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"Welcome to the world’s largest do-it-yourself project," Ann Osland said in greeting from the front door of her new log home.
It’s here on a windswept ridge in Holt Township, that Ann and her husband, Wallace, a retired Spring Valley funeral director, have been building the house of their dreams for the past five years. It has been a project that has consumed their time and their energy, keeping them busier in their retirement years than they ever could have imagined.
"Retirement for me is just a different line of work," Wallace said, philosophically. "I always have a hammer or saw in my hand." And one gets the sense, after touring the spacious 3,900 square foot house, that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wallace said that they wanted a log home but after studying the different designs went with one that was conventionally framed. "We liked that style because of its versatility," he said. He pointed out that the house was actually framed with a stud wall and that split half logs were then applied on both the exterior and interior walls.
Critics have often said that log homes tend to be drafty, but the Oslands have been able to insulate the house soundly. They began by installing R-30 value blanket insulation in between the studs and followed with a one-inch thick Styrofoam board. Then they covered it all with a thin plastic sheeting to keep out vapor before applying a Tyvek-type housewrap to the whole thing. The ceiling, too, is insulated at an R-40 value.
As a finishing touch, Ann has carefully caulked the spaces between the exterior and interior logs. It is clear that the only draft this house is going to get will be when a window is left open on a blustery day.
The building materials for the house arrived on semi-trailers as a package from Greatwood Log Homes, which is part of the Wilderness Log Homes Company of Plymouth, Wisconsin.
The Oslands had spent years reading magazines and log home literature as well as visiting several log companies before going with the Greatwood company.
"We liked the feel of Greatwood," Ann said, "and after doing a cost comparison we decided to go with them." Using a stock design they made modifications to the plans to suit their own tastes. After attending a weekend building seminar, they felt they had the rudimentary knowledge it would take to construct their own log home. Naturally, there would be much in the way of learning that lay ahead.
Excavation at the building site a few miles north of Whalan began on Memorial Day weekend, 1996. The first load of logs rolled in later that summer at the end of August. They were Swedish Cope style logs milled from Western Red Cedar, the longest ones being 16 feet in length. Western Red Cedar is a beautiful and stable wood and is widely recognized as the best wood species for wall logs.
The house has a wood foundation, which Wallace said he didn’t know anything about until he "got working on one."
"We have found this style of basement to be extra warm and dry," Ann said.
The living room or great room, as they are called in the log home trade, has a spectacular cathedral ceiling made with tongue and groove stained pine. Wallace said it was 23 feet from the floor to the ceiling’s peak and that he utilized the help of Spring Valley carpenter Cliff Franke in completing the higher reaches.
"Cliff has provided a lot of his carpentry expertise in other parts of the house, as well," Ann said.
Above is a loft with a sitting area and a dormer to each side where two full bedrooms and baths are located, which will be used by guests in the Bed and Breakfast the Oslands plan to operate.
Large windows and an impressive, sturdy looking fireplace take up most of the south wall of the great room. The chimney rises 33 feet from the ground and has an interesting assortment of rocks, many collected from fields in the Spring Valley and Ostrander areas. Other rocks came from various locations around the country including Utah, Missouri and Wisconsin.
"We’d be out for a drive and see a pile of stones and stop and pick out a few that we liked," Ann said.
"I especially like rocks with quartz in them," Wallace said. "We sat down and figured out one time that we collected about 24 tons of stones."
Stepping out onto the southern deck with its sweeping panoramic view of the forests and bluffs of eastern and central Fillmore County, Wallace was asked if he had any advice for other do-it-your-selfer’s.
He thought for a moment and then replied, "The one thing you’re going to need more of than anything is a powerful lot of elbow grease."