Monday, February 06, 2006

old house


I wonder what stories this house has to tell.

I pass by this abandoned house just about every day. It sits there, its empty windows gazing into the sunrise, brush growing all around. I can't tell how many years it has been empty, but it looks like it was a nice, cozy house in its day.

The land around here was logged off around 1880-1900, then the cleared land was sold off mainly to immigrant farmers. The 1915 plat map, from a local history book, shows that this land was owned by a Nielsen; Scandinavian, most likely Danish, as the township of Partridge was settled by Danes. The town of Askov holds its Danish tradition proudly, even in this age of homogeneity. A note for you Prairie Home Companion fans: Garrison Keillor's brother resides in the area.

Askov used to pride itself in being the "rutabaga capital" of the state, or maybe even the nation. If you like rutabagas, they were grown here. There was a major rutabaga processing plant, right by the tracks in Askov. They still hold a Rutabaga Festival every year, although probably very few rutabagas are still grown in scattered family gardens. I don't think rutabagas are on the menu at the school or local restaurants.

The post-war policies of the USDA, coupled with the relatively low yield of the land when farmed by "modern" practices, spelled the demise of many family farms in the area. There is still a dairy farm here and there, or a beef operation, or scattered cornfield, but most of the agricultural land is in hay or pasture. Much of the land is tax forfeited, managed for timber harvest by the county, who is not really qualified to know how to do such things. Private land is generally owned by people from the cities, who come up to their cabins for deer season in November.

For some reason, this little house still stands, a remembrance of a time of hope and growth in this area.

UPDATE, 2/07: The house is gone. It was torn down last summer when developers bought the land and subdivided it into ten or twenty acre hunting cabin plots. I miss it.

15 comments:

clairesgarden said...

it looks like it might be a bit scary and dark when the leaves are out on the trees, shame its been left though

Endment said...

Now that looks like what I have been searching for --- a house that needs lots of TLC... Of course I don't know how much land is surrounding it...

You touch my imagination with your wondering about the stories it has to tell.

carrie said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. My great-grandmother lived outside of Askov and was one of the Danish settlers. We had her funeral at the Danish Lutheran (Bethlehem Lutheran) church there. We have pictures of my ancestors working in those rutabaga fields. My grandparents still grow them in their garden. Thank you for reminding me with pride of the stock I came from.

madcapmum said...

It does look like a well-built old house. The next time we travel out to our land I should bring my camera and take a picture of the old community hall down the road, built from fieldstone. It's completely abandoned and all overgrown with poplar, but still intriguing - maybe moreseo in decay. My kids love it. Runner Bean wants to restore it and show Friday night movies for the local farmers and their girlfriends.

I think it's a shame about the rutabagas falling by the wayside. They're good - an inexpensive, too! I wonder why they've become so declasse.

Floridacracker said...

I hate to see an old house fall away. Could you please move this one to your property so the Hermit can restore it?

Liz said...

It's too bad the rutabaga has fallen out of favor. They can be so delicious.

Melissa said...

I love rutabega. We eat tons of it every week, especially in winter.

I love old farm history. Beautiful picture.

Deb said...

clairesgarden--perhaps a bit dark and scary, although I think more lonely.

endment--it's on 80 acres; I can't tell from the road, but it looks pretty overgrown with brush and trees, although it would make a nice homestead for someone willing to work with it.

carrie--so nice to hear of someone with roots in the area! That church is beautiful on the outside, though I've never been on the inside. Those settlers were sure strong people.

madcap--The fact that it's still standing attests to its sturdy construction. I see many other shells of houses that have not fared so well. And your childrens' vision never fails to amaze me. Where most 8 year olds would see nothing, he sees possibilities!

FC- I would love to do that. And there are so many beautiful old barns that are falling apart around here, and we could use a barn, so I wish there were some way we could reconstruct one. The wood is still good.

liz and melissa- I grew a few rutabagas last year, just as an experiment. They got crowded out by cucumbers and tomatilloes, but I was still able to harvest some small ones, and the taste was just not like those waxed, overgrown ones you buy in the store.

Trix said...

There is something enticing about old, empty houses; they seem to invite our imaginations to inhabit them...
We have one on our property, built around the 1890's, from local trees. It is so wonderfully sturdy inside - the stairs don't even creak! Everyone tells us to rip it down, but I just can't...

lené said...

Something about the photo brought back the film Capote that I saw recently. eek.

I've never had a rutabaga. Do you have any favorite recipes you could post or email? :)

Eleutheros said...

The lines of the house are still straight, the rooflines especially. The house could probably be put back into service. So why hasn't someone?

The clue is the trees. Notice how the house is surrounded almost methodically by large deciduous trees. It was designed and inhabited in the days when anything but passive and natural climate control would have been considered foolishness. The trees cool the house in the summer but don't block the sun in the winter.

My guess is that at some time in the past someone has been faced with taking up residence in that house or moving to one with central heat and air and chose the latter.

Pity.

dragonfly183 said...

Oh my goodness. Thats absolutely beautifull. I'd love to climb through a window and take a walk through it. I bet its still and quiet inside and has that big empty feeling a place gets when no one is inside it for a very long time..

I don't know what it is about old houses like that but they just bring a tear to my eye. Not a sad tear but the kind that shows up when you look at something beautiful that you don't see very often.

Deb said...

A pity, indeed. I have noticed how well that house still stands. Funny you should mention passive solar heating principles. I cringe everyday at how I see doublewide mobile homes hauled onto lots and set up with not a single thought as to alignment with the sun. Same goes for McMansions, although not a lot are built around here, what are generally are built according to suburban principles, that is, align not for solar gain but for "look at me" gain. Pity indeed. I wish the owners would do something with this house.

Deb said...

And, by the way, air conditioning is a non factor here in Minnesota. There are maybe a week's worth of nights where it is uncomfortable to sleep because of the heat. I, for one, can live with that. Planning for shading with deciduous trees during the summer would only make the hot nights more tolerable.

Deb said...

Okay, my last comment is probably a result of my upbringing by my frugal parents. My mom had MS (multiple sclerosis) for the last 20 years of her life, and she would no doubt have been more mobile, and comfortable, had they had central air and used it during the summer here. MS just works that way. But they were too frugal to run more than one window air conditioner for the whole house. Might as well have done nothing. Anyway, air conditioning is not all evil, I just wanted to make that clear.