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87-Year-Old Widower Has Lived 50 Years Off-Grid on 400 Acres of Redwood Forest!


“Limitations inspire creation.”

“I don’t design; I follow logic.”

“We are not smarter than nature. We often think we are, but we are not.”

These are just a couple of the wise and witty comments of 87-year-old Charles Bello who has been living off-grid on his own 400 acres of Redwood Forest for 50 years! The first many years he and his late wife went without any electricity, refrigeration, or even a phone line! The couple raised their two boys in a “chopped-off” A-frame (which cost around $2,800 to build), and then later built a larger 3-bedroom home.

Their final home endeavor was/is a gorgeous window-laden Parabolic Glass House that’s the primary focus of Kirsten Dirksen’s video tour of Bello’s estate. They only spent $8,500 on the home, using materials from their land, and it comes complete with a partially-underground greenhouse that grows tomatoes even in winter. I know the video is nearly an hour long, but you really need to watch it. Bello is absolutely fascinating!

The icing on the cake, though, is that Bello is looking for three middle-aged couples to act as land stewards of his property (which is now worth  between $4-6 million!!). It looks like you’ll need some pioneering experience (and to be debt-free!), but what a wild opportunity. Learn more here.

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Become a Caretaker of 400 Acres of Redwood Forest!

Here’s the view of the Parabolic Glass House from the front.

Inside the home, Bello explains his “logic” design.

The views are absolutely breathtaking.

The views from his bed are lovely, he says.

VIDEO: 50 years off-grid: architect-maker paradise amid NorCal Redwoods

Highlights:

  • 50 years off-grid
  • 17 without refrigeration
  • Many years without electricity or phone line
  • Made money selling Christmas trees
  • Raised 2 sons in a chopped-off A-frame ($2,500 to build)
  • Homeschooled boys, 90% outdoor education
  • Built a 3-bedroom cabin after that
  • Spent $8,500 on Parabolic Glass House
  • Land had no roads, water, electricity or anything
  • Created bridge out of a redwood tree
  • Seeking 3 middle-aged couples to act as caretakers
  • Hand-selected 1,000 trees to be protected for 2 millenia!!

Learn more

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.
{ 49 comments… add one }
  • Steve
    June 26, 2020, 2:05 pm

    Ok, no need to even ponder this, I’m in!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 27, 2020, 12:55 pm

      Yay! Hope you are applying. Let us know if you get in!

  • jerry dycus
    June 27, 2020, 1:14 am

    I love the glass house.

  • Sophia
    June 27, 2020, 2:59 am

    What an interesting and talented man. I wish he could live 50 years longer also! Thank you for this video.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 27, 2020, 12:51 pm

      Right!? I want to go there and just watch him work and talk to him for a week.

      • Eric
        August 7, 2020, 4:38 am

        So Natalie… what is stopping you? Follow your dreams.

      • Jeanine Werth
        April 28, 2021, 3:43 pm

        That was so beautiful , what he has done for the land. What happen to his son’s? I sure could live like that. Amazing.

  • Exia Combs
    June 27, 2020, 10:24 am

    My husband and I would love this.thank you

  • Willits Farmer
    June 27, 2020, 10:49 am

    I have been to Charles Bello’s property and spent time with him. He is inspiring and fascinating, to be sure. However, there is a reason that he has been looking for caretakers if this magical place for 20 years and never found the ‘right fit’. I recommend that one does their research before moving to RFI. Talk to the neighbors, talk to his son. There is more to the story than meets the eye. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 27, 2020, 12:47 pm

      Haha the list of requirements did seem pretty strict! I appreciate the heads up 🙂

    • Shosha
      June 28, 2020, 7:55 pm

      Nutbag

      • Karen Williams
        July 5, 2020, 6:32 am

        Total respect for nature here I love this, the fact that he’s protected what he can worked with nature instead of against it. Nothing to dislike here apart from the fact age catches up to us all and the knowledge we will lose hopefully everything that can be learned will be learned by the caretakers, choose wisely ❤️

  • Lynn
    June 27, 2020, 7:42 pm

    It’s a hard life…I know been there done that with 3 children ages 3,5,7
    3 gardens , carrying water ,heat was a converted 55 gl oil drum ,k – oil lamps but thru all the hard work The Lord provided..Deer , rabbit , squirrel ,fish and a goose or two..I always wonder why I was out in my wilderness ,it was to read The Lord words..I read the scriptures from cover to cover by k-oil lamps and I can testify to his Amazing Grace and the The Lord can make away where we can see no way…

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 29, 2020, 1:20 pm

      Wow Lynn you are such an inspiration!

  • Janet K
    June 28, 2020, 4:41 am

    Middle aged woman homeschooling highschool level daughter. Has years of medical caregiver experience as well as off grid outdoor foraging experience. Survivalist with minimalism tendencies. Doesn’t use refrigeration and very earth conscience. Hands on hard worker and isn’t fond of internet. So I’m replying on behalf. Also is looking to move, and currently seeking out land. If still looking for caretakers, please reply. I think this could be a good fit ✌

  • Sheila Goodwin
    June 28, 2020, 1:25 pm

    I would move there in a heartbeat but the age requirements exclude an ole gal like me.
    I have owned and been the sole care taker of 2 organic mini farms .
    I did everything it takes too run a farm from growing my own feed,raising and preparing the animals for sale-freezer or to be canned. Skinning & Tanning the hides ,Making cheese products from the goat milk.
    If only I had -had a partner like him I would still be doing it. lot of hard work but I loved it.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 29, 2020, 1:14 pm

      Wow Sheila you are such an inspiration!

      • Sheila Goodwin
        July 9, 2020, 8:26 pm

        I had water, electric and the internet to help me when there was a problem to solve.
        Most folks don’t realize that farming is a 24/7 job and being off grid makes it even more difficult.
        There are no holidays,sick days or just a good ole lazy day. Nights can be interrupted by a snake, possum, racoon,fox or even coyotes in the hen house or barn .Even a bear or too! Than there’s the goat having twins that she can’t quite deliver on her own. There’s the garden that has to be cared for and the produce has to be canned ,frozen or preserved in some manner. Please don’t forget all the fertilizer you have to shovel and dispose of . There’s only so much the garden can take. A good partnership with a like mind is the only way to make it work. I loved it unfortunately my husband didn’t.

  • A Stingle
    June 29, 2020, 8:46 am

    Amazing!!! This gentleman should be a national treasure!! Please, please tell me someone will continue in his footsteps after he’s gone.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 29, 2020, 1:11 pm

      I certainly hope so!

  • MareM
    July 5, 2020, 2:10 pm

    No dogs or cats? I’m out (even if I were young enough to be in 😂). After 12 hours working for him, you can work on your own income-producing projects? Yikes!

    • Natalie C. McKee
      July 9, 2020, 12:51 pm

      Haha I did think about that! I’m not that tough.

  • Alicia Poulos
    July 5, 2020, 8:35 pm

    I would love to interview his children. How do they feel about living such a hard life that wasn’t necessarily necessary – living off grid. In order to meet a wife or have any sort of job outside of the land would require them to leave and what a disadvantage to them to know nothing of the world they live in since their birth – no radio – no tv. I ask this question with respect and honesty as I have some knowledge (not to that extent) of this issue. Such a hard life to live as young one to live such a hard life as an adult trying to fit In and learn a life time of what they weren’t able to be taught about the times they live in today and real life… the man is so interesting though and If he has not raised kids there i would just think it’s amazing –

    • Natalie C. McKee
      July 9, 2020, 12:50 pm

      It’s definitely something that crossed my mind. Apparently his sons aren’t interested in continuing to steward the property now, so perhaps they had their fill as kids?

  • Richard
    July 5, 2020, 8:53 pm

    I’d do it. but I wouldn’t like leaving Texas. Can we relocate to Texas?

  • Bryan Chandler
    July 6, 2020, 10:19 am
  • Sheila Goodwin
    July 9, 2020, 8:00 pm

    I have owned two mini farms and did the majority of the work myself. He says he & his wife built that rock wall in just 2 days? That makes me wonder about some of the things he says. I know what hard physical work is and how long it takes to do certain things and I don’t think that was truthful. It does make you wonder why his sons are not the ones to step into the caring and preserving of the redwoods. He doesn’t mention that his sons did any of the work or caring for the place I’m sure he didn’t just let them lay around being lazy .

    • Natalie C. McKee
      July 10, 2020, 2:00 pm

      He says at one point in the video that his sons would help milking goats, etc. I also wonder why they aren’t interested in taking over the preservation work, though.

      • e.a.f.
        September 23, 2020, 1:24 pm

        lots of people who grew up on farms, even close to major centers aren’t interested in farming or ranching. they saw how much work it took as children and wanted a different life style. You’re either a farmer or you’re not. Different people want different choices for their lives. I’ve seen families who have owned farms, small businesses, etc. for two or three generations and then one generation just says, no thanks I’m doing something else and go and do it.
        For some this is a golden opp. For others not so much. Its what makes a horse race and life interesting.

        • Natalie C. McKee
          September 24, 2020, 8:24 am

          Very true! I didn’t want to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a dental hygienist haha

    • Willits Farmer
      July 10, 2020, 2:13 pm

      Sheila,
      He frequently would get other people to help him with his projects for free (too cheap to ever pay for labor) and he tends to leave that part out of the story.
      I know Charles and his farm. I’ve talked with one of his sons as well. You are definitely on to something. There is a lot more to this story. Not one person living there on over 100 acres after his 20 year search?
      There is a reason.
      Please please do your research, everyone. And remember, things are not always what they seem.

      • Sheila G
        July 10, 2020, 4:09 pm

        It truly saddens me when people portray something in a way that makes it seem so simple or easy to accomplish.
        A self sustaining life style is a lot of hard work and takes some major fiances to get a decent start.
        Most farms barely break even for at least 5 years. Yes you are producing your own food but even that takes time, work, good planning, praying for reasonable weather and protecting it all from the hungry critters, in the mean time you still have to eat. When things break down that you yourself are unable to fix or repair -if you can’t barter for it you have to have money to take care of it or you live with out it.
        Yes I know the pioneers and perhaps your grand parents did it but society was way different than – neighbors worked together to make a mutually sustainable community. Sometimes they gathered for miles around to help one another build a log cabin ,raise a barn, You can pretty much forget that in this day and age. It’s a nice dream but it’s a hard life in reality.

  • Jadria Hirschi
    July 17, 2020, 4:23 pm

    Although there is WAY more that goes into this life style, it would be hours and hours long to explain all of it. I would love more info on the family ect..

    However as a mother of 3, homeschooling, Cloth diapering, this being my goal. It takes years to manifest this.as shown in the video it started with little to nothing. Reading the comments here is interesting. I don’t want my kids to grown up in the New age. You can teach them about the (Normal) life, and love this life style. Just as in a reg life, they would teach you about history right? I have molded myself and family into minamalist over the years, most people work their entire lifes away and for what? I would love my children to grow up working hard and working for themselves. You dont have to be exact same as someone else, but you take what you like from each scenario and make it your own.

    I would rather slave my time for myself and my children, teaching them to be 100 percent self sufficient then how to work a 9-5 your life.

    I want my children to be accustomed to working hard for themselves, and esrth and what it has to offer.. People think they need way to much to survive.

    This is the the lifestyle, and goal my partner and I are working for. We want to get off grid. Very luckily and blessed I am my partner is a handy man in every way down the physics of it all, an engineer, can make this happen with hard work. And a strong partnership. I’m excited for our journey doing it, and creating a legacy for our children.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      July 20, 2020, 10:02 am

      Love this, Jadria! It’s so true — we don’t all want “normal.”

  • Tina M Mclemore
    August 7, 2020, 11:24 am

    I couldn’t stop watching. I would have loved to travel that journey !

  • Kurt
    September 12, 2020, 10:16 pm

    I love the quotes. I’ve added all three to my quotes database.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      September 14, 2020, 8:06 am

      He is super inspirational.

  • Pete Wilson
    September 21, 2020, 8:39 pm

    One could only imagine the peace and tranquility of being off grid. No phones, no electric, no social media, no internet, no social problems, what a peaceful existence being one with nature and the beauty that surrounds us.

  • Julie Bryan
    October 16, 2020, 1:07 am

    You have a Wonderful Artistic Home. The things you gave up but didn’t really need, the work into all of your homes, its truly inspirational. I would love to watch over your hard work, but I can’t. I am praying your piece of Heaven was saved from all the Fires. I’m sorry to hear your Sons can’t step in and keep their home they shared with their Mother and Fathers safe. I do understand they have their own lives to live. But I love your Home and hope it stays safe for a hundred years

  • Jay
    January 16, 2021, 9:32 pm

    Sad there was 0 talk of his wife who equally spent times n put efforts into the building of every things there, not a single word of!!!!

    • Sheila Goodwin
      January 17, 2021, 12:54 pm

      No mention of the wife how typical of men from that error.
      She only bore the children , probley did as much farm work as he did ,+ taking care of the home,laundry,nursing when some one got hurt or ill, cooking, canning, preserving ,sewing, all without all the modern conviences we have now.
      But why bother to give her any credit after all it was her duty. RIGHT?

  • Daniel Dobert
    April 28, 2021, 10:44 pm

    NORCAL REDWOODS are awesome! I want to visit the site in spring 2022.

  • Sheila Goodwin
    April 29, 2021, 9:56 pm

    Just wondering has he found some more free labor to keep his place going?
    This seems to be the plan ,Everything to his benifit . Nothing but labor for you.
    No real mention that you would eventually inherit the homestead, so many hours working for him leaves no time to do anything for your self, crafting, rest or enjoyment of the place it’s self.
    No dogs no cats ? Why ? Maybe because these animals are more aware then your regular farm critters.
    If my cat doesn’t like you I figure there’s a good reason . She’s very protective of me and the only time she has ever shown dislike for someone that person turned out to be very dishonest in everything.

  • Renee
    June 11, 2021, 11:51 pm

    My family lived on a family farm for 200 years in Pennsylvania, 1280 acres. They had the benefit of generations of experience. There was only electricity since 1947 ( when I was born ), no bathroom, only cold running water, coal furnace ( since we were in the coal belt ). The reality of my grandmother – never in her 90 years being away overnight, because of animals. Not learning to drive, so going to church was the only social experience once a week, except in winter. My grandfather went to town once a year to see the doctor, dentist, and go to the bank. My father and his sister rode horses – to college. Sound romantic ? Not really. My grandmother’s dream was to have a small house with a bathroom, which fortunately happened when she was 80. In town, as she preferred, where she could sit on her porch and see other people. She could take a real bath for the first time in her life…with hot water coming out of the tap. As the economy changed, my parents moved to town to work to make money to support the farm, and as did many others, my grandfather worked in a coal mine to keep the farm. He only drove a tractor, never a car. He would never accept farm “subsidies” to not plant, and his only advice to me was to leave to go to college, and not return. The reality didn’t live up to the fantasy. This life is tough, and for many, joyless. 90 years without a day off is hard, really hard.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 12, 2021, 5:42 am

      I think it’s so so important to remember there’s a reason modern conveniences were invented! While our fast-paced world might be too far in the other direction, going all the way “back to basics” isn’t as romantic as it sounds either.

  • June 12, 2021, 9:26 am

    Even with a lot of the modern convinces farming is not an easy living. It’s a 24 -7 day a week job.
    Even a small farm takes a lot of physical labor on a daily bases. People think dogs and cats are a lot of time and care—multiply that by several different animals with their own needs on a daily bases, Taking care of the garden, barn, harvesting & preserving your own food ,keeping things repaired (home, farm, & machinery).When you figure what it cost you in time, labor, money for seeds, feed, Vet care , blood , sweat & tears .Those lovely crops and meat cost a lot more than what you pay for in the grocery store and that’s buying all organic .

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