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The log home is built from Missouri oak and sits on several acres. Next door is a horse ranch.
By Jeff Stearns | STAFF
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A real ranch home
By Diane Schlindwein

For the past 10 years or so, Bob and Gail Hedges have been living their dream. As the co-owners of Cascade Ranch near Lake Sanchris in Rochester, they not only live in a rustic yet lovely oak log home, but also have been operating one of central Illinois' most impressive equestrian centers.

The couple originally purchased the almost 30-acre property in the 1990s to raise dogs. However, they switched to breeding and boarding horses and hosting equestrian events a few years after they purchased their first horse in 1998.

"When we moved here we still had a son in college and we were raising standard and giant schnauzers," Gail says. "We thought if we came out here we'd be in a place where the dogs barking wouldn't be a problem with neighbors. Now we have just one dog, and we got her from our son." 

Open, airy, family-friendly
Although Bob and Gail are empty nesters, their home is family-friendly. The house is about 15 years old, has a geothermal system and measures just over 2,800 square feet of comfortable living space. Like most log dwellings, it has a "lodge feel" to it. Open and airy, it features a lot of room for entertaining and has a main-floor great room (and a nearby powder room) as well as a loft, complete with another large gathering area.

The focal point of the great room is a huge stone fireplace that reaches clear up to the ceiling and is flanked on each side by expansive windows. The home's decor has a definite Southwestern Native American feel. A bearskin covered with Native American memorabilia hangs on one wall, while two deer heads also are prominently displayed.

"Those are Bob's deer, but he didn't shoot the bear," Gail explains. "We travel some and pick up things when we're doing that."During the holidays, Gail does her best to turn the log home into an indoor winter wonderland.

"Gail has greenery all over on the railings, and she has all kinds of large Santas that sit all around," Bob says. "We have a 10- or 11-foot tree that is really nice." 

No matter the season, the couple looks forward to visits from their young granddaughter, who they say helps liven up the place. Even though that lucky little girl has a real live horse she can ride, her doting grandparents keep a large wooden rocking horse in the great room for indoor use. "It sits in the entryway by that door because everybody comes in the door by the kitchen," Gail explains. 

Cooking family meals is a breeze in the well-thought-out kitchen that adjoins a large semi-formal eating area. The kitchen cabinets, as well as the cabinets throughout the house, are hickory, while the floors are pine. 

Gail particularly likes the kitchen floor, which features tiles inset in pine, giving the room a unique look. The rest of the home, except one bedroom, has either wood or tile floors.

Three well-appointed bedrooms make up the more private areas of the home. The master bedroom is conveniently located on the first floor and features a mirrored walk-in closet, several bay windows and a roomy bath complete with a whirlpool tub. On the second floor there are two side-by-side bedrooms as well as another full bath. 

Great outdoors
Outside, Gail appreciates the porches that run the length of the house. Here it's easy to see she has added personal touches. Antique wooden chairs are decorated with plants, and lovely, well-worn wagons and chairs invite visitors to sit a spell. Bushes and bushes of knockout roses blend easily with daisies and other plants.   In the yard, the feeling is pastoral. A half-dozen blue and white barns - one with the area's largest indoor riding arena at 80 feet by 180 feet - and outbuildings are situated around the grounds. An outdoor arena, complete with a viewing/judging gazebo, awaits riders. Horses graze in the pasture and pond areas. 

The largest barn has room for 25 horses, while another multi-stall barn sits closer to the Hedges' home. The ranch also features an updated caretaker's home and apartment, high-tech horse breeding barn and lab, a tractor shed, a horse exerciser and an eight-run, indoor-outdoor dog kennel complete with bathroom and nursery.

Now and then the sound of a horse whinnying cuts through the quiet of the countryside. The closer Bob and Gail get to the barns, the more the horses call out and peek through their stall doors. Most of the horses belong to other owners, who are boarding them at the ranch. "They think it's time to eat," Gail says.

Of course, living in the country, Bob and Gail witness a lot of wildlife activity. A gaggle of geese have gathered on the pond on this day, which is well stocked with large catfish and bass. 

"One day, I looked out and saw a huge turtle in the yard," Bob says. "By the time I got outside it had moved quite a bit. It was the biggest box turtle I've ever seen."

Bob says it's hard to believe that in the 1990s, when he and Gail purchased their land, it was "corn stubble and weeds." 

"You'd never know it now, but when we bought this property there were weeds this tall," he says raising his hands high. "I had a tractor I got on and you could just see my head above the tractor trying to mow. There was all kinds of garbage and old tractor parts and everything." 

For nearly 10 years, Bob and Gail ran a full-scale equestrian facility, running shows, breeding and boarding horses and even selling equipment. Just recently, however, they've decided it's time to sell the business and spend more time concentrating on their full-time jobs. Bob is president of HI Care, a company that owns and operates nursing homes, and Gail is a program director at the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. 

"This is a great place because we're right by the lake property with the trails and the trees," Bob says. "Right now, the people who keep horses here mostly do trail riding."

"If you've ever dreamed of having your own horse farm, this may be the perfect place," says their Realtor, Ron Peterman of Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell.

"You could move right in and have the horse facility of your dreams in a quiet and tranquil setting," Peterman says. "This is a great opportunity."

Story published Friday, September 2, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 5 )

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