We’re sharing one couple’s experience moving to rural West Central Minnesota. One was from here, one new to the area. Through their eyes, we are reminded of the many reasons we love our quaint small towns and beautiful, uncrowded lakes area brimming with natural resources.
One family shares their story with us
“Tom and Karen help us find our dream home near Battle Lake, then many years later, helped us sell our home when we were ready to move. Here are some of our favorite things about the experience.
In our little towns. We lived rural, smack dab in the middle between Battle Lake, Dalton and Ashby, three quaint little towns about eight minutes away, each with their own flavor.
The biggest, Battle Lake, is right on the water’s edge. During the summer, the town has the vibrancy of visitors and seasonal residents. Having a smattering of tourists also means Battle Lake has a host of interesting shops with unique gift items, bike and boat rentals, and plenty of events, including on the park-like grounds of a Civil War museum. We loved breakfast at the Shoreline, across from the lake, which also has a funky little bowling alley tucked in the back and is the gathering place for community meetings. The town has several good eateries, each one a favorite, not to mention getting a big scoop of ice cream at Granny’s Pantry or a “dog cone” of soft serve for our chocolate lab at the Dairy Queen drive through.
In rural Minnesota, people want to know who your people are (but newcomers are welcomed too). In Ashby we were related to most of them in some fashion. In addition to extended family gatherings around a bonfire on a frozen lake, there is the usual cast of characters that can be found each morning at the Ashby Café, shaking dice to see who pays. We would line the sidewalks for parades, caravan to garage sales, go to Friday night fish frys (with Bingo before hand), and attend wedding dances at the Legion. Ashby has its own microbrewery (owned by a relative) and a B & B in a former church. Ashby’s K-12 school is terrific, with caring and involved teachers and staff, with a low student/teacher ratio. Plus the bus picked our kids up right at the end of our driveway. When our youngest started to drive, we offered to let him take a vehicle to school. Nope, he wanted to continue to ride the bus- a fun journey with mixed ages and super nice bus driver. To say the people are “Minnesota Nice” would be an understatement.
Dalton is probably the sleepiest of the three towns, but hidden there is the historic Dalton Opera House. Built in 1903, this landmark was purchased and restored by Greg and DeeDee Peterson (another shirt-tail relative). Along with the hard work came a renewal of community spirit. Events range from concerts and community sing-a-longs to theatrical events and craft fairs. But nothing beats Syttende Mai. Celebrated each May, Syttende Mai is a wonderful spring holiday celebrated with red, white and blue ribbons and flags, music and traditional food signifying the historic signing of the Norwegian Constitution (Grunnloven) in 1814. But the best part is Greg and Dee Dee in their Norwegian national costumes with big smiles.
Rural living is the life for us. We love living rural, even though we are not farmers. Tom and Karen found us an ideal spot with a stunning lake view, surrounded by rolling hills and farms. No close neighbors, except a family of foxes in a nearby berm. One day we counted 21 deer in the field next to the yard, munching on leftover corn.
Our log sided house had plenty of space for our family of four. We finished the basement with a custom bar, huge family room, two additional bedrooms and an extra bath. The local lumber store not only delivers, they carried all the sheets of sheetrock down to the basement. Small town service! Boy, we miss that home, which was too huge when the kids left home, but were sure happy to see the next young family take our place.
Lake living. When you have more than 3,000 lakes in your region, there are so many choices. With a nice Lund boat on a trailer and a good chart book, we explored many of them. After work we’d hook up the boat, toss in some snacks, beverages and the dog then hit a nearby lake. Fish were almost always biting just before sunset, and our dog would go bananas when there was a fish on! Weekends we explored a little farther, boating or walking along the 55-mile Central Lakes Trail. During the winter, frozen lakes were for snowmobiling and ice fishing.
It’s not so remote. Fergus Falls, 22 minutes to the northwest and Alexandria, 30 minutes to the southeast, are larger towns with big box stores, hospitals, colleges and other amenities. Though more developed, these towns have managed to each retain a charming downtown district. Also, the city of Fargo, North Dakota is only about an hour from Fergus Falls, with every type of service and amenity you would expect from a city with about a quarter million people.
The worst thing? There were a few days over a couple of bad winters when it was unpleasant to step outside. Fortunately, we had an efficient, dual-heat home, and could just cozy up and look at the snow-covered hills down to the lake from the comfort of the living room. On normal winter days, vehicles with heated seats and all-wheel or four-wheel drive were great to have. Also, despite what you might have heard, the mosquitoes were not really bad during the summer. Clip-on electronic mosquito repellers really do work when on the lake, and our outdoor fire pit kept them at bay on summer evenings.
In the end…The free moving trailer Tom and Karen provided sure made both moves easier. Though our adventures took us far away from our rural Minnesota home, we will return one day soon, and look for Tom and Karen to find us our next perfect nest.”