Deb Krizmanich met her husband Brian Bestard six years ago when she was living in Tavistock and he was living in St. Marys. It was the second marriage for both. Brian died last year of a heart attack, one year after moving into their log home a few kilometres east of Grand Bend.
As told to Casey Lessard
Brian and I met socially through friends. We were both running our own businesses and we just realized we could both work virtually and had a dream that we wanted to create a space where we could entertain and socialize, and do that in a way that pioneered the use of renewable resources. We wanted to be able, when we retired, to run a bed and breakfast or an executive retreat centre where people could come and really live a green life and be exposed to what renewable energy is all about, and at the same time enjoy each other and friends in a really casual environment. The property was in Brian’s family for four or five generations. It’s on Ausable Bayfield conservation land, and it’s 100 acres in the middle of 2,000 acres of wooded property. It’s a paradise for wildlife and for people. It has a large pond that has four islands in it, spring-fed, great for swimming and watching wildlife. I love camping and being outside. To me, a log home brings back all of those feelings of camping without all of the dirt under your feet all the time. There’s nothing better than a log home in a forest. They just go hand-in-hand. It was something I had been saving for since I was 17 years old. Brian kept talking about this amazing property. I told him, under no circumstances would I put my log house in Southwestern Ontario. It had to be in the north. He just said to me, “I’m going to have you take a look.” The minute I drove in, I felt like I was in Timmins or the Muskokas. I knew I was home and this is where we would build our log home. We got married in 2004 on one of the islands and had an amazing camping party with 100 people for a long weekend. We realized how much this property meant to us, so we started with some graph paper and laid out the house we wanted. The final architect’s drawings only ended up moving one wall. Brian’s brother Kevin had built some log homes before, so he came and worked with the builders and managed the whole construction process for the better part of nine months. It was a real family event to build the home, and it took two-and-a-half years from deciding to do it to moving in. The house is a 2,400 square foot dovetail, 10” pine logs with chinking in between. The logs come from Simcoe County, with a few from Ohio. It’s open concept and uses passive solar energy in its blueprint and design. The whole house is run on renewable resources, so we’re not even tied to the grid. The hydro is probably a kilometre from the house. We run on solar panels, thermal for heating our water, and a 3KW wind turbine. The county was amazing to work with. Ausable Bayfield worked with us to situate the house, and the municipality was very progressive. What we thought would be our biggest challenge never was. Every floor in the home that is hardwood is from species in our bush. The great room is 22’ to the ceiling, with windows on both sides. Because of the passive energy, you don’t get the heat in the summer because no sun is allowed in. And when you look out from the kitchen, you can see right to the pond so you can see kids swimming while you’re sitting making dinner or playing cards. Once we moved in, there would be people here every weekend through the summer and we would barbecue. Kids would be inner-tubing and catching frogs and snakes. We have four walking trails, and it was magical to know that you could go back in the fall and realize that people for five generations had been taking their cows down these trails. In the winter it’s so still and quiet, it’s like a fairyland. The deer come right to the pond and the wildlife is amazing.
It was fabulous the year we had together before Brian passed away. The stress just melts away here. We had side-by-side offices, and we could go out and have meetings on the island. We had phones that would reach out that far and wireless internet around the property. In April 2007, Brian passed away in the middle of the night with a heart attack. He had had another one prior to that, but he had been sick with encephalitis, and we believe his organs were weakened by that. It was a pretty dark year for me. It takes a long time to accept the loss. I haven’t yet. I missed him tremendously because he was my best friend. I walked the property for days on end and felt he was here. In May, I looked around and said, I have to share this place. That’s what we designed it for. I’m so fortunate to have such an amazing spot and I thought, why not open the bed and breakfast we had planned to open after we retired? We had designed the upper floor for guests, with en suite bathrooms in both bedrooms and a private sitting area. If someone wants to be alone all weekend, they can be. But our Great Room is a place for socializing and telling stories and we encourage guests who want to be in this part of the house to enjoy that. I’m fully committed to a new way of life in terms of renewable energy. I totally believe that people can live a good life and still have a smaller carbon footprint. Maybe coming to a place like this, people will understand the tradeoffs and educate their kids about what the future of the world will look like. You don’t have to give up a lot. You just have to change the way you do things. I have as many hot baths as anyone else, but I only turn the jets on when we have lots of power. You start to look and pay attention to the weather more than you would if you had hydro. If people want to do one thing, they should get thermal tubes (for heating water). We have some of the highest sun hours in the world in the summer, so thermal works very well. Solar panels would be second.
Krizmanich wants to host bed and breakfast guests and corporate retreats and meetings to educate visitors and businesses on the benefits of off-grid technology. The house does have high-speed wireless internet access. For more, visit //www.budlake.com or call 519-238-1779.