Abandoned outside of Forbes, North Dakota

The only song we heard walking through fields of tall grass as we approached this abandoned farmstead, was the North Dakota wind as it howled through the branches of the old Maple trees.  The excitement grew as we came closer to the house.  The wonder of what you may find as the old rickety door is pushed open, is like reading the first pages of a novel.  Sometimes it grabs you and pulls you in, other times it just holds your attention.  There wasn’t much left as the plaster of the walls started disintegrating long, long ago.  The trusty Hoover is still waiting to clean up the mess time has left behind.

Each of these properties hide a plot line (with or without clues) and the fun part for me is to create the characters and scenario played out in times past.

Chasing Ghost Stories, Faribault, MN

Dan and I enjoy photographing abandoned properties immensely.  The excitement of stepping back into history, and the wonder of what transpired in these ruins can be mind-boggling.

Research is key in finding and exploring abandoned properties.  Ohhhh, the Internet… What a wonderful place for information, sometimes.  As I was briefly searching that morning, (yes, I have to own up to this one) I came across rumors of an old abandoned asylum within an hour or so of our home.  What a find, I thought as my heart started beating faster.

Rumor, after rumor, after rumor, I read:

“I was walking through the tunnel and it leads to the old asylum”

“We even went to the other entrance by Teepee Tonka Park but did not find the tunnel leading up to the asylum”

“ Then walk through the halls.  With 5-6 rooms to the left and right.  Walk through that then it goes on another trail.  Follow it to your left, it brings you to what I though was the tunnel that people were talking about but it is just a bunker room in the hill.”

As I was reading the posts and information regarding the property, I found that there were no directions posted as to how to reach this place directly and it seemed like there was confusion as to which property they were actually writing about. It was like reading a treasure map; picking information out of this post and obtaining information from another.   No matter what we found on this photography outing, I knew that the day would be fun.  With time running out for the research portion, I gathered what I had (although confusing) and we headed off with the starting point at Teepee Tonka Park in Faribault, MN.  We did find the trail in the back corner of the park and headed on our way.  It was a beautiful sunny day; not too hot, not too cold and we were spending the day exploring as we tried to piece together the bread crumbs found on the internet.

From this trail, we did find the tunnels and ventured through them.  I could have gone the whole day without seeing the bats and spiders, but the experience and the memory made was worth it.  Dan was on his game and took every opportunity to joke with me, whether if it were the noises he made in the complete darkness of the tunnels,  or telling me that there was a bat right above me as I stopped to take a picture, or cracking a joke about how we were chancing ghost stories.  Paybacks can be fun 🙂

We might have not found the old asylum, or whatever the abandoned buildings these posts were actually talking about, and that was okay.  What we did encounter was a superb day spent together as we laughed and we joked.   We got to spend a day in the great outdoors doing what we love…  What could be better than that?  Please take some time and join us on this day as you page through the images below.

Knock, Knock… Who’s there?

I recently accquired these images of pigs on an Amish farm in Wisconsin.  When I was viewing the series in Lightroom, I noticed the punch line forming right away.  A friend (thanks Linnae) suggested that I merge them together in the same image to tell the whole story.  So I did…  The right place at the right time 🙂

Grinding our way south… To and Fro

On a recent trip, we traveled about 500 miles through Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.  A friend and co-worker made the statement “Wow, doesn’t the driving get boring when you are traveling from point A to point B?”  After a smile formed, I answered “No, that is what makes the trip worth while”.

We are constantly on the lookout for that special something on our trips; an abandoned building or home, a long forgotten car, an adorable wild or farm animal, or just the way the light is hitting a particular item.  Between the laughing, singing (which Dan loves), whistling, telling stories, making Daisy crowns :-), so on and so forth, we always have a great time on our travels.  The “in-between” is where the fun comes in… A turn of the head or an Ooohh, Ahhh, humff, or sigh might escape our lips, which in turn notifies the other of an upcoming special treat.  About 90% of the time, the slamming of the breaks or putting the car in reverse is followed by one of those subtle hints.  It is the “in-between” that we all forget about at times- You know, those sights or people that we otherwise take for granted as we are passing from point A to point B.

My friends comment really made me realize just how important life is and was an important reminder to cherish those “in-between” times.

A weekend made for memories

Memorial Day of 2012- A day to remember and give thanks to the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

It was a beautiful sun-shiny day with a slight breeze. Certainly, a day photographing the countryside was called for.  We packed the car with the necessary items needed for a full day of photography fun.  Photography gear, Check. Cooler full of food and drink, check. The four legged wonders (Tindra and Audrey), check.  The “girls” are 13 and 14 years of age, and weigh around 11 Lbs but they are still full of spit and vinegar (Dan says just like their human mamma) 🙂   Now, if you have ever had the privilege to know a Dachshund or have been owned by a Dachshund, you know their little noses can get them into trouble.  Especially when they can figure out how to get on top of tables, counters, basins, into garbage and food containers, etc, etc.   Tindra can sniff out any morsel of food… anywhere.  The girls motto- Where there is a will, there is a way  🙂

The girls had a spring in their step and were excited that they were able to grace us with their presence.  Fresh country air, and all that comes along with it… So exciting!  Off we go.

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On our outings, we find at least one abandoned house, building, or farmstead and that day was no different. As we pulled onto this particular property, the excitement of photographing the establishment kept rising.  With a huge smile on my face, I jumped out of the car and headed for the house…  Off I go without looking back.  Realizing later, of course, that I had just left the girls unattended with a package of beef jerky and a bag of animal crackers in the car.  Needless to say that when we returned (and we never leave for too long), the girls had polished off both bags of food.  Mostly Tindra and boy, she was thirsty!!  We had to wait and see what happened… A little while later a sound was heard from the back- the sound that gets you moving and fast.  Saving the car upholstery, my hands were the only thing close enough to catch what was spewing from Tindra’s mouth.  A mixture of beef jerky and animal crackers… YUCK!  After pulling over and cleaning up, we headed on our way.  Tindra slept for the rest of the trip but was fine by the time we had returned home- Bad Mamma, poor little furry wonder 🙂

The day spent traveling around the Red Wing, MN and surrounding area was a day I’ll never forget- one full of laughter, amusement, excitement, and for Tindra- pleasure followed by anguish.  Although Tindra will never learn a lesson, we did and have since purchased a Dachshund proof food container that we travel with.

Back home again- Birthday weekend comes to an end

A genial greeting as we make our way back home; I cannot say enough of the friendliness of this Amish community.

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On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again- that song might have entered my mind (yes, I am a geek at times).  There is endless amusement around every corner of a paved, dirt, gravel, or brick road.  I have been, at times, accused of “rubbernecking” sometimes even not saying a word until we are well past what I have seen.  “Turn around”, I say.   The sight of an old building as we are traveling past a town is always worth a closer look and it paid off…  An old Feed Store and a tobacco plant? Very cool, very cool indeed!  My love for old buildings and the stories that they hold will never cease to exist.  Ahhh, the beauty that decay and abandonment can hold.

Through hills and valleys, forests and farmlands we traveled, making our way back to our little furry ones.

This particular trip was overall one of my favorites to date… although, there are many more to come.  Dan’s birthday has past and mine is around the corner.  What will this year of birthday excursions bring?

I thank you for eye-opening trip we had last year honey and look forward to many more.

Over the river and through the woods- Birthday Weekend- Day #2

After our “clean up” from the stuck in the muck episode, Dan and I enjoyed our delicious breakfast and a morning hike around the property of Justin Trails Resort.  We were then off into the surrounding communities of Vernon and Monroe counties for a day of photographic amusement.

Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling in the bottom of you gut when on a roller coaster ride? I do every time we travel over a hill at a certain speed with a certain drop off gradient.  Dan thinks this is funny and will hit every hill that has that right drop-off and at the right speed. This trip was full of those sinking feelings in my stomach, as the landscape in this area was pretty steep at times.

Over the river and through the woods in search of round barns and covered bridges we go.  Included in with the enchanted beauty of Wisconsin’s hidden valleys are large congregations of German-speaking Amish farm families.  They continue to worship, live, and farm today as their pioneering ancestors did 150 years ago.  A friendly, quiet community who welcome anyone with a wave of their hand or a nod of their head. Their farms are immaculate and well kept; it was a treat to see how they live and work off the land.

Earth Day 2012 – Birthday Weekend, The start of day #2

Earth Day is observed on April 22 and was started in the United States in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson to create awareness for the Earth’s environment and to encourage conservation efforts. In 1990, Earth Day was taken international, and today, more than 500 million people in 175 countries observe Earth Day. Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.  I guess we all have an interest in mother nature.

Earth Day had a different meaning for Dan and I last year; a day when we were stuck in her grasp, so to speak.

We awoke to the sound of the alarm notifying us that we need to get up and get rolling before the sun peaked its head above the horizon.  The night spent at Justin Trails Resort was very relaxing; time spent with my honey is always special to me.  The previous night, we were amazed to hear the call of numerous Sandhill Cranes located in a farmer’s pond/field across the way.   Permission was granted from the landowner the night before allowing us to venture on their property.  Donna (owner of the resort) mentioned,  “Due to the recent heavy rains in the area, make sure to stay on the higher field road.”  Okay, we thought- no problem.

We traveled closer and closer to the sounds of the Sandhill Cranes in hopes of catching a breathtaking sunrise with these beautiful birds in the foreground.  The road became more and more impassable as we ventured closer to our targets but it was too late- no place to turn around and the only motion we had to travel was forward.  Yep… We got stuck in the muck.  The Equinox is AWD not 4WD, I think came out of my mouth 🙂 All I could do was laugh at the situation as we tried to pull the long grass, sticks, and Cattails from the side of the road and place them in the “water” so that the tires would have something to grab onto. I say “water” because there really was not a road to be seen.  With a serious look on Dan’s face, he tells me to go to the other side of the car to see if the tires are grabbing onto any of the debris we placed under them- so I did.  The next thing I know, I was covered in the black, muddy, swampy, field water -muck, YUCK!!   Dan still was not finding the humor in it all, but I had to giggle- and I proceeded to do so as we walked back to the resort which was a good 2-3 miles.  It was a beautiful sunrise, gorgeous really, but did I get photos? NOPE!  Did I think about pulling the camera out of the car to take pictures of the car being stuck?  NOPE!

We walked back to the resort so that I could get cleaned up while Dan walked back to the farmers house to see if he could pull us out of the field road with a tractor.  As our luck would have it, this farmer was very helpful and didn’t bat an eye when asked- he wouldn’t even take any compensation for his troubles.  On his travels back, Dan did get photos of the car stuck in the muck- to see and hear his take on the day visit that blog post at When life gives you mud – make a mud pie.

After we both were clean and free of mother natures gift that she gave us that morning, we were treated to a tour of the old barn on the property which they were currently renovating.  Beautiful property, wonderful owners, a great breakfast and conversation- I would highly recommend a stay at Justin Trails Resort in Sparta, WI.

Lines, lines, and more lines… Birthday Weekend Day #1

Early Monday April 16th 2012, I received an email from Dan with an cryptic image attached stating “It will take us a little over three hours to get to our destination.  We can drive straight there and check in or shoot along the way and check in when we get there – whatever we want to do.  I’ve attached a detailed map of to our destination.  That’s all the information I can share.”
Lines, lines, more lines and a river?  Hmmmmm.

Weekend Birthday Map

My email reply to Dan… “Trying to figure out the trace of a map you sent!  Internet and the Minnesota and Wisconsin maps are in my sight; would this trip have anything to do with round barns and Monroe County?”  It turns out that the “lines” was a travel route leading us to the beautiful Vernon and Monroe Counties in an area of Wisconsin known as the driftless area.  See the detailed maps of Vernon and Monroe Counties for the location of the round barns and covered bridges.  The maps are another story for another day as the “X” didn’t always mark the spot 🙂

Off to a friends house for great conversation and a breakfast of champions (Thanks Linnae).  Hugs as we walked out the door and a wave as we headed on our way. Little did we know- we had a small stowaway named Hans.  Hans caused quite the stir back home when he was found to be missing but he was a good travel companion and enjoyed his time away from home.  Keep a watchful eye out for Hans in the images as he LOVED his picture taken.

Located in southwestern Wisconsin, Vernon and Monroe County is a land of scenic beauty and is in the Driftless Area of the upper midwest.  Glaciers surrounded but did not pass over this land.  From craggy buttes and mesas that once were islands rising from the wooded bed of a great glacial lake and grand marshes where bright red cranberries and mosses grow, Monroe County features a plethora of breathtaking views.  This serene countryside is truly an astounding sight and it’s roller coaster like roads were fun to travel.  Up, down, up, down, up, down… you never knew what your eyes would lay upon at the top of the hill or the bottom for that matter.  Our destination?  Justin Trails Resort in Sparta, WI for a long photography weekend retreat.  Check out Dan’s images from the day at his blog titled Driftless Area Weekend – Monroe County, Wisconsin – Day 1

The story behind the images

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I grew up loved by wonderful parents who not only encouraged me to be me, but who taught me right from wrong.  I remember all of the laughter, the fun, the support, and all of those little life lessons that we all learn along the way. My mother is a strong, affectionate, artistically talented woman […]