Laverne & Janine Ehnert

On a ride though his woods Laverne Ehnert said, “We might have the best stand of white pine in Becker County.” Looking up at the magnificent 80-foot trees, no one could dispute that claim. In fact, the trees are among the best in all of northwest Minnesota. “We have pretty heavy soil here but the pines seem to love it,” Laverne went on. “I can dig up a small pine and plant it just anywhere and it will grow.”

The Ehnerts’ 120 acres is located outside Frazee, which is near Detroit Lakes. Laverne’s father purchased the first 80 acres in 1950 from a fellow who had moved to California to work during World War II and never came back. Since, another 40 acres has been added.

Laverne does some harvesting every year and, over the years, has harvested a total of nearly 30,000 board feet of white pine. “We have a problem with blister rust here,” Laverne said. “The only pines I cut are those with a dead top due to the blister rust or other reason.” A fellow down the road provides an unusual market for the big pines. “He builds timber frame homes. He lets me know how many logs he needs and how long they should be and I go get them.”

Other sources of income are occasional aspen harvests and collecting white pine cones for sale to the DNR. “I cut a lot of firewood, mostly from the aspen, to feed a wood stove inside the house. We had an outdoor wood furnace but I had it taken out back in 2001 when I retired. I thought we’d be traveling so much there would be no time to keep it supplied with wood. That was a mistake. Now I wish I had that furnace back. “ Laverne had a 35-year career with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

One recent problem has been too much water. “Our water table is high here,” Lavene said. “Last year, the water started rising on the north side of the property, flooding an area that had never had standing water before. It looks as though the 30-year-old white pines in that area will be killed. I plan to harvest them this winter.”

The Ehnert’s two sons and their families enjoy the land as much as Lavenre and Janine. Erik is a tool and die maker and built a home on the land. Robert lives and works in Fargo but makes it back to the land on most weekends.

Besides trees, the land is a haven for wildlife. An eagle has built a nest atop one of the white pines and deer enjoy a food plot with turnips, clover and chicory planted especially for them. Deer hunting is an annual event for the family. “Last year Erik got a beautiful 10-point buck that he’s had mounted,” Laverne said.