BILL Martin and Sharon Mulder's bed and breakfast on Lake Winnipeg is also their year-round home: the couple built the Last Straw Bed and Breakfast themselves, using straw bales and pine.
"I think I've touched every particle of everything in this house," said Martin.
The B&B 60 km north of Riverton opened about a month ago. Martin said the home's steel roof "should last forever," and the cement-covered bale walls keep the space toasty. The couple used special paint that doesn't off-gas and lets air pass through, so moisture won't build in the walls.
The home has no air conditioning but keeps cool with an air circulation system, fans and a screened deck. In winter, a high-efficiency wood stove heats the 2,000-square-foot space, with the occasional use of baseboard heaters.
A natural retreat at Victoria Beach
WHEN Brent Willows bought his Victoria Beach property in the late 1980s, it was "basically just a cleared area."
Two decades later, his yard thrives with coneflowers, goldenrod, black-eyed Susans and wild violets.
"I've always really been into nature," said Willows, who said he grew up going to the lake, and always admired the area's natural shrubs and flowers.
Willows started by transplanting cranberry bushes and small maples, and in the 1990s started buying native plants. He and his wife also own an adjacent lot that they've left treed.
I guess I'm a bit of an environmentalist," he said. "I like things natural."
Off the grid in the Whiteshell
IT'S a 2.5-km hike to two "eco-cabins" on High Lake -- the only motorized transportation allowed is an ATV that hauls luggage for guests at the cabins, owned by Falcon Trails Resort.
"We had environmental-sensitive leanings anyway, so it was not a hard call for us to kind of look into it," said resort co-owner Barb Hamilton.
There are only two cabins on the lake, which has no hydro service. Both cabins have composting toilets and run on solar energy, though the fridge and stove run on propane so as not to overwhelm the solar grid. Composting toilets and solar energy do require some ongoing maintenance, Hamilton said.
"When you do any environmental efforts, it takes a different train of thought. You have to kind of re-educate yourself a bit. But it is worth it."
Geothermal on Lake Winnipeg
VINCE and Giselle Merke have gone from visitors to full-time residents at their Arnes cottage. "We always kept going out over the winter and we just thought it would be nice to have this place year-round," said Vince Merke.
The couple did a lot of work on the home, building out the walls for extra insulation and installing a geothermal system. Vince Merke said they went geothermal for both the environmental benefits and energy savings.
"They just seemed so much more economical to run," he said.
Less than a month after moving house, Merke said he and his wife are happy to be full-time lake residents.
"We just love it," he said. "It's everything we expected."