The Story Of Charles Bello Who Lived Off The Grid For 50 Years With His Family In California

Charles Bello

By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

Have you ever imagined living in a place, away from civilization and modern technology and just taking some time out from the regular hustle and bustle of life?
You sure have!

This is the story of Charles Bello, who lived off the grid for 50 odd years with his family.

Charles Bello and his wife, Vanna Rae moved into 240 acres of redwood forest in 1968 and wanted to live off the land in a simple manner. They had spent their entire savings to purchase the land and started working together to build their home, themselves.


The first structure that was built was a panelized A-frame which was erected in 5 days and cost around $2,800.

Looking Into The Charles Bello Estate: A Paradise Amidst The North California Redwoods

Charles Bello

The property that Charles Bello bought was a half-hour drive down a dirt road. It was bare land when they arrived, so, it was all on Charles to build their own infrastructure: bridges, and roads. The bridge that he built on the top of a log has withstood time and has been there for around 40 years. 

Charles Bello

Charles Bello added: “Everything on this farm that you’ll see, there was nothing here. We never hired help, you got to remember. We came on the land, well yet, absolutely no money.”

They went for decades without refrigeration and phones but eventually installed PV panels and cables for phone lines.

They spent 15 years in the A-frame and finally built a cabin in the wood. They lived there for almost a decade till the trees began to block their views.


Charles Bello designed the Parabolic Glass House in 1991, which had a curved wood roof and 2 curved walls of windows and looked enveloped by the trees. This was the main focus of Kirsten Dirksen’s video tour of the Bello estate.

Charles Bello

Charles Bello then talked about the curvature of this Glass House:

“Because the curved form is what gives it the strength. An egg is very strong because of its shape- a boat, oh yeah, or a car or automobile. All these curved shapes they’re intentional they’re to give it strength because they have thin material and they’re getting the strength through the curvature. You know the Romans were doing this, it goes back to Mesopotamia. They did arches way back.” 

The couple built this structure for $8,500 with timber, which they milled themselves, and used salvaged materials for everything from stoves to doorknobs. They relied on solar thermal and gas for power, and photovoltaics and built a dug-in greenhouse that provided them their food.

Charles Bello

They canned and preserved their food and could survive for months on an end without a visit to the grocery store. Their two boys were homeschooled and the couple supported themselves by selling Christmas trees. They even have a pet deer that comes up to their kitchen and lies down to watch the family.

Charles Bello

Most of the old-growth trees on this plot of land were logged in the early 20th century but Charles Bello spent the other half of the century just restoring the land. The couple set up the Redwood Forest Institute in 1997, which aimed to maintain and preserve the forest. They had carefully selected 1,000 to be preserved for 2 millennia as the next gen of old-growth trees.

Charles is 88 years old now and is determined to find successors. He still hopes to find “three professional couples in their early 40s, financially independent, who want to settle on the property continuing 52 years stewardship of this special place in a sustainable lifestyle where one does for himself or herself rather than urban living”. 


Charles Bello is currently building “glamping” guest houses, which he hopes would fund his enterprise. 

Donate To A Good Cause

Charles Bello is now asking for donations to support him recover his land. He is faced with legal proceedings to recover his land and as per his attorney, it will take up to 3 years and as much as  $500,000.00 or more. 

You can check out the donation link here.

Image Credits: Kirsten Dirksen/ YouTube FairCompanies

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