One way to get the hunting party out of your house is to put them in the barn. For Kayla Erdahl, that simple plan blossomed into a beautiful, creative business venture. Her desire to give her husband’s hunting group a place to stay, by remodeling the barn, grew to a new business called The Boars Abode.
Kayla and her husband, Aaron, live on the Erdahl family farmstead two miles north and a mile west of Donnelly. In 1946, Clarence and Martha Erdahl built a barn on the site and raised cattle in it. Later, Lawrence and Bernice Erdahl built a house next door and began farming with them. Bernice remembers using baskets to haul hay into the loft of the barn and milking cows in the lower part of the barn.
In 1975, Bruce and Sue Erdahl began raising hogs in the barn. They continued farming together with their children and raising hogs for many years. Aaron still remembers as a young boy, helping load the hogs and shooting birds in the loft with his BB gun. In the early 1990s, some difficult years in the farming industry resulted in the barn becoming vacant. It remained that way until Aaron and Kayla obtained ownership of the homestead in 2009.
Shortly after becoming newlyweds and purchasing the fixer-upper of their dreams, hunting season began. It took only one weekend for Kayla to realize that their humble home was, in reality, a hunting shack. “Aaron thought I was crazy,” Kayla explained. “Fueled by pure determination to keep our house a home, I began tossing hay out of the loft using an old pitchfork that I had found in the barn. This was a job I will never do again!”
Once cleared out, we minimally furnished the space and the next fall, the family’s hunting crew stayed in the barn for the first time. It turned out that the hunters loved it and the space soon became a place for other get-togethers. At that time, Kayla was going through a career change. She decided to stop teaching Special Education at Morris Elementary School and instead serve as a Family Childcare Provider.
She decided that the barn could be a wonderful place for the daycare kids to play so further renovations began. The licensing process was difficult as they attempted to pass inspections at the state level.
“Each time I called the state, waiting to be transferred or redirected yet again,” Kayla stated, “someone would say, Oh, you‘re the lady wanting to raise the kids in the barn.”
Eventually the State Fire Marshal came to inspect and approved the structure. To date, The Barnyard Beginnings childcare, as it was named, is the only barn in the state of Minnesota licensed for family childcare.
However, that was not the end of the road for the barn. The idea to make it a vacation rental property came about after a random meeting with a group of duck hunters from the metro area. They expressed an interest in renting the barn when they came to the area to hunt. It was then that the idea to become a vacation rental property was ignited and The Boars Abode was born.
The Erdahl’s hired Brustuen Construction, SJJK Plumbing and Heating and Morris Lumber and Millwork to help finish the renovation. Kayla stated that they were wonderful to work with even though they questioned some of her crazy ideas.
“After asking Jon Kleindl if he could transform a water trough into a bathtub, he asked my husband what in the world he had gotten him into!” Kayla stated. “But being as talented as they are, we now have a fully functioning water trough bathtub.”
Brustuen’s crew also had fantastic ideas and a tremendous amount of skill to help through the transformation. Morris Lumber and Millwork was always dependable with deliveries and picking up extra materials. These businesses made the process as stress-free and manageable as possible.
Kayla learned during this time that being told “no” was just not acceptable for her. She learned quickly that when all you have is a dream, you need to be resourceful, creative, and persistent in order to make your dream a reality.
In the Fall of 2017, their dream became a reality when The Boars Abode was rented to those duck hunters who suggested it. Since the official opening, the have hosted guests as close as a minute away to as far away as Zimbabwe. People rent the space for weddings, bridal showers, family reunions, or to celebrate milestones and special events. They have also been privileged to be able to host Vacation Bible School camp counselors.
The barn includes a fully stocked kitchen, one full bath, laundry room, a loft with two queen beds, a cozy bunk room with two twin-over-twin bunks, and a living room with a large sectional sofa, all on the upper level. The lower level has a recreational room with heated floors and a half bath. The space works nicely for outdoor enthusiasts, hobbyists, and special family events.
Later a playground, outdoor pool, hot tub and whimsical walking trails through the woods were added. Across the road is 300 acres of public wildlife land. There is plenty of outdoor space to set up a yard game, grill, or relax with a picnic and bonfire. They retained the rustic charm by recycling artifacts found and the original barn wood and barn doors.
Up until recently, The Boars Abode has been busy with reservations. However, the COVID-19 orders have caused several cancellations right through July. Guests can book direct by calling (320 287-2667 or book 24/7 online at: https://evolvevacationrental.com/vacation-rentals/419372.
Aaron and Kayla operate the business as a family. Their three boys – Bruce,7; Royce,6; and Randy, 4, all play an active role in helping prepare for guests. Last fall, Kayla completed a training course to become a Certified Pool Operator in order to ensure the safety of guests using the pool and hot tub amenities.
They are currently in the process of finishing up an addition on the ground level. It will include two handicap accessible bedrooms that will be furnished with three additional queen beds, a full bathroom, and an outdoor shower near the pool.
“Our guests have had nothing but good things to say about local attractions, shops, and restaurants,” Kayla added. “Our community is without a doubt, a tremendous contributor to the success we’ve had with The Boars Abode. The outpouring of support through word of mouth and sharing on social media has us feeling truly grateful to reside in such a caring community. It has been a humbling experience to be able to provide our guests with a comfortable home-like atmosphere whether they are seeking solitude while mourning the loss of a loved one or gathering with friends and family to celebrate special events.”