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. 

The Universe - or is it Fate - is fickle.

If someone had told me yesterday that an asteroid would collide with Earth, that we'd have a flood of Biblical proportions, or that a so...