Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I’ve gained Freshly Pressed status on WordPress for the second time June 12, 2012

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WordPress likes me. Or at least this online content management system and host site for Minnesota Prairie Roots likes my writing and photography enough to once again feature my work in Freshly Pressed. My writing was last highlighted on the WordPress homepage in July of 2010.

The photo from my Soap Box Derby post featured on the WordPress homepage in Freshly Pressed on Tuesday.

Today my post, “Testing the track during a Soap Box Derby trial run in Faribault,” was selected as one of the 11 best WordPress blog posts in the world. The whole big wide world, folks.

Yes, I am thrilled to have my post on the WordPress home page, chosen from among 834,622 new posts written by 401,667 bloggers. Those stats were as of 2:15 p.m. Tuesday when I took this screen shot:

A screen shot of the Tuesday, June 12, 2012, Freshly Pressed on the WordPress homepage. My post is featured in the bottom center.

“These (Freshly Pressed) posts represent how WordPress can be used to entertain, enlighten or inspire,” WordPress Weblog writer Joy Victory wrote in an April 28, 2010, post, “Five Ways to Get Featured in Freshly Pressed.” (Click here to read her post in its entirety.)

“It’s all about the content,” she says before listing five ways a WordPress blogger can increase his/her chance of making the homepage in Freshly Pressed:

  • Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
  • Include images or other visuals.
  • Add tags.
  • Aim for typo-free content.
  • Cap off your post with a compelling headline.

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

If you’ve followed Minnesota Prairie Roots for any length of time, you know that I adhere to all of those guidelines. But I’d like to add one more—write with passion.

When a writer writes for the pure joy of writing and takes photos for the pure joy of taking photos, it shows.

So what does making Freshly Pressed mean for me as a blogger? It equals a substantial increase in traffic to my site, recognition among my blogging peers, more subscribers and a confidence boost.

I don’t know the odds of making Freshly Pressed. I’ll leave that to the math whizzes out there to determine. I may be good with words, but I’m certainly not good with numbers.

Of one thing I’m certain, though. It feels good, absolutely fabulous in fact, to realize that my writing and photography are resonating with readers and that my posts (at least two of them) have been chosen as among the best in the world.

Moland Lutheran Church, a Norwegian Lutheran church south of Kenyon in Steele County, the subject of my post which was Freshly Pressed in July 2010.

FYI: To read the post “In praise of preserving country churches,” which was Freshly Pressed in July 2010, click here. Click here to see the post I wrote then about being Freshly Pressed.

To read “Testing the Track during a Soap Box Derby trial run in Faribault,” click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Historic Faribault Woolen Mill opens retail store with an artsy vibe

Perusing merchandise at the recently reopened Faribault Woolen Mill retail store.


Those words wash over me as I step into the Faribault Woolen Mill Company’s recently re-opened retail store.

I could have strolled into an art gallery for the artsy vibe of this place. It has that feel, that sense of style and creative energy, which tells you this is no cookie-cutter retail outlet but someplace special.

The retail store has a comfy, relaxed and trendy feel.

From the white-washed paneled walls to the utility spools brushed in crisp white paint to the shelves leveled upon a ladder to the uniform white cubbies, the décor here is bare bones basic. It’s perfect for showing off the woolen blankets hung and folded ever so precisely in this historic woolen mill along the banks of the Cannon River in Faribault.

Faribault Woolen Mill blankets/throws are artfully hung on a simple pipe.

Crisp white cubbies, ever so perfect for showing off blankets/throws.

Jean Moody is tending the store on this recent hot and humid Saturday afternoon in May when the thought of purchasing a wool blanket seems not even a remote possibility. My curiosity draws me inside the store, into this building where I’ve never set foot even though I’ve lived in Faribault for nearly 30 years.

A wall once located near bathrooms has been incorporated into the retail store, behind the check-out counter, to showcase a name etched in wood in 1931.

An American flag on a wall in a meeting room, visible through floor to ceiling glass in the retail store, emphasizes the Woolen Mill’s dedication to “American made” products.

On this afternoon, Jean welcomes me, obliging my request to photograph a meeting room and also a wall behind the retail counter. I have no idea she is the wife of Paul Mooty, who purchased the foreclosed mill and reopened it in 2011 with his cousin, Chuck Mooty, until she introduces herself later.

She’s friendly and engaging and genuinely interested in connecting with Faribault residents and grateful for the warm welcome given to her family.

An historic 1895 circa photo from the mill, among those featured in a mini wall of Woolen Mill history.

After the sudden closure of the mill in 2009, locals seem delighted with the Mooty cousins’ revival of the mill which dates back to 1865.

In its labeling, the mill promotes itself as “Purveyors of Comfort and Quality” with its products “Loomed in the Land of Lakes.”

The Faribault Woolen Mill’s mission, according to the company website is “to provide the finest quality goods made only by American craftsmen here in Faribault, Minnesota.”

Wool blankets with a definite Northwoods feel are sold in the retail store.

Fine examples of that craftsmanship are presented to the public in the woolen blankets and throws so artfully displayed in the store which, according to Jean, has a Ralph Lauren/Northwoods look.

I’d agree. Comfort. Simplicity.  Americana. All qualities in Ralph Lauren’s signature fashion style exist in this mill store which seems destined to once again become a must-see destination for visitors to Faribault, one of Minnesota’s oldest and most historic cities.

The historic Faribault Woolen Mill sits along the banks of the Cannon River.

FYI: The Faribault Woolen Mill retail store holds its grand opening from 4:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 14. A ribbon-cutting is scheduled in conjunction with the Faribault Heritage Days Mayor’s Reception.

Tours of the Woolen Mill, located on the banks of the Cannon River at 1500 Second Avenue Northwest near the Rice County Fairgrounds, will be offered as part of the Heritage Days celebration at 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13, and again on Friday, June 15. Preregister by calling (507) 334-2064.

For more info about the Faribault Woolen Mill, click here to link to the company website.

A replica of an original sign is now in the Woolen Mill’s historic display area.

Even this Woolen Mill conference/meeting room possesses an inviting, rustic appeal.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Note: These photographs were shot one month ago.