Growing up, Kate Schindler was used to planting her hands in the dirt. But she didn't always embrace it.
"I grew up near Eau Claire [Wis.] on nearly 20 acres. Both my mom and dad were garden enthusiasts," she said. "I got the green thumb early on, even though I didn't love it as a kid."
But as she got older, she began to appreciate gardening more. So much so that when she started cultivating plants again, she and her husband, Luke Breitenbach, wanted more space. They traded in their Minneapolis home on a small lot for a 3-acre farmhouse in River Falls, Wis., built in 1900.
Their new place had potential, but the house and the grounds needed some tending.
"The house probably hadn't been updated since the '70s," Schindler said.
The couple gave the kitchen a makeover, installing new lower cabinets but keeping the upper ones for a vintage look. Schindler's dad built a custom cabinet around the old chimney that became the perfect place to keep spices.
Schindler and Breitenbach removed outdated linoleum and carpet and restored the original hardwood floors whenever possible. They spruced up the bathrooms with new fixtures.
"We did what we could without gutting it," Schindler said. "We kept anything that we could, like the neat old finishes, to do justice to the style of the farmhouse while updating it."
They relocated the porch, previously facing the street, to the back of the house for more privacy and to better enjoy the view of the garden. They built a two-car detached garage designed to look like a barn.
Growing a garden
A big factor in moving to the country was that Schindler wanted more space to flex her green thumb, which she did in spades.
"There was nothing here but grass when we got here," she said.
Now, Schindler estimates, at least an acre has walking paths and gardens filled with perennials, pollinator plants, fruit trees and vegetables — everything from asparagus (which they sometimes sell at a local farmers market) to tomatoes.
Among her favorites are the blueberries, currants and, especially, honeyberries.
"It's the first fruit that we see [each season], so it's pretty exciting to get our summer fruit started in June before the strawberries are ripe," Schindler said of the honeyberries, which are a tart berry used in making jam and pies.
To extend the growing season, they installed a small greenhouse as well as a hoop house, allowing the family to enjoy the fruits of their labor almost year-round.
"It's nice to still be harvesting tomatoes in October," Schindler said. "I do a lot of dehydrating and canning. I make a lot of jams."
Nine years and countless plants later, Schindler and Breitenbach have decided to move up and out.
"We purchased 44 acres in [Wisconsin's] Pierce County," Schindler said. "So we're spreading out more to have more space for gardening and up our game.
They've listed their 1,724-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom farmhouse.
Listing agent Betty Most said that while the house has an away-from-it-all charm, it also has high-speed fiber-optic internet and is only a 15-minute drive to Hudson, Wis., and 30 minutes to the Twin Cities.
It's also a "gardener's dream," she said.
"It's a remodeled, charming, quaint farmhouse in great condition," Most said. "And the gardens and related sheds make it very special for a buyer."
Betty Most (715-821-6491; BettyMost@edinarealty.com) of Edina Realty has the $415,000 listing. *At the time of publication, an offer on this property was pending.