‘Let nature come in’: Chatfield family re-envisions farm with cozy Airbnb cabin
As a three-generation farm, the Lieb family grows mushrooms and raises animals along with hosting human guests in their year-round cabin. Owner Stena Lieb says the cabin is "cozy and tucked away."
CHATFIELD — On her family’s farm tucked between Chatfield and Lanesboro, Stena Lieb breathes in the peaceful sounds of nature.
She hears the coyotes; crunches twigs on the trails made by cows; listens to the wind rush over the native wildflowers and trout river; and smiles as their daughter Gwen leads people on a tour of their three-generation farm.
“I think it’s really nice that people can come and appreciate it,” Lieb said. “We know what we have but then to be able to share that with other people, I think it makes it more special or like validates what we have is truly a gem. Like it’s perfect for what we want to do and what we’re leaning towards (with) more people coming.”
In summer 2021, Andrew and Stena Lieb opened the farm’s original homesteaded cabin as an Airbnb. “It’s really secluded, and it’s nice and cozy and tucked away,” Stena described. The stay encourages “connections with nature,” from feeding animals and foraging for mushrooms to sledding and fishing.
While family and friends — and animals — once lived in the cabin, they started its transformation in the early 2000s. “They took the cabin apart as a puzzle,” Lieb said of her family who worked to save timbers and update elements such as a taller front door. They also added a few pieces to the puzzle: a half-loft, stained glass windows and a cement slab.
The $90-a-night nature escape shares the chance to unplug with no Wi-Fi or TV, which guests love, Lieb said. Some of their favorite activities are a night by the fire pit, dipping their feet in the river or snuggling up with a good book.
“A really neat thing in the winter because it is so quiet, you can hear the coyotes,” Lieb said. “Just to hear nature, to hear the sounds of animals, like you wouldn’t normally hear in town and just to enjoy the quiet. You can see the stars because there’s not all the light from the city.”
Inside the cabin, the rafters carry beams from trees in the area and salvaged logs. While there is no running water, an electric heater and electricity keep the cabin cozy. A barn kitchen offers water and an outdoor outhouse is available.
“We do have a porta potty that we rescued from the river. It had floated down in a flood and ended up in our field,” Lieb said. “It looks like it’s a '70s-style porta potty.”
The Borgen family originally lived on the farm around the early 1900s, and Andrew and Stena Lieb now live on the farm with their five children and Stena’s parents in another cabin.
“(The original cabin) wasn’t a home anymore and they used it for, to our knowledge, all the animals that have lived in there — pigs, sheep, cows, chickens,” Lieb said. “When I was growing up we actually used it as a place for our dairy cattle to have babies. And it never had electricity or anything in it, we actually still used a lantern when I was growing up (in the 1990s).”
When people open the doors and windows to “let nature come in with you,” its views include cows and calves in the spring and few mosquitoes in the summer, Lieb said. Even their dog Butterscotch plays host. They also have a few cattle on their property, though her dad stopped milking in 2007.
“It’s hard for us to just do all of the farm work that needs to be done here all the time to maintain and keep going as a small farm because we don’t have a lot of flat land so it gets a little trickier for that,” Lieb said. “And so we were just trying to think of different ways that we could utilize our property in a different way that is to the best benefit of our family and what we’re re-envisioning our farm to be.”
As Girl Scout and Boy Scout leaders, the Liebs understand the value of nature and sharing it with others. With their recent mushroom farm and the Airbnb bringing people to the property, they also hope to join the Driftless Hiking Trail . The trail sets out to cross over 100 miles of Driftless area in southeast Minnesota. “We have trails in our woods — the cows made them — but they’re there,” Lieb said.
“It’s been nice … for families that come with kids to just be able to have a place for them to be a kid and see some farm animals up close and how they really are, like it’s not like a zoo and it’s still a working farm,” Lieb said. “We have goats, we have chickens, ducks and geese wandering like in the summertime.”
The Liebs also grow produce in one field by their home as well as rent their tillable land to longtime family friends. The produce is shared with guests and sold at the Lanesboro Farmers Market.
While the Liebs continue to re-envision the farm, their vision for the outdoors is clear: care for it, enjoy it and share it.
“We know they take care of the land like that’s important to us too,” Lieb said, “to make sure that we’re taking care of what’s here so that it’s good enough for everybody later on if any of our children want to take over the farm or do something we’re leaving it in better shape than it was.”