Mariposa Life

Debbie Croft: Home sweet home, ever so humble

Debbie Croft

A marketing group recently predicted the number one trend for this year: Due to tighter budgets, folks will stay home more.

So, here in California, what does it mean to be at "home"?

In rural areas older wood frame or rock houses sit next to lop-sided barns. In the pines, a run-down miner's shack is replaced with a 4,000-square-foot log cabin or something from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company in Sebastopol.

Mobile trailer homes from the 1970s dot the landscape, in the north and south.

Stucco siding is common in the desert communities, and multi-storied glass and steel-framed apartment buildings face the Pacific and define the sky-lines of our largest cities.

To borrow a phrase from a local property-owner, wherever you choose to live, it'll most likely be a "rancho-mucho-costa."

For instance, modern residences are offered in San Francisco, with starting prices at half-a-million. Or if you prefer historic character, a few older mansions are up for grabs with price tags in the multimillion-dollar range. One of them -- a "fixer-upper" -- is listed for close to half a billion!

Granted, luxurious amenities are included, such as concierge services (I had to look that one up), indoor swimming pools and fitness centers, private screening theaters, landscaped courtyards, and unparalleled views of the San Franciso Bay and the surrounding area.

I suppose I could feel deprived.

But I don't.

As participants in the PBS Colonial House project several years ago, one Malibu family shared a small cabin in Montana.

For five months they learned, among other things, how to get along with less.

After, they moved into a brand new 5,000-square-foot house (built while they were gone). Later in an interview the mom remarked how she missed the closeness of the cabin. "This new house is so big," she said. "I can go for days without seeing my kids."

Her definition of "home" had changed.

Our city-dwelling son came home for a visit earlier this month.

In the Arizona desert, he's surrounded by every convenience. And his favorite hockey stadium and major league baseball park are just a few miles away.

He's single, he's busy, and pretty much does what he wants (when he's not working, that is). But after a week's stay in the country, eating Mom's cooking instead of Top Ramen, helping Dad chop wood and lay stone, and teasing his sister while building "The Pearl" with LEGO's, he hugged me the night before heading back, and said, "I wish I didn't have to leave."

In our slightly crooked, old farmhouse, with thrift store objets d'art and hand-me-down furniture, there's still no place like home.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at