Bubble taken off the grid

Lou Farrand washes her clothing in a copper boiler at her historic cottage near Roxburgh. She has...
Lou Farrand washes her clothing in a copper boiler at her historic cottage near Roxburgh. She has no running water and no power but is thriving. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Takapuna woman Lou Farrand is loving life in lockdown in a stone cottage in Roxburgh with no amenities, and a loaned cat and a fantail to keep her company.

Mrs Farrand said the only hiccup so far had been her attempts to cut her own hair.

"It has been disastrous. I chop a bit off each day and try not to look in the mirror too much."

How she came to be marooned in the Central Otago town, and living off-the-grid was a different story.

"I didn’t plan on being here, but the window of opportunity to get home ran out.

"I found myself having to decide whether to head north to Takapuna where I normally live in a motorhome and where all my family is, or stay in my off-grid stone cottage in Roxburgh East.

"It was a very emotional time but after discussion with my family Roxburgh won out."

The former dental assistant’s life in lockdown is a story less ordinary.

The cottage was something the pensioner yearned for after completing a photography course at the Southern Institute of Technology in 2000.

"I had never been to Central Otago. I came with a friend and we saw all these ruined stone cottages. I thought ‘why can’t we save them’?

"Eventually I thought ‘I can save one’."

What followed was the purchase of an 1865 cottage in Roxburgh East Rd and calling in builders to restore it to its original state.

Its single room had an open fire at one end and a coal range at the other; bathing was optional, a flush toilet was off the table, and lighting came from candles.

"I have certainly kept the firewood industry going in lockdown."

Her smartphone had been her one point of contact with the outside world.

"I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of being totally alone and when I mentioned that on Facebook, my neighbour lent me one of their cats."

The pedigree Burmese cat did not mind being on loan and was a "Godsend", Mrs Farrand said.

"His name is actually Floofy, but I thought that was a bit stupid, so I call him Fusi. He came in, had a look, and promptly went to sleep on my bed."

Occasionally Floofy/Fusi was joined by a fantail — as yet unnamed.

Being over 70 meant getting deliveries of supplies from shops and a neighbour, she said.

"Everyone has been so good."

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