Tending the trees
Down a long country lane, and then around a bend, emerges an old stone house and a bright red barn. The homestead, believed to be built around 1844, has a storied history. It was the 101st stagecoach stop out of Chicago. The house was built from limestone quarried on the property, and it was once called Lost Valley Farm.
Today, it’s called the Kreiter Tree Farm, part of 250 acres of privately owned forest in western Scott County. Dick and Judy Kreiter have owned the land since 1989.
“The ground out here is alive,” said Judy, while taking a break from working.
The outdoors has always been an important part of Dick and Judy’s lives. Judy is known for her affection for camps, including Camp Shalom, and Dick grew up at Pine Hill Cemetery, where his family served as caretakers. As a child, Dick Kreiter was friends with Margaret Lindsay, the daughter of the previous owners. He fondly remembers coming to the property to roam around. The two kept in touch over the years. When Margaret’s parents died, he accepted the opportunity to buy the land.
“We’ve been working on it ever since,” Dick said. “It keeps us out of trouble.”
Dick spends three-four days a week at the farm, Judy some significant time too, clearing and pruning and planting. They work hard at keeping ahead of invasive species and encourage individuals and organizations to come out and learn or just experience the farm. Iowa State once ran a series of learning sessions on pond maintenance, how to prune trees, and on walnut trees. The Blackhawk Hiking Club has held hikes at the property. Friends come out to bird watch.
The Kreiters built the two-acre pond in 1993 – 38 acres of ground drain into it. It is a pretty good fish habitat, home to bass, blue gills, catfish, and frogs. They built a covered porch area onto the house, made with beams crafted from trees on the property. They sided the barn with help from Amish craftsmen. They keep a history book of the farm. And, they cleared 6-7 miles of trails.
“It’s a great place to hike,” Judy said.
A forest management plan offers a guide to the work they do. They love to talk about the place, and Dick dreams of it becoming an educational center one day. There is one question, however, they can’t answer precisely.
How many trees live here? “Oh goodness, hundreds,” Dick said.
A day at the Kreiter Tree Farm
When: St. Paul people and friends are invited to spend time wandering the Kreiter Tree Farm, on Saturday, June 8, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
What: Walk the trails, sit by the fire pit, visit the limestone house, go fishing in the pond (bring your own pole and bait!), or watch and listen for the wildlife that live there.
How to get there: The farm is south of Blue Grass. Address is 12010 70th Ave., Blue Grass. It’s on the west side of 70th Avenue. The mailbox will be marked with a sign. Follow the long lane back to the house/barn area.
Rain date: Rain date will be Saturday, June 15. Any postponement will be communicated on the St. Paul website and social media.