The Charm of the Farm
Hesters Farm Log Homes Invites Guests to Embrace Simplicity
If you’re looking to step back in time, visit Hesters Farm Log Homes, a dairy farm/bed & breakfast that has been around since the mid-1970s.
“My father always wanted to have a log home and a pond,” says owner Annette Hesters, who runs the farm with her husband Richard and son Ted. “My brother had the pond, but there was no log home on it so Richard and I hunted and finally found one in Marshall County, just south of Plymouth.
Annette presumes that the structure was once a trading post or weigh station given its location in the Twin Lakes of Plymouth as it would have been a marketing area between Indian tribes and the traders who came through in the early 1800s.
“Plus, it’s four times larger than a typical log home that a family would live in,” Annette says.
Richard & Annette had an Amish crew take it down, load it onto a semi and reassemble the logs on their property in Walkerton, located 25 miles from South Bend. The 1830 log home features three bedrooms (can sleep up to 12), a modern bath, antique décor, fireplace, gas & oil lights, rope bed, a 40-piece cast iron cookware collection, and a 1901 Kimble player piano that belts out 100 different tunes.
The couple also erected a smaller primitive log cabin that lacks electricity and running water. It has a loft that sleeps seven, a wood cook stove, Hoosier cabinet, old “ice” box and a Sietz bath.
“It’s perfect for anyone who wants to really get back to the Little House on the Prairie feel,” Annette adds.
The Hesters continue to live in their ranch home on the property and rent out both cabins for weekend or week-long family getaways. Back in the early 1990s, their rental properties were quite popular, particularly during Thanksgiving, Christmas and football season.
“We had doctors and concert pianists from all over the world come to Notre Dame games,” Annette says. “As South Bend has added hotels in the downtown area, it’s been hard to compete because they offer so many modern amenities, but for anyone looking for simple, old-fashioned farm simplicity, we are the perfect choice.”
In 2016, the couple added to the property with a new structure.
“My mom and I had gone to Ireland in 1999. I told my husband that if we ever went back, I’d like to stay in a castle overnight,” says Annette, whose ancestors inhabited Ireland 150 years ago. Though Annette never made it back, when Annette’s 99-year-old uncle, a WWII Bataan Death March survivor, passed away, he left her an inheritance.
“He told me not to put it back into the farm so I built a castle instead,” she says. “It’s nothing grand. The building isn’t that big — 24×24, but it sits up on a hill and is much larger in appearance than what it actually is.”
Castle LeBlanc has antique décor, gas & oil lights, a large loft and three trestle tables that can seat 30. The upstairs bedroom includes a princess bed with gauze netting over the top of it.
“My grandmother’s dresser is in there,” Annette adds. “It’s a comforting place for me to go.”
The property also has a dairy farm run by Ted. They milk twice a day from March to December. Ted built a 16-milk side-by-side milking system on the back side of the farm, and guests may watch baby calves and cows being milked, day or night.
“Most people don’t get up for the 4 a.m. milking,” says Annette with a laugh. “They catch the afternoon session.”
Guests can also enjoy other farm animals, which include Sicilian donkeys, miniature horses, bantam chickens, Shetland sheep, kinder goats, dwarf rabbits, pygmy goats and alpaca. They also have a Haflinger horse breeding farm that breeds small draft size horses that were first introduced to the United States in 1958, imported from Austria.
“We had one of the original mares brought over when we started raising Haflingers,” Annette says.
When Renaissance groups visit the property to do battle reenactments, they utilize the castle, the log home, the primitive cabin and the Kentucky barn, which houses Richard’s antique tractors. A corner of the Kentucky barn has an old dairy display with the stations where cows would have been milked in bygone days, the milking pails that milk went into before there was a pipeline, a half dozen hand-driven churns and a cream separator, among other things.
“You could come here a dozen times and you’ll find a dozen new things every time,” Annette says.
For instance, The Hesters’ have a surrey, a horse-drawn manure spreader, a Studebaker wagon and two horse-drawn sleighs.
They hold four open houses a year for the historical reenactments. Annette says that inevitably someone will say to her, “I’ve gone past your house for 20 years and seen your signs out each May, June, July and October, but I never stopped. Wow! I had no idea all of this cool stuff was back here.”
This year the dates for Spring Fling are tentatively set for May 8-10, for Berry Feis June 12-14, for Freedom Fest July 3-5, and for Americana 1800 October 9-11.
Hesters Farm Log Homes also holds sustainable living workshops for groups of 8-10 to learn a skill such as blacksmithing, spin-quilting, churning, canning, candle dipping, Dutch oven cooking, and cast iron cooking over an open fire.
Overnight guests to Hesters Farm have traveled from all over, including California, New York, Kansas, Arkansas and Illinois.
“There was a gal from California who, when she arrived, looked around and asked how to get internet access for her computer,” Annette says. “Everybody laughed and said, ‘Remember, we’re in the 1830s. We don’t have computers. Enjoy your weekend!’”
Ultimately, the woman did enjoy unplugging and basking in the peace and quiet of nature.
“Some people still like getting back to the simple things in life,” Annette says. “For those people, this retreat is ideal.”
Hesters Farm Log Homes is located at 71880 State Road 23 in Walkerton. For more information, call 574-586-2105 or visit them online at hestersfarmloghomes.com.