The green shovel is a small antique metal toy given to me by my great uncle Emil shortly before he died. I was young so my mom packed it away until I was old enough to learn Uncle Emil's story. Emil's father homesteaded in Michigan's Upper Peninsula after emigrating from Northern Finland in the late 1800s. Right up to the early 1980s when Uncle Emil died, their humble farmhouse never had electricity or indoor plumbing.

In the years following, my young curious spirit was cultivated by my mom who frequently took me to his abandoned homestead in search of vintage treasures—antique bottles, tins, ironwork, ephemera. Uncle Emil saved everything from the family's century on the farm and I became addicted to picking and digging. It's in our blood.

In the mid 1980s the dilapidated farmhouse and outbuildings were rescued by an architectural restoration expert in southern Wisconsin. The buildings were meticulously documented, dismantled, then transported to a rural farm west of Milwaukee. There the home was precisely reconstructed and restored, where it stands beautifully to this day—a bronze plaque on the front wall bearing our family name.

The green shovel is one of my most prized possessions; symbolic of my humble roots, picking and digging, family heritage, and object stories.