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Your new neighbor hopes to blossom in Blue Earth

After a year, Abdel-Rahman’s garden is already green with promise

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Aug 15, 2021

We are on the lookout for Blue Earth newcomers! In this series, we share a beverage with them and learn their story. We sat down with this new neighbor for a cup of tea and a good chat on Monday, August 9, and asked her 20 questions both serious and silly. She was a delight to interview, and we are pleased to introduce her as the next subject of the ‘Meet Your Neighbor’ series. Stay tuned for more neighbors to come, and let us know who should be featured next.

This new neighbor is usually found in the great outdoors among her abundant beds of flowers. However, she stopped to have a cup of tea with The Faribault County Register on Monday, Aug. 9.

What is your name?

“Mona Abdel-Rahman.”

Where are you from?

“I am originally from Stillwater,” answers Mona.

When asked what prompted her to leave Stillwater, Mona says, “I was 18, and trying to make a choice. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to travel.”

A friend from Berlin invited Mona to stay in Germany. There, she met her late first husband, a native of Sudan.

“It was very difficult being two foreigners in a foreign country,” admits Mona. “We decided to come back to the States where there were more opportunities.”

Unfortunately, Mona’s first husband became very ill with multiple sclerosis, and passed away eight months later, when their sons, Hassan and Musa, were just two and four years old.

“It was a very difficult time in my life,” shares Mona.

However, she eventually met her current husband, Tom Fiero, and the two have been happily married now for over three decades.

Tom had dreams of becoming an author and living in a remote cabin, so their family relocated to Grand Marais, Minnesota.

“We chose a very simple life in a cabin with no indoor plumbing,” says Mona.

A lifelong lover of horticulture, Mona cultivated a luscious garden, as well as a career in nursing, during her time in Grand Marais.

How would you describe your hometown in three words? 

Mona considers Grand Marais to be her hometown.

“Diversity, arts, and nature,” she says, after some thought.  

Why did you leave your hometown?

“We knew at some point we’d have to move,” says Mona. While she and Tom loved their rustic lifestyle, it grew more difficult as they became older.

The pandemic contributed to the timing of their move.

Mona received her masters degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine in 2011 and opened a practice in Grand Marais. However, “The pandemic put a kibosh on our business,” as she puts it.

The pandemic has still limited business, as a matter of fact. While Mona is still doing phone consultations for Chinese herbal medicine, the acupuncture business is on hold for the moment as Mona and Tom await the outcome of the pandemic.

How did you find Blue Earth? 

“We were looking for affordable housing,” says Mona. A search on Zillow yielded photos of Blue Earth.

“We thought it looked so park-like and beautiful,” Mona reminisces.

How would you describe Blue Earth in three words? 

“In two words,” Mona says, “park-like.”

Who did you bring with you? 

Mona brought Tom, of course.

“I brought a lot of my houseplants,” Mona also says. “I had to pick and choose. I brought about 30.”

What do you like to do in Blue Earth?

Mona’s favorite hobby has followed her to Blue Earth and blossomed, so to speak.

“I was always interested in plants from when I was really young,” she shares.

The move to a new climate brought new opportunities for gardening.

“There is a longer growing season here than up North,” she explains. The longer season meant Mona could foster plant life which refused to flourish in Grand Marais.

Even before her move to Blue Earth, Mona was plotting her future garden.

“The yard here was kind of a blank slate,” she says. “I spent hours designing and redesigning. It was a lot of fun.”

The result is an explosion of colorful blooms and fragrant greens at her new home.

What do you like to do no matter where you are? 

“I also like sewing,” says Mona. “I like things I can make that are practical, or beautiful.”

“My whole family likes photography,” she adds. “I think my mom put a camera in everyone’s hands.”

“Most of the stuff I like to do is self-taught,” explains Mona.

How should someone go about learning a new skill? 

“Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” Mona says. “That’s where you learn the most.”

What is your favorite thing about gardening?

“I love getting dirty! Then you get to get clean again.”

What would your dream garden be like? 

“It’s out there,” says Mona, gesturing to her lawn. “This garden has fascinated me.”

What future plans do you have for your garden? 

“Just being able to maintain it well,” answers Mona. “I’m trying to keep it simple.”

What is something about you that would surprise people? 

“I have no idea how to answer that!” Mona laughs.

How do you hope to surprise yourself in the future? 

“Just to stay really healthy and fit,” says Mona. “That’s part of the reason I want to get back into Quigong and Thi Chi.”

She explains she hopes she can share her passion for these ancient forms of healing movements with other community members someday, perhaps through teaching classes.

Do you see a future for yourself in Blue Earth? 

“Oh yes,” Mona answers immediately.

“This is all part of it,” she adds, referencing the Meet Your Neighbor series, which she hopes will help her meet more members of the community.

Are you more of a Jolly Green Giant or a Sprout?

“I’m a little Sprout. I’m still pretty mischievous.”

What is your favorite green vegetable?

“Arugula,” says Mona. “I like all green vegetables to be honest, but you put that with anything and it’s absolutely wonderful.”

What is your favorite thing to eat that isn’t a vegetable? 

“Walnut wheels,” answers Mona. The baked good was dreamt up by Tom, who makes the gluten-free bagels with sprinkles of soy butter and walnut pieces, roasted in the toaster oven.

What are you drinking today?

Mona served green tea kombucha. It was delicious.