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Home Improvement 2014

March 30 & April 2, 2014

Inside this issue...


Guest Bedroom


Living room

“Something always draws us home. It’s nice to be here, close to family.”

Catholic priest builds getaway on family farm by Michael Jacobson “You can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy,” said Father LeRoy Scheierl, a 1978 PHS grad, stirring around the kitchen in the log cabin he built on the family farm south of Paynesville. The land – including the 9.5 acre building site that LeRoy purchased, and the hundreds of acres surrounding it owned by his brothers – has been owned by the family since the early 1900s, when his workaholic grandfather immigrated to Minnesota from Austria. The farm is close to being a Century Farm. “Something always draws us home,” said Father LeRoy. “It’s nice to be here, close to family.” The Scheierls – LeRoy is the son of the late William and Clara Scheierl, who resides at the Koronis Manor now, and has seven siblings – quit farming in the 1980s but held onto most of their land.

Father LeRoy always dreamt of building a log cabin in the northern Minnesota woods, but even when his father was alive he warned him that it would be too far away and that he wouldn’t get to use it. So, when he had the chance to buy the home building site, that’s where he built his dream home. Loving nature, the home farm is an ideal place for Scheierl to recharge. “I’d probably be here anyway,” he said, referring to the hobbies he likes to do on the home farm…hunting, feeding wildlife, and metal projects. It’s hard to keep up two places, he added, especially with his work, where he might go weeks without a day off. Seven years ago, he got serious about the project, looking at different styles and shapes of log cabins, researching building methods, etc. At the time, a parishioner of his in Parkers Prairie, Don Shircliff, was an experienced log home builder. “He was a friend of mine,” said

Father LeRoy. So he decided, “Now’s the time.” For the first few months of 2007, they built the cabin on a slab in Parkers Prairie, shaping the logs to make them fit. Father LeRoy chose the Swedish cope style, which involves cutting the top log to fit onto the log below it. They used large, straight lodge pole pine logs from British Columbia, 70-100 years old. Because the trees had just died, due to the pine bark beetle, he got a good price on the poles while knowing that the trees were dead anyway. The log cabin, after being built in Parkers Prairie, was disassembled, log by log, and then reconstructed at the Paynesville site. It was like the old children’s toy, Lincoln Logs, explained Father LeRoy, with the logs numbered and then re-assembled on site.

Home Improvement 2014 Paynesville Press, Shopper & Eden Valley Watkins Voice


March 30 & April 2, 2014

Construction Father LeRoy chose 12” to 14” logs for his cabin. Bigger ones (18” to 20”) would have provided additional insulation but would have been even more labor intensive to handle. “When we put these together, the biggest difference was an eighth of an inch,” he said of how the logs fit together. “Most were spot on. I was amazed by that.” That’s why he picked the cope style. “To me, it’s a tighter fit and more stable,” he explained. Once the logs were in place, the sticky chinking – the elastic material which joins the logs – was added. It comes as a sort of brown soft serve ice cream, recalled Father LeRoy, who had trouble cleaning the adhesive from his hands as he headed back to church. He built a log first floor and then opted for rough-cut tamarrack siding on the second story and conventional construction inside – some sheetrock walls (which could be painted green and orange earth tones) and a pine ceiling. “I wanted some color, so I came up with a design that’s both conventional and log,” he said. “Of course, I had good contractors,” added Father LeRoy, but as an old farm boy, “ I was

Photo by Michael Jacobson The different styles of log home construction are mainly distinguished by how the logs are joined, such as the interlocking corner joints in Father LeRoy’s dining room.

Photo by Michael Jacobson Father LeRoy Scheierl, a 1978 PHS grad who now serves two Catholic parishes in St. Cloud, chose hickory cabinets for the kitchen in his log cabin on the family farm.

Home Improvement 2014 Paynesville Press, Shopper & Eden Valley Watkins Voice

involved every step of the way.” He handled the logs so much that he “knows them by heart.” He actually knew that building a log cabin would be a lot of work, which is one reason why he decided to take the plunge while still in his 40s…he wasn’t getting any younger. He did take off three weeks to do some of the major work on the cabin construction, but then used his day off for the rest, including finishing the inside over the winter of 2009. The project “took three years of my life,” said Father LeRoy. “Every spare moment. I’d never do it again. I did it once, but I wouldn’t do it again.” More than two dozen friends helped with the project, to whom Father LeRoy is extremely grateful. “My day off,” he said of doing the work, of which he helped with everything but the electrical. “With the help of my friends. That’s what took so long…one day a week.” With log cabin construction, everything needs to be planned before the logs are joined, such as the location of windows and doors and the space for the electric wiring, which needs to be drilled out of the logs, before assembly, so “you’ve got to have everything in your head” beforehand.

Photo by Michael Jacobson At first, Father LeRoy’s log home was built in Parkers Prairie, where the logs were shaped to fit. Then it was disasembled and reassembled in Paynesville, with Father LeRoy amazed at how well the logs fit together.


March 30 & April 2, 2014

Photo by Michael Jacobson The upstairs guest bedroom includes two double beds. Father LeRoy wanted his log cabin to be a place where his siblings could still come home.

 Wikipedia Artwork The Swedish cope style of log home building requires shaping the logs to fit onto one another.

Photo by Michael Jacobson In the loft, Father LeRoy can say his daily prayers. A futon also provides additional sleeping capacity.

Home Improvement 2014 Paynesville Press, Shopper & Eden Valley Watkins Voice


March 30 & April 2, 2014

“God speaks loudest in silence. The most amazing things God does, He does with no noise at all.”

Solitude “I really wanted a place to get away. I really needed a place to be alone and to do my hobbies,” explained Father LeRoy of the solitude he finds on the farm. “I like to spend at least one day a week here.” Everybody needs a refuge, a place where you can find your center again in this hustle-bustle world. “Mine’s a log home.” “Unless you create that space, you’ll never find it, especially in a cell-phone world,” he said. For the past eight months, Father LeRoy has served St. Peter’s Catholic Church and St. Paul’s Catholic Church in St. Cloud. This follows seven years in Belgrade/Elrosa (adding Brooten and Padua) and nine years serving several parishes north of Alexandria, including Parkers Prairie. “When you work in my business, you’re pulled in so many directions,” said Father LeRoy on his first day off in two weeks. “It’s non-stop; 12-14 hours per day.” With a view of 200-year-old oak trees, Father LeRoy explains, “God speaks loudest in silence. The most amazing things God does, He does with no noise at all. For example, a sunset happens in silence.” The farm as a refuge for Father LeRoy, who studied biology and geology in college and worked as a geologist in California before becoming a priest, is something that has been true for a long time. Their family owns most of West Lake and part of Lake Emma, with a creek running from West Lake to the Crow River, which also runs across the family farmstead. “We grew up between a creek, a river, and a lake. It was paradise. We were always out fishing, swimming, canoeing, whatever.” The log home, where Father LeRoy likes to perch in the loft to say his daily prayers, is not the first spiritual structure on the farm. Twenty years ago, during his month off after ordination, he asked his father if he could take down an old building and reuse the boards. He constructed a nearly 16-foot tall prayer tower that overlooks West Lake. Now his solitude is only interrupted by all the parishioners and friends who like to come and visit him at his cabin. He never had so many visitors to the old farm house, he said, “just to hang out.”

Photo by Michael Jacobson With his brothers, Father LeRoy helped build many of the buildingson the family farm. After his ordination, 20 years ago, he tore downan old building and built this prayer tower.

Photo by Michael Jacobson The 16-foot prayer tower, overlooking West Lake, is similar to an observation tower, and Father LeRoy likes to pray here when weather allows.

Home Improvement 2014 Paynesville Press, Shopper & Eden Valley Watkins Voice


March 30 & April 2, 2014

House Tour Father LeRoy’s cabin is 1,800 square feet over a story and a half, with a crawl space underneath. To handle the weight of the logs, he used a poured foundation. On the main level, there is an entry from the covered front porch, a living room with a fireplace and a high vaulted ceiling, a dining room with a back deck, a kitchen, the bathroom, a laundry room, and his bedroom. The logs will hold coolness into the summer and then will hold heat into the fall, he said. In the living room, on the front wall, way up by the vaulted ceiling, is a stained glass window from the first Catholic Church in Paynesville (the old Legion on the corner of Augusta Avenue and 23), now the Antique Cellar. All the stained glass, except one, had been taken out of the old Catholic Church when the new one was built in the 1950s, said Father LeRoy. But his father knew of one remaining piece of glass that had been incorporated into a wall. One day, his dad told a man at the Legion bar about the stained glass behind the wall, and when that wall was taken down years later that man was there, surprised to see the glass that William Scheierl had talked about, so they gave it to him. Father LeRoy wanted the stained glass to have a special place in his log cabin as an homage to his Catholic faith and a tribute to his dad. “I wanted it to be one of the centers of focus,” he said. He had to have the glass releaded and then found some ornamental geese to hang on the wall. He made the rest of the wildlife scene – lake, marsh grasses, clouds – himself. Upstairs, there is the loft, with a futon, and the guest bedroom, with two double beds. “I wanted to make this a place where the family could still come home,” he said of the guest accomodations. His cabin is mostly done, except for the unfinished floors. Someday, Father LeRoy wants to install hardwood floors in the cabin. A log cabin also requires maintenance – filling split logs, for instance. A log home is also designed to settle 3-4 inches, and there are jacks to adjust in the basement. His cabin has already settled a couple inches in a couple years. Priests cannot retire until age 70, and with his family’s health history Father LeRoy’s not sure he’ll last long enough to see retirement, but if he does he has the perfect spot. He already built his dream getaway.

Photo by Michael Jacobson A focal point in the living room is this piece of stained glass, recovered from the original Catholic Church in Paynesville.

Photo by Michael Jacobson The living room opens to the vaulted second story. Father LeRoy used log cabin construction for the first floor and conventional construction – sheetrock walls, pine ceiling, and rough tamarack siding – for the second story.

Photo by Michael Jacobson Father LeRoy enjoys spending at least a day a week at his getaway, where he can work on the family farm and recharge mentally and spiritually.

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Home Improvement 2014 - Week 3  

Part 3 of the 4-part Home Improvement special section published by the Paynesville Press.