Tiny Cottage at Three Years

Cottage Across Upper Pond

Three years ago today we moved in to our tiny cottage. If you go visit that post you’ll see a night time photo of our cozy cottage. Back then there was a lot of scaffolding up around the outside and the interior still had a great deal of work needing to be done – but we were in, snug as five bugs in their rug. It was wonderful.

The cottage stays warm through our cold Vermont winters taking only about 3/4 cord of wood to heat. Without heat it floats around 40°F or so. The little bit of wood brings it up to the mid-60’s or above which my wife appreciates. Lots of thermal mass makes it work.

If I had it to do over…

1) Make the loft 1′ or so taller.

2) Put dormers in the sides of the loft roof and attic roof. This would have given more space in the loft although the kids say it isn’t really necessary. It’s their space.

3) More pockets honey combing the walls for shelves. I realize now I could have left a lot of holes in the walls and would have appreciated the storage spaces.

4) Get the earth air tubes installed – still on to-do list. Right now we just have rudimentary ones but I would like to get the real final tubes setup and working like we had in the old farm house where they provided pre-warmed fresh air all winter.

5) Make cottage 2′ wider and 4′ longer – we were working within the confines of a niche in the ledge which is why we ended up with the dimensions we did of about 20’x14′

All of these would have been great to do but we were racing winter at the time so we got done what we could. Even without these things the cottage is great to live in. I’ve threatened to raise the roof. I’ve done it before on another house… :)

Now three years later we have finished many of the interior details. The cottage is a work in progress, like a cathedral. Progress continues to be gradually made. We’re all very happy to be in the cottage. It is easy to heat, easy to maintain, draft free and heaven after a decade and a half of living in the old farm house. Life just gets better and better.

Tiny Christmas Tree

Just like three years ago we have a tiny Christmas tree for our tiny cottage. In fact, it is small enough that I can balance it on one finger. This tree was freed up when we cleared the south field in the end of the 1990’s and the sheep have been pruning it so it has quite dense branches.

Dogs Dragging Christmas Tree Home

Kavi and Lili, led by their son Kit, dragged the Christmas tree home across the south field. A little sled dogging practice. The snow is perfect right now for that, not too deep but enough to slide across.

No shopping but fed the animals, put out hay, worked with the dogs, did some construction, made presents with the kids, kept the home fire burning, cut the Christmas tree & put it ups, made a blog post, enjoyed the sunny day… Snug now in the evening in our tiny cottage.

Merry Christmas to one and all!


Outdoors: 22°F/6°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/60°F

Daily Spark: Come to good things, one step at a time.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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12 Responses to Tiny Cottage at Three Years

  1. Ron says:

    Merry Christmas Walter!

  2. Teresa says:

    What a wonderful progress you’ve made on your home. Have a very Merry Christmas!

  3. Jenjen says:

    Walter I love the story of your tiny cottage and how you and your family all built it together. I want to do something like that someday to! I just love the simple small space and that it can be done by real people. Long ago you said that your budget was $7000 or something is it still only that?

    Also is that water on the pond? I would think you would be frozen solid now.

    Merry christmas to all of you and your critter creatures!!!!

    Jenjen of Oslow

    • It is very doable for even just one person. We prepared the site and were planning to do a larger home but then with winter approaching we scaled back to what we thought we could get done before winter snows made construction impossible. As it was we were pushing it. In two months we went from bare ground to closed in with two adults, two teens and a young child helping. To date our budget for building the tiny cottage is still just over $7,000. This year we added a billboard tarp to the roof. That cost about $150. I’ll write about that soon. There are many other little things we’ll do but I don’t anticipate the cost doubling – this is less than most people spend on rent or utilities for a year.

      On the water, most of our ponds are frozen solid. The lower ones are in more of a hollow where the cold settles. I’ve watched 800 lb sows walk out across them. Cringing slightly. The upper pond has six springs that service it. The incoming spring water is warm and moving so that causes those spots to have thinner ice. The wide open area you’re seeing in the photo is the main spring plus the fact of that area being wind blocked by the picnic area embankment. This protects the incoming water from the cold north wind. As winter progresses even that area will freeze up.

  4. Suzanne Weibel says:

    Wow! What a great sight and I love how off the grid and self sufficent you are. I have bookmarked your site and will use it for a reference for our future plans. Keep up the great work!

  5. Lynn says:

    Love the little Christmas tree- it reminds me of a lovely story called Mr Willowby’s Christmas Tree- where a giant tree is too big for Mr Willowby, so it’s topped off over and over until many benefit from that giant tree.

    I knew you and Holly years ago, when you lived in Hartland. Nice to “catch up” with you again. Would love to see you guys on twitter ;-)

  6. Niki says:

    My husband and I are pursuing a “tiny house” ourselves at the moment. We’re just 2 people, and don’t need that much space. I’m looking in to energy efficient building methods too.

    • We love our tiny cottage. It is snug and warm in the winter, cool in the summer and easy to take care of. It only takes 3/4 of a cord of wood to heat which means we spend less time cutting, splitting, hauling and building fires. Just the right amount to be enjoyable. I highly recommend the masonry approach as it gives a high thermal mass which stores the heat from the day. This makes passive solar gain so good our house, without anyone living in it or any heat sources, float in the 40’s right through our cold Vermont winters. The year after we built while we were still finishing off the interior it had no heat except the sun and yet it never froze.

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