Our Continuing Search For Green Acres

My wife and I are continuing our search of a simplified retirement residence, that would include space for hobbies and gardening. This would contain some acreage along with a shop for my woodworking and electronic projects.

On Friday morning we left our home at 7:30 a.m. to begin a trip to the southern border of Minnesota. The drive would take approximately 3 hours and led us through much of the fall colors now in full bloom in Minnesota. On the way through the Minnesota River Valley we saw many Bald Eagles and Hawks searching for food. On a two lane paved road, near Amboy, Minnesota we stopped and watched an eagle resting in a field eating a small snake it had caught earlier, unfortunately as I went to grab my camera the eagle rose up flew father away in the pasture.

This week’s excursion in search of “Green Acres” included two nice properties and unfortunately also included one property that more closely resembled an episode of the “Little House on the Desolate Prairie”.

The first home we visited was located on five acres of land near Blue Earth, Minnesota, It was an older two story home built circa 1900 that included three out-buildings that included a metal tool shed, a small wooden shed and a small pony barn with stalls. The pony barn and the shed had obviously not been used in a number of years but seemed structurally sound, but would require a large amount of work to clean them out to make them usable.  The metal tool shed was large with a dirt floor that had been covered with old carpeting that served as flooring. To be used as a woodworking shop a concrete floor would have to be installed along with insulation in the ceiling and walls.

The home itself retained its original floor plan and was last updated in the 1970’s. the bedrooms and bath were located on the second floor and were quite small (10’ X 10’ at best). Some of the original woodwork was evident, but many of the doors were missing. The home was a good example of a budget homestead.

The most interesting part was we arrived in time to meet the older woman who owned the home. She informed us of that after out-living two husbands she was moving with her daughter to Arizona. Today she was taking the family dog to a new home with a young family who had volunteered to adopt him.  The old black Labrador was friendly and was contented to lick the hand I had offered him.  I could tell the old woman would miss him and today was a very sad day for her.

While the property itself was beautiful, with old growth trees that included cottonwoods, ash, apple and berry bushes, the building would require too much of an investment in time and money to bring the property back to its old glory. On my Green Acre Scale of potential retirement homes, I would have to score it three plums out of 5 fruit trees.

The next site we visited was a 1920 story and a half, two bedroom home, with a new detached two stall garage that included extra work space. The home stood by itself on the prairie, within sight of US Interstate 90 and was serenaded by the sounds of buzzing semi tires screaming by on the concrete runway. Near the house was a flat concrete pad that I was told once was covered by a garage that had blown down in a prior wind storm.

We entered the home and quickly noticed a 25 gallon black garbage bag that contained leftover pizza boxes and beer cans. On the wall were beer signs, gracefully nailed to the plaster. Next on the wall there that was a old sheet that was stretched across the bathroom door.Next was adjacent 8’ X10” bedroom with a mattress and bedding laying in the corner.  In a reminder of a departed woman’s touch, I spotted hand painted romantic quotations on the wall that no longer fit the context of the home. The one and one-half upstairs bedrooms were accessed by climbing a two foot wide stairway, that included challenging one foot stair risers. Luckily there was no railing on the wall to get in the way of the climb.

A quick inspection of the basement revealed cinderblock walls, a cracked concrete floor and 10-15 more garbage bags of beer cans that the owner was obviously collecting to fund his retirement. On my Green Acre Scale of potential retirement homes, I scored it a “half plum with a snake” out of 5 fruit trees.

The last home we visited was located near Bricelyn, Minnesota on a rural gravel highway overlooking a working gravel pit. The five acre site included a machine shed, a two car older garage, a small barn and a shed. The home itself was a nice 1950’s rambler style that had been updated in the mid 80’s. the home had new carpeting and maple flooring. The kitchen cabinets while functional had seen better days with the drawer slide bearings having been lost a number of years ago.

A potential problem was the containment pig farm located a mile down the road. As we drove to the farm we passed a tractor pulling two tanks of “liquid pig slurry” that was being applied to the surrounding farms. The realtor reassured us that only when the wind was out of the northwest would there be a potential problem with the odor.

On my Green Acre Scale of potential retirement homes, since I have no sense of smell after my stroke a few years ago, I scored it a “three apples and a clothes line clip” out of 5 fruit trees. My wife scored it a little lower.

That ended this week’s search for Green Acres. After thanking James Olson, our realtor from Homestead Realty of Wanamingo, Minnesota for his more than professional presentation of potential homes, we asked for a recommendation of a lunch location to finish our day. Jim suggested Maggie J’s in Mapleton, Minnesota. It opened recently and is a great spot for family meals and beer. My wife had the special of the day “Swedish meatballs with brown gravy and egg noodles” and I had grilled ham and cheese on a hoagie bun served with crispy French Fries.

The food was very good and together with the friendly atmosphere my wife and I easily rated it four out of five smiles (detracting points only because of they’re not labeling the men’s room door, causing me to search while under considerable pressure.)

We have already begun the search for homes to tour next week. Watch for further updates in our search for Green Acres.