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Tiny homes. It’s the latest craze to hit the housing industry–though families have been kiting around the country in “mobile homes” since the pioneer days. COVERED WAGON

A recent family discussion about the need for growing boys to have their own bedroom reminded me of a recent trip with my dh to explore and photograph an ancestral cabin in northern Arkansas.

James Garfield Finis & Phoebe Trimble built their first cabin on their farmland in Izard County, near Dolph, Arkansas, in 1815-1816. The exterior of the cabin measure 20×20’—so the inside would be 19×19’–and they raised ten (yes, TEN) children in the space.

The cabin is built without nails, the boards dovetailed to stay put and the cracks stuffed full of chinking. The cabin in these pictures is actually the second one built, though they made it exactly the same size. Don’t ask me why.

The main floor had the single fireplace, a table used for dining, repairs, school work, cooking, sewing… A spinning wheel probably held a permanent place near a window, too, as might a desk, a piano or a rocking chair.

Mr. & Mrs. Trimble probably had their bed in a corner of the room, too, away from the fireplace and windows. And up those stairs in the back of the room was the loft, where all of the children would sleep. No kid had their own room in this cabin! In fact, looking at it, I had to wonder how on earth they managed to find the privacy to conceive ten kids in there.

In TEXAS GOLD (previously released as Touch of Texas), my heroine lives in a cabin about the size of the Trimble cabin. When the hero literally trips over it, the cabin is inhabited by Rachel, her brother Nathan, and a goat and a few chickens are sheltering inside against a freak snow storm.


Where am I? Jake lay still and took stock of his surroundings. He was definitely inside a structure. Though the air was ripe with the scent of animals, he didn’t think he was in a barn.

Something lay across his body, holding him in place. He listened for the sounds of people, footsteps, whispered words. Nothing. The silence was broken only by the shifting of a log in the fire. If anyone stood watch, he couldn’t hear them.

Taking care not to give away the fact he was awake, he opened his eyes a slit. He could see out of the right one, but the left eye was blurry and swollen nearly shut, thanks to a lucky punch from that murdering pack of thieves that jumped him.

How had he gotten here? The last thing he remembered was dragging himself through a raging blizzard after Harrison and his men had beaten the holy hell out of him. Now the scents of animals, wood smoke, and lavender surrounded him.

Glancing down, he found the source of the lavender. A woman lay stretched out on top of him. Silky blond hair the color of the summer sun ran in a river across her shoulder and onto his bare chest. Her forehead was smooth and she had a small nose that turned up a little at the end. Long lashes a little darker than her hair fanned across the milky skin of her cheeks. In spite of his battered body, he had a sudden strong desire to taste that skin.

He shook his head to clear it and bit back a curse as the movement shot pain through his skull. In a rush, the memories of the previous day returned. And so did the agony. Besides his head and face, they must have landed a few boots to his ribs. His side burned like hell-on-fire.

Taking shallow breaths to ease the pain, he looked around. The rising sun glowed around the edges of the window shutters. He couldn’t see a guard, but he hadn’t really expected to find one. If Harrison was around, a half-dozen guns would have finished the job they’d started last night.

He turned his head a little to one side and located the source of the smoke. A poorly built red-stone chimney staggered in drunken lines all the way to the whitewashed ceiling. Whoever had built it must have been working his way through a jug of moonshine at the same time. The floor was probably plank since he didn’t smell dust, but all he felt beneath his fingers was wool and the give of a straw mattress.

He rolled his head to the other side, stretching aching muscles. The room wasn’t large, but it was well kept. There was a curtained doorway behind him and stairs in the far corner led to an attic or second floor. Plenty of places for someone to hide. He’d check them out, as soon as he could coax his battered body to move.

A sturdy rocker was pulled up close to the warmth of the fire. There weren’t any fancy things lying around. A small plank table with benches down both sides separated the kitchen from this side of the room, but the table was bare except for a couple of books and a guttered candle. Nothing to give a hint of where he was or who’d taken him in.

He looked to the other side of the room and blinked his good eye to clear his vision. It didn’t help. In the far corner, he thought he saw two goats, four chickens in dilapidated cages, and his horse. There were animals inside the house.

Where was he? If Harrison or his men had found him, he’d be toes down in the snow. He must have stumbled on this place and whoever lived here had taken him in. By the feel of it, he’d been stripped down to what God gave him. His gaze returned to the woman lying across him.

A smile curved one corner of his mouth. Wherever here was, he liked the

company. He reached for her, but his left arm wouldn’t move. Concerned, he tried again. If he could only draw one weapon, he needed to know. Of course, since he was stark naked on the floor, it didn’t matter a whole hell of a lot at the moment.

Giving up, he used only his right hand. Careful not to wake her, Jake searched for more of her softness and found cotton. She had a sweetly feminine shape buried under layers of cloth. Running his hand down the silken hair, he found her rounded bottom exactly where he’d hoped. He pressed her center to his rapidly hardening one, and couldn’t resist shifting his hips a little.

The groan of pain slipped out before he could stop it. Everything hurt, even his skin. A tiny sound brought his gaze back to the woman. Brilliant blue, the color of a clear mountain lake reflecting the sky, stared back at him.

TEXAS GOLD ~ Available now from Amazon.

Tracy will be giving away one e-copy (mobi file) of Texas Gold to one of our readers. Please leave a comment to enter.

  • What do you think of the tiny house movement? Do you like the simple life or do you prefer more spacious comfort?
  • How do you think you would fare in a covered wagon or living in a tiny cabin on the frontier?



Glitter Text Generator

Margaret is giving away two books today. For a chance to win a copy of either  Frontier Belle or Fiery Possession (PDF downloads)  all you have to do is leave a comment.

Life on the American and Australian frontiers have a strikingly similar history. For example, take the American Homestead Act, and the Australian Act of Selection, which is the basis for my novels, Frontier Belle and Fiery Possession.


America: The original Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20th, 1862. It gave applicants freehold title to up to 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River. The law required only three steps from the applicant – file an application, improve the land, then file for a deed of title. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government, including freed slaves, could file a claim on the provisions that they were over the age of twenty one and had lived on the land for five years.Tanner-FrontierBelle200x300


Most of us visualise the frontier home as a rustic log cabin nestled in a peaceful mountain valley or on a sweeping green plain. But in reality, the “little house on the prairie” was often not much more than a shack or a hastily scratched out hole in the ground. In the treeless lands of the plains and prairies, log cabins were out of the question so  homesteaders turned to the ground beneath their feet for shelter. The sod house, or “soddy,” was one of the most common dwellings in the frontier west.


 Of course, there were drawbacks to sod-house living. As the house was built of dirt and grass, it was constantly infested with bugs, mice, snakes. The sod roofs often leaked, which turned the dirt floor into a quagmire. Wet roofs took days to dry out and the enormous weight of the wet earth often caused roof cave-ins.


A typical American log cabin measured about ten by twenty feet, regardless of the number of inhabitants. Typically, frontier cabins featured only one room, which served as kitchen, dining room, living room, workroom, and bedroom.


Australia: In the colony of Victoria the 1860 Land Act allowed free selection of crown land.  This included land already occupied by the squatters, (ranchers) who had managed to circumvent the law for years and keep land that they did not legally own.


The Act allowed selectors access to the squatters’ land, and they could purchase between 40 and 320 acres of crown land, but after that, the authorities left them to fend for themselves. Not an easy task against the wealthy, often ruthless squatters who were incensed at what they thought was theft of their land.


The first permanent homesteads on the Australian frontier were constructed using posts and split timber slabs. Early settlers learnt from the aborigines that large sheets of bark could be cut and peeled off a variety of trees and used as sheets to clad the roof.

Anyone ever live in a log cabin or soddy?





 Margaret Tanner is a multi-published Award winning Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically accurate. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia.

Margaret is married with three grown up sons, and two gorgeous little granddaughters. Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.




Holcomb Valley Fever… ~Tanya Hanson

Holcomb Valley, the richest gold mining area in Southern California, is  a quiet, lonely place these days. Hard to imagine 2,000 folks lived here in the early 1860’s.

This sleepy mountain meadow was once the site of bustling, somewhat slapdash Belleville. The largest bunch of prospectors gathered right here, just east of Bill Holcomb’s original 1860 gold strike. Within two months, a “town” had come to life. Nothing remains now, but miners’ lore speaks of “saloons, gambling dens and bagnios of the lowest kind.”

The town got its name from the first baby born in the valley. She was the daughter of Jed Van Dusen, the blacksmith who was paid $1500 to carve a road down the mountain. On the valley’s first Fourth of July, Belle’ mama stitched together a sparkly Stars and Stripes from the shiny skirts of saloon girls, and the red and blue shirts of miners. In gratitude, the locals christened their new hometown after the baby girl.

This antique cabin is not the original Van Dusen log home, but it was brought to their  Holcomb Valley plot to represent a family’s life at that time. Many miners lived in earthen dugouts and shanties on the outskirts.

A few other structures have been recreated for today’s history lovers.  Little is known of “Ross.” He was accidentally killed when a tree he was chopping down fell on him. Buried on the same spot where he died, somebody thought enough of him to outline his grave with a white picket fence.  Sadly, in recent years, most of the pickets were vandalized. The few remaining are now preserved in the Big Bear Museum. Volunteers built this log fence in 1995.

Nobody knows why this little place below, called Pygmy Cabin,  had a doorway of only 4 feet high, and a roof peak only 6 feet, making the side walls very short. Was the owner an itty bitty miner?  Or was he too eager to start panning the streams and digging into a quartz ledge to built full size? Or did the weather change so suddenly he had no choice but to hunker down mid-size? In 1983, a fire destroyed the cabin.

Along with the sand mounds called “mine tailings,” (discarded rocks and ground up ore), this water pump remains from Jonathan Tibbetts’  “Grasshopper” quartz mill. Operated by a steam engine, heavy iron heads rose and fell, 24/7, smashing quartz to extract gold. Sadly, these days vandals use it for target practice! (That’s me. I am not one of them.)

The hustle and bustle of Holcomb Valley’s mining days only lasted a few years. However, in 1875, Elias Baldwin, who had gotten “lucky” in the Comstock lode, decided to try again at what he dubbed “Gold Mountain.” In 1874, he built a large 40 stamp mill. A new mining town (Bairdstown) with two saloons, a butcher shop, two boardinghouses, and a population of 180 miners quickly sprouted. However, the mill was shut down after only seven months. The slim amount of gold processed just wasn’t profitable.   Bairdstown became Ghost Town,

The stamp mill burned to the ground in a mysterious fire in August 1876. Remaining are the supports.  (I outlined the remains in red.)


In 1899, a large mill and cyanide processing plant was built here. It operated until 1923.

Bill Holcomb, who started it all by finding gold while tracking a bear, came back to the valley for one last nostalgic peek in 1875.

Despite its dearth of living souls these days, our trek through Holcomb Valley–which has been preserved by the wise souls of the Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture—lets you really get a feel for days gone by.  Happy trails to all you goldminers out there!

Log Cabins and Book Giveaway




  • Abe Lincoln was born in one.  Okay, so maybe you already knew that, but did you also know that the first president to be born in a log cabin was Andrew Jackson? 


  •  Pound for pound wood is stronger than steel which makes Log Cabins virtually indestructible (except by woodpeckers and carpenter bees).  They can stand up to earthquakes and are pretty much fire-resistant. A log home was the only beachfront home in the Carolinas to remain standing during Hurricane Hugo.


  •  Log cabins were not an American invention. The Swedish bought the idea to American in the 1600s.


  •  Providing there were trees, a log cabin could be built in days, needed no nails and was rainproof, sturdy and cheap to build.  The only tool needed to build one was an ax.


  •  Log cabin designs were influenced by the Homestead Act of 1862 which required homes to be at least ten by twelve and have one glass window.


  •  Foundations were built eighteen inches high because it was believed that termites couldn’t climb that high.


  •  A log cabin helped win a presidential election.  William Harrison made a big deal over his “humble beginnings” and used the log cabin logo (along with hard cider) to show he was a “people’s man.”  Ironically, the man was born in a wood frame house. 


  •  Log Cabin syrup was introduced in 1887 by Patrick J. Towle, a Minnesota grocer. The name was chosen to honor Towle’s hero Abraham Lincoln.



Now that you know as much as I do about log cabins I want to tell you about my new story “Snow Angel” which will be released September 1st in the Log Cabin Christmas collection and can be ordered now.






 The moment schoolteacher Maddie Parker walked into the tumble-down log cabin schoolhouse, she knew coming to Maverick, Texas was a mistake.  Now she’s stuck at school with three of her rowdiest pupils during a blizzard and in terrible danger of becoming unglued.


Sheriff Brad Donovan is fit to be tied.  What kind of teacher would keep her pupils after school in such weather? Now it’s up to him to rescue them—no easy task.  For now he’s stuck at the schoolhouse with no means of escape.  But while the storm rages outside, hearts are thawing inside.


 Brad and Maddie have personal reasons for fighting their attraction to each other, but as the days drag on it becomes increasingly hard to do. Was it fate or bad luck that brought that together? Or could this have been God’s plan all along?     




I don’t have my author copies yet but  since I’m making you think about Christmas so early it seems only fair to give one away!

So tell us about your log cabin experiences—past, present or future!


 A Log Cabin Christmas: 9 Historical Romances during American Pioneer Christmases


 A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance)