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home of the week
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971 Naphan Rd., Roslin, Ont.

Asking price: $859,000

Taxes: $3,531 (2022)

Lot size: 150 by 300 feet

Listing agent: Manson Slik, Gordon’s Downsizing & Estate Services Ltd.

The backstory

When Canadians are polled on the question “do you want to own a cottage or cabin” they tend to respond with a resounding “Yes” by healthy majorities, no matter the age group. Whether you can actually afford your own place in the woods is often a separate consideration.

Patrick Johnston and Ron Menchetti found their slice of heaven in the small town of Roslin, Ont., after realizing that even back in 2005 it was getting too expensive to buy a place in the popular Prince Edward County area.

“We weren’t going to be able to find something in the County we really liked. So we broadened the search, that’s how we found this place,” said Mr. Johnston, who worked in provincial governments and in charitable fundraising throughout a long career. “We were some of first expats to move out to this area.”

What they found is a handmade log cabin on a very quiet road north of Belleville and south of Tweed that’s still only 15 minutes away from Prince Edward County and less than that to the 401. “If there’s four cars that go by in an hour, it’s rush hour,” Mr. Menchetti said.

Over the first eight years it went from the weekend spot to the long weekend house, then the half-the-week house until they decided to give up their place in Toronto and move full-time to the rustic community in 2013, after building strong local ties.

“To be honest with you, we were a little worried – we’re two guys of a certain age – whether we’d be accepted or welcome? I have to say we’ve never had any negative incidents here. We were welcomed by everybody in the neighbourhood,” said Mr. Johnston.

Mr. Menchetti was a city boy through and through, but after he retired early it didn’t take him long to discover the best place to make friends in the country: the bonspiel.

“I never in my life would have thought about taking up curling, but I love it … I curl in Napanee,” he said. “I was very surprised how social it is. It’s a great experience for anybody who moves to a rural area.”

The house today

  • Home of the Week, 971 Naphan Rd., Roslin, Ont.OneLook Photography

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The house is bounded by solid forest on both sides with a large sward of front lawn. Down the gravel driveway past the garage is a car courtyard that can fit more than five vehicles. The courtyard is flanked by a 50-foot-long dry-stone wall. Huge flat boulders serve as paving stones in a walkway to the formal front entrance, though there is a more informal entrance around the corner to a back hallway.

Many of these stones were identified, gathered and placed by Mr. Menchetti, who according to Mr. Johnston: “Has a real rock fetish.”

“I’d go out and collect rocks,” Mr. Menchetti said. “It’s odd: I’m not a huge person and I’m not young, but I’d pick up rocks, throw them in the back of the truck. And after I’d collect 10 or 12, sometimes I couldn’t pick them up back at home.”

The wall took a couple of summers to build. The perennial garden full of Ontario-native species was more trial and error and continues to evolve today (they even have Ontario’s only indigenous cactus plant, the prickly pear that looks like it deflates and dies in the winter but actually comes back to life in the summer).

Stepping in the front door, your eyes are drawn to weathered and gnarled beams and posts that suggest this could easily be some pioneer’s frontier croft or a carefully preserved hunting lodge from the turn of the last century. In reality, it’s neither.

Beginning around 1991, a local man named Don Goodwin started building 971 Naphan Rd., spending close to a decade hand-making the log cabin as a kind of grand hobby. Every one of the windows were hand-built by him and the locally-milled white pine logs are joined without any nails. Much of the structure was built with very few helping hands.

Unfortunately, Mr. Goodwin never completed his opus to woodworking. Local property developer Dave Robertson bought the unfinished house in 2002 and filled the interior with antique beams and boards, adding decades or centuries of character in a stroke.

There are posts and beams and white-oak flooring in the dining and living rooms salvaged from an old barn, and the old growth Ganaraska red-pine flooring on the second floor came from an old factory.

From left to right, the rooms on the main floor almost seem to travel in time to the present: The living room/den has a massive fieldstone hearth and barnboard walls; the dining room is filled with tiger-stripe oak antiques and glass-globed brass lighting fixtures; and the kitchen evokes modern farmhouse with a huge granite-topped island over a playful turquoise lower cabinet, grey upper and pantry millwork and stainless steel appliances under a white-washed oak ceiling.

Along the back of the house is a hallway that connects the dining room, powder room and kitchen and has three exterior doors to the stone patio and side driveway and backyard. The stairs to the full-height basement (another rarity in a country home) are back here as well.

That was one of the big projects the couple undertook – finishing the full basement to add two bedrooms (currently a convertible office and an artist studio), a large living room and TV room with a bar and a wall of storage lining the hallway.

There are three more bedrooms on the top floor, and plenty of skylights to bring light into another lodge-like level filled with wood. A large landing at the top of the stairs branches off to a shared bathroom, two smaller bedrooms and the primary bedroom with a four-piece ensuite bathroom that was recently updated.

Logging off

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The couple is hoping to downsize to Kingston but are going to really miss the feeling of a log home.

“It’s a house that just feels incredibly solid is how I would describe it,” said Mr. Johnston “There’s no insulation on the inside, just logs, but it’s incredibly warm and cozy.”

Indeed, other than looking great, the log walls provide a lot of energy-saving value.

“We found in the winter that when the heat is on the logs absorb the heat. We are lucky the power hasn’t gone out much [perhaps two or three times in almost 20 years] but when the power did go out the house remained warm for hours and hours,” said Mr. Menchetti. The same works in the summer where the thick walls keep the house cool: “So far, most summers we’ve had [air conditioning] on a handful of times, mostly to cool upstairs because there’s five skylights.”

But whether you’re hot or cold on logs, don’t call the location remote (which one potential buyer griped): “I told her Baffin Island is remote. We’re only minutes from the 401,” Mr. Johnston said.

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