Log Cabin Simplicity: Recrafting Pioneer Tiny Homes

2013, Technology  -   37 Comments
Ratings: 7.94/10from 68 users.

This one is slightly related to the tiny house theme, but more esoteric. It's about an Iowa man (Paul Cutting) who stumbled on some of Iowa's abandoned history - mid-19th century Norwegian-American log cabins - that were being destroyed by farmers, often eager to raze their land for corn.

These are 150 year old log cabins - built using dozens of century-old trees - but curiously, Paul seems to be one of the few people even interested in their fate. In the past 6 years, he's nearly single-handedly taken down 10 of them (piece by piece) and reconstructed four of them.

The story goes beyond the actual buildings... it's also one man's homage to a past where things were built to last. There is one scene where Paul goes through his collection of objects found in buildings he's taken down - he shows off still intact leather shoes, intricate door handles, his town's Norwegian-American newspaper.

He even lives in one of these reconstructed log homes (built for just $20K, not including his labor). His work hasn't really been recognized by a broader public, but he's painstaking with his attention to detail (even hiring an Amish carpenter to recreate windows and doors).

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37 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Ros

    At minute 0.25 he says this building has probably been abandoned for 100 years while right behind him is an air conditioning unti.... ahh

  2. Paul Zapaśnik

    absolutely amazing, many thanks and much respect to Paul Cutting for sharing the knowledge and ideas with the rest of the world, greetings from Warsaw, Poland

  3. priscilla

    Thank you for saving these beautiful log houses.

  4. chard01

    right on homes skillet!

  5. teresa sumrall

    Thank-you for your beautiful energy, and sensitivity, in bringing this incredible awareness to our attention. Those huge solid wood oak logs,
    cut down by, dragged and hewned with hand tools. The logs dating from
    the 1600's and still viable. The lesson of taking something apart to see how
    you put it back together, was very enlightening for those of us who have forgotton. This is a most respectful way to honor our ancestors and deeply
    appreciate our natural forests. We must get back to healthy community.
    This film demonstrates that need. Thanks. In the south, we have similiar old
    homes that are abandoned but lovely. We call them "cracker houses". Thanks!

  6. magarac

    Good idea to save beautiful old houses but if he actually knew what he was doing it would look much nicer in the end.
    Leaving the insulation visible on the inside might for example not be the smatest thing to do when building with logs.
    Have myself been working on a log house that had been moved in the same way some 90 years ago.

    1. Vicki_in_Greece

      I'm a bit worried about the electrical with out an electrician

    2. Jeremy Meehan

      Yes indeed, I'm in the construction industry and i build houses, but there's no way I'd do the electrical fit out on my own home even with my knowledge. I'm just not an electrician, and i don't pretend to be. I understand he wants to do everything, but it's just absolutely stupid and irresponsible he wired that up himself, especially after admitting he has no prior experience.

  7. Vicki_in_Greece

    Thanks for this fabulous film. Great project with great goals. Congratulations!

  8. Susan Ernst

    This was really wonderful to watch. Its so excellent to see someone your age, doing such a wonderful job, saving our precious trees.
    I am very much into knitting,crocheting,weaving &sewing. I do tons of mending,and what can't be mended or salvaged, I turn into old fashioned rag rugs or patchwork quilts. We live in WI, so it gets pretty cold.
    Having four daughters, has given me the opportunity to teach them, these fantastic ways of living .Heck, I've even taught grown men, to crochet.
    Keep up the good work.

  9. ?????? ???????

    well done man: that is Recycling!

  10. Jeevesso

    So nice to watch your video, not only because it's good to know there are people who believe in the value in a simple life, and in the value of things old, but because you took the time to record for the rest of us.
    Well done buddy. Best wishes for your future.

  11. quisanum

    Sorry if this came off as sounding gloomy or fatalistic. When i was a child i spent some time in the Fraser valley, and i still think it's one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Enjoy.

  12. quisanum

    The thing that bothers me about downsizing on everything is that it tends to stop being voluntary very quick, and along with the good reasons for doing so your 'authorities' will also give you very stupid ones and take away all your choices, give you nothing in return, but make you pay through the nose for less and less.

  13. Jack1952

    I have always thought that the modern North American house is way too big. Three and four thousand square foot homes that have only two people living in them is extravagant. There has to be rooms and areas in those homes that do not see a human being in years except to clean them. What a waste of money and resources. An eight hundred square foot home is more than enough for a guy like me. Unfortunately, local building laws prohibit the construction of these energy and cost efficient homes in our area. It must be high end or nothing. I like the idea of a small house on your own property. Something that an ordinary guy could afford to build, maintain and live in.

    1. quisanum

      You might want to consider moving to a place where more people think the way you do, and are more tolerant of normal behavior. And yes, 'they' would have read 'Agenda 21' and know their plans to reserve the rural zones for the higher bureaucratic strata of 'their' planned utopia, while the 'common folk' are proposed to rot in crowded urban slums. This might explain why even in China 'they' recently have started building whole new developments set apart from the cities, and some seem to have been completely finished for years, without anyone living there yet.

    2. Jack1952

      Actually, most of them are just ordinary working folk, who can sell half a duplex for an incredible amount of money. They can buy a lot, build a house and still have money left over to live on. You can sell a small house in Vancouver and buy or build a much larger house here and have a couple of hundred thousand dollars left over. It's no wonder they do it. It's a common phenomenon all over Canada. I'd have to leave the country and I like it here.

      I'm not so sure Agenda 21 is as sinister as you make it out to be. I have no problem fighting poverty, limiting deforestation, and reducing population growth over the long term as long as its voluntary and fair...as fair as life gets, anyway. Educated and economically secure people have smaller families and they do it of their own choice. So, if you educate and give the poorer people of the world a decent standard of living, they will reduce family size without any outside coercion. It sounds reasonable to me.

    3. wald0

      Your wasting your time Jack. These people see conspiracy every where they look, its all they think about. As evidenced by the fact this guy could watch this doc about tiny log cabin homes and some how come out of it with his tin foil hat tightened to the popping point. I wish "they" would hurry up, I'm getting sick of hearing about them.

      P.S. Sorry for being rude,I could have at least said hello- huh? Hello Jack, always nice to hear from you.

    4. Irishkev

      Where do we get these tin foil hats ?

    5. quisanum

      What would you want a tin foil hat for? I don't think even one made of Kevlar would be of much use these days. Again, i am all for 'sustainability' and greenery and enjoying life even in humble living conditions (and i know what it means to be poor), but where it is obvious that there is a deliberate scam by the mighty on the many it can't be said it's for the greater good. The Irish people having gone through first hand experience with these things many times before, used to be able to see through their simple workings better than many others, but seem to mostly have lost it now as well.

    6. dewflirt

      Don't know if you can buy them but there are instructions for making them on ehow ;)

    7. Jack1952

      Hi Wald0

      This guy reminds me of a guy I encountered while I was a bartender. It was a beautiful summer day. I left the front door open in order to let in some fresh air when this guy walks in and sits down at the bar. This is the gist of the ensuing conversation.

      G'day buddy. What'll you have?
      A draft will do. Hope its cold.
      It is...and there you go. That'll be three bucks.
      Beer's getting out of sight. Who can afford to drink, anymore?
      That's life. Gorgeous day though, ain't it.
      Need rain in the worst way.
      Well, yeah. Supposed to start tomorrow morning and rain all day.
      That's what they said for last weekend. Look what happened. Not enough rain to fill this glass. They lied (big sigh)...AGAIN.
      Maybe it'll be better tomorrow.
      Too late by then. Crops are ruined. Food prices will go way up. How am I supposed to live. Gas prices are up today...ten cents...overnight. And then the young lad tells me his college tuition is going way up. Everybody's got their hand in my pocket. This beer sucks too.

      Thankfully, someone walks in and rescues me from this gloomy character.

      So, thanks Wald0, for walking in.

    8. quisanum

      I think it stops being reasonable when 'they' first get the population to accept their constant Malthusian bogus about how overpopulated their countries are, and when the people have all swallowed the bait and stopped getting married and stopped propagating, they swamp their countries with millions of immigrants and thus find a new excuse to rob them blind.

    9. Johnny Silverseed

      Clif High notes that the unoccupied cities in China are all inland...for folks to move in after the coasts are inundated

  14. quisanum

    You are right to question my statement. It can only be useful to assume that anything that is out there for us to see, is around for some reason, and probably for many reasons on different levels, with multiple implications.

  15. KsDevil

    When the oil runs out and cheap plastic is no longer available, it is possible the survivors will need these houses to model their future habitates with. I doubt there would be enough material removed for current housing to reconstruct new ones in 150 years where these log built homes may have enough material to build a third or fourth generation house.

    1. quisanum

      There is no reason to embrace the new age of austerity aka preplanned poverty deliberately brought to you now by an elitist club of predatory multi trillionaire criminals with an old agenda to disown you completely and ultimately control every aspect of your housing, employment, health, food, and procreation. If everything goes according to their plans, there will be no people left in rural areas to inhabit even the tiniest of homes. You will not win first prize by starving to deathto 'save' the world without a single 'carbon footprint' or pretending to agree you have to pay for breathing (CO2 all the green plants live on) and being alive. They like to think everything belongs to them anyway, including you and anything you might think you own.

    2. dewflirt

      Blimey! And I thought this was just a lovely story of a mans passion for little wooden houses. Seems I was wrong and it's really about oppressive governments and greedy bossy rich people. Live and learn I guess :)

    3. Jack1952

      "there will be no people left in rural areas" Doesn't seem to be the case in the rural area I grew up in. Big city folk are moving in droves to live in the country around here. Some of the farms are hardly recognizable from the farms that I knew as a boy. New homes popping up everywhere. Maybe "they" are overlooking my section of the world. "They" sure is evil. Maybe "they" will just appropriate these new homes when "they're" agenda has been realized. Maybe these big city folk are the "they", building in anticipation of the future "they" know is coming...since "they" are orchestrating it. Who knows.

  16. dewflirt

    I do love the tiny houses and the tiny lifestyle, but more than those I love the bits and pieces found inside them. Funny how standards have changed, for most people a house so simple would be unthinkable, not enough room, no mod cons etc. If you had no home of your own, one of these warm, dry, safe little cabins would suddenly seem like a castle. I'd rather live in one of these than a bus stop. But then I like gypsy caravans too, a house AND a horse! Found out not long ago that they're built to fit the man and the family he builds have to fit where they can. They are supposed to be tall enough for him to stand without stooping and as wide as the span of his arms, only fingertips to touch the sides. The cabins are very much like crofters cottages, small and practical ;)

    1. Irishkev

      Hi Dewy , you should see the little place myself and the little lad just moved into . It's a 200yr old farm labourers cottage . We love it ! The walls are about two feet thick and made from mud , straw and stone . It's so cosy , who needs a mansion ?

    2. dewflirt

      Morning Kev, long time no see! So pleased you have a new home, is it yours for keeps? Would love more details, a friend of mine lived in one for a while out near Clare, nothing more than a room with the loo sectioned off. She had electrics and a tin bath, this was about 10 years ago now. Do you have an open fire? You're both so lucky, I'm making imaginary curtains already. Nobody needs a castle, you can only be in one room at a time, think of all those rooms going to waste when there are so many homeless and in substandard housing. Congratulations, catch you later - work to do :)

  17. Matt van den Ham

    why would he put ugly siding on top of that beautiful oak... all that effort to piece it all together and then he just covers it up. He should've sanded it and stained.

    1. quisanum

      I guess to cover it up is a smart way to quietly go on with his work and protect it. These details do not change the structure, and can be changed any time.

    2. Jack1952

      I think he was restoring it to its original state. The old pictures show buildings with clap-board siding. It may have been a status symbol. Only the very poor live in a log house. As one achieved financial stability you covered the logs with siding to show your new status. Log homes can be drafty, also. Putting the siding on the house would cut down on drafts and make for a warmer and cosier interior.

  18. mark

    bubble tunage

  19. quisanum

    Nice work preserving some of your country's history otherwise doomed to the memory hole. And if one of them turns out too small to live in yourself, you could combine any number of them and arrange them to add space as needed.