Where your great-great grandma & grandpa lived…

Slowly, slowly, the homestead crumbles

Years and years and even more years ago your grandparents or great-grandparents or great-great-great-great grandparents may have carved a homestead on the land.

Trees grow out of your grandpa's car

They tilled the earth with plows and horses.  They planted seed to feed their families.  They sweated, they laughed, they cursed, they survived.

Yellow garage door. The only splash of color in a gray, gray day.

Today their homesteads crumble into the earth.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  The old buildings are disappearing quickly.  Every day the sun and wind and snow and earth takes a little more of wood and brick. 

Do ghosts walk these deserted corridors on moonlit nights?

I woke early this morning with a Plan.  To photograph The House!  The old, old homestead along Skanee Road.  I’ve been waiting for about a year until the right moment happened.

The right moment meant:  perfect lighting, perfect timing, perfect camera.

I notice the chiffon-colored sky on the way into work.  It would be a perfect moment!  NOW was the time to photograph the old house! 

Who peered out this window years ago? Who gazed at the moon?

I drove up to the house with great excitement.


It was gone.

How could an old house simply have disappeared after a century?

But, sure enough, the house was gone.  (Later my friend, Jan, said they tore it down last fall.)

If you wait for the perfect moment, it may never come. 

Grab your imperfect moments, dear friends!  Sometimes they are all that we have.

Who woke up early to feed the horses at dawn?

The lives of the homesteaders–your grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles–must have been filled with imperfect moments.  Moments of squabble, of fear, of challenge.  Mixed in with moments of joy, laughter and contentment.

How much has really changed?

Who knows when it will be the last time they park the car?

The old homesteads are crumbling everywhere now.  Last summer I noticed that the old barns in Michigan are slowly disappearing.  How many years until the last one tumbles into the earth?

Let’s appreciate them while they remain.  Let us remember our grandmas and grandpas.  Let us honor the ones who tilled the land where we someday would build our fine houses.

Remember when they worked the fields? Remember when they milked the cows? So quickly it's gone...

Perhaps, as the January moonlight streams into your bedroom, your great-great grandmother will silently walk into your dreams and share stories of long-ago lives. 

Don’t be afraid.

Welcome her into your midnight world.  Get up and make tea for both of you.  Listen to what she shares.  Listen to her hardships, her delights.  Take them to your heart. 

Even though the buildings crumble away, hold fast to the spirit of your ancestors.  They still love you.  Even now.

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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49 Responses to Where your great-great grandma & grandpa lived…

  1. A nice capture of times long past. In the LP of MI, some of the old farms are being reclaimed by the Amish, which is nice. A nice collections of pictures, the kind you can just stare at for a while,caught in a day dream.

    • Kathy says:

      I believe some of the Mennonites have reclaimed some farms over near Pelkie, to the west of us. The crumbling of the old buildings has really made me nostalgic lately, Jane.

  2. Kathy you have no idea how much I enjoyed this post! But I am soooo sorry to hear that you didn’t get to take the photos you were wanting to take!!

    I make it a habit to listen to the spirits when they talk to me, although I sometimes wake up the next morning, having forgotten what it was they had to say. Then other mornings it is all so clear. It’s their presence I remember the most, and the love radiating from their souls.

    Such beautiful photos. Thank you. You chose the perfect moment to write this.

    • Kathy says:

      Joanne, I am really really glad you enjoyed this! I am glad that you talk to the spirits. Their presence probably sustains and energizes your life. Glad it was the perfect moment. (Maybe one of your spirits flew over this way and requested it?)

  3. Elisa's Spot says:

    I love to do and to see old house and farm images! It is amazing the stories people know, and more amazing the ones they do not know about their histories.

    • Kathy says:

      Elisa, just think what we don’t know! Today, on the way home from town, I looked at more old buildings along the lake. Some folks have built a modern house next to a crumbling one-room cabin. They will all be gone a dozen years from now, perhaps.

  4. Martha Bergin says:

    pulls at my heart…

    • Kathy says:

      pulls at my heart, too, Martha. Imagining a little girl clutching a doll looking out one of those windows. Her mama is frying eggs downstairs. Can’t you just see it?

  5. john says:

    You have brought tears to my eyes.

  6. jeff vanderhorst says:

    Hello Kathy. So true, about our ancestors and the buildings they put up . They were tough folk. Here in northwest Ohio the land was once known as “the Great Black Swamp” Who in there right mind would move to such an area in hopes of eeking out a living? Same can be said of the UP. The houses and barns they put up are testiment to their industriousness and determination. I like to think that some of that same work ethic has passed down through the ganerations. jeff v. p.s. I have the same photo of the car in the front yard on Nelson rd. very nice

    • Kathy says:

      I have heard of the “Great Black Swamp” in Ohio. Can you imagine the courage, the fortitude of the pioneers who settled here and there? I smiled thinking you have the same picture of the car on Nelson Road (which I still call “The Crooked Road” in my mind–did you know it was called that for years?) I only wished the sun had been out. It’s been gray, gray, gray forever.

  7. Susan Derozier says:

    You’ve evoked memories of my grandparents homestead known to us as the “shack.” I could smell the smells, hear the sounds and see the shadows of moths against the walls lit by lanterns. Thank you for making us stop and remember and “see when we look.” Lovely!

    • Kathy says:

      Susan, I’ll bet your grandparents came to you in your dreams last night. Do you remember seeing them? Or did they flit through the barely-conscious like moths against a midnight lamp?

  8. Susan D says:

    Thank you for this post and for the wonderful photos … still strongly attached to Grandpa and Grandma’s dairy farm and their country house (long since out of the family). Such lovely memories. And still fresh … You’re a gem to honor our “grands” and the homes, barns, land and animals they tended…

    • Kathy says:

      Interesting that there are two Susan D’s who read this blog. So your grandma and grandpa raised cows? Did you ever drink the fresh milk? My dad (I wonder if he’ll read this comment) used to call “ka-sooey, ka-sooey!” to the cows as we drove past the old farm. Wonder if other folks did that?

  9. Dawn says:

    This past Christmas I was visiting with my mother’s family. They still own the farm where my mother grew up. I told them I wanted to come down some weekend and photograph the barns where I remember playing as a kid. I guess I shouldn’t put it off. I know along one of our country roads was a barn I always meant to photograph. Late this past fall it was suddenly gone. I have a few snapshots but nothing like what I had planned on doing someday. Someday needs to be sooner rather than later…for a lot of things.

    These are wonderful photographs. I particularly connected with the window photograph. I do wonder who looked out from those windows, especially the upstairs window…was it a girl like me? Or a young boy? The stories the house could tell.

    • Kathy says:

      I hope you get to go down some weekend soon and photograph that barn. Yes, we shouldn’t put these things off. It was such a shock yesterday to see that the old house was gone. Gone, gone. Like it never existed. I remember playing in my grandpa’s old barn too. (I have heard so many stories of people who live in old houses–it seems like some of the psychic energy still remains. One of my friends, particularly, has lots of nightly activity in her old old house.)

  10. I really enjoyed your post…..

    So much, come over to my blog for a few old pictures,,,,

  11. emaclean says:

    I’d take the house in picture #4 in a heartbeat! I would love to restore one. I can only imagine the money it would take to bring it back to what it once was!

    Great pictures Kathy. They make me sad thinking no one is caring for them.

    • Kathy says:

      I had to go and look at Picture #4 and see which house it was. Oh, yes, that was an intriguing house. I liked the angles of it. I suspect the reason people tear down the old houses is that it would take way too many dollars to rennovate them. Darn.

  12. Barbara says:

    I loved the “Do ghosts walk these deserted corridors on moonlit nights?” picture! Well, they were all wonderful shots, snow on the scene makes for some enchanting pictures. But that one in particular. We’ve never been to Michigan, but some of Tim’s ancestors settled there, and your pictures help me to create a picture in my mind of what their lives might have been like there, especially in the winter.

    “We need to haunt the house of history and listen anew to the ancestors’ wisdom.”
    ~ Maya Angelou

    • Kathy says:

      I like Maya Angelou’s quote, Barbara. So appropos! Most of my ancestors settled downstate in the Thumb of Michigan. Many of them came over from Canada, although some came from New York State. I guess they came from many places. Do you know where Tim’s ancestors settled in Michigan?

      • Barbara says:

        Tim’s great-grandparents lived at 213 North Dwight St, Jackson, where his grandmother was born in 1907. I am told his great-grandmother is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Jackson. Someday we’d love to find these places… The Ravens, Verplanks, Cases and Huntleys seem to have settled in Jackson, Huron, and Lenawee counties. They came from Ontario and New York, too. Wonder if you have any of those surnames on your family tree…

        • Kathy says:

          Most of our relatives didn’t settle as far west as Jackson. I don’t recognize any of those names…WAIT A SEC! Ohmygoodness, there is an Elizabeth Case (my grandpa’s great-great-great-maybe another great?–Grandma.) Cool!

  13. Fountainpen says:

    Kathy: From where I stand, one of your finest…….


    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, fountainpen! I have wanted to photograph/write this for about a year. Guess its time had finally arrived. (Keep your eye on your mail. Something small is headed your way.)

  14. Papa and Nanny says:

    Kath—-The barns remimds me of playing in the hay mows @ 12 years old at both of my grand parents! Love Dad

    • Kathy says:

      You probably do have many memories, Dad, of playing in barns as a child. Good memories, I’ll bet! Read my comment to Susan D up above. You can tell us what “ka-sooey” means, right?

  15. Robin says:

    Beautiful collection of pictures to go with your thoughts.

    There are some barn restoration groups trying to keep the old barns up and in decent shape. I saw a news story about it once… can’t remember where, though.

    • Kathy says:

      I’ve heard of that, too, Robin. I know some of those groups are working in downstate Michigan. Don’t know about the U.P., though. I have just been astounded at how quickly they are disappearing. 😦

  16. wolfsrosebud says:

    Must have been a brisk day for you…

    • Kathy says:

      You said it, Ms. wolfrosebud! (Except today…when I stopped by Lake Superior to take more black and white photos with the wind blowing 1,000 miles an hour–that was brisk.) OK, maybe twenty miles an hour. 🙂 At 15 degrees.

  17. Karma says:

    Your thoughts, as always, have given me pause as well as caused many thoughts to go rambling through my head. My first thoughts as I looked at the pictures were reminders of my days at Old Sturbridge Village, the living history museum of early 1800’s New England. Days I spent milking cows, working the garden and cooking at the hearth found me caught up in thoughts of what it must have been like for that to be everyday life. Next thhoughts that came to mind were how I no longer have grandparents. My last grandparent to pass away was my mother’s mother who died in 2007 at the age of 99. I wish I had been of an age when she was younger and of sharper mind to appreciate all the stories of a century she surely had to tell.

    • Kathy says:

      That must have been a wonderful experience, Karen! How fun! I love old villages like that. Where people re-enact living history. What was your favorite job there? …I don’t have any more grandparents, either. The last one died in 2000 at the age of 89. She didn’t want to live to 90 because “when you’re 90 you have too many wrinkles.”

  18. Bertha says:

    Kathy, loved the views…drive these roads on a regular basis to and from home. Always check for signs of movement or changes in the old homes…maybe a relative checking the doors, windows or sheds for signs of vandalism? Was the home you waited to photograph Milford’s mother’s childhood home? I was so surprised to have driven past on the way to town and suddenly notice it was no longer there! Now when I drive Ohman Rd. I remember a myriad of stories relayed to me by Milford. The other day when skiing the back trail to Ohman Rd. the image of Milford with his wide, wooden skis clumping towards me made me laugh. The skis were dry, no wax applied and picking up snow with every step he strode. Good times.

    • Kathy says:

      Bertha, I THOUGHT you might enjoy these photos. (And I loved photographing your horses. Would have stopped by to say hello but it was way too early…) Yes, it was probably Milford’s mother’s house. What a funny image of him with those wide wooden skis. I remember our old Finnish neighbor in Pelkie used to ski like that. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. gigi says:

    Hi Kathy,

    Love the pictures. I’m a big fan of abandoned houses. A while ago, a local artist, used one of our old homesteads to create an art piece. She sculptured a woman growing out of the house. If I can find a picture, I will link it here, in this thread, for everyone to see.

  20. Marianne says:

    A lovely tribute, Kathy. A wonderful reminder.

  21. Belinda says:

    I would love to find the homestead where my distant ancestors lived in Antrim. I wonder if any buildings are still standing. I love seeing your pictures.

    • Kathy says:

      Belinda, I hope you get the opportunity to search for your ancestors one day. If not finding the standing buildings–maybe you will get to walk on the land where they once tilled the rocky soil and stood sweating under the hot summer sun. Thank you for visiting!

  22. Pingback: Don’t take me too seriously. « Lake Superior Spirit

  23. Howard Wiitala says:

    This is a great piece of work you did here Lot of hard work and lots of hard work went into this I know I have done alot of Genealogy work In the Copper Country in Houghton County, Job Well Done All these same thoughts at one time or another have cross my Mind but in the end for what ever it was worth it could be said that was the way it was.

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