Planning Makes Perfect

Making a choice to live their own dream.

A passion for country living. That’s what drove John and Anita Pleacher for years as they chased their goal of settling and managing their own small country homestead.

John spent much of his life around the busy suburbs of Washington D.C. as an accountant but always longed for a place in the country. His wife, Anita, knew all about the lifestyle her husband so desired, since she grew up on a small farm herself. She shared in John’s desire, and throughout their professional careers and life together, they worked toward a more simple, slower paced, style of life.

The Pleacher’s interest in log homes grew as they vacationed and traveled the United States. John and Anita frequently visited national parks, renting cabins whenever possible.

“That’s really where our love for log homes grew,” John said.

In 2000, the couple started planning more for retirement and moved to the Leitchfield, Ky., area. Over the next few years, they would move in and out of homes, some in subdivisions, others not, but none of them were the homestead they had in mind. Their real estate agent was on constant watch for the couple’s ideal property – a small 100-acre farm, secluded and private, just like everyone else on the market wanted. Real estate at the time was booming, and their options appeared slim.

John and Anita both began to wonder if they were ever going to find the farm of their dreams. Their agent showed them various listings, but each had something out of place. Then, they received the call of a lifetime. Their agent had learned of a property not yet on the market but prepared to sell. It was much larger, at 300 acres, than they had wanted, but all other aspects were perfect. They agreed to give it a chance, and as they pulled through the wooded driveway into the property and up on a small hill, the trees gave way to a gorgeous view of the farm’s pasture. It was perfect!

The existing brick home on the farm, though older, was in great condition. They made the purchase and now owned the farm of their dreams.

They settled in to country living and their new brick home, but a few years later it hit. All those years of vacationing in log cabins, along with their new property, made them realize the home they were living in wasn’t really theirs. It was someone else’s dream, and theirs wasn’t quite complete. Their farm needed a log home. So began their research.

“We traveled to area home shows and log home shows, visited company web sites, and of course we have subscriptions to all the magazines,” John noted. “The couple, both being detail oriented, researched for years comparing the differences in construction, materials and designs. “We knew nothing about construction. So when we started getting more serious, we knew we needed a turn-key solution and that eliminated a lot of companies.”

In 2009, John and Anita met Ellis and Sandy Kiper of Rocky-K Log Homes, an independent dealership of Honest Abe products. Sitting in their sales model, John and Anita realized they had just found the home they had always wanted.

“We sized our great room exactly from their model,” Anita said. From there, Rocky-K worked on an initial floor plan, taking the couple’s ideas and needs, then incorporating them into the Pleacher’s own custom floor plan. John and Anita were able to make changes, in which they removed any hallways from the initial layout and eliminated any space they felt would be wasted. They incorporated a spacious kitchen to accommodate Anita’s love for cooking. A sunroom built off the side of the home gives them an incredible panoramic view of their farm, and they suddenly became audience to an abundance of wildlife. Overall, lots of planning went into their project.

“We tried to live in the house from the blueprints before it was ever built,” commented Anita. “Our whole idea around the design was to be able to see our farm. It’s visually interesting as there is always something going on with the wildlife to watch.”

The couple approached the project in two phases. First, they built a garage with living area above it using  ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms), which they had originally considered using to construct their new home before realizing log was their real dream. Rocky-K covered the structure in log siding to match the home that was soon to follow. The Pleachers now had a place to live while the construction of their new home began. The second stage began with removing the existing home. Wanting nothing to go to waste, they chose to give the home away to an Amish couple if they would see to moving it.

It was taken down, piece by piece, then relocated to a nearby community and rebuilt. With the brick home gone, Rocky-K was now clear to start construction of their log home. Overall, the construction went along with relative ease. As is typical, a couple of jobsite modifications were made. The enclosed connector between the garage and the home was originally drawn to be eight feet wide. Brad Cummings of Rocky-K suggested the couple consider making it ten feet, a change the couple has been thrilled with.

“It was an enjoyable process and the planning was fun and exciting,” stated John. “We were blessed with quality work, not just from Rocky-K, but also from their subcontractors as well.”

John went on to tell a story about how the excavator brought in by the company used precision and care to avoid damaging a fresh water well found just feet from the home’s front porch, as well as a small dogwood tree they wished to save.

“It’s that kind of care that makes things go so well,” Anita added.

While the view of their farm is superb, that’s not the only use the couple make of the property, and it’s actually quite functional. “We’re not ‘doomsday preppers’ by any means,” noted Anita, adding, “But we have built our home and are working this farm to have contingencies and be prepared. It’s more about being good stewards, self reliance and sustainability if it is needed.” Over the past several years, the area has received notable winter ice storms, crippling the utilities for days and weeks on end. Recent summers have, likewise, been difficult, as dryer than normal conditions have hurt the area’s ability to produce crops.

To offset these specific issues, the couple installed a generator, capable of meeting all or portions of the home’s energy needs for quite some time. In addition, water run off from the home and barns on the property is collected and stored in tanks, then used in the summer to water their large garden. Whatever the couple doesn’t eat from the garden in the winter, gets canned or frozen for storage and later consumption. Energy efficiency also plays into their sustainability goal.

“We’re heating and conditioning over 5,800 square feet, and our most expensive utility bill has been about $200.00, which we consider outstanding,” they said.

While John and Anita have kept a practical approach about planning the home and working their farm, the emotions the home itself stirs is not lost on them.

“I’m closer to this house because we put so much into it, we put in a lot of ourselves,” says Anita.

The vaulted ceilings and exposed heavy timber rafters create a wonderful atmosphere and mood, which are thrust upon visitors when they enter the front door and go directly into the great room.

“It’s a calming, comforting and secure house,” John added. “I couldn’t imagine living in a conventional home again. We look forward to coming home to it, and in fact, we’ve really not had an urge to take a vacation since moving in. We just want to be here.”

For those considering building a custom log or timber home, the couple encourages them to plan and do so without fear. “Being an accountant, I tend to be cautious and calculating,” noted John. “I realized as we were researching this that many of the fears expressed to me by others were misplaced. Building a custom home is a lot of work, and it takes preparation, and that doesn’t matter if it’s made of log or conventional materials. Planning may be hard for some people, but the more you do, the happier you will be in the end.”

Now, after years of dreaming and suburban life, John and Anita Pleacher have the homestead they had dreamed of for so long. Patience, a vision, and careful planning have put them on a course of better self sufficiency and many more years of peaceful and simple living together in their beautiful log home.