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Visit a restored house from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandparents homestead site…

In the spring of 2012, my husband Stanton and I, who are sculptors, had the opportunity to save an early pioneer house by moving it from a neighbor’s land to ours. The house, built on a site homesteaded by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandparents in the nineteenth century, had been vacant for years and was in a state of disrepair.  “There were holes in the roof,” recounts my husband Stanton.  “The building was still sound enough to be salvaged, but I felt this was its last chance.” 

We moved the house.  You can see a picture of the move here.  The small house was framed on a sill of hand-hewn logs.  We placed the house on a new foundation, stabilized it structurally, and gave it a new roof.

We incorporated both traditional and contemporary elements in the building’s restoration.  We added root cellar space into the new foundation to store harvest from the small farm which is part of our Myklebust+Sears studio. We warmed a walk-out lower level of the building with in-floor heat and in 2012 installed a solar array to power the area.  We keep an antique Scandinavian frame loom there.

In addition to our sculptures, Stanton and I raise sheep at Black Cat Farmstead.  From their wool, we handspin Myklebust’s yarns, using several looms and a variety of spinning wheels and fiber tools, both antique and contemporary.  We are using the house as a store to sell these yarns.  See them here.  We have also created a workspace and teaching venue in the house for traditional fiber arts.  Though most of my career has been involved in the production of large-scale sculptures for public spaces, I’ve had a long-standing interest in fiber and textile work.  Moving our studio here to rural Pepin County presented an opportunity to more deeply explore this aspect of my artistic production.  I have also set aside part of the little house as a gallery to feature work by local artists and am changing these exhibits regularly.

By last summer, we had the house ready to welcome visitors as the Black Cat Farmstead Fiber Studio and Farm Store.  We invite you to stop by.  We open the studio to the public May through Country Christmas weekend, December 7 - 8, and all year by appointment.  When you visit the studio, expect to find a wide range of activities taking place, including fiber preparation, handspinning, weaving, and spinning wheel repair.  You will likely encounter at least one of the studio’s namesake felines.  Black is the favorite color for cats here at our farm and at the neighbor’s place.  Before we moved the little house, feral black cats used the old cellar as a shelter.  I like to imagine that they may be the descendants of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s cat, Black Susan. 

Stanton and I wanted to restore and re-use of the little house and incorporate it into the working landscape of our studio to connect both the past and the future  We were happy to have the opportunity to save a piece of local history.  The house is a living example of how people who arrived here a hundred and fifty years ago lived and worked.  It’s a great place to create.  Our site is like a big laboratory, where we can experiment with new ideas related to sculpture, plantings, and landscapes.

We hope you visit soon.

We'd love to meet you,
Andrea Myklebust and Stanton Sears
Black Cat Farmstead Fiber Studio & Farm Store