Fall at the Dacha

It’s true, we know. We have been very, very bad at updating. So much has happened and us Dacha folks have been working very hard so accept our apologies and photographic evidence, please.

What’s new?

First, the Dacha finished putting up its roof. Finally, our house did not get rained in. A big step for construction. We chose a steel roof, and attached a gutter so we could catch water for gardening and whatever else. If filtered, this water can also be drinking water. We aren’t sure how far we will go with catchment, but at least it’s a possibility.

Dacha Roof

Next, we worked on walls, doors and windows. We knew the cold weather was coming – it actually snowed in October – and were rushing to enclose the space.

inside the Dacha with roof

The bigger windows we purchased locally. We ordered the glass only (double paned, insulated and without low e coating to have the most solar gain) and made our own frames. The windows were really heavy but otherwise pretty easy to put in. We did manage to get a couple of big, operable windows for the front of the house from the Finger Lakes ReUse center in town – a non profit organization with lots of reclaimed goodies.


The view from the West side of the house is just amazing!

west view

Our entrance is a 5 foot french door. We had to order this one, even though we searched for a while at the re-use places in town. Eventually, we settled on the simplest wood door from the store, stained and polyurethaned it ourselves and picked up a few handles from Significant Elements – a reuse non-profit program in town.

interior french doors

Then we had a snack.

marina has a snack

Both of the windows on this side were reclaimed. The bigger one we accidentally put in on the wrong side. We’ve fixed it up since, but that’s the learning curve for ya. Sometimes, and often at the Dacha, you have to take everything out and do it over again. And again.

west side of the Dacha

We put plywood on the exterior of the house, then covered it with rigid foam insulation. Our plan was to plaster the exterior walls with a lime plaster – just like the straw bale cottage. This would keep us from having to do vinyl siding, would be way cheaper and look more organic. We ran into a problem as we realized that the temperatures were getting too low for plastering. We were afraid the water in the plaster would freeze and crack. Luckily, the weather played along and gave us enough warm days to put on two good layers of plaster.

Also, another reclaimed cheap door – with a window in it. It’s kinda ugly, but we’ll make it work.

plastered on the west

Now we needed a heat source, and though we hope for a much bigger and better one in the future, we put in this small wood stove. She might be small, but it really warms up in there when we need it.

wood stove

The next exciting news: our well! We weren’t sure that we’d have enough money saved up to actually get a well, but when we took a look at our finances and wrote down everything we might need to finish the shell up, it looked possible. Also, we discovered that we were eligible for a first time homeowners tax credit. In order to get the credit, we would need our occupancy permit. And in order to get that, we needed running water and a septic system. The deadline was nearing and we decided to at least give it a shot.

The most affordable and least time consuming way to get water was to drill a well. The wells in our area ranged from 40 to hundreds of feet deep and each foot cost quite a lot. We had to try to find the best spot to hit water. Our neighbors told us about water dowsing. Dowsing, or water witching, involves a person using a forked stick or a rod to find water located underground. It’s kinda like magic. We discovered that we had a long-time dowser living on our block. His name is Peter, and he is 83 years old and dowsed for a long time. We visited him at his house and he agreed to come out and see what he could do. Although Peter wasn’t able to help us – it had been so long and he was on medication at his age that he said “took the electricity out” of him – he did tell us a lot of stories about dowsing that impressed us. We decided that we could do it ourselves.

I personally walked all around the land trying to feel some sort of movement in a stick, but got nothing. Then Lea gave it a try and found a spot that felt right. We then tried dowsing with a pair of thin metal rods. X marked the spot but we still weren’t sure of anything.

As our luck would have it, we found a really great well driller – Jim Utter of Utter Well Drilling – who came out. He immediately took out a forked stick and dowsed around. Our spot seemed to work for him as well, so we went for it.

drilling a well 1949 style

Jim came out with his 1969 truck carrying his 1949 cable-drill rig. The newer drill rig needed to be fixed. After three days of pounding down through clay and gravel, we hit water! At about 62 feet! Celebration!

Quite a bit of work, but we had our well. And a lot of great clay from our soil, too.

the well

And we didn’t stop there. How about some walls? And a ceiling? Here is the west side and a small bathroom.

small bathroom

We thought it would be best if we had two bathrooms. The future holds a very large tub. Here’s Lea coming out of the bigger bathroom. Next to her will be a laundry closet. Lea loves laundry…I think.

Lea is bathroom

Since we now had water, we realized that we needed a place to store utilities. We will have a cistern to hold the well water, and a pump and possibly a pressure tank. We also received our first grant from Sustainable Tompkins for a Brumby pump – an Australian pump that uses air pressure to pump water long distances from the well. We focused our energies on a sun room where we could store these things. Also, the sun room will function as a mud room and greenhouse as well as blocking the East side from the elements – multi-use!

sunroom frame

When we poured the footers, we had a little extra cement so we made a little rounded form for the entrance. Then we took the flatter of the many stones hanging around on the land and embedded them into it. It makes a really nice little porch.

porchy thing

The roof of the sun room is clear plastic that was really hard to find. But it is amazingly clear and will allow a lot of sunlight in. It’s also super heavy duty and hopefully will last us a long time.

you believe it's a roof?

So there you have it. My long post covering an even longer stretch of time. Even now, we’ve already found a sink and potential kitchen counter tops from reclaimed school chalkboards. But that will have to wait for next time. Thank you so much to everyone who helped us out this season and to those of you checking up on us. Come visit! We’ll soon have a toilet – I promise!

Lily of the Dacha crew

Dacha in the Fall