(A Book Review And A Rant)

Dateline: 28 February 2014

A debt-free diamond in the rough rural home!

Yesterday I posted a review of Mark Hamilton’s Excellent Poultry Waterer. And I mentioned that Mark’s wife, Anna, has written numerous books. If you go to Her Amazon Page, you’ll see that Anna currently has 26 books, 25 of which are self-published e-books. That’s impressive. 

One of Anna’s books really intrigued me. I bought a copy of Trailersteading: Voluntary Simplicity In A Mobile Home because I was curious. Though I have not lived in a mobile home myself, I have an interest in low-cost housing options (and the book is only $2.99). Also, I know at least two people in my community who have debt-free homesteads largely due to the fact that they chose to live on their land in old mobile homes that cost them next to nothing. 

Anna’s book is truly a groundbreaking literary effort. I mean, has anyone else written such a book? Not that I know of. I e-mailed Anna to tell her that I enjoyed Trailersteading and planned to write about it. She wrote back... 

When I first wrote that ebook, I almost didn't publish it because I thought people would tear it to pieces.  Since then, I've been pleasantly surprised to find that, although it does get more negative reviews than my other ebooks, it also is snapped up at a startling rate.  Trailersteading has only been out for a bit over a year and has already sold about 5,000 copies, which makes me think that there is a huge population out there itching to find a way to become more independent, even it if means being labeled trailer trash.

Anna and Mark’s trailersteading adventure began when they went looking for a cheap mobile home to set up on their their 58-acre Virginia homestead. They ended up finding a 500 square foot 1960’s model with all the windows removed. It was free for the hauling. Anna’s book tells the story of how they found the trailer, moved it, modified it and made it into the debt-free home they now live in. If you go to their blog, Walden Effect, and look at the picture at the top of the page, you’ll see their home. Anna’s book also tells the stories of other people who have opted for the mortgage-freedom that comes with living in an inexpensive older-model mobile home. 

In my  essay titled Agrarian-Style Economic Self Defense one of the things I say is that “I’ll take a humble little country home on a little piece of paid-off country land over a big, fancy, comfortable house with a mortgage any day.” If you feel the same way about not being a slave to debt, and you’re looking for cheap housing options, read Trailersteading. It will not only inform you of the possibilities (along with an honest assessment of the pros and cons), I'm pretty sure it will inspire you too.


Now, with mobile homes in mind, I’d like to go off on a bit of a rant...

I live in a rural township in upstate New York and I’ve served as a councilman on my town board for 14 years, More than once over that period of time the subject of “eyesore” mobile homes has come up. There are people in my town who want to outlaw mobile homes, (as has been done in a more upscale nearby town). Every time the subject comes up I vocally oppose it.

I make it known that I happen to know some of the people in our town who live in old trailers. They don’t have a lot of money but they’re good people. I’d rather live next to good neighbors in an eyesore trailer than I would bad neighbors in an expensive house. People who live in trailer houses are living the American dream on their own terms. Live and let live. There’s more important things in this life to be focused on that using the force of law to harass people who live in mobile homes, especially people who are our neighbors. It’s discrimination. That’s the Cliff Notes version of what I say.

And then someone will bring up the most objectionable mobile homes... the ones with things like junk cars, wood pallets, and appliances in the yard. The question get’s asked... “Can’t these people have a little pride and keep their places clean?”

One time when this concern was raised I said that the guy up the road from me (my next door neighbor, in the rural sense) has a regular house with a yard like that. At the time, he had an old porcelain toilet setting in his yard. It hadn’t moved in months. But the man was a great neighbor. He let me grow garlic in part of his field and wanted nothing in return. The fact that he had a cluttered yard was no big deal. Fact is, there are times when I’ve had a junk car, wood pallets and an old appliance in my own yard (I’ve got an old gas stove and  my kids’ junk snowmobiles out there now. Oh, and wood pallets too). 

Besides that, we often don’t know what families who are living in those places are going through. It might be that they barely have the money to keep their bills paid. There are mobile homes in our town with single mothers trying to keep their family together. When someone is struggling to keep the bills paid, the last thing on their mind is keeping their yard nice and tidy looking. Until someone has been in that kind of situation, you can't understand what those people are dealing with (and no one who comes to the town board and complains has experienced real poverty).

I came close enough to poverty, with a family to support, one time in my life, and I can tell you that it gives you a whole new perspective on the subject. If the uppity busybodies with the nice houses could walk a mile in their less fortunate neighbor’s shoes, they would not be asking government to enact laws that target and harass the poorer among them.

And I’ve asked the question: “Where are the people and families going to go when you outlaw their houses?” “Are they going to move to town and live in an apartment or some sort of public housing?” “Would anyone here want to live and raise their families in that kind of environment instead of out in the country?” “Personally, I’d rather live in a hole in the ground on a piece of land in the country than I would an apartment in the city.”

Then, invariably, the subject of property values comes up. This is the biggest reason why some people don’t want mobile homes in their neighborhood. They complain that the trailer down the road is making it so their nicer house isn’t worth as much money as it would be if their wasn’t a trailer down the road. 

To which I have replied that I don't think it is the job of government to protect property values. Show me that in the Constitution. Government has a legitimate purpose to protect people from evildoers and to punish evildoers. Government has the court system, guns and jails to serve that purpose. To target people who simply live in eyesore mobile homes with the intimidation and force of government is just plain wrong. 

The good news is that folks in my town are still free to set up a mobile home and live in it. But there are state and local codes that would never permit an old mobile home from the 1960’s. And there are all kinds of other requirements and restrictions, the most expensive of which is the septic system. A new septic system around here now requires a plan drawn up by a licensed engineer. A septic system will end up costing several thousand dollars. 

In one memorable meeting our town’s code enforcement officer told the story of an Amish family that moved into a mobile home in the town next to us. He related that there were some serious problems with this family not complying with the codes. I asked what was the big problem?

He said they didn’t have a septic system. Another board member asked what they did for a bathroom. The code enforcement officer replied that they used a bucket for a toilet. He was appalled at the idea of it, and  expressed concern about the welfare of the children. And then there was the matter of disposing of the waste. There was a stream out behind the trailer. He thought it was probably being contaminated.

I listened to this Amish “trailersteading” family being maligned by the code enforcement officer because they didn’t have a government-approved septic system, and I finally had to say something... 

I explained that, for hundreds of years in this country, rural families did not have septic systems. They had outhouses, and it was not in any way, shape, or form considered child abuse to have an outhouse. Furthermore, the bucket being used was probably what is known as a sawdust toilet, which is a perfectly legitimate alternative to a conventional toilet. There is even a well-researched book about making and using sawdust toilets (The Humanure Handbook). I said I was sure that the Amish were not dumping the buckets into the stream. They were composting it.

Even if they didn’t compost the humanure, even if they simply spread it on their land, the land can easily handle the waste from one family. Upon hearing this, one board member then exclaimed that he wouldn’t want it running onto his property! To which I replied that local dairy farmers spread tons of cow manure on land around him and he’s not getting excited about that.

And then I told the board that in the summer of ’99, when we had a bad drought, and my backhoe-dug well went dry, my family used a sawdust toilet for two months. I composted the humanure and, two years later, I used the compost on my garden. Well, that pretty much took the cake. Everyone shook their heads in disbelief. Someone said, “That’s just not right,” and we went on to other business.

I could rant and ramble more on this subject, but you get the idea. It’s tough to be a freedom-loving advocate of trailersteading in New York State. But I’m glad to know things are different in other parts of America, and I feel a whole lot better now that I’ve had my say on this subject.  :-)


The Homestead Lady said...

Great Post! My husband and I live in a mobile home. We started out here in a 12x50 1970's model we paid cash for it, it was in great condition and had been remodled. 2 years ago we bought this one, a 1993, 16x70, we paid cash for it as well. Its sets on our 18 acre farmstead. While we still owe just a little on our land our home is paid for(as well as our older model vehicles). It is really sad that folks really do judge others by what kind of home they live in. But the truth is, those of us that live in mobile homes that are paid for are far, far better off than those that live in their big fancy homes on itty bits lots up to debt past their eyeballs. We do not have the stress and worry that others have and that makes it all so worth it! It's all about simplcity and getting back to the basics!

Rozy Lass said...

Did anyone of those "busybodies" think about offering to help the families remove and dispose of the eyesores in the yard. What a great community spirited project that could be: to help a family clean-up and spruce up their property. Sometimes the task is just overwhelming to some and an offer of assistance in the form of manpower would be most welcome. I'm glad you keep speaking up for liberty to live as one chooses. We lived in an area that had such onerous zoning laws that it pushed the property values sky-high and the very kind of people they were trying to attract, good families such as ours, were priced out of the market. I believe Thomas Sowell has written a book about that very thing.

Stephen said...

Excellent post. Well done, Sir.

Everett said...

Hi Herrick, As mantioned before I live on a "high end" tourist trap Island in the Atlantic. It all began to go t hell when the monied folks from NYC CT., NJ., and Ma. all "discovered" us. Right after the invasion they got control of the town council and started instituting all sorts of onerous zoning laws. It is impossible for a local kid to build a house out here now as the LAND goes for upwards of a million dollars an acre! One of the very first things they did was to ban any sort of live in trailer. I do all I can to get in their faces and tell them just what I think of their rules. As a 360 year descendant of the original settlers they condescend to Not throw my ass in jail! Yet! This is one fight I cannot win, but keep on trying.

Anonymous said...

another great post.

same conversations i've had with new neighbors complaining about another neighbor... they saw what they were moving into when they came, now they want a HOA. No way!

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

Standing ovation! You can come serve on my city council anytime you want!

Anonymous said...

I'll join the chorus of kudos, Brother Kimball: Great post!

Once again, the only property rights principle that's morally applicable here is: "We all live downstream." Of course that's an extension of the Golden Rule, as we all are familiar with. If that's being observed, what's the problem with my neighbor's use of HIS property?

The problem ultimately comes down to government at ALL levels thinking they have a right, for the "general welfare" or the "common good", to tell me how I may use my property, which is ultimately enshrined in that Oh-so-flawed part of the 5th Amendment about "eminent domain" (BTW, can somebody show me where this idea shows up in the Bible? I don't think you can!). And this of course means that you and I really don't own anything, if the government at any level determines it has a greater interest.

Good job on keeping that monster at bay . . . for now! But beware of your fellow board members' and the local chamber of commerce's lust for profit, through taxation, re-zoning, corporate welfare, etc. As Leviathan - again, at ALL levels - grows, private property issues and governmental thievery are going to grow as well.

David Smith

tc said...

Herrick, great to come across your blog again - it's been several years! Glad to hear that you are making a difference on the town council. You are an inspiration to me as I serve on our township's planning commission. God bless you, my friend.

Margie said...

Totally agree. Whereas we used to only pay electric to run a pump for our water well, we are now forced to hook-up to city water and pay a big water bill. We were also forced shortly after to hook-up to the sewage system, leaving our perfectly good septic system, and pay another big bill.

Anonymous said...

wow, finally someone said what what I have always thought. Live and let live. No more common sense anymore. Like the law in a nearby rural area that says you must call to have a dead animal removed and disposed of - not to be buried on your propery because it will contaminate the ground water. And in no way is it supposed to decompose without being buried either. $300 - 500 for this service. Cows, horses, dogs, whatever, it is illegal to bury it or let it decompose on your property. My, my, I wonder what has happened to our ground water all these thousands of years and all the millions of animals that died and decomposed? Follow the money. Then rat on your neighbor, etc...

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you , everyone, for the comments here.

Everett… I did a Google Maps tour of your island awhile back. Pretty neat. And to think… your ancestors once owned a huge portion of it (as you stated here in the past).

tc… I've wondered about you. It's been a long time. I checked in at your blog a couple months ago but nothing new. Hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

We're blessed to live in a small community where the homes range from multi-million e$tates to single wide trailers. After 10 yrs here haven't observed any "property value" frictions. One neighbor started with a single wide which over the years has been transformed into a larger home, by building around the nucleus as finances would allow.

We've known others who built a shop first, moved a livable trailer inside so that building could commence on their intended home, again as finances would permit, without rent and on-site always.

Used mobiles can be a great bargain, one fellow here gets them for FREE or even PAID to haul away from WA state as they cannot be re-sited there if too old. He brings them to ID were no such restrictions exist, sells & places for people happy to have an inexpensive home.

Here is another approach, a bit small for us but these folks seem to make it work:

thanks for your post,

Ann from KY said...

Really enjoyed this post!! These people are so smart as I continue to pay on our modest home every month for the next 15 years.
If I could do it over......

I am so much smarter now that I am older. I hate debt of any kind. Sleeping easily at night is so better!

Anonymous said...

Great post! My wife and I purchased our 1987 single-wide 2 bedroom in 2002 for $3000 cash (including moving it to our land). It had been a trade-in at a local dealership. We set it up and spent a couple thousand more remodeling it - mostly new linoleum, carpet, and paint. We bought it shortly after we married, and haven't had to pay any rent or a mortgage. Otherwise we could not afford to homestead like we do, raising our children, with an income usually less than $6000 per year.

I can't think of a better way for lower income folks to get out on a piece of land. Going into debt to build a house is not a very sensible idea.

~ Palmetto Agrarian

Anonymous said...

Sounds like your town is infested with a bunch of modernists!

Tom said...

Thank you, for fighting for freedom in all its glorious battles... Sincerely, thank you.