Meet Jill Redwood.
Jill Redwood was five years old when she decided she wanted to be a hermit.
For more than 30 years she has been living ‘off the grid’ in a home she built herself made entirely out of reused and recycled materials, with walls made from timber offcuts and cow dung.
Ms Redwood, a writer and environmental activist, hates supermarkets and only eats food she’s grown and made herself on her 15-acre property on the edge of the forest in East Gippsland in Victoria.
“Jill Redwood has lived a remarkable life. As one of the original alternative lifestyle’ pioneers to move to Goongerah in remote East Gippsland over 30 years ago, she has devoted her life to saving the local forests and environment more generally.”
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Jill Redwood built her East Gippsland home for $3000 with walls made from timber offcuts and cow dung.
For more than 30 years she has been living ‘off the grid’ in her solar-powered home
Ms Redwood, who says she is ‘over 50’, spent her early adult life working in Melbourne as a lab technician before she started travelling around Victoria working a variety of different jobs including truck cleaning, fruit picking and labouring.
She lived on a number of different properties before buying the land in East Gippsland in 1983.
Ms Redwood said the home took eight years to build, during which time she lived in a smaller dirt-floored bark hut on the property.
She said she had no homebuilding experience but had previously built shacks and chicken sheds, and had read about how early settlers used to build their homes.
‘It’s just like baking a cake, you just follow the recipe,’ she said.
Ms Redwood said the cracks in the timber walls of her home were filled in with a mixture of cow pats and lime.
‘That is another early settlers’ method for chinking up the holes in logs and awkward-to-get places,’ she said.
She lived on a number of different properties before buying the land in East Gippsland in 1983
‘I know it sounds awful but a lot of it comes from tips… I’m a tip rat from way back,’ she joked
‘It’s non-toxic and it seemed like it was the sensible thing to do. Cow poo isn’t all that offensive, it’s really just mushed up grass.
‘Once you gather a bucket of it and mix it with lime it actually has a fishy smell until it’s dried.’
Ms Redwood said the house cost less than $3000 to build, with most of the money spent on roofing and floorboards.
Her house is totally solar-powered, with hot water coming from her wooden stove.
‘When I cook the food it warms the house,’ she said.
‘The power I use is minimal – I need the office equipment like the computer and scanner and the modem for the internet.
‘I also use lights at night, a radio and a food processor and when the sun really shines and there’s a lot of power coming in I’ve got a washing machine. That’s a luxury.’
Ms Redwood’s toilet is an old-fashioned ‘dunny’.
‘When it fills up you’ve got to carry it out and bury it,’ she said.
Ms Redwood pictured in 1984, the year after she had bought the East Gippsland property
All Ms Redwood’s possessions including furniture, bedding and cutlery are either salvaged from the tip or bought second-hand.
‘I know it sounds awful but a lot of it comes from tips… I’m a tip rat from way back,’ she joked.
‘It’s amazing the things that you find people throwing out.’
Ms Redwood said she is passionate about preserving the environment and her local forest, and so she believes she should reflect that in her lifestyle.
‘The way the world is going it’s just swallowing up the earth and all the nature that is left and what I’m trying to do is not only walk my talk but campaign for better treatment of the planet and its animals,’ she said.
Ms Redwood said became disenchanted with society at a young age.
‘[Society] seemed to be destroying things that I really loved, like forests and nature,’ she said.Her house is totally solar-powered, with hot water coming from her wooden stove.
Ms Redwood said she spends most mornings tending to her animals and doing odd jobs around her property, and afternoons cooking and doing environmental work
The house cost less than $3000 to build, with most of the money spent on roofing and floorboards
‘Everything was pointing me in the direction of just getting away from society and having my own little patch and animals.
‘A love of animals was a big part of it.’
She added that she has always preferred a solitary lifestyle.
‘I’ve never liked lots of people and crowds. Individuals are fine but when humans get together in big numbers they’re bad news from what I’ve seen,’ she said,
‘I’ve never had a full-time partner for any length of time.’
Ms Redwood occasionally has ‘WWOOFers’ (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) stay with her, but she is happiest when it’s just her and her animals.