LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — La Farm: A 20-Year Celebration Of Family And Friends

Today marks the 20th anniversary of my sisters and I buying our grandparents’ farm.We have 33 acres tucked in the rolling hills of Otter Tail County near Ashby, Minn., where we grew up.

As I look back over the years, I’m sitting at the old red formica kitchen table with its matching red upholstered and chrome chairs where we’ve eaten hundreds of meals, had thousands of conversations and played too many Hand and Foot card games to count.

We have a terrific water view of La Pond, or as it says on the maps Muskrat Lake, especially since we replaced a small west-facing window with double-sliding glass doors a couple of years ago.

In the fall of 1996, sitting at the round table in the City Restaurant in Ashby, a grade-school classmate of mine, Donna Carlson Grover told us that the farm was for sale. Our cousin, Candy Kersey was visiting from California at the time. We didn’t hesitate to jump in our cars and drive out to take a look at it. Within days, it was ours.

We formed the La Valleur Sisters Trust. The original purchase included June, Sharon, me and our cousin, Claudia La Valleur. Her dad (Red La Valleur, RIP 19??) and our Dad (Bud La Valleur, RIP 1957) were first cousins. That provided the opportunity for our mother to legally adopt Claudia, which Mother did Sept. 26, 1997, bringing Claudia into the sisterhood.

Back then, “Loophole,” Ashby’s attorney who helped us form our trust, made the comment, “There should be a law passed that you girls can’t all be in town at the same time.” Evidently, we laugh so much when we get together that some people have even thought we were intoxicated.  At the City Restaurant.  At 10 in the morning!

Fast forward to three years ago, following her marriage to Dave Carlson, Claudia (now Carlson) asked the three of us to buy her out so that she and Dave could do more traveling.  We did.

Over the years, we’ve replaced the roof (twice) and all the windows. We’ve remodeled the original kitchen (which I didn’t think we’d ever do), raised the ceiling, put in a dishwasher and huge windows to watch the sun rise over the big old oak and corn crib, expanded the bathroom to accommodate two sinks and a washer and dryer. We’ve added air conditioning, replaced the water softener, moved that old ugly dang propane tank out of view behind the corn crib.

We replaced a crumbling basement wall after a sewer back up. Yuk. And the septic tank. We’ve torn down the old garage and another small building that wasn’t being used.

But, thankfully, we haven’t taken down the old shed that I have lovingly photographed — hundreds of times — over the years. It’s got terrific character with its weather-beaten wood, natural “knotty pine” holes and fast disappearing shingles.

We added a pet cemetery complete with stones and white fencing. There are some really fun stories about that!

We’ve had mostly great times at La Farm, but there have also been a few sad moments. A few years ago, someone stole a bunch of our firepit wood that is visible from the gravel road separating the old farmhouse from the pond.

Our grandparents, John and Mabel La Valleur, bought the land in 1920 when our Dad was 1 year old. He and his siblings, Aunt Goldie (Bowman, RIP 1978) and Aunt Glo (Mahar and later Shemorry RIP 2015) grew up here. It’s hard to imagine all five of them sleeping in the small upstairs bedroom, especially when they were all teenagers!

Our grandparents sold the farm to Verle and Rose (RIP 2015) Martin.  We bought it from them 40 years to the week from when they bought it from Grandpa and Grandma.

The original farmhouse was small with slanted roofs in both the original kitchen and upstairs bedroom. The Martin’s expanded the house to add two bedrooms downstairs, and I believe they also enlarged the entry and bathroom.

When we bought it, we knocked down the wall in one bedroom to create a large double living room to accommodate larger gatherings. Sleeper sofas were bought.

We’ve decorated it over the years with lots of family memorabilia including an award for Dad’s perfect school attendance dated May 11, 1929. He was 10 years old. Then there is Mother’s key hole collection (Elva Belle Crouch La Valleur Evander, RIP 2006). And the cross-stitch doily made in the 1950s by Mother’s friend, Eivor Jedlund (RIP 2010). It’s place is on the back of the couch. All our names are stitched on it including our old black Lab, Buzz whose name is stitched with backwards z’s.

Most of all, there are photos. Lots of photos dating from the late 1880s to this year. We especially enjoy sharing the photos of Grandpa and Grandma, the original farmhouse, family pictures where our Dad is goofing off. Photos of our aunts and cousins, our kids and grandkids. There’s also one from when the Martin’s lived here, of farmers and their tractors in the field helping the year Verle was quite sick. The apron-clad women are holding pans loaded with (I’m guessing) pork and beans with potato salad to feed the crew of about two dozen.

We all spend as much time at La Farm as possible. We especially enjoy family holidays at birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Some of the highlights over the years include hosting house concerts featuring our friends and well-known Minnesota artists such as Anne M. Dunn, Anishinabeg-Ojibwe storyteller, and Patty Kakac, singer-songwriter.

We’ve had grandchildren overnights and girlfriend weekends. Bible and book club evenings. There have been class reunion events from Ashby and Battle Lake. And I’m told that there will be a wedding here next year when Sharon’s grandson (my great-nephew), Zach Henneman, marries the love of his life, Marissa Medkeff. The celebrations keep on happening.

Tonight, the sisters, June, Sharon and me with our husbands, Duane Rost, Don Henneman and Arnie Bigbee, will have a champagne toast to La Farm, our grandparents, the Martin’s, our families and good health.

We’ll follow that with grilled steak and lobster, baked potatoes, mixed green salad, chocolate torte, Double Dark Chocolate Gelato topped with fresh raspberries. And wine.

Tomorrow, Johnny and Brittany Johnson will come and mow, tidying up the leaves and grass so La Farm looks good Saturday afternoon.

We’ve invited family and friends and the Ashby-Battle Lake communities to an Open House (1 to 4 p.m.) to celebrate with us. We’ll serve Mother’s egg coffee and there’ll be home made chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies and June’s making one of Grandma Mabel’s cake recipes.

All are welcome to share their memories.

One thought on “LA VALLEUR COMMUNICATES: Musings By Barbara La Valleur — La Farm: A 20-Year Celebration Of Family And Friends”

  • Nancy Hanson October 27, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Love to all of you!


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