Our Timber Block Home in Southwest Wisconsin . . .

Our Timber Block Journey

Grab a cup of coffee . . . or a glass of wine.  This is the story of how my wife, Victoria, and I came to own a Timber Block home. 

Like a lot of folks, we had talked about building a cabin for a long, long time.  I’d occasionally pick up a copy of Log Home Living or similar cabin/cottage fantasy material and gaze longingly at the photos of beautiful homes in beautiful places.  Occasionally, we’d stop at some roadside log home model, walk through, and leave with an unfulfilled yearning . . . for something we thought we could never make happen.

Let’s face it—log cabins are incredible. A Heck of a Nice House They’re the iconic American home, evoking images of Davy Crockett, Abe Lincoln, and—for me—Bonanza's Ben Cartwright.  As a kid, Ben was “the man.”  A lot to admire.  Ben was good looking, a pretty good shot, had three trustworthy sons, a capable cook, and lived in a heck of a nice house on the Ponderosa Ranch.  He occasionally had to deal with a cattle rustler or murderer, whom he effectively handled, using a modicum of force.  And he lived in a heck of a nice house:

So, for me, the seed of an idea was planted as a kid.  Victoria and I talked about it from time to time, somewhat wistfully.  But it never seemed too realistic.  We live and work in a Chicago suburb.  When we would gaze at the beautiful cabins in the beautiful magazines, and when we would buy the books with page after page of homes every bit as beautiful as Ben Cartwright’s, the heavy mist of reality would settle on us.  How could we ever swing the cost?  Where could we build?  How the heck would we ever deal with all the issues of lengthy construction, maintenance, and the cost of upkeep?

Despite the lingering doubts—the heavy mist of reality—we never completely gave up on the idea.  We read the books.  We visited the models.  We even went to a cabin show or two.  This confused the whole process even more.  As I started reading about the amount of time and energy that would be consumed in order to live in a log home, I couldn’t help but think that it simply wasn’t practical.  We weren’t ready to retire, but it seemed like the maintenance requirements of a log home dictated either that we would have to pay someone a fair amount of money to keep on top of it, or that we’d have to defer until a time when we could live in the home full time and spend a fair amount of personal time attending to maintenance.

Then there was the whole idea of heating and cooling a log home.  We had once lived in a 130-year-old Victorian, so I knew a thing or two about air infiltration and R-values.  Again, the heavy mist of reality . . . .

It wasn’t that our lives were totally consumed by an unachievable dream.  We have great friends and a loving family.  We travel frequently.  And I ride a motorcycle, which is pretty darned fun.  It came to pass in the fall of 2010 in a very beautiful place in the South Pacific (Bora Bora) that we found ourselves with a couple of idle days.  We ate great food.  We walked the beach.  We had a few island cocktails.  And we talked.  There was a bit of money in the bank and the dawn of a realization that we were not immortal.  If we were ever to realize this particular dream—owning a log cabin—we would have to get serious.  We set two goals:  we would find land by the end of 2011 and, tentatively, get serious about building within five years.  The heavy mist of reality had met the formidable force of determination.

The search for land was interesting, in the sense that exactly the right site for us almost fell into our laps.  This isn’t about our building site, but we found a beautiful spot in southwest Wisconsin that was near to family, reasonably remote, yet not too far away from civilization.  This all happened in the early months of 2011, leaving us to ponder our next steps.

Our land was wholly undeveloped, so some of what we had to do was obvious.  We needed a well.  We needed a septic system.  We would have to run electricity.

The long-awaited log cabin was still a ways off, but we knew a barn would always be helpful.  So, we built a pole shed, installed a bathroom in it, and proclaimed it “The Barn.”  We read some more about log homes.  We talked to a variety of companies.  We visited more models.  And, significantly, we went to a log home show where Timber Block had a display.

Now, to be honest, the whole Timber Block thing didn’t “click” right away.  Yes, they were beautiful . . . really beautiful.  Their building system was extremely impressive.  But the “clicking” part?  Not really . . . to me, it seemed like such a premium product that I couldn’t imagine we could ever afford something that nice.  So, we made the rounds . . . not only at the cabin show, but on the phone and by email over the months that followed.  One by one, the options dropped out.  Too many questions about maintenance.  Low energy efficiency.  Cheap-looking end results. 

Having exhausted innumerable options and coming up empty-handed, I called Timber Block.  We started talking about pricing.  We moved on to energy efficiency.  We talked a little about financing.  There was a lot to consider, but Timber Block seemed like a viable option, surprising to me, because they were such beautiful, high quality homes.  Over a period of a few months, we stayed in touch.  And, one by one, our questions and concerns were answered.  At the end of it all, there was only one answer . . . we would have to build a Timber Block home.

And so we did.  On June 20, 2012, I found myself sitting outside the Barn when the tractor-trailer rig pulled up with our home loaded on the back.  It was thrilling, and just a little scary.  The thought that the result of years of dreaming and planning were loaded on that trailer was overwhelming.  In that time, we had lived on two continents and in locations from the New England to the Pacific coast.  We had each lost parents.  Our son had become an Army officer.  And, ultimately, on the island of Bora Bora, we made a decision that led us to this place, half a world away, yet close to our hearts.  Fittingly, our decision on Bora Bora took us to Borah Ridge Road, atop a bluff near the Wisconsin River. 

The next day, trepidation gave way to excitement as we prepared to witness our wall raising.  Buddy Parton, who had led us through the planning and purchase process, was there.  He’d driven all the way from North Carolina.  Family members came from Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.  Others interested in Timber Block homes came from throughout the Midwest.

The local building crew and Timber Block’s technicians were on site before 7:00 a.m.  They spent some time discussing the process, reviewing the crane placement, and ensuring that all needed equipment was in place.  At precisely 9:00 a.m., the first wall section was lifted into place.  Six hours later, the walls were erected.  Impressive.

In roughly a week, our Timber Block home was under roof, and just four months later, we completed our final occupancy inspection.  I’ll share our experiences in building our Timber Block home at another time, but with each step—signing the design agreement, watching the walls go up, and throughout the building process, up to the time we were handed our keys—we were constantly reassured that we had made the right choice. 

Our Timber Block home—the log cabin we dreamed of for years—is the embodiment of everything we had dreamed about. It is, in our builder’s words, “rock solid.”  It is warm and cozy.  It is beautiful, evoking one word from every visitor . . . “Wow.”  But, most importantly, it is a home, a place that will serve as a gathering place for families and friends . . . for us, and for generations to come.

This is our home . . .