Please join us in a tour of the Hanka Homestead. Free nisu & coffee!

Follow this small muddy two-track deep into the woods, shall we?

Follow this small muddy two-track deep into the woods, shall we?

Friday morning rain gushed from the sky.

Oh no–what a day to celebrate Finn Fest in the Copper Country.  We frowned and hoped it might clear up.

Barry had to visit the Hanka Homestead, a 1920’s Finnish farm hidden back by Otter Lake, six miles from US 41 to take photographs and write a story for our local newspaper.

I opted to tag along, the tag-a-long wife, and snap some photos, too.  Might as well have fun, right?  Afterward we would continue on to Houghton to shop and eat out.  (Eating out is one of our favorite occupations, you know.)

We prayed the rain might cease and desist.  Not just for our sake–but for the sake of all the folks planning and visiting Finn Fest.

Soon we shall find the Hanka Homestead, built back in the 1920's.

Soon we shall find the Hanka Homestead, built back in the 1920’s.

Of course, you’re wondering what the heck is Finn Fest?  It’s a celebration of the many Finnish folk who immigrated from Finland and settled in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Starting on Midsummer’s Eve back in 1865, some thirty Finns landed on the shores of the Portage Canal in Houghton and started working in the burgeoning copper mines the next day.

Finn Fest launched in 1983 and now celebrates annually all over the United States from Minneapolis to California to North Dakota.  This year, lucky us, our Copper Country hosted the week-long event.  We’re fond of the Finns up here.

While the main ceremonies and teachings took place up in “da Copper Country” just north of us, Baraga County leaped in with events of our own.  More than fifty vendors set up booths (unfortunately, not along Lake Superior as planned, but in Meadowbrook Arena where kids ice skate and play hockey in the wintertime. Due to the rain,  you understand.)  We had fashion shows and free Finnish sweet breads and concerts and all sorts of “Tervetuloa” (which basically means “welcome” in Finn.) The advertisements said “Finnish your festival in Baraga County.”

Look--here's our friend, Paul Heikkila (fondly known as Heikki) dressed up as the oldest Hanka son,  Nikolai.

Look–here’s our friend, Paul Heikkila (fondly known as Heikki) dressed up as the oldest Hanka son, Nikolai.

One of the must-see Finnish sites in the area is the Hanka Homestead.  The Hanka family built the farm in 1920 after the dad, Herman, was injured in a mine blast by a dynamite explosion.  (Those mines proved challenging places to work.  Many Finns and non-Finns lost their lives during the copper boom.)

Herman, his wife and four grown children set to building a house and barn and several outbuildings, as well as clearing the land for farm fields.

Heikki, I mean Nikolai, demonstrates how to make cedar roof shingles.

Heikki, I mean Nikolai, demonstrates how to make cedar roof shingles.

Barry’s visited the Hanka Homestead many times and written stories about it for the newspaper over the years.  I can’t recall if I’ve been there before.  I am 82% sure the answer is no, but Barry thinks he recalls my tag-a-long presence a couple of decades back.

If I was there I’ve mostly forgotten, so it was enjoyable to follow the muddy two-track back in the woods toward the old-time farm.  (It was enjoyable as long as we didn’t get stuck.  The tour bus filled with Finn-lovers mired out in the mud, unfortunately, and couldn’t reach the backwoods historical farm.)

Look carefully to see how the old-timers created the roof shingles.

Look carefully to see how the old-timers created the roof shingles.

The sky ceased raining and we enjoyed a lovely afternoon exploring the out-buildings, watching some of the local folk –including a couple of close friends–dress like the Hanka family and demonstrate skills the old-timers used to survive on the farm.

Imagine trudging out to the root cellar in January, looking inside for jars of produce necessary for survival.

Imagine trudging out to the root cellar in January, looking inside for jars of produce necessary for survival.

I will let you look at the photos now.  Settle in to swat away mosquitoes as you admire the buildings and imagine what it was like to farm the rough Upper Peninsula country-side back in the early twentieth century.

When you’re done reading, help yourself to some Nisu.  Mmmm, good braided cardamom Finnish sweet bread.  And have some coffee, too, eh?

Come back and visit again soon.  Don’t wait until the next Finn Fest!  The Hanka Homestead is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (plus holidays) from noon to 4:00.   And, if you don’t mind a self-guided tour, come any time.

Any time it hasn’t rained too much that is!  I wouldn’t venture out if it’s rained 2.50 inches in the previous day.  Not unless you own a four-wheel drive truck and want to play in the mud.

They built an entire building to keep milk and other perishables cold in a flowing creek.

They built an entire building to keep milk and other perishables cold in a flowing creek.

Side view of the Hanka Homestead.

Side view of the Hanka Homestead.

Where the family drew water to drink.

Where the family drew water to drink.

Old wire fence, field.

Old wire fence, field.

Out-building behind the barn.

Out-building behind the barn.

Our friend Becky plays the oldest daughter, Mari.  Our friend Heikki (aka Nikolai) said Mari was a bit of shrew.  We don't know whether he's brotherly teasing or telling the truth.

Our friend Becky plays the oldest daughter, Mari. Our friend Heikki (aka Nikolai) said Mari was a bit of shrew. We don’t know whether he’s brotherly teasing or telling the truth.

Helen Stenvig serving old-time Finnish treats.  I gobbled up the Nisu, a braided sweet bread made with cardamom.  Helen shared how challenging it was to bake pies in the wood cookstove without burning them.

Helen Stenvig serving old-time Finnish treats. I gobbled up the Nisu, a braided sweet bread made with cardamom. Helen shared how challenging it was to bake pies in the wood cookstove without burning them.

Another old out-building.

Another old out-building.

Oh look!  Here comes my good friend, Bertha, to visit the Hanka Homestead.  Hi Bertha!

Oh look! Here comes my good friend, Bertha, to visit the Hanka Homestead. Hi Bertha!

The old-timers made a tractor--also called a "joker"--out of this old car.  Resourceful, weren't they?

The old-timers made a tractor–also called a “joker”–out of this old car. Resourceful, weren’t they?

The blacksmith shop.

The blacksmith shop.

Carved wood ski poles.  You know how they got around during winter, don't you?  Skis, of course!

Carved wood ski poles. You know how they got around during winter, don’t you? Skis, of course!

Farming implements.

Farming implements.

Descendants of the original Hanka homesteaders.

Descendants of the original Hanka homesteaders.

Barn

Barn

Local Finnish band called FinnAire.

Local Finnish band called FinnAire.

Finnish music, the old homestead, the blossoms from another time.

Finnish music, the old homestead, the blossoms from another time.

Panorama of a Finn Fest at the Hanka Homestead.  Please click to enlarge.  It's the first panorama I ever shot!

Panorama of a Finn Fest at the Hanka Homestead. Please click to enlarge. It’s the first panorama I ever shot!

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.
This entry was posted in June 2013 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Please join us in a tour of the Hanka Homestead. Free nisu & coffee!

  1. Fountainpen says:

    Thanks thanks thanks

  2. bearyweather says:

    The historic sites can be such fun in the summer time. About 50 miles from my house there is an authentic logging camp open all summer long with the working actors and equipment, learning and art/craft activities, modern museum and lots of hiking trails .. one that goes to the Mississippi River. 30 miles away there is also a Fur Trading Post … living history experience in August. It has been a few years since I visited … I think you have inspired me to go this year.

  3. Brenda Hardie says:

    Oh wow Kathy! This place looks so peaceful! The green is so lush and I love the old buildings. It’s definitely my kind of place. 🙂 I can imagine however, how thick the mosquitoes, gnats, ticks and flies would be out there. A small price to pay for such seclusion and beautiful surroundings. Thank you for sharing! ♥

  4. lisaspiral says:

    Looks like you had lots of fun. But no Sauna?

  5. kiwidutch says:

    nuts… now ANOTHER place added to my bucket list! (I’ll need to be a millionaire and live until 200 at this rate LOL).
    Brilliant place, I’d LOVE looking around 🙂

  6. Kathy – I always love being a guest on one of your well-guided virtual tours. The crisp, vivid colors in your photographs really showed off the gorgeous environment!

  7. Barb says:

    Wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d seen my friend, Bob (Mary’s husband) there in your photos? Unfortunately – no. He was at the festival though – maybe not at the homestead. He said it poured. He can still speak Finnish and uses Finnish words as his passwords. I doubt he’ll ever get hacked!

  8. Heather says:

    Nice that the weather cooperated with everyone. I now have that song you shared in the winter (Heikki lunda go away?) and would love some Nisu. Just love it!

  9. john says:

    An opportunity missed 😦

  10. Looks like my grandmothers place! We had a root cellar; an outhouse, old out buildings, farm implements, blacksmith shop, barns, etc. These photos and your virtual tour brought back fond memories growing up on the back side of nowhere.

  11. Carol says:

    I find it just amazing what the settlers of our country were able to accomplish with such rudimentary tools and equipment. That they even survived is incredible!

  12. jeff v says:

    thanks for the tour. haven’t been there myself yet but it’s on the list. those finns were (are) a hardy bunch!

  13. Kat B. says:

    I love these kind of sites (and eating out!) — so often we overlook the “tourist” destinations or attractions in our own backyard and it’s fun to play the visitor at home once in awhile.

  14. dawnkinster says:

    Love this. I don’t remember Finn-Fest. I left in 1987…I don’t think it was a ‘thing’ in Hancock/Houghton at that point. Was it? Loved the first photo of Paul, aka Nikolia, with the roof lines. Really great shot. Loved the outbuildings too. I never went to the homestead. Think possibly I should go on our next trip up. It’s been so many years since we’ve been there. Really really need to make the trip. Somehow. Thanks for taking me along on this one!

  15. Lori D says:

    Nice panorama. We have an outdoor museum here (in Florida) called Cracker Country where they show how 19th century settlers lived. It looks so similar. It’s funny how two places so far apart in distance from north to south, and so distant in foreign backgrounds, lived very much the same …. except for the music. 😉

  16. dorannrule says:

    What a fabulous tour! I am forwarding this post to my friend (who has Finnish roots). I think she will love it. I want some of that bread! Your photos are amazing and I love the panorama! ~Dor

  17. Great photos, Kathy. I imagine the rain made the mosquitoes pretty vicious, but it sure brought out the green, too, didn’t it? Thanks for the tour!

  18. Thanks for the tour! I love to visit places like that, but they’re usually only open in the summer, and I usually take vacations in the spring or fall, so this was a real treat.

  19. Connie T says:

    It is so pretty and green there. I like this post.

  20. Sharon E. says:

    Thank you for your kind words about our re-enactment. A lot of people put in a lot of hard work (the re-enactors and behind the scenes) to make this happen. But, for everyone, it was a labor of love (and we had a good time!) We hope people will come to see the Homestead all summer long. The Hanka Homestead is one of the few historical sites restored on its original site. And, yes, we do have a sauna….it’s a savu (smoke) sauna, where they would smoke meat and fish during the day, and clean their body in the evenings.

  21. Such a beautful place and the photos sure brought the farm to your readers. Those buildings are such treasures.. How wonderful that you went with Barry to take these pics for us to enjoy. I really like this post a lot. The panorama picture is excellent.

  22. Looks like you had a wonderful time at Finn Fest. Your photos are lovely and seem to have captured the magic of the place. Like you, I love visiting old historic sites like this one. Summer is a great time to get outdoors and learn a bit of history. 🙂

    Where I live, we have Fort Gibralter, a recreation of a wooden-wall trappers’ fort, right in the middle of the city, representing our earliest fur trading time period 1700s-1800s. It’s a favorite place to visit both summer and winter, especially mid-February when the French & Metis celebrate the Festival de Voyageur. There’s also Lower Fort Garry, the stone fort just north of the city, which was a hub of activity & trade for natives, Metis and Scottish settlers in the mid-1800s and southeast from here is the Menonnite Village, circa early 1900s. You should drive through the Prairies, some day. I’d be happy to play tour guide. 🙂

  23. Karen says:

    I’m glad you tagged along so that you could share your interesting day with us. Visiting the homestead makes you appreciate how easy our lives are today.

  24. I so want to walk down that road in the first picture, Kathy! All those trees and green. I miss that.

  25. me2013 says:

    What a interesting and fun day out, shame it’s not nearer here I would have enjoyed that.

  26. Sharon E. says:

    You-all are welcome to come tour the Hanka Homestead from Memorial Day through Labor Day every summer. We are open four days a week, on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12:00 to 4:00. We are staffed by all volunteers who are very knowledgeable about subsistence farming and the Hanka family. Our site is not a re-creation….all the buildings are original and have been restored to the height of activity and conditions on the farm in 1920. You can get a real flavor of the work and “sisu” it took to survive and thrive in the wilderness of the U.P. in the early years of the 20th century.

  27. penpusherpen says:

    What a wonderful experience Kathy, for us of course, and for you too, seeing how the Hank Family, lived and survived. Everything looks so basic, but then that’s how it was then. You made do. Today we have too much I think, too much waste and no appreciation for what should be important. Looking at times past underlines this so well. many thanks for sharing this wonderful days adventure … xPenx

  28. What a great post and photographs! Somehow it transported me to those myriad mental images I used to hold as a child while reading Enid Blyton books and the English countryside.

    I can only hope that such priceless legacies remain with mankind for a long time to come.

    Shakti

  29. Ooooo, sounds like a potential post-retirement field trip!

  30. sybil says:

    Lovely, informative post Kathy. I feel like I was right there with you. Looks like you’re getting the same endless rain as we are here in Nova Scotia. I know I said I love lush scenery but the rain can STOP now !

  31. Robin says:

    Thank you for the tour. I love exploring places like that (and playing in the mud). 🙂

  32. Reggie says:

    Lovely pictures, and what an interesting background story!

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