blog header image

“Rainbow Ranch”

There’s a mosaic sign at the mouth of a long dirt driveway that welcomes guests to “Rainbow Ranch.” Since 1995, Mary Lou Aurell and Patty Erven have lived on their self-titled ranch in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in a geodesic dome built from a kit.

Mary Lou and Patty Jo

“There are no square rooms here,” Patty says, as she walks barefoot through the carpeted house giving a tour. “This is Merlin,” she says, pointing to a ceramic wizard statue near the meditation alcove. “And this is the goddess room,” she says, gesturing to the upstairs bedroom.

In the gazebo, Patty talks about Arbo Lake, visible through the screen. “We own 15 acres of land and 2 acres of underwater.” The lake, which sprawls in front of Rainbow Ranch and a few other homes, is a non-meandering lake – which means that when you own the lakeshore, you also own the lake bottom.

The land where Rainbow Ranch sits is a big part of local history. In the late 1800s, there was a large structure used as a weigh station on the property – the only weigh station between Grand Rapids and Big Fork. The owners kept hardboiled eggs in a sawdust barrel on the porch for hundreds of (mostly) men that would wander by on their long journeys.

There is something calming about sitting around the kitchen table with Patty, Mary, and Facilitator Naomi Greene. We sip catalog ordered tea from clay mugs as Mary and Patty talk about their wedding on the property. “There were 150 guests from so many different communities,” Mary says.

Patty points out a vase sitting on top of a hope cabinet in the living room. “This is a Navajo wedding vase. We each put water from one of the spouts on our hands to get rid of the negative past.”

Balloons are tied to furniture and centerpieces around the living room – remnants of Friday’s going away gathering for a friend moving to Kansas. There are many other events that happen on this land: The PRIDE Picnic, anniversary camp outs, and multiple dinner parties.

Rainbow Ranch Welcome

There is also a fire circle deeper in the surrounding pine forest. Patty and Mary remember an Incan Shamanic ritual they had there once. “We buried a despacho and thought of things in our lives we wanted to transform in a hurry,” Mary says.

“And then a bear dug it up!” Patty laughs.

“My shoulder hurts, her back hurts, my neck is tired, her arms are stiff,” Patty says downstairs, as I admire her woodstove. Mary and Patty are selling Rainbow Ranch.

“It must be hard to sell something you love so much,” I say.

“Yes,” Patty says nostalgically. “We certainly have had some amazing experiences here.”


Previous post:

5 Responses to ““Rainbow Ranch””

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • Rainbow Ranch is a magical, spiritual, loving, peaceful place, all due to the wonderous and spiritual energy that is created by Patty Jo and Mary Lou’s loving relationship for each other, their community, and Mother Earth. While I believe that the land will hold onto some of that energy when Patty Jo and Mary Lou move on to their next journey, the land will never be the same once they are gone. It is my hope that the new owners will be able to sense the specialness of the land and hold dear that magical energy. Thanks for a great article.
    Beth Prewett

    Comment from Beth Prewett on September 20, 2008 at 12:40 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • One of my favorite places on earth! Peaceful peaceful.

    niece Steph

    Comment from Stephanie Erven on September 19, 2008 at 11:31 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • rainbow ranch is a calming place. plenty of love and always good food and conversation. nice piece on my two big sisters…

    sweet!

    mary :)

    Comment from mary shideler on September 19, 2008 at 12:19 pm - Reply to this Comment
  • A wonderful story about two wonderful women! Lovely photos, too. Thanks for sharing. Peace Out…

    Comment from Karen Christen on September 19, 2008 at 11:54 am - Reply to this Comment
  • what an interesting place and such an interesting couple. did they mention why they were leaving?

    Comment from suzanne kelly on September 16, 2008 at 9:04 pm - Reply to this Comment

Leave a Reply


  • Major Funding Provided By

    CPB Logo
  • National Broadcast Sponsors

    CTCA Logo
  • National Partners

    NPR American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress
  • Charity Navigator Logo