Meet the couple who started their own commune and invited pals to join - where they eat homegrown food and help raise each other's kids.
Charlotte Knee-Zaska, 30, had always dreamed of building a home in the countryside - they bought a piece of land and welcomed a family in to start their own 'sustainable community' for a 'slower pace of life'.
She and her husband, Max, 32, a musician, saved £47k over three years to buy nearly an acre land in Offaly, Ireland, in August 2017 and moved from their home in Dublin, Ireland, with their daughter, Iza, five, in tow.
The pair set about building two houses - so they could welcome families to join their 'community' and learn to live sustainably together.
The family spent two years renovating a cottage already on the land and building an extension with its own living areas so they could have another family join them.
In April 2021, they were able to welcome their friends, James Smith, 32, a music producer, and Ffion Thomas, 31, a holistic therapist, and their daughter Connie, now one, into their home.
Now the two families live as a community - eating homegrown, or organically sourced food, and running women's retreats from their home.
Charlotte, a yoga teacher, said: “I’d always wanted to have a proper home as I was moving around so much as a kid.
“When we moved it was a bit daunting at first as we had no heating, and the garden was just rubble and mud.
“Slowly with saving we’ve built up the garden and homes so we can live as a community with our friends.
“It’s great because I can get some peace and quiet while Ffion or James look after the kids.
“I also know that they can run out and play in the garden and I don’t need to watch them.
“We have a slower pace of life and it’s great to live with your friends.”
Charlotte set her sights on creating a community while living in the city, but struggled to get people together to make it work.
After hunting on cheap housing sites, she found a piece of land in Offaly, Ireland, that she loved.
“It was a bit over our budget but I really liked it, so we went to go and look,” Charlotte said.
“We fell in love with it as soon as we saw and made an offer of just over £47k which was all of our savings.
“Luckily we got it.”
The family moved down with their baby, Iza, in August 2017 and started renovating and building an extension onto the existing cottage.
“We did it bit by bit as we started to save up,” she said.
“It was quite a lot at first as I was still commuting to Dublin to work so we could get some money in to fix up our heating and stuff like that.”
In the time they were doing up the house, the couple welcomed Eden, now three, and Thea, one.
“After a few months I quit my job in Dublin and became a yoga teacher and worked part time in social care,” Charlotte said.
“It meant I could be home with the kids six days a week.”
Over lockdown, Charlotte and Max managed to get renovate the cottage and built an extension so that it was fit with four bedrooms, a kitchen and living area.
It meant the family could move into that space and welcome their friends James and Ffion, who moved into the extension in April 2021.
“It’s worked really well,” Charlotte said.
“We’re not on top of each other as we still have separate living areas, but you also know you’re never alone.
“All the adults often have a coffee in the morning together and we help each other out with our kids.”
The families have their own vegetable patch - growing courgette, kale, leeks, beetroot and squash and lots of other food.
They eat as much of their homegrown food throughout the summer and use organic food from their local farmers.
“We have eggs from the chickens and try and become more and more self-sufficient as time goes on,” Charlotte said.
Charlotte and Ffion have started running private retreats to their community and run women’s circles once a month in a tipi in the garden.
“We do breath work and massages with them,” Charlotte said.
Charlotte has hopes of expanding her community if she is able to buy more land.
“It would be lovely if we had more people to join us,” she said.
“I’d love to find somewhere a bit closer to the sea.
“But it would also be hard to leave her as I have an attachment to it now.
“It’s amazing to be able to walk out in the garden and see the countryside.
“We have walks on our doorstep.
“The environment is so soothing, and I love living as a community.”