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You’re Never Too Old to Homestead

One Old Man Going It Alone

Have you ever heard of Jack English? Jack was 96 years old when he passed away earlier this year. Up until his death he was in the news now and then, because people found his lifestyle to be exceptional.

After the death of his wife, Jack chose to live alone on a remote homestead, 5 miles from the nearest road in the Ventana Wilderness in Central California. He built his own cabin using lumber from the land. He used rudimentary tools to provide for himself. And he lived life the way he thought was best for him.

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Jack English’s Special Place

When his wife Mary died, Jack was already beyond 80 years old. That’s when he left his home and family behind to live alone on a small homestead in the wilderness.

Jack first visited this site when he was about 11 years old, hunting with friends. He fell in love with the place, and together with Mary he built a cabin there in the 70s. They dug stones from a nearby creek to build a foundation and chimney. They harvested lumber – oak, pine, and sycamore – from the land. The project took them more than 2 years, working on weekends and vacations away from their home in Soquel, CA.

When Mary passed away after a fight with Ovarian cancer, it was the only place Jack wanted to be. And he lived there on his own for 10 years.

Read more: Getting to Know Your New Permaculture Site

The Last Mountain Man

Friends and locals called Jack “the last of the mountain men.” His lifestyle came along with a certain stigma – but that never bothered him. Jack didn’t apologize for his differences; as you’ll hear him say in the video below, “I’d rather go back than go ahead.”

Jack kept himself busy in a small, simple shop where he practiced his trade making violin bows.

After living alone in the woods for 10 years, Jack suffered a heart attack in 2012. He wasn’t able to live alone after that, but he never missed an opportunity to go back to his cabin for weekends and vacations – up until his death in March 2016.

You can hear more about Jack from the old man himself in this video:

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Sources:
1: At 94, he must let go of his piece of paradise. Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-c1-jack-english-20131227-dto-htmlstory.html
2: Jack English, the last of the mountain men, dies at 96. Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-jack-english-dies-snap-htmlstory.html

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COMMENTS(12)

  • Dr. Flora says:

    I know someone like Jack English. One of our sons needs a safe place in the woods where he can work, and tend his 9 goats. After his wife and children left him, he also prefers to be away from crowds. He is a musician: composer of quiet pieces on piano and organ, player, and would consider being a companion to someone or as a guardian to a property. He’s 59 years old, a lacto-vegan, kind, thoughtful, non-smoker and non-drinker.

  • Richard says:

    Jack English, my kind of people …

  • Bonnie says:

    What a lovely story. Exactly how I feel. I have a small piece of land, it is surrounded by neighbors, but I have planted trees all around the property with the help of animals, and I feel this land as the one piece of serenity in my life.
    I hope when I go, I can go sitting in the middle of my beautiful gardens.

  • .OWZA says:

    thank you Michael Ford for bringing to attention of readers here in your column,it is simply a lovely living a life of a mountain man like him.I had just started doing like him seven years ago.I sold my house in a very busy industry area and moved into a remote area with few neighbours and growing organic veg-farm and fruit trees.Both me and my wife going into 70s with good health have enjoyed a new meaningful life. You have given us a story to share that reinforces and enhances my belief in a life of my choice.thank you to you so much dear Michael
    OSMAN W.

  • Marie Salisbury Alberti-Thomson says:

    Great story. AND violin bow maker – did he play violin? Such beautiful work. ALBERTI (NY and MO)

  • Toni says:

    What an amazing man!! He had so much talent and valuable skills. It’s awesome to read stories like this. I totally understand his concept of wanting to go back, not forward. I’m happy he was able to live his dream!

  • Brian says:

    We need a lot more like Jack!

  • Debra Smith says:

    Thank you for introducing us to Jack.
    I found his story very touching, most especially because as we age, we wonder if we can stay on our land if one of us passes away. I would be horrified if someone tried to force my husband into a care home if I die first. We often say that if we woke up one morning and were told we had been dead for two weeks and this is our heaven- we would not be surprised or unhappy.
    This is heaven for us. Leaving it would not be heavenly or a happy event.

  • Peter VanArtsdalen says:

    Wow what a story… It inspires me to do the same with wife and kids. Why can’t life be more simple!

  • T says:

    I would of loved to of been able to spend time with him; fascinating way of life!

  • Renee says:

    Dear Mad’m is a great book too. She was 70 when she moved to her little cabin in Oregon. Close to the town called happy camp. Start homesteading before you actally move so you know how to – garden, make cheese, make soap, can, make bread, don’t rely in stores for everything, be frugal. We r working on our 7 acres to move to next year. Got the well last summer, garden in this summer and another shed in November. Love living in north east Washington state. Only 35 miles from Canada.

  • Renee Kendrick says:

    Dear Mad’m is a great book too. She was 70 when she moved to her little cabin in Oregon. Close to the town called happy camp. Start homesteading before you actally move so you know how to – garden, make cheese, make soap, can, make bread, don’t rely in stores for everything, be frugal. We r working on our 7 acres to move to next year. Got the well last summer, garden in this summer and another shed in November. Love living in north east Washington state. Only 35 miles from Canada.

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