Dee Williams built her tiny house on wheels in 2004, so long ago that she had to track down Jay Shafer in person just to figure out how to build one. It was before the tiny house movement as we now know it – there were no blogs, videos or ebooks back then. Dee has lived full time in that little house in Olympia, Washington for over ten years, although last year she added a second, even tinier house to the mix: an eight-foot-long Don Vardo design with no loft. This second house has become her home-away-from-home in Portland, Oregon when she visits friends or teaches tiny house workshops.
The full story of how Dee came to build her first little house more than ten years ago is a long and rich one. Her memoir, The Big Tiny, came out last year and arrives in bookstores in paperback on April 22nd, 2015, and there’s no better way to hear the story than from Dee herself.
When I visited her simple little house in Olympia last year, most of our conversation focused on how the house has changed her life and perspective. For Dee, one of the biggest changes was that despite building the house to be “self-contained,” it actually taught her to be interdependent with others – to lean on her friends more and let herself be leaned upon.
Dee Williams’ Life in Two Tiny Homes
This lesson shows through in her second little house in Portland. It feels more like a bedroom than a house and doesn’t pretend to be self-contained. It’s parked in a friend’s yard, just like the house in Olympia, but without a bathroom or kitchen, she leans more heavily on the big house. Below she shares some of why self-containment wasn’t all it was cracked up to be:
Dee: Part of the reason I bought the solar electric system was because I wanted to be autonomous. I didn’t want to have to ask for electricity, and I didn’t want to put anybody out. I didn’t imagine that I was going to use Hugh and Annie’s shower, Rita’s shower, their kitchens… In my mind, I was fully contained. And then my understanding of things changed. And my understanding of each of our places on the planet has changed.
Who do you want to rest in the arms of? No matter what your situation is, whether you’re living in your own house, you’ve got some housemates, you’ve got a partner, or you’re living alone: you’re still resting in the arms of a beautiful community. You’ve got this natural community all around you. If you live in a city, you’ve got all this infrastructure.
None of us, not one of us, is living alone. Ever. It’s a myth. So I think I just needed to recognize that. And man, it’s good to know I’m not alone.
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If you have to depend on others for things like showers, then you’re not independent, sorry.
That’s what she was trying say in the article. But then sparrows are known for chasing other birds away and stealing their nests.
M wrote: ” But then sparrows are known for chasing other birds away and stealing their nests.”
WRONG! Delightful and Charming Sparrows are NOT Brood Parasitic!!!! You might be thinking of either Cowbirds or Cuckoos who ARE ‘stealers of nests.”
Sparrow wrote: “If you have to depend on others for things like showers, then you’re not independent, sorry.”
Hell, yeah to that statement, Sparrow! I’ve never been a fan of “Miss Independent” for that exact reason. If a tiny home owner is pounding their chest in pride and expounding the virtues of “living in a tiny home”…but…I then read how they 1) park their tiny home in a friend/neighbors/family members property rather than having their own land; 2) use THEIR shower; 3) use THEIR loo; 4) use THEIR electricity; 5) have THEIR garden hose hooked up to your tiny home for water; and 6) use THEIR laundry….then you are NOT LIVING in your tiny home as an autonomous person! It reminds me of the stereotype of the adult male living in his parent’s basement, and having his Mum still doing his cooking & laundry, all the while ‘claiming’ that “I’ve got my own place.” Sure you do, Sunny Jim, sure you do….courtesy of your parent’s!
I expect to be flamed for this attitude of mine but so be it. Mind you, I’m not talking about multi-generational families where the ages in a household go from grandparent to baby, but then no one in that family is claiming to be “independent”. I’m referring to individuals and the rare couple who claim to be LIVING in their tiny home when they can’t even pee in their own “home” but need to hike through the back garden to the main house to relieve themselves. That’s like staying at a Marriott and claiming that you OWN the hotel. ~harumph~
So Cahow and Sparrow where do you live? Are you fully independent? Are you totally off the grid or do you pay the utility companies each month – which would mean you aren’t totally independent either? I imagine Dee is compensating her friends in some way as I certainly would in a similar situation. B.M., before money, people used bartering of goods and services forming an interdependent culture that worked quite well. Even those that live off the grid are dependent on Nature to supply their water and power though it could be considered a symbiotic relationship as they give to each other. As she is in this ‘dependent’ situation with FRIENDS (I can use capital letters too), it implies that there is an agreement between the two parties that is copasetic so to compare to a son still living at his mother’s is an apples and oranges comparison. If I had a friend traveling about the country I would have no problem sharing my water, electric, or kitchen to help them out. Do unto others… I’ve always found that what I give out comes back to me later in some good way. The attempt at independency is more to help stop further damage to the environment and/or keep utility waste and cost down. Do you have a problem with that? Have you seen how many have become fully independent or is that what you actually have a problem with? I noticed your OWN in capital letters. Conveys to me that you are into control more than equivacol relationship. Though I could be wrong.
Cahow, I agree with you … and thank you for standing up for sparrows when we all know it’s cowbirds who are known for their welfare mentality. If I ever get my tiny house it will be so I can choose to buy utilities vs. using solar/propane or to buy a piece of land and pay property taxes vs. parking in an RV park or on someone’s property and paying rent. However, this using other people’s bathrooms and kitchens is awful! Yes, we all need to be part of a community, but it’s nice to have a little privacy as well … and that goes for the people whose home you’re running in an out of day and night as well as for the so-called “independent” tiny house dweller.
Dear Southb, Thanks for your kind words regarding my comment. And who doesn’t love jolly sparrows? They always remind me of the Bird Woman in “Mary Poppins” singing “Tuppence for the Birds.”
I’m sending a special prayer out to you, for you to achieve your personal dream of your very own tiny home, complete WITH bathroom! 😉
Totally agree with you, Cahow. Ditto for those who “shower at work”
Guess they don’t shower on weekends when they might be really dirty after doing heavy chores.
Hi, I know I have been out of touch for a while….They FINALLY started on my house!!!…..re this article, I to agree that relying on the kindness of others can get old and you can outwear your welcome.
I tried to start a blog about the house, but I couldn’t get it going right and the build started the next day. I have everything on my fb page…jodiedew…if you want to keep up and see pictures. The barn was put up on Thursday and some finishing touches on Friday morning. We got all in interior framing done over the weekend and had our framing insp yesterday morning. Just 1 little issue, and Apline has to fix that. The kids got in there after school yesterday and got all the electric boxes in and started running wire. They will finish up with that today hopefully then I can call for the rough in inspection…if Sheldon gets the plumbing done today that is. Things are moving right along. There have been so many snags, some minor some major but so far they have all worked out or there is nothing that can be done about it and it is what it is. But lets just say exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe how I am feeling. Olivia has an OB appt today with an ultrasound to see how big the baby is, dr says he is too big…so last week he talked of inducing her this week next week at the latest….but remember she is my lead electrician…..so I really really want him to cook for another week lol…selfish of me I know…..
Jodie: THANKS for the updates on your journey toward your own tiny home. 😀 It sounds like you’re “up to your neck in ‘gators” in regards to all the construction + Olivia! Stay strong, come here for support on your dream, and ultimately, all the ‘dust’ will settle and you can kick back, bouncing that new bairn on your lap while Olivia installs the wiring! LOL
I agree. Even if you have no mortgage or rent, you’re still going to have to pay for utilities, someone’s property taxes or lot rent, utilities, water and sewer or RV dump. If you’re using someone else’s, you’re going to have to pay them something. So then you have to decide do you want a place that is so tiny that you can never go shopping or get anything for Christmas b/c you have no place to put it, or do you want to move out of that depression and live a real life.
I am building a tiny house on my property for guests to use when they visit, due to the fact that I only have one bedroom in my house. The tiny house is framed and ready for the roof (and perhaps Alex will feature it here when done, but that is up to him) and will have a 3/4 bath. The electric will be tied into the main house via a 30 amp sub panel and the water will tie into the house also. This is not on wheels and it will belong to me, *not* being rented out. If it was, then the renter would be dependent on me because the metering would not be separate. I think tiny houses on wheels are doable as ‘independent’ but you have to commit yourself to going to a KOA/RV park and paying for your own hookup or else you really are stuck hooking up to a friend’s home. It’s when you take care completely of your own needs that you are truly independent.
However, the last two paragraphs in Alex’s article at the top reveal Dee Williams never fully intended to be independent even while *self contained* and because it was never the goal *completely* that is how it turned out. The article – “…despite building the house to be “self-contained,” it actually taught her to be interdependent with others – to lean on her friends more, and let herself be leaned upon.” and “… second little house in Portland. … feels more like a bedroom than a house, and doesn’t pretend to be self-contained.”
It sounds like that was never her goal to start with – more or less to have *self containment* but not necessarily to be *independent*. If that is ok with her, then more power to her. If others are ok with that, more power to them. However, I was raised by immigrant parents who taught me to work hard and never accept something from someone that you didn’t repay them back. And I was taught *not* to depend on others. In fact, my parents actually taught me that I should do everything myself and only *after* I exhausted all avenues on my own, THEN go looking for help and not without returning the favour. One common question my dad would have for me if I asked for his help – as an example – if I was moving furniture, was “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” This basically taught me that while it’s foolish sometimes to do things (dangerous) without help, the idea behind it was that you don’t impose on others with that you can do for yourself. Period. And so, for me the concept of a tiny home *must* be not only self contained but it must be completely independent. I *then* have the *freedom* that others may not have and have freedom also to help others when they do need it.
Sparrow, you don’t sound sorry, you sound kind’a ‘Gotcha! Take that!’ It is unkind and ungenerous. I, on the other hand, am completely independent and have zero need for anyone or anything. Once, I thought it was a shining trophy to my iron-will self sufficiency. Now, I realize it was a thick stone wall to separate me from children of lesser Gods. It made me unable to accept help from others and convinced them to respond in kind. It achieved what it was designed to do. Do not wish for it, you might get what you want. You may call it ‘solitude’ if it brings you comfort, but it will never bring you what warm smiles and happy greetings bring you every day. To be able to offer a friend the use of my facilities, my ice box, a ride to the store, and a little companionship, is a richness of life you cannot participate in without a willingness to give and accept on a human level.
while I agree with your point, she said interdependent not independent
Thanks for the write up. I bet it was tough to find someone to build one of these back in the 90’s.
Sparrow-who cares about semantics. Why leave a negative comment like that.
Are the pictures from her main residence or the not as independent “bedroom on wheels”? I took from the article that her main residence was functionally independent but not the smaller traveler. Is that correct?
Perfectly said “M” in your reply to Cahow and Sparrow! No room here for negativity and judgements! They both miss the point that life isn’t always about ‘me, me & me’ and what I can accomplish all by myself! How narcissistic. Also, what business is it of anyone else’s if this arrangement works for the parties involved? You are a very insightful, reasonable and compassionate person and I wish I could give you a big hug!! Keep keeping on Dee, you have my best regards and don’t listen to negative people and their negative, self-righteous comments!
Well said, Andrea!
I don’t think she has to depend on others for things like showers. My take on it was that her vision was originally one of being self-contained (alone). I think the big idea from the article is that she found the world was a bigger place than that because of our connections to the important people and animals in our lives. Boundaries fuse to create communities of individuals vs. just individuals. I find it a beautiful thought.
And to add to that, in lots of cases, arrangements like this work in a win/win. The homeowner may be elderly and could use exchange of help around the house, etc.
Beautifully said JJD
Dee’s story is quite inspirational and uplifting, and her words are always wise. She’s right: while I live alone, I’m never lonely. Friends, loved ones, and the random good hearted strangers always lift my spirits.
Lighten up Francis. It’s a beautiful ” Tiny home”. Working with your hands is both an endevore and a sense of accomplishment, no matter what the project may be. I would never critisize someone that that even tries to build something. Even making an effort on something like this is always commendible. I only wish good things for anyone that earnestly tries.
While many tiny house people and/or homesteaders desire to be as autonomous as possible and free of the system, clearly that isn’t Dee’s goal. And that’s OK, as long as she’s honest about it. Some people desire the lifestyle in order to free up their time and money and the necessity of spending time caring for possessions and upkeep—so that they can interact more with community, have more free time, etc.—People who are trying to be autonomous have to put a lot of work into it in some ways, and especially the homesteaders (as our ancestors did). Their goal is to be self-sustaining, which to me is also a very worthy goal. It all depends on what your goals are.
no mortgage, no electricity bill and no lot fees.. sounds good to me.
no property tax….
Dee is a great person period. If you’re anything like her, another good person would love to welcome you into their backyard with your THOW. One of the reasons is because Dee always gives back. She’s a giver. And givers are great to be around. She’s the sort of person that people just value because she values people (and life).
Dee sounds like an honest, wonderful person and I love her tiny house—and her pup! It makes me uncomfortable when this forum goes to such petty places. One of the things I love about this movement is the (general) support which has always seemed to me to come from an understanding that we’re all on different journeys and our reasons for going small, as well as how we do it, are personal; a lot like life now that I think about it.
Beautifully said, Alex
Oh, Dee, that was precious, and you are so right. Our lives are interdependent. We thrive when we commit to friendships and relatinships to which we can give, and from which we can recieve. Well said, girl! God bless you!
Beautiful comment. I like how you included animals! If everyone had a small house on a small tract of land there would be plenty of living space for the population. If we stopped eating animals there would be plenty of food and we’d learn to live harmoniously with them. This planet could be a jewel and inspiration to the rest of the universe. One can dream can they not.
I personally love sparrows and feed them and find their antics give me many smiles. But recently was reading To Kill a Mockingbird with my students and we decided to research mockingbirds and I came across quite a bit of information – sadly – that sparrows indeed could be quite aggressive and not only chased other birds away but even dumped the eggs out of the nests. This was not isolated incidence but found in many places over a number of years of observation. Mostly swallows and martins were chased out – both birds that keep the insect population down and were encouraged by the observers. In fact it has been observed that flocks of sparrows will even take down an eagle. On the other hand the mockingbird who is a symbol of innocence in that story happens to have an odd habit where they chew a small hole in a cow’s back and drink the blood. I will have to look up cowbirds et al for a fair analysis. 🙂 I have recently begun to realize how much humans have used animal symbology to represent human or tribal attributes. As if to avoid seeing those characteristics in themselves and to make it easier to project negatives onto others. Easier to be cruel to an animal of a certain species that represents a group. My comment to Sparrow was tongue in cheek knowing full well someone would react but more intended to highlight the negativity used in his/her response echoed by many here.
“To Kill A Mockingbird” is my favourite book of all time. I’ve read it every year on my birthday since it’s been published and I was a wee lass. 😀
Can you please comment on that delightful-looking tiny wall-mounted heater that I see in your photo? Where did you find it?
Thanks, and also thanks for sharing this insightful article.
Susan that heater appears to be a Dickinson marine heater. You’ll have to google them for more details, but they have various models that will run on different fuels and, apparently, they are very efficient and space saving.
Sparrow spoke the truth.
When I moved from 4200sf to 600sf, I discovered I could work with others. At one time I had my own gigantic gourmet kitchen filled with everything I ever thought I would use for canning, cooking, roasting, barbecuing, stewing, deep frying, dehydrating, etc.
Same with all my hobbies. I never borrowed or shared a thing. I bought it all and stuffed my house with it.
I had a home gym and spa.
And I was so lonely. I was suicidal.
Then the housing market turned around and I was able to sell my McMansion. By that point I had looked at downsizing a lot. Many of the people with whom I was interacting — a condition of my mental health therapy — had moved into very small homes, a couple had completed container homes parked on rural properties. When I found this little house, it was sold as a scrape-off, so nothing had been updated. My neighbors in 800-1100sf homes thought I was nuts. Now I’m happy and the rest of the lot is a community garden for me and my neighbors.
It’s okay to depend on others and make oneself available to them.
Len Marks: This post is beautiful and what I think (or hope) a lot of us are about. This is not just a movement of ‘downsizing’ or ‘poor people having a roof.’ It is, at least for me, about having a small space to store necessities and shelter me while I enjoy an expansive, exciting life of embracing people/humanity, honouring my commitment to the planet and extending compassion to all. Congratulations to you on your paradigm shift and all the best in your future!
Argumentative! Whew! Cut back on the caffeine people!!
I used to have similar discussions about “independence” with my friends that lived in bush shacks up north when they came to my house to use the shower, phone, etc and as they drove around town gathering supplies. I loved having them there and didn’t mind sharing but sometimes the “my lifestyle is better than yours” thing could get a bit annoying. Yup, I lived in town with all sorts of luxuries like running water and nearby supplies. However, I didn’t require a vehicle to support my lifestyle and they were glad enough to use my luxuries so I figured it was fairly even. We have a whole civilisation’s worth of infrastructure and access to many things that depend on other people to some degree or other. Just need to be honest about what we do and not smug about some imagined superiority either way. If the people involved all agree that the plan works then it’s symbiotic, not parasitic. If the arrangement is anathema to people not involved or affected then it’s a waste of crankiness. There are lots of better (worse?) things to get cranky about.
cool. she’s lucky to have people who will allow her access to their utilities, property etc. the illusion of self sufficiency is an illusion, isn’t it? we love enjoying community – but of course that’s not free – someone is paying for city services.
Sounds like a community situation to me, kinda like a good caravan park environment .. I’d personally prefer more independence, self reliance and sometimes even solitude .. I live with my beautiful wife in a full size house with full size bills and a mediocre mortgage .. I will change that in time when I’m able to though .. Sell the house and move to a more rural environment with as much independence as possible and as little ongoing cost as possible .. There will always be expenses, but I don’t really need to be paying as much as I do now to utility companies, banks and suburban councils that charge me thousands to live in my own home .. I just wanna live simply and comfortably without going broke and making the rich richer ..
I listened to the somewhat long, but very enjoyable video that is presented. Maybe people who thought she was “freeloading” don’t know that she has a very serious heart problem and her friend offered
to let her stay there. She is seriously disabled and has a wonderful outlook on life regardless–listen to the video.
i followed dee for many years and respect and love her from afar. she has had a big influence on the tiny house philosophy. she has done so much to improve her life.
for myself and only myself i would love to see her in a house with running water, bathroom and shower. i think that i would make her life even simpler. like i said this is my own comfort level but its not all about me lol
Each of us has different gifts, talents, needs, wants and personality traits that are strong, mediocre or weak. Truly, “no man is an island.” Some are glad to share all they have while others are less generous. Some are needy forever or temporarily. All need help to some degree at least some of the time.
We find one another, mesh, work together, lift up one another, even carry those who are weakest. We are human and the happiest among us do not judge or keep score, because we know – although we are currently the ones steadying the ship – that we will probably someday be struggling in crashing waves and reaching for a lifeline.
A little disappointed here as I was actually hoping to see how she managed to design a bathroom into a Don Vardo. Having spent the better part of a year living in a structure sans kitchen & bath parked at a friend’s I find “interdependence” is just not all it’s cracked up to be. More often than not it’s an inconvenient hassle. If ever blessed with my own tiny home it WILL have a bathroom!
To what degree we ‘allow’ others to declare their interpretation of independence is among the most smug and ludicrous lines ever drawn in the sand. There are almost no possible scenarios where some idiot can’t declare ‘You’re not REALLY independent if you didn’t grow your own food, design and manufacture your own medications, drill for and refine whatever fossil fuels you use, mine, smelt and forge the steel in your ax, and on and on. Yes, yes, there are other humans on the planet and they help make our lives easier. They also nit-pick, criticize, and are general pains in the ass. Lets call it even and get on with living in peace and quiet. You don’t have to be a hippie with a Pan flute dancing through a field of blue bonnets to be free. You can actually be a farmer with a field of growing vegetables and a wind generator and have the exact same feeling. A woman weaving baskets and beading T-shirts she sells at a roadside stand. Free is a state of mind – not a condition on a boilerplate checklist. Just a thought.
I highly recommend reading Dee Williams book. It is surprising well written. She describes how she came to build her own tiny house as part of coming to terms with her health after a heart episode resulted in surgery and a pacemaker.
The building of the house was a cathartic way for her to show herself that she was still a capable human. Then when she sells her big house and moves into a friend’s backyard she becomes part of their family, helping take care of the sick husband and elderly aunt. While she does use Aunt Rita’s shower and fill her water jug at her hose she also gives the gift of companionship, care, cooking and strength when her friends need it most. It’s a beautiful reminder that we are all interconnected perhaps even more so when we seek to live lightly and peacefully on this earth.
Towards the end of the book she has a little bit about how her friends convince her to go from a twin bed to a full. Gibing that if she wants to find a partner she needs to make room for that person both mentally and physically in her life. And wouldn’t you know, that once she gets that bigger bed, she also gets a beau?
Geez guys! What’s with all the derogatory comments?? Do you even know Dee? Do you know her story? Do you know the reason she is staying in her friends backyard? Don’t go slamming others when you don’t know the story. Just sayen…
who the h ll do we all think that we are. she is an intelligent grown women who seems to be very happy with her decisions. she is a light for
all of us to emulate. the responses are not about dee but our own wishes.
thanks dee for sharing your life and wisdom with the world. maybe someday we all catch up to you.
I lived this way for close to 40yrs. Spent a lot of time on public lands. When I stayed on friends private land they were often sorry when I left. It is all in how you present yourself & the kind of person you are. Strangers would beg me to come stay.
Second TH-yes I agree with those who said it still should have everything one needs so as to not depend on someone else…it would be rare to have that relationship with someone. No one said the TH movement was to avoid people; quite the opposite-allows more time to be involved in one’s community, social time with friends/relatives, travel, work less, have a job that allows one to be happier but may pay less… However not to depend on others for basic needs. It’s already difficult enough deciding where to place the TH-this itself often involves a family member or friend. I cringed when in one of the videos the mother said “squatting” in reference to placing it on her property. I wondered how much money he would have had to pay her in order for her to not label him in that way? Fortunately he did not need her help with the location! For some people having special arrangements with others as Dee did (I did read her book) and must have now with the second TH may work, but prior to building/buying a TH a person must ask themselves is that what they want? Where/how to find this special type of relationship? Or do you want to have the TH completely supply your needs? We can have both and so many do-a “contained” home AND rich, loving, relationship with their communities.
Denise wrote, “…. However, I was raised by immigrant parents who taught me to work hard and never accept something from someone that you didn’t repay them back. And I was taught *not* to depend on others. In fact, my parents actually taught me that I should do everything myself and only *after* I exhausted all avenues on my own, THEN go looking for help and not without returning the favour. One common question my dad would have for me if I asked for his help – as an example – if I was moving furniture, was “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” This basically taught me that while it’s foolish sometimes to do things (dangerous) without help, the idea behind it was that you don’t impose on others with that you can do for yourself. Period. And so, for me the concept of a tiny home *must* be not only self contained but it must be completely independent. I *then* have the *freedom* that others may not have and have freedom also to help others when they do need it.”
My respect for you continues to grow and grow and grow, Denise. I, too, was raised by immigrant grandparent’s and in our culture, NO ONE ever expected their family to do one.thing.for.them. once you “fledged from the nest”. Maybe it was because they were all farmers or wayfaring sea men who’s very existence disallowed mollycoddling ANYTHING or ANYONE. No one babied crops; if they didn’t produce, they were plowed under. No one babied sick farm animals; if they didn’t recover, they were culled out. In all of my years on Planet Earth, not a single relative of mine ‘came back home’ , either as themselves or with kids in tow, expecting their parents to not only put them up but to care for the kids/adult, either. It’s a Sink or Swim mentality that achieves either Winners or Losers in life.
THIS is the norm in my culture but I do know other cultures are vastly different than mine. One of my best friends is Cuban and he and his wife are 60 years young. They have a MASSIVE old farm house on Chicago’s west-side with 10 bedrooms on a triple-sized lot. Here are the amount of people living in that house: My friend and his wife; BOTH mother’s of the principle owners; the ‘newlywed’ son, his wife and their 2 toddler children, their 20 something daughter who just graduated from Uni, and their middle aged son who is 27 years old. That’s TEN family members, from 80 to 2 years old, all living together and supporting each other.
Since I’ve known them for 25 years and see them a couple of times per month, I’ve been comfortable asking the adult children just “How they enjoy living with so many people?” They kinda-sorta shrug and say, “We don’t know any other way to live,” which is an honest and great answer. And that’s how it is in MY culture, “We don’t know any other way to live then to be self contained and completely independent.”
Cahow and Southb:
I only now came across this email with replies to my reply. First let me preface by saying that I have nothing personal against sparrows and likewise find them ‘jolly’ as are all birds in my opinion. Birds are social creatures by nature so their constant chatter and chirp are always a spirit lift. The Bible even gives verses particular to sparrows: ““Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Just like people, there are good and bad aspects to their behaviors at times. Even ravens are treated in a similar manner in that same book. Those verses teaching that even though birds can be ‘not so wonderful’ at times, they are still God’s creatures and cared for as such – just as all good parents take the bad with the good in their own children.
I am forwarding the following to help you understand that there is an aspect of ‘sparrowhood’ that is not pretty. So enjoy their antics, yes, but also realize that they can give a mirror image of human behavior at it’s worst. Enjoy:
SPARROWS AND SPARROW LAW
It appears to be an established fact that the English or house sparrow drives off our best native birds. This fact is set forth with some fullness by C. B. Cook in Bulletin 62 of the Michigan experiment station. Mr. Cook declares that “without questions, the English sparrow protects more insects than he destroys by driving away insectivorous birds. That these foreigners drive away familiar native species there can be no doubt. Particularly do the wrens, martins, swallows and bluebirds suffer, as their nesting places are eagerly sought for and secured by the sparrows. The native birds hold their own for a time, but sooner or later they succumb. Often, when necessary, the English sparrows will club together to drive away a pair of native birds. Even the robins and pigeons cannot withstand their numbers and are obliged to vacate, leaving their eggs and young who are thrown out of the nests and killed. If this were only the worst of their attacks, we could still find some excuse for the sparrow; but they have been found repeatedly in the act of destroying, not only the nests, but the eggs and young birds of other species with no other purpose than to exclude them from the neighborhood. True, the English sparrow has been seen living on friendly terms with native birds and even nesting side by side, but as the sparrows increase in numbers, they become more quarrelsome. As yet, the greatest amount of injury is done around cities and towns, but as the sparrows increase and migrate into the country, they are sure to bring with them the same destructive habits. Many in America today are staunch friends of the sparrows, but usually such people live in a locality where the sparrows have not yet become a pest.”
Michigan has a law which offers a bounty for English sparrows, but Mr. Cook shows that this law is of doubtful utility, if not positive mischief. Many of the clerks who receive the birds note that a great many birds of other species have been brought in for bounty, often the most beneficial ones. Valuable birds such as the song sparrow, red-polled linnet and evening grosbeak, all of which are protected by law against slaughter.
From: The American Garden by James Bush-Brown
• “…I found a House Sparrow nest with 2 eggs and a dead female Eastern Bluebird mixed in with
• the nesting material….”
• “Last year a Tree Swallow couple came to my yard and nested in one of my boxes. They built a beautiful little nest and laid 5 eggs. One day when I got home from work, I watched a House Sparrow go straight into the house. My heart sank as I knew what was going on. I went outside and noticed that all the birds were agitated. I approached the box and the male sparrow came out like a shot. When I opened the box, I found a mangled mother sitting on a nest of 5 destroyed eggs.”
• “I’ve personally witnessed one House Sparrow go on a rampage and kill the nestlings in 6 surrounding nest boxes (that’s 30 baby birds) filled with Tree Swallows and one bluebird family plus kill the female bluebird who was trying to defend her young – all in less than an hour….”
• “Last spring I had 4 pairs of bluebirds. One couple decided on one of the houses. We checked on them daily. One afternoon we found bright blue feathers on the ground, the male was killed, partly pecked beyond recognition, and the House Sparrow had started THEIR nest on top of his little dead body. The female left and the other 3 pair left too, and none ever returned.”
• “I found a dead Black-Cap Chickadee lying on her smashed eggs because the sparrow had killed her while she tried to defend her eggs and nest. Then, the sparrow didn’t even use the nest box.”
There is literally site after site regarding this issue if you care to pursue it as well as some rather gruesome videos on YouTube taken with cameras in birdboxes so that you can personally view the ‘jollyness’ of sparrows in their other aspect. As for cowbirds, and cukoos, yes they can be parasitic, I agree. Cahows are petrels which are famous for eating baby penguins who I also find to be rather jolly and who are excellent parents and non-violent. Does that mean I should categorize you as a murderer because you use that name? I can assure you with study you will find that all birds are territorial – like many humans.
On a final note, I feed the sparrows along with all the other birds as I love them all no matter their behavior and am only sad when they misbehave. But truth is that Nature is not kind. Whether inherently or because of the travesties we have piled upon ‘her’ over the millenium, I don’t know. But perhaps that is one reason I love the TH movement and it’s concern for trying to minimize the impact we make and perhaps by growing, it will have that ‘butterfly effect’ and create ripples of copasetic and cooperative thoughtforms that will engulf even our rascally sparrows slowly altering their behavior for the better.
with love to all
i heard she has an apartment in portland too never mentioned