Finding yourself in the stage of life where your kids are grown and you have some freedom? Have you been dreaming about homesteading for a while, but wondering if you could pull it off at your age? You might be pondering the question “Am I Too Old to Homestead”?
As we age, there are legitimate questions that we must ask ourselves…Is my current home too large? Can I still manage the staircase? What kind of lifestyle does my budget allow? How does retirement fit into a homestead plan?
But what if you’re someone who has been reading and hearing about homesteading for quite a while now and you’re ready to check it out?
Perhaps you’re wondering if it’s too late for you to homestead…
Can you handle the work load?
Is there a way to make some homestead-related retirement income?
What if you can’t lift heavy things?
These are all legitimate concerns for someone who is entertaining the prospect of urban homesteading, regardless of age.
However, I would challenge you to push through your doubts and consider homesteading at an older age, for many good reasons.
We’re wiser now.
As more mature human beings, we know how to take a hard look at things for what they are. We’re less likely to “leap first, think later”. Quite honestly, the ability to “think first” will in large part determine your success as a homesteader, regardless of your age.
Further, we know how to work smarter and not harder.
Many retirees come from a business background and understand that we don’t have to do everything ourselves. Delegation is a tool that managers use to get a lot done, but don’t do it all themselves. These principles work the exact same way with homesteading.
We won’t have to make the same predictable mistakes of our youth.
Taking on more than you can chew is a typical “newbie” mistake. As we age, we find it less necessary to impress and more necessary to find joy and fulfillment.
Further, over 1/3 of all farmers are 65+ in this country. I’m talking “big time” farmers with hundred of acres!
Personally, I am 59 years old at this writing. I’ve been homesteading for over 25 years now, but the heaviest work has been in the last 11 years on our current homestead of 10 acres.
Prior to buying our current property, I homesteaded in the suburbs for about 13 years. (I homesteaded in the house previous to that as well).
The way our home was positioned made it one of the most dysfunctional, homestead set-ups known to man. I was about 34 years old at the time.
The coveted “south side” of the house was completely blocked by very large trees and other homes. Can you spell s-h-a-d-e???
Our lot was technically 1/3 acre but very little of it was usable.
That said, I still found ways to homestead in that residence.
- I put up a clothesline and stopped using the dryer as much as possible. I also made my own laundry detergent.
- I pulled out all of the landscaping and grew “edible landscaping” and many perennials.
- I took advantage of a community garden plot and grew tomatoes, peppers and anything else I could get to grow.
- I learned how to can and “put up” as much of our home-grown food as possible, including marinara sauce, which our family consumed regularly.
- I learned how to make bread and grind wheat berries.
At the time, hens were not allowed in that neighborhood. However, that city now allows 4 hens and no roosters. THAT would have been nice to have when we lived there.
Nonetheless, I did a good amount of “damage” in that home in terms of being more sustainable.
If you’re in an urban or suburban home that you love, you can homestead right where you’re at! Don’t feel as though you have to move to the country, that is unless you want to.
We moved to our current rural property at the age of 47 and 54, respectively, and we are still homesteading at the ages 59 and 65.
When we purchased our rural homestead, it really wasn’t a homestead…yet. It was a house on 7 acres.
Over time, we purchased part of the neighbor’s parcel and added barns, pastures, perennial gardens, fruit trees and 2 large gardens.
By creating an LLC for the property (with a plan to raise/sell something agricultural from your property) and applying for CAUV (Current Agricultural Use Value) property tax reductions, you can make your property an even better investment for your retirement years!
Many retirees enjoy raising and selling honeybees/honey, heirloom livestock, hay (which is very passive), herbs and teas, soap and even jams and jellies!
If you’re interested in creating a homestead business for yourself, you need to check out my book “Start Your Own Homesteading Business“!
Using your relationships from your old work life, you can easily create a clientele for your homestead products!
Questions to Ask Yourself
What are you passionate about at this stage of your life?
Homesteading requires passion. I am very passionate about growing healthy food, preserving and enhancing the soil, supplementing our adult children’s food supply and living as close to the land as possible.
Not everyone feels this way and that’s fine, but to keep going through the tough times, that “passion” will get you through.
Do you like to work in the dirt?
Love of gardening and living things is definitely important to homesteading. I am energized by digging in the dirt, planting things and watching them grow into maturity.
Do you enjoy working with animals and all that comes with it?
Do you enjoy farm animals? I’m talking chickens, goats, cows and livestock guard dogs? What about honeybees?
When you put systems into place that keep your workload at a minimum, taking care of farm animals isn’t that difficult.
Rather than breaking your bag lifting 50# bags of feed from your car, you can scoop 5# of feed out at a time at need. OR hire that neighbor kid or grandchild to help clean stalls and do some of the heavy lifting once every couple of weeks.
Can you carry grocery bags from the car into the house?
For the most part, if you can carry grocery bags from your car into the house, you should be able to handle the work of homesteading.
Even if bending and stooping is an issue, there are other ways.
Raised garden beds, for example, can solve that problem. Even folks who are in wheelchairs can build “keyhole” raised bed gardens, that allow them to maneuver around the garden.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Are you comfortable in jeans, a flannel shirt and work boots?
In other words, are you concerned about messing up your manicure? Eh, homesteading might not be your bag.
I own mostly casual clothes that are suitable for gardening and tending animals, for the different seasons. I do keep a couple of outfits for weddings/funerals, doctor appointments, etc. but it’s minimal. I’m just not interested in fancy clothing.
Is the quality of your food, as well as how it’s raised, important to you?
Let’s face it….
the food grid that most Americans depend on is extremely fragile.
Food independence is important to me, is it to you?
I’m also not interested in supporting an industry that abuses animals so that I can eat.
Our animals are all free-range and have great lives.
Our chickens forage over about 5 acres, eating berries and bugs all day. They have their little “hangout” under a large tree, where they interact with each other, fussing over who gets to sit where.
It’s a blast to watch the roosters lead the hens into the woods to forage, all in a line, every single day.
Yes, we do butcher chickens and cows to feed our family, but they are raised as close to nature as possible and culled quickly and humanely.
We eat eggs and meat that isn’t full of growth hormones and who know’s what else. I can also feel good about my grandchildren eating the same food.
Health Benefits of Homesteading
As we age, it’s important to stay active.
Homesteading ‘forces’ us, to some degree, to get up off that couch and move.
Animals need to be fed every single day, weeds need to be pulled and gardens need watered.
Staying active also reduces stress and can improve a plethora of health issues.
Talk to your doctor and get his/her approval, but chances are, they will be glad to know that you’re staying active.
Homesteading is also great for mental health! You’ll have a reason to get up every morning and critters who depend on you to care for them!
Don’t forget about the amazingly, nutritious food that you’ll be growing and consuming!
What About Health Issues?
There’s a lot to think about here. Some healthy issues are predictable and managable.
Others….not so much.
I’ll use myself as an example.
In the last 2 years, I’ve had 4 surgeries. All of them were out-patient, but there were varying degrees of recovery needed.
To some degree, I was able to schedule these surgeries for less busy times on the homestead. However, last year I had to schedule surgery on both hands, at the beginning of garden season. Recovery and PT took 12 weeks and I still struggle with strength in my hands.
My garden sucked that year. My husband had to get up earlier to go feed and water the animals before he went to work. It was just “one of those years”.
You’re going to have those times and you need to roll with them.
With every addition to your homestead, decide on what your “exit strategy” will be, if needed.
If you’re presented with a more serious disease, you may need to implement that “exit”. Some homesteaders might sell their livestock for the time being and buy again later. Others might cull the livestock for eating.
Health issues aren’t limited to age.
Young people can get seriously ill, as well.
The key here is to carefully consider how you set up your homestead, to allow to flexibility.
Don’t run out and buy 100 head of cattle, unless you have a strong Plan B in place.
If you’ve wanted to start homesteading, I say go for it!
Start small, with low-hanging fruit.
- Put up the clothesline.
- Harvest rainwater with a downspout diverter kit.
- Start container gardening.
- Learn how to make bread.
- If you don’t already, learn how to can and preserve food.
Then take it from there.
Listen to your heart, use your head to make good decisions and decide on that “exit strategy” if it becomes necessary.
Homesteading is something I never plan to stop!