SL woman wins environmental honor, she's planted 1,400 trees.
Driving up the dirt lane, there's a bright green and white sign proclaiming, "Ann's Pasture and God's Acres." Countless blue spruces stand along a frozen creek right now, but in the summer there are oaks and walnut trees in full bloom, along with countless flowers.
It's where Ann Peterson Pyle - 89-years young, mind you - calls home.
At her 34-acre "pasture paradise" six miles south of Storm Lake, she has planted more than 1,400 trees in the past 30 years. She was recently honored by the local Izaak Walton League for her devotion to the club and to the outdoors.
To prepare for her acceptance speech, Ann wanted to make sure she knew the exact number of trees living on her farm.
"I counted 1,410 healthy trees," she said. There are 29 different species.
The paradise started back in the 1970s, when Ann and her first husband, Carl Peterson, purchased the 34-acre farm. Her husband, a Honda and Yamaha motorcycle dealer, wanted to make motocross trails. He decided against moving so much earth, and that plan was dropped.
"My first dream for this land was to build a sod house. I was raised on a farm and loved every minute of it," Ann said of her plans. "I grew up on my
Ann's Pasture / See Back
black Indian pony named Dandy. He was real fast. I could beat everybody. With this farm, I was going to have a place for me to play."
Carl, who was also a charter member of the local Izaak Walton League, supported his wife's dreams. They went to Nebraska to see the sod houses people still lived in. But after seeing the sod bricks used there, Ann realized the grasses and soil here wouldn't do.
"My pasture had been grazed so closely for so long that the grand old prairie grasses needed to hold the bricks together were mostly killed back," she said.
While the couple continued to live in town, the farm continued to be Ann's playground.
"Carl used to say to me, 'Why can't you go out to Lake Creek and play golf and cards like the other girls?'" she said. "I do like to play golf but I can see more sense to chasing a thistle than to chasing a ball."
When Carl died in 1976, Ann and her youngest son, Paul, devoted more time to the farm. Ann had everything she wanted there - except for trees.
In 1978 Paul ordered close to 700 Colorado Blue Spruce from a Wisconsin Nursery, and another 500 Walnut trees from Ames State Forest Nursery, Ann said.
"In the following years we ordered many more walnuts, pines, oaks and spruces," she said. "We planted trees and more trees every year."
Ann and her family did most of the planting.
"You must realize that many of the trees we planted were little sticks in the beginning," she said.
Each tree was weeded in the early years and watered by hand. Ann would fill gallon milk jugs at the stream, load them in the back of her pickup and drive around the fields watering.
"Sometimes you couldn't even find the trees they were so small," she said.
There are also numerous flowers. "I've planted so many that there is something blooming along the creek bank all summer," she said.
In 1979, she was married to Harold Pyle, a former farmer from Schaller. He started building structures there, including a barn. At different times they kept sheep and turkeys at the farm.
There was one animal she never got, though. "I always wanted horses, but no one would let me do that," she said.
Ann said that Harold and her finally "retired" in 1989. The two sold their house in town and moved to the farm to live in a trailer. She was 76 at the time.
"Some people thought I must have lost all of Carl's money or that I had lost my mind," she joked. "It was neither, I just love my little nest perched among my trees."
Over the years her "nest" has grown.
There are three houses there now. One is for company and the other Pyle uses to sleep. She missed the big basement of her house in town, so she finally built a garage-house into the side of a hill. There's a kitchen and enough room for 30 people, which happens quite a bit, with family and friends stopping to enjoy homemade raspberry jam, sweet corn pancakes and rotisserie chicken.
Harold died in 1995. While she misses him, Ann still has plenty of help so she can continue at her "pasture paradise." Her neighbor, Richard Stille, will plow her lane following a heavy snow, Glen Rice puts up the snow fences, Jon Mills does engine work for her, and Roger Stock does any carpentry, she said.
Plus she has six children who "sic" her on, she laughed.
"I am always pruning up my trees and chasing weeds with my trowel," she said. "I am always planning what I need to work on next."
She's eager for the spring field work and planting. But during the winter, she keeps active by coming to town for aerobics classes.
One of her favorite "play" activities in the summer, she said, is mowing.
"When I am mowing I feel like a pioneer woman out on the prairie conquering the elements," Ann said. "Mowing is a lot more fun than doing housework."
And as a visitor turns to leave Ann's pasture, they're greeted with a message on the backside of the welcome sign. It reads, "Adios. Ya'll come back."