So its time to move on. I am excited to announce the acquisition yesterday of 40 acres of wild land not far from Oak Lake here. The parcel was owned by Bernard Kaster, a lifelong bachelor who was a devout Catholic and a man who appreciated nature and a simple life. Once the clutter of an extra unwanted bar of soap caused him to offer it to his neighbor so as to perhaps clear that item from his cupboard and head space. I have driven by and admired the property and Bernie's do it my way existence for almost 20 years now.
I never imagined I would someday have the opportunity of adding my own imprint on this piece of land. When Bernie died, he left the property to the local Catholic Church. The decrepit house and sheds quickly disappeared after he passed, as if a large hand wiped them off the face of the earth.
Ames Farm is rather fragmented and disjointed. An orchard here, another one 4 miles to the east and another 8 miles west. The Honey House where we process the harvested honey is a rented and converted dairy barn across the street. I stay in a run down turn of the century farmhouse on a 5 acre property that is technically considered a legal non-conforming lot by Carver County. Since the set back from the lake and road overlap there is no place to build a honey house and no room to expand the orchard.
The land borders a large marsh which before it was drained in the early 1900s was called Hillman Lake. The 40 features a couple of high nobs and bluff like views but is basically untillable. Its perfect for an orchard, apiary and wildlife sanctuary.
Bernie left few marks on the land after purchasing it in 1959. On the most secluded knoll in the northeast corner of the 40 acres, he planted an orchard of apples trees ringed by borders of majestic white pines. From the road, the ridge of pines and apple trees looks overgrown, untended and unimportant. Inside this Enchanted Forest, though, is a circular orchard on a hilltop half an acre in size with a very large apple tree in the center. All of the trees are unpruned but have majestic and sometimes perfect looking form. The outer ring of white pines seem to protect the secrets of the Enchanted Forest.
What struck me the first time my dog Lucky and I entered this space, was the symmetry and perfectness of the orchard planting and how none of the trees have rotted. How is it that the tree in the center is so larger then the rest? Was it intended and a different rootstock or variety? How is it that none of the trees are dead after all these years?
I wish I could ask Bernie what he had envisioned and what it meant to him. I will never forget the first time I entered that space on Jan 28th 2013 and look forward to building a home on the edge of the Enchanted Forest. This property is near the Hennepin County line and as such is surrounded by large plots and huge houses, grandiose horse ranches mixed with older farms, crop land, and the random suburban-esque house.
Most of the land in this area has been altered (some of it many times over) so its feels very special that Ames will soon have a little sanctuary of wildness and simplicity. The large marsh on the east will forever protect me from unwanted intrusions of vinyl clad homes and silly landscaped yards. While digitally wired and still in the 612 focused commuters whiz by these 40 acres. The game trails on the property are pounded so deep into the ground you can see them with Google maps.
In a world where everything is changing and on hyper drive I'm excited to get to know a piece of land that has sat essentially unchanged for 50 years. The bees and I have always had an affinity to natural land. Here's to our new life in the Enchanted Forest. May the spirit of Bernie Kaster live on!
– Brian, March 2013
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