Warring couples lose off-grid dream home to lawyers fees

It began as a perfectly normal arrangement in communal living, copied by innumerable groups that want to spread the cost of a piece of land amongst several households.

But this particular arrangement between two couples to buy acreage in British Columbia (one of the most favourable places in Canada for off-grid) and live together on it dissolved into an acrimonious court battle involving accusations of uncleanliness and a heated disagreement over chicken butchering.

Following an 11-day trial spread over months, CBS reports, a B.C. Supreme Court judge last week rejected a bid by one of the couples to sue the other for trespass and defamation related to a Facebook posting accusing their former partners of harassment.

Justice Marguerite Church found Callandra Neustater was within her rights to respond to untrue posters spread around Quesnel, B.C., accusing her and husband Jacob of being “police informants” who infiltrated “activist, anarchist, Antifa, anti-pipeline and Indigenous rights groups.”

Instead, Church concluded it was the Neustaters who had been defamed by posters that were either created by or at the direction of Michael McKerracher, who — together with his wife and musical partner Rachel — started the court battle.

An ‘off-the-grid’ alternative lifestyle
The judge’s lengthy ruling tells the story of two couples who purchased 17 hectares of land together in the spring of 2016 in the hopes of starting a new life together in B.C. The Neustaters had been living in Manitoba and the McKerrachers had been living in Saskatchewan, a province they deemed too “conservative” for their “unconventional lifestyle.”

They were both part of a community of “like-minded individuals who promoted and lived an ‘off-the-grid’ alternative lifestyle,” Church wrote.

According to the ruling, the Neustaters met the McKerrachers in 2015 when they travelled together during a western tour by the McKerrachers’ musical act The Grid-Pickers.

“Discussions between the four friends eventually turned to their shared wish to move to British Columbia and they began to discuss their similar interests and the possibility of communal living on jointly owned property,” Church wrote.

They split the cost of a $65,000 property, chose sites for their respective homes and both women became pregnant. Callandra Neustater engaged Rachel McKerracher’s services as a doula.

“For a few months at least, life was good for the two families. Unfortunately, this state of affairs did not last and cracks soon began to appear in their friendship,” the judgment says.

Church said the couples never put their expectations for communal living into writing.

And the two men began arguing.

Michael McKerracher felt “the Neustaters were being controlling by asking him to park his vehicles off the property, not to leave derelict vehicles, and complaining about him having gatherings on his own side and yard site,” the judge wrote.

By contrast, Jacob Neustater felt that “McKerracher wanted things done ‘his way’ and would get upset if the Neustaters disagreed.”

‘If I find

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Surge in Australian land prices

Huge increases in land prices in Western Australia have led to a tug-of-war between farmers looking to expand their businesses and smallholders trying to get in as the market soars. Land owners in WA are sitting pretty.

In the agricultural heartlands of Western Australia, farm buyers are battling to secure more land and sellers are holding out amid a regional price surge due to a hige influx of remote workers looking for a new base outside the city.

While the residential real estate market in the metros is struggling, it’s a different story in the regions, with land hitting record prices as demand outstrips supply.

A national report by the Rural Bank found the median price for agricultural properties in WA had increased by 28.2 per cent in the year to January 2020.

Nationally the median price of farmland rose by 13.5 per cent.

With more buyers looking for more country than sellers are willing to part with, the tight supply of farmland — less than five per cent having been traded over the year — is pushing values steadily up.

Values in WA reached record highs despite last year’s below-average cropping season, with the median price per hectare climbing to $2,569.

South Coast prices up almost 60 per cent

Rural Bank’s manager for the south of WA John Reilly said the report showed the underlying dynamics of the agricultural industry in the state were in robust shape.

“We’ve got really strong commodity prices at the present, which are historically high, record low interest rates, which creates a great base for purchasing land,” he said.

“Families and investors see good opportunities to buy at the moment when properties come up.”

A total of $1.02 billion worth of land changed hands last year, representing a rise of 10.5 per cent.

The South Coast region, which includes Esperance, has outperformed all other regions as buyers look for reliable rainfall.

Median prices per hectare jumped 57.4 per cent to $3,403, with Jerramungup and Plantagenet recording stellar prices.

Ray White agent John Hetherington said the positive farming market, however, meant land for sale was scarce.

“Farmers are making great money so they are not wanting to sell,” he said.

“So the farms that do come onto the market are very sought-after.”

While corporate buyers are looking for larger parcels of land, smaller holdings are being sought by investors, tech workers and family farmers.

“With lamb and beef prices going up we’ve seen farmers all throughout the region desperate to get hold of land,” Mr Hetherington said.

Cashed up and ready to buy

Mr Hetherington has been selling land in the Great Southern for the last 16 years and says hot Australian land properties are “pretty much anywhere where it rains”.

“Low frost areas out through Frankland areas, Darkan, Williams, Kojonup, with very good rainfall, are high on shopping lists,” he said.

“But even with …

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Oz utility takes its customers off-grid

After a devastating bushfire, one remote WA farming community takes steps towards a solar solution — and it’s cheaper, safer, and more reliable.

The deadly bushfire in a remote West Australian farming community has led to a renewable energy first in Australia.

A government-owned electricity company is taking customers off the grid by giving them standalone solar units, so they can pull down ageing and costly power lines.

In November 2015, bushfires swept through the Esperance region, 800 kilometres south-east of Perth.

Four people lost their lives, thousands of livestock perished, and 30,000 hectares of crops were destroyed.

More than 300 power poles were also burnt, leaving about 450 locals without power for months.

The natural disaster led Horizon Power to rethink the way it managed its electricity network.

Some Horizon Power customers affected by the fire were offered solar panels as a trial, instead of rebuilding the lines.

After the fire ripped through Scadden West farmer Peter Vermeersch’s properties, he had to use generators for electricity.

“Probably two or three months sitting there with generators going. Yeah, it was a bit of chaos for a while,” he said.

He was one of five Horizon Power customers who took up the offer of getting electricity from solar panels, batteries, and a backup generator instead of via poles and wires.

Initially, he was sceptical of the solar option.

“The main issue was wondering if the power supply was going to be reliable,” he said.

At first there was not enough battery capacity on the solar units, but Horizon quickly fixed this and the new system is now more reliable than being on the grid.

“They have been really good. I don’t think we have had an outage on them,” Mr Vermeersch said.

“There’s also the advantage of not having poles and wires through your properties. There’s not that risk of machinery running into power poles.”

First utility company in Australia to kick customers off the grid

Horizon Power is now installing 17 further solar units on farms east of Esperance, and will tear down about 60 kilometres of ageing power lines.

It is the first time a utility company has removed traditional infrastructure and convinced customers to get off the grid.

Horizon Power chief executive Stephanie Unwin said it would save customers money.

“You are not replacing poles and wires … we no longer have to send out our linesman to patrol the lines, so that’s great,” she said.

“Maintenance is much lower, we will only have to send someone out once a year [to check the solar units].”

20,000 to get off-grid in a decade

The WA Government is behind the move and the state’s Energy Minister Bill Johnston said off-the-grid, clean energy made sense.

“So this is good for remote and farming communities because it gives them better energy and more reliable power,” he said.

“But it’s good for …

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Opting out of the Phone race

When you’re trying to keep things simple and low tech, you want a low impact, low maintenance phone. Something that you can use in case of emergency, take a few photos with…..but otherwise largely ignore.

While you may not be interested in getting the latest models or buying from the big name brands you do want a set that supports your lifestyle, so lets take a look at phones that offer the best performance with the minimum of fuss. You’ll just need to figure out the best plan – again stay away from the high street names and try something like the SMARTY Mobile coverage plan.

Battery Life

In an ideal world you’d charge up the phone and leave it well alone until it’s needed but when you do need to make a call in an emergency it’s good to know the phone is there ready to go. If you’re looking for a phone that puts in the hours and is rugged and durable to boot, take a look at the Cat B25. This non-smartphone phone is perfect for those with active or outdoor lifestyles. It’s waterproof for up to 1-metre and it’s chunky buttons make it easy to make calls even when you’re wearing gloves.

The battery should stay for at least a couple of weeks at a time and talk time is around 550 minutes.

For a fliptop phone the Nokia 2720 Fold is another good option. This phone is smaller and even more basic than the Cat, making it a good lightweight option. The battery life is decent and because it lacks any kind of microSD memory support it’s a very affordable option.


If you’re looking for a phone that’s a step up from these more basic options but still in the same ballpark, then you might consider the Nokia 3310 3G. Unlike the previous phones, this one also has 3G which means you will have access to some data. With good battery life, this phone also comes with an FM radio tuner. With Bluetooth and a camera, though without wifi you can listen to your favourite music or podcasts while you work without the distraction of social media and games, though be warned it does feature the classic Nokia game of Snake.

The Lightphone 1 is a strange but nevertheless interesting phone that looks like a smartphone but doesn’t have very many of the features at all. The idea with the 1 model is that you can pair with your smartphone and just use the basic features without the distraction of the fluff of the smartphone. However if you don’t own a smartphone then the Lightphone 2 is probably the better model for you.

It’s still basic but the layout mimics that of a smartphone making it much clearer to see and use. You can add basic tools such as a calculator or music …

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My Favourite Off-Grid Place

StrandThis is the place that celebrity chef Nick Knowles goes when he needs to get away – please send us details of YOUR favourite off-grid spot – to news@off-grid.net

The place I go to clear my head is Trebarwith Strand, just up the road from Polzeath and near Tintagel, on the north coast of Cornwall.Over the past 54 years, whenever I’ve had a black dog day or a time in my life where I’m particularly down and unhappy with the world, I’ll drive down there.

It’s literally one road running down to the coast where there’s a cove with a beach. The sea comes all the way up to the street and then, when it’s out, there’s a massive beach and caves. The sun sets behind an island out at sea. It’s a magical place.

From the age of about four, my dad would take me and all the family down there for holidays, and when I turned 17 I started to go down there on my own.

On the rocks to the lefthand side there’s a beautiful pub where you can sit and watch the surfers. Or you can climb up to the right on to a ledge that leaves you cut off when the tide comes in. You’re then stuck there for three hours until it goes out again. I’ve cut myself off on purpose many times. For the first hour it’s fine – I’ll have a Thermos and something to eat – but then I get annoyed with myself. But it forces me to slow down and think.

A few years ago a friend of mine died. It made me realise what I was doing was meaningless. I ended up going missing for two days, heading to Trebarwith. There’s very little reception down there, but when I finally answered a call, it was my brother. He knew I would be sat up there on the rock, watching the world go by and trying to make sense of things.

You see all kind of things while you’re down there; gulls, foxes, even dolphins if you sit there long enough. I’ve sat there in the snow watching surfers, or the lights on the fishing boats at night when they go squid-catching.

I lead a very transient life; I’m away a lot for work and I often don’t know where home is really. But Trebarwith reminds me of my childhood, teenage years and the times I’ve sat there to get through challenges. It’s somewhere I know intimately.

We holiday there every year – I take the kids and we fish in the pools. But in terms of going to escape on my own, I might go twice in a year or nothing for three years.

Its main purpose for me is in extremis. It’s a very angry coast and fits with darker moods. Being there is a bit like asking …

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Rob Greenfield from San Diego purchases 'house' measuring 5ft by 10ft

Campaigner moves to tiny home

* Rob Greenfield from San Diego purchases ‘house’ measuring 5ft by 10ft

* The environmental activist will live in the 50sq foot box for the next year

* 28-year-old moves out of £1,000-a-month flat and paid £625 for new home

* Plans to avoid modern trappings including internet and will go without a plumbed toilet

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Roswell Bunker for sale

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — An underground missile silo is currently one of New Mexico’s hottest real estate properties.
More than 40 people, some from out of state, have called about buying the silo near Roswell, real estate agent Jim Moore said Friday.
“This one of the few missile silos for sale in the United States,” Moore said. “It’s one of the more unusual listings that I’ve come across.”
According to KOB-TV (https://bit.ly/16fIPSr ), the silo is on the market for $295,000. The deal includes 25 acres of surrounding land and 280 acres of water rights.

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Edisto river canoe and tree house experience

Tree house vacation

Edisto river canoe and tree house experienceBook a tree house on the Edisto River.

These tree houses have no electricity or running water, but are considered one of the South Carolina Lowcountry’s most unique getaways. Canoe down a dozen miles to the secluded site, then canoe farther down to check out the river the next day.

Each treehouse is tucked in the woods out of view of any other, nestled in the trees on the river’s edge and privately accessed by canoe.

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Lucas Foglia show in London

A first British showing for the acclaimed series A Natural Order by Lucas Foglia, the young American documentary photogapher who spent five years in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia among people who live “off the grid” in the American backwoods.
Lucas Foglia grew up on a farm on Long Island just 30 miles from Manhattan. His parents were part of the post 1960’s “back to the land movement”. Much of the area surrounding the family home became increasingly urbanised, but his parents continued to strive for self-sufficiency.

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As millions live without power or sanitation, or even gasoline, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it seems the North-East of America is getting its first big lesson in living without the access to the power grid and fresh water supplies that are taken for granted the rest of the time. While the big banks and financial institutions were largely up and running within 24 hours, millions of ordinary homes are last in the queue, giving way rightly to hospitals and schools, and wrongly to offices and factories. Shame also that it took a catastrophe to get America talking about Global Warming (see our story from last year about “Global Storming”)

It will be uncomfortable at times and relatively short-lived –up to several weeks in many cases. Although, look on the bright side, it may encourage folks to realise they can survive without the grid and save money doing it. It was only the well prepared who will have had the simple solar panel, charge controller and battery to manage their own power station

You could call them the “off-grid ready.”

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Giving Utilities notice to disconnect

Remember those dreaded words in red ink, the final warning if you haven’t paid your bills for more than three months? Well, we’ve written our own notice of disconnection, and we are loving every minute of it, including the many challenges, writes Victoria Mendoza Fritz.

“Hi everyone. We’ve decided to live off-grid. Goodbye to light and water bills, sudden power interruptions, etc…”

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The new Gypsies

Book review of photo collection of intimate portraits of the horsedrawn people of the UK

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