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Update on The Abandoned Farmhouse

Dear Diary,
I believe, in life - that the secret to being interesting is to be interested.

And while the topics that interest me aren't shared by many, I cannot deny the excitement nor the fascination that today's post has inspired.

You may recall this post I wrote a couple of years ago, The Abandoned Farmhouse.

We had lived in that neighborhood for 5 years, and we could see the apex of its roofline from our living room window.

We'd pass by each time we took the kids to school. The house both creeped me out and intrigued me. To this day, that remains true.

I couldn't figure it out. The lawn was always mowed, even though the shrubs were overgrown and in desperate need of a trim. The front of the house received a fresh coat of white paint, even though the other three sides were left to chip. Curtains remained hung in the upstairs windows, while the broken panes on the lower level were quickly boarded up.

By who, and when, was an enduring mystery.

With a 'No Trespassing' sign displayed prominently on the front door, I respected the boundary it established, though I paused often to ponder its story from the sidewalk. To the right of the house was an unpaved path. There was no driveway (that I could tell) and no garage - the farmhouse was old, stuck in an era that the rest of the neighborhood moved on from.

I tried to uncover the property's history, but without knowing the house number, my attempts came up empty. We've since sold our house and moved across town.

Then one day, as I passed the property to drop off my daughter at school, I saw a "For Sale" sign in the front yard. I was caught off guard by how excited that made me. As soon as I got to work, I went online to peruse the listing.

I finally had an address. It was time to put the research skills I fostered in my time as a reporter to use, and see what I could turn up. The 2-story farmhouse has 3 bedrooms, 1 bath and is approximately 1500-square feet. It sits on 1.38 acres and was built in 1925.

"... in need of love and attention," the listing described. "Property has potential for teardown and lot split."

NO. PLEASE DON'T TEAR THIS HOUSE DOWN. I hope Minneapolis' version of Joanna Gaines swoops in to save this historic property.

"... will be sold as is."

I want so badly to get inside.

Life in 1920s Minnesota

Everything about life back then was worse. Food was expensive, and the business of America was farming. Half of America's families lived in rural areas or in towns with less than 2,500 people. Owning a home was rare, and often, multiple generations of a family lived under one roof. Even though home values were around $75,000 in today's dollars, a down payment of 50% was required.

Plus, at the time of the farmhouse's construction, St. Paul's gangster era was in full swing.

Then I read that if a home was over 50 years old, the likelihood that someone died in it was very high.

Funerals were a private, family affair, often with the viewings held in the home's front room. It was this thought, combined with the images I took of the vacant property, that would contribute to the creepy feeling I'd get as we'd approach the farmhouse.

My research

I discovered who the current owner is, and even though the documents are public record, I will not reveal the name for the sake of privacy. What I will state is the record of sales I found going back 10 years - in 1998 the property sold for $30,000 and in 2009, for $105,000.

Was this intended to be an income property?

Why else would the current owner hold on to it for so long?

Is there a personal connection?

Why was it abandoned?

A clue that the property sat vacant for some time is in the low sale price from 1998. It makes me wonder how much of a time capsule the interior is, how many personal belongings remain inside and when it was last inhabited.

I'm trying to work up the courage to ask the listing agent if I could enter.

Meanwhile, I fear I've merely uncovered more questions than I have answers.

Exploring Trollhättan

Dear Diary,
For the last leg of our trip, we found ourselves in Trollhättan.
First mentioned in literature in 1413, this western municipality is located approximately 75 km north of Sweden's 2nd-largest city, Gothenburg.
I recently read that the NHL will be playing a couple of games in Gothenburg to boost its fan base.
(This steam engine was built in 1917.)

Are you sensing a theme with my photography? Waterfront scenes such as this were abundant, and I loved how relaxing it felt while we explored.

This is one of the city's historic locks, which was built in 1800, and made river travel much easier through Sweden. One thing my children observed is how much older everything is here, compared to in the States.

(I took this to document the style of traditional Swedish homes.)
Then, we were treated to views of the city from a scenic overlook.

Even though the skies were overcast, it did not detract from the dramatic landscape that stretched before us.

People have attached Love Locks nearby. Personally, I appreciate the sentiment and if I had known of this, I would have attached my own.

(Just stunning ...)

Lining the countryside are these ancient stone fences. The moss adds a mystical effect, one that lends to the country's folklore of trolls.

(Liseberg Park)
We ended our city tour with a visit to what the kids likened to a "Swedish Valley Fair." They rode the rides to their heart's content, a challenge at first since most instructions were in Swedish, but they caught on quickly.
Things we did:
Universeum (Living Rainforest and Science Center)
Södra vägen 50
Liseberg Park
Sofierogatan 5
412 51 Göteborg
Kopparklinten (scenic look-out)
Landbergsliden, 461 57 Trollhättan, Sweden

Halle-Hunneberg Ecopark - VARGÖN, Sweden

Dear Diary,
One of our stop-offs was this nature preserve, complete with a museum, trails and a restaurant where we had lunch.
As a matter of fact, the Swedish Crown has owned the hunting rights on the land for 500 years. However, it wasn't until 1885 when the King visited the mountainous area to hunt elk. Since then the Crown has been making up for lost time, and it's become one of the most covered hunting events in the country.

We were told early on that moose are quite prevalent in Sweden. During our travels, we saw 3 - two females and a calf - our first sighting that wasn't at a zoo. We were surprised by how massive the animals truly are.

(Viewing the grounds through the lens of a telescope ...)

(Snapped this because this massive rack of antlers came from Alaska ...)

Our museum tour presented the kids with the opportunity to feel the hides of the taxidermy, including bear and moose. The upstairs housed exhibits dedicated to the Royal Hunt and its history. The kids also signed a guestbook, announcing the fact that they were visiting from America.

(An observation: all of the taxidermy in Sweden smiles.)

The chickens that roamed the grounds made Madelyn squeal.

This experience was a good one for many reasons - it taught us about the significance of this area, the food served at the restaurant was delicious and being with our friends made it evermore worthwhile.

Halle-Hunneberg Ecopark Museum & Trails

The North Sea - Åsa, Sweden

Dear Diary,
During a drive across the country, we stopped to stretch our legs in Åsa.
Though the skies were overcast, it did not dull the allure and magic of this seaside village. 

The stop was made evermore eventful when my son fell into the sea as he skipped rocks.

Wet clothes, soggy shoes and a cut on his thumb were evidence of a story I'm sure he'll tell for quite some time now.

We stayed in Åsa for the night, thankful for the hospitality we were shown, before driving to Trollhättan in the morning.

Note: I'm noticing a theme here, in that "charming" is my go-to adjective to describe Sweden and that many of my photographs are of the water.

The Saab Museum - Trollhättan, Sweden

Dear Diary,
We toured the Saab Museum in Trollhättan, a city once home to the company's headquarters and main manufacturing plant.
Saab is a Swedish brand, manufacturing both airplanes and automobiles. And the museum itself appears to be its old manufacturing plant, as the overhead cranes remain installed in the ceiling.

To study the history of Saab is to dive into a chapter of Sweden's history.

In 1945, Saab decided to venture beyond aeronautical engineering and manufacture cars.

Pictured above is the prototype, in its original condition and it has never been restored.

It's displayed separately and prominently from the other exhibits, obviously due to its importance.

(Thank goodness the placards were also in English - we learned a lot. Sweden is one of the easiest countries for the English-speaking to travel to!)

The first airline my husband was hired to fly for had a fleet of Saab turbine-engine aircraft to connect travelers to the smaller airports in the region.

In fact, we took home a patch of that particular aircraft, where it will remain in its packaging as a keepsake now that the fleet has been retired.

It was a really cool connection to make!

The museum exhibits cars from the 1940s up to the latest models, plus concept cars and its rally history. Of the 120 cars in the collection, only 70 are currently shown. They all represent a milestone of the over 4.4 millions cars produced since its inception.

I was drawn to the curves of the older models.

The museum opened in 1975 (it's initial location was the cellar), and while I have little interest in automobiles, I found our visit to be very worthwhile given my husband's ties and its importance to Sweden.
If you go:
Åkerssjövägen 18
SE-461 53 Trollhättan
Web site (in English)

Ferry to Åstol, Sweden

Dear Diary,
Is it possible that a platter of smoked shrimp enjoyed on a small Swedish island in the North Sea can be a transformative experience?
I'm here to tell you, it's true.

But first, you have to get there.
And that requires a drive to the shoreline where a waiting ferry is docked.

The ride itself is quick, probably less than 10 minutes if that - but I cannot be certain because I was distracted by the beauty that surrounded me.

("Welcome to Åstol")

The island is stripped of all complication, stress and even automobiles. To navigate the island, the only options available were either bike or our own two feet.

I enjoyed every second of our walk, the narrow sidewalks cutting through the small neighborhoods.

(The sea sustains the island, as you can imagine.)

I cannot think of a place to compare it to - the island stands alone.

In fact, it's a place that will forever serve as a benchmark for comparison.

I loved everything about it.

And then, there are the views. As you can see, it was a struggle to narrow the field of images. Skipping one felt like a disservice.

I can almost smell the cleansing air as I write this post and review my photographs.

(Note to track down these chandeliers.)

This is the charming restaurant we dined at, bathed in light.

Seated on the dock, at a table and chairs made entirely of cement and draped with sheepskin, we were treated to our first tastes of smoked shrimp. The delightful combination of the salty sea breezes, my savory Sauvignon Blanc and the warmth of the sun set the tone for one of my favorite moments of our trip. We indulged in conversation and comraderie with our close friends.

It was a chance to take a moment, simple as it may be, and it became something big. It's funny how the little things turn out to be the most meaningful.

Now to track down a cement outdoor dining set and sheepskin to incoporate the charm of Åstol at our homestead here in Minnesota.

Smoked shrimp, anyone?