Camille Storch is a writer, woodworker, avid canner, and mom of two. She designs and crafts natural edge cutting and serving boards and sells them in her Etsy shop, Red Onion Woodworks. She also writes about ecology, agriculture, and the reality of her family’s modest but joyful life on her blog, Wayward Spark.
My husband Henry and I live with our two kids in a 500-square-foot, off-the-grid cabin at the end of a gravel road in rural western Oregon. We share our homestead property with a blue heeler dog, two lazy cats, five dairy goats (only one in milk), a flock of chickens, over a hundred hives of bees, and a whole lot of wildlife that moves in and out of the area. It’s pretty quiet out here, but it’s a great place to raise kids. Here’s a look into our life.
Henry is a full-time farrier. He travels around three counties, trimming and shoeing horses of all shapes and sizes.
Henry also has a thriving beekeeping business. He earns income off his bees by doing almond pollination in California and filling local pollination contracts for farmers growing crops like blueberries, blackberries, and clover. He has plans to start selling comb honey to restaurants and starter hives with Northwest-adapted genetics to hobby beekeepers in the next year or two.
Red Onion Woodworks
I make natural edge cutting and serving boards and sell them in my Etsy shop, Red Onion Woodworks. Most of these boards are made from bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) trees. I like to work with maple because it machines well, is super variable in character, and is readily available (sometimes from our own property).
A lot of times, people assume that there’s a man working behind the scenes of my business, but the truth is that I do all the woodworking (and photography, marketing, shipping, bookkeeping, etc.) myself. I ordered a custom wood brand a while back, and it makes me so proud to see boards with my business name on them go out into the world.
Because we don’t have an oven in our tiny cabin, I bake a lot of bread in my barbecue. I shared my barbecue bread baking technique on the Etsy Blog a while back.
Sometimes we sell excess rhubarb at the local farmers’ market, but we also like to eat a lot of rhubarb pies. This one is rhubarb-raspberry, using berries we picked at a local farm last summer and froze for the fruitless months. Because we don’t have an oven, I’ve had to figure out how to bake pies in my barbecue, and I’ve actually gotten pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.
We have a flock of laying hens that’s often a little more free-ranging that we’d like. Sometimes we have to go hunting around in the bushes to find hidden nests full of eggs.
Every morning while my doe Minnie eats her breakfast on the stanchion, I get a pail full of creamy goat milk. I’ve been raising goats for seven years, but most mornings, milking is still a joy.
We drink some of the milk and use lots in baking, but most of our supply is made into cheese. We always have a container of rich and tangy chévre in the fridge, and I add a dollop of the fresh cheese to most meals.
Our house is pretty small — less than 500 square feet — but it’s cute and comfortable. At least seventy percent of the materials we used to build it are either salvaged, repurposed, or made from lumber that Henry milled from trees off our own property. We heat our home and our large greenhouse exclusively with firewood.
We have an outdoor shower that Henry and I use daily, but our kids scrub down in our bathtub. We had to put the tub on the front porch because it literally couldn’t fit inside the house. Luckily, our closest neighbors are a half mile away, so privacy isn’t much of an issue.
Nearly all the furniture in our house has been passed down from Henry’s dad, a professional woodworker, or we made it ourselves with wood from our property. We built this bed out of natural edge bigleaf maple lumber. Henry and I share this double bed and our kids share a twin bed, all in the same room. The under-the-bed drawers are essential for fitting a lot of personal items in a small space.
What we’re doing here cannot and should not be a taken as a complete model for how to live this life. We’re planning to someday build or move into a “real” house, but for now, our current arrangement works surprisingly well.
Editors’ Note: Curious to learn more of the whys and hows of Camille’s homesteading life? Be sure to read this blog post on the ups and downs of homesteading in the modern day.
All photos by Camille Storch.