21: It's legal -- here's why!

Because I'm (a) a stickler for rules, and (b) kind of paranoid, I'm sensitive to questions regarding rules, like neighborhood covenants and county building permits. So, as readers may imagine, I've thunk them things through. I've also consulted folk who matter.

First, while the log cabin will be clean, well-built, and comfortable, it'll always be used as a play house, a gazebo, a writing room, or some similar such thing. If I ever build a second home on the property, the cabin will remain in use for those purposes or become a storage building, tool shop, or other outbuilding, all allowed by our covenants. Most importantly, it will never be used as a permanent or temporary residence, which would require it to be permitted and greater than 1000 square feet. Regarding the county, since it's not going to be a residence, and since it's not going to have water or electricity, it falls into the same category as those large storage buildings sold in the Lowes parking lot.  The interior space is less than 100 square feet.  And, I'm spending waaaaay less than the $5000 threshold over which homeowners and builders of larger buildings must apply for a permit.

In case anyone was worried...

This particular concern of mine is somewhat incongruous with the more historical setting and context of log cabins in Appalachia. The Scotch-Irish settlers were notoriously independent, private, self-reliant within their small communities, and distrustful of outside influence or control. Just think of the resistance to revenuers and the feds during the moonshine era. Even now, the thought of telling anyone their business or being told how to live will raise tempers among folk who have lived here for generations. Politicians get elected on this platform. We're in strong property-rights country.

The Horace Kephart stuff at WCU's Mountain Heritage Center (http://www.wcu.edu/library/digitalcoll/kephart/aboutproject.htm) helps one understand. Here's just one excerpt:


  1. Curtis WoodJune 05, 2010

    You're right about the Scots-Irish reputation for independence and self-reliance. It was in part a function of their experience in Ulster where they were a cultural/religious community constrained by an English government that restricted their rights and an Irish Catholic majority that resented them as intruders and usurpers. Their world view has been called a "siege mentality". America was a new world but old attitudes die hard and the frontier reinforced, required self-reliance and independence. Even so they were highly adaptive people with a great capacity for change. What seems to have crafted the character that still lingers in the cove and holler communities today (though I think it is fading fast in the 21st century) were the historical experiences of the last 100 years: industrialization (boom and bust), dislocation (creation of the national forests, parks, Fontana, etc.), their experience of the tender mercies of government- state and federal, and the influx of newcomers likes us and all that that has entailed. It's a remarkable and under-appreciated story.

  2. Thanks! It's fascinating to observe how much has been "lost" in my adult lifetime, as paved roads, cable TV, and lots of things have had their impact. I recall you justifying the term "Scotch-Irish" once, despite the fact that scotch is something you drink. Maybe I'm mistaken. Can you elaborate for me on the when/if regarding that term?

  3. Curtis WoodJune 05, 2010

    Scotch-Irish is the name for this group invariably used in the United States in the 19 century when the Scotch-Irish first became self-conscious enough to see themselves as an ethnic group, until, say, the 1970s. That self-consciousness, by the way, arose in response to the massive Catholic Irish migration that began just before the Civil War. To my knowledge the Scotch-Irish name was never used in the British Isles or Ireland. There they were call Protestant Irish or more commonly Ulster Scots. In the 1970s, the name Scotch-Irish was criticized and increasingly replaced by Scots-Irish or Scots Irish. This was largely the idea of Scots and Irish academics who felt that the American useage was awkward and insulting. I have found the term Scotch-Irish in use however as early as the middle of the 18th century in the American colonies in contemporary accounts, letters, etc. This history of the name is almost as interesting as the history of the people.

  4. I should have thought to tell you that at the end of the month- June 25-27- the Mountain Heritage Center is hosting the Ulster-American Heritage Symposium. It's the best event going (going since 1976) on Scots-Irish history. We have 6-7 Irish scholars and numerous American presenting. Tyler and I will be there. Drop in. For information go to http://www.wcu.edu/26808.asp.


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I use this blog to chronicle certain aspects of my life near the Smokies. I'm building a cabin. I kayak. Sometimes I bike.