Acres - Larry & Elly McDonald (2005)
Contact: Crystal Wendt
County Press (Neillsville, Clark County, Wis.) 3 Aug. 2005; P14
Photo caption - From al the work in creating a paradise, Elly and Larry McDonald make sure to find time to stop and smell the flowers, and there are lots of them at their rural Neillsville home.
Anyone driving along Sidney Avenue in Pine Valley Township southwest of Neillsville can except to see a lot of woods, plenty of corn fields and an occasional farmstead popping up along the town road.
But what appears to be a immaculately-groomed park or golf course coming out of nowhere has first-time passer-by doing a double-take, while those living in the neighborhood have been looking forward to the change of scenery for years.
It’s Larry and Elly McDonald’s place. "Paradise Acres," the sing just off their driveway entrances says.
But, the McDonald’s will tell you, it wasn’t always such a paradise at all. Back in 1979, the thick growth of trees and heavy underbrush had been a haven for wood ticks and mosquitoes, they said last Saturday as they sat inside a gazebo with a panoramic view of the six acres of lawn area accented with stately trees, distinctive yard ornaments and colorful flower beds. As they spoke, a blue loon alighted on the nearby pond.
"What are you going to do with all the brush?" Elly recalled asking Larry those many years ago.
"We’ll get rid of it," he had said matter-of-factly at the time.
For the McDonalds, that clearly stated intention started a 25-year process of creating their own vision of paradise. A true labor of love, it’s one that is still going on today.
All that work also started that good-natured questions, coming mostly from neighbors, that are also still being raised to this day. "People ask, ‘What are you up to now?" Elly said with a smile.
Well, in their latest endeavor, the McDonalds have been clearing a one-acre wooded area near their house, but leaving most of the trees to shade and shelter the woodchip-covered paths leading to foot bridges, then winding through the myriad flowers and decorations there.
But maintaining the eye-catching, wide expanse that surrounds the elevated gazebo still requires the most attention, according to Larry, who works for the township as a patrolman, and Elly, employed in the laundry department of Memorial Medical Center.
"After work and weekends," Elly said of when the mowing - using two riding mowers, each with a 48-inch deck - and the trimming gets done. Tending the flowers and keeping the yard ornaments painted and looking sharp also takes a lot of time.
That seemingly leaves the McDonalds with no opportunity to enjoy it all. "We find the time," said Elly. And they make the most of it, Larry added, describing those satisfying moments sitting in the gazebo or riding silently around all the splendor using an electric golf cart.
The McDonalds don’t mind sharing their private retreat. "People drive in and ask it they can take a closer look," said Elly. Come November and December, "Paradise Acres" becomes a winter wonderland. There’s a guessing game with some of the neighbors wondering what the McDonalds are going to do differently in the way of Christmas decorating each year.
Larry remains convinced that there is still more to paradise. Every time he mows, Elly noted, he tends to cut deeper into the rest of their 20-acre property, some of it bristling with wilder-underbrush, so I do something about it," Larry explained.
But there is really more to it than merely keeping the brush at bay, Elly said. Larry admitted to the dream, now closer to a plan, to build a waterfall, complete with colored lights, in the near portion of their property.
"Eventually, he’ll get it," said Elly. Not that she minds. The McDonalds have rarely if ever, disagreed on what they’ve created together. "I like the idea," Elly said of the waterfall.
And likely, so would a lot of other people who have caught a glimpse of "Paradise" over the years.
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Photo caption - This was not included in the original write up. This photo was taken 12 July 2003. I had received this in my Christmas card of 2003.
Additional notes - My relationship to this couple as follows; Larry & Elly McDonald are my uncle & aunt; which Larry is a brother to my father, Gary McDonald.
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