No one likes to think about getting older. Homesteaders need to.
I had three feeder steers fattening on the pasture. Each evening I would give each a small scoop of grain in the barn area so they would be easy to pen up.
One evening I was digging into the bucket for a scoop of feed when one of the steers swung his head around to chase a fly. I was standing several feet away and in no danger, but it was a wake up call.
I no longer raise feeder steers.
Fact of Life 1:
Life works this way. Each passing day, week and year ages your body. It’s usually so gradual, we don’t notice. Then one day we wake up and discover we’ve grown older.
Slinging bales of hay is no longer an option. They get heavier each year. They are carried and set into place. Help is hired.
Ten years ago I would take ten wheelbarrow loads of manure out of the barn in an hour and a half, then go on to some other task. Now I get six loads out in the same amount of time and am exhausted the rest of the day.
Remember those steers? What occurred to me was what would have happened if I had been standing next to that steer. His head was two feet long. He weighed over a thousand pounds.
I find the ground seems harder now. My body doesn’t bounce when it hits the ground any more. I get hurt more easily, although I do still heal up quickly.
My homesteading adventures began when I was in my twenties. Life stretched out in front of me.
I loved and still love the lifestyle. However, what I did then, I don’t do the same way now, if at all. Plans for the future take age into account now.
Life Complications 2:
Many homesteaders move out of the city to raise their children in a more down-to-earth style. They put in big gardens, can and dry and freeze, relying on many hands to get everything done.
Children grow up. Homesteading is hard work. It doesn’t pay very well. So these now young adults get jobs and move away.
I’ve known people who tried to keep cultivating that big garden on their own. Their children may live elsewhere, but they still want that canned produce. Neither the gardener nor the garden do well.
Stairs get hard to climb. Big houses are hard to keep clean. Health fails. The children now have their own families and lives. The old homestead is not part of them.
Natural disasters can create havoc, leave destruction behind. Cleaning up takes a long time. Is rebuilding worth it?
Planning for the Future 3:
My goats have been with me through various moves and are a big part of my life. I rely on them for milk, manure for the garden and company.
Stacking hay is not on my list of things I can do (Yes, I fudge.) now. Mucking out the barn takes months. Trimming hooves, doctoring, disbudding, tattooing, selling, barn and fence repairs, the list goes on.
I have no family who wants my goats. I don’t want them to end up at the sale barn.
My herd is shrinking. It is down from 45 to 20. As my does age, I try not to replace them. In another five years, the herd will be 10 or less.
It’s hard to let go of dreams. I miss that big herd. It hurts to sell kids I would gladly have kept ten years ago. But I must face the future.
The garden is changing too. Weed control is largely done with mulch now. I plant fewer potatoes, tomatoes, squash etc. I don’t rototill anymore.
Someone is hired to bush hog the pastures. A crew is hired to haul and stack the hay and it’s accepted that they never stack it the way I want.
Each year brings more concessions to age. Each year means reassessing what is most important.
Homesteading is a wonderful way of life. I plan on raising a few goats, chickens and garden produce as long as I can. It’s hard to give up good food for the store bought variety.
But the greatest joy of homesteading is the land itself. And enjoying the land takes only a good pair of shoes, binoculars, a camera, a walking stick and time. Or maybe just a comfortable porch swing.