 pm) – December 22, featuring one-of-a-kind art by local artists.

Holiday Boutique, Arts & Heritage Center of Montgomery, now until December 31

Christmas Pop Up Shoppe, Buckham West, Faribault, November 26, 28 & 29, hours vary.

For specifics on each listing, please click on links.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Fleeting fall thoughts from Faribault November 4, 2022

Colorful trees photographed from my backyard. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo mid-October 2022)

WE KNOW IT’S COMING. Winter. Yet, we Minnesotans hope for one more glorious autumn day. One more day of warm temps. One more day of no snow. The reality, though, is that this is November and the weather can shift just like that to cold, grey and, well, seasonal.

A maple on my lawn in all its fall glory. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo mid-October 2022)

With the exception of minimal rain in an already drought-stricken state, this fall in southern Minnesota has been exceptional with many sunny, warm days and lovely fall colors.

Autumn brings lots of yard work (like raking leaves) in preparation for winter. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo mid-October 2022)

Minnesota fully embraces autumn with unbridled enthusiasm. It’s as if we need to pack in as much as we can, outdoors especially, before we settle mostly inside for the winter.

The restored clock on the historic Security Bank Building in downtown Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2015)

The end of daylight savings time this weekend signals that seasonal shift. It will get darker earlier and that, psychologically, triggers an awareness of winter’s impending arrival. I find myself just wanting to stay home in the evening, snuggled under a fleece throw reading a good book.

A page from “Count Down to Fall” in the current StoryWalk. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo October 2022)

Sometimes that may be a children’s book. Picture books aren’t just for kids. I find the stories and illustrations therein inspiring, entertaining, informative, poetic. In Faribault, Buckham Memorial Library even brings picture books right into the community via a StoryWalk. Pages from a selected picture book are posted in protective casings along several blocks of Central Avenue to the library. The currently featured book is Count Down to Fall written by Fran Hawk and illustrated by Sherry Neidigh.

Book cover source: Goodreads

Recently I listened to Children’s Librarian Deni Buendorf read the book online. I love her enthusiasm as she reads page after page of this rhyming story focused on different leaves—painted maple, oval birch, craggy oak… It’s a perfect autumn read.

Book cover source: Goodreads

Soon this season ends and we enter the long, hard winter months. Interestingly enough, I am currently reading Cindy Wilson’s award-winning The Beautiful Snow—The Ingalls Family, the Railroads, and the Hard Winter of 1880-81. Lest I think winters now are sometimes difficult, I need only reference this book of nonfiction to understand that I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to complain about in the year 2022. Remind me of that come March.

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NOTE: In a project similar to Faribault’s StoryWalk, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport features a Minnesota-authored children’s picture book on panels placed between gates C18 and C19 in Terminal 1. Each book is in place for two months in this Picture Book Parade.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Edging toward spring in Minnesota, sort of March 28, 2022

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Biking at River Bend Nature Center, Faribault, on March 19. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

GIVE MINNESOTANS A STRING of warm March days like we experienced briefly around the official first day of spring, and we’ll pop out of hibernation in full force.

Note that as I write this, though, snow globe snowflakes descend, layering the landscape and reminding us that, even if the calendar shows spring, in reality it is not. Temps are back into the 30s and 40s after those few days of 50s and 60s, topping 70 degrees.

During that brief hiatus from winter, I observed lots of people out and about while I was out and about. Walkers. Bikers. Babies in strollers. Kids playing in yards. A teen on a hoverboard. And a teen on a skateboard.

Warm weather multiplies the number of motorcycles on the road, too, as they roar out of storage. Note that some bikers ride even in winter, although not during snowfalls.

On that Monday of 70 degrees, I hung laundry on the line and then threw open windows to air out the house. Within minutes of opening windows, the street sweeper crept by, spinning dust clouds. I raced to close street-side windows.

Spring will come. As a life-long Minnesotan, I realize that. It’s just that as I age, winter seems longer. And colder.

TELL ME: Has spring arrived where you live? How do you define spring’s arrival?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hints of spring at Two Rivers March 10, 2022

A wide view of the frozen Cannon River and dam adjacent to the Rice County Fairgrounds. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

THE SHIFT IN SEASONS seems subtle. But it’s there. In the lengthening of days. In brilliant sunshine that cuts through snowbanks, streams of water flowing and puddling. Iced rivers, too, are beginning to thaw.

Signage marks this park just off Second Avenue on Faribault’s north side. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

On a recent stop at Two Rivers Park followed by a hike along the Straight River Trail in Faribault, I witnessed the evolving transition from winter toward spring.

Fishing where the Cannon and Straight Rivers meet in Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

At the convergence of the Straight and Cannon Rivers, an angler fishes in the open water. His orange stocking cap covered by his hooded sweatshirt layered beneath black coveralls jolt color into an otherwise muted landscape. Randy and I watch as he reels in a large fish, then unhooks and plops it onto the snow. A northern, Randy guesses. We watch for awhile, content to see the river flow, sun glinting upon the surface.

The beautiful open Cannon River at Two Rivers Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

We make our way back to the parking lot, after I pause to photograph the mostly open river sweeping between snowy woods. There’s sometime serene about such a scene. Peaceful, even as traffic drones by on nearby Second Avenue.

Pedestrian bridge over the river. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

On the trail, we cross bridges constructed of uneven angled boards that always trip me. I pause to peer into the river.

Ice rings a pedestrian bridge support post in the otherwise open river. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Birdsong, a sure auditory sign of spring’s approach, resounds as I lean over the bridge railing to see the open water below. Both hint of winter’s retreat.

Animal tracks remind me of tic-tac-toe. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Far below I observe animal tracks crossing the snow in a tic-tac-toe pattern leading to water’s icy edge.

Following the Straight River Trail alongside the former vegetable canning company. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Curving along the path near the former Faribault Foods canning company, stationary boxcars sidle against the building.

Boxcar graffiti. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Graffiti colors the boxcar canvases.

Biking the Straight River Trail in March. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

We walk for awhile, then retrace our steps. Randy warns of an approaching cyclist and we step to the right of the trail in single file. “Hi, Randy,” the guy on the fat tire bike shouts as he zooms past. We look at each other. His identity remains a mystery.

The scenic Cannon River snakes toward the Straight River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Back on the bridges, I pause again to view the Cannon River snaking across the landscape like a pencil path following a maze. More photographs.

Randy follows the tunnel under Second Avenue toward North Alexander Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Before heading home, we divert briefly toward North Alexander Park, taking the tunnel under the Second Avenue bridge where, on the other side, the scene opens wide to the frozen, snow-layered river. In warm weather, anglers fish here, below the dam in open water.

Picnic shelter at Father Slevin Park by the Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

Now the place is mostly vacant, just like the riverside picnic shelter.

Shadowing of the trailside fence outside the tunnel. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo March 2022)

By now we are cold, ready to conclude our afternoon jaunt. As I stride downhill toward the tunnel, I notice shadows of fence slats spaced upon the concrete. Art to my eyes. I stop, photograph the fence and fence shadows as they arc. Even in this moment, I see signs of spring along the river, beneath the blue sky.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Owatonna’s Central Park on a winter Saturday with summer flashbacks March 1, 2022

A scene from the Owatonna Farmers Market in June 2014. The historic building anchoring a corner across the street is the National Farmer’s Bank of Owatonna. Architect Louis Sullivan designed the 1906-1908 building in the Prairie School Architecture style. The bank is considered “a Jewel Box of the Prairie.” (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2014)

THE LAST TIME I STOPPED at Owatonna’s Central Park, this southern Minnesota city’s community gathering spot pulsed with activity. The park hosts a busy Owatonna Farmers Market from May through October.

A scene from Owatonna’s Central Park on February 19. (Minnesota Prairie Roots photo February 2022)

But on this cold Saturday in late February when I stopped by, only a few people used the park. A couple walked their dogs. And two women crossed to the center fountain, purses angled across downy winter coats, stocking caps clamped on and shopping bags looped over three gloved hands, take-out coffee clutched in the fourth.

A crane tops the 1909 fountain, refurbished in 2021. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)
Imagine this fountain in the warmer months. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)
Love the graceful curve of the fountain top crane. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2022)

As the women paused near the centerpiece fountain placed here in 1909, I studied the scene before me, camera ready. Only moments earlier, I finished my packed lunch inside the cozy warmth of the van. Randy and I had planned to eat at nearby Rice Lake State Park. But that all changed when hiking trails proved too icy for safe walking. So here we were in Owatonna, shifting our plans.

This replica of the 1899 community stage centers the park. It was built in 2004, on Owatonna’s 150th anniversary. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I was determined that the cold weather would not keep me from photographing the park. Dressed in a warm hand-me-down parka from my son layered over tee and flannel shirts, long johns under jeans, practical winter boots, hand-knit cap and mitten/gloves, I felt prepared. The combo mitten/gloves were a gift from Randy years ago. They work great for winter photography. I flip back the fleece ends to reveal open fingertips. That allows me to manipulate my camera without exposing my entire hand.

An artsy planter sits on fountain’s edge awaiting spring planting. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Even with all of that, I soon found myself hurrying my creative pace. My fingertips were freezing.

Trees and lights against a bold blue sky by the stage/bandshell. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

But I was determined to document the setting on an afternoon that looked deceptively warm. Bold blue skies. Sunshine. Artsy fountain. Stout community stage. Historic buildings bordering the park. Remnants of snow sculptures.

This snow castle still stands, albeit weathered after a month. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)
Beautiful colored ice fills a window of the snow castle. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)
The back side of the castle features a slide. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I regretted that we missed Owatonna’s Bold & Cold Winter Festival at the end of January. Then those sculptures would have been newly-built, pristine. But now I could only imagine kids slipping down the slide at the deteriorating snow castle.

Plants for sale at the 2014 Owatonna Farmers Market. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I also imagined how, in a few months, this scene will change. How leaves will unfurl on the birch trees. How the fountain will spill water. How Farmers Market vendors will set up shop. How music will create a joyful rhythm that welcomes spring, then summer. And warmth.

A snapshot scene from the 2014 Owatonna Farmers Market, which covers one-block square Central Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2014)

This I contemplate as I snap frames, fingertips freezing, hurting now in the cold of winter. Back in the van, I hold my fingers close to the blower, seeking heat while the sun shines bright, bold over Central Park.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

No hiking for us on icy state park trails February 28, 2022

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A view of frozen Rice Lake at Rice Lake State Park on February 19. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

IN THEORY, THE PLAN seemed a good one. Randy and I would hike in a nearby state park on February 19, the first of four “free entry” days to Minnesota’s 75 state parks and recreation areas.

Mid Saturday morning, we packed sandwiches, fruit, granola bars and almonds for a picnic lunch, although we would eat in the comfort and warmth of our van. Temps in the 20s do not allow for outdoor dining.

Wildflowers abound in the woods at Rice Lake State Park in this spring-time photo. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2022)

Originally we intended to drive to Carley State Park south of Plainview. It’s a park we have not visited. But part way there, I suggested we wait. A description of Carley’s Whitewater River-hugging Wildflower Trail and Virginia bluebells carpeting the forest floor in May prompted the change in plans.

Randy reads signs about waterfowl posted by the lake during a May 2020 visit to Rice Lake State Park. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2020)

Instead, we aimed for Rice Lake State Park some eight miles east of Owatonna. We’ve previously been there, although not in winter. Following back paved county and gravel roads, I already envisioned hiking the park’s trails along frozen Rice Lake. I imagined the quiet of the woods, the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. Such were my expectations. I also felt excited to participate in the Rice Lake State Park Challenge, a special free entry day event that involved finding passwords to claim a possible prize.

Walking into the woods at Rice Lake State Park in the spring. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2020)

When we pulled into the park, I checked in at the park office for a map and the challenge entry form. As I was about to leave, the park staffer warned, “Be careful, the trails are icy.” I would soon discover for myself just how right she was in that assessment.

Rental canoes are stacked next to the parking lot and lake. The trail we took started at the edge of the woods near lake’s edge. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

The snow-packed, icy parking lot offered the first clue to conditions. I carefully stepped from the van, draped my camera strap around my neck and aimed toward the lakeside trail. Not even part way there, I was already grasping Randy’s arm. As someone who’s broken her right shoulder and left wrist in falls (the last requiring surgery), I have no desire to fall and break a third bone. Note that neither occurred in winter but rather in May and June and involved a missed step inside a hospital and a rain-slicked wooden step in a friend’s backyard.

On the way back to the van, I spotted these apples in the snow. Deer food? (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

At the beginning of the trail at Rice Lake State Park, I paused, observed and assessed that, yes, the trail was, indeed, icy. But I was willing to try, hoping conditions would improve. They didn’t. Soon Randy and I found ourselves crunching through the snow aside the trail rather than traversing the ice-packed path. Not even 20 feet in, Randy advised that perhaps we best turn around. I agreed.

Lake and sky meet at Rice Lake State Park during a spring visit. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo May 2020)

Disappointment filled my thoughts. I didn’t realize how much I had anticipated this time in nature, in the woods, by the lake. And now…plans would pivot. We realized conditions would likely be the same at other state parks. So we headed west to Owatonna for that picnic lunch and more.

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TELL ME: If you live in southern Minnesota, where can I find clear trails for winter hiking? If you live elsewhere, where do you like to hike this time of year?

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FYI: Minnesota has three more upcoming “free entry” to state parks and recreation areas in 2022. Those dates are April 23, June 11 and November 25. I highly-recommend a warm weather hike in Rice Lake State Park. It’s especially peaceful.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On the fridge: Photos, poetry, winter prose (rules)… February 15, 2022

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Love this art of my granddaughter on my eldest daughter and son-in-law’s fridge. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, your refrigerator functions as more than a food storage unit. Mine also functions as an art gallery, a photo gallery, a place to post notices and information.

One of several poems I’ve crafted with magnetic words on my refrigerator. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo)

On my fridge door, you’ll currently see six family photos, an inspirational quote, a clipped poem from my mom’s collection and two short poems I crafted from magnetic words.

Looking for clues in the “Gangster’s Gold” Mailbox Mystery now available (along with other mysteries) on Etsy at Orange Guy Games. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo November 2021)

Shift to the not-so-publicly-visible side and you’ll find an assortment of newspaper clippings (including my pastor’s column about mental health), the “We Remember Them” poem, a recycling calendar, two certificates for completing the Cannon Falls Library Mailbox Mysteries, an email about details for staying at the lake cabin…

And then, clipped under a sheaf of papers is a City of Faribault newsletter, Snow Season—HELPFUL TIPS & INFORMATION. Nine snow/winter-related stories fill both sides of the standard sheet of paper. Yes, there’s a lot to remember when you live in a state of winter for perhaps six months (or more, depending).

The articles are titled:

  • Parking Restrictions & Snow Emergencies
  • Pushing Snow into Streets is Prohibited
  • Help Keep Fire Hydrants Cleared from Snow
  • Clear Sidewalks of Snow and Ice
  • Avoid Frozen Water Pipes
  • Proper Mailbox Installation will Help Keep it Upright this Winter
  • Shoveling Driveway Openings
  • Children Stay Clear of the Street
  • Keep Trash & Recycling Bins Out of the Street
Best to keep vehicles off streets during or after a snowfall or risk a ticket and/or towing. ((Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2020)

So basically keep your vehicles (during snow emergencies), garbage cans, snow and kids off streets.

Clear fire hydrants near your home because, you know, if firefighters need to dig out a hydrant, your house could burn down.

Remove snow and ice from sidewalks so pedestrians (especially letter carriers) don’t slip and fall and break a bone. And as long as we’re talking mailboxes, shovel the snow away from them. If a snowplow hits your curbside mailbox (note, you must have it properly installed), call the city.

Don’t blame the city if your water pipes freeze. They’ve advised you to insulate them and take other precautions to prevent freezing.

As any Minnesotan knows, the worst thing is to have the driveway all cleared and then the snowplow plows the end shut with a ridge of snow. Here Randy waits for the plow to finish clearing the street. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo February 2020)

Also, do not blame city snowplow drivers for plowing snow across the end of your driveway within minutes of your having opened your driveway. That one’s really tough to take. Too many times the plow arrives shortly after all snow has been removed from driveway’s end. Then it’s back to shoveling or blowing, mean-spirited words unheard over the scrape of plow blade upon asphalt.

I’m grateful for the City of Faribault drivers who clear our streets in winter. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo October 2020)

The city is, after all, grateful for your cooperation as noted in this sentence of gratitude:

Thank you very much for your assistance and patience in getting through another Minnesota winter and plowing season.

You’re welcome, City of Faribault. My words, not theirs.

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TELL ME: What’s on your fridge? Anything snow/winter-related?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter walk along the Cannon in Faribault February 10, 2022

Randy follows the trail along the Cannon River in North Alexander Park, Faribault. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

BEFORE TUESDAY TEMPS ROSE to around 40 here in southern Minnesota, there was the cold. Brutal cold. Mornings of minus below zero. Strong winds making the outdoors feel even colder.

Late Sunday morning, when the temperature hovered in the 20s with a brisk wind, Randy and I followed the paved trail bordering the Cannon River in North Alexander Park. It’s a favorite Faribault walking path.

River (left), tree and trail. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

The river draws me here. I find waterways soothing, calming, quieting to the spirit, even when frozen.

I also appreciate how this particular path wends around trees and along the river. The curving trail invites a leisurely, poetic pace, a time for reflection, a time to slow down and delight in the natural world without distractions.

Little distracted us, except the trumpeting of two Trumpeter Swans gracefully flying high overhead as we exited the van to begin our walk. Absent were the usual crowds of waterfowl frequenting the river in Minnesota’s other seasons.

Biking the riverside trail on a fat tire bike. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

We encountered only one other person—a biker zooming on a fat tire bike.

A spot of color at the basketball court. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

It was the winter landscape which focused my attention. The whiteness of it all. The absence of color in a mostly grey and black-and-white world. Only the bold orange outlines on basketball rims and backboards jolted color into the scene. In the summer, young people cram these courts, dribbling and jumping and dunking and scoring points. Raucous play among youth, wonderful to witness.

A riverside picnic table remains, even in winter. In the background is the Faribault Woolen Mill, across the Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

On this February morning, summer lingers in memories of those pick-up basketball games, riverside picnics and following this trail in flip flops under leafy canopies of green.

I find bared branches particularly beautiful. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Today the branches bare themselves to winter. Naked, exposed, vulnerable.

Details in boot print, tire track and oak leaf. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I notice in the snow, next to the imprint of a boot and a bike tire track, a lone oak leaf. In any other season, I might miss this. But not now. Not in the depth of winter.

Finger drifts creep onto trail’s edge. In the distance to the right sits the Faribault Woolen Mill. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I notice, too, finger drifts along trail’s edge. Creeping. Stretching. Wind-blown fingers of snow that may be perceived as threatening. Or artsy. I choose artsy.

Randy heads back toward the van, along the riverside trail, the woolen mill in distant view across the Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Across the river, I see the Faribault Woolen Mill, weaver of wool (and wool blend) blankets, throws, scarves and much more since 1865. The mill is widely-admired, respected for its quality products. Craftsmanship at its finest. As Randy and I retrace our steps, this time leaning into a strong wind, I would welcome a locally-woven wool scarf wrapped around my neck for warmth.

Soon we reach the van, climb inside the wind-sheltered space and head toward the park exit. It is then Randy spots a large bird overhead, following the river. An eagle, we determine, based on wing span, flight and river route. It’s too high for our aging eyes to fully verify identity. But we’ve seen eagles here before and that is enough. Enough to end our Sunday morning winter walk with the wonderment we always feel in watching this majestic bird tracing the Cannon River.

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TELL ME: If you live in a cold climate state, do you bundle up and head outdoors for recreational activities? Where do you go? What do you do?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Winter’s artistic beauty in southern Minnesota February 7, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Sunset as seen on the hillside behind my Faribault home. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

WINTER HOLDS STARK BEAUTY not seen in any other season. Sometimes seeing that takes extra effort, though, when thoughts center on Minnesota’s brutal cold and snow and ice.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

Yet, many days—often in the morning and as the day closes—winter paints loveliness into the landscape. Upon the sky.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

I live in the valley with a view to the east. When the sun rises, hues of golden yellow and rosy pink sometimes brush upon the heavens. Beautiful to behold. Occasionally Randy will text after arriving at work and alert me to the morning’s artistic arrival. I appreciate his thoughtfulness.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

In late afternoon, pressing toward evening when I am preparing supper, I find myself drawn to the south kitchen window. There I shift my eyes slightly right to the tree-covered hillside behind our home. There I behold bare black branches against a backdrop pink sky. The loveliness of it all, the contrast of dark and light, delights me. Oh, how lovely the dusk of day.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

Yes, even in the deep of winter, nature shows her creative side. Coloring the sky. Reminding me that in every single day beauty exists, even when it sometimes seems elusive.

(Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo January 2022)

TELL ME: What brings beauty into your natural world in February?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling