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Learning the mysteries of seaside living

a tree trunk with a hollow inside, filled with yellow mushrooms. The tree trunk is circled by a rusty iron ring.
Someone at some time decided it would be a good idea to put an iron ring around this tree that grows just behind our house. Who knows why, who knows when? But for now it makes the perfect autumny and Halloween image.
I love old stuff. I love old houses. A modern house with all new fixings and appliances? Not for me, no thank you. I love the history of old homes. I find solace in knowing that other people have been exactly in the same place. I like thinking about the people who lived there and what their lives were like.

By American standards, I grew up in a relatively old home. Our gabled, two-story childhood home was built in the early 1900s. When I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s, we would sometimes be sitting at the supper table and a door would bang shut upstairs if a gust of wind came through.

"There's Mr. Parker again," my dad would say blandly, without looking up from his dinner.

Mr. Parker was the name of our ghost. He was the man who was credited with building our house. In our family folklore, his ghost lived on to protect and look after the house and the people who lived in it.

Now it's 40 years later, and with my own family we own a little cottage in Finland. The property's name is Bastubacka, which means 'sauna hill,' but we still don't know why it's called that. The house at Bastubacka is relatively new, built in the early 2000s. It was built to look old, an updated replica of the house that stood here before. The original home was too rotted away to salvage, and the previous owners, whose family had lived in this place for at least three generations, rebuilt the cottage from the ground up. Rebuilding the house was definitely a labor of love. And patience. And money. It looks lovely; it looks old.

The property where our home sits goes back a long time, in terms of human inhabitants. How long ago, I have no idea. A much older friend, a man in his 80s, once told me that the bay where we live was an important site for hiding war ships during one of the Russian/Swedish wars. Which war, I don't know. There were many Russian/Swedish wars to choose from.

What I do know is that, although our house is new(ish), there is ample evidence to remind us that people have been living here for a very long time. Ant hills yield shiny artefacts from the ground up. The sea washes up boards and barrels and pieces from boats and docks. When I dig in the garden, I unearth a whole array of broken up pieces of porcelain dishes and iron whatsits.

Here are some finds from last summer.

an outstretched hand holding three pieces of broken blue and white china
These shards of classic blue porcelain china showed up when I was digging in the rosebush last summer. I know shards of pottery are nothing rare or unusual, but I like them.

And here is a cute little picture of the roof of a cabin. It looks a bit like ours!

One day I was digging in the flower garden and thought I was hitting a big rock. It turns out it was this thing, a curved piece of rusted iron that looks like it could have come from a witch's cauldron. Maybe it did.

Like I said, the house is new(ish), but when we moved in it contained a collection of old things that had clearly been around for a while, and were probably handed down from the original home that used to stand here. There's a handmade dining table with a built-in drawer. A rocking chair. An old-fashioned iron -- the kind that is literally made of iron. There is a breadboard with a long handle for taking bread in and out of a woodburning oven. And so on. These are all things I recognized.

The outbuildings are a different story, though. They contain an array of tools and artefacts that remain a mystery. This is an old fishing bay, after all, and the fishing paraphernalia are completely foreign to me. (I grew up in the Utah desert; not a lot of fishing around there.) There is a little boathouse on our property, and it was filled with all sorts of nets and traps like I have never seen before.

These nets look like they have been around for a while. They are tatty and full of holes. Apparently we have the right to use them on our own property, but we don't have a clue how to do it.

Ditto for this fishing trap. We guess it's for catching crayfish, but who knows.

About every 50 meters along our shoreline there's a sturdy iron ring drilled into the stone, like this one. They look old. Who put them there, and for what purpose? Don't know.

There is an old toolshed on the property with bats living in the rafters. The toolshed contains an assortment of handmade iron and wood tools that probably have something to do with forestry -- another realm that remains a mystery. These old iron tools are vaguely frightening, and they look like they have been hanging there for about 100 years.

Various other iron tools have been found here and there around the property. Here are a couple of examples. The tool in the first picture is a piece of folded flat iron with a holes punched through the end. It's about 11 cm long and weighs about 200 grams.

And this one, a similar size, looks like it used to fitted with a wooden handle.

Perhaps my favorite find so far -- and there have been many -- is the marble gravemarker that was left behind on a shelf in an upstairs storage room. It bears the name of a long-dead grandfather, and was probably taken from the local church yard when his grave expired. I won't post a picture of the gravestone because it bears a real name with real dates. Since he was not part of our family, I don't think it's my information to share. But I do wonder if it could have been this same grandfather who made the tools, used the tools, and left them behind for us to ponder.

Happy Halloween!

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