Building a log cabin home from the ground up is a labor of love
By Lori Mai
As a brisk, wintry wind whips up an impending storm, ominous clouds spew the first tentative drops of rain before eventually unleashing a torrential downpour.
“We’ll see how it holds up after this storm,” Abe Yearout says as he eyes the roof of the 7,000-square-foot unfinished log home he and his wife, Brittney, are building by hand in Lapwai. “The walls ain’t going nowhere, but my main worry is uplift of the wind. Once we close it in and it gets beefed up more, it will get stronger. Right now, it’s kind of open to the weather.”
The Yearouts, who have 8 children with another on the way, have been building the log home since 2016 after Abe attended a small business conference sponsored by the Nez Perce Tribe, where he works as a specialist for the Watershed Fisheries Division. During the conference, the Log Home Builders Association taught a class on log home construction, and Abe returned to Lapwai enthused to put his newfound knowledge to work.
“After that weekend, he came home and said, ‘I’m gonna build us a house,” says Brittney, who met Abe 22 years ago when she was 18 and he was 22. “I said no.”
The family lives in a doublewide mobile home on property they own next door to Abe’s parents, Jon and Rosa. Even though Brittney could see the need for a bigger home, she didn’t think they were up to such an ambitious project along with the hassle of relocating the family during construction.
“I said, let’s just get a triplewide and be done with it,” she says.
But Brittney started thinking about how it might work.
“I would just stand and gaze out our kitchen window doing dishes, and I would look up here to this top property,” she says. “And I’m like, you know, what we should really do is move our double-wide up above, so that we could just stay on site and not have to relocate. And boom, Abe made it happen.”
Despite a bumpy bulldozer ride, the double-wide survived the move up the hill intact, and the Yearouts began preparations for their dream home on the vacated land.
Although Abe had little construction experience, he is a talented metalworks artist with a keen eye for precision and detail. He created life-sized metal horse-and-rider cutout sculptures that are featured along the Nez Perce trail in Montana at Fort Benton, Cook City and Lolo Pass, as well as the metal fishermen cutout in front of the Clearwater River Casino.
So, he sketched his own house plans on a sheet of paper, and Abe and Brittney slowly built the foundation themselves. Then, Abe hand-picked and numbered 150 of the “biggest, fattest” red fir trees from the forest near Kamiah and had them logged. He bought a small mill and cleared a track large enough to process the 40-foot treetops for lumber, flooring and beams and used the trunks of the logs for the main structure.
“Our lot down there wasn’t big enough to hold them all, so we had to put them on a trailer and haul them up two at a time,” Abe says.
With the aid of a crane, operated by Brittney, they lifted the logs into position on the foundation.
From the foundation to the structure—and even the most recent addition of the roof— construction has been tedious over the past 6 years, but the end is in sight, and Abe and Brittney hope to complete the house sometime in 2024.
As the log home grew, so did the Yearout family. They added 3 children for a total of 8 — 4 boys and 4 girls — and are expecting another girl this month.
“I always wanted to be a mom,” Brittney says. “I never imagined having as many as I have, but I just savor it. It keeps getting better and better.”
Their oldest, Titus, 18, is a freshman at University of Idaho, majoring in business and is a redshirt player on the Vandals men’s basketball team. A standout athlete at Lapwai High School (LHS), he played football and basketball and received numerous basketball honors, including 2021-2022 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year, National Native American Athlete of the Year, and two-time Idaho Hall of Fame Athlete of the Year. A salutatorian, he was the first male athlete in Lapwai school history to sign directly from high school to a Division I basketball program.
Athletics, particularly basketball, also run deep with the rest of the Yearout children.
Ahlius, 16, a junior at LHS, is gunning for his third varsity state basketball championship. He also plays football.
Taya, 14, a freshman at LHS, swings between junior varsity and varsity basketball and runs track.
Abreann, 12, is a cheerleader and gravitates toward her dad’s artistic interests but decided to try Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball this year.
Tathen, 9, plays up 2 grade levels on his AAU basketball team and is a fierce competitor who aspires to be a better player than his brothers. He also plays football for the Ninmiipuu Little Warriors.
Avery, 6, is starting to show interest in basketball and plays in small tournaments around the area.
Taylynn, 4, is learning to dribble a ball, and Atly, almost 2, is chief spectator and fan alongside her mom.
“I can’t say enough about our kids,” Brittney says. “I am so blessed by them and what they bring to this family. They’re just amazing.”
But life isn’t all sports-related for the Yearouts. When they aren’t busy traveling to games and tournaments, they participate in Nez Perce Appaloosa Horse Club events such as parades, storytelling, trail rides and festivals celebrating their Native American heritage. Last summer, the whole family took part in various tribal activities at Yellowstone National Park, along with Abe’s parents who are involved in club leadership and with their grandchildren’s activities.
Abe, a former college football player, coaches Tathen and Abreann’s basketball teams, having also coached his older children. When he isn’t working at his job, coaching, building the house or creating his metal art, he also enjoys hunting and fishing with his older boys, as they provide meat and fish for the family.
Brittney, a stay-at-home mom, is excited to have a larger kitchen in the new house to prepare homemade meals, as family dinners are important to them. She also counts the days until she has a laundry room with 2 sets of washers and dryers for the voluminous amounts of laundry.
With plans for 10 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, Brittney looks forward to more living space and private areas for themselves and their children.
“God and our faith have been our biggest motivator when it comes to our family and raising our children,” she says. “When we strive to keep him center, everything else seems to fall into place. (We are) building on that solid foundation.”