A labor of love
Gudbjørg and Dan Chesnut restore an ancestral farm into a peaceful retreat
By Christy Olsen Field
Norwegian American Weekly
Gudbjørg Dybing Chesnut left Norway in 1964 to work for the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York. She grew up in Egersund, along the southern coast of Norway. Gudbjørg intended to stay for her two-year commitment at the Consulate General, but she married an American and made her home in the United States. She returned to Norway often, and never forgot beautiful, remote farm near Heskestad.
The Dybing farm was passed down by father to son since 1650. Gudbjørg inherited the farm in 1975, and became the first woman to own the property. The farm was in dilapidated condition, and needed the investment of time and energy to restore it.
Gudbjørg recalls fond memories of visiting the farm from her childhood. Reflecting on its remote location, Gudbjørg says, “It was a remote farm—the first road leading up to the farm was built in the 1960s! My ancestors were hardworking, honest people who did what they could to make a living.”
Starting in 1988, Gudbjørg and husband Dr. Dan Chesnut used every vacation to return to the farm and continue their restoration. The couple built a cabin on the property, using lumber they chopped themselves from the surrounding forest, which had been planted by Gudbjørg’s grandfather.
In 1994, Dr. Dan closed his family practice clinic in Oklahoma, and shifted his focus to nutrition. This change allowed the Chesnuts to spend more time in Norway, and work on their property.
The first building to be completed on the property was Siristova, named after Gudbjørg’s daughter Siri. Gurihuset stands on the original stone foundations of the main farmhouse. The Chesnuts built Gurihuset identically on the outside to the original structure. In the basement with its meter-thick stone walls, Gudbjørg has created her own museum of artifacts and special items from the farm.
The old barn Pederlåven has been turned into another vacation home with sweeping panoramic views of the lake and surrounding area. All of the Dybing Farm buildings are tastefully decorated with Norwegian furnishings and design, many of which were handmade by Gudbjørg’s husband Dan.
Gudbjørg credits Dan’s ability as an architect, craftsman, and artist as instrumental in bringing their vision for Dybing Farm into reality. The wild and stunning landscape at Dybing inspired the setting for Dr. Dan’s novel “Ulvedal,” published in April 2009.
The majority of visitors to Dybing Farm are tourists from Germany, NATO staff based in nearby Stavanger, and American expats working for oil companies in southern Norway.
Dybing offers more than just beautiful accomodations— there are paddle boats, canoes, motor boats, svaberg (flat rocks for sunbathing), berry-picking, trout fishing, and marked hiking trails, including the popular “Opplev Dalane” (Experience Dalane) trail. Dybing is a mere half-hour from the ocean, the charming restored fishing village Sogndalstrand, and Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).
In addition to being a relaxing haven for vacationers, Dybing Farm is the site of weddings, confirmations, family reunions, and company team-building retreats. There are 27 beds on the property, which makes it ideal for large groups.
When asked what she loves most about Dybing farm, Gudbjørg says, “I love its peace and tranquility. Restoring the farm honors my ancestors who farmed this land for 400 years. We put 15 years of hard work into this place. People thought we were crazy, but now they love it too.”
Visit online: www.dybingfarm.no
This article was originally published in the Feb. 5, 2010 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.