ome H SPRING
Fresh, functional and fun remodels Pandemic-era home projects in the Lakes Area Victory gardens take root again: Here’s how to start your own Today’s home market: Stellar for sellers ...plus more, INSIDE!
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ome H SPRING
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BEFORE & AFTER
Two stories about four recent remodeling projects in the Lakes Area MAJOR MAKEOVER: A whole-home remodel on Paul Lake FUN, FRESH NEW KITCHENS, BATHS AND MORE: A peek inside three Detroit Lakes homes
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PROPELLED BY THE PANDEMIC
THE SWEET SMELL OF VICTORY GARDENS
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Popular during the World Wars, backyard vegetable gardening is seeing a resurgence again
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From rustic to refreshed, this newly remodeled Paul Lake home feels intimate, warm and inviting
Architect Kelli Wegscheid says remodeling projects have been popular during the pandemic BY MARIE JOHNSON For Spring Home
ary Kay Hammans didn’t have a specific look or style in mind when she and her husband, Craig, decided it was time to remodel their home on Paul Lake, west of Perham. She just knew how she wanted it to feel. The house was going to get bigger with the remodel, she knew, but she wanted it to maintain the intimacy of the smaller home they’d come to know and love over the years. She wanted it to feel warm and open; a place that draws friends and family together and encourages interaction. A home with unique and personal touches, like fireplace bricks repurposed from her old high school, and a big dining room table that used to belong to her mother -- a table that has seen many family game nights over the years, and will continue to see many more. “We wanted to create an inviting place where everybody feels welcome,” explains Mary Kay. “A place where the focus is on the heart and soul of all who
Left: An AFTER shot of the front entrance, visible from the roadside. ABOVE: A BEFORE photo of the Hamanns home, as it looked from the roadside. All Photos Submitted
6 | Spring Home 2021
after Lakeside views of the Hammans home BEFORE and AFTER their recent remodeling project. At the bottom right is the architect’s rendering of what the remodeled lake side would look like, by Harmonious Architecture.
enter, and the community we have with one another.” The Hammans family has a nearly 20-year history with the home. They bought the modest brown rambler in 2002, when their two boys were still quite young, and would spend their summers, holidays and occasional weekends there. The boys would often bring over their friends from the Perham summer baseball program, to swim and play games. “It was the kind of place where everybody came to hang out and relax,” says Mary Kay. “It wasn’t the lake mansion where you had to take your shoes off and be careful. Those boys would hang out here like they were in their own living room.” Mary Kay and Craig didn’t want that element of comfort to disappear with the remodel, but with the boys all grown up now, she says they were ready to make some changes and additions to suit their needs and preferences of today. The kitchen, for example, was ready for an overhaul. Mary Kay has a degree in dietetics and loves to cook for large groups; she always wanted her “dream kitchen,” she says, and with this remodel, “I finally got it.” The new kitchen features spacious white and ecru cabinets, a large kitchen island, a 48-inch, 6-burner stove that’s “better for pan management when you’re cooking for a crowd,” and plenty of counter space for food prep, Mary Kay describes. And since she and the rest of the family are on the tall side, everything in the kitchen is set up 2 inches higher than in a standard kitchen, ergonomically designed just for them. Other features they worked into the remodel include a great room that overlooks the lake, a “wine cave” for Mary Kay’s wine-making hobby (Craig also has a large “man cave” to tinker around in), a wet bar, a master suite, a formal entryway and more. Spring Home 2021 | 7
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Kelli Wegscheid, of Harmonious Architecture in Perham, helped them through the design and build process. The construction timeline stretched out longer than expected due to pandemic-related shipping delays and supply chain issues, but May Kay says she and Craig expect to move into their newly remodeled home this May, and they’re thrilled. “It really turned out phenomenal,” she says. “We’re really happy.” While many of the homes’ old bones remain intact, some of the layout was reworked as a part of the remodel, and 1,100-squarefeet were added on to the original building. The home still has four bedrooms, as it did before, but one of those is now a master suite. An addition built out toward the lake features vaulted ceilings and large windows that
The remodeled kitchen is larger, brighter, and better suited to Mary Kay’s “volume cooking” needs, she says.
Spring Home 2021 | 9
“THE FOCUS IS ON THE
heart and soul OF ALL WHO ENTER, AND THE COMMUNITY WE HAVE WITH ONE ANOTHER.”
The kitchen counters and appliances are raised up about 2 inches higher than in a standard kitchen, ergonomically designed to suit the tall Hammans family. Even the refrigerator is raised up, with a drawer below it for cookie sheets and other flat pans.
- Homeowner Mary Kay Hammans, on the design of her home
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offer great views, while a new TV room lies on the lower level just below that. A new garage was built, and a powder room and bathroom were added off the garage entryway. “The rest of the house was remodeled with new light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, paint, trim, doors, etc.,” says Wegscheid. “The former family room was turned into the master bedroom, with a lake view.” Wegscheid says the Hammans project is one of many remodeling projects she’s seen and worked on around the lakes area this past year. Low interest rates and a lack of inventory on the housing market have led to an uptick in remodels in recent months, as has the COVID-19 pandemic: “People are using money previously set aside for
The wet bar on the lower level is located just outside of Mary Kay’s “wine cave.” She’s been making her own wines for about 20 years.
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A laundry area in the newly remodeled Hammans home.
travel on house projects,” she says. Emotional ties are also a major factor in remodels. Many homeowners grow fond of their neighbors and neighborhoods over the years and don’t like the thought of moving, even when their homes no longer meet their needs. Others grew up spending their summers at the family cabin, and want to keep it in the family for the next generation. In either case, remodeling becomes an inevitability. While whole-home remodeling projects like the Hammans family’s are not uncommon, Wegscheid says the majority of remodels focus on one room or one part of a home, with kitchens, bathrooms and master suites being the most popular remodel requests.
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A new great room on the main floor of the home features vaulted ceilings and tall windows for a clear view of Paul Lake. Incorporated into the fireplace are bricks from Mary Kay’s old high school in Milwaukee, Wisc.
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Thinking of remodeling? 3 HERE ARE
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT FIRST
Tips from Kelli Wegscheid, Architect and Owner at Harmonious Architecture in Perham.
Confirm the state of Your foundation.
Older homes, especially lake homes and cabins from the 1940s and ‘50s, often have unsuitable foundations, or don’t have a foundation at all. “Don’t spend money on a remodel if the home’s not going to stand up right,” Wegscheid advises. “Homes that were intended to just be summer cabins are really difficult to remodel… At that point, a lot of people decide to just tear it down and build new.” Homes built later on, from about the 1970s and up, are more likely to have a solid foundation and framing, but may still need costly energy upgrades like new windows, doors, garage doors, heating and cooling systems, and a new roof.
Know the difference between a “redo” and a “refresh.”
Take kitchens, for example. Kitchens are the number one design feature in homes today, and Wegscheid says remodeling them can be “a really expensive project.” A total redo entails changing the layout or footprint of the room, which requires demolition, plumbing changes and possible electrical upgrades. At that point, Wegscheid says, most people decide to just take all the drywall off, too, and replace the insulation, windows, soffits and ceiling, in order to avoid a noticeable contrast between the old and the new. It can be hard to know where to stop with redos. A less extensive — and less expensive — option is to keep the existing layout of the kitchen and simply install new cabinets, countertops, sinks and fixtures right where the old ones used to be. The cost difference is significant, Wegscheid says, with a simple refresh ranging from $10,000-$15,000, on average, versus a potential cost of about $50,000 for a total redo.
If you’re on a budget, or just want to freshen up the look of your home, Wegscheid says some relatively inexpensive and easy fixes to consider include: new light fixtures, new door hardware, a new front door or garage door, updated paint, and new flooring.
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Average timelines for popular Home renovation and remodeling projects are significant undertakings, and timing is a big consideration for homeowners as they begin these projects. The home improvement experts at HomeAdvisor note that the following are some general timelines for popular home projects. Keep in mind that shipping and supply/demand delays have been common during the pandemic, so expect things to take longer than usual, and be prepared to be patient and flexible. ► Home addition: Short of a full-scale demolition and rebuild, home additions are the most time-consuming projects homeowners can undertake. HomeAdvisor’s recent survey of customers who completed home
addition projects showed the average time from start to finish was between three and four months. Certain variables, including the scale of the project and the local permits process, can extend the time it takes to complete a home addition. ► Kitchen remodel: Scale is a big factor to consider. Some HomeAdvisor users reported projects taking as long as four months. Projects that require major overhauls like rearranging the plumbing and moving walls will likely take longer than more cosmetic projects limited to things like replacing cabinets and countertops. ► Bathroom remodel: More than 1,000 homeowners surveyed by
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HomeAdvisor reported that bathroom remodels took about 4.5 weeks from start to finish. Small-scale remodels that focus on painting the walls a fresh color and replacing existing tiles can easily be completed in less than two weeks. But as with kitchen remodels, bathroom remodels that involve replacing plumbing fixtures and removing walls take much longer than that. ► Siding installation: HomeAdvisor users report that new siding installation takes roughly two weeks from start to finish. That
estimate is the same regardless of which materials homeowners are replacing and installing, and does not include the time it takes to plan which kind of siding you want and order materials. ► Replacement windows: Homeowners who want to replace all the windows in their home can expect such a project to take roughly three weeks. Much of the contractor’s time during a window replacement project will be spent on upfront measuring and then ensuring a tight fit once the windows have been installed.
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it’s a SELLER’S MARKET With new listings scarce, home buyers outnumber sellers nearly 2-to-1 in some parts of the lakes area Realtors say the lake home market has been propelled by the pandemic BY MICHAEL ACHTERLING For Spring Home
akes area realtors are saying it’s a seller’s market, with home buyers grabbing listings as soon as they’re published. The listings have not kept up with the pace of sales, which has led to area agents being short on inventory for potential buyers. “It’s definitely a seller’s market,” says David Wieser, real estate agent at Boll Realty in Ottertail. “We’re short on listings… We’ve got to get some listings or we won’t have anything to sell.” He said the office had a really great year last year. Boll Realty’s listings are about 85% lakeshore properties. “When (the pandemic) first started, we thought it was going to go the other way, that we would be
18 | Spring Home 2021
slower,” he says. “It ended up being the opposite.” Wieser said he thinks the pandemic’s stay-at-home guidelines led to many buyers thinking that working from home could mean working from a lake home. “A lot of people found out they could work from home,” Wieser says. “Why not live at the lake and look at the lake and work from your home office, instead of being in the middle of Minneapolis working?” He also said some buyers used the pandemic as a time to purchase lower-priced “grandfather’s cabins” — places to create familial memories without the big price tags of fullystacked, year-round lake homes. “A lot of our clients are people
who might have grown up (around here) — maybe they went to their grandfather’s cabin on a lake — and...now they want to come back because they always had fond memories of the lake,” he says. Wieser says it isn’t just one specific lake buyers are moving to, but it’s across the board. Each lake has its own price point based on location and other factors, but any lake shore properties listed between $225,000 and $325,000 have sold extremely fast. “I think people have had time to think about what they want to do with their dreams,” says Wieser. “This pandemic, I could get sick and maybe die, so hey, I want to follow my dreams and do what I want to do.”
Dirk Ockhardt, real estate broker at Jack Chivers Realty in Detroit Lakes, said he has twice as many buyers than sellers at the time of this writing in late March. “I am more of a conservative person, but it’s true, it’s very active,” says Ockhardt. “We have twice as many buyers ready to perform. We have a lot of buyers looking and searching...but when the right property at the right price comes on the market, it will most likely be sold within a week, and maybe within 48 hours.” Within a six-week span this spring, he says, his company saw four home sales where the purchasers and sellers came to terms within 48 hours, which is fast for the home market in lakes country. Also, Ockhardt says, the markets in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena are serving different buyers, because buyers are looking for different utilities out of their potential properties. Some are looking for homestead needs, others are looking for commercial property, but in Detroit Lakes you can have both of those and also a large recreational market. “I’m selling lake life,” says Ockhardt. “When you decide to live in Becker County, Otter Tail County, or all those west-central Minnesota counties, you are buying into a lifestyle decision that is rural America, smalltown America, and a lot of outdoors. It’s a lifestyle and we have a gazillion public accesses to the lake. I don’t need a lake home to enjoy the lake in the state of Minnesota.” He says he doesn’t believe the pandemic caused the buying boom, but it may have served as a catalyst for action for those who were already thinking about purchasing a property. “I think people who had
been considering investing in lake property, and have been always — we call them tire-kickers — I think they already had to have that plan and (the pandemic) just accelerated their decisionmaking,” he says. “Do you buy a property for $400,000 just because you can’t make one vacation that year?” Ockhardt also notes that with the volatility of the stock market in 2020, he thinks some home buyers pulled their money out of the market and reinvested in a safer commodity — like lake property and homes. All of this has led to buyers out-buying the listings, which has caused Ockhardt’s realty company to hold only about a third of its normal listings. “In my opinion, if you were an owner of a nice little lake place, or hunting spot, and you wouldn’t have to sell it, would you sell it right now?” he questioned. “I am actually fearful, or concerned, that we will not have a lot of listings this year.” In Wadena, Joe Hinkle, owner of Hinkle Realty, says he’s also short on property to sell. “I think everybody is kind of in that same boat,” he says. “When it does come on the market, it’s gone pretty fast if it’s good stuff, like what people are looking for.” Hinkle has seen some younger people who previously moved from lakes country to the Twin Cities for work, move back because they could work from home here and the prices were less expensive. “Some of them haven’t found anything yet,” he says. Hinkle said the company’s year in 2020 was pretty equal to 2019, as far as the number of transactions. “But this year, it’s starting out less because there is less property to sell,” he adds. “But, on the other hand, it started out slow a little bit last year and picked up once we hit the warmer weather.”
“I THINK PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN CONSIDERING INVESTING IN LAKE PROPERTY, AND HAVE BEEN ALWAYS —
we call them tire-kickers —
I THINK THEY ALREADY HAD TO HAVE THAT PLAN AND (THE PANDEMIC) JUST ACCELERATED THEIR DECISION-MAKING.” - Detroit Lakes realtor Dirk Ockhardt
A home sale sign sits in front of a Detroit Lakes home. Area home sales have skyrocketed since the pandemic began. Photos by Michael Achterling / Spring Home
Spring Home 2021 | 19
“Why not live at the lake and look at the lake and work from your home office, instead of being in the middle of Minneapolis working?” - Ottertail realtor David Wieser, on one of the reasons why lake properties have been so hot during the pandemic
A Detroit Lakes home on South Shore Drive waits to be sold.
Anything listed under $100,000 goes in no time at all, he says, and many receive multiple offers the very next day. “I think (interest rates) are another reason everyone is buying,” he says. With interest rates held at low levels to encourage lending during the pandemic, home buyers have been using them to buy homes, but home owners have also been refinancing their own mortgages to take advantage of the lower rates, which takes time for appraisers. “We close them as fast as we can get it done, but the appraisers have been a little bit behind because there are a lot of refis, because interest rates have been so low,” Hinkle says. If anyone was thinking about selling their home, Hinkle says, they should start preparing now, with deep cleanings and organizing their clutter for their home to be presentable, because once it’s listed, it may not last long.
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g t h n i e d i
remodeling wave Home improvement projects have been a popular pastime for homeowners during the pandemic — especially kitchen and bathroom remodels
Find inspiration for your next project in one of these three recent Detroit Lakes area home projects, featuring BEFORE and AFTER photos
BY MARIE JOHNSON For Spring Home
f you can’t go out, go “all in” at home. That’s the attitude many homeowners appear to have adopted in this pandemic era, as they spend more time at their houses and their travel budgets are freed up to put toward home improvements instead. Home remodeling projects have been popular across the lakes area throughout the past year, and are only getting more so, according to local home designers and building contractors. Kitchens and bathrooms are the most popular rooms in the home to remodel. “It keeps getting busier every day,” reports Tracy Olson, the head kitchen and bath designer at Cabinets Plus in Detroit Lakes. “There are more calls, and there’s more in-showroom traffic.” “It actually started in the fall of last year and progressively picked up more and more,” adds Catie Herman, who owns Do-Right Construction in Detroit Lakes along with her husband, Jim. “And it’s not slowing down.” That’s a trend seen across the country. A survey conducted last July by national remodeling platform porch.com showed that more than three-quarters of all U.S. homeowners had already done some type of home
22 | Spring Home 2021
improvement project within the first few months of the pandemic, and 78% said they planned to take on a new project within the following 12 months. The top motivator behind those projects, the survey showed, was “finally having the time.” Nearly 60% of respondents admitted that spending more time inside due to the lockdown inspired them to renovate their places of residence. “People are spending more time in their homes and realizing, ‘Oh, I don’t like this,’ or ‘We really need to fix that,’” says Tracy. As is sometimes the way with remodeling projects, those seemingly smaller jobs can evolve into larger overhauls. “They’ll call to start with one part of the house, but then the projects grow from there,” she says. “It’s the old, ‘As long as you’re here, you may as well do this.’ Or they at least want to find out what it would take to do everything they’d really like to do.” For example, with kitchen and bathroom remodels it’s often the case that, “The new cabinets and countertops look so good, that they decide they want to do the flooring, too,” Jim says.
Do-Right Construction and Cabinets Plus have a shared showroom with CP Flooring, and the businesses work together to help homeowners throughout the remodeling process. From start to finish, they ensure people get what they want out of their home projects without going over their budgets. The biggest design trend right now, Olson and Catie Herman say, is to have an “eclectic” mix of cabinets in the kitchen or other areas of the house. While white cabinets are the most popular in the lakes area, more and more people are also opting for painted grey, blue, or other finishes, often using one color on the bottom cabinets and a different color on the top. “We’re doing one house now where there’s about four different finishes on cabinets and countertops, so not everyone wants it all to match,” says Tracy. “Now, it’s a mix.” For countertops, quartz is the most sought-after material, Jim says, as it’s “completely maintenance free,” but “laminate has come a long way and is a less expensive option.” For flooring, luxury vinyl planking has become the way to go — it’s waterproof and comes in many different styles, from a rustic wood look to a tile appearance, “so lake folks like the easy cleanup” for their in-and-out areas and others like it in their bathrooms, “because it looks like tile but is warmer and easy to maintain, even with kids and pets.” Read on to learn more about three recent remodeling projects in Detroit Lakes, with before and after pictures.
Tracy Olson and Trent Ovsak, of Cabinets Plus
Making the most of a small space THE HOME OF GREG & CHRISTI ORSON
“We wanted to update, first and foremost, because everything was quite outdated and old. It was also about spatial issues.” - Christi Orson
Christi Orson already had a basic design plan in mind when she reached out to Cabinets Plus for help remodeling the laundry room, wet bar and bathroom area at the Long Lake home she owns with her husband, Greg. They’d been wanting to redo that space for a while, she says, and decided that 2020 was the year to do it. The timing with the pandemic was coincidental, as they had already called to get their project started before COVID hit, in the fall of 2019. As it turned out, it was a good time to get the work done, “because we weren’t entertaining or anything anyway,” Christi says. The construction process was held up just a little by delays in the shipping of materials, but otherwise the project went just as planned. She worked with Tracy Olson, the head kitchen and bath designer at Cabinets Plus, to hone her design and get the project started. She and Greg had built four homes in Fargo previously, so this was a relatively small project for them, but she says Tracy was “very helpful with the design plan” and in the Spring Home 2021 | 23
BEFORE end, “I thought it ended up turning out really nice.” Their goals for the remodel were twofold: First, they wanted a fresh, new look; and second, they wanted to make better use of the limited space they had in that part of the house. “We wanted to update, first and foremost, because everything was quite outdated and old,” says Christi. “It was also about spatial issues… It was a very small area that we were working with, so we were trying to accommodate our needs with what we had to work with — trying to mesh those together.” There was some fairly serious demolition involved, as a large overhead beam needed to be removed, along with a massive brick fireplace that Christi says “infringed on the room.” A water softener and related systems were relocated
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Spring Home 2021 | 25
to a spot under the stairs, which opened up more space elsewhere; and a large wet bar that protruded into the room was replaced with a new one set back against the wall — again, opening up more space. The project was completed last August and Christi says she’s “absolutely” happy with it. So happy that they’re now working with Tracy’s team members at Do-Right Construction on another project: re-siding the home, and putting a new roof on. “Usually if they’re happy with you, it leads to more work,” says Jim Herman, a co-owner of Do-Right. “There’s a great sense of pride in being able to help somebody out. That’s one of the things that’s always driven me to be in this business.”
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“Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy it.” - Bill Mahowald
Out with the old, in with the new
THE HOME OF BILL & DARLINE MAHOWALD When Bill and Darline Mahowald bought their home on Deadshot Lake, they started making cosmetic improvements soon after. Wanting to update the look of the home, they changed up some trim and finish work around the house, and installed some new flooring. After several years of doing those kinds of smaller projects, they decided to take on something quite a bit bigger: the kitchen. It functioned fine for them the way it was, Bill says, but, “it was quite dated. It was 25 years old, so we basically took it out and redid it.” They didn’t change the dimensions of the kitchen, and the layout stayed mostly the same, he says, but all the
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cabinetry, appliances, countertops, flooring and finishes were replaced — so they essentially ended up with a brand new kitchen. Tracy Olson, at Cabinets Plus, helped them with the contemporary design. “We’re very pleased with everything that Tracy did,” says Bill. They worked with Tracy again more recently, this time to turn an under-utilized entryway into a mudroom and office space. Skye Fingalson, of Design 2 Sell in Detroit Lakes, also helped with the design of that. “It started out as a shop but really wasn’t being used that way, so we converted it into a mudroom entryway into the house,” says Bill. “It turned out really nice. It was probably one of our nicer projects we did in the house.” That room, like the kitchen, didn’t need a new footprint; it just needed updating and a little reworking
1-800-ASPHALT 30 | Spring Home 2021
in order to become a more functional, attractive space. “It was an empty room, so we put cabinets into it and a new floor,” he says. “That made the space more useful for us, and more friendly as an entry.” Bill says he and Darline are happy with how the projects turned out, and don’t have any plans to do any more remodeling in the near future. “Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy it,” he says.
The new combined mudroom, entryway and office area is a multifunctional space with a friendlier feel, says Bill. All Photos Submitted
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Spring Home 2021 | 31
“We basically built a new house.” - Jeff Lewis
It’s the kind of remodeling story that everybody likes to talk about -- a homeowner opens up one part of their house to embark on a small project, and that somehow leads to another project, and another, and another… until pretty soon, that small project has snowballed into the construction of a whole new house. That’s been the experience of Jeff and Sue Lewis of Detroit Lakes, who broke ground last spring on what was supposed to be a small addition to their Cozy Cove Road home; one year later, they were putting the finishing touches on what ended up becoming an almost completely new house. “We had an older oneand-a-half-story farm place that...had been added onto a couple of times over the years, so it was a bit of a mishmash,” says Jeff. “You know, when you tear into these older houses... I knew we were going to run into these bigger issues. But it ended up being much bigger than I anticipated.” After completing the originally-planned 33’x30’ addition to connect the house and garage, the Lewises “decided we didn’t like the upstairs half-story,” so they stripped that whole story down, cut it up with a chainsaw, and lifted it off the main floor with a forklift. Then they totally rebuilt that upper level, making the home a full 2-story with three expanded bedrooms and a new bathroom upstairs. They thought they’d be able to save some of the original structure on the main level, but after tearing out some of the walls they 32 | Spring Home 2021
A small project goes big
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The fireplace in the new living room, which was not quite finished yet in this AFTER picture, is positioned diagonally across the southwest corner of the room so that it’s the first thing people see as they walk in the door. The stone is 6-inch-thick, hand-chiseled granite that has been repurposed from the old Moorhead Country Club, built by a Civilian Conservation Corps crew in 1933. Jeff salvaged the stones in 1993 thinking that someday he would build a fireplace; now, some 25 years later, that day has come.
decided to just tear them all out and replace them with 2x6 boards. They also put additions onto that level, in three different directions. In the end, they had just two interior walls left from the old structure, plus the original basement. The walls, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling and pretty much everything else, are brand new. “We basically built a new home,” laughs Jeff. “In hindsight, we probably would have torn it all down and started over. Time-wise, it would have been a lot quicker if we would have bulldozed it and started from scratch, but moneywise, I think it was about the same.” Jeff did some of the work himself, with help from a couple of friends and multiple local contractors, including Sweeney Builders, ZB Concrete, Boit Excavating, Johnson Plumbing, B&M Electric, 34 | Spring Home 2021
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White is the most popular color for kitchen cabinets across the lakes area, though local designers and contractors say other colors, like gray and blue, are becoming trendy, too.
Spring Home 2021 | 35
The Lewis home, on Cozy Cove Road in Detroit Lakes, was an older farmhouse that they had purchased from a family member in 2013. The front exterior is pictured here BEFORE the remodel ; at the top right of the opposite page is a view of the exterior AFTER.
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Cabinets Plus, LumBros Building Supplies, Gilbertson Masonry and others. Jeff has a good sense of humor about the muchevolved project, and, now that it’s almost complete, loves how it’s all turned out. The Lewises bought the home in 2013 from a family member, and always intended to remodel it, albeit not to this extent. They wanted to wait and start the project after Jeff retired, which he did about two years ago. “We started out with very modest goals, and ended up with something not very modest,” Jeff says. “Most people our age are downsizing; for some reason, I felt the need to make a bigger house.” The house was about 2,200-square-feet before. Today, it’s 3,600. “You just have to laugh,” Jeff says. “It’s a very neat project. We’ve very, very happy with it.”
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A forklift carries away part of the Lewis home’s original upper story. All Photos Submitted
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I THE SWEET SMELL OF
victory gardens BY VICKI GERDES For Spring Home
Popular — and touted as patriotic — during the World Wars, backyard vegetable gardening has seen a resurgence in the COVID era
38 | Spring Home 2021
n 1917, as World War I raged across the globe, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called upon all Americans to do their part to support the war effort on the home front. In response, many people turned to backyard gardening — not just to show support for their country, but as a way to combat food shortages and the consequent high prices of food while putting fresh, homegrown produce on their dinner plates. According to the Minnesota Historical Society’s MNOpedia.com, “Homegrown vegetables filled pantries and stomachs and allowed ‘citizen soldiers’ to conserve wheat, meat, sugar and fats that were essential for U.S. troops and their European allies. Liberty gardens, as these homegrown plots became known in 1918, were a crucial part of food conservation efforts, since vegetables could take the place of meat- and wheatbased dishes.” The group that coordinated the state’s war efforts, the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety, wrote in their newsletter that “flying a flag at the front of the house would mean little for the war effort unless there was a garden in the backyard.” Communities around the state found garden land for those who didn’t have a yard, housing developers turned empty lots into garden plots, and the Soo Line Railroad allowed gardening on 50,000 acres of its land. Over time, many Minnesotans who had never grown a single vegetable caught the liberty garden fever. Around the state, students — with help from their teacher advisors — cultivated garden plots in schoolyards during the summer. Adult novice gardeners also found the support they needed to plan, sow and grow their own plots. A variety of
government, education and business entities provided extensive information, publishing booklets, issuing bulletins and creating displays in local libraries and store windows. These displays “illustrated the importance of gardening, offered patriotic views of homegrown harvests, and praised the value of homecanned produce,” according to MNOpedia. During World War II, this concept was reintroduced under a new name: Victory Gardens. About one-third of the vegetables produced in the U.S. during the second World War came from Victory Gardens, according to Stuart A. Kallen’s “The War at Home,” published in 2000. “There was rationing,” explains JoAnn Dobis, a Becker County Master Gardener who makes her home in rural Pelican Rapids. “It (gardening) was a way for people to help supplement their food supply, and it also served as a morale booster.” She says there has been a resurgence in the popularity of home gardening in the past year or so, since she first joined the Master Gardeners in January 2020. Dobis herself grew up helping her mother tend the family’s vegetable gardens, which is where she developed her passion for it. “I grow some flowers around the house, but I know more about growing vegetables than flower gardens,” she says. In fact, Dobis germinates her own vegetable seeds in a small area of her husband’s wood shop, using LED growing lights, which are easily obtainable online or from most gardening centers. She says that for her, gardening is a way to stay connected with nature, and to find inner peace. “There’s nothing quite like pulling weeds to relieve stress,” she adds with a laugh.
“IT WAS A WAY FOR PEOPLE TO HELP SUPPLEMENT THEIR FOOD SUPPLY, AND IT ALSO SERVED AS A
-Master Gardener JoAnn Dobis, on backyard gardening during WWII
Becker County Master Gardener JoAnn Dobis shows how she fills small indoor planter boxes with potting soil before planting seeds for germination. She uses grow lights in a small corner of her husband’s wood shop. Once the seeds have been planted and covered with dirt, she sprays the planter boxes with a fine mist of water to thoroughly moisten the soil. She prefers not to pour water into the boxes, as the soil — with seeds inside — could be washed out. Vicki Gerdes / Spring Home
Spring Home 2021 | 39
STARTING A VEGETABLE GARDEN:
A quick how-to
3 steps to help you get started
f you have the lawn space and a desire to do some digging in the soil, you may choose to grow a conventional type of vegetable garden — and the Becker County Master Gardeners are there to help. “We work out of the (University of Minnesota) Extension office in Detroit Lakes,” says Dobis, adding that people can call 218-846-7328, ext. 7101 any time during regular office hours, or email office manager/Master Gardener coordinator Linda Perrine at firstname.lastname@example.org. “The great thing about gardening is it can be a simple, easy project that can stay small and uncomplicated,” Dobis says — or it can be expanded into a new hobby that can produce most of your fresh vegetables during the growing season.
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step 1: DETERMINE THE RIGHT LOCATION.
In a recent gardening column for the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Dobis noted that vegetables grow best in a sunny location with at least six hours — or ideally, 8-10 hours — of full sunshine. It is best if the garden plot is level; southfacing locations are warmer in spring and fall and are less subject to frost damage. Try to avoid low-lying locations, due to poor drainage and early fall frost, and areas near roads or sidewalks, because the soil may have contaminants such as ice-melting treatments. Locating the garden close to your home will make it easier to maintain the garden and to enjoy seeing the vegetables grow.
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ENSURE THE QUALITY OF THE SOIL. Soil quality is very important. Vegetables prefer loose, well-drained soil that does not puddle after heavy rains. If the soil is heavy and does not drain well, it should be improved, or amended, by adding ingredients to change soil quality.
CONSIDER YOUR WATER SOURCE.
Another important ingredient in gardening is water. Locating the garden near a clean water source makes it easy to keep the plants watered.
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step 2: PLAN YOUR PLANT TYPES.
The types of plants selected should take into account the environment where the garden is located. Some plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, require a longer time to mature — but these plants can be started indoors, or purchased at greenhouses and gardening centers as bedding plants. Other plants can mature during the Minnesota growing season and are best sown directly into the soil. Seeds for these plants can be purchased from seed catalogs, garden centers, greenhouses and any other retailer that carries them.
Another outdoor vegetable gardening technique designed to protect delicate seedlings from the elements is the use of cold frame boxes, or unheated boxes with a cover of transparent material, which trap heat in the box and warm the soil up earlier in the growing season than would happen naturally. All Photos Submitted
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step 3: TIME YOUR PLANTINGS.
When to plant the garden is another important decision. If you plant too early, you risk the danger of frost, while if you plant too late your plants have less time to mature. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources collects information about average freeze dates in spring and fall for certain locations throughout the state. Based on the information for Detroit Lakes, if you plant on May 20, there is a 20% chance for the temperature to go below freezing, and if you plant on May 27, the risk reduces to 10%. This does not mean you cannot plant sooner, Dobis says. If you want to extend the growing season by planting earlier, you can cover your garden with blankets or ground tarps if there is danger of frost. A five-gallon bucket turned upside down on a tomato plant is a great way to protect it from frost. There are other ways to protect your plants if you plant your garden early, such as using high tunnels or cold frames. More in-depth gardening information and resources are available online at www3.extension.umn.edu/county/becker, as well as on the Becker County Master Gardeners Facebook page.
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STRAW BALE GARDENING:
No need to dig
relatively inexpensive way to get into gardening is to use straw bales, Dobis says. Plants can be grown right in the bales, though the straw has to be pre-conditioned first. A variety of crops can be grown in straw bales, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, melons and herbs. Bales are placed on the ground, with no need to dig in the soil. The bales create a raised bed, making it easy to care for and harvest the plants. Wheat or oat straw is best, according to an information booklet from the Washington State Extension service that can be accessed online. (Straw is better than hay bales, as hay can contain seeds that will sprout into plants when the bales become wet.)
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ONCE YOU HAVE OBTAINED THE BALES, THEY WILL NEED TO BE CONDITIONED.
Here is a brief tutorial: • Water them thoroughly, and keep them wet for three days. Once the bales have been watered they will be very heavy, so be sure they are situated where you want them. As the inside of the bales begins to decompose, they will start to warm up. This is part of the conditioning process. • On days 4, 5 and 6, sprinkle the top of each bale with a cup of ammonium sulfate or a half cup of urea, watering the fertilizer well after application, in order to speed up decomposition. • On days 7, 8 and 9, cut the amount of fertilizer per bale in half. • On day 10, stop adding fertilizer, but keep the bales moist. • On the day 11, feel the top of the bale for heat. If still hot, check every day until it cools down to body temperature or lower, still keeping bales moist. • Once cool to touch, you can plant your bale garden. If you are unsure, use a meat thermometer to measure the heat several inches down inside the bale. • If weeds, oat grass, or alfalfa starts to sprout in your bales, remove the plants when small. Because the straw is decomposing, mushrooms may also sprout from the bale. There is no need to remove them, but they could be poisonous so don’t eat them.
Straw bales should be ready for planting three to four weeks after conditioning begins. To plant transplants, such as tomatoes, dig a hole in the top of the bale. Loosen transplant roots and then place the plant in the hole and gently firm the straw and some quality potting mix around the plant roots. If you want to plant seeds, make some holes in the straw and fill them with potting mix and then plant your seeds in the potting mix. Water immediately after planting. Keep the bales moist by watering them daily, and don’t let the bales dry out. If there is no accessible sprinkler system, a porous wall soaker hose or drip system can be used. The straw does not provide all the essential nutrients needed for plant growth, like soil or a premium potting mix would do, so straw bale plants need to be fertilized once a week using a water soluble garden fertilizer that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients.
420 3rd Ave. SE (Hwy 78 & 4th St.) Perham, MN • 218-346-4051 Email: email@example.com
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It’s not just for flowers
obis says she does quite a bit of vegetable gardening outdoors, but she also uses containers — which she feels is one of the quickest and least expensive ways to get into gardening, and can be moved indoors if the weather’s not cooperating. “Container gardening is absolutely the easiest,” she says. “You can use any containers you want, so long as they don’t have chemicals in them.” The only limit to the type and size of the containers is that they have to be large and strong enough to support the plants and the dirt they require for growing. “I would go no smaller than 2 gallons, and preferably 5 gallons if you can get them,” Dobis said. She prefers to use 5-gallon, food-grade containers that she obtains from her local bakery — but she also has a few that she’s made herself. “Martha Stewart has these hypertufa pots that can be made from perlite, peat moss and Portland cement,” she says. Garden containers can even be “repurposed” rubber boots, teapots, wheelbarrows and other “cute things” lying around your house or garage. One important requirement of container gardening, Dobis says, is to have at least one hole in the bottom of each container, to ensure proper drainage for the plants.
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Spring Home 2021 | 49
for the ages
BY MICHAEL JOHNSON Spring Home
When the sun goes down the lights really shine at the Taggart barn west of Wadena for the new barn on Highway 10. Submitted Photo
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hen Tri-County Health Care bought the land on Highway 10 where Kelly and Julie Taggart raised their family, the couple had a unique opportunity to pick up and start over on a new piece of land on the outskirts of
Wadena. The spot they landed on turned out to be just across town, outside city limits and the Wadena County boundary. It was a blank canvass of grassy fields and pines, at a location few people have been able to find. After picking up and moving, they started construction on the centerpiece of the homestead — a steel barn. After all, the alpacas had to have a place to call their own.
“HE HAD VISION.” - Builder Wayne Ament, on owner Kelly Taggart’s ideas for the new barn on Highway 10
The large new barn at Kelly and Julie Taggart’s farm offers plenty of space for their alpacas and other critters. Michael Johnson / Spring Home
Many locals know the Taggart farm as “the llama farm,” but the animals are, in fact, alpacas. If you ask them how they feel about the move, they seem to be happily at home, enjoying a lean-to portion of the new barn. On the other side of the barn is a spot for the emu, rabbits and chickens. The large barn stands out with its
red and green steel panels and can be spotted by those passing by on Highway 29. The impressive structure is nearly 60-feet square and was built by Wayne Ament Construction. Ament said he built a similar barn some 20 years ago on his own property, and has always liked this style. He built a smaller version in New York Mills
that he showed to the Taggarts. They went with a design that would allow for multi-purpose uses since building a structure just for alpacas likely wouldn’t be of much use to most people. “He had vision,” Ament said of Kelly Taggart. “He was trying to look ahead so he could have a good resale value in the future.” Spring Home 2021 | 51
A second story platform holds hay bales inside the Taggart barn. Michael Johnson / Spring Home
The Taggarts didn’t only choose a local contractor in Ament, they went with a local concrete contractor, too, M L Schmitt; and construction materials came from Northwest Building Center in Wadena. A key part of the building, according to Kelly Taggart, are the doors, created and installed by Warner Garage Doors of New York Mills. Taggart says he was especially impressed with how the doors turned out. While they look like huge swinging barn doors, they are similar to a typical garage door, which rolls up with an electric motor. The Taggarts and those passing by also appreciate the lighting on this building. The large cupolas on top of the barn were built with windows and lights inside them, allowing the building to really shine in the dark.
At the Window
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Call For an Appointment and We’ll Bring the Showroom to You!! 218-298-4377 firstname.lastname@example.org www.atthewindowmn.com Visit our Hunter Douglas Display at 138 W. Main St., Perham, MN Located inside P.S. I Love You Boutique
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A sliding hay loft door and roll-up lower doors offer big openings into this barn. Michael Johnson / Spring Home
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“I’m just happy the way it turned out,” Taggart says of the project, which was completed last August. Inside, the barn has all the framework exposed, so a person can really see how it all came together. A second floor at this time holds hay bales. Windows around the building are set above the lean-to portions and allow a great amount of light in. The Taggarts and their children, Logan, Emma, Camille and James, appreciate the new building and the 40 acres it sits on. The opportunity to create this new homestead was not one they had been planning, but even so, plans came together to make a space that’s unique and all their own.
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BEFORE & AFTER: Fresh, functional and fun remodels Pandemic-era home projects in the Lakes Area Victory gardens take root again: Here’s how...
Published on Apr 14, 2021
BEFORE & AFTER: Fresh, functional and fun remodels Pandemic-era home projects in the Lakes Area Victory gardens take root again: Here’s how...