My wife and I have been considering relocating to rural Midwest location. We are interested in finding an older farmstead, with a smaller home on about 5 acres of land. We would need a garage and a free standing outbuilding where I can put my workshop.
This weekend we began our search in southern Minnesota in St. James in Watonwan County. A friend of mine recommended a Real Estate Agency to aid in the search. The agent, Gary Sturm, works for the aptly named Mayberry Realty and he spent part of his Saturday driving us around the town of about 11,000 people, that he so happens to serve as Mayor for.
During the drive through town, he pointed out places and persons of interest, including his wife on her way to football game and two of his children on their bicycles.
The town features a branch of the Mayo Hospital system, a school system with about 1200 students, parks and an adjacent lake.
Small town living includes eating at the HomeTown Cafe, featuring a hot beef sandwich heaped with potatoes and gravy, followed by the highly recommended homemade pie ala mode.
The town itself has undertaken a rebuilding of its city streets and utilities and the people pride themselves on their property and the city.
Gary showed us a number of homes ranging in price from $50,000 to $120,000. Unfortunately, lot size and the ability to have a shop knocked all of the locations out of contention. Gary promised to watch for homes in the rural area that would be a better match.
Overnight we stayed in a Days Inn at Austin, MN. I asked if they had a swimming pool or a hot tub for the guests and was informed that they did not. However the clerk stated that the Holiday Inn next door is owned by the same people and if we wanted to swim they would bring us over and get us in. (You just got to love rural hospitality!)
The next morning, we got up and drove through the Root River Area of Minnesota, which includes Preston, Chatfield, Eyota, and also features an Amish community near Harmony, MN. In Preston we stopped at the Preston Apple and Berry and bought some fresh Honeycrisp apples. Since it was noon time, I asked for a lunch recommendation and was steered to Estelle’s Eatery in Harmony, Minnesota. The restaurant was located in a classic 1900 small town bar with a wood and tin ceiling and original oak flooring that had been had sanded and refinished with a dark stain to accent the patina.
The bar is owned by a young couple originally from the area. Their family’s provides home made produce and meats for the café. The cook/owner makes the most out of the fresh Angus and tops it with multiple types of cheese and strips of locally cured bacon. Top it off with spiced homemade fries and you have a meal you’ll remember.
After lunch we continued our tour of the area by heading down to Decorah, Iowa where one of my daughters attends school. With the fall color in bloom it is a perfect time to visit Dunnings Spring Park, near the campus. With the October temperature approaching nearly 85 degrees, it seemed everyone was out enjoying the day.
After eating a bowl of real ice cream at the Sugar Bowl Ice Cream Parlor, we called it a weekend and headed back up Hwy 52 to Minneapolis.