A Couple Revealed They Almost Divorced While Building Off-Grid Home
On 11th September 2021
When she and her husband first embraced the simple life, the challenges of day-to-day existence caused them to try to split 'ten times,' according to a mother-of-four living off the grid. Em Powell, 44, and her husband Keith Powell, 53, purchased 50 acres of land in the Black Mountains of Wales for £136,000 ten years ago, and they recently invited Ben Fogle to their home for a new episode of New Lives in the Wild.
As their family grew, the couple built a home for themselves, relying on a £4,000 investment in a hydroelectric pump to generate electricity and cultivate the area for vegetables.
However, Emily revealed that the beginning of the expedition had been 'polarising' for the couple, and that she wished to trade her life in the wilderness for a more comfortable home with more money, but that she understood that doing so would terminate her relationship with Keith.
The couple met 25 years ago at veterinary school and were friends for a long time before marrying in 2007.
They decided to leave their careers as vets in 2009 and purchase the plot of land to establish a family home.
Jesse, Reuben, Will, and Seb, their four sons, were on half-term when the show was taped.
Emily said that looking after four kids and the house had been difficult for the pair while working in her vegetable patch with Ben.
'I think Keith and I tried to break up about ten times,' she said, laughing.
'Keith and I were very polarised at the beginning of this. I was focused on getting the engine room going, he was trying to get the money in, do the building, do all the big leg work.’
'You both try to do such different jobs, there's no common ground and that puts a massive amount of tension on.’
'There were times where I thought "We could sell all this, get a nice place, earn plenty of money". But I think it would have killed both of us. I think it'd been the end of everything for us,' she added.
'When you engage with a piece of land it's another member of the family,' she said. 'It's not just me and Keith in this relationship. It's me, Keith, the boys, and this [land].'
'There's always been a sense of "OK, this isn't just about us, it's about a lot more. So we push on through, we climb that mountain and see what happens,' she went on.
Keith built the couple's stunning home out of local trees and other materials, and the wood beams that frame the structure amazed Ben so much that he remarked it looked like a cathedral.
'This house it feels natural, it's cozy, it's warm, it's loved,' Ben said.
'Of all the wild structures I've visited over the years, it's unique, I haven't seen one like this because it's just tethering on the edge of total normality, and yet it's off the grid and it's built with love, with local materials. There's something very exciting about the house.'
He disclosed that he constructed it by cutting down trees and floated them down the river until they could be hoisted by a machine.
Keith told Ben that the size of the trees influenced the scale of the towering construction, claiming that wood is the most beautiful material and the most cost-effective way to construct.
The pair admitted that they don't have a lot of money, but that they live within their means and are debt-free.
‘We're working and living somewhere like this, which is a full-time job in itself. It takes that energy to keep this place running,' Em added.
'I was just starting my acupuncture business, two days a week. That's just gradually reached a level that I can cope with everything going on.'
Keith had taken trees from the site to build his house, but he told Ben about his desire to give back by planting 122,000 trees through the organization Stump Up For Trees, which seeks to plant one million trees in the area.
'I love the human condition. The vast majority of people are great, they deeply care and they're frustrated because it's difficult to find somewhere to place your worry or somewhere to do something physically,' Keith told him.