Have you ever had one of those “everything happens for a reason” moments that gave you the chills? Well, I have a story to share with you that still gives me the chills, and I truly believe that everything that happened in this story, happened for a reason. Now, this is the introductory post to the family farm. This story really sets the stage for future posts, so I’m not going to leave anything out of this important beginning. I hope you enjoy the story!
In the year 2000, my mother had an inkling to start looking into her family’s genealogy. She simply wanted to know where her ancestors came from and where they settled. Many hours were spent combing the internet, looking through books and articles at various museums and libraries, and ultimately, my parents flew off to Sweden to see the homeland, visit new-found relatives, and of course pick through the records that are so diligently kept in the Swedish archives. Somewhere along Mom’s research trail, she came across an old plat drawing that showed a piece of land that her great, great grandparents, Lars and Katarina West, had homesteaded (December 5, 1884) when they emigrated from Västanå, Sweden. This homestead ended up staying in the family for three generations. Lars and Katarina gave the farm to their daughter, Christine Selena and her husband August Falk on the premise that they would allow Katarina to live the rest of her life with them. Along with taking care of Katarina, August and Christine went on to raise their family on this homestead. This land happened to be about 40 miles from where my parents were currently living in Minnesota.
Not long after finding the old plat, Mom was able to find an address that was currently listed as being on the property. Bud answered the phone when my mom called and he and his wife, Elvera, graciously welcomed my family to come up and see the farm. A few weeks later, my mom and several other members of the Falk family went to visit the farm for the first time (2009).
When my mom arrived at the farm with the family, they were welcomed by a long, pine tree-lined driveway that lead to a beautiful old farm, which included a giant windmill, a pole barn, an old wooden corn crib, a couple of metal corn cribs, an old white barn, a white granary that was as cute as a button, and a little brown farmhouse. Bud set my mom and the rest of the Falk clan free on the property so they could explore the grounds. I remember my mom telling me two particular things that really had an impact on her the first time she saw the farm: the first was that she found out that the barn had been built by her family in 1917 and was still in great shape; and the second was that many of the West and Falk names (along with the dates) had been etched into the old bricks on the barn inside the separator room (see Figure 1). Many of the names were etched in the early 1900’s. An incredible surprise! Now, there is one thing I remember my mom always saying to me when I was growing up: “I love old barns, and I could see myself living on a farm if I ever find one with an old barn in good shape.”
My parents went on to visit the farm two more times in the next few years. After the second visit my mom was fairly certain that if the farm ever went up for sale that she would like to buy it. A couple of weeks after the second visit, my mom asked my dad if he would be willing to move up to the farm if it should go up for sale. I can’t imagine how Dad’s face must have lit up at that moment. My dad has been dreaming of land, barns, and a workshop for years. Let’s just say that they made the call to Bud and his wife, Elvera, right away to tell them about their interest in the farm if Bud and Elvera should want to sell. Fast-forward about five years from the first time my mom visited the farm, and here is where that “everything happens for a reason” moment occurs.
Everything Happens For A Reason
Both of my parents had recently retired from their careers and had decided to fill much of their time with volunteering in state and national parks, wildlife refuges, and in any other location they could find where nature abounded. This particular year, they were working in a visitor center, completing maintenance projects, and teaching classes about butterflies to elementary-age children at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, TX. They volunteered there for three months before they planned to slowly make their way back home visiting other parks along the way. Well, they ended up needing to come home early, so they decided to drive home in two days instead of the one-to-two weeks they had previously planned. Mom and Dad arrived home at about three o’clock in the morning on Sunday, March 23, 2014. The next day, Mom and Dad received a phone call from Bud. He was ready to sell the farm.
Soon after the phone call, Mom called me and told me about the phone call from Bud. I couldn’t quite tell if she was still tired from her long car ride back from TX, or if she was in disbelief about receiving a call about the farm going up for sale. I’m sure it was a little of both, but Mom told me that she really felt that they were supposed to be back from TX to get that phone call. God works in mysterious ways. Everything happens for a reason.
Early the following week, Mom and Dad drove up to the farm to meet with Bud, and to look at the farm yet again. I remember calling my parents when they were on their way home as I couldn’t wait to hear about how the day went (and of course to find out what they were thinking). Mom completely caught me off guard when she said, “I think we’re going to go for it! I think it’s just meant to be.” I don’t know why this was so shocking to me, but I think it was because I knew how much they loved their current house, location and most importantly, their neighbors. Not to mention that they would be going from a house in the suburbs to a 33-acre farm with many outbuildings, many things to maintain, and many updating projects too. But secretly, I was jumping up and down inside. I have always been a country girl at heart, dreaming of country living, and all I could think about was Christmas’ at the farm. My kids are going to love it!
Over the next few months, Mom and Dad went up to visit with Bud and his family several more times. My dad looked like a little kid in a candy shop every time he went to the farm. My mom fell in love with the old granary (see photo above) on the farm. The granary is still very solid, it has all of the old grain shoots in working order, old grain sacks still hang from the old log rafters, old license plates are tacked onto the walls, and yes, we found even more names and dates etched into the wooden walls. Mom loves the old door that opens on the front of the granary on the second level. She’s not quite sure what she wants to do with the upstairs yet, but she knows it’s going to be a special place for her to go and relax and maybe do something creative (Mom would find out later that her great-great-grandmother did all of her weaving on the old loom upstairs in the granary). Along with getting to know the farm better, Mom and Dad also got to know Bud and his family better.
Bud’s father, George, bought the farm from August and Christine Falk (my great-great-grandparents) on December 7, 1944. Quick note here: I marvel at how the Medins and the Wests (Lars and Katarina bought on December 5, 1884), my great-great-great grandparents, moved to the farm in the middle of our Minnesota winters, and I wonder if there was some reason for this. I can’t imagine moving, especially back then, in the cold and snow. Maybe they needed time to prepare for the up and coming growing season. Whatever it was, I respect the determination and strength it must have taken to move in such conditions. Anyway, back to the story. Bud and Elvera were the second generation to live on the farm and they went on to raise their three children on the farm too. The original West-Falk farmhouse was torn down in 1957, and Bud’s family built a new house in 1958. This is the house that remains on the farm today. My family could tell that Bud’s family really loved the farm and that it meant a lot to them. So much time spent at the farm, so much work put into the farm, so many memories made on the farm, and so many stories to tell. I know my parents have enjoyed hearing some of Bud’s stories and I hope I get a chance to enjoy them just the same.
Another comment my mom made about Bud really stuck with me. One day after visiting with Bud she said “Bud really reminds me of my grandpa Falk.” When I asked her “How so?” she replied: “He’s honest, pleasant, has a great memory, he is always sharp, and he has that ‘we’ll take care of that’ attitude.” Mom has commented several times on how much she enjoys sitting and talking with Bud. I know that her grandpa Falk was her favorite person to be around, so that says a lot about Bud. Is it a coincidence that Bud reminds Mom so much of her grandpa Falk, and that Bud and great-grandpa Falk lived on the exact same farm? The same farm my parents are now buying. Everything happens for a reason.
The Auction and Closing
On June 28, 2014 Bud and his family auctioned off almost everything at the farm. I was so excited to go up to the auction with my parents and my family. What I didn’t expect was the sadness that I also felt when I arrived at the auction. Why didn’t I think of it before? I’m not sure, but it sure hit me when I arrived and began seeing all of Bud’s family’s things being sold off to all the people who attended the auction. I remember looking around and not seeing Bud. I thought “I don’t know if I could watch all of my things go either.” Not long after I spotted Bud sitting in his old chair right up by the old, brown farmhouse. My mom went and talked to him right away and I heard him exclaim, “I sure am happy that the farm is going to you people. This is how it should be. The people in your family were the first ones here, so you should have it.” I know my mom had told me that Bud had said similar things in the past few months, so I sincerely hope that he felt some peace about selling his farm. He had, after all, lived on that farm for 70 years. Pretty incredible if you ask me.
The auction day couldn’t have gone any better. It was 80 degrees and sunny with a light breeze, the auctioneers were friendly and moved along at a good pace, everyone who attended the auction seemed to be in good spirits, and everything just felt comfortable. My dad ended up buying my daughter some antique glass chicken waterers for the chickens my family bought the following spring, he bought my son an old road grater Tonka toy that used to be one of Bud’s son’s, and Dad bought other fun antiques to display in the barn and granary. My favorite purchase of Dad’s was the old John Deere ride-on tractor toy he bought for his young grandchildren to use at the farm.
The hardest part of the day (and I think my mom would agree) was when Bud’s son backed in a trailer full of Bud’s furniture, that had once filled the little brown farmhouse, into the pole barn. Bud was watching this as he slowly made his way down to watch everything get packed up. Mom and I just looked at each other with tears in our eyes. Bud’s daughter said it best when she said that it was a “bittersweet day”. We left the auction with the excitement of living life on the farm, but also with a little bit of sadness for Bud’s family and the part of their lives that was coming to a close.
Two days later, on June 30, 2014, my parents met with Bud and his family to close on the farm. Everything went through without a hitch. After closing, Bud was his pleasant, sharp self and exclaimed “This has been fun!”. What a nice way to pass on the family farm to a new family. Even though the sale was final, I had a feeling that a new friendship was just starting between Bud’s family and our’s.
Mom and Dad picked out a new name for the farm. The name is Westfalcon Farm. The name West was chosen in honor of the West families in our family, and Falcon in honor of the Falk families. Falk stands for falcon in Swedish (Benjamin Olafson Falk b. 1805 was an honored military servant who was given the name Falk in Sweden). And so my parents have moved back to their roots and are beginning the next generation at Westfalcon Farm. I can’t wait to continue this story about living life on the farm at Westfalcon. Everything happens for a reason.