What It Takes To Homestead As A Working Retirement

working-retirement

What are your plans for retirement? Are you looking forward to watching more TV, playing golf, or traveling? And when you aren’t doing those things, then what? This is why I’m looking forward to a “Working Retirement.”

Learning from previous generations

In my 50’s, I watched my mom succumb to Alzheimer’s, and later, my dad to heart medications. They both lived a long time. In particular, my father lived to be 92 years old. For me, that was a strong indication that I would also be long-lived. If I could do something about it, I didn’t necessarily want to end up in the same condition.

Why a working retirement?

At 60 years old, I still work full-time, which I enjoy. So why am I looking at homesteading as a “working retirement?” The last thing I want to do is spend all day watching television in an easy chair. This is what I watched my parents do, and it killed them. They both got to the point where they could barely do anything else.

On the other hand, regular activity has been proven to keep people young. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that even low levels of activity could increase life expectancy 4.5 years, regardless of body weight.[1] For an excellent example of this, look to Jack Lalanne, who was active from his teens until he died at the age of 96 years old.

A Permaculture Design Course opened my eyes

The other change that happened quite recently was taking a Permaculture Design Course (PDC). The information I received opened my eyes to the possibilities for using land, except I didn’t have land at the time. Instead, I lived in a townhome, which had restrictions against doing anything that didn’t stay on my back patio. Naturally, you can’t raise goats, chickens, or enough food to feed two people on a 4 ft. x 8 ft. concrete slab.

Our Working Retirement

Finding the land

Shortly before I finished the PDC, my husband and I decided to buy land and figure out how to grow our own food. We found four acres for sale in an area where the land prices were within our budget and not too far away from our current location.

While creating an initial planting of perennial edibles, we researched energy efficient housing possibilities. Once the house is built, we will further implement our design for the land, which will include ducks, goats, donkeys, bees, a straw-bale garden, and a variety of fruit trees.

Limited Time

Until then, working on our property is limited to the weekends. It is hard work, but also an excellent way to get away from sitting in front of a computer all day. When we go to the land, we move wheelbarrows full of wood chips onto our driveway, water all of our plants from the water collection system, clear weeds on our access road, and enjoy being in the sunshine and fresh air.

Reduce current monthly expenses

We know our current jobs won’t last forever, so we have been reducing our expenses and improving our quality of living at the same time.

Groceries

First, growing our own food reduces one of our biggest monthly expenses—buying groceries. Also, we know what went into growing the food. I believe this is the biggest benefit of raising and growing your own food.

Utilities

Second, we designed our new house to be energy efficient, using much less electricity than we currently use in our townhome. Eventually, we hope to provide our electricity with solar power. The solar power and the water well that we have on the property will significantly affect another big monthly expense—utilities. Also, we plan to use the sun for some of our cooking and drying clothes to make the most of this abundant Florida resource, sunshine.

Finally, we plan to use our current townhome and the new house as sources of income. I don’t think it is a good idea to rely on the government, so the more self-sufficient we can make ourselves, the easier our “retirement” will be financially.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?
What’s the reality of this scenario?

Financially, there is the investment in the land and a new house. We don’t have unlimited funds, so this is an important consideration. The biggest reason we chose the land was because the price was low, about 1/10 of what we would have paid for the same lot where we currently live.

The house

The house is an even bigger expense that had to be managed so we finish without using all of our reserves. If we were living in a house with land, we probably would have worked with that.

There is also some frustration in waiting for things to happen. Permits, plans, and designs all take time to create. We sometimes feel at the mercy of our general contractor, but we know the time will be worth it once the house is completed.

Friends & Community

Our property is about an hour away from where we currently live, go to church, and have most of our family and acquaintances. This was a sacrifice that may not be easy for others to make. In our case, we feel that it gives us an opportunity to meet new people and experience new things, so there is a trade-off. We also plan to invite friends and family to visit our new place, which will be a good experience for them, too.

Pests

The biggest drawback of our four acres in the country is the number of biting and stinging insects that live there. I have been researching what we can do about this and have found mosquito-repelling plants and smells, which won’t harm beneficial insects. We also plan to increase the bat population, so we can comfortably co-exist.

The Work

It’s true that there is a lot of work to be done. Thankfully, many people have done these things before us. There are a lot of videos and blogs covering the skills we have learned. We have reached out to like-minded people in the community, who have given us the benefit of their experience. The bottom line is that we are not alone.

In the meantime, we are putting a lot of sweat-equity into our property. It may not be the same amount as a younger person might put into it. However, when we look down a road we have just cleared of weeds or squash coming up where we buried our kitchen scraps, it’s a great feeling!

A little TV isn’t so bad

This is what we look forward to in our “working retirement”—better food and water, plenty of time outdoors, lots of exercise, accomplishments in new and varied areas, and making lots of new friends. And yes, when we watch some Netflix we won’t feel like couch potatoes.

Are you preparing a homestead? Tell us your story in the comments below.

Resources:

[1] Wein, Harrison, Ph.D., “A Little Exercise Might Lengthen Life” Web Post, National Institutes of Health/NIH Research Matters, Published December 3, 2012, Accessed July 26, 2017, https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/little-exercise-might-lengthen-life

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Karen the Newbie Homesteader


Contributor

Karen the Newbie Homesteader is a novice gardener, homesteader, and permaculturist. She and her husband recently purchased four acres in central Florida to create their homestead and grow their own food. She will be sharing their adventures: successes, failures, and everything in between - here at The Grow Network.


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10 Comments
  • Anita

    I enjoyed this article and look forward to reading more about your adventures.

    My husband and I three years ago started homesteading a small 5 acre parcel of land. Unfortunately we didn’t have the luxury of picking and choosing and bought a piece that is very wooded and has a pretty good size ravine on it. Needless to say we are short on pasture for our animals. But the trees do you provide heat and Wood for our grandmothers wood cooking stove.

    We are raising pigs, chickens, ducks, guineas, and have experimented with goats and sheep. We have expanded our garden, so it is much larger. We are hoping to put in a small orchard. We still do not have a well so we are transporting water from our neighbors well.

    It is a slow process but we have thoroughly enjoyed our experiences so far. We would encourage anyone to plan ahead and pick the right piece of ground for you and decide what your goals are ahead of time.

    And if anyone has any good ideas for a direction for us to look into please let me know. Haven’t figured out what to do with this Revene yet besides grow more trees.

    • Nonya

      If there’s a south-facing slope in the ravine, could it be terraced and planted in some kind of perennial crop such as berries or asparagus or something? I have my slightly sloped garden area in perennial plants and the flatter ground in traditional garden crops. If you’re in a colder area, you could dig into the hillside a bit to create a micro-climate that is warmer than your other spots, to grow something unique to the area.

  • Karen the Newbie Homesteader

    Thanks for the comment, Anita. It sounds like you have made lots of progress! I recommend looking into ideas from Permaculture to maximize what you have and make the most of what you are putting into your project. That subject would definitely address what to do with your ravine. Are you able to do water collection from your roof? That and a good filter could help with the water situation.

  • Yukie

    I’m retired in Hawaii; my husband will work a few more years. We recently purchased 8.6 acres of former sugarcane land with the goal of developing a sustainable homestead for our family. First task is to fence the property and bring in the neighbors cows to clear the land naturally (and get a property tax break for active agriculture). i have been studying and practicing permaculture and Korean Natural Farming methods at our current location, and enjoying the fruit of our labor! I look forward to this group.

  • EMO

    Loved this article! It summarizes my “dream retirement.” But we live near Denver, where our kids/grandkids live, and unfortunately, land is ridiculously expensive here. I would love to find 1) a permaculture class near me, and 2) affordable land where we could actually grow food. Any ideas gratefully accepted!!

    • Shelly

      Try abandoned lots and power line/railroad right of ways, the owners might be very happy to have you “look after” the area rather than them having to go out and mow it. Check around for unused backyards/gardens that you could use in return for giving a share of the produce. Container garden favorite foods.

  • We began to develop our homestead in our 50’s and are still working on it in our 60’s. The husband is going part-time next year, so I’m very excited about having extra muscle around. Our goal is to have everything finished by the time we are 70. It’s not an impossible thing to do. We get up a little slower in the mornings, and hit the bottle of Aleve more often, but after a long busy day we take the next one off to recoup. We tap the grandchildren now and then, and are not afraid to call for help on the big stuff. They in turn get homemade chicken and dumplings, pancakes from scratch, fresh organic fruit and vegetables, and lots of hugs. This is a time of contentment for us and for blocking out the craziness in the world. Now if I can just remember where I put those tractor keys.

    • EMO

      Congratulations, Shari. You have a wonderful life there. I hope I can get something close to that at some point. Lots of unanswered questions for the moment though. Keep up the great work though. You’re an inspiration!

  • Charles Hilliard

    How did you and your homestead survive Irma?

  • I need Help find a Best place to Live,Home Stead, little land small house,solar,wind power,well need clean water, Best way to DO? Or rent to own? Info Help, Im retired Health SS check,today they are going to cut medicare,when Mon 9-18-17 Info Thanks Jeff jschwersinske@att.net

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