Living off the grid!

Recently some friends and I were in Bangalow, talking over a long lunch about how wonderful it would be to have a sea change, a change of pace, leaving the city and full time work behind and buying some land together in this beautiful area. We would build our own houses, share our love of good food with a beautiful big veggie garden, working together and even looking after each others’ children when the time came.  So when I found a farm host describing themselves as living life in a co-operative community doing just that, I knew I had to check it out.

Goolawah land sharing Co-operative is nestled in the bush behind the gorgeous surf beaches of Crescent Head and a short drive away from the town of Port Macquarie. Surrounded by native bushland Goolawah Co-op is a large plot of land divided into 1.2 acre lots which people can purchase, becoming a member and therefore part of the Goolawah community. It is a neighbourhood where people can create their own space and housing options, whether it’s a modern style brick or timber home, caravan, shed or even a tent and members can create a style of living that suits their needs. They then share the properties resources, be it the damns, a tractor or the shed, and help out around the property by contributing to the maintenance of the equipment and shared areas or attending the regular committee meetings.

I was lucky enough to be invited to share Paul and Anne’s home on the co-op for a week. Their property is totally ‘off the grid’, meaning they have no access to mains power or the towns’ water supply. Now at first this was a bit of a scary thought, thinking I would be living rough and reading my book by candlelight, but after arriving I was pleased to find they did indeed have mod cons like lights and running water! Solar power is used to generate lighting and to heat the water driven from the damn, rain water is used for drinking and composting toilets reduce water wastage. The main idea being self sufficiency, sustainability and reducing the impact on natures resources as well as being able to live in a peaceful and natural environment, away from the hustle bustle of the city.

The lovely Paul & Anne


Woofers Quarters






A Goolawah resident








Paul and Anne are lovely, they are both very skilled people, not afraid of hard work and were willing to teach me as much as I wanted to learn. I definitely got my hands dirty on the farm, digging holes and planting trees, raking mulch for the garden, carting wheelbarrows full of compost, to picking fresh strawberries and even learning to use power tools, which was a very cool experience and a little scary at how excited I was to be wielding an angle grinder! On my days off I went exploring the local area from Arakoon beach at South West Rocks to the art gallery in Port Macquarie, the main towns are close enough to feel like you’re still part of society. More about that in my next blog post!

Paul and Anne at work in the shed


Ginger & Lemongrass planting








I love the idea of ‘paddock to plate’ and fresh food was in abundance here. Breakfast each morning consisted of fresh eggs laid by the resident chickens, omelettes made with herbs picked straight from the garden and bread baked fresh, with additions like rosemary and chives all grown right there on the farm. Not often did we need to resort to ‘store bought goods’, except for chocolate which we all loved and consumed in large quantities :-)

On our almost daily trips around the farm we would head off in the ute, with fresh veggies in hand to share with the neighbours. Everyone was so kind, open and willing to share their experiences and happily entertain me and my myriad of questions.  Wednesdays night is movie night, a weekly tradition at Larry and Griff’s, where Griff cooks up a yummy dinner, everyone brings some food to share and over a vino or Paul’s tasty home brew we’d share our stories of the day.  After a good chat and a full belly, we’d settle in to watch a movie (indulging in more chocolate of course) such a nice way to end the day and very much feeling like one big happy family.

The impressive veggie garden

Garlic chives were a favourite in our morning omelette

Very excited to see my first coffee plant!

There are a number of different Co-operatives about, all which have varying ranges of communal living, from sharing accommodation, meals and spending a lot of time together, to families living in their own space where they can spend as much or as little time with their neighbours as they wish. Everyone at Goolawah has their own dwelling and space on the property and can be as insular or involved as they choose. The main ethos is to come together and hopefully meet like minded people, creating a community style of living and land sharing that encourages self sufficiency and sustainability in an affordable rural setting, where children can run freely and asking for a cup of sugar really is a welcomed gesture.

One of our many neighbourly dinner nights

It reminds me of the days when we were young, playing outside with the local kids until it was dark, forever setting out on our bikes for a days adventure and running into the neighbours house through an unlocked front door without a second thought.  These days it’s not as common, families are living in built up areas where there are thousands of people, you can almost reach out and touch the house next to you, but you hardly know who is living right next door!

Many people are also working long hours in jobs they may not enjoy just to service a large mortgage and the ever mounting bills that come with living in an urban setting. Living on a co-op allows people to buy into a community, purchasing a piece of land for a very small price and creating a way of life where sustainability and self sufficiency allows them to live simply, in a very relaxed environment. In essence, reducing their expenditure greatly reduces their need to earn a large income and a work life balance is much more attainable. As Paul says, ‘we do not need to be a slave to the modern day ideals that society sets, how you live your life is all about the choices you make’.

Life on the co-op was a fantastic learning experience as well as a challenge to get out of my comfort zone. It definitely opened my eyes to the fact that there are so many more choices and options on how we choose to live our lives. I don’t know how ‘off the grid’ my little dream will take me but it’s definitely given me food for thought and a refreshing new take on life. 

If you would like to learn more about joining goodness of Goolawah, you can find out more here.

Sunset at Goolawah

3 thoughts on “Living off the grid!

  1. Hi Jo,

    Can’t wait to hear about all the ins and outs of such a community….sounds like it was loads of fun and alot of hard but satisfying work!


  2. Wow! What an experience…. You go about your daily routine not even thinking or questioning outside of it. You assume that everyone is ding what you are. This has definitely opened my eyes. Thanks for sharing and what a wonderful experience. Xxxxx

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