City life isn’t for everyone. And that’s definitely the case for Jill Redwood. The Australian has been living off the grid since 1983. In fact, her journey began in the 1970s when she veered away from urban living.
“I don’t know what you’d call my early venture away from the city,” Redwood says in an interview with Life Matters, “but I started traveling in a van, then rented a blacksmith’s cottage in an isolated ghost town in Victoria for $50 a year. After that, I lived in a teepee. Then I came back to the hills in far east Gippsland, living with a dirt floor, kerosene lamps, and candles.
Redwood now lives with around 60 animals including goats and chickens. She keeps a large garden and her power comes from a solar array and inverter. Meanwhile, her water comes from a water wheel on a river that pumps into a tank.
Living Off the Grid
Overall, Redwood doesn’t use much power, using just 0.5kWh. She attributes this due to her minimalistic lifestyle with “no kids, no TV, no loads of one-day-old clothes to wash. I call it ‘enoughness’.” Despite this, she refers to her home as “relative luxury,” especially compared to her previous living spaces. But this house, she made with her own two hands. “I built it myself using salvaged sleeper offcuts and poles from the nearby forest, so the cost was about $2000 all up, mainly for roofing iron and floorboards. Traditional cow poo and lime fill the awkward gaps, with lime and sand render for the internal walls, with salvaged doors and windows.”
Furthermore, even in the dead of winter, she has enough power for her home. “You don’t make hay when the sun shines, you wash your clothes when the sun shines. I use wood for heating and wood for cooking. You just have to adapt to not having power on hand to waste any time of the day.”
Living among nature is only one aspect of Redwood’s goal. The other is preserving the environment. “It feels fantastic not to be part of the system that is destroying the planet, and to be independent of the whims of the big power companies,” she explained to Domain. “Relying totally on a personalized power system also encourages the economic use of energy and makes me appreciate being able to use technology like a washing machine and bread maker when the sun shines plentifully.”
Sticking It to Big Businesses
While many people would struggle with this lifestyle, this is not the case for Redhood, who summarises it as keeping an eye on the weather and voltage. “Having lived under candles and kerosene lamps, bucketing water up from a creek, and hand washing for years, this is luxurious living. Not only is it cheaper, less damaging for the planet and climate, but it’s a great feeling to stick it up the power authorities and big business!”
Speaking of sticking it to big businesses, she grows her own food in a garden, gets eggs from her chickens, and gets milk and cheese from her goats. Very few things she buys from the supermarket, such as olive oil, flour, Vegemite, and chocolate.
Her passion for preserving the earth is clear 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 to the Daily Mail.
This began at a young age. “[Society] seemed to be destroying things that I really loved, like forests and nature,” she said. “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.”
While solitude is not for everyone, it’s definitely for Redwood. “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. “…But I’ve mostly always just done my own thing and yeah, people have come and gone. Animals are so reliable, faithful, and honest and they have no baggage.”
Visit Jill Redwood
While Redwood went extreme with living off the grid, she still encouraged others to make more environmentally-friendly choices. “I know a lot of people that live a town life don’t have a lot of time outside of their work and they often don’t have a lot of room for keeping chooks and stuff,” she said. “Just try to have minimal impact and when you do have to buy from shops and supermarkets try to go for the most healthy food with the least packaging and processing and that helps the planet as well as your own body.”
Many of these interviews took place in 2015 when Jill Redwood received much media coverage. There’s little report about what she is up to today, but you could visit her and find out for yourself. In fact, if anyone wants a taste of Redwood’s living off-the-grid lifestyle, she hosts her cottage on AirBnb.