Thursday, July 22, 2021

Waking up in a parallel universe

Do you ever have the feeling you went to bed in the normal world and woke in a strange parallel universe? The world is almost the same as the one you left, almost what you expect it to be, but not quite right? 

That's me this morning. I got a hint yesterday of something being wrong, but didn't get it. I was putting my tools in the car to go to "Project Cottage" and saw the police in the neighbor's yard. They all looked very serious, and I assumed there had been a burglary or something. The officers left before I was done, so I moseyed over to ask if everything was alright, and offer my help in case it wasn't. My neighbor said "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about it, but I am fine" - and I should have listened to the emphasis on I.

I woke up to the news that the neighbor in the next house is dead. He was a great guy, one of the first to welcome me to the village and always kind and helpful. He would get my mail delivered to him by accident and come over with it - he sometimes even got text messages from UPS that were for me - he always had a kind word, a smile, and a wave as he drove by the house. Sometimes in winter, I'd come home and he had shoveled my driveway!

My brain keeps presenting useless objections like, "But he was so young," "I just saw him," and "But he has a family, small children" and "But his van is there."

Of course, these objections - while true - have no impact on today's reality. He is gone, and the world is a darker place without him. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

2021 is a strange year

I promised everyone I wouldn't disappear again and that I would at least keep blogging, and then life happened. And being 2021, it has posed challenges.

One of my cats, dear sweet Adam, got a problem with an eye. I took him to the vet, thinking he would need some eye drops or something, and they said they had to take the eye out. I wasn't too worried about it - he was blind anyway and wouldn't miss it - but one thing lead to another and a week later he was gone.

That was rough, and sad, and still makes me cry. 

To make a difficult time even more challenging, the insurance company refused to pay, because he was blind. I argued it had no impact on getting an eye infection and all the other things that happened, but they didn't believe me, and I borrowed thousands of dollars to pay for all this. A friend in the USA ended up paying for his surgeries. I can't put words to how much it means to have such good people in my life!

Just as I was recovering from this - emotionally and financially - there was an extra $180 charge on my Wells Fargo debit card. They canceled the card, which was the right thing to do, but that also started a whole chain of fiscally difficult events. Because now I didn't have a card and checks aren't a valid form of payment in Sweden. Everything that was automatically charged to the card got a hickup - and I didn't have another way to pay bills in the USA. I for instance still have my car in storage in Bradenton.

Ever since Covid started, the mail service between us and the USA has been iffy, and it took over a month for the new card to get to me. While waiting for it, I made a tactical error. I decided to use PayPal to swiftly transfer funds to my Swedish bank account, so I could pay everyone. 

Guess what happened?

The money disappeared. 

I'm guessing something went wrong with the account number and someone else got my $1,700. PayPal refuses to tell me the entire account number to which the funds were transferred - it has been two months of excuses to why they can't/won't do that - and they love referring me to the bank's customer service. The bank's customer service say they can't do anything to investigate and that I have to talk to PayPal.

I reported PayPal to the Swedish Finance Inspection and they forwarded me to an inspection in Luxembourg where PayPal Sweden's head office is. From there I got a complaint address to PayPal in Luxembourg and they have until July 31st to respond. I doubt they'll get back to me and I will have to move forward with the complaint. Ugh!

Of course, losing all that money made me fall behind on my bills, and saying "I can't pay you right now because PayPal lost my paycheck" sounds like a really lame excuse. 

All these financial problems obviously didn't fill the void from losing Adam. I adopted another cat. His name is Love - it's an actual name in Swedish, pronounced like Louvah - and he is the cutest. Though, my brain had a glitch. I read on his sign that he was only eight months old and since I work with animals I should know an eight-month-old cat is still a kitten. Nope, didn't think of that.

I have brought an eight-month-old terrorist with teeth and claws into the house. He has the face of an angel and thinks biting the dogs is the most fun thing ever. He is also deaf, which complicates explaining what isn't acceptable.

He kind of gets along with the dogs anyway, just because they are so patient. I've tried to do a slow introduction between him and Koda, and while they weren't immediately loving each other, I thought it would work. 

And then, he put his teeth into Koda's tail. 

At first I didn't think it was all that bad, but once we got to the vet and Koda had his behind shaved and was all stitched up, it looked like Love almost bit his tail off. It was really bad.

So now Koda is in his room with a cone on his head, eating antibiotics and painkillers, and I have no idea how these two are ever to be friends. And there are few more hundred dollars in vet bills, while the PayPal funds are still missing...

And these are just the big obstacles. It has been a challenging spring and summer. Hopefully, things will be easier from here...


Friday, April 23, 2021

Signed the contract!

This week has been a rollercoaster. In the "good" column we have things like the excavator coming to help at "Project Cottage" and in the "less good" column, things like me falling through the floor in the same cottage. Haha!

On Friday last week, I discovered my cat Adam had a problem with an eye. It was too late in the evening to call the vet - all the clinics in my area had already closed - so I tried calling on Saturday morning. Got an answering machine that wanted to forward me to another number where the call would cost $20. That didn't actually matter, because I didn't manage to find a person to speak with there either. All weekend.

When I finally got through early this week, I got the first available appointment - on Wednesday. When we came in on Wednesday everyone predictably asked why I waited so long. Ugh!

The veterinarian wanted to take Adam's eye out. The surgeon wanted to euthanize him, because "he is so old and underweight." No. I realize there will be a day in the future when it's time to say goodbye, but that time isn't right now. And now my trust in this surgeon is dented; he's great at his job, but... No.

They did the surgery and I had an excruciating wait until the next day to hear how it went. Luckily, Adam pulled through like a champ. On my way down to the vet to pick him up, I found out that the insurance company refuse to pay. Apparently, they don't pay for eye infections on blind cats. Hmm. That sent me into a bout of panic, because the bill was for over $2,500, and I don't have that just sitting around. Do normal people have that much money in their checking accounts? I ended up having to apply for a credit with a third party company to be able to bust him out of there.

Poor little dude. He has issues with the cone since he's blind, and everyday tasks like eating and using the litter box are near impossible if I'm not there to help him. It will be a long two weeks until they can take the stitches out and the cone off. But, he's home and alive.

Swinging back to the "good" column, I signed the contract for Project Cottage II! I'm super excited.

Overall, this week has been exhausting. So, TGIF! Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A big machine, just for me

Today was the day: a gigantic machine in the yard of Project Cottage. I intended to be there to take some photos, but I had to take my kitty to the vet, so the guys driving snapped some shots for me instead. Gräv och Allservice i Virserum did a fabulous job, and I'm certain that if I kept going by myself it would have taken until 2023. 

Not long ago, the place looked like this. 


I took down shrubs and started digging. After lots of hard work - and realizing what poor shape I'm in haha - there were stairs!


It was at this point I started to realize just how long it would take me to go all the way around the house. Each of these piles of soil contains a lot more than at least I could guess.

Enter the big machine!



Now the area is flat and even, and I can start repairing/replacing the siding. The only thing that didn't work out according to plan is the plant that was on the side of the house; emotionally I would have liked to keep it, but intellectually the guy with the machine did the right thing. 





This took the project a gigantic leap forward. And the interesting thing is, I thought I had dug out the staircase, but he found one more step, and two stepping stones. So with all that work I still hadn't reached the old ground level. I wonder so much what the place looked like back in the day.

To be continued!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The value of good shoes

A couple of years ago I fell and broke my hand, and that taught me to invest in good shoes. Purchasing Dr Marten's work boots still seemed an extravagant luxury, because really, who pays hundreds of dollars for a pair of boots? I got them anyway.

Today when I headed over to my renovation project, I thought, "It's getting too warm to wear all this. I guess thick jeans are okay, but should I take sneakers instead of the Doc's? Nah, if I don't wear them I'll step on a nail or something." 

I've been working on the living room floor. It's completely rotten and must be replaced, but it's difficult, because it isn't good enough to stand on. So today I wanted to make myself a "bridge" to help distribute my weight.  

I was going to call it a day, but wanted to get over to the side to see how bad it really is. I treaded carefully while mumbling, "It's a shame this floor isn't in better shape, it must have been really pretty at one point in time. I hope nothing lives under here. The boards are like paper now, just a matter of time before someone falls through... GAAAH!"

Aaaand, suddenly the rest of the floor was at knee height. Trying to climb up only resulted in stepping through it again. And again. (All this was accompanied by extensive cursing.)

Only when I was back in the relative safety of the hall did I realize how lucky I am. If I hadn't worn the thick jeans, my legs would have been torn up and bleeding. If I hadn't worn the Doc's, I might not be able to walk right now. As it is, the only owie from the ordeal is a swollen finger that I bumped when I fell. 

At least this proves that my line of thinking is correct - the house needs a new floor, lol!



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A day filled with fun coincidences

This is so cool. I was over at "Project Cottage" and a car stopped. Out came a man who said, "It's so nice to see who's here now. My dad bought this in 1908." I think he said it was used to be called John's cottage, but I'm not great with names, so I might remember that wrong.

And to make it even cooler, he used to have school lunches in my house as a child in the 1940s! 

I've guessed that my small upstairs room (I think of it as Adam's room) has been a kitchen, and that's correct. The kids ate in both the other rooms up there, so my bedroom and Koda's room were both used for school lunches for the children.

We walked around the cottage and chatted, and he said, "You need help by an excavator." It was so great to be able to say, "It will be here on Wednesday" - and he looked super surprised and happy. He asked several times, "You're really getting an excavator over here? On Wednesday?"

Of course, it's due to the help of kind people in the village, but he still seemed to think it's just as awesome as I do. Loved this guy!

Apparently, he drives past there about once a week, so that's an extra incentive for me to accomplish things. I want to show the place as beautiful as it looks in my mind. :-) 

The whole area is so beautiful. Just look at this tree and the spring flowers!



With a little help from my friends...

I can be a bit of a recluse - extroverted when I'm among people, but also really good at staying at home and not talking to anyone. So it has surprised me this past week how many people care about me and are there to help me when I need them. 

Like magic, my "handyman" - whom I usually call in a panic when something has broken and my house is flooding lol - was at the cottage, measuring the broken windows. I pretend to know how to do things, but he actually knows, and it's infinitely reassuring to hear a person like that say "We'll fix this." 

And last night, a local company asked if I needed help. So next week an excavator will be at the cottage, at a very reasonable price. Honestly, I didn't think I'd be able to afford transporting one over there, but they want to help and encourage the project, so I think they made sure to price it within my reach. 

I am so very grateful. I've been digging and digging, and doing this by hand would take months. And, just like they said, the mere presence of large machines may discourage more mischief. It will be obvious that someone's there and cares about the place.

Complete strangers have contacted me and offered to drive and walk by and help keep an eye on it. One guy said, "I'm something of a night owl, so I thought I can just as well go by there when I'm out and about at night." How awesome is that!

I am humbled and deeply grateful to everyone.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A positive side effect

I whined about someone shooting the cottage windows the other day - and when I say "I whined" I mean big time. In the village's Facebook group, to the police, and even to the press. It seems reasonable to go wide on this one - a person shooting random things like houses must be nipped in the bud before someone gets hurt or killed.

I didn't expect anything positive to come out of all this, but I have been surprised. So many people in the community have reached out, offering everything from kind words to help with finding materials for the repairs. Many are complete strangers, and the outpour of support truly warms my heart.

Talking to some new people helped me learn more about the place too. This one guy I've only waved to from the car before - they have a really beautiful Rottweiler - said he has lived here for 20 years and never knew the cottage had stairs until I started digging. 

One of my neighbors - I've never actually talked to her before, just waved when she rides her bike past my house - knew the last time someone lived in the cottage. Apparently, it was empty for a few years and an older man rented it the winter of 1986. She said he wanted to live in a place without electricity or other modern conveniences.

That made me go "wow" - I'm odd, but not odd enough to choose to live in an old cabin this far north in winter without power or water. It would be brutal! And a more personal "hmm" - I'm pretty sure the owners told me no one has used it since the 1970s. Did they forget about him, or did he just decide to use it for a few months? It doesn't matter at this point in time, just curious.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

For f***s sake...

I think I've said this before, but renovating and rescuing an old cottage would be a lot easier if people would stop destroying it on purpose. I went to Project Cottage yesterday, driven by a nagging feeling that something was wrong, and someone has shot every single windowpane. All of them.

Right now I am angry, frustrated, sad, furious... It hit me really hard, because it brought me back to when I lived in Bradenton and the gang shot my house. I slept with a 9 mm Walther next to my pillow for a year, until I was able to leave and come here. I chose this village because it's tiny and should be fairly peaceful. 

How wrong one can be!

I loved this window in particular, because it had six panes of beautiful hand-blown 19th century glass. Replacing it with the same quality would cost $392 per pane. So $2,352 to get new glass for the whole window. 

I'm guessing the culprit is a young man, probably a teenager, and they probably think it's super cool when the weapon goes bang and the glass crackles. It probably makes them feel strong and awesome. But you know what? Right now, it's a matter of material damage. Expensive material damage since they've destroyed a total of 21 window panes, but still material. What if someone had been in there? How super cool would it be to face charges for a murder attempt?

This is the second time someone has shot this poor cottage since December. I've ordered a security camera with a 4G SIM card and signs saying, "STOP SHOOTING THE HOUSE! I'VE PUT UP CAMERAS!" I've also whined on Facebook, hoping someone who knows the culprit will see, and a local newspaper saw my post and picked up the story. 

I'm filing a police report too, but I'm holding off with sending it in until I've gotten in touch with the property owners.


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Project Cottage II is back on! Woohoo!

I did a lot of thinking during the Easter holiday, visited properties for sale, and even made a budget spreadsheet to figure out how far I would find it reasonable to go to purchase the 18th century cottage. Aaaaand, when the seller's representative got back to me after the holiday, we were able to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. Woohoo!

(If you haven't followed my blog, you're probably wondering why I have a Project Cottage and a Project Cottage II. I don't own the first one, I just have an agreement with the owner, because seeing something beautiful a mere two miles from my house slowly die bugged me.)

Anyway, they're drawing up the contract and I'm keeping my fingers and toes crossed for working it out financially. I don't have a "great" credit rating, but it's "good" so hopefully that will be enough to borrow what's needed.

I went out there before work today with the dogs to try to fix the door that has fallen off, and almost got lost in the woods. I was completely certain that we were right behind the house, but also completely certain I'd never seen a forest looking like that before, so I was about to pull out the phone and check the map when I spotted the roof through the trees. We weren't far off, but a few hundred meters north of where I thought we would be. That has never happened to me before, guess there's a first time for everything.

Though, I've always had a funky feeling in the woods over there, and they're littered with Iron Age grave sites and similar. So who knows, maybe something is messing with my internal compass. 

Anyway, the first attempt at fixing the door failed spectacularly. It weighs a ton. It's way too heavy for me to lift and hold. 

I managed to slide it up and wedge it in the opening so the house isn't completely open to weather and nature - I half expect to meet a deer in there - but it definitely didn't work out like in my imagination.


I have to rethink this strategy, and I'm pondering several options. I can try to build something up that I can slide/push the door onto, so it sits at the right height and I can attach it to the frame. 

Or, get another door, but I like this one because it's really old. It's probably a bit newer than the oldest portions of the house, but still old. I have a spare door down in my shed. If it fits I'll take it as a sign.

Or, I could build another door. I don't know why I think that's a great idea when I have not just one but two doors and one of them is supposed to be there, but my imagination is still in overdrive.

Or, once the house becomes mine I could board the opening up until I get to renovating this side and put in a French Door with windows. That would be SO wrong for the period, but it would probably also look gorgeous.

Looking at this photo feels like a good time to point out that we don't have termites in Sweden. Otherwise I would be concerned about them. The siding looks ratty, but there's a solid log structure behind it. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to just replace the siding or save as much of it as possible.

I'm excited! 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Project Cottage - First Easter

Project cottage has been empty and alone since the 1970s, but not anymore. I put some flowers on the stairs today, to symbolize a new beginning - and to show people that it isn't abandoned. Someone cares. There's no guarantee they'll still be there when I come back tomorrow, but I hope people will leave them alone. 

Before I started digging - you can't even tell there are stairs!


And, today. It isn't done, not by far, but I like to see that things are getting better. 

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

There are some major differences between life in the USA and life in Sweden, and this is rarely as apparent as when talking about holidays.

In Sweden, Easter gets going on Thursday, but not in a way most Americans would guess. Traditionally, children dress up as Easter witches and go door to door to hand out hand-made Easter cards and ask for candy. Adult witches hop on their brooms and fly to Blåkulla (it's a real place) for a great party. The cat and coffee pot are mandatory accessories.


In times past, the people who weren't into flying on brooms would make bonfires and as much noise as possible, to discourage the witches from landing along the way.

I don't have a broom, and my cat probably thinks this is a good thing. There's a good chance I'd fly like this.


Not much happens on Good Friday - almost everything will be closed - but on Saturday morning, it's time for Easter eggs. Though, our eggs are much cooler than American Easter egg hunts; ours are large and made from paper or plastic, and filled with candy. 

Sunday and Monday are holidays, and on Tuesday people get back to work, but it's a short week...

Anyway, whatever you celebrate this spring, I hope you have a wonderful time!

Friday, April 2, 2021

I'm happy I'm not a realtor

Now when the idea of purchasing something has taken root in my mind and Cottage II probably won't work out, I jumped online to see what else is out there. I found a cottage that looked okay on the photos on a really nice lot in the countryside. At a suspiciously low price...

According to the realtor, it's something "for the handy" that can be a gem in the right hands. I'm not as handy as I like to think I am, but I'm usually handy enough.

Only one thing to do: I jumped into the car and headed out. 


Nope, I'm not that handy. 😳

I am a perpetual optimist, but I don't think the poor thing is salvageable. I've never said that before, so it should give a hint to how bad it really was.

My heart is breaking for it - this used to be someone's home - but I didn't want to go in. I walked around it and peeked through the windows, and the smell of mold was so strong even on the outside that it made my eyes water. I doubt there's one board on the whole house that isn't soft and spongy.

If I'd been looking for a lot to build something on this would have been a great deal - beautiful trees and bushes, a well, and a root cellar - but my thing is more about saving an old house. And this one is beyond my abilities. I suspect it's beyond anyone's abilities. 

Back to the drawing board...

Thursday, April 1, 2021

I thought it was an April Fool's joke...

Thus far, Project Cottage II is not going well. I got the quote from the forest company today and thought it must be an April Fool's joke. It wasn't - he was serious.

We agreed yesterday that the house basically lacks value as it sits right now. So that leaves creating and purchasing a lot. I looked at land prices for single-family buildings to get a baseline, and in the county where the property is located, they're at 58 SKr per square meter (approximately $6.65).  The county just south of it is at 50 SKr per square mater (approximately $5.73). 

The quote from the forest company was for 78 SKr per square meter ($8.95) with me paying for the land survey and associated fees, which would add some 40,000 SKr ($4,580) to the final sum - and is included in the other prices. Also, the county's prices I'm comparing to is for land in villages with access to public utilities.

So, in my world a lot of 1900 square meters in the middle of nowhere with no chance of connecting it to public utilities and no ways to really use it shouldn't cost more than maybe 95,000 SKr total. Tops. My gut feeling says it should be even less. 

The quote ended up on 150,000 SKr + approximately 40,000, so 190,000 SKr. 

A difference of 95,000 SKR ($10890) is too much and even though I want to save the cottage, it doesn't feel right. Sadly, the difference is so big I doubt we'll be able to find a middle ground. It's a shame.

I'm waiting to see if he'll get back to me after Easter, but at this point, I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

One step closer to Project Cottage II

Remember the 18th century cottage I've been babbling about? I met with the representative from the forest company that owns it today, and just like I suspected, they're moderately interested in owning it and caring for it. They work with the forests - as far as I know they do that very well - and this building just happened to be on a piece of land they bought.

They want to sell it and I want to buy it. So far so good!


Of course, it sits on their land, and purchasing it will involve a land survey by Lantmäteriet - the only organization allowed to do things like that in Sweden. They usually have a loooooooong line of cases to work through and they're really good at charging for their services, so that will be a hoop to jump through.

But, one step at a time. We discussed what portions should reasonably go with the cottage - I don't want the responsibility of owning forest, but I do want the well and parts of the old homestead - and he will do the math on it to set a price. With Easter we're heading for a long holiday here in Sweden, most organizations will close around noon tomorrow and not open again until Tuesday, and I will probably sit staring at my e-mail, pressing the "refresh" button until I hear back from him. That's normal, right? lol!

To be continued. :-) 


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Project Cottage - Baby steps...

I read an article a few years ago about how different persons' inner clocks move at different speeds. That struck a chord with me, because I think I move, speak, read, type, drive, and so on at a perfectly normal pace. Growing up, my mom always said I seemed to be in a hurry, and to this day people complain about me speaking too quickly. 

Most of the time, this isn't a problem. I like being "fast" because this is the way I am and the way I've always been. I don't know anything else. 

When it comes to "Project Cottage" a part of me feels it should be done by now. I have to remind myself to slow down and have reasonable expectations. The sensible braincell points out that I don't actually know how to do many of the things needed, and building takes time even for people with carpentry skills.

My eager braincells claim it should be done in May, no later than June. The one sensible brain cell says the project might take a couple of years and needless to say, the eager ones don't like that. They've already mentally finished fixing it, furnished it, and are quite annoyed it isn't ready for use. According to them, it should be possible to sit there and write by now.

Sensible also said, "We should do one thing at a time. Let's finish everything around the house, so it's easy to get to, replace the siding where needed, and..."

The others interjected, "BORING!" 

Today, they got their way. There's so much dust, spores, stuff going on inside the cottage that I bought a builder's mask and even Sensible had to agree it would be fun/interesting to try it out.

It makes me feel skilled and powerful. Cool, like Darth Vader, but a force for good...


I wanted to start with the floor in the hall, because I need a reliable floor to safely get in and out. There was so much old leaves and debris on it that I haven't really seen it until now - it has just felt spongy under my feet. With the mask snug on my face, grabbing the broom and clearing it off was easy, despite creating a gigantic dust cloud.

I think these are linoleum tiles. Those have been around for a long time, but they're definitely not the same age as the house. Many of them came loose as I was sweeping and they turned out to be glued to pressboard that had started to mold. Eww! (Not sure when pressboard was invented? 1930s?)


Getting all this out was easier than I expected. You can see a glimpse of the kitchen through the open door - Sensible is probably correct in assuming I'll need a couple of years to finish this project.


Once all the linoleum and pressboard came out, I was delighted to find some of the old wood floor in better shape than I expected. I thought I'd have to redo the whole thing, but I think I'll only have to replace the boards closest to the front door. And, I think I may have boards in the garage that will work.

If you're looking at this photo, thinking the front door seems to need more TLC, you're correct. Someone has kicked it in at some point in the past and I've managed to fix it enough to open and close, but I'll need help repairing it. (It's flippin' heavy!) I just want to do some stuff inside the house before calling the handyman. 


The door kind of closes now. It's not perfect, but it's so much better than the first time I saw it - back then I didn't think the house had a door. And I just realized, this photo spotlights why I need to keep digging. 


My greatest supporters. They are so patient - and great company.


See the pile to the right? I've taken down a lot of shrubs. When the cottage and I first met there were so many shrubs it was difficult to even walk up to it. There's obviously more to be done on this front, but it's getting better every day. :-) 









Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Possible Project Cottage II - I have learned more

I got a response from a lovely woman at the local community association. She told me the cottage is an old soldier's croft, built in 1772. There is a newer addition to the back, I'd guess 19th century. The cottage was inhabited until the last family member passed away in the 1940s. 

There was originally a barn too, but it was moved to a local folk museum in 1947. I plan to go see it this spring/summer. 

The amazing thing is, they've tracked down all the people who lived there, back to the original builder who was born in 1745! And they have details, like one person born here moved to the USA. One became a seamstress and another became a forest worker. 

According to their records, the house has been unused since 1953. People have obviously been there since, but no one has officially lived there for almost 70 years.

And, it gets better: she found a couple of old photos!



The place was so nice and the original house can still be salvaged. Yes, there's a lot of work to be done, but it's possible. My "renovate and restore" itch was already triggered. Now it's revving the engine. 

Fingers, toes, and paws crossed for a good meeting with the forest company next week. With any luck they aren't interested in things like this and will be happy to give a good price to someone willing to put in the work. 

Possible Project Cottage II

This past weekend, the dogs and I went for a road trip and ended up by an old cottage where the the map claimed there would be interesting things to see. There was; I found some really cool super-old rock walls and piles of rocks that are allegedly Iron Age graves. 

Yearning to learn more, I found this interesting anecdote in an archive, but I don't know what year this would have happened. (Translation below) 

When Herråkra Church was to be built, the people attempted to find the perfect spot through letting twin oxen out in the village of Råsa. They intended for the church to be in Råsa, since this was in the center of the parish, and assumed the oxen wouldn't go very far.

However, they walked into a neighboring parish and eventually stopped in a meadow. This was where the church would have to be built. According to local lore, trolls came by every night to tear down what was built during the days, but the "trolls" were probably just jealous people from another part of the parish.

As the construction failed, the twin oxen were called upon once again, and were once again released in Råsa. They headed in the same direction as last time, but didn't go as far. This time they stopped just on the border to the other parish. This wasn't a good spot for a church, but they built it anyway. 

The outer rock wall from the first build still remains today, and nearby is a croft called Kyrkemo. 

I saw the wall intended to surround the first church, and it's really cool. Photos don't do it justice.


By now inquiring minds may wonder, what does this have to do with Possible Project Cottage II?

Well, the cottage named Kyrkemo is still there. It looked abandoned, so there was a 0% chance I wouldn't approach and at least walk around it. 





It looks like an average forgotten Swedish house - but someone has cared enough to make sure it has a functional roof, and boarded up a broken window. 

But, in the back, the door is just... very sad. I suspect someone has broken in and torn it off - seems stupid since there isn't a lock on the front door, but petty criminals may not think that far. 


This sign hangs above the front door and if it's accurate, the oldest parts of the cottage are from 1772. That's older than the USA! I contacted the organization who put it up to ask if they know more, have old photos, or something like that. Keeping paws crossed for a reply. 


I thought that if it were my cottage and I had bothered with giving it a new roof, I'd want to know if the door was missing. It isn't in an area where people would drive by just like that, so unless the owners made a point of going to it, they might not find out for years.

I went home and looked up the owner. Turns out this is a part of a gigantic forest lot, belonging to an organization that owns immense amounts of Swedish forests. My stubborn brain cell claimed they might still want to know about the door, so I e-mailed them.

Monday morning, customer service responded and said they'd forwarded my message in the organization. An hour or so later, a person wrote a kind message, saying they would check it out. This could have been the end of the story, but he reached out again yesterday, asking if I would be interesting in purchasing the cottage.

Brain cell Smarty said, "This is a HUGE amount of work, and we have other things to do. Count on two years before it's usable."

Brain cells Dumby and Worky teamed up. "A building from 1772 is worth preserving. It's a part of our cultural heritage and do you really think someone else will do it if we don't?"

I will meet him there next week for an evaluation of the cottage and to see what we can do. If the price is within reason and something I can manage, I will purchase it. The government has hoops to jump through - and fees around $6K - to split a lot of land, but this organization must be one of the largest land owners in the nation, so they may have a shortcut. Or, it might be possible to purchase the cottage and have a rental contract for the land. 

We'll see how all this turns out. No matter what happens, it's an interesting experience. And if it's meant to be, it could be mine! 


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Another year went by...

Yesterday was my birthday, and for the first time ever I wasn't sure how to feel about it. So many things happened during the past year, so many people I loved aren't here anymore, and the world changed - but probably not as much as it needs to do to ensure anyone's future.

That sounds pessimistic, but the bees are still dying out. Birds are starving to death because there aren't enough insects to sustain them. The Gulf Stream has slowed down by 20% and if if slows down too much or even stops, my part of the world will be inhabitable. To name just a few. These are problems that must be dealt with within my expected lifetime.

I would never have imagined any of this as a child. I thought we would have warp drive, sentient androids, and flying cars by the year 2,000. I used to count to figure out how old I'd be in the year 2,000, because I worried I'd be too old to enjoy it. Compared to that, reality is quite disappointing.

It isn't a local to "anywhere" kind of problem - we humans are the issue, and too many of us have learned nothing. As an animal advocate I recently got involved in a local debate about foxes. My village is tiny and surrounded by a forest, and people - who literally live adjacent to the forest - complain about wildlife. How is a fox supposed to know where the woods end and someone's garden starts? These arguments do nothing to sway the haters - the foxes have to go. Someone must shoot them. They must die.

A Swedish fox weighs around 11 pounds, so these are small animals. One woman's argument for killing the foxes is that they may sneak up on her children when they're playing in the yard and drag them into the woods. She believes an animal the size of a large house cat will be able to approach a group of children, grab one of them, and drag it into the forest. When some of the residents of the village suggested being afraid of something doesn't necessarily mean it's dangerous, she lost it. Because obviously, people arguing with her is quite hurtful and someone pointing out that she might not be correct is a danger to everyone's ability to voice an opinion. Hmm...

One of her supporters said, "We shouldn't have any foxes, because they might have worms and other parasites, and then they poop in the forest on berries humans pick and eat, and then we'll get worms and parasites too."

Alrightey then... We humans think so highly of ourselves that other animals can't exist even in the forest because they might poop there, and this is an inconvenience. That says all anyone needs to know of our species.

Anyway, birthday. Last year on my birthday was the last time someone visited my house. It was just on the verge of the Covid-19 outbreak in Sweden. A year... 

Without today's technology, that would be unbearable. But luckily we have social media, Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime. And at least for me, that made all the difference. I felt the outpour of love from friends on social media, and my colleagues in Lakeland threw me a virtual birthday party. They sang to me on Skype, and had even purchased a birthday cake. Both cute and funny!

Looking forward, what do you think of the upcoming year? Will we be back at something resembling the old normal in twelve months, or will we find something completely new? Will we have bested the virus with vaccines, or will it mutate enough to keep humanity on our toes? Will some new and unexpected disaster arise, or one of the ones already lurking? I don't know, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Project cottage: Progress report

We're about to get cooler weather, so I've spent as much time as possible at "Project Cottage" to get things done before the ground freezes again. (Frustrating, but it's technically still winter.) 

I've taken a bunch of tiny trees down - everything that can be cut with the lopper and doesn't require a saw - started raking up an inch or so of dead leaves, nearly completed the excavation of the stairs, and the door can now be closed. Progress!

I will soon be able to sit on the top step with a cup of coffee. 



And, I'm excited - I'm getting unexpected assistance. I think I mentioned the cottage is part of a huge forest lot? I'm guessing the land owners didn't really expect me to do anything, and apparently they were over here during the weekend and noticed things are happening. They're going to have someone come work on the forest and asked if I'd like the crew to take down all the shrubs here while they're at it.

Yes! Please!

I hate sawing down trees - it feels like murder. I'm not particularly good at it either, so it takes a long time. I've counted two weeks for it in my planning, but professionals who have the right tools will probably clear it all in an hour.



This will be super helpful. It's close to the top on my to-do list too - it will be a lot easier to work on the house when it's easier to reach, and it will send a clear signal that things are happening and the place is no longer abandoned. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Project cottage: Just keep digging...

I planned to have the steps to the cottage dug out by now, but yesterday muscles I didn't even know I had protested over my recent adventures, so I decided on a day of rest. Pretty sure the muscles yelled about "middle-aged chubby woman who spent all winter sitting down with a computer and a cat on her lap." 

I always feel in a hurry when I do things - I want to see results - but this will have to be a long-term project. At least that's what the smart brain cell keeps telling the others... 

Before - looks like a hill!


Not quite "after" - but getting there.


This is so exciting - I am eager to see the end result. With my pace and weather permitting, I hope to be done with the digging phase of the project (all around the cottage) mid March. But, this time a year that's truly depending on the weather. Paws crossed!


Friday, February 26, 2021

Project cottage: the excavation has started

We've had a few days with lovely weather, the snow has melted, and if it were up to me it wouldn't come back. For now, the great outdoors is green and welcoming again. The first spring flowers have even popped their adorable little heads out of the ground. 

Milder weather means the dogs and I have resumed work on "project cottage." I work and they watch, looking like: 

"She's sure doing that backwards." 

"Should we tell her?" 

"Nah, it's more entertaining this way." 

I've been trying to fix the door - some hooligan kicked it in and destroyed the hinges. When I first spotted the cottage I thought it didn't even have a door, because one half had collapsed. 

It's not perfect yet, but it is an improvement. And with some more time and work I think it will become a decent door again.


Inside the cottage, one of the ceiling tiles has fallen down. They're far from original - deeming from the material they were probably put up in the 1950s - but that's not the interesting part. It shows an old layer of newspaper in the ceiling that belongs to a more original ceiling covering. The newspaper is dated 1896 and has ads for the White Star Line that would eventually build the Titanic.


I would guess the cottage itself is even older, but I don't have any proof of that besides a hunch. Some details look much older. Of course, they may have been reused from another building.

Anyway, I've been looking forward to the snow disappearing and the ground thawing, because there's a good deal of digging to be done. 40 years of sediments has built up small mountains of soil, and all this must be removed - before I do anything else. I'm not particularly good at digging, but I'm hoping this soil will be fairly soft and easy to move. 

I wanted to start with digging around the front door, partly because it will be easier to get in and out without having to climb and crouch to get through the door, and partly because it's impossible to close the door.


Many of these older houses without a porch has a slab of rock or something in front of the door, and I was hoping to find something like that. Guess what? Reality is even better. 😍

I found stairs!


There's one more step that's currently below ground level - three total. All this has been hidden under 40 years of sediment build-up. I stood on the top step with a feeling of awe. I am the first person to use it for four decades, how cool is that!

I didn't have time to complete the excavation today - I had to go home and get ready for work - but that's probably a good thing or I'd have to roll out of bed tomorrow. (My muscles are already complaining, lol.) But, weather and Mother Nature willing, I'll be able to show a photo of the cottage with stairs soon! 

Exciting! 



Friday, February 19, 2021

Kårtäkt - yes, that is the name of a Swedish village

Someone asked why I'm so fascinated with old houses. I wasn't aware of it at the time, but it started in this cottage, back in the 1970s. It's very old, located in a tiny village named Kårtäkt.

When I was a little girl, the cottage was called "Hildurs Kammare" - Hildur was the woman who owned it, and "kammare" is short for "Slåtterkammare," which means a cottage that was used during harvest season. Her last name might have been Sundin, I think Hildur Sundin sounds right, but don't put any money on it.

There was a crumbling cellar behind it, and a barn where the cows and such used to have shelter during summers. I haven't been here for decades, but I bet both cottage and barn are still there. I don't know exactly how old they are, but a couple hundred years at least.

Anyway, Hildur was the lady who rented it to my parents. She was very old and super nice, and we went to see her once a year to pay the annual rent. Going there was exciting, but also a bit terrifying. She had a huge house she didn't live in and a one-room cottage in the same yard that she did live in. She also had a farmhand who used to drive around on an ancient moped. He was always drunk.

I was so small when I last saw her I don't remember many details. She eventually sold "our" cottage and surrounding fields to a nearby farmer. Visiting them to pay the rent wasn't anywhere near as exciting.

There was one room and a hall, and it was smack in the middle of nowhere. No water, the well had gone dry a long time before we got there, so we brought that from the city. No electricity. Mom would keep a fire going in the open fireplace and cook over the open flames. She was very good at it - and I learned to make fires when I was like 7. I can still see her crouch in front of it, stirring the fire to make it just right. All this was in an era long before cell phones and other types of entertainment, so if you wanted something to do, you'd better have brought a book. 

It was also in an age before digital cameras, so I don't have a lot of photos.


Down the road was a farm, and with a little luck they would have cows or horses out on pasture. There were two other children in the vicinity, both older than I. A boy who had a birth defect so he was in a wheelchair - those were big and clunky things in the 1970s - and a girl who had a horse. I can't remember her name, but the horse's name was Salván. (Typical me, remembering the name of the horse and not her...) He was a Norwegian Fjord Horse and sometimes when I was really lucky she brought him down to us so I could pet him.

Other friends included the neighbor's cat and a moose. My dad was terrified of moose, so he didn't approve of the company I kept. But seriously - there was nothing there except for the animals in the forest!

All this was okay as long as I was a child, but frustration and boredom grew with age, and as a teen I loathed being there. My mom and dad eventually got divorced (that was a relief, actually) and mom kept the cottage. She had it up to the mid 2000s - over 30 years! Around that time my aunt got cancer and it was the last straw for my mom. She didn't want to do anything after my aunt passed, and not even the cottage was any fun. I think the owner's daughter wanted it too and mom was probably happy that someone else would care for it. 

I pretty much grew up here - we were here all spring, summer, and fall every year. Apparently winters too since it's winter on the photo, but I don't remember that. And I guess this is why I have such a fascination with small, old, red off-grid houses. 

They represent innocence and the freedom of childhood. Nostalgia, peace, and a simple way of life that isn't possible today. And they must be protected.

A new fun project

There's a cottage about a mile from my house that I've passed so many times when exploring with the dogs. It has looked increasingly dilapidated, obviously empty, and one day when the dogs wanted to explore the path to it I just followed them. Okay, that isn't entirely true; I may have encouraged them. 😆 


A couple days later, curiosity got the better of me. I went back and snuck inside. At some point in time, someone must have kicked the door in.


This used to be a kitchen wood stove. The actual iron stove is tossed out in the back yard. Why anyone would bother with pulling it out and putting it outside is a mystery to me - it has to weigh a couple hundred pounds.


The rest of the kitchen is also ruined. These photos are from December, and since then someone has shot at the covering of this window. What is it with people and wanting to destroy things?



There are two rooms besides the kitchen. One is tiny and more of a storage area, and the larger one is in poor shape. I don't know what happened to the floor in here, but it can't have been good. I mean, the wood obviously rotted, but that doesn't explain the hole. 


Imagine how proud that stove must have looked once upon a time!


There are mysteries in the yard too. Like, what the heck is that?


Anyway, the place kept calling out to me. I posted about it on Facebook and one of my neighbors said no one has lived there for at least 40 years. At that time an older couple used it as a vacation home.

I looked it up on a property map and it's a part of a gigantic forest lot. The owners live in another city. Just before Christmas I gathered courage and reached out. The person I talked to confirmed that it has been empty for all that time, and said they keep trying to board it up, but people seem dead set on destroying it. 

I feel compelled to try to save it. This little house has been through a lot, and it's still standing. That says something - I'm not sure a modern house would look this whole after 40 years on its own. So the owners and I have come to an agreement. We're making a contract to show I have the right to be there - and that way I can call the police if the people who shot at it come back. I'm going to try to fix it up.

Carpentry is not on my list of skills, but this is a small and friendly building to practice on. I am good at painting and yard work, so that's two out of three... And it's okay if it takes time. I'm super excited to get going, and I am so happy the owners and I are thinking along the same lines.

Now, here's the comical part: I want to save this for the sake of saving it. To me, it is something worth doing. 

Maybe I will use it as a creative retreat - a place to go to write, read, or just sit in nature. Or maybe there's a future where a family from a city has this as a much needed escape to get into the countryside. Maybe children will play in the yard one day, and maybe I'll drive by and wave, delighted because I helped make it possible.

I joined a Facebook group about saving old houses and posted photos of this project. Within five minutes I had 26 comments telling me what a horrible idea this is, and people were still typing. It was all along the lines of, "Why would you do a thing like this when you don't own it? You can't make any money on that. And what if they sell it to someone else? Are the owners at least paying you? What do you mean you're doing it because you want to do it? How can you profit from a thing like this?"

On top of that a guy was mansplaining how I will need heavy machinery to dig out around the house and the yard, and lift the building to make sure it becomes straight. Okay then... 

I felt like I was talking to a bunch of Ferengi. I tried to explain, but that got old quickly, so I deleted my post and left the group. This isn't about making money; it's about saving something. Doing it can benefit both me and the community.

I don't have to own everything. There might be a point in the future where I ask the owners if they're interested in selling to me, but it's much more likely that I think this is a super fun project until the house is whole and pretty. I love the process of making things whole and pretty. Once that's done I usually need something new to work on.

We'll see. Right now I am excited, and the Ferengi among us will not steal my joy.

Now I just need the snow to go away. So I can get there with my car, and start taking the shrubs down, and, and, and... I'll keep you posted!

Waking up in a parallel universe

Do you ever have the feeling you went to bed in the normal world and woke in a strange parallel universe? The world is almost the same as th...