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 In It for Others 

This modified Eagledale plan by Honest Abe has an open floor plan and is ideal for a compassionate family whose focus has always been to provide a place for others to have a home.

“My wife and I have been together for 40 years, and having a log home is something we talked about when we first started dating,” says Mike Chalk of Spencer, Tenn. “We waited until I was in a place in my life — retired from the Army — that we could do this.”

“This” is a 1,500-square-foot home on two acres overlooking Cumberland Plateau. The cabin — built by Tennessee-based Otto Builders — completely suits Mike and Joan’s busy lifestyle. Even better, it’s as warm and welcoming as the Chalks themselves.

“We have one child through our marriage, but we fostered 31 beautiful children and nine widows through different seasons of our life,” says Mike. “We always had five children in our home: a little baby, two preschoolers and two elementary students. And from time to time, we’d take in an adult, and we’d minister to them.”

Although the Chalks no longer take in foster kids, their good works continue. Both volunteer firefighters, they’re also active in their church and help feed 300 needy families each month. So deep is their commitment to serving others, in fact, that they designed part of their cabin to more easily do so.

“I built the dining area specifically so I could have six or seven people around the table, and we could have Bible study, counseling sessions or just talk about stuff,” Mike says of the modest space. “It works really well.”

With its wraparound deck, wide front porch and secluded location 600 yards off the main road in a planned (yet virtually empty) community, the cabin is also perfect for hosting get-togethers, even if it’s tough to amass guests.

“We’ve done some entertaining, but there aren’t a lot of people up here to entertain,” Mike admits, noting the nearest neighbor is barely within earshot. “In our little subdivision, there are seven homes, but we’re the only one on our street.”

Enduring Appeal

One of the Chalks’ favorite aspects of the cabin is its feeling of openness. Although the place has two bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, the main living area — with no walls separating the living room, dining area and kitchen, and no basement beneath — is a single, uninterrupted space.

“I think my favorite thing is being up in the loft and being able to see the entire house open up,” Mike observes. “It’s all wood, and it smells woodsy. It’s manly.”

Greg Watson of Honest Abe Log Homes, the Chalks’ log provider, understands the allure. “There’s just an atmosphere with a log home, and the strength of it makes you feel secure,” he explains.

That strength translates to the cabin’s insulation as well. Although frigid nights occasionally force the Chalks to abandon the deck in favor of the hearth, even on frosty evenings, their propane-fueled fireplace works a little too well because of the insulating properties of the cabin.

“A log home is such a well-insulated home that it stays a constant 68 to 72 degrees almost all the time,” says Mike. “Our air conditioner or heater hardly ever comes on, and we don’t run the fireplace as much as we’d like to because it gets too warm.”

The fortitude and longevity inherent in their cabin allow the couple to enjoy their active lifestyle and their commitment to the less fortunate without worry.

“We’re on the go,” says Mike, who wouldn’t change a thing about the easy-to-love, easy-to-maintain cabin. “And with the log cabin, we can just leave it, and when we come back, there it is.”

story by HOLLY SMITH, Country’s Best Cabins, 2013 Buyer’s Guide

photos by ROGER WADE styling by DEBRA GRAHL

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