unschooling, yurt life

Living off the grid – the beginning

24 September, 2015

We are about to begin living off the grid and we have All. The. Emotions.

We are back in NZ on the cusp of a whole new thing.

We had incredible flights here, the girls were total heros and the kindness of strangers went a long way. (Homage to the general public who are kind to children right here.) Those flights were sandwiched by a week in California, making ourselves truly at home amongst the totally marvellous unschooling tribes of San Francisco who roomed us and fed us and took us to their pottery workshops and museums and beaches and forests. (So much to say about that! Perhaps a whole other post … for now my photos on Instagram will have to do.)

Jet lag has been no issue this week; we are buzzing out on excitement alone- carried along from 5am to 10pm on rolling waves of let’s-buy-the-chickens-and-have-a-mudpie-kitchen-and-a-forest-school. (Um. And maybe a few good kiwi flat whites.)

Because on Saturday we move on to our new land, putting up our first little yurt next to a beautiful stand of native Kahikatea trees, ready to begin cultivating a huge veggie patch, a few orchards, and a life of wild learning and growing together. We popped in there yesterday, our first day in NZ and as we walked around there were two little piwakawaka (fantails) flitting around us, chirping and swooping and it just felt like they were giving us a little welcome, saying, make your home here with us!

When I was a tiny tike, despite always living in the inner city, I always said when I grew up I wanted to marry a farmer. (You can imagine the horror that bought my feminist mama. I also wanted to change my name to Eric so maybe that evened things out a little.)

It is a bit surreal to think we are well and truly becoming farmers now, living off the grid using solar energy and our stream for water.Rewilding - Family moved from South London to a yurt in a forest in NZ

Over the next few weeks and months we have to build our own composting toilets (read about golden poos right here) and bathroom, we have to tap the springs so we have fresh water, put up our bigger, mammoth yurt, find places for our chickens and cows, and start planting out the food that will fill our bellies.

After a few months of travelling around (still planning posts about Paris and other adventures – i have been a bit distracted all summer by writing my new booooook) it feels so, so, so good to be grounding ourselves, embracing rituals and rhythms, connecting with the community of kindred spirits we have in NZ – in particular the family we are sharing the land with.

I can’t wait to be a part of Ramona and Juno’s learning journey as we learn together on the farm, through simply living and responding to creative urges and engaging with the natural world around us.
(I am an official Channel Mum vlogger person thingy and I did a video about our unschooling beginnings which you can see here…)

I feel so happy to imagine this childhood for our kids, one filled with bugs and mud and native birds and forest, one where they won’t lose touch with their wild selves.Yurt family - 30 days of rewilding

And then, amongst all this huge sense of anticipation and happiness are these random pangs of sadness. A memory from this summer, of swimming in an English river with my lifelong best friends or laying down in the long grass to watch the meteor shower with my beautiful sister, will shoot into my mind and just take my breath away.

And, underneath all these feelings, the grief and joy and hope, is this sort of intangible fear.

It feels funny to type that out. To name it. But there it is. It is a quiet vibration just humming amongst it all. Because we can’t separate what we are about to do from all the horror stories of intentional communities we’ve heard. We can’t deny the fact that are not born farmers, or that we are all stepping out of our existing community of marvelous hippies to do this together.

But it isn’t the scary kind of fear. Because we know, know, KNOW we have to do this.

We walked on to the land on January the 1st this year and went “THIS IS IT! This is our very future right here! This dell has been marked with our names!”

And we are certain we want to start living off the grid with others. We have always yearnt for interdependency and life-sharing and are convinced that sustainable living looks like this.

We didn’t want to grow old wishing we had taken a chance on nurturing a tribal way of life when we had it.

And if we can do this with anyone, it is with the family we co-own the land with.

So the fear bit? Mixed in with all those other emotions it is like sitting in a little carriage perched at the very top of an enormous, towering rollercoaster, staring down at that deep, inevitable, belly dropping swoop and roaring “WOOHOOOOOO!!! LET’S DO THIS THING!!”

Living off the grid beckons!


Read about our move from South London to a yurt in a forest in NZ, amongst a load of inspiring stories in my new book, 30 Days of Rewilding – find your place in nature and watch your family bloom.  The Telegraph did an amazing feature on it and on the first day of release it went to Number One in its category on Amazon. Whooop! I guess, what I’m trying to say is, um, read it, if you like…

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  • Jess @ Along Came Cherry 24 September, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    So excited for you Lucy! It sounds like such an amazing life and lately I have been having such an urge to just go back to basics and live a simple life. I want to buy a bus and do it up and go park it in fields. Can’t wait to read more about how you are getting on xx

    • Lucy 24 September, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      That sounds like a awesome dream 🙂

  • ThaliaKR 24 September, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Woo to the hoo! Piwakawaka are definitely good welcomers 🙂

    Can’t wait to follow along with the new adventure.


    • Lucy 24 September, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Woo to the hoooo!

  • Vicki 24 September, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    I can really relate to the fear and excitement of new beginnings as I sit among the last bits of our last 2 years in a home as we pass it all along for a life as frugal nomads on the road here in Oz. I too have been thinking intentional communities, unschooling and making the most of the life we have. I have also just returned from 5 weeks of life long friends ( they are hard not to miss) and older kids. My biggest struggle is not being too angry at the way the world is working ( or not) right now and how little many care about what we are leaving behind ( or not). I feel blessed to have a partner and child who are in on this journey. Thanks for sharing yours. BTW doncha love your kids when they are such angels flying half way across the world? I just did this with my sweet 4 year old and she too was a hero. They can really blow ones mind 🙂 Good Luck.

    • Lucy 25 September, 2015 at 7:47 am

      Ah love all this, totally hearing you on those mixed feelings about the general world! Xx

  • Sarah 24 September, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    Wow! How amazing, we too are just South of London (techincally Surrey) but on the border. We try and bring our kids up as outdoorsy as possible, but we are stuck in a flat in a town, and both of us dream of one day living in a wood cabin in a forest, ha ha! I’ve alwayd dreamed of going to NZ, I’m sure we will one day. I’m really looking forward to all your posts – well done to your family. Sarah x

    • Lucy 25 September, 2015 at 7:46 am

      Oh lovely to hear from you Sarah, it sounds like you are doing a beautiful thing 🙂

  • Rachel (RooPaprika) 24 September, 2015 at 10:49 pm

    Good luck to you AitkenReads! We look forward to hearing about your continuing adventures.

    It is important to acknowledge our emotions about change and not just ride that adrenalin wave – I know I need to do this about our rather less dramatic, but still hopefully life changing, upcoming move from the Thames Valley to the Coast. That way you are prepared for when that initial (wonderful) wave of excitement subsides. Ack, but so exciting! Much love to you all x

    PS. I’m currently reading ‘Utopian Dreams’ by Tobias Jones. It has made me think of you guys (well parts of it have!) Recommend it.,

    • Lucy 25 September, 2015 at 7:43 am

      Oh I will have to check it out, thank you!
      Wishing you all the very best, I am sure you will propelled along by the fact you are Living you dream! Woooooo!

  • Lucy 25 September, 2015 at 3:52 am

    Sounds incredible Lucy! Wishing you and the brood all the very best with it 🙂 I’m just keen to know, why did you choose to do this over in NZ rather than here in the UK (my thinking is then you wouldn’t have to miss family?)….?

    • Lucy 25 September, 2015 at 7:42 am

      I know! Tim’s family is here and we had been in London for the previous 8… So y’know… 🙂

  • Thalia 25 September, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Oh how wonderful. We recently gave up six figure incomes to live in the tea tree bushes in New Zealand. We have a little off the grid shack. Which we live in in return for a few hours work on the owners property.

    We are still searching for a property we can afford. Going to do a little whirl around coromandel in the coming weeks. Would love my own patch and yurt!

    I so look forward to hearing about your journey.

  • Joanne Latif 25 September, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    So excited for you guys Lucy!! Welcome back to Aotearoa. Can’t wait to visit your little slice of paradise x jo