Your new neighbors may seem odd, and there are certainly a lot of them, but they are both quiet and respectful.

About 20 gnomes have found a home in a large stump on 1510 8th Ave. NE in Owatonna, and landlord Shelly Malecha says that she’s hoping even more will take up residence. Currently drawing up plans for an addition to the top floor of the house, Malecha proudly shows off her lawn art masterpiece that took a village to help create.

“I knew this tree had to come down, but it was so big — the tallest on the block — and I was just thinking, what the heck can I do?” Malecha said as she described the giant cotton poplar that she had removed from her front yard last summer.

When she first moved into her home in 1991, Malecha admits that she was unaware of what kind of tree was on her property. She said that the tree was small then, but cotton poplars can grow up to 6 feet each year. By the time she had it removed – largely because it was dying rapidly — Malecha said that the tree could have easily fallen on any of her neighbors houses, including those who live across the street.

“It was a really nice, big shade tree and I was sad to see it go,” Malecha said. “But it had to come down.”

Knowing she would be left with a giant stump in her yard, Malecha asked her husband leave a large portion of the stump intact so that she could get creative with something new in their yard. Unfortunately, Malecha said her husband forgot, and they were left with a large flat stump in the middle of their front lawn. Luckily, though, that didn’t remain the case for very long.

“A gentleman on Rose Street who makes things out of stumps had just cut down a big tree in his yard that had been hollowed out by carpenter ants,” Malecha said. “I stopped by and told him I would take one piece off his hands right there.”

After rolling the chunk of tree trunk onto a trailer and accepting help from some friends with a tractor and a forklift, Malecha fumigated the hunk of wood to eliminate any remaining ants and got straight to work to provide a home for her small collection of gnomes. After cutting out a door and making a front step for the stump, Malecha received a handmade gnome home from James Virechek to place atop the tree. Thus, the home for gnomes was complete – for now.

“I’d really like to add more to the top,” Malecha said of upcoming renovations to allow for more tenants. Since the first set of gnomes relocated to the stump last summer, Malecha said she has continued to collect more and more throughout the year.

“All the neighborhood kids love to come up and check it out, opening the door to look inside,” Malecha said, exposing the cluster of gnomes hanging out inside the base of the trunk. “I also get cars stopping all the time to take pictures. It’s really been a lot of fun for everyone.”

As the gnome kingdom continues to grow on her front lawn, Malecha invites visitors to stop by the stump and open out the door of the trunk to check it out. She promises the residents won’t mind in the least.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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