One Year Construction Mark

Today marks the one year mark since we poured the foundation for our tiny cottage on November 6th 2006.

Design goals:

  • A real living space for us as opposed to our farm house which is mostly farm related spaces but taxed as if it were all house.
  • Lower real estate taxes
  • Rugged – built to last
  • Ease of maintenance
  • Ease of cleaning
  • Low energy consumption
  • Naturally stays warm in the winter (hard)
  • Naturally stays cool in the summer (easy)
  • Well ventilated but not drafty
  • Windows
  • Natural light
  • A place for everything and everything in its place
  • Spaces for other species (plants, aquariums, paludarium…)
  • Designed and built by us – its fun!
  • Low cost construction (~$6,500 to date)
  • Accomplishable as a family project

What we’ve accomplished in the past year:

At this point we are one week away from moving in. That’s not to say we’ll move in next week. Rather, if Holly, the official cold spokes-person, says the old farm house is too cold then I can have us in the cottage in about one week. There are things I would like to accomplish this fall before we move in for the winter but if time runs out then the list gets trimmed. Life is.

To do before moving in:

  • Loft Window (in progress)
  • More roof insulation & membrane (in progress)
  • Kids’ Loft (in progress)
  • Bathroom (in progress)
  • Water
  • Temporary Kitchen
  • Bedroom finished
  • Temporary dining area
  • Temporary shelves
  • Electric beyond extension cords
  • Ventilation
  • Interior cleanup and wash down
  • Main Floor Window Layers 2 through 4
  • Cleanup exterior construction site for winter

The idea is to get out of the old, cold, drafty farm house so we don’t have to heat it another winter. The cottage will have some temporary aspects for this winter but we’ll be in there and enjoying the space. Then next spring, after we’ve done our initial spring farm projects of fencing, planting and such, we’ll move back out of the tiny cottage so we can resume construction. I would rather not live and build in the same space – been there, done that, the T-shirt is old, torn and dingy. This will give us a break over the winter, time to think, to plan, to live the space. Who knows what great ideas we’ll come up with from being in-situ. All plans are subject to change, of course.

What we’ll do next summer on the tiny cottage:

  • Anything from the above list that we didn’t accomplish before moving in
  • Barrel vault ceiling parge and plaster
  • Shelves in library, bedroom, kitchen
  • Masonry stove
  • Solar heater shelf in front room
  • Dining room with granite table
  • Kitchen with spring box
  • Parge and stucco all room final interiors
  • Floors
  • Entry
  • East greenhouse

To do in another year or two:

  • Lightweight concrete roof pour and ECC top coat
  • Stone floor mosaics
  • Ceiling stencils
  • North cold storage room
  • Tower
  • Barn space for tractor, hay bale storage, work shop, etc
  • South greenhouse
  • Exterior stone finish
  • Cold frames around cottage base
  • Berm north and northwest walls from winter wind

The final heated living space will still be just the original tiny cottage but in time we’ll add other spaces. Eventually I hope to sell the old farm house either as a whole to be moved to a new location for restoration or piece meal for the 200 year old timbers, beams, planks, etc. Otherwise it will become an agricultural space for storing hay, tools and other things – a shame as it is one of the oldest remaining houses and one of the original homes in the area. What happens there is a bit down the road. For now we’re focused on getting in before snow sticks to the ground and makes work too difficult.

Of course, we still need to take pigs to market, deliver pork to the stores, get the farm ready for winter, daily chores, homeschool and read in the evenings… We’re not bored!

Outdoors: 50°F/25°F Snow, Sun, Clouds, Snow
Farm House: 59°F/52°F Weaned more piglets
Tiny Cottage: 51°F/40°F foundation parge finished, Kitchen sill done, prep for Loft forms

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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3 Responses to One Year Construction Mark

  1. Bill says:


    You guy’s are doing a great job on your new house. Istill don’t know how you are going to live in that house with 3 kids??? How did you decide how much square footage to build?

    All the best,


  2. *grin* The living space in the new tiny cottage isn’t so terribly much smaller that the true living space of our old farm house. The entire rambling old structure is about 2,700 sq-ft but we really only live in a small portion of that, about 700 sq-ft.

    Most of the old farm house is actually used for agriculture type stuff (hay storage in the shed, baby chicks in the kitchen, feed on the porch, and kitchen, etc) or storage of ‘stuff’ we really don’t really need any more.

    In the new tiny cottage we’ll just have to have less stuff and not bring our farm work indoors with us. We all are looking forward to that.

    As to the choice of size… well, you see the south west corner of the slab hits one point of ledge that I couldn’t dig out and the north west corner hits another point of ledge I couldn’t remove so that defined the length of the house on the north-south axis as being about 20′. I snugged the house up tight against the ledge along that side and the foundation actually grips the ridges in the rock to lock it in place. It will be bermed over in that area and most of the slab sits on top of insulation to prevent heat loss.

    The width of the house was determined by two things: 1) the size of the big IBM office windows I had salvaged and 2) the width of a free standing barrel vault arch that I felt confident in engineering and building. I have done several much smaller ones. Jumping up to a 14′ width felt huge at the time. Now I could easily do a 20′ barrel vault width. Learning by doing. :)

    Approximately 20 x 14 defined the outside dimensions of the slab we started with. The actual interior first floor space is about 252 sq-ft. There is also some loft space for the kids on the south and then an attic storage room and a utility room on the north. The central common room rises to the full height of the vaulted ceiling, about 11′ on the interior. The result is that while the official square footage, the first floor which is all full height, is 252 sq-ft, the 43″ lofts and attics add a bit more space for the wee folk.

  3. Dana says:

    Wow. Love the look of the “rocks” now that it is taking shape. Good to see the pink lady look going away! Keep it up!!

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