The Simple Experiment
We came across Franny's Instagram account and were instantly drawn to her family's story. Embracing slow living and all the challenges that come with it.....they are breaking the mould and downsizing their lives, while at the same time feeling rich with love and family time. Read this, til the end, and be inspired!
Give us a bit of background on you and your family and your life before moving to the block.
We were 29 and 30 and had spent the last decade working out how to fit into conventional society and remain happy. There came a time when we finally accepted that the social norm of ‘successful’ (two profitable businesses, investment properties, long hours and high debt) just wasn’t for us. So we walked away from our businesses, sold everything and chased the dream of a simple life. With our 2 young children (3 and 9months), we moved into an open paddock and began to build our dream of an off-grid life, one garden bed at a time. Not the dream of the masses, but the one that felt the most true to us.
You’ve recently decided to live off the grid and take life slowly. Was there a single moment that made you realise you needed a change?
Not so much.. More so a number of experiences over a 5 year period that increased our interest in living a slow-paced, simple, off-grid lifestyle. As we had children and found ourselves stuck in the debt trap, we craved time together and freedom more and more. I would say it was more of a journey of progression rather than a pivotal moment. We started with a little herb garden in a suburban house, resigned to the idea of working ‘jobs’ for the next 40 years and then eventually ended up in an off-grid home in a hinterland town, self-employed and striving to be as self-supporting and free as possible.
You have been inspiring us with your move to a simple life…however early on you mentioned you never intended to live QUITE this simply. Can you tell us about your life in the last year……..and what you feel is your biggest achievement?
We initially moved to the property (2 hours north from our family of friends) in the first week of summer last year. We literally moved into a paddock – with no housing, power or water. Initially we had a tent and then very quickly an old caravan and we camped like this for 7 months until we had a little home. During this time, we bathed in the creek or in buckets in the paddock, we boiled water to do the dishes, caught water in buckets when it rained, used an esky to keep our food cold and our only way of cooking was on a bbq. We had no power or internet so charged our phones just when in the car and our only lighting was one lantern that we all shared. I would say our greatest achievement was surviving the heat of the summer whilst remaining happy and positive. And also I think not doubting our dream – we had a vision of what we wanted to achieve here and even in the hardest of time (like when the annex flooded in cyclone Debbie and we spent 5 hours bucketing out the water), we remained steadfast in our journey.
We know that you now have a composting toilet…but in a nut shell, what else are you doing or plan to do to live off the grid?
We have built a little (80 sqm) home that is totally off grid. That means we have solar power with a battery back up (no connection to mains power), water tanks for rain water storage, a composting toilet, solar hot water and a wood fired oven. Our home and lifestyle is powered by the energy of the sun, ensuring it is as low impact on the world as possible. We have chickens and ducks and are building a permaculture inspired garden and food forest, that will supplement a large amount of our dietary needs.
We read about you taking your first hot shower in months and it made us realise how many luxuries we take for granted in our everyday lives. Are there other things that you’ve realised you took for granted?
I realised how simply and happily you can live without the day to day luxuries but there were just a few things I missed; warm showers when the cold winds started to set in, our full size bed (vs the king single that the 4 of us shared most nights) and having clean feet! When you are living on the ground and going through the wet season, it is hard to feel clean. Oh and cold water in the summer. We didn’t have power for a lot of the summer and therefore didn’t have a fridge. I so appreciated cold water once our off-grid solar system arrived.
What’s your favourite food to grow and eat?
Fresh greens and herbs. I love how easily they grow and how much goodness they contain. If all else fails, we can put together a fresh home-grown salad, packed full of flavour from the herb garden and feel pretty content. And I love to grow flowers. I love, love, love flowers!
How has the change affected the kids and your family life?
There are definitely big differences in us all individually and as a family. Kid wise, they have so much space to roam and explore. They are so incredibly creative and expansive with their thinking and I credit this mostly to the amount of area that they have to navigate each day. As a family, we have so much more time together then we did previously. We prioritize joy on a daily basis (amongst the chores) and find ourselves far less stressed, more calm and generally healthier and happier.
You often talk about treading lightly and living slowly, why is this so important to you?
I feel like a guest of the world. I don’t feel any entitlement to be here on the earth at all and rather just feel great gratitude for this experience, living amongst nature and all of it’s glory. With this view, I couldn’t be any other way than wanting to tread lightly and leave as little negative impact from my stay here as possible. And if I am living in a fast paced / preoccupied kind of way, than I am not actually experiencing the beauty. So if I am living slowly, I am taking this experience in, spending time with the people I care the most about and feeling like the most peaceful version of myself. If I am not enjoying life, then what is the point?
So many are inspired by you, however are not quite ready to step off the grid….just yet. Do you have any advise on how to live a little more consciously whilst still being surrounded by so much consumerism?
The best advice I could give would be to reduce your debt, reduce your cost of living and take back your life. We get so caught up in the idea that we need to earn more but in reality, it is so much more freeing to just focus on spending less. This results in less consumerism because for instance, the feeling that comes from your low cost of living and 3 day working week means so much more than the new dress, fancy car or expensive house.
We also just want to know…….Is it worth it…….have you found your dream? (we hope so!!) How are you and your little family feeling this far into your journey?
It is totally worth it. Knowing that our way of life is largely unaffected by what is going on in the world brings a lot of peace. Add to that a really low cost of living and you have an unbelievable sense of freedom and time. And as a result of both of those things, we have time together, a project we are passionate about and a big focus on our health – physically, emotionally and spiritually. It feels like we have found our balance and are living as the best version of ourselves and as a family. I would do it all again tomorrow to be on this journey. It is exciting!
Lastly, is there anyone or anything out there that inspires you and why?
There are so many people out there doing amazing things. I am mostly inspired by environmentally conscious people who have chased a dream because of something they love and have made it work. It might be the open air flower farmer who just loves growing flowers in a sustainable way, the organic market gardener who left it all behind to grow veges or the young girl with her compost business. I believe that we don’t need to destroy the planet to each have enough and I am really inspired by people who prove this to be true.