Category: Small House Living

What Does the Free Range Parenting Movement Have to do with the Tiny House Movement?

Hanging on the wall directly across from my desk in the Belle Writer’s Studio is a framed copy of my first published article.

The essay, which was published in my hometown paper, The Kansas City Star, is about my childhood and what a great place my neighborhood was for growing up.

In my childhood, the kids on my block rode bicycles, played spy games in the alley, played unorganized sports such as Red Rover, Hide-n-Seek and baseball games in which we were in control of enforcing the rules.

The only two admonishments from my mother was 1). Do not leave our block without asking. 2). Either listen for her to step out onto the porch and call me home for dinner, or come back to the yard by the time the street light came on.

We were allowed to walk up to the store – an early century brick building that was once the township’s general store – for penny candy and a .25 cent (glass) bottle of pop. We jumped in mud puddles in the rain and had unsupervised snowball fights in the snow.

It was a time when kids were allowed to be kids, we were given more responsibility if we learned to follow the rules, which taught us about independence. We learned to use our imagination and develop social skills with our friends. We solved problems amongst ourselves.

It’s those memories that make me so sad every time I read a story such as the one about the parents in suburban D.C. who are being put under the microscope for allowing their two children, ages 6 & 10 to (GASP!) walk to a park by themselves and play.

Twice, these parents have been put under investigation by Child Protective Services. At least once, the children were held for hours before their parents were even notified. The children sat alone in a police station without even being offered anything to eat at dinner time.

BUT, you say, children are at risk, anything could happen to them out there, right?

Actually, according to statistics on crime and childhood accidents, there has never been a safer time to be a child. Risks exists, just as they do throughout life.

But consider this: There is only a 1 in 1.5 million chance of your child being abducted. That is less than the risk of being stuck by lightning, which is about 1 in 500,000!

Apparently, just as it has with the risk of a pit bull bite, the media has created a mass hysteria that there is a boogey man behind every streetlight.

What does this have to do with tiny/small house living?


Is it a Tiny and Small House Movement or Something Else?


Front of the house showing the covered porch

When I began writing about the Tiny House Movement for my upcoming book, my editor took exception with the word “movement.”

She thought it sounded like it had some sort of political connotation. The technical definition of a movement is, “a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas.”

I understood her concerns, but it is a type of social movement to what we think is a better way of life.

I responded to her concerns by telling her it had been labeled a “movement” by the media for so long, that if we didn’t refer it to that in the book, it might confuse people that this is something else other than what articles, books and television shows such as “Tiny House Nation” were talking about.

However, last week, on the Living Large Facebook page, Matt also took exception to the term movement, saying that after he’s followed it for 5 years, he feels “the term is now outdated and makes it sound hairy fairy and not a credit to making a change to the way we choose to live.”

What do you think, Living Largers? Is it a movement? If not, or you think the term is overused/outdated, what would you call it? Click on “the comment link above the photo (below the headline) to join in on the conversation!

Taking the Chill Off




The past few mornings have been chilly, not cold enough to warrant our wood stove and definitely not cold enough to warrant turning on our expensive electric heater.

My mom came from a generation where the focal point of the home was the kitchen. If she wasn’t watching television (which she rarely did) or not creating a piece of art or working in her gardens, she was sitting in the kitchen, usually with a cigarette and a cup of coffee.

On mornings such as the one we’ve been having, she would say, “I’m turning on the oven for a bit, just to take the chill off.”

In a small home where the kitchen is oftentimes part of the living area, a few minutes with an open oven door on a chilly morning is all I need.

I turned on the oven yesterday morning just to take the chill off and though I don’t smoke, I sat and enjoyed my coffee, silently thanking my mom for the warmth on a chilly morning.

How to Make Money Homesteading Book Giveaway


Since many people are looking at New Year’s goals, I try to recommend a few books this time of year that could help Living Largers achieve their dreams. Many people have asked for ideas on how to make a living from home while living a simple, rural life.

Tim Young put together some of those ideas in his e-book, “How to Make Money Homesteading.”

Tim is also giving one Living Larger a chance to win a download of the book for free. Read the short Q&A, make a comment on this post on why you would like to read the boo and like Living Large on Facebook (if you haven’t already). Comments to this post must be made before 5 p.m. CST on Thursday, December 11. I will draw a winner and announce it on the blog on Friday. You must leave an email address where we can reach you if you win.


Living Large: How did you come up with the idea for the book, what  is the purpose?:

Tim: Like a growing number of people in the past decade, we are first-time farmers/homesteaders who moved from urban life to rural life. There’s a ton to learn when you make that kind of transition, much of it related to how to grow food, tend to livestock and develop skills that enable you to produce what you need rather than consuming and buying, as most people do. However, there’s another very real need that most new homesteaders realize when they take the leap, and that need isn’t written about as much. It’s the need to make money so that you can enjoy the freedom of living independently off the land. In the decade we’ve been homesteading and farming sustainably, we’ve explored numerous income producing areas that range from offering meats and dairy to classes and events and, of course, writing and online ventures. With How to Make Money Homesteading, I wanted to share some of our experiences, but really wanted the content to be broader than our own personal story. So I researched and sought out 18 other homesteaders/preppers/small-scale farmers, such as yourself, and shared their stories as well. Taking the leap from a world of suburban convenience and comfort is daunting for most people, so I wanted readers to see how many others have done that…and lived to tell about it. The primary aim of the book was to offer ideas of how income can be produced, rather than to show in step-by-step detail how to make money in any particular endeavor. In the end, each person has to consider their own markets, experiences, resources and desires to choose the best path for them. It is my hope that this book can give them the inspiration and ideas they need to get started.

Living Large: What is one of the most interesting stories of how a person is making a  living homesteading?:

Tim: I was surprised to see how many people, including yourself, are supporting their homesteading life through what many would refer to as “non-traditional” homesteading activities. These include freelance writing, consulting, blogging, e-commerce sites and DIY manuals, selling essential oils and so on. Sure, there are many examples in the book of folks selling wood crafts, cheese, soaps and more “normal” homestead products, but technology has bridged the gap between many people’s life experiences and distant markets, enabling them to take the leap with increased confidence.


Buy a Locally Farmed Free Roaming Turkey and it Benefits us All

When a friend posted on Facebook the other day about the recent controversy in New Jersey over gestation crates for pigs and her horror over the reality of factory farming, I thought, “How in the world can anyone not know about this?”

The post was a result of Jon Stewart’s reaction to NJ Gov. Chris Christie refusing to sign a bill passed by the state’s legislature to ban the diminutive crates, which keeps breeding pigs from being able to even turn around for most of their lives.

But then I remembered I didn’t always know these things. Like most Americans, I was happy pretending my meat originated in that plastic wrapped Styrofoam platter at the grocery store.

The fact is that unless you’re buying your meat – any of it – from local farmers who keep their animals on free range, you’re likely buying factory farmed meat.


Weeks Don’t Get Any Better Than This

Inside The Belle Writer’s Studio.

Well, for the most part.

Our beloved Kansas City Royals lost the World Series on Wednesday night. After a 29 year wait to see them in another Series, it came down to a very heartbreaking Game 7, bottom of the 9th, two out, man-stranded-on-3rd base-90 feet-away-from- the- tying-run-loss. I’m not a sports nut (and Dale doesn’t like sports at all, but even he didn’t resist the hometown enthusiasm for the Royals), my history with baseball goes back to my grandparents who were die-hard Cubby fans in Chicago (this should tell you something about how resilient my family is when it comes to losing).

My mom was even at a Kansas City A’s game (before the A’s were moved to Oakland) on opening day when she realized she was pregnant with me. I have a lot of great memories of Royals baseball with my family at Kauffman Stadium. This team reignited my love for it. A lot of good things happened in the city because of this team and for that, we are grateful.

On a better note, Living Large the book is a few more steps closer to reality. I hope to have an announcement about that very soon.

Finally, the week is ending with Halloween, which means two things at Our Little House. It is our traditional first pot of chili night, which goes back to when my mom would warm our bellies before we headed out trick or treating.


Finding the Right Size to Live Large

Tammy and Logan's small winter bungalow in town


I know that some of our Living Large’s community also reads Tammy Strobel’s blog over at Rowdy Kittens. I’ve been following her and Logan’s adventures for years, before they even moved into their tiny on wheels three years ago.

Tammy shared some news on her blog this past week that they rented a small, 700-square foot bungalow in town rather than live in their tiny home for the winter.

As I have for several years, I admire Tammy’s honesty on her blog. I think sometimes that tiny house living looks “picture-perfect, romantic and glamorous,” as she says, but as she points out, living a “simpler” lifestyle in a tiny isn’t always that way. It has its good points and downsides, just like living anywhere.

Like Dale and I, it sounds as though Tammy and Logan had a hard time dealing with the terrible winter the country experienced last year. While our pipes didn’t freeze and we always had running water, we did have plenty of snow, which kept Dale home (and unpaid) from work for a day and me feeling a little trapped (I don’t do well driving on snow) sometimes for weeks on end. It wasn’t as bad as the year we had the ice storm, but it was pretty bad.