this old house

Out in central Minnesota between the towns of New London and Glenwood, there is a string of natural prairie remnants — grassland that was so rocky or steep that it was never put into agricultural production.  This land is a series of hilltops, valleys, and wetlands, where cattle roam and graze and rest in the shade of deciduous forest remnants, and farm fields are restricted to the places that were more level and the soil was deeper.  The settlers who originally claimed this land certainly lived in a diverse topography with a rich mix of prairie and forest.

A two-story farmhouse tucked into a forest of buckeye trees may soon be reclaimed by that forest, as trees sprout in the doorway and limbs crush the rotting roof.

A two-story farmhouse tucked into a little forest of buckeye trees may soon be reclaimed by that forest, as trees sprout in the doorway and limbs crush the rotting roof.

Who were these people?  What did they see everyday when they looked out those windows onto the pond surrounded by oak forest?

The pond was just 100 yards from their front door.  They probably got up and caught fish for breakfast.

The pond was just 100 yards from their front door.

Out the back door of the house, you walk up a fairly steep hill to the top of an esker covered here with a birch forest.

Looking down on the house from the esker.

Well, actually there isn’t a back door, but this is the view from the trail that leads up the hill to the top of the esker.

The birch forest at the top of the esker covers its north side, where it is cooler and wetter.

The birch forest at the top of the esker covers its north side, where it is cooler and wetter.

Trudging down through the birch forest (warblers singing at us along the way), we come to a creek and wetland where beavers have built an immense lodge in the past.

Trudging down through the birch forest (warblers singing at us along the way), we come to a creek and wetland where beavers have built an immense lodge in the past.

Making our way through muck and mud of the wetland we climb another side of the esker to take a look out at the whole landscape.

Turning in a 360 degree circle, only one house can be seen on the horizon.  How many places can you experience that?

Turning in a 360 degree circle, the only evidence of civilization is one house on the horizon. How many places can you go to experience that?  (My husband is pointing out the house.)

The grass almost looks like it has been mowed here, thanks to the cattle.  Much of the bottom of the valley is permeated by the creek and wetland.

The grass almost looks like it has been mowed here, thanks to the cattle. Much of the bottom of the valley is permeated by the creek and wetland.  It really is a diverse habitat, largely unaffected by agriculture.

What is this esker, you ask?  Well, I didn’t know either, until it was explained to me.

Eskers are formed as rivers running through mile thick glaciers drop their load of silt and sand in a narrow channel.  When the glacier melts on either side of that glacial river, it leaves the mound of silty, sandy dirt behind it -- a ridge that rises above the rest of the land.

Eskers are formed as rivers running underneath mile thick glaciers drop their load of silt and sand in a narrow channel. When the glacier melts over the top of that glacial river, it leaves the mound of silty, sandy dirt behind it — a ridge that rises above the rest of the land.

16 thoughts on “this old house

  1. Very interesting post. Geology is fascinating stuff. And I love your posts. On my two trips out west, I just fell in love with the wide open expanse of land and the big, big blue sky. Each of our homes are so beautiful, but in such different ways. Gotta love it.

  2. I loved this post, Sue. I love all your bird posts, too, and read every one that arrives in my Inbox, oohing and aahing over your beautiful photos, but this one really sparked my curiosity today. I always find myself wondering about old houses like this, and what stories they could tell us. (A deserted cabin on a N.C. mountainside is what prompted me to write Wake-Robin Ridge.) This one is very interesting…such an imposing looking structure, compared to a little cabin, and yet everyone is long gone, and it is falling apart. It must have been a wonderful place to raise a family, in its time, with such glorious views and beautiful woods nearby. And even though I know the word “esker” from my crossword puzzles (and that it means “ridge”), I had no idea of what one really was. Great lesson!

    • Thanks, Marcia. This was a fun trip, and it was really intrigued by not only how the house looked but where it sat on the edge of forest and lake. I wish I could have posted more of the photos I took of it–maybe in a different post.

  3. Pingback: Going to seed | Back Yard Biology

  4. Pingback: this old house — revisited | Back Yard Biology

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