Could you live a YEAR without cash? How one 'off the grid' couple built a home from scraps, bathe in rainwater... and dive in dumpsters for food


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Categories: Life Stories
  • Rachel Newby and Liam Culbertson live on a friend's property in Victoria
  • The couple attempt to live a cash-free existence, living off the land
  • They work on local farms in exchange for food or grow their own produce
  • When supplies run low they 'dumpster dive' searching for discarded food
  • They live rent and rates free, having built their home for $120 

In a time where the housing market in major cities has skyrocketed  - a Victorian couple has realised their Australian dream off the grid.

Rachel Newby, 24, and her partner Liam Culbertson, 26, built their home from the ground up on a friend's plot, using scrap timber and recycled materials.

The couple grows their own food or sources it from local dumpsters, lending their labour to local farmers in exchange for their next meal.

Their lifestyle, Rachel told that's life magazine, is experimental as they aim to live off almost no cash for 12 months.

Living organic: Rachel Newby, 24, spent two months living on an organic farm in Canada before moving to West Gippsland with partner Liam

Off the grid: Liam Culbertson, 26, lives in rural Victoria in a cashless community

The couple lives in West Gippsland, a rural region of Victoria located in the state's east.

When they moved in January this year, they brought with them a wealth of knowledge from their travels abroad.

Rachel had lived in Canada for two years on an organic farm while Liam journeyed to the arctic, both always trying to source local produce and minimise their ecological footprint by producing as little rubbish as possible. 

First home: Liam and Rachel built their home for just $120 by using free and salvaged timbers

Depsite their experience, Liam and Rachel found life on the land difficult. 

The soil lacked fertility, making it hard to grow crops, and the harsh Victorian climate made living in a tent unbearable.

Rachel and Liam set out to build their first home - a task made possible from free timber and salvaged materials.

All up the house, which is 2.5 metre square and 3 metres high, cost $120 in supplies which they bought from the hardware store. 

The thrifty space offers privacy, but not much else.

 

Rent free: Their home offers them privacy, but they still have to share toilet facilities and shower under cold rain water

The couple still share toilet facilities with the rest of the community, and shower under cold rainwater collected form the roof.

Without any appliances, they wash their clothes in the sink.

Having previously worked in office jobs and as lifeguards, the couple's time on the land is free to spend at their leisure.

But while they might not have to make weekly rent or pay the bills, they still need to eat.

Much of their time is spent working for local farmers - planting vegetables and picking berries - in exchange for their next meal.

 

Living off the land: The couple grow their own food or work on farms in exchange for their next meal

The couple grow their own vegetables and have five ducks and two drakes they bought on Gumtree for $80, providing them with fresh eggs.

When supplies run low they go 'dumpster diving', sifting through discarded produce for fresh vegetables, fruit and bread.

Working together with like-minded people allows them to trade goods, swapping hand-made garments for food.

Emergency fund: The couple's biggest expense was $300 in dental work for Liam 

While they try to live completely cash-free, there are times when Liam and Rachel need to spend money.

Earlier this year Liam needed dental work, costing the couple $300, and Rachel bought a bike so she could travel in to town.

With their cashless experiment coming to an end in January next year, the couple remain undecided about their future - whether they will continue to live off the land or start a similar commune elsewhere.

Rachel said while they acknowledged not everyone could live like they do, taking the time to educate yourself about where the food you eat comes from was good practice.   

Read more: that's life! Real life has never been so good

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