Category Archives: Movement

12/29 My Last Post

text about starting a new chapter with a sunset as the backgroundThis will be my last post on Tiny House Community. Please read this article if you wish to know why. The author expresses what I’ve felt and observed the past few years. It’s a long article – if you don’t have time or interest in the details, here’s the micro version:

“This is not just a movement; it’s becoming an industry.”
“The people had spoken. They preferred the comb-over.”

I still live in my tiny house and support the original values of the movement. I know many people have found my website useful, so I would prefer not to shut it down, but rather to turn it over to someone who wants to continue sharing tiny house news. I’ve offered it to a friend but if he doesn’t decide to do it, it will be available for someone else. Please email me if you’re interested: Please include a little about yourself and what you’d like to offer to tiny house enthusiasts. 

Thanks for being part of the tiny house community! I wish you all the very best in the coming New Year!

12/29 The Tiny-House Revolution Goes Huge

line of people waiting to go inside a tiny house

Of all the earthy trends to emerge since the crash, none have captured adoration like tiny houses. Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen

Nowhere is the quest for simplicity and freedom more pronounced than in the tiny-house movement, which has grown from hipster alternative to mainstream phenomenon faster than an Amish barn raising. Mark Sundeen joins the believers to ask: Has the dream gotten too big?

Remember not too long ago, maybe 2012, the slew of blogs and Tumblrs and films that heralded not just a new type of house but a movement, a post-collapse quest for simplicity and freedom, a rejection of waste and “stuff” and, just like Thoreau in his cabin of yore, a crusade to chomp life’s essence and suck its marrow? Museum-quality photo books showed how to stick it to the man in 400 square feet or less—with the clean lines and blond oak that made us drool onto the pages of Dwell magazine. Of all the earthy trends to emerge since the crash—local food, urban farms, permaculture—none have captured adoration like tiny houses, spawning no fewer than seven reality shows. You won’t find a series about cloth diapers.

It appealed to me, someone who has lived in some of the tiniest homes out there—a Subaru wagon, a Toyota pickup, an SUV with the backseats removed. When it comes to car camping, I wrote the book. Seriously. It’s called Car Camping. What’s more, I own a 1965 single-wide that measures just 570 square feet, with pine cabinets like you’d find in a sailboat, on an acre outside Moab, Utah. I’ve always thought that if I owned less, worked less, and spent less, I would be more free.

But my vagabond days are behind me, and as I sped toward the second annual National Tiny House Jamboree in Colorado Springs last August, I was undergoing my own tiny crisis. My wife and I had bought a tiny car that got nearly 40 miles per gallon. We’d even upcycled a Mexican roof mutt into our own tiny dog, who consumed at mealtime less than one cup of kibble and canned pumpkin and whose tiny poops hardly registered at the landfill. Meanwhile we’d upsized to a two-bedroom bungalow—our biggest yet. Even as I understood that appetites like mine were plundering the planet, I could not stop wanting a third bedroom. As for the car: it was the first I’d ever owned that was too small to sleep in, so if the weather turned bad I might have to get a hotel, and wouldn’t that indulgence offset the efficiency?

Was small actually beautiful? I was ti-curious.

In my imagination, the Jamboree promised a quaint circle of funky sheds inhabited by anarchists who’d pass the porch-bound evenings picking banjos, sipping moonshine, and comparing insulation R-values. But because last year’s hordes had packed the grounds of the Western Museum of Mining and Industry, backing up traffic, this year the Jamboree supersized to a field at the Air Force Academy. My subversive fantasies were deflated by the armed guard at the academy gates, who demanded my license, weapons, explosives, and drugs.

I followed a stream of Tiny Jammers driving through the piny hills to the stadium, one minivan painted with TINY HOUSE OR BUST! FIND US ON FACEBOOK. We throngs—nearly 60,000 before the weekend was over—filed our vehicles into long rows, then stampeded toward the entrance on foot. Saturated with the carnival cloud of a pork smoker on wheels, ringed by Porta-Potties innumerable, a field of yellow grass and gravel was packed with dozens of trailers on blocks, lines of looky-loos at the steps. A string of booths showcased off-grid accoutrements from solar panels to composting toilets to twig-burning cookstoves.

I had a date at the Tiny Stage to get to the heart of this phenomenon. A roster of the movement’s Luminaries would clarify the Tiny House Philosophy, which, it turned out, had little to do with bookshelves­as-stairs or sinks-in-closets. One philosopher, Kent Griswold, founder of Tiny House Blog, a gray-headed avuncular type in cargo shorts and sneakers, confessed that he didn’t even live in one. No matter. All could benefit from its principles:

– Reduce your belongings.
– Get out of debt.
– Do work that you love.

Sager advice has never been given; indeed, these very principles had guided my own adulthood. But if living tiny doesn’t require a dollhouse, then what were we all doing here?

The first Luminary I met was Nina Zamudio, whose tale was pure bravura. A native Californian, Zamudio had worked her way through college, was earning a good income, and had even bought her mother a home. She had achieved the American dream. Then she divorced and moved out of her 2,800-square-foot house in Orland to take care of Mom in Chico. Now 49, with lustrous black hair and an irrepressible smile, Zamudio told me that after her mother’s death, she’d spent months getting rid of everything. Her mother’s place was only 1,200 square feet, but the empty house felt hollow and lonely, her solitary voice echoing off the walls. She attended a workshop with Jay Shafer, a 52-year-old designer and builder hailed by Oprah Winfrey as the Tiny House Man, author and publisher of the 2009 movement bible The Small House Book. Transformed, Zamudio sold the house and rented her first tiny home. She moved to Texas, where—helped by a crew of friends and strangers—she built an eight-by-twenty-foot house on wheels. A church allowed her to park on its grounds. She found a new set of friends at the Dallas Tiny House Meetup group, not to mention a boyfriend.

Tiny-home dweller Nina Zamudio

Tiny-home dweller Nina Zamudio. Photo: Benjamin Rasmussen

Zamudio inspired me. Who doesn’t want to rebound from adversity with panache, to be reawakened at middle age, to forge meaning amid drudgery and isolation? Tiny Housers’ zeal approaches the religious. “It’s not really about the tiny house,” one told me. “It’s about values, a way of life.” Another said, “Your whole life changes when you live in a tiny house.” As with any sect—or recovery group—its core is the narrative of personal transformation, whether being saved or getting sober. Here the stories pivoted around Turning Tiny. Before Tiny, there was an unhappy marriage, unpaid bills, stifling office work, a home of 2,500 square feet or more; after Tiny came freedom, new love, debt relief, self-employment, and, of course, a handmade nest.

When Tiny Jammers asked one another “Are you building?” it was no minor inquiry but rather the existential question, and when someone responded “Three months now,” a giddy thrill bubbled into the air, because we knew she had been reborn.

Duly evangelized, I set out to view the homes. But instead of the art brut of mad visionaries, I found professionally built sales models. An attractive rig from Northern California’s Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, the nation’s first and biggest manufacturer, cofounded by Jay Shafer himself, was outfitted with a flat-screen TV, faux-log stove, air conditioner, and washing machine, charged by a rumbling generator and encircled by a bevy of attractive salespersons in shirts that read DREAM BIG GO TINY. Cost of this model: $91,000. Inside I heard one Jammer say, “Did we bring the snacks or leave them in the car?” One of the “workshops” was a pitch by Ikea reps.

Better to call this the Tiny House Trade Show? As for the gadgets, as much as I admire a diminutive toilet, serious homesteaders make humanure by pooping into a bucket of sawdust. And a twig-burning stove can be fashioned from a No. 10 peach can. If we are trapped in a cycle of earning and spending, I wasn’t sure that any purchase would free us.

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12/19 Tiny Villages May Be the Next Big Housing Trend

tiny house village

Photo from the Low Income Housing Institute

Over the past few years, tiny houses have become all the rage across the country. Now, experts say that tiny villages might be the next big thing.

Tiny homes can often be better for the environment and easier on your pockets when it comes to monthly bills. They are also easier to keep clean, giving owners more time for the things they enjoy. The tiny house community is continuing to grow, giving like-minded individuals a place to forge bonds and relationships.

Two researchers at Kansas State University, Brandon Irwin and Julia Day, are interested in the growing trend. They are currently studying what advantages tiny villages might offer residents. The pair are researching if living in a tiny house village will encourage residents to be more physically active, sustainable building design and healthy building materials for tiny houses.

“Design elements and strategies such as solar panels or low-water-use fixtures are part of the bigger sustainability and environmental health picture, but when designing and building a tiny house — or any house — it is beneficial to thoughtfully select building materials without harmful chemicals to increase indoor air quality and health,” Day said. “In addition, there are many known health benefits for natural lighting and fresh air in living spaces, a common theme in many tiny house designs.”

An issue they’ve faced is the perception that smaller dwellings are often viewed as lower class. Laws made by several communities to discourage smaller home also cause issues.

“The biggest challenge with tiny houses is trying to find a place to put them,” Irwin said. “Zoning laws dictate where you can and cannot put a house. Right now, the big question is what is a tiny house? Because how you define a tiny house dictates where you can put it.”

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12/06 Tiny houses at a big crossroad

tiny house on a foundation in Detroit

Twenty-five tiny houses are under construction by Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit nonprofit group. The houses are being built for cash-strapped students and youths aging out of the foster care system, senior citizens and the homeless.

Energy efficiency is a top priority for the diminutive dwellings being built by Cass Community Social Services for cash-strapped college students, young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, senior citizens and homeless people.

Nine inches of fiberglass insulation and vinyl windows by Genex Window and Door Co., which is based in the Detroit suburb of Warren, are two of the building products selected to keep utility bills at a minimum for the rent-to-own residents of the 250- to 400-square foot houses.

“It’s not only a small space but a green space,” said the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of the agency and pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church, as she stood inside a 300-square foot Tudor-style tiny house. “I’m told the electric and heating bills for the first house, in the middle of February, when it’s cold in Michigan, should be $32 because we have 9 inches of insulation and very energy efficient windows.”

The tiny house trend started as a way of living simple. Proponents extol the advantages of a minimalist lifestyle. They own fewer things, have less clutter. They reduce their energy consumption. They pay fewer bills. They spend less time on house work. They also can travel if their tiny house is on wheels — but that’s not the case with the Detroit homes, which are on foundations.

“Our people don’t own cars and we want to help repopulate a neighborhood,” Fowler said.

In the last couple years, the appeal of living small has broadened from do-it-yourselfers to low-income housing advocates to the general public. Now it could be on the verge of nationwide acceptance. On Dec. 6, the International Code Council approved an appendix to the 2018 International Residential Code, which sets minimum requirements for habitable structures. The appendix can be the model U.S. code for tiny houses used as primary residences…

The average size U.S. house has grown to 2,687 square feet, and 31 percent of newly constructed homes are at least 3,000 square feet, according to 2015 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. With residential and commercial buildings accounting for about 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption and 12 percent of the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, building size and materials matter.

“That’s why I’m involved with tiny houses,” said Robert Reed, past president of the American Tiny House Association, which represents the needs and values of the tiny house community.

“I see this ultimately as a sustainability issue. If you have a smaller footprint, the amount of carbon needed to keep your existence can be reduced if you do it well.”

Plastic products like insulation, foam board, foam spray — which will be used on future Detroit tiny houses — windows and doors help create a solid building envelope, he added.

“Tiny houses pose a unique problem because as you shrink the house, the ratio of volume to envelope changes,” Reed said. “In a tiny house, when you open a door, if you leave that sucker open for even a minute you’re going to completely change the air in the house out. That envelope is very important and you have to do everything you can to be efficient and keep in as much air as possible.”

The Florida-based American Tiny House Association works with local governments on zoning and building code issues that keep small structures — usually those less than 500 square feet — from being a viable, acceptable housing option. The same rules established to keep people safe can constrain innovation and make tiny living illegal. Issues related to pocket neighborhoods, like the one going up in Detroit, backyard cottages, reworking RV parks and collecting property taxes are finding their way onto public meeting agendas everywhere.

“Some empty nesters want to live in a tiny house in their backyard and lease their other house so they can travel,” Reed said, describing the common rally cry as “less stuff, more life.”

The cultural change around employment also is contributing to the popularity of tiny houses.

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11/14 Living small: Canada’s tiny house movement is anything but

Mark Su poses in front of his tiny home.

Mark Su poses in front of his tiny home.

Just 50 kms outside of Toronto live Mark Su and his girlfriend in a fully self-contained 310 square foot home that set him back a mere $30,000.

The environmental consultant didn’t pay a dime for labour as he built his tiny house solo, an expense that saved him in the neighbourhood of $30,000. Their cozy house-on-wheels sits on a plot of land that the couple rents from a trailer park in Stouffville. Rent, water and other utilities cost them less than $400 a month.

“One of big reasons I did this is because I didn’t want to be tied down with a mortgage,” says Su, 28. “I didn’t want to live a stressful life. We also really like the sustainability aspect and the minimalist idea of just living with what you need.”

Despite the tight quarters, Su and his girlfriend say they live quite comfortably in their tiny home, which boasts a bathtub, a spare bedroom that doubles as a TV room and a composting toilet. The pair has entertained as many as 10 guests within its 28-by-8.5 feet walls.

People have lived in small spaces for centuries. Think shanty, lean-to and yurt. But only recently have we given the lifestyle a name. The tiny house movement, which espouses that living with less is better, has been around for a while in Canada, longer in the U.S. Tiny homes typically run from 100 to 500 square feet.

Given the lack of affordable housing in Toronto and Vancouver, it makes sense that it would fuel interest in pint-sized housing. In the first year after launching Live Tiny Canada, the website received 250,000 visits, about 85 per cent of which were from Canadian locations.

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11/13 Tiny house movement lands in Lawrence, Massachusetts

tiny house with purple trimStanding in a landlocked lot on Saratoga Street, Franallen Acosta gestured at a landscape of overgrown brush, trees, and patchy grass and imagined the possibilities.

“This could fit five, six houses,” Acosta said with outstretched arms. That is, five or six really small houses. Like, tiny houses.

Acosta is trying to bring the tiny-house movement, a phenomenon more often associated with millennials in hipster-rich communities, to this aging mill city and its largely immigrant, low-income population. With backing from a nearby business accelerator program, he is plotting a test home of just 300 square feet for a city-owned parcel. And he’s persuaded Lawrence officials to buy into the concept so far, agreeing to consider zoning changes to permit houses that are too small under current rules.

“We have these fears of gentrification, these fears of not being able to sustain ourselves in our communities, and these are things that worry me,” Acosta said. “I feel like the only way out of this is if this project comes to fruition.”

A lanky 23-year-old who quit his job selling solar panels to become an entrepreneur, Acosta is still in the early stages with this project. He estimated the costs of building one of his houses will range between $25,000 and $50,000. It will be on wheels so it can be rolled onto underused lots in Lawrence. Ideally it would be off the grid — using solar panels, battery-powered light bulbs, a rainwater collection system and composting toilet.

A city of 80,000 squeezed into 7 square miles, Lawrence has a varied stock of largely older, densely packed homes. The city has built few new homes in recent years, despite a sustained influx of residents.

Though home prices here are lower than elsewhere in the region, so are incomes. The median household income is about $35,000 a year, compared with almost $68,000 statewide. A city study found that nearly 40 percent of Lawrence residents spent more than half their income on housing.

Acosta estimates monthly mortgage payments for his tiny house could be as low as $600, about half the rent of an average apartment in Lawrence.

Numbers like this have Lawrence officials interested. They are working with him by identifying tax-delinquent properties that can be seized and used to host Acosta’s first batch of tiny homes.

“I would be interested to see how it will play out in an urban environment like ours,” Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said. “This is not going to solve our housing needs, but shame on us if we don’t test something that could work.”

Lawrence is also open to modifying its building and zoning codes to allow Acosta to build his tiny houses, said Abel Vargas, the city’s director of economic development. But he cautioned that to win city backing, Acosta needs to make sure there really is a long-term interest by people to live in such small spaces, Vargas said.

Acosta recently won a $2,000 grant for the tiny house endeavor from nonprofit Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll), an accelerator program in Lowell for socially conscious initiatives to help cities struggling with high unemployment and poverty. The goal for his project, which Acosta named Mi Casita, Spanish for my tiny house, is to build a “village” of about five houses in Lawrence, and then expand it to other communities in the Merrimack Valley.

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10/31 Building for the future with new ‘micro-homes’ for young professionals in Ireland

Frustration can take people down many different routes into business, and for one enterprising Derry woman it has led to foundations being laid for 25 new ‘micro-homes’ in Belfast.

Dearbhaile Heaney (30) was so fed up trying to secure a foothold on the property ladder herself that she decided to set up ‘The Holding Project‘ which aims to build low-cost, sustainable housing for people trapped in the prohibitive private rental market in the city.

Last week, along with fellow ‘Holding’ team members, Queen’s University researcher Sean Cullen and student architect Chris Millar, she launched a crowdfunding drive to raise £30,000 to fund the first prototype home.

The project’s bank balance has already been boosted by a ‘Building Futures’ award of £5,000 from UnLtd, the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in the UK, and also by a cheque for £1,000 from the Social Housing Enterprise Award Scheme run by the Housing Executive.

And by last week Dearbhaile – who works with the Prince’s Trust as an enterprise executive – had raised another £2,000 towards her final target.

“The crowdfunding initiative is just the start, although I am delighted we have raised over five per cent of the amount so far,” she said.

“We are determined that the money will be raised by some means, whether through private backers or public grants.

“There is such a groundswell of positivity surrounding this project and such phenomenal feedback from people who want – need – it to succeed, that it keeps us going.”

Frustration also keeps her going, as she is still on the rental loop like many young professionals her age.

“There are so many young professionals, particularly in Belfast, who are currently unable to buy their own home and having to rent in order to work and having to work in order to pay the rent,” she said.

“I was one of them – and still am. I have spent eight years working and renting accommodation in Dublin, Belfast and Derry, wherever I was working at the time, and many others in the 20-40 age bracket are in exactly the same frustrating position.

“At the Holding Project, we are aiming to break that cycle and give people, who don’t have access to the ‘Bank of mum and dad’, the chance to get a ‘leg up’.”

Read more – Read more –

10/28 Tiny House Villages Are the Next Big Thing

three tiny houses

photo by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company

Tiny house villages could soon be big — really big.

According to researchers at Kansas State University, tiny house villages are environmentally friendly, they promote a sense of community, they encourage healthy lifestyles and habits, and they’re a safe and affordable housing option for the masses. For all of these reasons, the experts are hoping that tiny house villages will spread across the country in the near future, according to The Wichita Eagle.

Tiny homes, designated as abodes that clock in under 1,000 square feet, don’t make up much of the real estate market right now. As of 2015, only 1% of home buyers wanted to live in a so-called tiny home, according to the National Association of Realtors — but the Kansas State researchers think this may soon change.

“We think [living in a tiny village] does a few things for one’s health,” Julia Irwin, a researcher at the university, explained, “including creating a better sense of community, satisfying people’s basic needs for relationships, offering affordable housing options, and encouraging physical activity through community gardens and walking to urban establishments.”

Clearly, there are a lot of benefits to living tiny, however, zoning laws across the country have often hindered the growth of tiny house communities. The guidelines set in many areas discourage small houses — mainly mobile homes — because, among other reasons, they can be seen by neighbors as “low class.” But, experts believe that the growing passion many have for these teeny properties will improve the way people perceive them.

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10/15 Tiny homes are all the rage, but here’s why the market is more bust than boom

tiny house by Adventure Cabins

Travis Saenz of Adventure Cabins, a San Bernardino company that makes tiny homes, has had trouble selling the dwellings because of zoning restrictions. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

After hearing all the hype about tiny homes — the TV shows, lifestyle websites and magazine photo spreads — Lee Saenz decided that building the dinky dwellings would make a great part of his second career.

He formed a company called Adventure Cabins and began building little houses with rustic pine exteriors and state-of-the-art interiors. All that was left, Saenz believed, was for viewers of shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House Hunters” to beat a path to his San Bernardino workshop.

But after five years in business, Saenz has sold only five cabins. Two sit ready to go, with one marked down from $50,000 to just $29,000.

“There are so many roadblocks out there to selling them,” said Saenz, 75. “If they want to buy it, they don’t have the land. If they have the land, it’s not zoned for a tiny home. Or they don’t have enough cash.”

At first glance, the tiny home movement seems like a perfect multipurpose solution. Often priced at $50,000 or lower, they could be affordable to millennials burdened with student debt and baby boomers with skimpy retirement savings.

Tiny homes usually range from 100 square feet to 400 square feet, but they can be as small as 80 square feet (think garden shed) or as large as 700 square feet (roughly a three-car garage). Home shoppers concerned about climate change like that lighting, heating and cooling a tiny house has a minimal impact compared to a more typical 2,000-square-foot house.

But getting there is the difficult part. It’s not a bust, but there is certainly no boom as far as many builders are concerned.

Tiny homes, according to a 2015 analysis by the Pew Charitable Trust, are “cheap and energy efficient,” but “lost in the enthusiasm is the fact that in many places, it is hard to live in them legally.”

Finding land is difficult, particularly in densely developed communities with strict zoning laws on the number and size of units allowed. Vacant land must be carefully investigated for back taxes and liens. In places like drought-stricken California, there can also be building moratoriums.

Insurance is another complication since the trusted companies able to obtain it with relative ease are often RV builders.

Financing, typically one of the least fun experiences of buying a regular home, can be even more problematic. Some tiny home builders offer it, but many do not.

Saenz has no trouble getting customers financed in his primary business making food carts, industrial grills and portable sinks. But “I haven’t been able to find it for the cabins,” he said.

Most difficult of all, experts say, are laws in many cities and counties that mandate new single-family homes must be at least 1,000 square feet in size.

Many tiny homes are built on trailers, but that mobility can run afoul of local government restrictions on overnight parking or “camping” on one’s own land for more than 30 days. Even in some places where indefinite camping is allowed, it can be rare to be allowed to install utilities…

“It’s a revolution that probably won’t happen.”
— Steven Marshall, founder of Little House on the Trailer in Petaluma

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10/05 Is the Tiny House Movement Good for America?

tiny house on wheels on a highway in the west[Note: the views expressed in this article are not my own. While the author makes some valid points, his central premise, that most tiny housers are not interested in homesteading, is false.] I have recently been hearing a great deal about “the tiny house movement.” Trailers for yuppies did not seem like such a big deal to me at first. But the justifications many in this movement have been making for their lifestyle choice have reminded me of some fundamental changes taking place in Americans’ priorities—changes I think bode ill for what is left of our traditional culture.

The basic tiny house argument goes something like this: “We are more interested in having fun and enlightening experiences than in collecting a lot of personal property or building some giant house that will be a lot of trouble to take care of.” Thus, at least judging from the couples featured on Home and Garden Television’s “Tiny House Hunters,” people are trading in their previous homes for what are in essence customized trailers they can park on some land, park on some relatives’ land, or hook up to a truck and take with them around the country. And these often are not just couples; families often are involved in this latest form of adventure living.

It is the “experience vs. possessions” argument that seems to be central to many in the tiny house movement, and that I think is a very real problem for our culture. It is, of course, a standard bit of moralizing to criticize American materialism. The criticism is fair enough, particularly when leveled at people who fixate on the type of wool from which their sport jacket is made, the model car in their garage, and/or the number of bathrooms in their home. But we should not be too quick to cede the moral high-ground to the tiny housers.

First, there is just as much preening going on these days about how small one’s lot can be, how many miles per gallon one’s car gets (thanks to federal subsidies of various sorts), and how many really keen conveniences can be packed into a 300-square-foot “house.” Second, and more important, this second batch of virtue signals is about adhering to a pagan ideology of pseudo-scientific earth worship. The first, more overtly materialistic set of consumption items, on the other hand, rests on a distortion of a genuinely good and important goal: that of founding, building, and perpetuating a family homestead.

Adventure truly is an American good. The call of the open road is real in our nation in a way that it cannot be real in the more crowded, regulated nations of Europe. Americans for centuries have heard the call of the wild, and many of them have answered it, to the benefit of us all. But most Americans recognized the necessary linkage of that wandering to its natural successor: settlement. Trappers and mountain men were succeeded by homesteaders. And those homesteaders did not simply park their wagons for a short while. Many of them were fundamentally unsettled, constantly looking for the greener grass over the mountain. But more sought to build where they (and their communities) found good land and opportunity.

“Homestead” simply refers to a family settlement. In American property law it has been favored by the state in the sense that the family house, land, and outbuildings were given favorable tax treatment and protection from creditors. These benefits were a recognition that the homestead is the natural basis of society. Going back to Aristotle, we in the West have recognized that the “household” is the basic unit of social organization. This unit, encompassing the owner, family, and dependent workers, was the fundamental unit of production (usually, but not always farming) and of political organization because it constituted a tightly interrelated group with common interests, norms, and goals.

In America at least, beginning before the formation of the United States government, those who served on the homestead often had the goal of forming their own. Indentured servants worked off their passage to the New World, then struck out on their own, as did, quite often, other servants. The goal was to achieve an integrated independence. That is, one wanted to be part of a self-governing, largely self-sufficient household that took care of its own and participated in wider community life as one among equals—and potentially first among equals.

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