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I uprooted my family and took my kids out of school to live in a tent

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Ashley explained why she moved her family into a tent (Picture: Jam Press/@wildasthewillows)

‘Since childhood, I have always wanted to live close to the land,’ says Ashley*.

The single mum-of-four, 32, took her children out of school and ditched her 9-to-5 job to take her family off-grid in 2022.

The former teacher has always had a deeply rooted love for Mother Earth, and after divorcing her children’s dad and feeling stressed by managing mortgage payments, chores and more of life’s stressful moments, she decided she’d had enough.

Ashley put her house on the market and moved into a tent for the summer with her children Helen, 17, Olivia, 15, Adelaide, 14, and Arabella, 12.

They eventually found a piece of land to build their cabin home in rural upstate New York. The family’s new life sees them getting water from a local creek and using a composting toilet.

Ashley and three of her daughters (Picture: Jam Press/@wildasthewillows)

‘Prior to my homesteading venture, I had the average life of rushed mornings doing chores, packing school lunches for my kids and rushing to work where I spent long hours in a square, sterile building before arriving back home tired. It was sucking my soul,’ she says.

Their home, which Ashley calls their ‘witches lair’, started off as an Amish-built shed. It was just a ‘shell’ when Ashley bought it. With the help of her kids, she’s been able to insulate it and finish the inside.

‘We did every drop of construction ourselves and salvaged a lot of materials. I had an Amish friend to help me build the barn, using cedars from our land.’

The cabin started out as a ‘shell’ of an Amish shed (Picture: Jam Press/@wildasthewillows)
Ashley’s cabin during winter (Picture: Jam Press/@wildasthewillows)

The home is a work in progress. ‘I have solar panels that I plan to install for a more permanent power course and to hopefully provide pumped water – I don’t have electricity or running water. I’m happy carrying water, but my children want it to come from the tap.

‘I use a jackets battery that I charge up in my car when driving to power devices and run little lights at night when we choose.’

She has spent £20,000 to renovate the cabin so far. ‘We insulated the cabin with natural cellulose insulation, put pine board walls up, southern pine flooring down, lofts, counters, sink, stairs, an awesome twisty, stick railing and installed plumbing for the water we hope to have one day. We did it all.

The family did the renovations themselves (Picture: Jam Press/@wildasthewillows)

‘My girls were so amazing, they worked right by my side every day. They learned to use power tools, measure and problem solve.

‘We worked incredibly hard, and I could never have done it without their help.’

Ashely now homeschools her children, as well as others as a way to pay for the home improvements, and has her own business.

She explained: ‘Currently I make brooms, baskets and natural body-care products, which I sell locally.

The cabin is still a work in progress (Picture: Jam Press/@wildasthewillows)

‘I started teaching at a homeschool co-op too.’

The environment and living sustainably is also one of Ashley’s biggest concerns. 

She shared: ‘I have a passion for living in a way that is sustainable, environmentally conscious and in alignment and balance with nature.

‘I would like to live a life that does no harm to the earth and instead nurtures her back for the gifts she so freely gives us.’

*Ashley has not provided a surname

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