Farm life is anything but monotonous for Greg Malone. He loves the different duties that keep him busy, like transporting grain to Vergas and taking care of his sheep -- a growing flock that he says has gotten a bit “out of hand,” with a total of 300 expected by this summer.
Malone grew up just down the road from the farm he currently owns with his wife, Mary, in Wadena. For about 40 years, the two dairy farmers have spent their days and nights tending to cows. They also have several hundred acres of cropland for corn, beans and wheat, and own a small herd of beef cattle. They've lived in the country all their lives, and that shared experience has been, and continues to be, an important joy for them.
“I suppose we’re retirement age, but I have no intentions of retiring," Malone says with a laugh. "I enjoy what I do, every day. And there’s such a variety of things, I’m never bored. Even in high school, I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do than farm.”
After 12 years of renting their farmland, the Malones purchased it for themselves — along with a guesthouse nearby. At the encouragement of friends, they rehabbed that house and turned it into a charming vacation rental, one that gives people a true taste of farm life. That's where their sheep hobby began, starting with a few they got for guests to interact with and bottle feed.
“To me, one of the most fulfilling things that I do (is) ... just see people come out and enjoy the country, just enjoy what’s out here," Malone says. "Because I got to enjoy it growing up as a kid."
Travelers looking for rest, quiet, a change of pace and a learning experience won't be disappointed during their stay at the guesthouse. Guests are invited to the Malones' farm, about one-quarter mile up the road, where they can join in the daily routine. Depending on the time of year, they might learn about trapping, ride a tractor, feed baby lambs or help with farm chores. They may also go four-wheeling or connect with a local fishing expert, one of Greg’s brothers.
There is always something to do, Malone says, and, “If they want to get in on things, I make sure that I include them."
The Malones are naturals at caring for people -- after all, they come from large families. Greg comes from a family of 13, and Mary a family of 10. They've been sharing their farm life with guests for six years, and always make time to visit with them and make them feel valued -- even when their days start at 2 a.m. with lambing and calving.
Mary says she enjoys preparing the guesthouse for visitors and likes to welcome them right from the start of the online booking process.
“I just want to make sure that everything is comfortable for them when they get here, that they have everything they need,” she says.
The two say they make a good team. When Mary works at H&R Block during the tax season, Greg and their daughter Nicole make dinner for her late arrival. And when Greg is harvesting, Mary's in charge of dinner. She also runs the books for the farm. Both are people of strong faith.
“God is the center of our lives... I mean, that’s what motivates us to treat other people well and just show them God’s kindness,” Greg says.
The kindness of the Malones has caused guests to return year after year, some every single year since the start and others three times in one year. Those guests often invite their hosts in for lunch or tea, sharing stories and giving the Malones an understanding of their lives, too.
“We want people to...enjoy themselves while they’re here, and feel like they’re part of life here out in the country,” says Greg.
The country setting includes a creek where people enjoy kayaking in the summer. Kids' imaginations run free down there, the Malones say, and parents feel comfortable letting their children venture around on their own. Over the years, many children have played in that creek, including Greg himself, who made rafts, and his and Mary's five daughters, who made teepees. The creek is about 300 yards from the house, and the road is wide open for bike riding.
“Parents feel that it’s just free,” Mary says. “They felt they were letting them (their children) spread their wings.”
Guests also have access to farm-fresh chicken eggs and summer produce. They can take in the outdoors with summer bonfires and simply have space to gather with family members, as even those not staying at the house are able to visit during the day. Children might nestle in the hay mounds or play with newborn kittens. Business groups, family gatherings and girls' weekends are all popular.
The guesthouse is a side project filled with such care that it would seem the Malones have nothing else going on. Nicole decorated the space with themed rooms and a large amount of Pyrex dishes — making people feel like they’re at their Grandma’s house, Mary says. The spaces evoke memories of their own childhoods, like the pull string light in the upstairs room.
For the short time they're there, guests get to experience what the Malones say they experience every day, and sometimes take for granted. And Greg adds, “That’s really neat, to see people take it in."
Learn more about the guesthouse rental on the VRBO website.