Living Off the Grid
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Living Off the Grid1

A Georgia couple reunites in an off-the-grid log cabin under the Colorado sky.


The grand west-facing prow provides views of birds and wildlife year-round. “We have a little bird sanctuary set up outside the prow,” says Linda. “We have all types of birds that come to eat even in the cold weather.” Other animals, such as elk, deer and foxes, come within sight of the prow, too.

It took Jimmy Westlake seven years to convince his wife, Linda, to leave her hometown of Senoia, Georgia, and join him in Colorado. The couple had been making their long-distance marriage work since 1999, when Jimmy accepted a professorship in physics and astronomy at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs. Eventually, Linda began to think seriously about moving north — on one condition. “She had a log cabin home back in Georgia, so part of the deal with her coming up here was to build a log cabin up here for her,” says Jimmy. Once the decision was made, Linda instantly selected a builder. “Before I moved out here, I was looking through magazines and saw Montana Log Homes, and mentioned to Jimmy, if we ever did get to build our home when we moved out here, that’s the kind of home I wanted,” she says. Fortunately for the Westlakes, one of the company’s dealers, Montana Log Homes of Colorado, is located right in Steamboat Springs. Although the home was designed in Kalispell, Montana — home base for Montana Log Homes — the Westlakes were able to work closely with builder-dealer Gabe Butler, who did the finishing work on their property. Building Off the Grid After choosing a builder, the Westlakes began to lay plans for their log home in 2005. They chose a 2/3-acre plot of land about 25 miles south of Steamboat Springs that borders Stagecoach State Park. “In the early 1970s, they were developing this area as a ski resort,” Jimmy explains. “It was open for two years, and then the economy turned, and it went bankrupt before they could get the utilities into all the subdivisions.” The Westlakes’ subdivision — known as South Shore — comprises more than 200 lots, about 40 of which currently have homes. “Anybody who wants to live in South Shore has to be able to provide for their own electricity and their own water,” Jimmy states. [gallery exclude="48905,48911"] The Westlakes power their home using solar panels, along with a 200-watt wind turbine. They also have a backup propane generator. Although the Westlakes were game for living off the grid from the beginning, “knowing about it and living with it is two different things,” says Jimmy. “Being a physics professor, I understand how all the different pieces work, but you have to modify your life a little bit to conserve more. Living off the grid was a little bit of an adjustment.” The couple has adjusted nicely, and now both Jimmy and Linda are conscious to turn off the lights when leaving a room. In the winter, they keep the thermostat at 60 degrees and rely on the wood-burning stove in the great room to keep the 1,795-square-foot cabin cozy. “We put in more efficient light bulbs, and most of our kitchen utilities, the stove and the clothes dryer are all propane so they don’t draw off the battery system,” Jimmy details. Natural Views From the initial home planning stages, the Westlakes knew they wanted a home with a view. “They had a really open building site, with lots of views all around,” says Eric Bachofner, designer/draftsman for Montana Log Homes. “The key was to really try to capitalize on that location and take in as much of that view as we could.”

The Westlakes wanted to place their home as high up on the ridge as possible for a good view of Stagecoach Reservoir, the manmade lake that abuts their property.

The end result was a prominent prow facing west, which provides views of gorgeous Colorado sunsets over the manmade Stagecoach Reservoir. Animals from elk to foxes to myriad aviaries parade past on a regular basis, allowing the couple an up-close look from the comfort of their great room. “It’s like living in a zoo,” Jimmy observes. When the sun goes down, the night sky is equally enticing, especially for an astronomer. “There are no street lights around. Most people have their home lights low in our subdivision at night, conserving energy, so it’s really dark here,” says Jimmy. “I can do my astronomy work and photograph here at the house, which is nice.” Jimmy and Linda even host star parties for Jimmy’s students, who come out to observe the unobstructed night sky. Although Linda and Jimmy will always consider Georgia home, they’re happy to be under one roof together and content in their new rustic digs. “I love the home,” Linda says. “It took me a while to get used to being out here, but I love the outdoors. We love to go hiking and camping, and we love the mountains.” Home Details: Square footage: 1,729 Bedrooms: 3 Bathrooms: 2 Architect: Big Fish Drafting (406-752-2992; Builder-dealer: Montana Log Homes of Colorado (970-879-3031; Cabinetry; doors: Specialty Woodworks Co. (406-363-6353; Chinking: Sashco (800-767-5656; Log provider; stairs: Montana Log Homes (406-752-2992; Railings: Montana Woodworks (888-889-3728; Stain: Messmer’s UV Plus (800-731-3669; Windows: Semco Windows & Doors (800-933-2206;

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