Inspire(d) Summer 2021

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NO. 65 SUMMER 2021



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SUMMER 2021 contents






























...and more!



When life gives you know what to do! Take a bunch of photos, right?! Just kidding! We make lemonade! / Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols


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From the Editor


fter a year that felt stocked to the brim with lemons, it’s time for some lemonade, don’t you think? Many have been “working with what we’ve got” – i.e. making lemonade out of lemons – for a while, perhaps forever if you’re particularly skilled at that character strength. Others might still be honing those talents. But either way, we’ve definitely all had some practice. We’ve become better at recognizing our ever-shifting comfort levels in this ever-shifting world, and have found new tools to better Work With What We’ve Got. So we here at Inspire(d) say it’s time to squeeze the best out this summer! Let’s make some dang lemonade, friends! This issue is filled with inspiration for just that: Stories of innovative folks who know how to make the most of, well, whatever. In Sara Walter’s piece about Community Hunger Solutions (pg 16) in Viroqua, Wisconsin, find out how this organization takes seconds and surplus food and produce from farmers, factories, and more – food that would normally be heading for the bin – and gets it on local tables that need it. Meet Jason Loper and Michael Schrieber – and their house, the Meier House in Monona, Iowa – in my story about their path from Chicago to the Driftless, and their new book about the history of their house, the only Frank Lloyd Wright American System-Built Home in Iowa (pg 22). Read about the ever-enterprising farmers at Blue Fruit Farm (pg 48) in Winona, Minnesota, using MPR and lasers to keep pests away, plus how they helped to establish organics and a farmers market in their region in a story from new Inspire(d) contributor, Renee Brincks. For our summer Sum of Your Business, Benji Nichols chats with Cody Whittle of Big Driftless about the ups and downs of running his hand-crafted (and amazing!) gear, pack, and apparel company (pg 54), and Kristine Jepsen features the Martinsen-Burrells – or the MB’s as they’re know around Decorah – in a Community Builder piece that highlights the family’s work with the local OWL program (pg 44). As for your summer: are you planning some, ahem, smaller travel plans? Erin Dorbin takes readers on a Southeast Minnesota Tiny Town Day Tripper Adventure that’s full of fun, winding you through tiny towns and Driftless backroads (pg 60). As you travel, keep an eye out for little house-like structures, filled with books and installed around towns across the U.S. These are Free Little Libraries, and they were founded in Hudson, Wisconsin. There are quite a few around the Driftless, and we learn about the history, and some of Decorah’s LFL, in Sara Friedl-Putnam’s story (pg 28). Finally, make sure you take a stop mid-way through this magazine for the summer Mental Health piece by local mental health counselor Olivia Lynn Schnur. She walks us through tips that will help us Work With What We’ve Got – starting with self care (pg 37) – with an infographic introduction by me (pg 33). Plus, there are a ton of fun summer things to add to your to-do list: live outdoor music (pg 14), flower pounding postcards (pg 43), and lots of super cool things around the region (pg 9). We hope you make the most of this fleeting season – it’s your summer, after all…and you’ve gotta work with that! Looking forward,

What’s it mean?

Inspire(d) Inspire(d) – pronounced in-spy-erd... you know: inspired – stands for inspire and be inspired. The idea is that person one inspires person two. That person is now inspired. Then that person inspires person three (or person one again), who is now inspired. Then the cycle continues! That’s what those arrows around the (d) are about! Our mission is, ultimately, to change the world… starting with our own community!

Who are we? CO-FOUNDERS:

Aryn Henning Nichols / editor & designer Benji Nichols / writer & advertising sales (& husband, distributor, head of logistics)

WE COULDN’T DO IT WITHOUT: Kristine Jepsen / contributor Sara Friedl-Putnam / contributor Sara Walters / contributor Olivia Lynn Schnur / contributor Erin Dorbin / contributor Renee Brincks / contributor Inspire(d) Magazine is published quarterly by Inspire(d) Media, LLC, 412 Oak Street, Decorah, Iowa, 52101. This issue is dated Summer 2021, issue 65 volume 14, Copyright 2021 by Inspire(d) Magazine.

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Although Inspire(d) is free on stands, you can have it sent to your door (or extended family!) for only $28/year. Email for a membership or visit for more info. Want to make a comment about something you read in the magazine? Email

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What is the driftless?

It’s a region in the Midwest – Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, Southwest Wisconsin, and a wee bit of Northwest Illinois – that was skipped by the glaciers in the last ice age, leaving the area “lacking glacial drift” – i.e. Driftless. The gist of that is we get to enjoy bluffs, valleys, coulees, and other fun geographical features that don’t typically occur in other parts of our states (the Mississippi River contributes nicely to this list as well). It’s a lovely place to live and visit, and we’re happy you’re here! 07

Perfect for a Day Trip or Weekend Getaway!

Explore Harmony, Minnesota Only 30 minutes away from Decorah, this full service community offers a variety of great dining options, unique antiques, furniture & gift shops, & exciting recreational opportunities. Explore Niagara Cave, tour the Amish countryside, & pedal your way through 60 miles of paved bike trail! Harmony also offers a wide array of service businesses ready to meet your every need.

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Kick off Independence weekend right with the Pulpit to Pulpit 5K & 1 Mile accessible fun run in Decorah, Saturday, July 3, 8 am. The event starts at Pulpit Rock Brewery at the corner of College Drive and Fifth Avenue on Decorah’s west side, and is both family and dog friendly. This year’s route will feature a run past the actual “Pulpit Organizers Steph Hughes, Megan Buckingham, Pete Espinosa, and Tara Quass / courtesy photo Rock” at Will Baker Park near the campground before rounding back to the brewery. (No, it won’t go all the way to Preikestolen in Norway, but the run is beautiful!) The 5K is a timed event while the 1-mile is untimed. Advance registration can be found at: Since its inception, Pulpit to Pulpit has strived to raise money for local organizations and non-profits. For 2021, two fantastic local organizations will benefit: ArtHaus and Decorah Human Powered Trails. ArtHaus is Decorah’s community home for the arts, located at the corner of Washington and Broadway. Decorah Human Powered Trails is the volunteer organization that helps create and maintain the off road single track trails of Decorah’s Park system. The Pulpit to Pulpit event will follow all directed health measures at the time of the event. Personal responsibilities will be communicated to athletes, staff, volunteers, vendors, and sponsors prior to the event.


Decorah has a new way to keep on top of what’s happening on any given day for dining, shopping, and drinking – the deetz App! Founded by a group of University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and University of Northern Iowa graduates, deetz seeks a better way to stay connected with and support local community and businesses. Brought to Decorah through a partnership with the Decorah Chamber of Commerce, deetz will also offer up-to-the-minute information and updates for Nordic Fest 2021. “I love that this app is run by local entrepreneurs and is free to users,” says Decorah Chamber Director Jessica Rilling. “I appreciate that deetz doesn’t mine data like other social media channels – the only personal info that they store is the users phone number in case they would have to block a number for safety or inappropriate behavior. I also appreciate that they don’t filter information like Facebook. I don’t think businesses realize how few followers see their content these days (less than 5 percent). Deetz is about offering current, unfiltered information to best serve small business. There are no ads. There are no tricks to having your content be visible to users. They truly have the small business at the heart of their model.” The platform’s goal is to connect people with what’s happening in their area - specials from businesses, updated hours, happenings, events, and more. Registration is super simple, and allows you to share experiences anonymously while also earning points for rewards and experiences. The deetz map resets every 24 hours so it’s always up-to-date with fresh, local information and specials. Deetz can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play, and is great way to both learn and share what’s happening in Decorah (and beyond!). Hit up for more information.

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Vesterheim Museum in Decorah presents “An Artists Journey” Carl Homstad, 50 Years, on display June 5, 2021 to May 30, 2022. Born in Denver, Colorado, Carl Homstad made a home in Northeast Iowa after attending Luther College in Decorah, graduating with a BA in art in 1973. His journey as an artist, though, has taken him across the world, exploring media from carved woodcut prints to watercolor and oil paintings. Homstad is an award-winning artist who has exhibited in numerous juried and invitational shows. His work is in the permanent collections of several Midwest institutions, and his murals are on walls in more than 30 communities. He has also supervised more than 100 murals in public schools. From the artist: “This retrospective exhibition covers 50 years of work. It is the journey of a career artist: the way I learned my craft, what and where I studied, and the ways I was able to make art my livelihood. It will illustrate actual journeys I made to understand the art and landscapes of other places, from Alaska to Austria, Japan and China to New Zealand. But it is more than that. It is my journey through life as a person, and how philosophies and theologies affected me. I hope you get a chance to join me on this journey, through the exhibit at Vesterheim.” It’s worth noting that Inspire(d) is a big fan of Homstad’s work, which graces our office and home walls with scenes of inspiration. Find out more about the exhibit at, and more about Carl Homstad at



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Summer 2021 /

Lanesboro Arts is proud to present the 40th annual Art in the Park fine art festival on Saturday, June 19, from 10 am to 5 pm in Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park with 50-plus fine art and craft booths and live music. Renowned for quality, variety, and value, Art in the Park is a family-friendly art fair that attracts thousands of regional patrons to Sylvan Park each year. Booths will encircle Sylvan Park underneath canopies of shade, featuring a wide variety of artist-made work by over 50 artists from

the tri-state region. There will be everything from paintings and photography to glass sculptures and woven baskets, and much more. There will also be family arts activities for youth. Attendees will enjoy delicious and locally prepared foods at booths and food trucks. Returning to Art in the Park in 2021 will be craft beer provided by Kinney Creek Brewery of Rochester, Island City Brewery of Winona, KARST Brewing Co. of Fountain, and the new addition of Lanesboro’s very own Sylvan Brewing. Due to COVID-19, there are fewer artists this year to allow for social distancing in Sylvan Park. Please respect event guidelines while attending. Lanesboro Arts thanks festival-goers for keeping Art in the Park safe and comfortable for all! For more information call 507-467-2446 or visit www.

250 artists. 7 days a week. 1 gallery.


Creando Ando, an educational program for LatinX entrepreneurs, is returning to Southeast Minnesota for a second edition this summer to empower people and communities to follow their entrepreneurial passions. Since finding initial success in a pilot program held last summer in Rochester, Creando Ando is expanding to three distinct regions in southern Minnesota, one of which includes the southeastern Minnesota counties of Houston, Fillmore, Winona, Mower, Goodhue, Dodge, and Olmsted. The eight-week program was created by Twin Cities based nonprofit Hispanic Advocacy and Community Empowerment through Research (HACER). The organization’s Creando Ando initiative is led by Research Associates Tania Piñeiro and Juan Pablo Higuera. While the Latinx community is highly entrepreneurial, Latinoowned businesses also experience a high rate of business closures, especially within their first year of operation. Creando Ando is specifically designed to help people develop personally and professionally to give them a higher chance of succeeding in their business. The program is delivered entirely in Spanish and is open to first and second generation Latinos. To find out more about Creando Ando visit:

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If you are a devoted Inspire(d) reader, you might recall the story we ran in the Spring 2020 issue of the magazine featuring “Walking Space” – a unique provider of multi-day walking experiences across the Driftless created by Andrew Boddicker. Like many of our lives, the pandemic greatly affected Walking Space’s schedule for 2020, but the crew is back with an amazing collection of offerings to get you out on two feet, reconnecting with yourself and others. The best part? These adventures take place right here in our region – likely in places you’ve been meaning to explore for months or years! Leave the planning to the professionals, jump on board (the actual bus), and enjoy an adventure while taking in nature at a walking pace. There are four signature walks for Summer 2021, and they are scheduled for different weeks throughout July and early August. The two- to four-night trips are the Signature Walk, Digital Detox, Yoga + Walking Trip, and Life Transition Walk. The majority of this summer’s experiences will take place on segments of the Root River Trail in Southeast Minnesota, and include most of the necessities for meals and Walking Space’s “hostel on wheels” – the bunk bus! In addition, Walking Space will lead two short Mindfulness Walks at the Driftless Yoga Festival in Decorah June 18-20. What better way to shed so much of the heaviness of the past year? Treat yourself to a healthy, fun, outdoor experience – and get walking! Find out all the details at: www.


The great town of Westby, Wisconsin – much known and loved for all things Norwegian – is also home to some of our region’s most talented folk artists. For wood carvers and wood carving enthusiasts, save the date for the annual “Westby Carve In”, set for August 21 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Bekkum Memorial Library in Westby. Come to connect, show, share skills, trade, and enjoy time with fellow woodcarvers, including featured carver Becky Lusk of Lusk Scandia Woodworks (see her work at right). Admission is free and donations are accepted to help cover future events. There will even be drawings for attendees including tools and carvings! For more information feel free to contact John Sutton at 608-634-4396 or or check Facebook “Carve In at the Bekkum”



That’s right, everyone’s favorite Norwegian-American street festival returns the last full weekend of July (22-24) in Downtown Decorah! This annual celebration of Scandinavian heritage, culture, and food stretches three days and will offer many of the traditional activities that the Fest is known for. Join in the fun – much of which will take place outside, including sporting events, music, food and beverages, entertainment, and many art and cultural displays and offerings. Family fun will abound from the grand parade Saturday morning, to the annual Evelopet foot race, fireworks Saturday night, special programming at Vesterheim Museum, the Nordic Dancers, and so much more. Keep an eye out for the official schedule at







Here at Inspire(d) HQ, we’re more than willing to admit that 2020 turned out to be the perfect year to get a dog! Yep, Athena, our almost-year-and-a-half-year-old Bernedoodle, has kept us on our toes all throughout the pandemic. But as anyone who has had a puppy knows, training is key to the happiness of both pup – and – owners! Luckily in Decorah, we have an amazing resource for dog training: the Good Dog Center! For many years, the Center has provided classes and opportunities for dog owners to train and work on skills, but in the midst of 2020, the owners as well as a handful of enthusiastic teachers and backers saw the opportunity to create a much larger center that could offer many more options. So the new Good Dog Center was born, now housed in the former Nob Hill Supper Club at 2955 Highway 52 north of Decorah. The new “Pupper Club” has the space and facilities to offer such amenities as day training, doggie daycare, full grooming services, classes, train and board offerings, and much more. As for Athena? She’s a 60lb pup at this point, but just passed her UKC SPOT test and received her first ribbon while training at the Good Dog Center! Check out all of the new fun and facilities at




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The summer outdoor music scene appears to be returning across our region, so we’ve put together a few of our favorite opportunities to check out some tunes in the Driftless!


You would be hard-pressed to find a more beautiful and friendly setting than the rural parks of Vernon County Wisconsin – and this summer you can even catch some of our region’s best musicians playing free, outdoor, family-friendly shows at these parks! Sidie Hollow County Park and Esofea County Park near Viroqua will alternately host concerts on Wednesday evenings in the summer months. The lineup includes many local favorites (see the schedule below). It’s worth mentioning that Sidie Hollow also features fantastic camping and excellent single-track mountain bike trails – so make a mid-week escape of it! “We are thrilled to announce this exceptional lineup for the Music in the Parks series,” says Friends of Vernon County Parks music committee member Justin Miller. “This live music series will not only help bring awareness to our county parks, feature top-notch musicians in a safe outdoor space, but it also allows the greater community to come together. Big thanks to all the volunteers and musicians who will contribute to making our Wednesdays even more amazing this summer in Vernon County!” The Friends of Vernon County Parks & Forests Music in the Parks series is open to friends and families of all ages and will begin at 6 pm every Wednesday in June, July, and August. There is no admission fee for the Music in the Parks series, but free-will donations are encouraged and will go to directly support the musicians. Find the full schedule at: www. June 2: Sidie Hollow – Cheech and Luan Braithwaite June 9: Esofea County Park– Mike Munson with Tina King June 16: Sidie – TUGG June 23: Sidie – Craig Baumann and the Story June 30: Esofea – Dan Sebranek and Mary July 7: Sidie – The Iowans with super special guest July 14: Esofea – Lou Sheilds with Jay Hoffman July 21: Sidie – WURK July 28: Sidie – Eric Tessmer August 4: Esofea – High and Rising with Tim Eddy August 11: Sidie – Old Soul Society August 18: Esofea – The Sapsuckers with Kickapoo Joy Juice August 25: Sidie Hollow – Adam Greuel (and friends TBA)

Summer 2021 /


Sweet 16 Farm outside of Houston, Minnesota, is happy to announce that Hop Harvest Fest 2021 is back for August 28! The event is a celebration of peak hop season, in partnership with local breweries, offering a chance for visitors to see hops on the vine, help pick them, and enjoy a brew or two in the company of friends and great music. The farm, located in the beautiful Root River Valley, is named for its picturesque location along State Hwy 16 in southeastern Minnesota. Sweet 16 Farm is a woman-owned and operated specialty cut flower farm, growing 40+ varieties of annuals, perennials, woodies, and hops. Full music and event lineup will be released in the near future, so check out or email for more details!

RHYTHMS ON THE ROOT Lanesboro, Minnesota is the place to be this summer as a short series of fantastic summer concerts graces the great banks of the Root River. Lanesboro Arts is thrilled to announce the new outdoor summer music series, activating the vibrant asset of Gateway Park as a safe place for the Lanesboro community and visitors to gather and celebrate with live music. The series offers a family-friendly range of music including bluegrass, soul, folk, and blues from great, regionally acclaimed bands (schedule below). The concerts will take place from 6 to 7:30 pm on the second Friday of every month, June through September. Tickets – available at – are $10 each for individuals age 13+ (free for 12 and under, but ticket still required). June 11: Barbaro July 9: Annie Mack August 13: PK Mayo September 10: Pieta Brown

15, every Thursday evening through September 11. Featuring great musicians from around the region, performing for free in a beautiful outdoor setting, Moon Tunes is a great way to get out and enjoy the area – and support your favorite downtown La Crosse businesses. Shows run from 5:30 to 8pm. Check Facebook “Moon Tunes La Crosse” for latest updates.


Hop Harvest Fest 2019


If there is a sweeter spot in view of the mighty Mississippi to grab a pint and catch a few tunes than the Trempealeau Hotel, we haven’t found it yet. With their beautiful outdoor “backyard” space and stage, the Hotel is prepped and ready to get your summer grooving with some of our region’s best musicians. Catch two nights of Them Coulee Boys with Humbird July 2-3 and check for upto-date concert announcements, including more chill weeknights, porch sessions, jam sessions, and more. Also don’t forget the Trempealeau Hotel offers a unique place to stay the night and a great dining room as well – just a hop, skip, and a jump from Perrot State Park.


Moon Tunes La Crosse is back in Riverside Park, Thursday evenings throughout the summer at the beautiful new bandshell! The schedule starts with shows on June 3, 10, and 17, and then continues July

Viroqua’s annual musical bash is tentatively scheduled for September 21 featuring Dead Horses and Bumpus. This fantastic community celebration takes place in one of Viroqua’s great outdoor parks and offers the chance for humans of all ages to enjoy fantastic, family jammin’ live music. Put the date in your calendar and hit up for all the details.


If you haven’t made a field trip to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, it is well worth putting it on the calendar, especially to visit the Mineral Point Opera House; it’s a gem of a facility. Dubbed “A Theatre For All The People” at its dedication in 1915, the theatre’s leadership is determined to resume that role in the community as soon as possible. Plans for the 2021-22 season have just been announced and it looks amazing! The Opera House will reopen its doors to concerts starting Saturday, September 4, when Milwaukee rock-n-roll favorite BoDeans will take center stage in the historic SW Wisconsin venue. Other shows scheduled for the season include Dar Williams, Martin Sexton, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Iris Dement, The People Brothers Band, and more. Season tickets go on sale June 14 and all the info can be found at



Summer 2021 /

Driftless Area Art Festival


ver wonder what happens to fresh produce that doesn’t get sold at your Farmers Market? Or the crazy carrots and lopsided tomatoes that don’t make the grocery store cut? Or how about milk or cheese at a local dairy that is perfectly good, but can’t be retailed? Through Community Hunger Solutions in Vernon County Wisconsin, these food items make their way to community members who need it. “I have a passion for food and feeding people and the community it builds,” says Community Hunger Solutions Program Manager Jeanette Burlingame. A former Westby resident, Jeanette moved back from Milwaukee five years ago to settle down in the Driftless. When she connected with the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA), the Viroqua-based umbrella organization that includes Community Hunger Solutions, she knew she had found her place, especially with her background in warehousing and logistics. “I couldn’t have picked a more perfect job for myself,” she says. Community Hunger Solutions (CHS) formed in Viroqua in 2010 as a gleaning – meaning the act of collecting leftover crops – organization by Gary Thompson, Daniel Chotzen, and the Valley Stewardship Network. It has since grown into a vital connector and distributor of local food to those in need. In the Driftless Region, a staggering number of people struggle to have enough food, specifically, healthy food. Vernon County has a poverty level of 14.1 percent, far greater than the national average of 10.5 percent and the state average 10.4 percent. Almost 50 percent of school-age children qualify for free or reduced-price meals. This deficiency is a driving force for CHS, and they’re working hard daily to bring nutritious, fresh food to these tables. It’s no small task. That first year, in 2010, CHS rescued about 13,000 pounds of local food. They’ve now grown to supply over 250,000 pounds of food to the area annually. “We connect with local farms and food producers. We take the seconds produce or the produce that is highly perishable, and dairy that is too close to expiration to send to retail markets,” she explains. “We take all that food in our area that’s being wasted and redistribute it to people that don’t have access.”

Celebrating the Visual, Performing and Culinary Arts of the Driftless Area

Sat. Sept. 18, 10-5 Sun. Sept. 19, 10-4 Soldiers Grove, WI 75 Visual Artists Live Music, Local Foods Kid’s activities

Wednesday 3-6 pm Saturday 8-11 am May - October Located in the city parking lot behind the Oneota Co-op and across the street from the Post Office.

A sample of a Families to Families produce box put together by Community Hunger Solutions. / Photo courtesy CHS

Jeanette emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with this food. In fact, it’s very fresh and often organic. It just happens to fall outside of a market need at the moment or has produced an overabundance Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


that can’t be sold. summer months. Sometimes there are In order to get wrong orders or high the freshest volume orders that can’t items out to be sold, so CHS picks up their partners the excess. They also and into the work with food sources hands of the such as Organic Valley people who and Westby Creamery, need it, CHS where production volunteers work hiccups result in diligently to get dairy pulled from the items ready to assembly line. Or where send out first quality assurance tests thing Wednesday require an entire case of morning. product to be opened Fortunately, when only one or two CHS has an items are tested. “It’s affordable, far less efficient for their accessible space process to repackage CHS Program Manager Jeanette Burlingame displays some Organic Valley Brussels sprouts to complete this those cases, so they give that will be heading to community members in need. / Photo courtesy CHS process, thanks them to us,” says Jeanette. to the support of In the category deemed “seconds,” produce is the wrong size VEDA. VEDA has developed the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua, a or color or has surface imperfections. This food is not well suited multi-tenant building that offers organizations like CHS the amenities for the retail space, but it’s a prime commodity for CHS. A large it needs to sort and distribute this high volume of produce. They’ve amount of the seconds they collect comes from area farms. “We got access to coolers, warehouse space, docks, and forklifts, all at an are fortunate to work with some larger CSA (community supported affordable price. “It’s a very cool space, really an incredible building,” agriculture) farms,” says Jeanette. With their help, CHS receives says Jeanette. “VEDA is very community based and a really awesome fresh herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, resource for small businesses.” squash, garlic, root vegetables, turnips, radishes, apples, and more. After the volunteers and CHS team get the produce sorted, it Depending on the time of year and the harvest, they’re able to get heads out to area partners. These are food pantries, community a solid variety of produce. Places like Turkey Ridge Organic Apple meal providers, community centers, schools, low-income housing Orchard in Gays Mills, Wisconsin, provide them with about 5,000 units, and others. Then these outlets distribute the products to the pounds of apple in the fall that can last in their coolers until January. populations they serve. Connecting with food sources and organizing incoming produce But at this point, the job still isn’t done. CHS also serves as is just step one, though. Next comes sorting and distributing the a primary educational source for the distribution sites and the food to area partners. This is a big job, especially since Jeanette is communities where they provide food. “We go in and coach the only one of two paid employees at CHS – her partner-in-crime, Dana pantry volunteers through the items and try to make it [the food] Scheffen, handles education, marketing, and many other things that accessible through education,” she says. “We really just want to need doing (like deliveries and grant writing). Luckily, the community remove the mystery.” Oftentimes, those receiving CHS food have also steps in. So much of this work is done by volunteers. Each never had access to fresh, organic produce before and this can be week, specifically Tuesdays when unsold farmers market items are daunting. They may not know what to do with items like broccoli available to collect, volunteers sort pounds and pounds of fresh rabe or celeriac. But that’s where Jeanette says providing resources produce and dairy products. It’s an all-day affair, especially in the about nutrition and cooking preparation is critical. It’s what helps

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a few positive outcomes, she get the food from the farm, to points out. “COVID made people the table, and ultimately into the rethink completely how they do mouths of those who need it. things and come up with solutions Like everything else, this cycle to navigate it. It has actually of gathering, distributing, and created more connections.” It’s then teaching the community also prompted her to approach about the produce, was disrupted her work as always changing and by the pandemic. Jeanette fluid. During her time at CHS, she explains that many food pantries has encountered two catastrophic offer free choice to its patrons. floods and now, a global pandemic. However, with COVID-19 “The more I do this, the more I safety protocols in place, many realize no two years are ever going discontinued this option and to be the same,” she says. instead packaged their own boxes Overcoming these kinds of for distribution, including only hurdles is just part of the job, limited produce. The variety and she knows. But the hurdles that perishable quality of produce just limit or remove access to food for didn’t work for this contactless many? Those need improvement. approach. This caused some Jeanette explains that many of the partnerships to come to a systems that provide funding to standstill. Also, the demand for food ebbed and flowed with the those who need it – recipients of SNAP benefits, for example – are distribution of stimulus packages designed to prevent fraud. But and changes in unemployment Volunteers busily work at the VEDA building to prepare produce really, Jeanette explains, what it benefits, becoming more and other food items for distribution. / Photo courtesy CHS does is prevent access. The amount unpredictable. Consequences of actual fraud or deception is miniscule compared to the need. from the overturned mask mandate in Wisconsin also impacted food The layers and layers of paperwork, applications, long phone calls, access. “There has been anxiety around resources and navigating the bureaucracy around it,” explains Jeanette. But there have been Continued on next page

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and appointments are not for the future generations and their access feasible for those who are and knowledge of healthy, fresh food. There already lacking resources. will be a nutrition education curriculum once “It can be very difficult to a month and support for communities to get get the help, even if they their own Farm to ECE programs started, as do ask for it,” says Jeanette. well. “It’s slow to get going but the ultimate Asking for help is part of goal is longevity,” explains Jeanette. “We want the problem, too. CHS to do it in a way that is intentional and will serves an area that has have a lasting impact.” strong, proud Midwestern And yet another way CHS is helping to roots. “There can be a lot of nourish communities is by preparing a Food shame around hunger and Equity Assessment. This will be distributed a lot of ‘we’ll do it on our in the coming months to the five counties own, we’ll make ends meet.’ CHS supports to get a deep understanding of That rugged individualism what the needs are for community members. that people are raised with The goal is to identify food insecurities, makes them feel like they prevalence, and solutions. Then, after this shouldn’t ask for help, assessment is complete, it’s time to gather no matter how hard they and problem solve, says Jeanette. “We need work,” says Jeanette. input from the people who are living with Helping to remove the food insecurity. We want to hear from them. stigma and bridge access to We want to know what is working, what is not funding for food is a future working, and how we can make the system goal for Jeanette and CHS. work for everyone,” she adds. She hopes that She is hoping they will be this input from those that need it most will able to expand the support truly help guide and grow Community Hunger Community Hunger Solutions has also partnered with the Hunger Task Force they provide to their food Solutions. “We really want to get fresh, of La Crosse. / Photo courtesy CHS distributors and customers good quality healthy foods to people,” she by being a liaison between says. “Because everyone deserves that.” them and food assistance programs like SNAP. The goal is to make sure that everyone has the appropriate resources they need. Sara Walters Addressing the food needs of the youngest members VOLUNTEER WITH is a writer and of the community, specifically pre-kindergarten age, is mom living in La COMMUNITY HUNGER also a major initiative for CHS. “We want to build a good Crescent, MN. SOLUTIONS foundation at that age for healthy lifestyle choices so they are easier to make as they get older,” says Jeanette. The Farm to ECE (Early Childhood Education) program is What: Help out in the warehouse or in the community garden program something she feels passionate expanding in the coming Where: Viroqua, WI months. This education-based initiative connects families When: Daytime or evenings, every weekday in the summer months with young children to pay-as-you-go CSA subscriptions Tuesdays are busy sorting days and always need help! on a sliding scale. Normally CSA programs have a large upfront cost, but with some income-based assistance, How: Get the details and contact CHS here followed by a strong educational presence in community institutions that work with children, Jeanette feels hopeful


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“When we first told our family, friends and colleagues in Chicago about the purchase of our ‘dream house,’ the reaction typically went like this: ‘Wow! Congratulations! Where is the house?’ ‘In Iowa.’ (Pause. Eyes widening and mouths falling somewhat open.) ‘Iowa? Isn’t that kind of . . . far from here?’ ‘Well, yes, it is. But it’s a very special house.’” - Excerpt from This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes by Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber of Monona, Iowa


The Meier House is the only American System-Built Home in Iowa. Above: The This American House book will be out this summer. / Images courtesy Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber.

Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber chat about their upcoming book in their living room at the Meier House in Monona, Iowa. / Photo by Aryn Henning Nichols



t’s the quintessential city-dwellers dream: a quiet rural escape. For Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber, that dream came to life after 17 years of small condo- and apartment-living in Chicago. They were finally ready for a change of (s)pace. “We were thinking a small footprint, maybe midcentury modern, two to three hours from Chicago, with a bit of land,” Jason and Michael say, each finishing the others’ thoughts. “This was none of those things,” they conclude, sitting side-by-side on the couch in the cozy living room of the (now their) Meier House in Monona, Iowa. First off, it was much larger than they were planning, with almost 2,000 square feet of space.

“Compared to our Chicago condo, this feels like a palace.” It was five whole hours from Chicago, and despite being rural, it wasn’t in the country; it was in small-town Northeast Iowa. And there was nothing midcentury about it. In fact, built in 1917, this house was nearing its 100th birthday at that point. Plus, it was a Frank Lloyd Wright design – an American System-Built Home, Wright’s early attempt at pre-fab housing. Even though – living in Chicago – Jason and Michael had a lot of exposure to Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and enjoyed his work, owning one of his designs was never on their dream list. “And then we saw the real estate listing for the Meier House,” Michael says.


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“I kept coming back to it, over and over again. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.” Michael had to convince Jason to go see it. “I thought, okay, let’s get it out of his system,” Jason says. But once they stepped foot inside the foyer, they knew. “A folder filled with vintage photographs, letters, and other papers that documented the house’s pedigree and history as a Wright-designed American System-Built Home was awaiting us on the kitchen counter,” Michael says. “For us two history nerds and design buffs, this was like encountering a mousetrap baited with irresistibly tasty cheese!” It was all just too good to resist. Jason, a social media specialist, and Michael, an independent special education teacher, had the flexibility in their lives to make the move, and the Driftless itself was calling them to take the leap. “It was not at all what we thought Iowa looked like,” Jason says. “The Driftless is just a stunning place.” They made the move in the fall of 2013, and embraced their new community right away. The couple held an open house so people could tour the historic home and meet their new neighbors. One of their new Iowa friends was worried no one would show up – “You know there’s a Hawkeye football game that day!”– but the Meier House was packed with welcomers and friendly folks stopping by to say hi. Next, it was time to embrace the renovations. New Year’s Eve that year marked the start the laborious job of stripping the fireplace brick. “It had gray paint that came off first, then a layer of white, which then revealed the original color of the brick…gray, ironically!” Michael says. Along the way, they dug into the history of the home. “The treasure trove of information that was provided in that folder on our first walkthrough was a terrific head start,” Michael says. “We’re very grateful to Becky and Peter Olafsen, previous longtime stewards of the house, for assembling it and leaving it for future owners.” They immersed themselves in further research, first visiting the local historical society, and then reaching out to the Olafsens and another former Top: The foyer of the Meier House has famous owner, Betty Kiesau – all were still living in the Frank Lloyd Wright lines that lead the eye through area – and eventually they connected with the different rooms. Above: Jason stains the living room grandson of original owners Delbert and Grace trim after many hours of stripping paint. / Photos Meier. Jason and Michael also began connecting courtesy Jason Loper and Michael Schreiber with other owners of American System-Built Homes as well as the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, gleaning useful information that would shape their plans for the future of the Meier House. They even headed out of state on their quest. “We traveled to New York to pore over our house’s original plans among Frank Lloyd Wright’s archives at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University,” Michael says. “But fleshing out the house’s full history still took quite a bit of sleuthing, particularly through old newspaper archives. The great folks at the Monona Historical Museum, Upper Iowa University library, and Decorah’s Porter House Museum helped us fill in many blanks.”


Summer 2021 /

from small cottages to spacious What they uncovered was two-story residences, twoan interesting walk through a flat buildings, and apartment period of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings. Various interior fixtures life from 1915-17, as Jason and and furnishings could also be Michael share in their book This selected from a wide array of American House: Frank Lloyd similarly pre-designed options. Wright’s Meier House and the The lumber and all components American System-Built Homes for the house – plaster, paint, (more on the book in a bit!): windows, hardware, and Many people have heard fixtures – would be supplied by a of Wright’s Usonian homes Richards-owned mill and lumber – these represent his second, company, and shipped to the more successful attempt construction site, where skilled at developing a system of craftsmen would assemble the “affordable” houses for the house. middle class, although these Fewer than 20 varied American houses were directly and System-Built Homes were individually designed for Vintage photographs (like this wedding image circa the 1930s) were organized constructed before the project specific clients. The Meier in a folder by previous Meier House owners Peter and Becky Olafsen. stalled due to materials shortages House is one of the few and a troubled real estate market standing examples of Wright’s American System-Built Homes, his first effort at developing an as the United States entered World War I in April 1917. A subsequent legal dispute between Wright and Richards effectively ended their affordable “readymade” housing scheme. Wright’s firm produced collaboration. Only a handful of the homes remain standing today in nearly a thousand drawings, the most for any Wright project, with Illinois and Wisconsin, including six on Milwaukee’s Burnham Street, promotion and construction overseen through a partnership with which are currently being painstakingly restored. The Meier House an enterprising Milwaukee real estate developer named Arthur L. is the only American System-Built Home to have been constructed in Richards. Together, Wright, Richards, and their associates developed Iowa, and one of only 11 Wright-designed buildings in the state. a program whereby a prospective homeowner could choose a house from a variety of models in Wright’s signature Prairie style, ranging Continued on next page

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Once Jason and Michael had the Especially exciting background into American System-Built were the double Homes, they delved into the history of the swinging doors Meier family that built the house in 1917. that separated Delbert (Del) Meier was an attorney, and the dining room Grace’s family founded Upper Iowa University and living room. in nearby Fayette, Iowa. While Jason and “These slim but Michael will never know for sure what heavy doors with inspired the couple to purchase the plans for vintage glass panes the American System-Built Home, they can were in wonderful speculate. The Meiers were up-and-coming, condition, needing and had also spent time in Chicago – perhaps only a quick they fell in love with Frank Lloyd Wright’s cleaning and architecture there, or wanted a house style reconditioning that set them apart from the neighborhood. before being Over the years, the house went through easily reinstalled,” a handful of owners that took it through a Michael says. handful of design trends. Michael and Jason “Fortunately, the had a goal to bring it back to the Frank Lloyd accompanying Wright design as much as possible. Luckily, hardware was many original features were stored away. discovered in a “We suspect that every new owner of carefully saved an old house has ventured into the attic box of doorknobs, looking for forgotten treasures. Our odds window pulls, were doubled, given that both our house and and switch plates This baptism photo from the 1960s, along with other historical documents, garage have sizable attics – not to mention hiding under Del was also included in the folder organized by Peter and Becky Olafsen. the open rafters of the old garage,” Michael Meier’s still existing says. “While we have yet to find a pot of gold workbench in the or priceless painting covered in cobwebs, we have indeed uncovered some ‘treasures’ of basement.” Two additional doors, plus upper near equal value to us: doors that were original to the house.” cabinets removed from the kitchen, were also waiting for Jason and Michael to repurpose them. At this point, Jason and Michael realized they had a rather thorough history of their home, and that most people don’t really have that…and that there was definitely a story there. And so, a book plan was born. Oregonbased publisher, Pomegranate, quickly picked it up (this was Michael’s second book, so he had some experience pitching projects), and This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes went into production. Together, Jason and Michael chronicled the storied history of the Meier House, its unique place within Wright’s work, and some history of Iowa FASTER · SMARTER · BETTER architecture as well. The book is due out in KERNDT BROTHERS BANK July 2021. When This American House was officially given the go-ahead, Jason and Michael knew photos of the house would, of course, be necessary. So they decided it was time 563.387.9600 to really get down to stripping the trim in the living room. “The whole room took like two and a half years to get done,” Jason says, laughing (now) about the many hours of awkward scraping at picture-rail and baseboard height. “People said, ‘Why don’t you just take it off and replace with new?’ But NMLS #488721 this trim had been there for a hundred years! We wanted to preserve that.”

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It was worth it. Famous Frank Lloyd Wright lines guide your eye through the room and entire house. The detail in the planning is evident throughout all the original features. “We immediately recognized that this house was a proverbial diamond in the rough,” Michael says of the first day they saw it. In fact, one of the house’s most remarkable remaining original elements is actually on the outside: its pebbledash stucco exterior. The Meier House is one of just a few of the remaining American System-Built Homes with its original stucco intact. “The quartzite specks that were ‘dashed’ with black and gray pebbles into the stucco over a century ago still sparkle in the daylight,” Michael says. “So at certain times of day, the house literally shines like a diamond.” Aryn Henning Nichols loves house tours, so it was a real treat to get to meet fun new friends and tour a cool house for this story! Plus, Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs and history are truly a fascinating piece of Midwestern history.

Learn more about This American House: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meier House and the American System-Built Homes by Jason Loper & Michael Schreiber at or at Jason & Michael’s blog, Purchase the book online or watch for it (or request it) at your favorite local bookstore.

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This Little Free Library is in the front yard of Mary Bril’s home in Woodland Acres Estates in Freeport, Iowa. It was a gift from Mary’s (adult) kids, finished in April 2021; it is the first in the neighborhood. Opposite page: The Little Free Library in front of the Northeast Iowa Montessori School (NEIM) in downtown Decorah, Iowa. / Photos by Sara Friedl-Putnam


Summer 2021 /

LITTLE BUT MIGHTY Take a book, leave a book Over the last decade, Little Free Libraries have popped up worldwide, with more than 100,000 registered in more than 100 countries since the first one was built in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009. Decorah and the Driftless have warmly embraced the initiative from the start. BY SARA FRIEDL-PUTNAM


t was a very typical hot July afternoon when a very atypical visitor stopped by the Northeast Iowa Montessori School (NEIM) in downtown Decorah, Iowa. Decorah resident Kristin Propson, then decorating the school windows for the upcoming Nordic Fest, was the lucky one to greet him. The visitor, she soon discovered, was none other than Todd Bol, co-founder and executive director of Little Free Library – a nonprofit that bolsters a love of reading and community by promoting the building of book-sharing boxes. “He had spotted the Little Free Library outside the school and started asking questions about it,” recalls Kristin, who, along with her husband and other members of the NEIM community, had installed the library that captured Bol’s attention. “During our conversation, he also shared that he was dyslexic and had struggled with reading his entire life – and that that was one of the main reasons he had started the organization.” By the time he departed 20 minutes later, Bol had given Kristin a fully built LFL (later auctioned to benefit the school), two LFL registration plates, and two signed books that recounted the history of the organization. He also left a lasting impression. “He was very friendly, talkative, and approachable,” she says. “His personality was a bit like what a Little Free Library is – engaging and inviting.” There’s little doubt Bol, who died in 2018 from pancreatic cancer, would have relished that description. He had, after all, devoted the last decade of his life to the Little Free Library movement, steering the organization as it developed a worldwide following. Katharine Seelye of the New York Times recounted the organization’s inception in a memorial piece on Bol published in October 2018: “In 2009, Todd Bol was renovating his garage in Wisconsin when he ripped off its old wooden door. He liked the wood, though, and didn’t want to throw it out. So after staring at it for a while, he decided to use it to build a small monument to his mother,

who had been a schoolteacher. He fashioned it into a replica of a schoolhouse, two feet high and two feet wide, put his mother’s books in it, and planted it on his front yard, hoping to start a little book exchange for his neighbors.” That one small action in Hudson, Wisconsin, spawned one big movement to share good books and build community. Today more than 100,000 Little Free Library boxes of all shapes and sizes have been established in more than 100 countries. (Interested in finding a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? Check out the library map at Yet whether simple or elaborate in design, all operate under the same guiding principle – sometimes you take a book, and sometimes you leave one. And all are cared for by local stewards, responsible for maintaining the book selection housed in the library. Among those stewards is Ellen Macdonald, a Decorah resident and longtime Luther College staff member and book lover who retired from her position as Preus Library help desk manager in 2004. She vividly remembers spotting a couple of the libraries while visiting Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, Alan, over Thanksgiving of 2012. “I was immediately intrigued and knew that they were going to spread because they were so cheerful and gave off such a strong community vibe,” Ellen recalls. “I told my husband then and there that I wanted to be the first to put up one in Decorah.” Her wish was his command, and that Christmas Alan commissioned a local carpenter, Doug Exey, to build a library using a “pretty stripped down and basic plan” downloaded from the LFL website. The library was installed in the front yard of the couple’s Mound Street home by New Year’s Day. Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


Alan and Ellen Macdonald stand next to their Free Little Library – the first to be constructed in Decorah, Iowa. It was installed on New Years Day 2013. / Photos courtesy Ellen and Alan Macdonald

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“It is a great spot for the library, and I have loved being a steward,” says Ellen. “We have a lot of traffic – walkers, cyclists, people even stop their cars to check it out.” And after years of tending the library, she has some very on-point advice – make sure it’s watertight. “We used shingles we had left over from re-roofing our house,” she says. “It pays to build it well – the last thing you want is for someone to pull out a wet or musty book.” Many others in Decorah (and the entire Driftless Region) have since joined Ellen as LFL stewards, including Kelly Coppola. In July 2017, Kelly and her family – husband Tony and children Davis, Bennett, and Nina – worked with local park officials to install a library in Freeport Park dedicated to her mother, Susan Davis, a devoted kindergarten teacher and avid reader who had died that May from pancreatic cancer. “My brothers- and sisters-in-laws in West Des Moines wanted to do something for me after my Mom passed away,” says Kelly. “They knew she loved reading so deeply, and loved to share that joy with others, and therefore felt that a Little Free Library was a perfect tribute to her.” The library has inspired donations from friends and family members near and far – “Reading can open doors, introduce new worlds, and expand our minds, so who wouldn’t want to share books with others?” says Susan Davis, teaching her students. When Kelly – and the Coppola she passed away in 2017, her daughter, Kelly family has been thrilled Coppola, and other family worked to dedicate by the frequency of a Little Free Library in her name in Freeport, its use. “We monitor Iowa. / Photo courtesy Kelly Coppola it regularly, so we see that the books come and go frequently, which makes us very happy, since that’s the point,” she says. “It is successfully promoting and encouraging reading, so we know Susan is smiling down on the project for just that reason.” This past spring another Little Free Library was installed in Decorah – in Woodland Acres, a neighborhood not far from Freeport Park. As the Little Free Library movement continues to grow Continued on next page

Kelly Coppola, with her kids Davis, Nina, and Bennett. / Photo courtesy Kelly Coppola

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in the Driftless and beyond, so too do other movements it has spawned. Little Free Pantries – containing food and personal care items – can now be found in many communities. This past winter, Little Free Sled libraries popped up in the Twin Cities, not far from the birthplace of the Little Free Library. It’s clearly a model that has resonated, thanks to a vision that Bol himself articulated shortly before his death. “I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand,” he said. “I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.”

START YOUR OWN LITTLE FREE LIBRARY! Some are simple in design, others elaborate. Some reside in front yards and public parks, others on urban street corners and in shopping malls. Some are aimed at children, others at adults. All promote a love of reading (and learning!) and a sense of community. As of 2019, more than 100,000 registered LFLs have been erected in more than 100 countries worldwide. Are you feeling inspired to add to this number? If so, the following tips – excerpted from Service Project Kit: Build a Little Free Library, published by the International Literacy Association and Little Free Library – can help! Find a great location: Look for a visible place with plenty of foot traffic. Remember that people of all ages and abilities may use your library, so make it as easy as possible to access it.

Build your library: You can design your own or order a kit from the Little Free Library website (like the samples below) – but first consider these questions: Will your library have a theme? What do you want it to look like? What materials can you access to build it? What’s your budget for those materials? And who will do the building? Create a supportive community: Don’t hesitate to ask for support from friends and family and/or reach out to local organizations to donate supplies, plans, or building time. You’ll build community by offering others the opportunity to get involved. Spread the word: Fun events – for example, a book reading or a book exchange – can help launch the library and bolster support for it. Fill the library with books: Consider holding a book drive for gently used books, or picking up a few from your local thrift store. Designate a steward to keep the library running: Others may restock or tidy up a library, but it’s the steward’s job to ensure that a Little Free Library is always stocked, clean, and maintained.

An avid reader, Sara Friedl-Putnam loves finding a really great book and getting lost in its pages. She was thrilled to see a Little Free Library installed in her neighborhood just this spring.






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always loved working with whatever is on hand for whatever project I’m tackling. Cooking dinner? What’s in the fridge? Doing a photoshoot? Let’s look around the house for props! I think it makes Inspire(d) Magazine – and my life – genuine (and quirky), and it feels good to make use of what I’ve got. It’s a great challenge! This policy isn’t just for stuff, though. Being willing to move forward in life with whatever circumstances come your way is an incredibly valuable tool. But what do we mean when we say, “make the most”

out of something? We mean taking something you have on hand, and making do, or making it new. Better. Reimagining it into a whole new being. That can be your living room, your art project, your summer, or your life. It can be stretching the food to last longer (say in a soup), keeping an eye out for alternatives – like looking for tape but finding glue – or stopping and really enjoying an unexpected day off with your kids (or by yourself or with your pet). It’s shifting your perspective to see that what you have is, generally, more than you tend to think, and it’s yours. Yours. And you’ve gotta work with that.



Try an E-Bike for a day, week, or month, and apply the fees toward the purchase of a new bike within 30 days of rental.

W, Th, F: 10-6 . Sat: 9-5 . Sun: 12-4 . Closed Mon & Tues.

101 College Dr. Decorah, Iowa . 563-382-8209 \ Summer 2021




Work Got

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Manage your expectations vs. reality. Try saying YES to what is.

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Maximize your Life:


o d o t t a h w w o n k u o y . . . s n o m e es you l

Ask for help – friends and family are a “what you’ve got” resource.

Beautiful, authentic things – and lives – are created.

Sometimes working with limitations leads to awesome results – creative choices you wouldn’t have made if you had unlimited access to supplies.






Make dinner with what’s in your fridge.




Remember, it’s yours to work with!

Make realistic plans for your summer: • Finances • Environment • Family • Goals Then get excited – the majority of enjoyment in life is perspective!

Keep an eye out for alternatives – looking for tape but finding glue? Try to make it work!

Identify your strengths – play them up Identity your passions – pursue those Identify your friendships – nurture them

b uy great


sel l great


Buy & sell in-store & online. Details at

Celebrating 10 years of beautifying the Driftless Thanks to all of our customers!


Jeff Scott . 563-379-1101


Carl Homstad

Rachel Saum

Come and visit in scenic Decorah, Iowa! Vesterheim Main Building and Museum Store are open daily. Check for scheduled hours.

Special Exhibits: New Nordic Cuisine

Open through September 6, 2021

An Artist’s Journey: Carl Homstad, 50 Years June 5, 2021 to May 30, 2022

Socially Distanced, Creatively Connected

A special juried folk-art exhibition highlighting pandemic creativity July 2 to December 31, 2021 Join Vesterheim Folk Art School from anywhere in the world through online classes! We’re excited to announce the reopening of on-site classes on September 1! Register at


Summer 2021 /

start here


Northeast Iowa-based mental health counselor, Olivia Lynn Schnur, shares tips and ideas for working with what you’ve got, making the most of the present moment, and creating some time for self-care. BY OLIVIA LYNN SCHNUR


will be happy when __________”… fill in the blank with notions of how you think life should look, or milestones you’re hoping to achieve. We are all guilty of this pattern of thinking. But life seldom goes according to plan. If we believe we only deserve happiness when things are perfect, we may never learn to appreciate the present. What if I told you happiness exists in your life already? The only thing you really need to change is your mind. Admittedly, this can still be a difficult task. The first step is just giving it a try and believing you can do it. To get the ball rolling, try some of the following tips. Each is designed to kick off some present-moment bliss through simple changes to your thinking, routine, and relationship with self-care.

Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE Gratitude changes the brain. It shifts our perspective to focus on the good in the moment. When we practice gratitude, we become aware of the beauty that exists all around us. It can be as simple as noticing a kind gesture, the feeling of the sun on our skin, or a moment shared with a loved one. Life might not be exactly what we want. That does not mean we can’t make peace with the present moment. Perhaps, one day we will get everything we ever wanted. But until then, we can appreciate everything we already have. In moments of frustration, try writing down the things you’re grateful for in a Gratitude List. Come back to it each time you’re feeling frustrated, or, alternatively, each time you think of something new to be grateful for. The benefits of this practice include strengthening your resilience and increasing feelings of contentment.

PRACTICE MINDFULNESS Mindfulness is a practice of noticing our thoughts without judgment. It can be as simple as finding a quiet moment to observe the mind. This can be any moment – the taste of your meal at dinner, the feeling of a long hug, the sound of the world as you wake in the morning, or even irritations as you struggle against a deadline. Imagine that thoughts are like clouds or birds passing through the sky. We do not need to have an emotional reaction to

SELF CARE Before we get started, let’s look at self-care. What does it even mean? Self-care is the work involved in taking care of yourself so you can: be healthy and well, do your work (whatever that may be), help and care for others, and do all the things you need and want to accomplish daily. That can mean a lot of different things to each of us, but it definitely should never be seen as self-indulgent. Taking care of ourselves is just as important as taking care of the people we love. In fact, we should be the first person on the list! In a plane crash, we are asked to place our oxygen mask on first, before helping anyone else. The same can be said for self-care. We cannot help others until we help ourselves. However, if that seems impossible, keep reading. A holistic self-care model allows us to integrate simple strategies immediately, without losing any time, sleep, or energy.

Self Care Graphics / Shutterstock by Rochelle Connolley


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Summer 2021 /

ï Knowledgeable trainers with a combined 150 years of experience

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Stephanie specializes in the care & management of female patients, age 12 & up, including: • primary care • health maintenance • obstetric care within hospital deliveries

every thought that occurs. Instead, we notice and acknowledge what comes up. Mindfulness allows us to watch our thoughts like an outside observer. It helps us to develop insight and quiet the incessant chatter of our minds.

Call today to set up an appointment!



SEE ROUTINE AS A RITUAL The alarm goes off and one person feels dread while another feels excitement. What is the difference? It could be that one person has established a routine that works well with their life while the other is just going through the motions. There are aspects of our routine that we cannot control: work, school, or other commitments require timeliness that is unavoidable. However, there are many things that are within our control and they make all the difference. The things we do each day are indications of our priorities in life. What does your life say about your priorities? If the television seems to take precedence over sleep it may be time to start a new routine. Everyone is working with a different set of priorities, lifestyles, and preferences. For example, some people may feel more alert in the mornings and others may feel more alive at night. Morning people may decide to workout, read, write, or have a leisurely meal at the start of each day. Night owls may choose to do the same activities in the evening. However, everyone should aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Routine can be a tedious repetition of tasks… or it can be a ritual that we enjoy. The key to transforming a routine into a ritual is focusing on the activities that result in daily contentment. Examples can be: walking the dog, drinking coffee, writing in a journal, practicing yoga, or calling a loved one. Whatever it is, prioritize that moment and find a way to make it a ritual you delight in each day. Continued on next page

235 8th Avenue W, Cresco, Iowa • • 563-547-2022

Make your magical memory!

PLUS: Mark your calendars for fun!

June 3: Family Fun Night Drive In Movie – Howard County Fair Grounds July 17: 80s Block Party –in front of theatre Aug 8: Sister Luv 2 pm – Sponsored by Sue-Z-Q’s Aug 27-29: Norman Bourlag Harvest Fest Rent the Opera House for live theatre, music & entertainment, weddings, corporate events, movies & more. Or Champlin Hall in the lower level - perfect for family reunions, wedding & baby showers, meetings & more!

Visit or call 563-547-1066 for details \ Summer 2021


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A holistic practice of self-care looks at every dimension of wellness: physical, mental, social, spiritual, financial, emotional, and intellectual. And a practical model of self-care builds wellness into daily activities. There are two different forms of self-care: short- and long-term. Short-term self-care provides present moment joy or relief, like deep breathing or taking a break to read a book or watch a movie. Long-term self-care may not be enjoyable in the moment but it contributes to wellness in the long run. Examples of long-term selfcare include exercise, planning for retirement, or organizing the house. It can be incredibly frustrating to think about adding self-care into an already overwhelming schedule, but you really do not need a second more in the day to work it in. Try bundling it with activities you already do. We enhance wellness by adding snippets of selfcare into an established routine, without sacrificing precious time or drastically altering our schedule. Start the day with a moment of gratitude. Say an affirmation (like “I’ve got this” or “I am enough”) while brushing teeth, eating, or enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. Make the commute enjoyable by listening to an audiobook, a podcast, or calling a friend. At work, take a few deep breaths to re-center between meetings. On longer breaks, take a walk or do some gentle stretching, noticing how you feel as you move. And end the day with a mindfulness practice or a WEDDINGS & MORE moment of gratitude.



Serving communities in Iowa, Minnesota, & Missouri

900 Montgomery St, Decorah, IA 563-382-2933 . 40

Summer 2021 /

Open by appointment Tues-Sat: 563.379.7583 - 930 Division St. Cresco, IA

WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT Building new routines is not easy. We are habitual creatures and it can be hard to shift patterns of behavior. We can begin by acknowledging how much we already do for our overall wellness. Then, we can pinpoint areas where self-care is lacking. The selfcare assessment on the following page is designed to help with this step. Start slow, to build lasting changes. Attempting to do everything at once can lead to burnout. Instead, choose one area to focus on and commit to a daily practice for at least 30 days. It may be helpful to work with a therapist for particularly ingrained patterns of negative thinking. We do not need to completely transform our lives in order to be happy. Making just a few changes can shift our thinking and daily routines. At the end of the day, we can all find a little more joy by working with what we’ve got and accepting where we’re at.

MOBILE CRISIS Experiencing a crisis? Need help right away? Located in downtown Waterloo, Iowa, the Elevate Mobile Crisis Response Team is now available (as of April 1, 2021) to Northeast Iowa residents of Winneshiek, Allamakee, Chickasaw, Howard, Fayette, and Clayton counties (in addition to Hancock, Mitchell, Floyd, Cerro Gordo, and Black Hawk counties). The Mobile Crisis Response Team is available at no cost, 24/7, and includes a doctor of nursing practice, nurse manager, two therapists (a LISW and LMHC), and a veteran support specialist. They offer onsite and in-person interventions to

Olivia Lynn Schnur is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in the State of Iowa. She is also a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). She combines her interests in yoga and mental health to inform her personal and professional practice. As a result, she has helped people overcome a variety of challenges and lead a more meaningful life. To learn more or to book a yoga session, check out:

individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, at your home or any other location. Youth, adults, families – anyone – experiencing a crisis can call counselors at Your Life Iowa at 855-581-8111 or text 855-895-8398 for immediate assistance.

Self Care Assessment on next page!

Check us out on Facebook & Instagram or at Contact Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce 563-252-2323

Contra \ Summer 2021


SELF-CARE ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET A holistic practice of self-care looks at every dimension of wellness: physical, mental, social, spiritual, financial, and emotional. And a practical model of self-care builds wellness into daily activities.

Self-care is the work involved in taking care of yourself so you can: be healthy and well, do your work (whatever that may be), help and care for others, and do all the things you need and want to accomplish daily.



There are two different forms of self-care: short- and long-term. Short-term self-care provides present moment joy or relief, like deep breathing or taking a break to read a book or watch a movie. Long-term

self-care may not be enjoyable in the moment but it contributes to wellness in the long run. Examples of long-term self-care include exercise, planning for retirement, or organizing the house. At left is a wheel, with six sections marked with one dimension of self-care: physical, mental, social, spiritual, financial, and emotional. Fill in each section with things you already do for self-care within that dimension. See the sidebar below for some inspiration. Once you’ve finished, take a look at the wheel. Is it lopsided? Do you see some areas where you could fill in or move things around?






Exercise routine Daily movement Regular massages Yoga or stretching Routine physicals & health/dental appointments


Learn new things Read new things Mental puzzles (sudoku, crossword puzzles, etc.) Hobbies

Create your self-care goals with your circle in mind. Answer these questions to get started:







Two things I do now for short-term self-care (i.e. I take a walk during my break, I meet my friend for coffee):

Spend time with friends & family Call or text with friends & family Fulfilling relationships Enjoy coworkers


1) 2) Two things I already do for long-term self-care (i.e. I create a budget, I deep clean, I work out three days/week): 1)

Religious connections Meditation Nature Walks


2) Two things I will commit to doing this month for short-term self-care: 1) 2) Two things I will commit to doing this month for long-term self-care: 1) 2)



Summer 2021 /

Maintain monthly budget Invest in savings and /or retirement Live within means Manage debt


Willing to share Therapy sessions Reach out when upset Journaling

Finding new ways to unleash your frustrations creativity can be difficult! Look no further than these satisfying Hammered Flower Postcards! You can send a summer note to a friend or loved one, with a bit of your backyard included!

MAKE IT: Hammered

Flower Postcards!

Paper Project! step-by-step instructions at


Lara & Neil /

tine Jepsen Photo by Kris



Martinsen-Burrells Decorah, IA BY KRISTINE JEPSEN



ids, even little ones, can have a big impact on one’s criteria for “community.” Back in the mid-2000s, Lara and Neil Martinsen-Burrell were living in North Carolina, where Neil was enrolled in a postdoctoral program in mathematics and Lara, a massage therapist, was gearing up for graduate studies in social work and public health. Then they had the first of their (now three) children, Rose. “That’s when we realized, ‘Whoa! Kids need outside and the space to be curious and explore and follow passions,’” Lara says with a laugh. “We needed to find and make the community our kids needed.” They headed to Waverly, Iowa, for a teaching position at Wartburg College for Neil. Once there, the family looked toward Decorah, Iowa, where Lara had attended Luther College. They traveled to the town for events, staying with families in the area, and the community felt like a good fit. So in 2013, they moved to a rural homestead north of town, prioritizing both their immediate family community and what they could give back to their larger, new one. Natives of Colorado (Lara) and California (Neil), the M-B’s, as they’re known around town, have long been committed to volunteering and fostering community, plus both have ‘camp counselor’ on their resume. 44

Summer 2021 /

“We got a pretty good idea of what it means to participate in a community – what each person can contribute and what you can achieve together,” Neil says. “It’s become very clear to us how powerful an effect arises from ‘what’s normal’ in the community you make,” Neil explains. “When your friends also compost their coffee grounds, or keep chickens, or homeschool their kids, or share project-based learning [as they do in many parts of the Driftless, including Decorah], it becomes much easier to do it, too. And that shifts the baseline for what’s possible, within and without.” “It frees up the energy you might spend deliberating how to live out your values, so you can channel it into other things – new things,” Lara adds. Today, there are ropes hanging from their roof – antennas for Neil’s ham radio project, and a set of aerial dance silks are bolted to the sunroom ceiling (15-year-old Rose bought them herself to support her five years and counting as an aerial student and instructor). 10-year-old Violet is into dance, reading, and art, and 6-year-old Linden, a chronic whittler, orients the family toward woodworking skills and harvesting different wood from their rural acreage. Lara, for her part, is a facilitator for local non-profits and families with young children, including a vision committee to create a proposed Center for Belonging, an emerging folkschool.

A key tenet of their giving back to community, Lara says, is sharing their passions and making mutual time for them. “The way Neil and I are as people, if we each pursued what we love independently, we would go pshooo….,” she says, arching her hands in opposite directions. So instead, Some of the MB’s / Photo courtesy the MB’s they’ve found ways to “not break up the band.” When Neil was asked to train as a teacher for a local Our Whole Lives (OWL) program – “lifespan sexuality education” developed by health professionals around the world – they decided as a family that both parents would train, and the kids could meet a new sitter in town during scheduled classes. “That way, it wasn’t just a night Dad was away from home,” Lara explains. “Our kids could see that it mattered to us and that we committed to it together.” The program, offered in weekly sessions, has modules for elementary, junior high, teens, adults, and more recently, elders. Together, the M-B’s have led multiple cohorts, starting when Linden was just an infant in a baby sling, which Neil wore through classes. “Junior high is the meatiest curriculum – the stuff everybody wants,” Lara says. They open sessions with personal check-ins – what went well for each sixth grader in the past week, for example – along with answers to ask-anything, ice-breaker questions, submitted anonymously through a Question Box. “It’s remarkable the kind of open, engaged community you can make with a bunch of young people just by listening to them and by making the space to be a little vulnerable,” Neil says. Lara adds, “The most common response we get is, ‘I didn’t know I could…talk about this stuff!’ Continued on next page

Rose Martinsen-Burrell trains and teaches aerial dance and conditioning and will continue as a student with Bricolage Cirkus and the Youth Initiative High School in Viroqua, Wisconsin. / Photo courtesy the Martinsen-Burrells






Sustainable Beautiful Efficient David J. Wadsworth • 563.419.0390 •

morning glory

retreat spaces | contemplative pursuits

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downtown space 113 Winnebago Street

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VibesUP Heartland • 22 S Frederick St • Oelwein, IA • 319-238-9741

Natural Solutions for Stress, Pain, Allergies, EMF & More

Leader in Earth Energy Therapy Products Check for hours Appointments & group parties available on request

Owner Theresa Brown LMT

Anne E. Kaspar, LMT, MMT

Linden and Violet Martinsen-Burrell, pictured here with Mom/Lara, are budding cooking connoisseurs and experimenters. Favorite ‘together’ activities include making bonfires to sing/eat/play around and building things. / Photo courtesy the Martinsen-Burrells

Fascial Counterstrain A therapeutic hands-on, multi system approach to release spasm that impacts and treats the body's fascial system Mindfulness Being in the present moment without judgement Earthing Vitamin G, Energy from Mother Earth

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Purl Up & Knit for a Spell Open 7 Days a Week! Yarn, Knitting & Fiber Art Supplies, Classes, & More! Call for current hours – 563-517-1059

Artistry in Cabinetry since 1983

Kitchens Home offices Bars Entertainment centers Fireplace mantles Cabinets & shelving Remodeling Finished carpentry

Visit my new website! 563-382-4750


It’s really great when they arrive at the realization that, ‘If I’m going to do it with anyone, I better be comfortable talking about these things with the person I want to do them with!’” Within the safe space of OWL training, they’ve had a studentseye perspective on incidence of sexism, racism, and discrimination, among other threats that smaller towns aren’t famous for acknowledging. “When you give kids the tools to listen to their bodies and say, ‘Ouch!’ when something hurts, in whatever way, it gives the other person a chance to say, ‘Oops!’ and try again to be respectful and yet understood,” Lara says. This giving and taking, asking and receiving, is the foundation of community relationship, she concludes. “There’s something incredibly vulnerable in asking for what you need,” she says, whether it’s someone to watch kids while you’re teaching a yoga class, or someone to feed chickens when you’re away from home, or some way to commute to town when the family car is already in use. “In one way, I don’t want this to be about, ‘Lara and Neil: the people who needed a lot of help,’ but at the same time, just asking puts you in the position to give back, to be on the lookout for someone else’s need that you can help meet, sometime very soon, in the future.” Neil agrees. “We all want to help, and everyone has something to contribute. Asking commits you to a reciprocal obligation that pulls you into conversation – a reason to be in community – keeping it alive.” Kristine Kopperud Jepsen is a writer, editor, and mother of a horse girl. She especially appreciates the Driftless community’s support of outdoor pursuits and education for families. More at

Our Whole Lives (OWL) classes are announced via, the free, online, community bulletin board. Look for new sessions possibly in summer 2021. More at Summer 2021 /

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ummer means spending more time outside, barbeques and yard games with family and friends. Stevenson Tree and Lawn Care has the skill and expertise you need to maintain your outdoor spaces. Read our 3 summer tips to set up your lawn and trees for a healthy and vibrant season.

and copper body. They commonly emerge in Tip # 1 Water your trees...even the big early July on linden, maple, birch, fruit trees, and ones – Trees get thirsty too! We all need rose bushes. A telltale sign are “skeletonized” a little more hydration in the hot summer leaves. The beetles feed in between the veins of months and so do your plants and trees. the leaf which results in little “windows” showing Trees in a yard or urban environment are Photo: David Maltais through. often competing with grass for water and nutrients. What can be done? Our tree care specialists recommend watering once per Our specialists carefully time a soil injected week (whether it’s a recently planted sapling or a insecticide after trees have flowered to avoid pollina100-year-old giant) during the growing season if no rainfall tors and target the beetles. This treatment protects the has occurred. Place a hose at the base of the tree with a tree throughout the year. If you see signs of damage, light stream of water for about 45 minutes. our certified arborists can assess your trees and recommend options for care. Tip # 2 Let the grass grow – Like all plants, grass blades use photosynthesis to create food. We recommend letting your grass grow a little taller so it If you think you may need some help with can feed itself and remain healthy. Our general rule is your great outdoors, it might be time to call to remove no more than one-third of the length at a time. in the experts! Don’t forget to sharpen the lawn mower blade at least once per season. A dull blade leaves a jagged cut that is Stevenson Tree and Lawn Care will make a more difficult for grass to recover from. comprehensive evaluation and work with you to devise Tip # 3 Watch out for Japanese Beetles – Japanese Beetles (popillia japonica) are an invasive insect increasingly found in our area. They are about the size of a quarter and are noticeable by their iridescent green

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Summer 2021 /

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rowing organic produce sometimes takes creativity – just ask Jim Riddle and Joyce Ford of Blue Fruit Farm, located near the southeastern Minnesota community of Winona. Sure, they power their operations with solar panels. Rich compost fertilizes the soil. A 6,000-gallon rainwater catchment system irrigates the farm’s blueberries, elderberries, honeyberries, and other crops.

DON’T BE COOPED UP THIS SUMMER We raise our turkeys in the grass and sunshine, without the use of antibiotics. The same way our family has since 1939. Find our free-range turkey products at a retailer near you – – or visit our on-farm store in Cannon Falls, MN. Joyce Ford & Jim Riddle, co-owners, Blue Fruit Farm. / Photo: Laurie Schneider


But, Jim and Joyce have also used public radio as pest control. When badgers tunneled along a shed, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service friend recommended making a bit of a racket. The couple tuned into Minnesota Public Radio and turned up the volume, blasting the badgers’ favorite tunneling areas with talk shows. Within 24 hours, the badgers were gone. “It’s fascinating. We get both the Wisconsin and Minnesota stations here, and if I’d had a gopher problem, I would’ve turned on Wisconsin Public Radio. Since we had badgers, I put it on Minnesota,” Jim laughs. Beyond MPR, the latest Blue Fruit Farm pest innovation involves solarpowered lasers. Grants supported the purchase of a bird-deterrent system that resembles a traffic camera mounted on a shed (see above). Jim controls the contraption with a smartphone, and it sends automated light patterns dancing up and down the field rows. The light scares away hungry robins, cedar waxwings, and other species. “It’s not that the birds get zapped. They just see this movement of light, and it signals to the birds that the field is an unsafe place. It trains them to move and not come back,” he says. Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


Accessible 1 mile & 5K family friendly event!

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021 . 8AM

All proceeds go to ArtHaus & Decorah Human Powered Trails

Start & Finish at Pulpit Rock Brewery 207 College Drive. Decorah, Iowa Register:

Join us! The OVCO is located in Decorah, Iowa & serves the residents of the tri-state area. We have the following openings: Principal Bassoon Principal Percussion Principal Bass Second Oboe Second Bassoon

Section Percussion Section Openings in all strings

Our Mission: To present live classical music to the residents of the Oneota Valley, to promote music education, and to provide the opportunity for amateur and professional musicians to continue a lifelong study and performance of classical music.


Summer 2021 /

Jim estimates that the system will save thousands of dollars of fruit a year, while decreasing the labor involved in placing and maintaining huge nets that currently protect the farm’s crops. Visitors can see the lasers in action, and sample local food, when Blue Fruit Farm hosts a field day and farm tour on Saturday, July 10. (See details and reservation information on page 52) The July event is just one example of Jim and Joyce’s dedication to advancing organic production and awareness. They helped establish the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) in 1991, running the organization for eight years from their off-grid home. They authored and edited the IOIA manual that inspectors still study today. Jim helped outline national organic standards used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he developed organic certification cost-share programs in Minnesota and at the national level. The couple sandwiched their administrative achievements between fulltime farming stints. Jim, who grew up in South-central Iowa, first fell for the Driftless Region while visiting his sister in Winona. Joyce made her way to the Midwest from Florida, fueled by interests in organic gardening and a back-to-the-land lifestyle. She and Jim settled at the Wiscoy Valley Community Land Cooperative in 1981. Approximately 20 people live in the intentional community, which was founded in 1975 and occupies 360 organic acres south of Winona. Joyce was already growing market vegetables when the pair met, and they expanded those efforts after moving to Wiscoy Valley. In 1986, they teamed up with three other growers to establish the Winona Farmers Market. “Right from the beginning, we said that you have to produce or process the goods yourself within a 50-mile radius of Winona. That holds true today, and it is a thriving market,” says Jim, who considers

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Jim Riddle (far left) of Blue Fruit Farm, surrounded by children feasting on blueberries. / Photo: Joyce Ford

211 Pearl Street, La Crosse, WI. @driftmercantile

the Market one of his most significant career accomplishments. “It’s become a cornerstone of Winona on Saturday mornings. It brings the whole town to life. It has provided a lot of opportunities for growers and good food for many people.” After pausing their farming operations to help expand organics, Jim and Joyce returned to the field in 2008. A renter had given up a fenced-in, five-acre Wiscoy Valley plot following the floods of 2007. “Joyce said, ‘Let’s grow blueberries.’ That is a very easy thing to say, but a very difficult thing to do. Blueberries don’t like dolomitic soil. They want a low pH,” Jim says. “But I thought, okay, let’s prep the soil and really do this right.” Organic oats, red clover, and buckwheat helped rebuild the field, while ongoing soil tests and compost applications help maintain nutrient levels. These days, those five acres are lush with the farm’s namesake blue fruits – including blueberries, elderberries, honeyberries, juneberries, aronia berries, and black currants – plus some red plums, which are better suited to the region than their blue counterparts. “All the fruits we grow are high in antioxidants and high in vitamins and minerals. The elderberries even have antiviral properties. They’re very healthy, and they’re packed with flavor,” Jim says. He happily ticks through harvest highlights. Hardy honeyberries, also known as haskaps, ripen earlier than strawberries and draw bees even on early spring days. The antioxidant-rich berries can replace blueberries in most recipes, and they’re great for eating fresh, as well. Black currants have four times the vitamin C of many citrus fruits, plus a tart flavor that suits sauces and jams. Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


Astringent aronia berries, or black chokeberries, work well in scones, muffins, sauces, or jams. (“They’re also easy to grow, and they make a great edible hedge. Juneberries do, as well,” Jim adds.) Elderberries flavor everything from syrups to salad dressings to jams, and the flowers are used in dishes and drinks. Jim and Joyce also sell elderonia, an elderberry-aronia berry blend, in jam and juice forms. Blue Fruit Farm sells fresh berries, five-pound bags of frozen fruit, jams, and other products at www. The operation offers on-farm pickups and some delivery options in the Driftless. Just as he once focused on producers within 50 miles of the fledgling Winona Farmers Market, Jim now concentrates Blue Fruit Farm deliveries within a 50-mile radius of the property. “You’ve got all these small towns here with food co-ops, like Decorah, Winona, and Gays Mills. It’s amazing. I take it for granted, but there are a lot of parts of the country that don’t even have food co-ops,” Jim says. “There’s quite a bit of cultural diversity in the Driftless area, and I think that has contributed to our success. I think we could grow the fruits in other places, but this has been a good place to grow our business.” Renee Brincks is a San Francisco- and Decorah-based writer who grew up eating elderberry jelly on her family’s northeast Iowa farm.

BLUE FRUIT FARM FIELD DAY & FARM TOUR Blue Fruit Farm will be participating in the Lakewinds Co-op Farm Tour, Saturday, July 10, 2021, 10 am to 4 pm. 20 local farms across MN and WI. This is a self-guided event and free for anyone to attend. In addition, Blue Fruit Farm be hosting a Driftless Grown ( vendor fair with other regional farmers/ makers/producers.


• Pick your own blueberries and black currants (remember to reserve your u-pick time in advance) • Watch demonstrations of the farm’s new bird-deterring laser Elderberry flowers at Blue Fruit Farm. system / Photo by Jim Riddle • Vender Fair: Sample products and chat with members of Driftless Grown, a group of small-scale agricultural producers based in Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Southwest Wisconsin • Sit in on talks by University of Minnesota Extension Educator Annie Klodd and representatives from the Real Organic Project Find more info at or (where you can reserve u-pick times)!

Toppling Goliath Taproom events Mark your calendars! we’ve got a fun summer ahead! BINGO every Tuesday night, 6-7:30 p.m.


June 9: Harley Davidson Bike Night and live music by Patsy & the Plum St. Jam, 5:30-8:30pm June 16: Classic Car Night and LIve music by Avey Grouws Duo, 5:30-8:30pm

Pseudo Sue’s 10 th Birthday Bash!

June 18-20th

June 18: Live Music by Bad Dog 20/20, 6-9:30pm June 19: 5k Run, Brewery Running Series, 10Am June 20: Father’s Day Cajun Boil 11am-4pm Bags Tournament, 1pm


July 1: Parking lot party with The Caminos, 6-9pm July 4: Driftless Area Car Show - 11am- 2pm July 14: Harley Davidson Bike Night and live music by LaBarge, 5:30-8:30pm July 21: Classic Car Night with live music by Buck Hollow Band, 5:30-8:30pm


August 6: Live music by Avey Grouws Band, 5:30-8:30pm August 11: Harley Davidson Bike Night and live music by J.R. Brink Band, 5:30-8:30pm August 18: Classic Car Night and live music by LaBarge, 5:30-8:30pm

plus photo opps with Sue, bouncy houses for kids, food trucks, Sugar Bowl hard serve ice cream & Much more!

call us at 563.387.6700 or visit us online

TGBREWS.COM/events 52

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open daily 1600 PROSPERITY RD. decorah, IA





nds National Monument • Marinas & Boat Mou gy Effi • k Par e Stat k Pea s Pike • r Rive Mississippi rs • Yellow River State Forest • Lodging – Tou e Cav • ds oun pgr Cam • y wer Bre • ery Win Rentals • ater • Driftless Area Wetland Centre • Movie The ks Wal & s eum Mus oric Hist • els Hot ins, B&Bs, Cab rs • Antiques • Art Gallery • Music • Casino • Shopping • Restaurants • Boat Tou

We hope to see you soon! • 563-873-2186






you ever meet – or have met – Cody Whittle of Big Driftless, you realize pretty quickly that his enthusiasm and passion run as steady as a cold-water stream. A Northeast Iowa native, growing up in Clayton County served Cody well… but still left him yearning to see more of the world by the time he graduated high school. West is the direction he would go – to chase dreams, and meet the ocean, mountains, cities, and creative people of Colorado, Oregon, and California, where he attended college. Eventually, though, Cody felt the pull of the middle and circled his wagon to return to the Midwest. After a short time back in Elkader, 54

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re-exploring our region, he settled in Decorah and began hatching ideas for Big Driftless. While working part time jobs, Cody refined plans for the backpack, gear, and apparel company, researching what it would take to manufacture and sell his wares. All the while, he continued to be taken – and inspired – by the beauty of our region’s grand outdoors – the rolling hills, bluffs, river valleys, and gorgeous woods throughout the (Big) Driftless of Southeast Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, Eastern Iowa, and a bit of Illinois. This local pride, love of the outdoors, and a desire to design and create quality products are the motivation behind Cody’s regional-inspired gear and apparel. Big Driftless prides itself on

Big Driftless is headquartered in the top floor of the Impact Coffee building in Downtown Decorah. There, owner Cody Whittle and his team hand-craft packs and create designs that encourage folks to “Get out in it!” / Photo courtesy Big Driftless



For events & ticket information visit 207 N. Main, Elkader, IA



A close-up of the large Big Driftless packs.

manufacturing packs truly by hand – piece by piece, including mockup and sewing. Cody estimates that he’s produced somewhere around 80 backpacks, and 150 hip-packs so far – stitch by stich, making sure each piece gets the deserved attention and construction needed to make a quality product. Also at the heart of the Big Driftless concept is giving back to the region that Cody so loves, encouraging local outdoor adventures and land stewardship. Currently in his third year of business, Cody is as excited as ever to keep hand-making packs and branding apparel, promoting the region, and making good for the outdoor experiences of our corner of the world. You can see the latest offerings online at or by visiting his retail location in the upper level of Impact Coffee on Water Street in Decorah during select hours. Inventory of packs, in particular, can fluctuate as batches quickly sell out. Feel free to reach out if you have a particular want for the future. 563.382.9309 309 W. Broadway Decorah, Iowa

Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


luxury short-term rentals DECORAH, IOWA For questions email


"Serving you from day one." – Market President Rick Burras & Vice President Rhonda Schnitzler

Q&A The Basics: Name: Cody Whittle Age: 36 Business: Big Driftless Years in Business: 3 Location: 101 W. Water St, Decorah, IA (top floor) Website:

321 W Water St. Decorah, IA • 563-387-0191 •

Amazing Algerian & American Food

Try our camel burger!

Appetizers • Entrees • Sandwiches • Salads • Vegetarian • Desserts Gluten-free Options • Signature Cocktails • Craft Beer • Natural Wine

Elkader, Iowa • 563-245-1992 •


GALLERY 129 N. Main St. Elkader, Iowa

Open Th-F 12-5 • Sat 11-4 or by appointment. Check Facebook for updates on classes and events. Visit to order prints online.


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1. Tell us about the “leap” moment. When/how did you decide to jump in and become your own boss? My leap moment was at an event held in Decorah called the Winneshiek County Idea House. It was the first year they were putting it on, in February or March of 2018, and basically was a community event for people to share business ideas and get feedback and support from other community members. It was like a big brainstorming session to promote ideas and economic stimulation in the area. The last part of the evening was a point in which five finalist from a previous interview process got to present their business idea to the audience with a five minute presentation each. They called it “Trout Tank,” named after the show “Shark Tank.” I was fortunate to be one of the five finalists and gave my presentation in front of 130 people in the audience with my stomach all full of knots. After each presenter finished, the audience could either stand up and vocally pledge support in any form, or they could silently fill out a pledge sheet for the evening. This gathered great support both financially and non-financially, and drummed up enthusiasm from the community. It was and is a really great event. It’s been on hold during COVID, but I’m excited to have it back in Decorah when it’s safe to have group gatherings again. That experience was huge for me, to stand up in front of people and declare my plans, and then to have people around town ask me how things were going with it afterwards. It was an excellent way to hold me accountable to what I said I was going to do. I’m very grateful for it. 2. What’s the best thing about being your own boss? The best part of being my own boss is setting my own schedule and putting my energy into only things that I want to create. No matter how much I have tried in my life to become a “morning person,” it’s just not happening. I do my best work in the evening when my

Supplies! / Photo courtesy Big Driftless

Cody Whittle / Photo courtesy Big Driftless


Burgers. Sandwiches. Salads. Appetizers Great Wings. Weekend Bloody Mary Bar



2 amazing spaces. Small or large events. Delicious in-house catering.

206 W. Water St. Decorah

563-382-5970 brain is most active, and sometimes stay up late to harvest as much ambition as my mind provides in that moment, so a consistent 8 or 9 am start time at the office wouldn’t be conducive to how my sleep schedule feels like functioning, and I really love that I can work when I want to. Even though I don’t wake up early, I spend long, hard hours working on Big Driftless, but it is so much more gratifying working towards my own vision and goals over working for somebody else and whatever they’re trying to do. 3. How about the worst? The worst is actually kind of the same thing. When I was working for other people, I had a set schedule, an agreed upon set of expectations, and a role that I filled between the hours of clocking in and clocking out. At the end of the workday I could forget about it and do my own personal life activities, but with Big Driftless or any entrepreneurial endeavor, it becomes a constant. I’m pretty much always working on Big Driftless, or thinking about it and making lists of things I need/want to do… it’s never not on my mind. And because I’m working towards my own personal goals and visions with it, I tend to load up my plate pretty full with work that I know will take things in the direction I want them to go. I have become the most demanding boss I have ever worked for in regards to my own expectations and standards for myself. Also, as a lifelong procrastinator, developing the kind of self-discipline necessary to build a business on my own has been no small task for me. 4. Was there ever a hurdle where you just thought, “I can’t do this?” How did you overcome it? There hasn’t really been any specific hurdles that left me questioning whether or not to continue.

Tours & Experiences in Richland County, WI C O N S C I O U S LY S O U R C E D FOOD, TOYS & ACCESSORIES FOR YOUR DOG & CAT


Check Facebook for hours

118 E Water St, Decorah, Iowa

Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms. Sleeps up to 13. Perfect for family gatherings, friends getaways, or quilting retreats! • 602 W Water St • 563-380-5772


MON-FRI 9-6 • SAT 9-3 563-382-2700 • 510 MONTGOMERY ST, DECORAH, IA or find us on Facebook




110 East Water St 563-382-4297 58

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More than 60 years of great food!

Big Driftless also designs hats, t-shirts, hoodies, and more. / Photo courtesy Big Driftless

COVID was certainly a stick in the spokes, for everybody, but I don’t have any kids or people who are depending on me, and I have a life that allows for flexibility, so I find that I can pivot and deal pretty well with things that happen. That being said, the constant workload sometimes makes me question, “What have I done?!” ha, ha. I read books and watch a lot of Youtube videos about people who rode around the planet on their bike and when I get really overwhelmed with all of the things on my plate I think, “I could just jump on my bike and ride off for the next several years.” I mean, it would be hard to do physically, but the simplicity of that kind of living would be marvelous. If I’m having a particularly heavy day I just try to remind myself of all of the reasons WHY I’m doing Big Driftless and then I put my head down and keep going. I’m just getting started; it won’t always be like this.

“I HAVE BECOME THE MOST DEMANDING BOSS I HAVE EVER WORKED FOR.” - CODY WHITTLE 5. Any mentors/role models you look to/have looked to? There are a number of companies that I really admire for what they’re doing in the world, kind of all for different reasons, and I try to take the things that I like about them and emulate that with Big Driftless, but at the very top of that list is Patagonia. I think all of the other companies that I admire would say that too. Many people don’t know Patagonia as anything other than a company that makes and sells outdoor clothing, but they do so much more than that. I would consider Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, to be my role model. He’s a person who sticks to his principles, helps

promote a culture of gratitude and activism, accepts and takes on responsibility, pushes his company to adapt and innovate, and as a result, drives other businesses to follow suit. I think that if you’re going to participate in capitalism as a company, Patagonia is an example of one of the truly noble ones out there. The spirit of Patagonia runs through Big Driftless and I will do my best to hold up to those expectations, as we keep moving forward.

my time now to build the kind of life that I really want to live. I think of it like investing money or going to college, the payoff comes later.

8. What keeps you inspired? Any quotes that keep you going? I have been fortunate to have a pretty good imagination. I see pretty clearly what Big Driftless will be in the future, and that vision is my North Star, that’s my inspiration. Keep moving in that direction. Also, when somebody really loves Big Driftless team member Siri Steven displays Big Driftless something that I have made, that’s merch - while “out in it!” / Photo courtesy Big Driftless 6. What’s the one thing you where it’s really at for me. Sure, wish you had known before you the money that they gave me for started? the item will help pay the rent, but Things are going to take longer than they seem like they will. Time the love and excitement that they feel for it is why I made it. Seeing management has been a huge learning experience for me and I just somebody stoked on something I made is the best. now feel like I’m getting a handle on it. I also thought I would be farther along on things after three years, but now that I’m here, it Quotes? I’ll leave it up to Yvon Chouinard, as he wrote in his book, feels like I only just started. Things take time. Patience is important. Let My People Go Surfing: 7. How do you manage your life/work balance? I don’t manage that balance very well… there is not much balance. It’s pretty much Big Driftless all the time, even to the point where I laugh at myself for promoting active adventurous living, while not really having much time for that myself, but I know that it won’t always be this way. Right now I’m just paying my dues and sacrificing

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

Customized Senior Living Options to suit your lifestyle! Nabotunet - Luxury 50+ Premiere Neighborhood Vennehjem - 55+ Exclusive Living Community Assisted Living Respite Care Dementia Care Skilled Care/Rehabilitation Long-term Nursing Care 563-382-3603 • \ Summer 2021





Pickwich Fremont Pilot Mound

New Hartford Choice


Black Hammer






Bee & Bergen Dorchester



Jarrett Rock Garden is maintained by friendly locals, Tom and Ruthann Diedrich. Visitors are welcome year-round. / Photo by Erin Dorbin

Ione (Eiken) Larson scooterskis in the wintry valley of Choice in 1926 while wearing her bathing suit. / Image courtesy of Historic Choice Minnesota Facebook

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A view north from the MN-43 roadside in Choice. The old creamery and Choice Store building remain on the western edge of the roadway. / Photo by Erin Dorbin




t’s safe to say that the route – or detour – we’ve taken into the 2020s has largely been “off the beaten path.” Along the way, we’ve also been largely lured by the local. We’re spending more time intentionally traveling within the region, buying locally produced goods, and getting better acquainted with our own backyards. Many of us may have even purchased newer and slower modes of transportation to enhance our (slower paced) journey into the “new normal.” In the Driftless – and nationwide – canoe, kayak, bicycle, motorcycle, scooter, and even roller skate sales have seen all-time highs since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Whether you’re scaling back the size of summer travels, or you’re a regular rural backroad adventurer, you’ll enjoy these lesser-known day trips to and through some of Southeast Minnesota’s most diminutive Driftless communities. Sure, their populations are small, but their character and landscapes are massively captivating. This spectacular region is the ancestral land of the Dakota. In the 1830s, it was occupied by Ho-Chunk peoples until they were forced to relocate to Central Minnesota, and later Nebraska after the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War. In the 1850s, Norwegian immigrants arrived and laid claim to the southeastern Minnesota land. For more than 150 years, the township identities of these rural communities have endured, even as populations have dipped and/or leveled off below 100 residents. For instance, if you ask a rural resident of southern Houston County, Minnesota, if they are from the small town of Spring Grove, they may pridefully correct you, “No, I’m from Black Hammer” – or Wilmington, Yucatan, or another surrounding township. Place is important here. And while these communities may be quiet, they are not “ghost towns.” They are very much alive. So, where to start your Driftless Day Tripper Adventure? Well, you can always choose Choice.

CHOICE, MN – State Highway 43 winds south beyond Rushford, down through layers of Paleozoic era rock formations until it deposits you into a serene valley, marked only by a large hand-painted sign by local master sign painter, Bryan Forsyth. “Share Stories” the sign urges, with mention of the “Historic Choice Minnesota” Facebook page. The page documents the visual memory of Choice through a large collection of photos captured throughout the 20th century. Choice is most fondly remembered as an annual holiday destination for regional families to view the impressive Christmas lights display at the township’s central Hanson farm. (Today, only the barn, memories, and Bryan’s hand-painted sign remain.) This biodiverse landscape contains hundreds of acres of state-owned land and idyllic public trout fishing easements along the South Fork of the Root River. If you travel east along Highway Nik Nerburn photographs the famous Choice 13, you’ll encounter the old South cookie near the former Hanson farm during Fork Church and many geologic his Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency, treasures. In the northeasterly 2019. Marian Hanson used to hand these direction, the incredible, yet elusive, cookies out to visitors of her Christmas light “Cabbage Rocks” line an isolated display. Resident baker, Ilene Larson, made ridgeline within the Richard J. Dorer him a batch. / Photo by Nik Nerburn Memorial Hardwood State Forest. These special rock formations appear in the landscape like a series of upended pyramids – and they aren’t marked on any map. Short of notes from a seasoned local, they’re a difficult Driftless landmark to locate. Is your curiosity piqued? If so, make certain to travel only within designated public lands on your adventure! And don’t forget to share your stories on the “Historic Choice Minnesota” Facebook page! Continued on next page \ Summer 2021


Erin Dorbin traveled 1,000 miles of backroads on her motorbike in her corner of southeast Driftless Minnesota in 2020. Here, she visits her favorite building in New Hartford. / Photo by Taylor Harris

BEE, MN & BERGEN, IA – These “Twin Cities” of the Driftless were founded along the Iowa-Minnesota state line. This allowed local merchants to serve area residents’ desires for liquor in the dry community of Bergen, Iowa, by stepping over into neighboring Bee, Minnesota, to make a purchase. Another perk of living in these twin cities was that residents were easily able to evade law enforcement from one state by stepping across the state line to the other. The tiny bridge that travels across the picturesque Bee-Waterloo Creek is the striking centerpiece. NEW HARTFORD, MN – Near the town’s lone intersection, you’ll find an attractive old building that was once a store, post office, and soda factory! Remnants of the town’s mill can also be found south toward La Crescent. Bring your fishing pole! There’s a public trout fishing easement along Pine Creek that flows right through town. PILOT MOUND, MN – A rural Driftless Minnesota town curated and artistically reimagined by stained glass sculpture artist, Karl Unnasch. Pilot Mound’s core includes extant historic structures intertwined with rural roadside sculptural oddities – including a Sinclair dinosaur! Karl encourages visitors to arrive with an open mind (and, he writes on his website, it doesn’t hurt to bring along some bourbon to share). 62

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Follow the South Fork of the Root River, east of Choice along Highway 13, for majestic bluffs and oxbows. / Photo by Erin Dorbin

FREMONT, MN – Just a few miles south of I-90 near Lewiston, Minnesota, Fremont is home to four historic buildings: a brick creamery and schoolhouse, octagon-shaped town hall, and the state’s longest-operating general store, the Fremont Store. Built in 1856, the Fremont Store’s weathered clapboard siding is adorned with large classic soda advertisements and looks like something you’d find on a Western movie set. Its minimalist-before-it-was-cool interior includes original wooden shelving and displays and a large wood-burning stove. Martha Johnson, the 104-year-old owner, still runs the shop on Saturdays and loves to chat with customers and make new friends. Note: If you stop, the manual cash register

operates on Martha’s tried and true honor system. You’ll also be able to see evidence of customers’ credit lines captured in pencil on the wall of the store.


– Nestled in Crooked Creek valley, tiny Freeburg offers some mighty Driftless views. Follow Route 249 up from the Great River Road at Reno and plan for a stop at Little Miami supper club for their famous broasted chicken dinner. Rock outcroppings, hardwood forests, and restored goat prairies line the hillsides on this picturesque drive connecting the uplands to the floodplain forests of the Mississippi River bottoms.

JARRETT, MN – Midway between the Zumbro River towns of Hammond and Millville is the unmarked community of Jarrett. Follow County Rd 11 as it hugs the Zumbro to discover a wellmaintained and inviting rock sculpture garden, created in the early 20th century by resident folk artist, Jakey Riemers. Jakey harvested dolostone cold water agate rocks from the Zumbro riverbed and surrounding bluffs for his sculptures. These distinctive rocks hold tiny pockets of quartz crystal, which reflect the sunlight in a dazzling display. The garden is owned Taylor Harris and daughter Maple visit the Stone Lady of Black Hammer each season. Taylor hopes to one day uncover her mysterious origins. by Wabasha County and open / Photo by Erin Dorbin to the public for exploration and relaxation.

BLACK HAMMER, MN – Home of the “Mystery Woman on the Hill.” The Stone Lady of Black Hammer was built at least 150 years ago by persons unknown atop the prominent Black Hammer bluff. This bluff has long been an important landmark in the area for Indigenous peoples and later Norwegian settlers. While she is located on private land, visitors are invited to park and venture up the hill to pay the Stone Lady a visit. (Look for the wooden roadside sign on the west side of County Road 4, south of town.) Her guests will take in an unforgettable view.

PICKWICK, MN – Pay a few bucks to take a leisurely selfguided tour of all six stories of the historic water-powered Pickwick Mill – the first commercial flour mill west of the Mississippi, built 1856-1858. Then, walk downstream and take in the sights and sounds of Big Trout Creek. Continued on next page

Vintage, Handmade, & Fair Trade

the peddler

107 Coffee St. East, Lanesboro MN. 507.380.1677

AUTO REPAIRS • OIL CHANGES Pick up & delivery available

l h a d e k l Fo ce Servi

563-382-4010 • 563-380-5851 501 MONTGOMERY ST. DECORAH, IA 415 W WATER ST, DECORAH, IOWA

M-F 10-15 • Sat 10-4 • Sun 12-4

563-382-4646 | 64

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These stone ruins mark the former Dorchester Catholic Church. / Photo by Erin Dorbin

DORCHESTER, IA – Feel the power of place along peaceful Waterloo Creek in this unincorporated community just south of the Minnesota state line. What you’ll find: Gorgeous, locally quarried stone ruins of Dorchester’s first St. Mary’s Catholic Church atop the wooded bluff overlooking town. Built in 1875, the church succumbed to fire before 1900, and while they rebuilt, it’s not completely clear why the original structure remains – yet when it comes to day trip adventuring, we’re thankful it’s there! Special thanks to fellow Driftless adventurers Taylor Harris and James T. Spartz for their suggestions! Erin is a Driftless adventurer and historian living and working in Houston County, Minnesota. She has turned down every rural backroad and small town Main Street she possibly can since receiving her driver’s permit. She also coordinates the Crystal Creek Citizen-Artist Residency:

For a map of the DRIFTLESS DAY TRIPPER – TINY TOWNS EDITION, visit this Tiny Town Tiny URL: Or scan this QR code:

Outside & Inside seating! Great Venue for your next event! Summer hours: Fridays 4-9pm, Sat. 10-5 & Sun 1-5

Voted Visit Bluff Country’s 2020 Best of the Best Winery!

Empty Nest Winery

Find us at Farmers Markets: Harpers Ferry Fridays 5-7 pm Decorah Wednesdays 3-6 pm & Saturdays 8-11

Serving Wine, Fresh Sangria, 10 Craft Beers on Tap & House Ciders

Upcoming Events

May 28-31: Memorial Weekend! Friday 4-9; Sat, Sun & Mon 11-5pm. Buffet all 4 days. Release summer wines: Twig & berries, Party Starter Strawberry & Back in Black. May 30: Live music on the patio, 1-5 pm June 4: Release Dragonfly Dreams limited edition wine 4pm June 26: Find us at Lazy River Beer & Wine Fest in Marquette July 2: Release Summer Splash & White Lace limited edition wines, 4 pm July 3 & 4: Open regular hours Check schedule for live music on the patio July 24: Murder Mystery Dinner Theater Tickets online at Eventbrite August 6: Release Island Time & Sticky Buns limited edition wine September 3-6: Labor Day weekend! Hot Food Buffet Friday 4-9; Sat, Sun & Monday 11-5. Food buffet all 4 days. May through October – nights 5-8 pm & • Release fall wines: Midlife Crisis, Apple Road & Crimson Cranberry Friday Saturdays 11-2 pm. • Live music on the patio Sunday, 1-5pm Menu at September 11: Hero Run 5K & fun starting at 4pm or Facebook

Save the Dates!

October 1: Release Night – limited edition wines October 8 & 9: Annual Wining with the Arts – 10 Artists at the Winery! October 16: 5K Fun Run October 29: Last Friday night open PARTY November 6: Release Night – limited edition wines November 27: Murder Mystery Dinner Theater December 31: New Years Eve Murder Mystery Dinnere Theater | 563-568-2758 1253 Apple Rd. Waukon, Iowa

Like us for details!


Ethel Quandahl

Interviewed by friend Charlene Corson Selbee

The pineapple is the world-known symbol for hospitality. In my book, Ethel Quandahl is the symbol of hospitality – and she does like dried pineapple! Ethel’s hospitality was evident through her work at the Super 8 Motel in Decorah, at Luther College, and at the Burr Oak Mercantile. Most of all, her warm hospitality and rich sense of humor are evident on the phone or in her home, where she welcomes friends and family with open arms, a cup of coffee (or a can of Coke in my case), and a homemade snack. During a recent unannounced visit with Ethel, she was embroidering wedding ring quilt blocks and stopped to update me on her activities since I saw her last. 1. What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? Mom said, “Don’t ever steal. Don’t ever take anything that doesn’t belong to you. If it is something you really want, ask for it and the person will give it to you. Don’t ever take anything.” 2. What did you want to be when you grew up? I thought I would like to be nurse, like my good friend, Judy McCabe was going to be – but that was a lot of schooling. Instead, I ended up being a waitress and a farmer’s wife. I was dad’s hired man and then married my husband, Allen. Then I had babies: Becky, Raymond, and Tim. 3. What do/did you do? I was a farm wife while raising my family. I also worked at the Super 8 hotel in Decorah for seven years, and I worked at Luther College for 21 years, where I was a custodian. I was a “stool cleaner” like my dad called ‘em. The students called me mom, and when they would go for job interviews, they would say, “How do I look?” I said they looked really good. After Allen died, I went to work for David DeCou and his family at the Burr Oak Mercantile. When they sold out, I worked there for Douglas Corson. There was never a dull moment working for Dave and Douglas at the Mercantile! 4. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you? • Fishing pole • Something to eat so I could have a snack • Coffee 5. Try to describe yourself in one sentence. “I like people.” 6. If you could eat anything every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Right now, I would say – Pineapple Bits – Haaaa! You gotta taste them. I can eat a whole package of them! Or an egg a day. I must have my egg and toast every morning for breakfast. 7. Name one thing you could not live without. I want to say the bathroom – that is the truth! We took sponge baths growing up because we didn’t have running water for many years. We would heat the water and fill the sink – a wash rag, bar of soap, and scrub yourself. When I was little, we all took a bath in the same little round tub of water.

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8. Describe your wedding day. Allen and I eloped. We were married on the 28th of August 1955. I was 19 and Allen 28 when we got married. Mike and Ida Noecker stood up for Allen and I. We left Burr Oak and went over to my dad who was sitting at the feed store to ask if we could borrow some money. “We are going to Lancaster MO to get married.” You could see the tears coming. I had only the dress I was wearing, a solid purple waffle pique. I got a pair of nylons from Ruth Sexton and we took off. On the way down, we parked along the roadside that was next to a hog lot. Allen and I curled up in the backseat to sleep and Mike and Ida slept in the front seat – and there was no hanky panky! You could hear the hogs eating out of the hog feeders. We found an old JP and his sister who played “Here Comes the Bride”, in their living room. A few weeks later we had a big dance at Matters Ballroom, and a big “shivaree” at my folks. I didn’t have a wedding ring before we went so before our dance we went down to Lang’s Jewelry and got a plain wedding band; it was the cutest thing and cost $5. Our marriage lasted as long as Allen lived – 25 years.

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