It’s not your typical 21st-century home, but the building taking shape near Sutherland Springs inspires thoughts of “over the river and through the woods” to a structure that speaks of warmth and home.
Gretchen and Steve Bradbury and their two daughters, Reiley, 15, and Reese, 10, are building a log home in Sutherland Springs.
But just as the old children’s song about trekking over the river and through the woods takes the singer on a circuitous route to Grandma’s house, so the Bradburys’ decision to build a log home was filled with interesting twists and turns.
Bed and breakfast
While on a romantic weekend in Fredericksburg, the couple stayed in a bed and breakfast. Gretchen has always loved the bed and breakfast experience, and had a desire to open her own. They liked the Fredericksburg inn --the furnishings, the food, the atmosphere -- so much that Gretchen started talking about one day opening a bed and breakfast with Steve.
They talked with each other and prayed about it, then spoke to family and friends about the idea. Gretchen’s mother-in-law encouraged them to follow their dream and God’s vision. Friends thought it was a great idea.
They found 11 acres near Sutherland Springs and bought it. A woman who knew Steve’s mom gave them the home from the 1800s in which she and her sister were raised. The Bradburys used that wood to build their bed and breakfast, affectionately called the McGuire House, after the family name of the women who gave them the wood. It is very rustic and quaint, and even has the sink from the old homestead.
They said God then led them to think about actually living on the property to manage the bed and breakfast. It would certainly be easier to cook meals there and take them to the guests, rather than cook meals in La Vernia and drive them to Sutherland Springs.
Built of love
Gretchen loved the television show, “Northern Exposure,” and the log homes it depicted. The log mansion featured belonged to Skip Ellsworth, founder of the Log Home Builders Association. Gretchen and Steve thought that this was the kind of home they would like. They discovered the association offers instructions on building log homes and traveled to Las Vegas to take the classes. The instructor was none other than Mr. Ellsworth’s son.
“The hardest part was finding a logger to sell us the logs,” Gretchen said.
Eventually, they found a logger in Livingston in east Texas who sold them the 52 logs to build the house. Each log is between 30 and 50 years old and typically 16 inches in diameter.
Built using the butt-and-pass method, the logs butt into each other and pass over the top of the next one held together with rebar, which is driven and drilled into each log. The family and their friends scraped the bark off each log, then Gretchen and daughters Reiley and Reese sanded and stained them. The result is beautiful.
The girls insulated between the logs and Reiley “chinked” the concrete mixture between the logs.
Gretchen home-schools the girls, who have gotten more than a book education. She is very proud of them; the girls have helped build all three of their family homes. The girls even use power tools and saws, and Reese climbed on the roof of the log home to help her dad put on the roofing materials. Both girls learned how to drive the telehandler, affectionately nicknamed “T-Rex,” which lifted each log and lowered it down, balancing them in place while the men maneuvered them to pound the rebar into each log.
Steve climbed scaffolding to erect windows and frame them, and stained the 24-foot-high ceiling with a power sprayer.
“Steve did everything but sanding and staining logs,” Gretchen said. “Bark scraping, stacking, roof, windows, floor, foundation, interior framing, ceiling, electrical, plumbing ... he’s balanced far more than the kids or me. He’s been our instructor and outstanding leader.”
Clearly she is very proud of her husband and this journey they have experienced together as a family.
Gretchen stained the ceiling of the kitchen. Each board must be stained twice to attain the sheen desired. The wood just glows and is pretty and warm.
They never hired anyone until the drywall was ready to go up and the air conditioning unit was installed.
Home for the
The house was started in January 2013; the couple planned to put up the Christmas tree in their new home in early December. Steve was determined they would celebrate Christmas in the cabin. Gretchen planned to sketch and etch a wildlife scene on her refinished 100-year-old front door window. Many of the furnishings are rustic, including a canoe, which will perch alongside a wildlife scene of artificial grasses and birds that Steve has preserved. Steve, a San Antonio firefighter, is also a game bird taxidermist. His latest goose graced the pages of Field & Stream magazine. He also created an antler chandelier, which hangs from the gigantic 24- inch diameter central support log beam in the home.
Gretchen has blogged online since August 2012 at ourcottonwoodcreek.com about the family’s experience, which has been read by people in 19 different countries. The blog’s name refers to the cottonwood trees and a creek on the property. The blog includes photos of her family and friends at work on the log home. Throughout the blog, the family’s love of God is evident. It is also evident when Gretchen talks about their helpers and visitors to the building site.
A sign on the property on the way to the bed and breakfast says “REST.”
When the home is complete, the family will rest. When the bed and breakfast is open, the guests will experience rest. Rest assured, God has had His hand in this project since before they scratched the dirt or cleared a single tree.
Watch for more information about the bed and breakfast in this newspaper. Until then, Gretchen invites everyone to visit them at ourcottonwoodcreek.com.