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"Adventurous Spirit"

Log Home Living, January 2004

 

The thrill of adventure and trying new things leads a Montana woman on a quest to build a handcrafted log home.

 

Barbara Gallagher has never shied away from a challenge. She has gone skydiving, walked across hot coals, and even (gulp) experienced natural childbirth at home. "Yeah, you could say Im a little adventuresome," she admits with a laugh. So, given her daredevil antics, how hard could it be to build a 3,000-square-foot log home? As it turns out, it was a more demanding, hands-on experience than she ever dreamed.

 

And Barbara had been dreaming for a long time, attracted by the warmth and natural beauty of log homes. In the late 1980s, she began clipping design ideas from magazines and over the years she has attended multiple log homes shows. When her daughter, Nicole, graduated from high school, Barbara was finally ready to make her move.

 

"I thought it would be a good investment and a good challenge for me," explains Barbara. Though her husband, Mark Jakanoski, was not as passionate about log homes, he didn't try to stand in Barbara's way. "He knew I was going to do it. When I make up my mind to do something, just step back," she says with a chuckle.

 

Barbara visited several log home companies in Bozeman, Montana, before settling on Bozeman Log Homes, owned by Steve DeBoer. "Steve was just really sincere and inviting, and he seemed honest," Barbara recalls.

 

Steve also offered a variety of log packages, including square, kiln-dried logs from PrecisionCraft Log Homes in Meridian, Idaho. "I like square logs because it's easier to put cabinets on walls that are flat, rather than round," Barbara explains. She also equated the square logs with more of a prairie look, which appealed to her. "I just wanted something a little different," she says.

 

The logs are 16-foot-long, kiln-dried ponderosa pine, approximately 9 3/8 inches wide by 9 3/8 inches tall with dovetail corners. Steve, who has built more than 50 log homes since 1993, loves the character of these logs. "Ponderosa pine has knots and lines and different colors," he explains. "That's what a real wood person wants."

 

To add to the home's rustic demeanor, Steve suggested that Barbara have the exterior side of her logs shaped with an adze after they were milled. This old-fashioned tool boasts a thin curved blade set at a right angle to the handle and gives logs a hand-hewn appearance. "The home looks like it was built 100 years ago," Steve says.

 

Barbara designed the four bedroom, 3 1/2 bath home herself. "I knew I wanted something that had lots of windows and sunshine," explains Barbara, who perfected the plans with Steve before sending them to the designers at PrecisionCraft Log Homes, where they were converted into architectural drawings.

 

When it was time to break ground, Barbara worked closely alongside her general contractor, a family friend, to get the home built. She was onsite every day - and she proved from the start that she wasn't there as a spectator. Steve recalls the day a subcontractor arrived to dig the foundation. "The guy shows up with a huge front-end loader you could lift a car with, and Barbara says, 'Can I drive it?' So she gets in and starts to dig the hole," he recalls, clearly impressed.

 

Barbara also commandeered a 10-ton forklift, which Steve brought over to unload her shipment of logs several weeks later. "Five guys sat there and watched me," she notes proudly. "They thought they were going to get to do it, and I said, 'Oh no, I'm going to drive this puppy!' " she says with a laugh.

 

"I just always have liked to drive big things...the bigger the better!" explains Barbara, who also drove a semi-truck that delivered a tractor to the site to help stack the logs. "I was going to drive the crane that they use to lift the big beams up, too, but the people that had the crane weren't sure their liability would cover it. So they said no," she says.

 

Barbara was having fun - but her trials and tribulations were slowly mounting. She also found herself having to run interference between the heating contractor and the plumber. "One day, the heating contractor would run his wires. The next day, the plumber would come and say, 'No, you can't run your wires there; that's where my plumbing has to go!' " she says, exasperated by the memory. "I said, 'You guys! You should talk this out together first.' They were just in competition with each other."

 

Surprisingly, one of her most difficult tasks was finding someone to help with the chinking. "I just wanted a real smooth line," Barbara explains. "I used a squeegee to get it exactly flat and even with the rest of the logs." But when she explained this to her first subcontractors, they told her they couldn't do it - and left. Another woman lasted three days, and then disappeared, leaving all her tools behind.

 

Finally, a workman recommended that Barbara contact Brad Logan from Red Lodge, Montana. "He was a lifesaver," Barbara insists. Brad not only chinked and caulked the exterior logs, he also helped Barbara seal the logs, and he built her distinctive half-log staircase, railings and mantel. "He's quite an artist," Barbara says.

 

That's high praise coming from a woman who is a multi-talented artist in her own right. Barbara designed and stenciled the pine bough motif that adorns the edges of her kitchen tile and the backsplash over the stove, firing the tiles in a large kiln she uses for her pottery. She also sewed the curtains throughout her home and made the floral bedspread in her master bedroom. Outside, Barbara used her creativity to disguise the 4,000-gallon underground cistern, which provides her home with potable water, transforming it into a patio by covering it with cement "rocks" she shaped and stained herself.

 

Even after she and Mark moved into their home, Barbara wasn't ready to give up on the heavy machinery. When they brought in 200 dump truck loads of dirt to fill in a swampy pasture last summer, Barbara spent months atop a tractor leveling out the field. Their next big project is installing a wood fence around the house and driveway, so that Barbaras horses - two Arabians and a Quarter horse - can roam the whole 20 acres.

 

Barbara's attention to detail isn't lost on Steve. "We have a saying: 'You're not building a piano; you're building a log home.' But she was piano fussy," he says, bestowing upon Barbara his highest praise. "I told her she should actually be a contractor."

 

"It's a lot more work than I imagined," Barbara says of the experience. But, when asked if she would do it again, she replies with a laugh and the pithy motto that seems to sum up her life. "I wouldn't say never!"