Beam by beam. Piece by piece. Like a giant puzzle or real-life version of Lincoln Logs, over the course of 14 months Loren and Terri Nelson of rural Milford built the home they’d always wanted.

The Nelsons bought the abandoned farm acreage west of Milford in 1999 and at the time the only thing left was the basement of the previous home and a few farm buildings.

Loren read and researched log home construction for awhile before finally settling on something the couple thought would work perfectly for them.

“One or both of us had been in or looked at just about every log home in the area,” Loren said. Their inspirations weren’t just local either. “We traveled to Wyoming and loved that area and all the log homes out there. I also love early American history so that was a big drive for wanting a log home.”

Eventually one caught their fancy and they bought a package whereby all the lumber was shipped to their build site on two semi-truck loads. Some how-to videos were included and the Nelsons got to work building their home.

The seven-inch pine logs were kiln-dried so the Nelsons dealt with very little settling and were able to do most of the work themselves. They only brought in help for the deck, concrete work and the roof. Friends and family also helped as much as possible. Terri’s father and oldest son combined efforts to build the kitchen cabinets.

The purlins for the roof required a crane, but otherwise no specialty equipment was needed during construction.

“It all went fairly smoothly,” Loren said. “Sometimes you had to scratch your head a bit and figure something out, but it was a challenge that was definitely worth it.”

As they stacked logs they’d come to a stop needing to put in a window, then figure out how to proceed. All the while pulling the electric wiring through the logs as they went. There are two rows of weather stripping, and caulk and screws every two feet between logs sealing up the home.

“It can be freezing outside with snow on the logs, but they’re warm to the touch inside.” Terri said.

Both worked full-time, Loren at Polaris in Milford and Terri at Veridian Fire Protective Gear in Spencer, while building the home. They finally completed construction and moved in around Christmas in 2000.

The final product has three bedrooms including the loft area, two-and-a-half bathrooms, and an open kitchen, living and dining area with views of their acreage and a wrap-around deck that surrounds about two-thirds of the home.

“The little touches that Loren did here and there are the most special parts to me,” Terri said. “The grandchildren love it and we have a great deck for family gatherings.”

Some of those little touches are the spindles on the railing, the stairs themselves, and other small pieces like curtain rods and such that Loren made at the forge in his backyard blacksmith workshop.

The Nelsons changed around the floor plan from their original package.

They also used some of the trees from the grove on their own acreage to make the steps leading to the loft area, as well as a major beam in the kitchen and the pillars on the deck surrounding the home.

Terri collects seeded glass so that was used in kitchen light fixtures and other parts of the home. A stained glass window belonging to her great-grandmother draws the eye to the highest point in the main room. They eventually added the free-standing zero clearance fireplace, which serves as the other focal point of the main living area.

The master suite is on the main floor just off the kitchen while the loft area serves as a guest bedroom and office area at the moment.

The basement also has a bedroom most often used by grandchildren when they’re in town. They continue to work on the home when they can with some of the main goals in the loft area including adding a railing and finishing a full bath in that space.

“Some parts are still a work in progress but we’re really happy with everything,” Loren and Terri agreed. “Building it ourselves gave us the chance to do exactly what we wanted and it came together nicely.”

From the Cowboy State and the Rocky Mountains to the Hawkeye State and the Iowa Great Lakes, the Nelsons looked, found and built the log home they’d always wanted. 

Jamming Out

The Nelsons’ home also serves as base of operations for the making and selling of specialty jams and hand forged iron work under the moniker At The Cabin.

Terri was inspired from her experiences as a child making jams with her mother and grandmother. Her love for jam-making has blossomed ever since. She sources her ingredients as locally as possible getting the raspberries and rhubarb from her own backyard. Pears come from a daughter living in Minnesota while strawberries usually come from Getting’s Garden in Sanborn.

While she has been making jam ever since they moved into their home, Terri has been selling it for just the past two years or so. Long enough to know that strawberry rhubarb is her top seller, followed by triple berry and raspberry. She noted that after picking raspberries in the morning she could have a batch done by the afternoon and sticks to small batches of 7-8 jars at a time.

Forging Ahead

While Terri is busy making a variety of delicious jams, her husband Loren is often working at his forge making one-of-a-kind decorative and custom pieces. Loren attributes his interest in blacksmith work to his participation in the Cherokee Ridge Runners Rendezvous and his love for early American history.

Several items in the Nelsons’ home and others were made at his forge including curtain rods, towel holders and much more. Cowboy spurs and Damascus knives are also specialties of Loren’s and are hammered out at one of the two forges in his workshop. One runs on propane and the other is a traditional charcoal forge. Loren said he uses the traditional one to keep himself honest as it’s easy to forget the history of the craft without it. He also noted that charcoal burns hotter than propane so if you leave something at the forge for too long it will burn up. Of course Loren is careful to keep that from happening while working on any of his many projects in the workshop. If you’re a jam person or in need of some blacksmith work, or both, there is one-stop shopping At The Cabin. For jam availability check out www.facebook.com/atthecabinjam.

From the July 2015 edition of Okoboji Magazine.