Monday, September 27, 2010


Earlier in the summer, when I was desperately trying to get rid of my cucumbers and zucchinis, I drove house to house dropping some off for our neighbors.  I stopped at the Molnau's for what I thought would just be a quick "Hello!  Here are some giant zucchinis. See you later, neighbor," type of visit.  Instead, they greeted me warmly, inviting me into their kitchen to chat for a while, while I left my Jeep running in the driveway.  They have always taken a particular interest in what Aaron and I are doing.  In the few years I've lived here I've learned that Mr. Molnau is sort of the patriarch of the area.  Everybody knows him, respects him, and he knows a lot about the history of our area because he has essentially lived here his entire life.  He and his wife have five grown children and nine grandchildren and are some of the nicest people I've met. 

When we closed on our house in early 2008, the previous owners, who were only here for two years, told us that Mr. Molnau's parents built our house in 1950 and he spent a great deal of his youth in this home.  They also owned the land we have and much of the land surrounding our place.  But many, many, years ago, they sold off the 12.42 acre parcel that we currently call home and kept the land around it.  They often ask what we've done to the house, what color we painted the living room, and what plans we have for the property.  On more than one occasion, when Aaron has been out in the garage, Mr. Molnau has stopped by and commented that seeing Aaron brings him back to his youth and remembers watching his own father welding out in that same garage.   Some things never change, I guess. 

Naturally, when I chatted with the Molnau's they asked me about the baby. 

"Which room is going to be the nursery?"  Mrs. Molnau asked.

"It is going to be that front room," I said.

"Oh, yeah! That was Diane's room!" he chimed in.  "And my brothers and I shared that room by the bathroom."

It is funny to me to think about how different a mentality people had back in 1950, where a family of five sharing one small bathroom was completely normal and the house was built with the intention of children sharing bedrooms.  I can hardly stand sharing one bathroom with just my husband!  How did those brothers sharing a bedroom fit all of their stuff into one tiny bedroom closet?  And more importantly, where did his mother keep all of her shoes?

He recalled washing up at dinner time in the "sink room," which is now our kitchen pantry with no sink to be found.  Evidently, it was removed at some point.

I have always wondered why the "master" bedroom is not the one by the bathroom, away from the "kids" bedrooms.  Apparently master suites weren't really a thing when this house was built back in 1950.

Neither were views.  Lake homes were not designed to take advantage of the beautiful lake views as they didn't hold as much value back in the day.  It wasn't until more recent decades that they were built with big picture windows overlooking the back yard. 

"I'll never understand why my dad built that garage there!"  He said of the garage that sits in front of our house, partially blocking our lake view from our kitchen window.  A question we've asked many times!

I learned that when Mr. Molnau moved to the city and got married, he and his wife and family eventually moved back to the area, and started building their house on the lake and the grass strip airport around 1969.

Many of the neighbors in the area are hobbyist pilots and have airplanes they keep in the hangers.  It's one of my favorite things about our property: views of a little lake, a vineyard in front of us, and a charming grass strip airport where small two-seater airplanes fly right over our house. 

45 minutes into my visit, he pulled out this old photo for me and after some deciphering, decided this was taken by him from the air circa 1970.

I realize this photos is meaningless when you don't really know what you are looking at.  This was taken from the south side of the lake looking at our property.  Because I am so highly skilled at the Paint application, I used it to outline our property in red and identify some landmarks for you. 

Aaron and I are arguing over how we've heard the story.  He heard that the chicken coop was a Grainery back in the day.  Since I don't see the chicken coop was even built in this picture, that makes me think the Grainery was actually in that building that I X-ed out in the picture on the edge of our property since that building does not exist today.

Of course, my argument would be much stronger if I actually knew what a Grainery was. 

"What's a Grainery?  So did they, like, grow grain here or something? Did grain farmers live here after the Molnau's or were the Molnau's grain farmers?" I asked Aaron when we were analyzing this picture.  "I need to know for my blog post!"

"Yes," he said as he patted my head and smiled. 

I guess we still have some questions for the Molnau's the next time we see them.  I'm getting to the bottom of this!

About a year after we moved in, on one of the first nice spring Friday afternoons, we had an unexpected guest drop by.  It was the owner of our home from 1999-2006.  She explained that her husband was a pilot and work had moved them out to the Seattle area, but she had come back to Minnesota for a visit and had to stop by and see their old place.  She was married with 3 children and were the ones responsible for all of the updates to the house.  And it was nice to put a face with the blueprints we found tucked away in a cabinet drawer.  Had they decided to stay, they had big plans for an addition to the house and we've been studying those blueprints to get ideas for our own addition. 

She said when they bought the house it was "disgusting,"  or rather, it was the house of a couple that had lived there a really long time and it was in desperate need of help.  They did a lot of remodeling and I have her to thank for the sunny updated kitchen that I LOVE!  Her husband was gone flying much of the time, which left her here to take care of the land AND her three children.  Can you imagine?  Neither can I.  They ended up leasing out the 10 acres plot to a farmer who grew corn and soybeans, so that made things more manageable for her.  But they did actually raise chickens in the chicken coop!

So, I also have her to thank for the hours and hours I spent cleaning poop out of that building.  Which was also when I discovered some old treasures stowed away in old school desk, a rusted out bike, and some old horseshoes, which were actually used for horses, not the yard game. 

The most amazing part was that she said they had envisioned being here forever and had even talked about growing grapes!  Funny to think someone else had the same vision we have now...raising our family here, growing a vineyard, and eventually greeting our grandchildren here.  For our benefit, I'm glad they had a change of plans.  

We don't know a lot about the family that lived here before them, except that we still get their mail.  But we do know they were here for a couple of decades and had a horse and cow pasture on the property.  Which explains the excellent "soil" I have in my garden.  Ahem. 

It's so fun to hear about the families that lived here before us, what dreams and plans they had and fulfilled here, the families they raised here, and the memories they created here.  And it's even more fun carrying on some traditions, creating our own, and refreshing the property after so many years. 

I still feel like we have so much to learn about this place and the 60 years of history that preceded us here.  Next time I stop at the Molnau's, I won't keep the car running.  I have a lot more questions for them.