After dreaming for years of selling up and living an idyllic, rural lifestyle, Marcie Jennings decided to take the plunge and go off-grid. Ever felt tempted to do the same? Marcie talks to Louise Ramsay about her new rustic way of life.
“People thought my decision was irrational, but I had always had a dream about living off-grid. And now I’ve achieved that,” says Marcie, 55, who is from East Sussex. “My partner David had the land, I had the capital and so it was perfect — it was a no-brainer. I had started a very successful floristry business after leaving social services and I owned two properties and I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to sell up everything’.
“It really works between me and David. This land has been in his family for generations and it has its own water source. There was a small property here, so we decided to seize the opportunity. It was about not being scared of change and just making it happen.
“We live off wild food, we take foraging courses, we grow vegetables in our own garden and we’re very content. For income, there are lots of little money streams coming in, but there is no main one, which for me ticks off a really big box.
“We design gardens and love to pay homage to arts and crafts and make garden installations. We provide all things floral for a true wild wedding, using finds from the hedgerow or coast.
“We also forage a wide range of wild food which is sold or we barter-exchange to restaurants. We make produce like vinegars, pickles, oils and preserves which are sold to restaurants and food fayres. We also offer foraging workshops, floral workshops and offer advice to others wishing to live in a similar way.
“I don’t have a regular salary, but I don’t need it. I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t have bills. I do have a phone but its only £5-a-month pay-as-you-go. Going from £80-a-month contracts to £5-a-month is so freeing. I feel completely in control and don’t miss it in the slightest.”
Marcie is convinced she won’t go back to a more conventional lifestyle and will remain off-grid.
“I couldn’t go back to doing a nine-to-five job. Having the floristry business was great, though.
“It was incredible from day one. I got a lot of styling work and I worked on TV period dramas, plus a few commercials for healthy living and lifestyle. Whatever I was offered, I said yes, I can do that! But I knew when it was time to move on.
“I would totally recommend that if you want to chase your dream, you can do it no matter what age you are.”
Marcie is glad to be free of the “rat race” by living off-grid.
“It was about being brave, and realising, oh my gosh, this is what was always waiting for me. It really is just having that leap — they talk about a leap of faith and it really is. For me it was thinking ‘hold on a minute, there is more to me than a nine-to-five’.
“We’re now able to manage our time and carve out our own priorities and timetables — it’s something you don’t get working in an office. I love that.
“The year’s income is sourced by working very closely with the seasons and in sync with our environment. For a nest egg we don’t use banks, we buy silver and gold. This way of living sharpens your instincts. We often find ourselves commenting that its chanterelle time or shrimps are in.
“Do I ever get bored? You’re kidding,” Marcie laughs. “I’m more alive, alert, stimulated, creative, healthy and energetic. If, at the end of the day, my hair is messy and my feet are grubby, this makes me smile and I know I’m going to sleep like a baby.
“We’ve been wild hell-raisers in the past! We are not in the autumn of our years — not by any means. But we’re living the lives we now want to lead. It was time to settle down and do our own thing. And we have. We’ve chosen a way of life and we don’t want to escape from any of it. It’s a dream come true.”
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