I was able to return to my homestead on April 15th. There was still plenty of snow, but the trusty Subaru made it.
Closest in the pic is the original 70 year old log house. There is not a single doorway I can walk through upright. Unfortunately, it was not built well enough to save, or I most certainly would. Despite its “shortcomings.” I live in it now, until my tiny house is complete. It is somewhat rustic with no running water and only wood heat.
My first weeks were spent on the yard, garden, and small greenhouse.
The greenhouse I attached to the old main house and incorporated a small kitchen, well, half-kitchen. This gave me a place with running cold water from a garden hose connected to a pump in the well, and a place to do dishes and take a bath. It might be of interest to some readers that most of the wells in the country are hand dug, and lined with 1meter diameter concrete pipe sections. Mine is also like this, but very shallow, only about 3 meters deep. This gave me some concerns for the water quality so I had tests performed and was quite glad to find out that the water was completely free of bacteria and with nitrate levels so low they almost could not be measured. The gals at the testing lab told me it was better than most bottled waters. So that was a major relief this spring.
Here you see my rather un-dramatic well. The water is clean, I can live with it.
I also re-installed the furry mouse eliminators.
After quality of life issues were addressed and the garden was growing I restarted my work on the tiny house. Wiring was the first task, followed by insulation.
After installing the rockwool I covered everything with a fiberglass mesh reinforced plastic membrane with a reflective surface on one side.
This was followed by 1×2 furring to create an airspace, then drywall. I post here the wall section. Although thermally very nice, it is a lot of hard labor. (Pic wall section) Interior pics)
Next of course was drywall, for which I enlisted some help. Yes I am sure I COULD have done it alone, like the rest, but life is short, and that would take too much of it. After that was done, I did a single layer of filling and taping, and then I turned my attention to preparing the place for the wood stove. The wall I did with 2×2 honed travertine, the floor with Granite tiles.
After that I started on the plaster, 3mm of perlited gypsum plaster. I don’t like drywall as a finish surface. The plaster not only makes a much more durable wall, it reduces air infiltration, and it changes the acoustics in what I consider to be a favorable way. I use a fairly heavy texture as I like the look of a hand-made wall.
The plaster was followed by a layer of the best acrylic primer /sealer I could find. I was delighted when I walked into an obscure out of the way paint store in VIlnius and found Benjamin Moore products, all made in the USA. Paint here can be a very iffy thing to buy. Next came the stairs. Not wanting to waste any space I made the landing into an insulated container for potatoes and such, the floor of the landing lifts.
A little stain and varnish for the stair, and then I installed the stove and gave it a successful trial run accompanied by a bottle of red wine.
Fall was coming, and I moved my attention to the outside. Last year I did not have time or materials for batts on the siding, and installed those, and stained them, adding a coat of stain to the boards installed last year.
Then, I started on the airlock entry. In this country it is standard in 99% of homes, and for very good reason. I think after anyone has experienced how much heat they save, they would miss one if they didn’t have it.
A little fancy trim on the airlock is mandatory in Lithuania. I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.
Wood stained, glass in place, a temporary door to keep out the snow this winter…
It is now close to time to leave. It seems to me like I get almost nothing accomplished, but each day when living in such conditions so much time is taken up by so many other tasks. If I want a bath, it must be planned hours in advance. If I want to simply go to the toilet its a 30 yard walk to the outhouse.
Cooking is a constant shuffle in to the kitchen and out to the greenhouse where the water is. A fire is a daily chore in all but perhaps 6 weeks of the summer hence firewood must be made. The garden is constantly calling for attention. The grass grows relentlessly and needs to be cut.
I am also working on tearing down the old buildings that were here, but unrestorable. Sometimes I even make the bed in the mornings. Then of course the apple trees, the currant bushes, the garden, all start producing and there is canning and harvesting and etc.
A long day on the house is 4 hours, the balance with all the necessary chores. So next summer, perhaps, I will have my tiny house to the point of habitation.
I don’t complain, it is a good life. It keeps me from getting fat…
So my building season has ended. The outside, barring a few details, is finished.
The last article ended with me getting ready for the roof. They do wood roofs quite differently here than in the USA. My roof is a blend of the two systems. The only problem encountered was to make the person installing the shingles understand American methods, which I preferred for aesthetic, and other, reasons.
Still, in some details I deemed the local wisdom to be better than the American approach – doing things as quickly as possible- and although language was a barrier we still ended up producing a wood roof which I consider to have the best of both country’s methods incorporated.
As an example, where in the USA such a small roof would be completed in one day. This person and his helper worked a full seven days on the roof and as much time splitting the shakes. He seemed to care where every shingle was placed. The roof is made of Aspen, a tree similar to the American variety in leaf, although the bark is darker. It is a traditional roofing material here. I am not completely convinced that its lifespan will be equivalent to Western Red Cedar. We shall see. They tell me that such roofs can easily last 35 years which will certainly be long enough for me!
As the roofer was progressing I began the task of siding. This began with a layer of 2 in. extruded polystyrene insulation set between 2×2 furring strips. This was followed by a layer of wind/moisture barrier and then additional furring strips to create an air-space behind the siding. Lithuania is a wet climate. Taking extra steps to keep things dry is essential. Taking extra steps to keep things warm is also essential. Continue Reading »
by Dan Combellick
Again working alone.
I like it most of the time, but there are moments when a second set of hands would be, well, handy.
This new project is on a farm not far from the capitol of Lithuania, Vilnius. This makes it much easier to acquire various building materials. But in general, wherever you are in Lithuania, you are not far from a sawmill, wood being a major export and forests abundant. And being from America, I like to build with wood.
This property had several buildings officially recorded on the title, and I chose the spot for the new construction in the location of one of those official structures, and by good fortune, the footprint is the size I wanted to use, about 24 square meters, approx. 240 square feet. I am adding a second floor, which yields perhaps another 150 square feet of “walkable space,” being under the roof, but also additional floor area which will provide useful storage space.
In this photo you see the site of the original building with the old apple trees cut back so they do not overhang the new roof. I am doing the roof in a traditional material, hand split Aspen shakes. Wood roofs do not enjoy having closely overhanging trees, and I have about 40 apple trees, so the loss of a couple does not discomfort me. Most of them are too old and have not been cared for, anyway. Plus apple makes good firewood.
by Daniel Combellick
*New Photos added
The house began with ordering 60 logs from the forest service, which they delivered to the site. Common Fir. Some of these I used to build a small hut, which were all hand-hewn, along with some Birch logs taken from my forest. I lived in this small 12 X 16 ft hut the entire time I was building the house.
The foundation was dug by hand, and filled the same… this was one of the three procedures on the house I had help with – the other two were installing the metal roof, and hanging the drywall – besides these all work was completed by me. In my shed there was no electricity or water – the water I brought in containers in a wheel barrow, or on a sled in the winter – from a nearby farmers well, the old kind, drawing the water with a bucket on a chain and dumping into the old milk containers I used for storage. My light was from headlamps, and kerosene lanterns. I had a propane stove, an outhouse, and an outside bathing shelter.
When I had completed my lumber take-off I sent the logs to a mill and had them sawn. Then, I commenced building. I was alone almost every day, this is a very remote spot, it is very quiet. Sometimes the loudest sound above that of my tools was the flap of a bird’s wings overhead. Did you know crows are very noisy fliers? Continue Reading »