Posts Categorized: Today

Read Summer 2019 Inspire(d) Online!

The Summer 2019 Inspire(d) is here to help you Find the Magic! Inside, you’ll find:

Summer Theatre / Storytelling • Highlandville Dances + Foot-Notes • Peak Peaks in the Driftless • Foraging • Glamping • How to Make a Heart Mobile • Summer Music & More!

A note from Aryn:

I still get excited about summer. The many years of childhood anticipation have instilled a sense of hope about this fleeting season, even as a – somewhat– adult 38-year-old.

I grew up in the country just outside of Frankville, Iowa (population 300ish). We had 20 acres of woods that I would run around all season long – I remember hearing the trees creak and groan while exploring on windy days, or flattening a blanket on the ground so I could sit and read by a stream. It all felt pretty magical.

My goal with this Inspire(d) is to bring those vibes to your (and our) lives this summer!

You can start off at a Highlandville Dance with Foot-Notes, a Decorah-based band that has been playing Scandinavian tunes (and more) across the area for nearly 30 years, especially for Highlandville Dances. A true summer institution here in Northeast Iowa, it is virtually impossible to leave a Highlandville Dance with a frown on your face! Read the history of how it all got started in Kristine Jepsen’s story on page 16.

After that, you might want to sit for a bit! There are few things more magical than being transported to another time/place/moment through storytelling. Check out Sara Walters piece on page 34 to learn about some excellent opportunities to hear stories and see shows at world-class theatres and events in the Driftless this summer. P.S. That amazing cover image? It’s from American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and we are definitely putting it on our to-do list this summer!

Looking for a more in-depth adventure? How about glamping? We love how area entrepreneurs are thinking outside the box…er…walls to making some really fun and eclectic spots for folks to stay for the night (or longer!). Maggie Sonnek shares some options on page 54.

Still in the wilderness mood? Try foraging! I’ve pretty much only foraged for morel mushrooms, personally (and I bet I’m not the only one), so I especially loved Sara Friedl-Putnam’s interesting story about foraging in the region. You get to follow along on a walk with Elsa McCargar and Conor Murphy, who run the local business, The Wilder’s Way, plus hear about Decorah’s Peter Kraus’ approach to native plants and Driftless cuisine. Oh, and there’s a recipe for a Wild Salad! Fun!

Now this is the place where I write about how you’ve gotta to make time to stop and find the magic this summer. That is the goal, for sure – but life is busy! Remember, though: You’re making the story of your summer – and your life – right now. Today! Do your best to slow it down and enjoy it! You can find some tips for doing that in my infographic, “Find the Magic,” on page 25.

We’ve filled this Inspire(d) with fun and love and magic so hopefully you can fill your summer with the same.

Big thanks to all of our amazing readers and advertisers – now get out there!

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Click here to read the Summer 2019 Inspire(d) online!

Seed Savers Benefit Concert: Q&A w/ David Huckfelt

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) near Decorah, IA will once again host an incredible lineup of mid-western musicians for an on-the-farm benefit concert, Saturday, August 3, 2019. Seed Savers has been providing a home and outlet for heirloom and open pollinated varieties of seeds since 1975, encouraging gardeners and farmers worldwide to grow, harvest, and share heirloom seeds, as well as recount the inspirational stories behind them. SSE aims to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

The benefit concert is hosted in the natural grass bowl of Lillian Goldman Visitors Center on the SSE Heritage Farm, offering a magical setting for some of the mid-west’s best roots musicians, including; Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles, Lissie, David Huckfelt of The Pines, Pieta Brown, Michael Rossetto, and Special Guest Mr. Greg Brown. Tickets are available at this link for $25 in advance, $30 day of at the gate.

David Huckfelt, photo by Graham Tolbert

Dave Huckfelt, of The Pines, was kind enough to take a few minutes to speak with Inspire(d) about why Seed Savers Exchange holds a special place for him. Huckfelt, a native Iowan, has been touring, writing, and performing beautiful, haunting tunes across the country for years – including a recent stint on Isle Royale, America’s most remote and least visited national park in mighty Lake Superior. Six hours by boat off the Michigan coast, Isle Royale is the largest island in the world’s largest freshwater lake, an isolated stretch of wilderness seemingly forgotten by the 20th century (to say nothing of the 21st). There, as an Artist In Residence selected by the National Park Service, Huckfelt spent ten hours a day for two straight weeks writing in solitude, channeling the mysterious and lonesome island’s spirits into his stunning debut solo album, ‘Stranger Angels.’

Huckfelt’s music is authentic, honest, and filled with a passion that makes him a natural fit to be a part of the SSE Benefit Concert. Inspire(d) would graciously like to thank David Huckfelt for his work, art, and time in answering the following questions:

Inspire(d): What’s the most fun or rewarding thing you’ve ever grown?

DH: In Clay County, Iowa, near Spencer where I grew up, I watched many of the small-scale family farms in the region swallowed up by giant ag corporations, crop diversity plummet, and hard working families have to get in line and accept GMO corn and soybean fields just to stay afloat. Wal-Mart & Home Depot moved in, and our main street was devastated; no more movie theater, no more hotel, no more shoe stores and little grocers. My best friend lived on a third generation family farm, their lane was a half a mile long because there weren’t even sections yet when their great grandfather homesteaded. Every year when they planted their massive fields of hybrid GMO corn, they’d always save a little parcel of land near the house for their heirloom sweet corn seeds.  I’d help plant & will always remember the first day when it was ready to pick & eat, by far the best tasting corn I’ve ever had.

Inspire(d): Why does the work of Seed Savers Exchange spark you?

DH: America has terrible amnesia. We forget, we throw away, we trample under-foot. Many friends of mine made a decision somewhere along the path that the best way to resist the trends of environmental collapse and the best place to make a stand was by starting an organic farm, a CSA, a farmer’s market. And it feels like you’re going up against the giants of the whole world. Then you turn around and realize Seed Savers has been there the whole time, they have seeds for you, and they’ll get’em to your door so you can get them in the ground. It’s the feeling of being supported by the generations, and it addresses the red alert of climate change head on.

Inspire(d): Seed Savers now has over 20,000 plant seeds in their collection – hundreds which have gone to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. Any favorites you hope are in that stash, or specifics you can’t imagine the world without?

DH: The heirloom tomato varieties are my favorite; cherokee purple, cherry roma, Italian. I love the names, but it’s sad we have to designate them as “organic” or “heirloom”. I wish we could just call them tomatoes and then have names for the GMO frankensteins, like “science tomato” or “flavorless lab rat romas”.

Inspire(d): You might know that Seed Savers has an amazing orchard with over 1,200 varieties of Apple Trees. It’s quite a place, encompassing many varieties that have all but disappeared – with a long view plan for revitalization. Are you more of an apple pie or apple crisp type person?

DH: Crisp me up.  The world is a mess, and so should my desert be.

Inspire(d): Hopes, wishes, or dreams for the 2019 Seed Savers Exchange Benefit Concert?

DH: I hope the prairie-glow pink and orange lights up the hill-side all around the barn, and hundreds of people come out to take in the songs & sounds, born of the Midwest, and put their shoulders to the wheel of supporting this beautiful organization. I hope spontaneous collaborations arise, and that Greg Brown plays ’til the sun comes up. And I hope we all eat heirloom tomatoes until next years concert.

(To read an interview with mid west musician Lissie about her connections to Seed Savers Exchange, please click here.)

Seed Saver Exchange Benefit Concert
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles
Lissie
David Huckfelt of The Pines
Pieta Brown
Michael Rossetto
Special Guest Mr. Greg Brown

3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA
5pm gates, 7pm show
Tickets available seedsavers.org/concert
$25 advance / $30 at the gate
(563) 382-5990
https://www.seedsavers.org/

Glamping: Eclectic Escapes in the Driftless

Bending River Cove photo by Kassidy Renee Paige / kassidyreneepaige.com

 

Ever wanted to spend the night in a silo? Get closer to nature, but not so close that you’re actually sleeping on the ground? Or maybe you’d like to see what tiny homes are all about?

These days, there are more options than ever for overnight stays in the Driftless – from amazing hotels to B&Bs to glamping-esque experiences (like the aforementioned silo). We caught up with three Driftless locals who have worked hard to reclaim materials, buildings, and properties, bringing new life to forgotten pieces of history, and, ultimately, creating fun and innovative spaces for guests to lay their heads for the night (or longer!).

The Driftless Region is a unique mix of landscapes and ecosystems, artists and farmers, cheese shops and pizza farms all living and existing in harmony – so get out there and explore all there is to offer! The adventure lies in the journey, AND the destination.


Not your average roadhouse

At The Chocolate Escape overlooking the Mississippi River in Wabasha, a group of third graders sit outside, licking their dripping chocolate and vanilla ice cream cones. They hoot and holler when an eagle flies overhead. At another table, a couple enjoys a cup of coffee. And, across the street at the local pub, a group of bikers clad in leather jackets, black boots, and sunglasses drink a cold brew. Time seems to stand still as three unlikely troops congregate contently on Main Street. Such is the vibe in towns along the Mississippi River.

As you head north out of town onto Highway 61, the sweeping green valleys and rolling bluffs overlook the wild yet graceful river. And there, perched on the side of the highway, sits a handful of tiny homes, campers, and cabins. Welcome to Bending River Cove, a resort with a cottage and five tiny homes, founded in 2017 by co-owners Mike Burke and Denay Kelly.

Bending River Cove

Bending River Cove photo by Kassidy Renee Paige / kassidyreneepaige.com

Mike is a treasure hunter in overalls. He – along with four friends – manage Barndoogle Productions. They travel through small towns across Southern Minnesota “barndoogling” – their word for finding treasures and history in old barns and buildings.

“All barns have a story,” he says. “And each one is unique. We believe it’s important to save and preserve not only the boards, but the stories too.”

Bending River Cove, barndoogling

Barndoogling / Photo courtesy Bending River Cove

When Mike was approached about crafting structures for a tiny home resort between Lake City and Wabasha using his reclaimed treasures, he jumped at the chance. It took Mike and business partner Denay Kelly two years to gather materials and build the tiny homes. But now, Bending River Cove is open for business, sitting just above Lake Pepin on the Minnesota side of the Mississippi.

The handcrafted tiny homes – between 200-400 square feet each – contain a kitchenette, a bathroom, a bedroom outfitted with luxury linens, and a fire pit outside.

“I use as many reclaimed boards and wood as I can,” Mike says. “With those materials, I find I can create intimate and cozy spaces.” Mike uses the term inglenook – a 17th century Scottish word that means chimney corner – to describe the feeling they’re going for at Bending River Cove. Before central heating, the fireplace was used for cooking, and the inglenook – or enclosing alcove – became a natural place for people to gather and stay warm. Looking at the river below while nestled on a comfy couch, with a mug of coffee in one hand and a book in the other, you catch a glimmer of that contentment.

“This area is near and dear to my heart,” Denay adds. “As a child, one of my favorite things to do was camp. Through these tiny homes, we’re trying to recreate that same experience.”

Sign at Bending River Cove

The sign at Bending River Cove / Photo courtesy Bending River Cove

Bending River Cover “tiny house nation”

Each tiny home is nestled between the bluffs of Southeast Minnesota and the breathtaking Lake Pepin. Nightly stays range between $75-175.

The Birch Studio. Sleeps 2. Includes twin daybed and trundle

Fat Bottom Girls. Sleeps 2. 1950s camper-turned-glamper

Homegrown Honey. Sleeps 6

Includes loft and lake-facing outdoor patio

Bohemian Rhapsody. Sleeps 4

Includes private bedroom and fire pit

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem. Sleeps 4

Includes outdoor hot tub with lake views

River Queen. Sleeps 6

Includes two separate bedrooms and outdoor deck space

For more information, visit brctinyhomes.com or search Bending River Cove on airbnbn.com.


From pizza farm to glamping

Maren and Tom Beard have been busy. In 2013, they bought their 133-acre farm just outside of Decorah, now known as the beloved Luna Valley Farm. They hosted their wedding ceremony there in the valley, two years later. In 2017, they harnessed Tom’s skills as a farmer and chef and Maren’s passion for sustainable food systems and procurement (she’s an excellent chef, as well) and kicked off their pizza farm. Then, last year, the couple decided to introduce glamping. What’s that, you say? Glamping, AKA glamorous camping, is a way to experience nature with the added bonus of real beds and other plush offerings.

Glamping tent at Luna Valley Farm

A glamping tent at Luna Valley Farm / Photo courtesy Luna Valley Farm

At Luna Valley, the glamping happens in two 12 x 14’ canvas wall tents, which were once used at a Camp Tahigwa, a former Girl Scout camp located north of Decorah. For years Camp Tahigwa hosted groups of girls for week-long camps in the summer, some of which were in wall tents in the woods, overlooking the local trout stream. When the camp got sold a few years ago, Maren and Tom purchased a few of the tents with the dream of someday pitching them on their farm to welcome guests for a farm stay. “We have a passion for breathing new life into remnants of the past and doing what we can to repurpose things of deep history and profound beauty,” Maren writes on their Airbnb listing. “A local Amish tarp repair shop helped us fix up the tents and they have found a new life on our farm, where we hope they will be enjoyed for many years to come.”

The tents are situated in a beautiful oak savanna and feature king-sized beds, whimsical lanterns, rough-sawn hardwood floors, and spaces to read, write, and relax. Set up on a platform that extends into a deck, each tent offers a stunning view of the farm.

“This is a chance for people to unplug, connect with the land, and spend time on a working farm,” Maren says. In addition to pizza and glamping, Luna Valley grows organic crops, and graze sheep and cattle on pasture. “There’s something magical about waking up in the woods in a comfortable bed. It’s so quiet and peaceful.”

In the morning, down at the barn – a three to four-minute walk from the tents – glampers will find local coffee waiting for them, plus lovely bathrooms and a luxurious shower (with room for two). You can even add on glamping extras – mason jar mimosas, anyone? The barn also houses Maren and Tom’s commercial kitchen and pizza oven. Bonus for glampers: On Friday nights, you can take your Luna Valley wood-fired pizza up to your own private patio.

Glamping tents and renovated showers at Luna Valley Farm

Glamping tents in the Oak Savannah at Luna Valley Farm & the renovated showers in the Luna Valley barn / Photos courtesy Luna Valley Farm

Tents are available on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the summer. $150/night, 2 night minimum

Pizza nights: Fridays, 4-8 pm • April – October

For more information, visit lunavalleyfarm.com


Reconstructing history

Five miles north of Decorah, you’ll find a barn silo and a 1973 train caboose, both lovingly restored by Jim Dotzenrod, a Decorah native who proudly welcomes visitors to his land – and the region.

“We are super laid back and friendly up here on The Ridge!” Jim writes in his Airbnb profile. “I grew up in this area and know lots of folks, so no matter your interests, I’d be happy to help you find what you’re looking for during your stay with us.”

CR Train Caboose

The CR Train Caboose / Photos courtesy Silo on the Ridge & CR Train Caboose

Jim says lots of his renters come from the Twin Cities looking for something different.

“They don’t want to stay in town. They’d rather enjoy an experience,” he says. “And out here, they can pet the horses in the pasture, pick raspberries and apples, and watch the sunset.”

The silo came first. Jim – with the help of his brother – restored the structure, adding a roof and building bunk beds and a bathroom on the second level. They even incorporated a grapevine that was originally wrapped around the outside of the silo – the horses had chewed it off, so it was fair game. It now acts as the handrail leading upstairs to the sleeping area. A sofa and kitchen space fill the main level, and a large deck wraps around the entire structure.

Silo on the Ridge, petting horses, picking raspberries, and grapevine handrail

Two above – the Silo on the Ridge & that grapevine handrail / Photos courtesy Silo on the Ridge & CR Train Caboose

After seeing the silo book up frequently, Jim decided it was time for another reno project. That’s when he found the CR Station train caboose — one of the last of its kind, according to Jim — sitting on a set of railroad tracks at a local recycling center. Although a carpenter by trade, Jim wasn’t set up for the ironwork inside. But, with the right tools and help from his daughter, the two of them went for it, gutting the train car – repurposing the original conductor chairs and handrails in the front room, and fitting a queen bed and bunkbeds in the loft. The main level holds the kitchen and bathroom. With help from a crane and semi, the 52,000-pound train car now sits 200 feet away from the silo.

Prices range from $75-$121/night. For more information, visit airbnb.com and search Silo on the Ridge and CR Station Train Caboose.


When Maggie Sonnek isn’t spending the night at unique and cozy destination properties like these, she can be found sipping an iced coffee with her husband, watching their three kids play with Max the puppy.


Looking for more out-of-the-norm spots to spend the night? Add these to your list:

Little House on the Farm & The Guest Barn – Postville, Iowa

The Little House on the Farm – a 750 square-foot cabin located outside of Decorah – was built in 2009 on the foundation of an old barn that was once located on owners Donna and Dave Dull’s farm. The cabin has the look and feel of an authentic pioneer cabin, but with modern touches. The Guest Barn was built in 2012 with materials salvaged from a nearby barn and corncrib. The pieces were used to build a smaller 700 square-foot “new” barn. The space is cozy, but open, with exposed original barn beams and high ceilings for an authentic, yet modern farm stay. www.littlehouseonthefarm.com


Elkader Jail House Inn – Elkader, Iowa

Hosts Julie Carlisle-Kane and Dr. Tim Kane have transformed the old Clayton County Jail – located in Elkader Iowa, and originally built in 1870 – into three spacious suites. Nothing like a jail cell, these suites are beautifully renovated and outfitted with luxurious beds and baths, while still retaining the historic character of the stately old limestone building.

Guest can hang out in the “cell block” – a public space that was once actually the cell block of the jail. These days you can play a game of shuffle board, watch TV, or just relax there! www.elkaderjailhouseinn.com


Trout River Log Cabin – Decorah, Iowa

The Trout River Log Cabin was built in the mid 19th century as a Norwegian-Lutheran parochial school, then taken apart in 1898, moved across a field, and rebuilt as Norwegian immigrant Peter Losen’s home. Then, Decorah residents Paul Cutting and partner, Nathan Thompson, come into possession of the cabin. They stripped it to the logs, numbered everything, and once again moved it – to its new location on the Cutting family farm seven miles from downtown Decorah, perched on a bluff overlooking Trout River valley. It took three years to piece the house back together, and the results are stunning. The cabin is small, simple, and beautiful, with everything you need to make your stay comfortable and relaxing. www.troutriverlogcabin.com


Historic Tobacco Warehouse – Viroqua, Wisconsin

The Northern Wisconsin Co-op Tobacco Pool warehouse – listed on the local, state, and national registries of historic places– is one of the most unique and recognizable buildings in Viroqua. The owners, Valorie Schaefer and Richard Bock, bought it in 2008, and have been slowly renovating it to include their family home, several offices, a photo studio, and now a private guest suite that folks can rent through Airbnb. And that only fills about half of the 24,000 square-foot building! To book, search “Guest Suite in Historic Warehouse” on Airbnb.


Trempealeau Hotel – Trempealeau, Wisconsin

Directly above the Trempealeau Hotel bar and restaurant are eight historic sleeping rooms. Take a step back in time – there’s no TV or air conditioning, but each quaint room has a comfy bed, dresser, chair, and window. Two restrooms with showers are shared with the other lodgers. There is live music most Thursdays and Saturdays and many days in between, so if you need a quieter experience, you may want to book one of the other Trempealeau Hotel lodging options (suites available!) or choose a night without music. Book ahead of time for Reggae Fest, Cajun Fest, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Catfish Days, Labor Day and all weekends in October. www.trempealeauhotel.com