David was from New York, Lise was from Minnesota, and we planned to settle in Maine where there was a well-established small farm movement and we had arranged to caretake an abandoned homestead. While on a six month honeymoon at a high desert seed and research farm at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, Lise began feeling pangs of homesickness for the Midwest. Though it completely changed their plans, David agreed to consider moving to the Midwest as long as it was to Finland, Minnesota, which his research showed had land, water and climate similar to Maine. Upon arrival in Minnesota, we actually did find our home just outside of Finland, in the beautiful Sawtooth Mountains along the North Shore of Lake Superior. We began homesteading our 40 acres in 1988, living for six years in a simple cabin while slowly expanding our farm and our family. In the tradition of the original turn-of-the-century Finnish homesteaders, the first thing we built was the sauna. This provided an opportunity to learn construction and stonework skills which led to a stone and timber framed barn for livestock. By this time we had two sons, Colby and Tremayne, outgrowing our small cabin so we built a new house, along with a greenhouse and, later, a stone chicken coop.
Over the years, hard labor and many helping hands created this homestead. We have juggled numerous part-time jobs to support our efforts, ranging from taconite plant janitor to census worker, and school counselor to county water plan coordinator. We recently lay down the CSA vegetable operation and are establishing a "seed farm", along with continuing to sell fresh organic produce at the Finland Farmers Market. After 24 years, our son took over the handmade balsam wreaths, sustainably harvested from our land and mail-ordered across the country.
We recently purchased 80 acres of adjacent lake land. Our lifestyle continues to change as Lise provides nonprofit and government accounting services and directs a local elder care nonprofit North Shore Area Partners, and David is the Executive Director of the Northeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, with Extension at the University of Minnesota. Colby Abazs returned home with his partner Julia and are carving out their place with us.