Sometimes in this life, people get exactly what they deserve.
This is not a story about that.
Carrie Edberg is a single mother of five who opened her arms and her home to kids with special needs.
In any reasonable universe, she’d win the lottery or get an ice cream flavor named in her honor. Instead, she walked out of her Zimmerman, Minn., home a few weeks ago to find a sinkhole swallowing part of her yard.
“My dad [climbed] in it, and it was up to his waist,” said Edberg, who bought the house for her growing family and who will finalize the adoption of her fifth son next week. “It was a couple of feet wide.”
She ordered some black dirt, and the family started shoveling it into the hole. But no matter how much they dumped in, it never seemed to fill.
“We were like, ‘Where’s it going?’ ” Edberg said with a laugh, describing the dirt vanishing down the void. “So then we got rocks, thinking that would help, and then we put dirt on top of that, and then the rain came and it all washed away.”
Three of Edberg’s five sons have serious health issues. Their new home in Zimmerman sits on enough land for the boys to play, for their dog, cats, goats and chickens to roam and for families of other medically fragile children to come and enjoy a day out.
But that’s not all the house sits on.
Edberg called in a local contractor. She was expecting to find a rotting stump or an old farmyard rubbish heap at the bottom of the hole. Instead, the contractor’s backhoe unearthed twisted pipes, broken glass and charred chunks of wood.
When the shovel scraped a concrete floor, she said, they realized they were looking at the foundation of a house that had apparently burned down and been buried and long forgotten. Sherburne County zoning officials say Edberg’s home was built in the 1980s, and they’re still searching their records for information about the mystery house under the yard.
The estimate to clear out and repair that house-sized sinkhole? About $15,000.
Exasperated, Edberg asked the crew to fill in the hole as well as they could. She’s hoping the yard will stay in one piece at least through mid-October, when she’s hosting a Fall Family Day for special needs children and families through the Minnesota chapter of HopeKids.
“I have an open door 24/7 policy,” Edberg said. “Many foster families come for help and a safe place to play. Friends love to come to visit the animals, play, relax.”
The sinkhole opened close to the spot where she was planning to install a new wheelchair ramp to the front door. The two youngest boys are 3 and 4, small enough to carry into the house for now but not forever.
For the time being, she’s keeping a wary eye on the pile of dirt in the front yard where the sinkhole lurks. On Oct. 20, the yard will be full of games and activities for the family day — should she worry about the earth opening up again? What about the nurses, therapists, tutors and friends who visit regularly? Should she fill the house-hole with water and call it a pool?
“I bought this house, with a little acreage, as our little sanctuary, because we can’t go out [to other] places very often,” she said.
Now it’s a sanctuary with a sinkhole.
Sinkholes happen. In July, a water main break caved in a chunk of Kellogg Boulevard right in front of Kelly’s Depot Bar & Grill in downtown St. Paul. Minneapolis residents have battled sinkholes that shift the foundations of their homes and cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage near flood-prone Minnehaha Creek. Fixing them is messy and pricey.
So if there’s solid earth under your feet, I congratulate you. No matter how badly your day is going, at least the earth isn’t trying to swallow you and nobody buried the burned-out carcass of another house in your front yard.
If you have any sinkhole suggestions, feel free to pass them along. Edberg has a GoFundMe page that a friend set up in January, when her youngest son was critically ill in the hospital. It has been expanded to include sinkhole expenses.
Meanwhile, she has a fall festival to prepare for the little ones.
As for that sinkhole: “We’ll figure it out.”