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When histories collide with the future

In 2020, Katie Pinke's family is beginning a new chapter, part of which includes building a new home on an old farmstead.

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An old granary stands on a farmstead which Katie and Nathan Pinke hope to save and refurbish they purchased. May 2019 photo. Katie Pinke / Forum News Service

Do you have a connection to a farmstead or piece of land? Is it a place that evokes memories and inspires you to create new memories? In 2020, our family is beginning a new chapter, part of which includes building a new home on an old farmstead.

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The past equipment once used around the farmstead which Katie and Nathan Pinke will build a new home on in 2020. July 2019 photo. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)

I realize such an undertaking sounds crazy, especially during our son’s spinal cord injury rehab. The opportunity to buy the property and build a new house has unfolded on its own for more than a year, and every need has been met along the journey. We are invested in the potential and trusting the journey ahead.

We visited the farmstead and property for the first time almost a year ago. Part of what I love about the land is that it includes established trees, which is a novelty in rural North Dakota. At the time, there was a two-story white farmhouse and a granary. The yard and trees were overgrown. The house was magnificent but lacked running water, electricity and modern plumbing. I initially hoped we could save the house, but my builder-husband quickly realized that wasn’t an option.

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Hollyhocks bloomed in front of where the old farmhouse stook last summer and has since been torn down where Katie and Nathan Pinke will build a new home in 2020. July 2019 photo. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)

Each time we visit, I find myself wondering about its history and the people who called this farmstead home. They’re not our relatives or people we’ve ever met. It was fun to find glimpses of history when we walked through the house and the little treasures left behind. The past, though mostly unknown to us, gives me a sense of purpose.

It was that unexplained tug that led us to the farmstead. After visiting the first time we knew we were supposed to build a new future on this farmstead.

I imagined where the barn once was and the livestock it housed. The only remains of the barn is a neatly stacked pile of barn wood, covered with a tarp. Someone cared enough to save it and now it will live on in our future home.

I found an old county plat book in the home, showing property lines and land ownership. While paging through it, a reality hit me.

My great-great-grandmother homesteaded in this county. Her name would be in the plat book. She was a widow in a sod house with seven children but stayed to build her farm and raise a family on the homestead she and her late husband had claimed.

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The remains of an old farmstead. May 2019 photo. (Katie Pinke / Agweek)

I found her name and her land on the map. She passed away in the mid-1960s at age 101. I only know her through stories. Even though the farmstead we bought is 15 miles east of where my great-great-grandmother built her first American farm, I feel an even deeper sense of purpose to build a new future on the farmstead, for our family and our small business.

Last fall, the old home was torn down, but we saved some woodwork, doors and furniture from the home to be used in our new home. My husband has worked tirelessly to expand our business on the new farmstead. And now in 2020, we will begin building our new home.

My thoughtful 12-year-old daughter has created Pinterest boards of home ideas to help me make decisions. My homebuilder husband keeps working on adjusting a plan to meet the needs of our family now, modifying and adapting for our son’s wheelchair access.

While I could easily get lost in the details of a home build, I instead think of the new memories our family will create on the old farmstead, honoring past generations and building for the future.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

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