Off the grid and loving life
A DAY IN THE LIFE - Alain and Kate Colfs
THEY had a dream of self-sufficiency and independence and after 30 years of building and refinements, they've achieved it.
Alain Colfs was born in a ravaged Belgium towards the end of the Second World War and emigrated to Australia in 1965 after graduating technical college and a stint in the Belgian army.
In Brisbane in 1978 he met wife Kate at an art college photography course and the path was set that sees them today living in a slice of paradise just south of Warwick.
Mr Colfs said the couple married in 1980 and began searching for a block of land.
"We wanted to find a place with some space in the bush,” he said.
"We looked at a lot of blocks around Brisbane but couldn't find anything we liked.
"Then we saw a tiny little ad in the Courier Mail for '160 acres of mountain goat country with rocky outcrops, lots of trees and great views'.
"So we drove out to Warwick to check it out.”
The drive to the bush not only bought the couple closer to what would soon be their new project, but also it was a homecoming for Mrs Colfs.
"I was born in Warwick, so were my parents, and their parents,” she said.
"My great-grandfather Christopher Roggenkamp settled in Warwick after emigrating from Denmark in 1863.”
Mr Roggenkamp was one of Warwick's first photographers, owning a studio where the current Warwick library now stands.
His early photography in the region has become an important historical snapshot of the birth of the town.
Mrs Colfs said they only saw a fraction of the property but fell in love.
"We signed on the dotted line that day,” she said.
"$23,000 for a slice of heaven in Wildash.”
In March 1982 the Colfs family took off overseas to see family and travel and returned to Australia in February 1983, moving straight to a new life in Warwick.
"We bought a house in town and got to work on the property on weekends,” Mr Colfs said.
"There were no roads, no water, no electricity, nothing, it was just a bush block.
"It took us about six months to cut a road to the top of the hill, about 1.2kms, using nothing but a pick, a shovel and a chainsaw.
"When we got there we picked a spot and started building.”
Mrs Colfs said they were cash poor but resource rich.
"We started building with what we had,” she said.
"Endless amounts of rocks, wood and we had the skills and passion to make it work.
"We had to become reliant on alternate power right from the start, our house was lit and powered by gas and a generator there for a few years.”
Mr Colfs said Warwick locals speculated about what the newcomers where up to out there on the hill.
"We heard a rumour that people were saying we were running a nudist colony,” he said.
"Sadly it was nothing quite as exciting as that, but it gives a good laugh now.”
Fast forward 33 years and the couple are completely off the grid.
"We've had solar power for years,” Mr Colfs said.
"We have a 100,000 litres of water capacity, unlimited firewood, a beautiful house, guest accommodation, gardens, we're 320m above Warwick with 270 degree views from Killarney to Leslie Dam and we're enjoying it all now in retirement. "We have exactly what we want.”
Mrs Colfs said that little ad changed their lives.
"It brought back us here to the home of my ancestors and Warwick is a great place to live,” she said.
"Such beautiful people, a wonderful community.”