Natasha Lawyer and Brett Bashaw may be new to Vermont, but they’re no strangers to forging a path and creating their own way of life. You might have first learned about them when they were
living in their airstream (the “ Tin Can Homestead“), or the van they lived in for six months before that. The Tin Can Homestead, which has a book by the same moniker debuting next month, was the airstream the couple made into a home in Seattle, WA. After a year-and-a-half living in their airstream they were ready for a change. Natasha and Brett sold their vintage home on wheels and used the funds to move cross-country to Burlington, VT and buy a property that used to be farmland and home to maple sugarers — which inspired their new name of Sugarhouse Homestead.
In addition to being homesteaders, Natasha is an illustrator and Brett is a behavioral interventionist, and together they have a small
pottery studio (which is nearly done) they enjoy working on in their spare time. Due to an achingly long closing process on the property, some of the preparations they hoped to complete before winter weren’t possible; however, they were able to wire their cabin (a converted shed) and install everything they would need for a wood stove before the cold season began. While the couple’s home is done for now, they’re finishing off their pottery studio next, and once the ground thaws they’ll begin construction on their bath house — one they’re both very much looking forward to.
If you’ve found yourself dreaming of establishing a home in a new-to-you land, follow along for more of Natasha and Brett’s adventures, and the reality of what it’s like to homestead your first property.
Photography by Natasha Lawyer of Sugarhouse Homestead
Image above: A peek inside the new Sugarhouse Homestead cabin. “There’s such an amazing history on our land of farmers and maple sugarers and such an amazing maker community in Vermont. Building our pottery business in a place that has such an amazing community of makers has been [incredible] so far and we’ve already made such great friends here.”
Natasha, doing a little sightseeing at an ice fishing spot. “We decided to move to Vermont ’cause we’d always imagined living in a little cabin in the woods and doing that in Seattle was impossible. Seattle is such a boomtown with all the tech companies moving in and it just got too expensive and overwhelming and full of people (and the traffic and transit system are both terrible). We’d traveled through Vermont when we took a six-month trip through North America and it felt so woodsy and open and reminded [me] a lot of where [I] grew up in the rocky mountains of Canada.”
“…So we made a plan and started to figure out logistics,” Natasha continues. “When we sold the airstream and packed up everything we owned into our pickup truck to move to Vermont, we had no idea where we would end up. We’d booked an Airbnb for a few weeks but we had no plan after that. The property that we ended up buying was among the first that we saw, 11 acres with a big meadow and acres and acres of maple trees. It just feels so green and open and woodsy and gorgeous, it was such an amazing place to be.”
“Our home is actually a shed that we’ve converted to a cabin. We added a panel and wired in extra electrical and we also installed an off-grid water solution so we have running water that we carry in from our well,” Natasha explains.
“It’s 166 square feet. So, so little,” Natasha admits. “Brett and I got used to living in small spaces together when we lived in our Volkswagen van for six months and then our airstream for a year and a half so we’re used to close quarters.”
“We took possession of our place in November and after our [long] wait we wanted to move in as quickly as possible. The owners allowed us to wire the cabin and put in the chimney before we took possession and once we owned it we painted, put in our kitchen and pretty much had our place finished up within a month and a half.”
Natasha explains the less-glamorous part of homesteading in winter. Also, can you spot little Pencil on her bed by the fire? “The biggest thing to contend with is that we don’t have a bathroom. Our property closed so late in the year that the ground was frozen and construction of one wasn’t possible. So we rented a port-a-potty for the winter and take our showers at the gym. Homesteading isn’t for the faint of heart. But we’re psyched for spring ’cause we’re going to start construction on our bath house which will be a total game changer.”
A narrow cabinet adds clothes storage in the tiny home; the small opening to the left has also been used to store chopped wood for the wood stove.
Natasha shares more of the realities of starting fresh on a property, “We don’t have running water! I hooked up an off-grid water pump and we carry our water in from the well in jugs that go below our sink and the water is pumped up to our faucet when we turn it on. Living in a dry cabin takes work!”
A mix of some of the
Sugarhouse Ceramic Co. pieces the couple has made, as well as favorites they’ve collected from fellow makers.
The dining table serves multiple purposes in the small home. “I spend my days working from home as an illustrator or working in our pottery studio and building whichever project we’re focusing on at the moment. Right now we’re trying to wrap up the build on our Sugarhouse Ceramic Co. pottery studio so we can get our business up and running again.”
In addition to a fold-down desk/table, mirrors are another great way to add the illusion of more space, especially when they reflect windows!
The dining and sleeping areas. Good news? The commute from the bed to work table is
Pinecone sitting pretty on the bed, surely looking out the window to see what muddy adventure awaits her outside.
It’s more than its petite size that makes the cabin so inviting. Natasha shares that it’s “Cozy. We have firewood piled to the roof and a tiny little wood stove blazing — it’s a lovely place to be, in a tiny cabin in our patch of woods.”
Brett and I moved to Vermont last summer in search of maple syrup and adventure.
The view from bed. With such a cozy option, and view of the snow outside, we imagine this could be a difficult spot to leave.
A little peek outside from one of the two windows that run the length of the cabin, plus some favorite ceramic pieces the couple collects.
It’s been less than a year that the couple has been on their property, but they’ve already made memories that will last a lifetime. “Our first Christmas here together was pretty dreamy. Sledding on our hill and making s’mores and having a bonfire on the site of our future farmhouse on the top of a hill.”
“We’re so excited to be living in such an amazing place as homesteaders. Our daily chores are chopping and stacking wood, shoveling snow, and hauling water from our well. We even tapped our maple trees this spring and made maple syrup,” Natasha tells us.
“We made an offer on our property in July the second week we moved to Vermont,” Natasha explains. “We were living in an Airbnb and our lawyers [kept] telling us we would close in a few weeks. Five months later, after countless Airbnb stays and both us and the sellers firing our lawyers, we finally closed. It was the most stressful five months of our marriage, not knowing if we were ever going to close or if we were going to wait and wait and then lose out on our property.”
Brett, snowshoeing on the couple’s land. Natasha explains where their name originated: “Our property is a bit of farmland set against acres and acres of maple woods. There’s a rock foundation from an old sugarhouse back in our woods and that’s how we came to name our property the Sugarhouse Homestead.”
“When we decided to make maple syrup this spring we noticed that most of our maples have been tapped before, the history of the people who have lived and worked on this land is marked on the trees in tapholes that are at various states of healing. It’s amazing to think that though we ‘own’ this land, we are just a little part of its life, caretakers of this little forest for a time.”
Natasha shares what they’re most thankful for about their home: “That we own it! This is the first property Brett and I have ever owned. As an artist who has never had a lot of money, I never thought I would be able to own property so it feels really special to have something that is all our own.”
A reminder of sunnier days. Once it looks like this again, it will be time to break ground on the bath house!
Wood Stove- Tiny Wood Stove
Wood Rack/Stand And Metal Hearth- Made by Natasha
Espresso Machine- Nespresso
Shelving- Vintage farm boards
Brass Plant Pots- Schoolhouse Electric
Pendant Light- Olde Brick Lighting
Linen Duvet Cover- H&M Home
“Work hard” Print- Schoolhouse Electric
Mail Sorter- Vintage
Nightstand- Patio table from Terrain
Black Bedside Lamp- Target
Paint- Behr, “Bakery Box”