After they retired from farming three years ago, Lonnie and Charlotte Nickel purchased a home at 210 W. Sixth St. in Lincolnville. They have transformed a fenced-in backyard area of dirt and grass into a wonderland of shade, greenery, flowers, sparkling water, and walking paths.
They painted the plain, white house a colorful barn red with light yellow trim and black shutters. They added unique front porch railing that comes from an old house.
Lonnie installed a brick floor and built an island in the kitchen. The brick came from a dismantled building in Chicago.
Charlotte said the first thing they did in the backyard was to hire a contractor to level the ground for a patio and dig a large goldfish pond.
“I had to have a place for my fish,” she said.
They got rocks from the farm of their good friend, Kelly Steiner of Tampa, to line the pond.
They obtained 4,343 bricks from a demolished old bank building in Delavan, east of Herington, for a patio floor.
With the help of his son, Kacey, Lonnie built a patio cover, providing a cool, shady place for outdoor barbecues and relaxation.
The short sides on either end of the shelter contain stained-glass windows that come from an 1820s house that stood in downtown Los Angeles.
“In wintertime, I get a cup of coffee and read the paper out here,” Lonnie said. “It’s pretty nice.”
The area around the fishpond is filled with antiques and things the couple has built.
“I have ideas, and Lonnie creates them,” Charlotte said. “He’s handy to have around.”
“Yeah, she’s always got more projects for me to do,” he said.
Charlotte has created more than 40 elaborate birdhouses. Some hang on the backyard fence and others are scattered throughout the premises.
Lonnie built a walkway above the pond. He has built numerous benches, one of which sits at the end of the walkway.
“We have lots of places to sit because even when half of the family is here, the seating fills up,” Charlotte said.
The couple has been married for 17 years and have a combined family of seven children, 17 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, with more on the way.
Other unique features include a cage house containing two mourning doves, the stump of a cottonwood tree painted and decorated with a roof, two glider swings, and a fancy filter house for the pond.
As if the patio area weren’t enough, the couple has a larger backyard north of the tree-lined fence. It holds a 10-foot square sandbox, vegetable garden, and large garage.
Lonnie built a garden shed that looks more like a miniature house. It has stained-glass windows made by Charlotte, contrasting paint and trim, and a porch with railings.
The property has many other creative touches, such as barn quilts on the garden shed and garage, and the work isn’t finished. The couple plans to expand the patio area and refurbish an old dollhouse.
“Our children and grandchildren played in the dollhouse, and now our great-grandchildren will enjoy it,” Charlotte said.
Of course, there’s always another birdhouse waiting to be built, but that’s another story.