Dan in Lithuania. Spring, Summer, Fall 2013

land

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.

20130506_184333 green house

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.

well

Here you see my rather un-dramatic well. The water is clean, I can live with it.

cats

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.

plastic

plastic 2

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)

wall section

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.

ceramic 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.

plaster

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.

landing

stairs

landing and stairs

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.

stove
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.

trim

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.

fancy trim

A little fancy trim on the airlock is mandatory in Lithuania. I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.

fancy

Wood stained, glass in place, a temporary door to keep out the snow this winter…

small house

back of house

closeup of house

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.

Dan selfie

I don’t complain, it is a good life. It keeps me from getting fat…

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Stephen Gambone - November 20, 2013 Reply

Very nice indeed !!

Valerie - November 20, 2013 Reply

A pleasant place. I like it.

Tina Larkin - November 20, 2013 Reply

Love what you are doing with your tiny house. Just wondering-why Lithuania?

    Ian - November 20, 2013 Reply

    love this…

    And Tina maybe it is there because that is where he lives??
    🙂 x

Crystal - November 20, 2013 Reply

I particularly liked your re-installation of the “furry mouse eliminators”. They appear very efficient and cute!

    Dan - November 22, 2013 Reply

    Well, the boy cat, the orange and white, is not especially lazy, but has the wrong ideas about hunting, forever after birds that forever mock his attempts. The girl Kitty is quite an amazing mouser, and so interesting… she will often bring the boy kitty a live mouse, and then supervise him, making sure he doesn’t goof up? I don’t know, but it is frequent. She just sits there and watches after bringing him the mouse. I cannot think of another explanation other than she tries to teach him? to take care of him? I dunno.

      phyllis - January 2, 2014 Reply

      cats dont usually eat the mice or rats. they are just something to catch and play with. i have owned many cats over my lifetime. i am 80 yrs old. and i love this small spaces. i am moving into a 400 sq studio and i am scared its too small for me.

hockeyirene - November 20, 2013 Reply

Wow, Dan!

What a lot of successful work! Your daily maintenance may take a lot of time out of the day, but it IS what your day is! Sounds as though you accomplished a lot in terms of readiness for the next steps, which lead to Living In It. Good for you! I look forward to the next installment next Spring.

In Peace, Irene

Rebecca Treat - November 20, 2013 Reply

Fascinating…

debra - November 20, 2013 Reply

thank you for sharing such an enormous part of your life. i love your persevering spirit – your place looks like the labor of love it represents.

Deb Stephens - November 20, 2013 Reply

I love your little house. I am in the planning stages for a little cabin now. I have the land, and have decided to develop the spring with a french drain.

The ideas you have are great! I like the airlock idea and the outside shutters, since I will building in cold northern country. I wonder about the peak of the roof you have a little different pitch at the outside edge. Is there a purpose or simply very cute?

I enjoy your posts!

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    The clipped, or Dutch Gable, has benefits in keeping rain off the upstairs windows. Other than that, cuteness… I borrow heavily in designs from local building. It is not uncommon here to have such a roof, but as with most things, I change it slightly. I try to take local vernacular architecture and use it for my own purposes. SO elements are familiar, the execution original.

Carol Bohan - November 20, 2013 Reply

Love what you are doing. Great work!

Truman Green - November 20, 2013 Reply

I appreciate the quality of labour and materials you’re using for your house. The wall diagram was particularly impressive. I hope you do a longer post in the future, letting us know how you acquired the land and how your small house is being received in the community. I bet there’s a great little film or book here. Congratulations!

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Tiny houses are common here. 4X6 meters… (like this one) can be found easily. I build in my own style, but I copy – shamelessly – the local vernacular. So this construction is very much in place in Lithuania. What is not common here is wood frame construction. In the times when I do actual paying work here it has been as a consultant and/or teacher for this method. In fact, I was the consultant for the construction of the very first American home to be built in Lithuania, in 1994.

      carrie - November 24, 2013 Reply

      I actually hate the house…can you tell I am lying??? Is the green from envy showing? Just SOOOOOO freakin’ wonderful!
      Our cat Butch, would love it there… he has gotten 10 or so mice 1 possum 3 snakes…
      Maybe I did miss this but why Lithuania? Your home country? can wait to see the finished project!!!! Oh and the views we see are awesome too…Maybe I hate YOU.. Only kidding!
      Carrie

        carrie - November 24, 2013 Reply

        OOPS meant ‘Can’t’ wait to see finished project.

Maureen - November 20, 2013 Reply

Dan, this is simply beautiful; I could move right in and feel at home! The structure, surroundings, colors, simplicity of life-all are aesthetically and practically pleasing!
And I echo the question: why Lithuania? And what prevents you from being there full-time, or is that the goal?

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    “Village life” as they call it here, even though my closest neighbor is over 1 kilometer away, can be difficult. Yes, it is beautiful here. I am on a slight hill and mists gather in the valleys around me very often… not to mention the frequent rainbows. I live all year in Lithuania… just not at this place yet. I could do it except for two major reasons. One: the hassle of not having running water, and 2: the old house eats too much firewood. I have another house here, which you can find in previous posts, which uses a third or less of what this old house uses and it has hot and cold running water.

Pamela - November 20, 2013 Reply

Love your little house. Your property is gorgeous…..I am second generation Lithuanian so it is with keen interest I can view the country side of Lithuania. Best of luck …….your home is beautiful.

ET - November 20, 2013 Reply

Good to see a traditional, good quality home! You seem to have thought it at out very well.
It’s beautiful.

pamela j - November 20, 2013 Reply

really appreciate your attention to detail, and incorporating things like storage in the stairs’ landing. i’m worried about your furry friends if you will be leaving soon. are you leaving them behind? when do you envision living there full-time, if ever? and i, too, ask: why lithuania? it’s beautiful, and the clean water is fantastic! but not the easiest commute, i would think! thank you for the blog – i enjoy reading about your work, and following your progress! 🙂

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Pamela, the cats have a winter home and are quite well cared for. Spoiled you might say. They are quite good natured and extremely pleasant to have around. I live in Lithuania all year. I have other places to stay in the winter. There is no commute really. Thank you for your kind words.

Eric - November 20, 2013 Reply

This…this is very nice.
Well done sir!
Look forward to seeing the completed house.

David R - November 20, 2013 Reply

Wonderful home and landscape. I built my home in 2004, off-grid with lots of insulation. Just wondering if they have “Home Depot” stores, or similar there? Nice to see paint from USA!

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Yes, there are Home Depot -like stores. I am near the largest city in Lithuania so I have good access to them. But all the lumber comes from a local mill, made to my specifications. In general one finds other ways to get things here. There is a small city just a few miles away, and I found a store there run by a very nice couple, who will get me anything I need.

Melande - November 20, 2013 Reply

Looks fantastic. I have been thinking about something like yours but here in the state.

Susan - November 20, 2013 Reply

I would be concerned that the garden hose is contaminating the water with lead. The white hoses (meant for RVs) don’t contain lead, but the green ones do.

    Ralph Sly - November 20, 2013 Reply

    Your on the ball Susan, I am fanatic about that and didn’t catch it. Good call.

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Yes, Susan and Ralf, I don’t trust water from this hose. I alleviate this lack of trust by timing my activities so that the entire volume of the hose has been emptied before I collect drinking water. However, I will note that environmental controls are much stronger here than in the USA and although I don’t know it, I might venture a guess that green hose here may not be the same. The interior of the hose is black “rubber”… really no idea. Again, I am in full agreement, it is just another chore in a long list- installing the water and pump system at an appropriate depth etc etc up to the new house. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the amount of work I have in front of me. Generally that means it is time to sit down and have a beer. But then I start thinking about what to do next…. oh well, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Em - November 20, 2013 Reply

You’ve done a beautiful job. Like others, I’m curious as to why you are in Lithuania. My family still has family there. I take it you are near Vilnius. Any chance of communicating via email ? thanks – Em

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Everyone here is free to contact me at dan@danielcc.com and if they find me on Facebook -daniel combellick- I will definitely “friend” you. THis house is near Vilnius, my other house is closer to Riga.

Najja Foluke - November 20, 2013 Reply

I enjoyed reading about the project you’re working on and viewing the photos – beautifully done and very inspiring. Looking forward to seeing more.

Guidance and protection

Susan in San Antonio - November 20, 2013 Reply

Working hard at being a hermit is what I see. Where/what did you move away from that building this lovely tiny home became such a draw?

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    You hit the proverbial nail on the head. I used to build homes for the rich in the states. That was rather stressful at times. I had a few great clients, but mostly it just wasn’t any fun. SO… hermit it is.

Linda - November 20, 2013 Reply

Dan, Thank you for posting the pictures with comments. It’s inspiring, and the little house is quite charming!

K'Anne Zubin - November 20, 2013 Reply

Thank you for posting your tiny house. It is without a doubt, one of my favorites, and worthy of all the thought and work put into it. Having lived in Finland, and now in the Adirondacks, I’m quite nostalgic for the lovely spot you chose to build on, and what took you to Lithuania in the first place. I hope you’ll save the old log house. Wonderful. K’Anne

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for your kind words. My plans for the old house are as follows: Once I can move out of it and into the new house I will begin removing all the layers of Soviet wallpaper and take a close look at the condition of the logs. If all seems reasonably sound- the house stays. I am thinking of just keeping it as a guest house. It has three old Russian type heating stoves in it, just the low doorways can be painfully annoying. The roof must be replaced completely, including the rafters. The floors that are wood need to be replaced. I think providing it with thermal efficiency would destroy its character, so at best it could be a great place in the warmer parts of the year for folks to stay. Anyway I am loath to tear it down. we shall see.

Lynne H - November 20, 2013 Reply

Beautiful job on the build! Love the craftsmanship! funny how daily tasks take up so much time. I totally get it! Living near an Amish community and renting from them introduced me to this type of living. Water comes and goes. Plows accidentally run over the water pipe, then it’s bucket showers–actually have to go get the water at another location, heat it up on a stove then get to take the “shower.” So glad to have this experience. I totally took running water for granted growing up. Contentment is learned, isn’t it?

Love the greenhouse. Mine is full of kale, spinach and other greens. Life is good!

Whitworth Deen - November 20, 2013 Reply

How I wish I had your building talents !!! Your little Lithuanian casita is a jewel. Beautifully done…. Highest praises !!!

SteveR - November 20, 2013 Reply

Wood heat is not rustic – but very modern indeed and the way of the future – but it is a bit of work, which we have to accept, considering the alternatives.

That’s a ‘board and batten’ siding, not ‘board and batt’.

The ‘airlock’ is an important feature in cold climates. We should use them again more often (always). It was cheap oil which made them disappear (since heating or cooling was once inexpensive). If you place the outside and inside door at right angles to each other, it is even more effective and it also create a more public space in the airlock while protecting the private space inside the house, thus making a more effective transition zone.

No work on insulating walls is too much work!
Well done!

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    I have worked and lived in several parts of the USA… been building for 40 years now, Architecture, Structural engineering, done all that. You may find as you gain experience that construction terms can vary greatly from one region to another. Hard to say which one is “right”. Most important is that it is understood, perhaps. Once the airlock entry accommodates the first door closing before you open the other, the placement of the doors is irrelevant as far as thermal efficiency. Next it is important to take into consideration its uses, and orientation, and how it is attached to the main structure. I have a hard time designing buildings I am 5000 miles from. Lot of architects do it, tho. And the results usually suck.

    alice h - November 22, 2013 Reply

    If you keep the two doors in a nice straight alignment it makes bringing longer items into the house a lot easier. Once you’re inside the entry and close one door you don’t get that strong whoosh of warm air escaping when you open the other one that would happen no matter what angle the other door is at. You soon learn to get in and out of the main house door as quickly as you can.

Jean - November 20, 2013 Reply

I relate since I live without a hot water heater. It does take time to finish certain tasks.
Love your place. Wish I lived next door. 🙂

Richard Bryant - November 20, 2013 Reply

Just a caution – beware of the corrugated roofing material and well cover. Unless you are positive that the corrugated material is metal – then it is very likely made of asbestos. That was a very common budget material around the world after WWII and maybe even before then.

Asbestos panels were used for many types of roofing and some exterior wall materials. It may only become a toxic health hazard if you cut the material or if the fibers start to “bloom” with age and become friable.

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    You are absolutely correct. And I am not concerned. This is how I found it when I bought the place in 2011. And someday I will fix it. It is not a serious issue. Asbestos roofing is a problem here. Many many structures had it, and the country is making every effort to rid itself of it. I am collecting it as I generally clean up the place, and will, perhaps next year, have a load ready to take to the reclamation center. Never a dull moment. You should have seen the garbage the previous owners left me. absolutely unbelievable.

Laura - November 20, 2013 Reply

I love this house! =) As someone who is also planning to build a tiny home in a cold country which happens to have nice summers (Canada), I really like the enclosed entrance way with windows (great for winter) and the open veranda (great for summer). Great work! =)

Wendy - November 20, 2013 Reply

I also want to ask why Lithuania? If you are Lithuanian, you certainly don’t have an accent! The house is lovely and I wonder what your end goal is- do you want to live there full time? Could you foresee a winter spent there? And do you have a blog? Because I would love to know the full story. And yes – adorable furry mouse catchers.

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    No I am originally from Iowa. I came here for work in 1994 and liked it here. So here I am. I would submit that there is a higher quality of life here than in the USA. But that is a long story. I am working on creating a blog, but just got started, and not much to show. Many people keep up with me on facebook, daniel combellick, but then you may find yourself subjected to my often bizarre rants as well. You can always Block me! 🙂

      Wendy - November 21, 2013 Reply

      Will do (facebook). I certainly relate to the “hermit” thing- I live on the Mendocino Coast of Northern CA, in an actual town but surrounded by redwoods, so at the back of our property you could think that you are in the middle of nowhere. I find more and more I hermit here. I applaud your choice to live a simpler (I guess it is) life; plus hopefully you don’t pay any attention to the current American Political scene, which has simply gone insane.

        Dan - November 23, 2013 Reply

        Yes, it is not pleasant to watch what is going on in the USA. I admit it is less unpleasant to watch it from a distance. Still, it brings anger and sorrow. I love my country.

      Renate Simsa - November 21, 2013 Reply

      Dear Dan,

      Is this the 2nd house you are building?

      If you can, I would like to know how to build the cookstove that was shown as a sketch in showing your 500 sq foot home. And could I see the original drawings for the chimney?

      Please let me know when you have a website, I want to copy your insulation etc. ideas.

      Saving up for a house.

Laura Graff - November 20, 2013 Reply

My paternal grandparents were frm Lithuania & my sis and I were thinking of traveling there. PS Your tiny house is w’ful. Do you own the land?

    Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

    Of course I own the land. there are restrictions on foreigners buying farmland, but not residential land. And you should stop thinking about visiting, and DO IT. It is my favorite spot, and I bet you would find it to be yours too. It is a beautiful place with an incredible history.

Jerry Fisher - November 21, 2013 Reply

Your little home is INCREDIBLE. I think you have a beautiful home in the making and the landscape looks beautiful too. Thank you for sharing your story and pictures with everyone.

Dan - November 21, 2013 Reply

I want to thank everyone for all the kind comments. Really made my day today- thanks. Once again, you can find me at dan@danielcc.com or look me up on facebook. Daniel combellick.

MJ - November 21, 2013 Reply

Great place, great article, great comments. Another good day at Tiny House Blog, thanks, Kent and Dan.

alon - November 21, 2013 Reply

What a gem you are creating. Very, very similar to what I am designing and planning to start building “as off the grid as possible” attempting to repurpose as much as possible. I am in a kinder latitude in N.E. Georgia, USA, 6 acres, well, most wooded. Thank you for sharing. alon

Paul Jenkins - November 22, 2013 Reply

Great work!

Claire - November 22, 2013 Reply

Hi JUst a warning that looks like super dangerous asbestos sheeting on top of your well, it’s not the kind of stuff you want getting in your water supply and defiantly not breathing in as it breaks down. hope it’s just corrugated tin or something. Anyway goodluck and great house 🙂

    Dan - November 23, 2013 Reply

    Thanks for kind words and thoughtful warning. It makes me smile a little bit as I recall when I first came over here, almost 20 years ago. I had a fear of asbestos, a fear of eating pork fat, fear of sour milk, real milk straight from a cow, I am sure I could go on. Knowledge and reason eventually replaced these fears I imported from the USA. I can assure you there is no danger from this cover in its present state. I think Americans are taught to be afraid. Well, I could go so far as to state it as a fact. This is another reason I like it here. Fear is not an integral part of society.

kamin lambertson - November 23, 2013 Reply

A modern day David Thoreau. I’ll bet he wished for better insulation whilst on Walden Pond. Great blog, encouraging me to get ‘er done on our place to be in Louisiana. Thank you Man!

Julie MacBrien - November 23, 2013 Reply

I am in the earlier “planning” stages of a move such as yours and so far it just means “away from Toronto”. Your work is inspiring and OMG daunting. I love your attitude and look forward to seeing more photos of the fruits of all your labour. I would probably have to expand the entrance into a full “mud room” as we sometimes call them, but that, as everything else requires more thought. Thank-you.

Rachel Ginis - November 23, 2013 Reply

Wonderful work. Looks like a lovely home. I appreciate all that you did to insulate – that’s the way to do it! Enjoy!

Jonathan Kim - November 24, 2013 Reply

Lovely house, it has so much character. Having such a detailed thought on insulation and being able to do it must feel very good. I live in California and most houses built here are thoughtlessly done and insulation is a total afterthought. It is such a pleasure to be in home warm and cozy. That looks to be what you are building!

Vyacheslav B. - February 2, 2014 Reply

Nice professional job. With respect to the neighbor – Kaliningrad.

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