Making it their own: With more than 30 acres, couple enjoys all types of opportunities in nature

Published 4:32 pm Thursday, May 4, 2023

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Tucked away off of South Shore Drive between Albert Lea Lake and the Shell Rock River, Randy and Sheri Nicol have everything they could have wanted and more.

The couple, who moved to Albert Lea eight years ago when they bought the 32-acre property, said they had been looking online for land in Iowa, southern Minnesota and northern Missouri, when the Albert Lea property popped up.

They both had their lists of things they wanted in the property, and they were pleased to discover that the land checked all the boxes.

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In addition to a house with large windows, a deck and patio area that overlooks the property, they enjoy multiple garden areas filled with ponds, waterfalls and flowers, as well as a gazebo. The land provides them a sense of being out in nature, as well as wildlife opportunities, as Randy enjoys hunting deer and turkey.

“It’s just nature everywhere, and that’s what we love about this place,” Sheri said.

The property also includes places to play horseshoes and croquet, have bonfires and even venture out on Albert Lea Lake with their children and grandchildren in their pontoon, as a portion is directly on Albert Lea Lake.

Eighteen family members spend four or five days each July visiting, a lot of which is time they spend outdoors.

“We’re hoping to be able to stay here many more years so we can share this with our grandchildren and children here,” she said. “We’re making so many family memories here.”

Sheri credited much of the work that had been done on the land to former owner Ron Steckman, and the couple said they’ve done what they could since they’ve owned it to make it their own, adding more flowers and other decorative outdoor elements.

Both of the Nicols grew up on their family farms near Graettinger, Iowa, and Sheri worked during her career as a teacher and Randy as a lighting salesman.

“It’s like returning to what we know and love,” she said.

The property was featured in the Albert Lea Art Center’s She Shed Tour in June 2022 and has also hosted other groups.

“We like to entertain,” Randy said.

Sheri said one of her favorite features on their property is the gazebo, where she goes to sit and read devotions.

The gazebo is decorated in what almost feels like a mix of a nautical and cabin theme, and provides another way to enjoy the outdoors and listen to the birds.

Randy said his favorite thing about the property is simply going outside and working on their land.

“Just being here and having the opportunity to enjoy God’s beautiful world,” he said.

Sheri said she loves to walk down their driveway to get the mail, which she usually takes up to the gazebo to read. On the way to the mailbox, she also passes a bench that her husband made for her for Christmas one year that has both of their names on it.

She said she had seen them all over Germany, and after they had lost a big oak branch in a storm one year, Randy decided to build one for her.

One area that is featured when people get closer to the house includes Purple Martin birdhouses and a plow from Randy’s grandpa Elmer Nicol.

In addition to their property, the Nicols said they have enjoyed living in the community because of other community efforts they are a part of.

Both are members of the Golden K Kiwanis Club and attend First Lutheran Church. Sheri is also in Tri-T and Bone Builders in Hayward. Randy is a Gideon and volunteers at Youth For Christ’s The Rock.

“We are so very thankful we live here,” Sheri said.