We went to a land auction back in 2002, bought 25 acres of abandoned cow pasture just 2.5 miles west Paxton, IL, and our lives changed forever.
We had tried to buy the same property fifteen years earlier to build a new home on. It was owned by a local banker named Wally Judkins who lived across the stream. He was also a partner in a dairy farm and the property was part of their pasture. At the time he wasn't interested in selling, but now after his demise, the heirs decided to sell the land in addition to some other parcels. Our plan was to use the land as a "getaway place" close to home. We wanted to build a cabin, roast hotdogs, and ride our ATV on it. We knew it would take some work to get it ready.
There really wasn't a lane, just old tire tracks that could be seen here and there. Water sat in these tracks in one low area. An old rusted gate was at the front of the property and the grass and weeds were over 7' tall in places. We started clearing the brush and trees with a chainsaw after the closing, but it didn't take long to realize we needed something bigger...a lot bigger...as in a D5H Caterpillar
...and some other equipment
like a Case Excavator.
The original entry. Rock from Indiana.
A split cedar fence for safety. Limestone from an old highway bridge we tore down.
A rustic cabin for the family was next on the list. We finally decided on purchasing a modular cabin from a sawmill in Northern Indiana. It came one day on a truck with 10 Amish carpenters. Somehow they lifted it off the semi trailer with a system of wenches and pulleys and onto a concrete pad we had poured earlier. They fastened the two pieces together and started laying up the logs on the gable ends. The rafters came next followed by tongue and groove planking and a shingled roof. Then the interior loft and yes, the 5x6 small rustic cabin which would become the half bath. Did I mention this happened in one day?
About this time, Jim decided that he wanted to build a shop on the new property. He had sold a couple of businesses to a large company and wanted to spend more time there. He was also tired after running a fast-paced, high-stress business for seventeen years. So that it would fit into the countryside, we wanted the shop to look like a barn. With the size it needed to be, however, it became so tall that we ended up with a lot of wasted space in the attic. We decided to build a second floor and use it for something. Perhaps we should build some Bed & Breakfast rooms up there we thought. Upon further thought we concluded that it wouldn't be too wise to have B&B rooms above a shop with tools, a tractor, noise, and fuel. And all of a sudden we dropped the idea of a shop and had an entire Bed & Breakfast building planned where people could enjoy the countryside and relax. The building began.
Setting Posts Roof Trusses
Roof Sheating Shingles
Steel skin Pouring the concrete floor.
Framing Rose Garden Jacuzzi area
Arches Applying pickling stain
Stone Fireplace in Gathering Room Brick Flooring
Crown Trim Landscaping
We hosted an Open House for the public in July 2003. Over 1,000 people came. We took reservations that day and immediately afterwards opened for business. Our very first guest was a heavy set man. So heavy, in fact, that he cracked the shower base in the Rose Garden Suite. We had it repaired and it has never happened again. BUT THEN REAL TROUBLE BEGAN.
One day in 2004 the sky went black in the middle of the day and the winds picked up. They say it wasn't a tornado but straight line winds. I'm not sure of the difference. Regardless, the aftermath looked like a bomb had been dropped on TimberCreek. The buildings were spared, but we lost half of our trees. We had to hire heavy equipment again. It would have taken a couple of months to clear everything away with a chainsaw.
This poor squirrel ended up losing his tail. We had 2 piles like this this that were 20' tall.
This is our favorite tree at TimberCreek. It must be at least 200 years old. If you look real close, we have a rope swing hanging from it. Somehow it made it through the wind storm virtually unscathed. Lesser trees went down all over, but not this tree. We use a shorter version of this tree in our logo. We love it's huge trunk, height, and obvious strength.
While the lane and yard were torn up from the tracks of the excavator and tree debris, we decided to repair a stream bank that had been eroding. It made sense while the heavy equipment was around. There was a manufacturing plant close by which produced concrete wall panels. Whenever they poured wall panels, they would have excess concrete left over to dispose of. They dumped this concrete into forms in the shape of rectangular logs. We were able to use this concrete log material for the bottom of the new stream bank shown in the photograhy below. This was completed in October 2004.
Winter is a beautiful time at TimberCreek, especially when the landscape is covered with snow. The kids like to walk on the ice in the stream when it's frozen thick enough to be safe. They really like to take rides on sleds behind the the four wheeler. The lane from the highway back to the B&B is fairly long and it tends to drift quite a bit by the entrance. It can be a lot of work clearing the lane of snow. All in all, though, it's a fun time.
It was January 8th, 2006 and the ground was frozen hard. Sometime earlier, the weather had warmed up enough to rain. And it rained and rained and rained. The water had no where to go with frozen ground everywhere. It was in the middle of the night. The little stream that flows by TimberCreek turned into an uncontrollable raging river. It inundated the front meadow and kept on rising. It came out of the banks by the B&B and didn't stop until the building had 14" of water in it.
Connie, our hostess, had awakened earlier sensing that something was wrong. She stepped out of bed into an inch of muddy water on her bedroom floor. We had guests with little children in a 2nd floor suite whom she woke up although she didn't know where to tell them to go or what to do. The water was rising in the building and was even deeper outside. Their car was in the parking lot and was filling up with water. Eventually they all grabbed what they could and got out. The car ended up being a total loss although it really didn't matter. Believe it or not, these particular guests were staying in America for their last night. They were moving to another country and were flying out the next morning. They told us that they didn''t know what they were going to do with their car anyway. I wish we would have been as fortunate with the building. We did not have flood insurance.
Later, neighbors who lived in the vicinity of TimberCreek said that they had never seen flooding like we experienced in the last sixty years.
14" inches of water in a building even for a short period of time is very destructive.
We hauled furniture, mattresses, beds, and lower cabinetry out. A few days later we started on clean-up. We cut the drywall 48" up from the floor and removed it along with the cellulose wall insulation. We had ServePro come and bring some commercial dehumidifiers to dry everything out. Almost the entire first floor had hardwood glued down and it had to be pulled up and discarded. Fortunately, we had many volunteers helping us.
February 5th, 2008. The drywall was rehung and taped, but before we progressed any further, we incredibly suffered another flood. This time we had only a few inches of water in the building, but it still left a muddy residue and soaked the bottom of the drywall. The building had to be cleaned and dried out again before we could start putting everything back together. Eventually we finished, the furniture was brought back in, the outside was cleaned up, the landscaping remulched, and we opened for business.
February 2012. Cats can usually be found at TimberCreek. Not inside of course, but sitting under the covered porch in the rocking chairs or trying to sneak in the office when people go in and out. Once a year we usually have kittens. We had five in the last litter. Lucy was the Mom and we think it was her fourth litter. Connie, Brooke, and Jordan give each kitten a name and the guests usually fall in love with them. We only have two cats left from the last litter. A couple of guests asked to take the first two. Moe left in February 2012 with a guest who came back six hours from Northern Wisconsin to pick him up. She had been in the area several weeks before to visit her Dad who lives in Paxton. She has two cats already but fell in love with Moe. Connie was sad to see him go, but knows he will have a good home and will be warm in the Winter. She says that Socks and Zoe are hers to keep.
An earlier litter Socks and Moe
After the first two floods, the year was progressing normally. The first half of the busy season was past and the second half was underway. Off and on we had been thinking about doing something to protect the B&B from future flooding, but we really hadn't gotten serious about it since we needed to get through the busy season first. We hosted an event in early September 2008. That night it rained and rained. On Sunday morning it rained and rained. Torrential rain. We were asked in Church if we were worried about flooding at the Bed & Breakfast. We said that we weren't. After all it was the beginning of Fall, it had been relatively dry, and bad flooding like earlier in the year didn't happen very often according to the neighbors.
Well, we found at that we were wrong...by seven inches. That afternoon we ended up with 7" of water inside the building. It was such a helpless feeling when dirty brown water kept rising and rising, creeping closer and closer, threatening everything in its way. In addition to the building, the tent, tables, chairs, linens, and garbage bins were still in the meadow from the event the night before. One end of the tent collapsed and some of items floated away.
Since it was daylight, we had a little more warning. We took all of the first floor doors off their hinges and hauled them upstairs. We set the furniture up on blocks to keep it dry. We shut the power off. We used a wetvac on the wood floors as soon as the water receded to try and save it. We dried off the cabinetry and trim as soon as we could. And we cried--this was the third flood in 10 months. We didn't think we had the strength to rebuild again. We were able to minimize some of the damage, but it was still a horrendous mess to deal with. The drywall had to be removed, the insulation taken out of all of the stud spaces, and everything resprayed with anti-bacterial spray. This time we had the pressure of rebuilding as soon as possible to accommodate the remaining two events that were scheduled in October. With lots of help, we were able to open back up within a month.
We had to figure out a way to resolve the flooding issue so that when the next 100 year flood rolled in, we would be safe. We decided yet that Fall of 2008 to tear out more trees and excavate dirt to build a levee/berm around the entire back meadow. The lane to the B&B comes down a hill into the back meadow. We tied the levee into this hill on both sides of the lane. This kept the lane from going over the berm. The southwest corner of the B&B sits right beside the stream. We could get an earthmover through this point, but there wasn't enough space to construct a levee and it would have been unsightly anyway. We decided to build a concrete wall with pilasters in this area and tie both ends into the berm. This would leave enough room for another patio since we had to remove the two that we had. We saved our landscaping plants by digging them up and temporarily replanting them in a safe spot until it was time to landscape again. The stake and flag in the photo below marked the center of the wall. We hid the two middle pilasters inside of the outdoor stone fireplace.
Our very first fire in the new fireplace.