IF NOT FOR A ROADSIDE SIGN noticed while on a fall color drive in northern Rice County, I wouldn’t have landed at The White Barn Boutique by Circle Lake. But the sign drew Randy and me to turn onto a narrow gravel road curving to a white barn and silo edged between trees. As Randy pulled our van onto a grassy parking space bordered by a colorful string of flags, I remarked, “Maybe they have antiques.”
Admittedly, the word “boutique” doesn’t appeal to most guys, so I appreciate that Randy was willing to stop. I was right. The White Barn includes plenty of antiques, collectibles and vintage, enough to hold the interest of anyone who appreciates treasures of yesteryear.
Even before I opened the barn door adorned with a simple, seasonal wheat wreath, I felt welcomed, interested, impressed. An array of tables, chairs, flowers and other items outside hint at what’s inside.
Most boutique owners, like Susie Morrison, the talent behind The White Barn, are not only business savvy but creative. I observed that inside and out in the artful display of merchandise, the vignettes, the purposeful groupings… When creatively staged, it’s easy to imagine a piece of furniture, an accessory, glassware, textiles, even a vintage phone or a collection of Hardy Boys books in your home.
Merchandise packs this barn on two levels. While I began meandering through the cozy areas crafted in a once open space, Randy chatted it up with one of Susie’s sisters. Three of the Benjamin sisters were on-site at the seasonal fall boutique open Friday and Saturday and then next weekend, October 7 and 8, from 10 am – 5 pm at 3175 122nd Street West Faribault, two miles off Interstate 35 in the Millersburg area between Faribault and Northfield. December brings a holiday boutique here with other sales during the year.
While engaging in conversation, Randy and I realized we’d been on this property decades ago for a company picnic and overnight camping when the sisters’ parents lived here. There was that sense of familiarity, yet time has a way of fading memories.
In some ways, shopping at The White Barn is about memories, about nostalgia, about reclaiming the past. It’s like walking into Grandma’s house or into a scene from the 1970s…the remembering, the imagining, the desire to bring this all home.
Shopping here is an experience, an unexpected one for us on this autumn afternoon, if not for that roadside sign diverting us from emerging fall colors to a white barn along a rural road.
TELL ME: Do you have a favorite seasonal boutique in your area? If yes, what draws you inside?
SATURDAY MORNING FOUND ME wandering among vendors at the Rice County Historical Society Fall Flea Market in Faribault. It was, as always, an enjoyable event, marked by conversations with friends I haven’t seen in awhile, conversations with vendors and reflecting on the past.
Really, this is what local gatherings are all about for me. They’re about community and connecting, about embracing and appreciating this place I call home.
I was especially delighted to find, among all the vendors of miscellaneous merchandise, several artists. That includes Erin Sellner Honken of Erin’s Acre at Honken Farms. Erin creates with flowers she grows, tends, harvests and arranges into stunning bouquets for CSA subscriptions and special events. With an abundance of flowers right now, she decided to do a pop-up sale at the flea market featuring $10 dahlia mixed bouquets.
Just down the way by the historic schoolhouse, I discovered Jeremy of JS Woodcrafts. It was his “river” table which drew my attention and admiration. If I could afford the $500 price tag, this maple top table with stones and pebbles epoxied in the middle like a river, would be mine. Love, love, love this work of art.
John “Spanky” St. Clair of Spanky’s Woodshed also specializes in woodcrafting. I learned that he uses pallets and aged barn wood to create. Anyone who recycles to create earns my praise.
I found more art in spoon flowers, in a Louie Armstrong figure, in paint-by-number paintings, in an endless array of merchandise.
And while I walked I heard music rising from A Fun Lil’ Band in Rice County with a sign declaring WE JUST LOVE TO PLAY MUSIC!! Their music added an extra touch of joy to the morning market.
This event is a fundraiser for the Rice County Historical Society. But history is also very much a part of the market in aged and vintage merchandise vended. I reminisced over old farm toys, a baby stroller, a yellow Pyrex mixing bowl. I picked up a few items, pondering whether I should buy, but, in the end, held steady in my determination not to acquire more stuff. I’m at that age…
Instead, I collect with my camera, gathering images to tell a story, to share this market, to showcase the works of creatives, to express my appreciation for my community, this place I’ve called home for 40 years.
BARELY INSIDE THE GATES of the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Show mid Friday morning, I boarded a train. It was an unexpected ride, this double loop around the tracks while straddling a slightly swaying model train car. I thought these free train rides were only for kids. Not so, the crew assured me.
When I disembarked, a preschooler sandwiched between two adults for his turn on the rails.
What a fun way to begin my four hours at the show, which continues through Sunday at the event grounds south of Dundas, which is south of Northfield. This 47th annual gathering is about “Preserving a Bit of Yesterday for Tomorrow.” And that’s exactly what you will find here. Old. Aged. Vintage. Snapshots into the past. Farming as it was done back in the day. Agriculture/farming/rural life center the show.
Vintage tractors are the focus with a field of tractors on display. This year’s featured brand is Massey-Harris. But brands ranging from the well-known John Deere, Allis Chalmers, International Harvester…to the rare Gambles line the grassy grounds.
Other farm machinery is also on-site, including a threshing machine, typically threshing oats, but under repair during my visit.
There’s simply so much to see here, so much equipment to take in, so many demonstrations to watch. I observed blacksmithing and sorghum pressing. There’s also syrup making, corn shelling, flour milling, lumber sawing… Not all were up and running yet Friday morning.
While demonstrations are a major draw, so are the aged farm buildings moved onto the grounds. Inside the 1912 Drentlaw farmhouse, my friend Ruth served cookies made with sorghum.
Across the way, two men fed sorghum stalks into a press, liquid streaming into a bucket.
As I walked upon the wood floors of the farmhouse, I felt immersed in the past. A wood-burning stove anchors the small kitchen where a water dipper rests in an enamelware bowl in the sink. Embroidered dish towels drape a drying rack.
In the dining room, with fine china set upon a lace-covered table, the morning breeze billowed lace curtains.
Outside the main house sits a summer kitchen with a corn crib and granary nearby. Replicating a farm site of yesteryear seems a goal. As a farm girl, I appreciate these efforts to preserve a bit of yesterday. Our Minnesota agrarian history needs to be shared at events like this which connect all ages to a way of life that is quickly vanishing.
Even the flea market connects attendees to the past where old stuff mixes with crafts and an assortment of other merchandise. Every time here, I challenge myself to find oddities, weird whatever that makes me do a double take. This year’s vendors did not disappoint me.
Nor did the food. Vendors offer an assortment of tasty food and beverages ranging from burgers and fries to Mexican food, milkshakes, lemonade, kettle corn, mini donuts and more. It’s all about food and conversation and watching the daily tractor parade at noon while seated at a picnic table in the Food Pavilion.
Over in the poleshed style music building, I listened to the bluegrass band Steam Machine. A couple danced across the cement floor, nearby hay racks piled with oats bundles. I photographed, then attempted to cool down after too much time in the heat and humidity.
I love how so many people care about our agricultural history. That includes the guys from the Credit River Antique Tractor Club who were selling raffle tickets for a 1952 Ford 8N tractor. Their annual show is set for July 14-16, 2023, in rural New Prague.
The Rice County folks will be back, too, in 2023, “Preserving a Bit of Yesterday for Tomorrow.” There will be a tractor parade, a Kids Pedal Pull, demonstrations, tractors galore and, oh, so much more at the Labor Day weekend show. Even train rides…
On a corner along Division Street in historic downtown Northfield, Minnesota.
WE ARRIVED IN NORTHFIELD to find the city abuzz. Or rather abuzz and resounding with the sound of music.
Randy swung the van into the first open parking spot, surprisingly just off Division Street and a short walk from Bridge Square, headquarters for the Vintage Band Festival. On this lovely August early evening, we headed toward the sound of music, rounded the corner by the post office and observed an audience packing the square and spilling onto the closed street. At that moment I wished for lawn chairs. These obvious seasoned fest attendees brought theirs. Without chairs, we settled onto the curb just a door down from the former First National Bank (now the Northfield Historical Society), site of the famous Jesse James-Cole Younger Gang bank raid. We listened to a few songs before deciding we couldn’t sit like this any longer. Maybe if we were younger…
Territorial Brass performs in Armory Square’s green space.
From there we aimed toward our destination, Reunion, a new restaurant in town. But first, we decided to check out another concert, this one in the Armory Square green space. Here, Arizona’s official historical brass band performed territorial period music. Territorial Brass band members, dressed in period attire, replicate the music of vintage brass bands in Arizona and New Mexico. And bonus, a vocal soloist, “Violet,” sang along with the instrumentalists. What a delight to hear the band, among some 40 performing during 100 concerts over the four-day Vintage Band Festival.
Soloist and band spokesperson, “Violet,” walked through the crowd while singing.
After listening for awhile, we left to dine at the new eatery. But, once inside Reunion, we learned the wait would be 45 minutes. I was disappointed, too hungry to wait. Had we known this, we would have reserved a dining spot earlier and awaited the text that our table was ready. Live and learn.
Among those listening to Territorial Brass.
Anyway, no matter, we appreciated the vintage music that added another reason to stop in Northfield on a beautiful Minnesota summer evening.
TELL ME: Have you ever attended Northfield’s Vintage Band Festival or a similar vintage band festival?
Flea markets often theme to location. At the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market, you’ll find a lot of agricultural merchandise.
LONG BEFORE RECYCLING, upcycling and repurposing emerged in popularity, hand-me-downs existed. Clothing, furniture and more passed down from person to person. Especially among farm families. Ask my sister and she will tell you about my horrible fashion sense and how she had to wear the bad choices I made in clothing. She followed me in birth order.
Fast forward to today and I still appreciate previously-used items. I don’t need the latest fashion off the rack because I still don’t much care about fashion. Give me jeans and a t-shirt.
I prefer sturdy, well-crafted furniture to new. I like vintage drinking glasses, bowls, tablecloths, art… I prefer vintage stuff to new. I appreciate the craftsmanship, the novelty, the memories, the uniqueness.
For those reasons, I delight in flea markets, garage and yard sales, and thrift stores. I don’t shop them as often as I once did because I really don’t need more stuff. Even so, it’s fun to poke around.
To filter through the odd and practical merchandise. The memories.
Crafted by J & J Glass Art (Jeff & Jane Peterson) of Austin.
To appreciate the work of artisans.
To chat with the vendors.
Here in Minnesota, pop-up second-hand shops—the term seems fitting for all those garage and yard sales and flea markets—have launched for the season.
If you’ve never embraced second-hand, I’d suggest you reconsider. Maybe you’ll develop an affinity for this alternative shopping option. Or maybe you’ll decide you want nothing to do with the current trend.
Whatever your perspective, enjoy my photo essay of the spring Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market held in rural Dundas on Memorial Day weekend. Let this inspire you to think beyond new, to consider the value in previously-owned.
TELL ME: Do you shop second-hand? If yes, why and what treasures have you discovered?
A greeting card from my sister and me to our dad, circa early 1960s.
AFTER MY DAD DIED 15 years ago, Father’s Day lost significant meaning to me personally. I had no dad to give a card to or to call.
The message inside the duck card, signed by our mom for her daughters.
I love giving and receiving greeting cards. But I’ve observed that fewer people send cards these days, choosing instead to text, email, call or simply ignore important personal days of loved ones. I noticed that with my birthday last fall. Birthday cards, especially from family, once stuffed my mailbox. No more.
The verse inside this card reads: “For being all that a Father could be/ Loving, gentle and good;/ For your patience and generosity/ In caring for your brood;/ For the happy glow of family love/ That other folks can see–/ Darling, for all of these and more/…A million thanks from me!” My mom signed the card, “Love, Arlene.”
Greeting cards, past and present, still hold a place of importance for me. I especially treasure the cards my mom saved through the decades. I have some of those, among them a handful of Father’s Day cards given to my dad.
Three of the four of us were old enough to sign this Father’s Day card to our dad. Two more siblings would be born after this.
I selected a few to share here because they hold a certain sweetness in messages, graphics and signatures. They are all vintage early 1960s.
A photo of my dad, Elvern Kletscher, taken in 1980.
While I don’t have my dad anymore, I still have those greeting cards. And I hold memories of my farmer father who loved me and my five siblings deeply and taught us the value of faith, family and hard work. He wasn’t perfect—no one is. But he was a good man, an honest man, a man of the earth. And if I could, I’d send him a card today telling him how much I appreciated him and loved him.
Necklaces for sale at the May 19 Rice County Historical Society Flea Market, Faribault, Minnesota. I took all of the images in this post at the RCHS market.
MANY WOMEN LOVE to shop. I’m not one of them. Filtering through racks of clothing and then trying clothes on is far from my idea of fun. I shop out of necessity. Not for therapy or just because I want something new or for whatever other reason. I suppose if I had unlimited cash flow, I might feel differently. But probably not.
That said, I enjoy shopping at thrift stores, flea markets, and garage and yard sales. I appreciate vintage and unique and keeping rather than tossing.
Most of my original and print art—and I have a lot—comes from these second-hand sources. I’ve also sourced vintage glassware, dishes, tablecloths and more from other people’s junk. I use the word junk in a positive, not trashy, way.
May marks the beginning of secondhand sale season in Minnesota. I took in my first flea market last weekend at the Rice County Historical Society in Faribault. While I didn’t buy anything, I poked around and chatted it up with vendors, including one from Minneapolis. I invited him to visit our historic downtown, suggesting specific places to check out. “You should work for the tourism office,” he said. I told him I do through occasional freelance writing and photography.
I am often amazed at how little people still know about Faribault despite strong tourism promotion efforts. With downtown Minneapolis only an hour away to the north along Interstate 35, my community is ideally situated for a day trip into rural Minnesota. Any time I can encourage others to visit Faribault, I will.
This weekend presents another opportunity to check out this section of southeastern Minnesota at the 19th annual Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market. That event runs from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the showgrounds along Minnesota State Highway 3 south of Dundas (which is south of Northfield, north of Faribault). There’s also a consignment auction at 9 a.m. Saturday and a tractor pull at 9 a.m. Sunday. I always find the flea market interesting, photo-worthy and simply a nice way to spend a few hours in a rural setting. Sometimes I find a treasure, sometimes not.
TELL ME: Do you shop flea markets, thrift stores and/or garage/yard sales? If yes, are you looking for something specific? Tell me about a treasure you bought at one of these secondhand sources.
WHEN A SMALL PACKAGE arrived in my mailbox on Tuesday with a Merry Christmas! From: Santa Faribault, MN 55021 return address, I had no clue what I would find therein.
But, oh, the sweetness of this surprise moved me to tears at the thoughtfulness of the mysterious Santa who clearly read my recent post, “Passing a love of books onto the next generation.” In that post I reference a favorite childhood storybook, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and my regret at not purchasing a copy spotted at a Pequot Lakes antique shop.
That reader took my post to heart and sent me a vintage copy of Three Billy Goats Gruff. See why I’m thrilled with this unexpected gift. This individual gifted me with a book that I hold dear.
Now, rereading this story as an adult, I like it even more:
I’m not afraid,” said Little Billy. And up onto the bridge he ran—trip-trippety-trip!
This fairy tale of three billy goats attempting to cross a bridge under which a mean troll lives inspires bravery. The trio outwits the troll and gets safely to the other side and a hillside of lush grass. The empowering message of strength and courage proves as applicable for children as for adults.
As to the identity of Santa, I have only a few clues—the name NANCY ANN OLSON stamped inside and that Faribault postmark and return address. I don’t know any Nancy Olsons. The giver could be someone other than an Olson. Or it could be Nancy. I have no idea.
But to you, dear anonymous Santa reader, please know that your gift of Three Billy Goats Gruff touched me deeply. I am grateful for your kindness, which truly exemplifies the spirit of giving. Thank you. And Merry Christmas!
ONCE UPON A TIME, beginning in the late 1870s, inmates at the Minnesota Correctional Facility, Stillwater, built agricultural equipment. Through the years they crafted threshing machines, hay rakes, barge wagons, manure spreaders and more.
This proved news to me. But Randy noted that as we followed a tractor pulling a gravity box along LeSueur County Road 13 on Sunday afternoon. He pegged the wagon as 1970s vintage prisoner made.
Today inmates within Minnesota’s correctional system—including right here in my community of Faribault—produce products through the prison system’s MINNCOR Industries. Those range from residential and office furniture to clothing to printed materials to cabinetry and more.
Prisoner made furniture at Buckham Memorial Library. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo February 2017.
I love this image of my granddaughter looking out the front door of my home. I love the light, the mood, the sweetness, the perspective.
FOR PROBABLY A DOZEN YEARS or more, the homemade child’s dress hung in an upstairs bedroom closet. I’d purchased it at a garage sale with intentions of some day giving the Strawberry Shortcake print dress to my eldest niece. The dress would be the perfect nostalgic gift for Tara, born a year after the popular doll line debuted. She loved all things Strawberry Shortcake. I imagined how she would delight in receiving the dress for her newborn daughter.
Grandma needed a portrait of Isabelle in her vintage Strawberry Shortcake dress.
But as life goes, Tara birthed a boy just over a year ago. So, by default, the long-held dress went to my granddaughter, Isabelle. On an early September visit, Izzy showed up in her Strawberry Shortcake dress, much to my joy.
That dress, stitched so lovingly with rick rack trim and accented with mini heart buttons nearly 40 years ago by an unknown seamstress, fit the then 17-month-old perfectly.
She looked adorable.
I’m not sure her mom shared the same enthusiasm for the garment as I did. But my eldest made me a happy grandma by slipping this sweet dress onto her daughter for an afternoon.
I captured the exact moment Izzy discovered that the recliner rocked. She threw her head and arms back in exuberance.
Izzy paged through books, played with blocks, blew bubbles, splashed in water, rocked in the recliner and more, moving at the speed only toddlers can move. And she managed all in that vintage dress, the unintended dress now perfectly hers.