May 2017
Simple Times

Growing Older on the Homestead or Farm

My phones ring at least six times a day. I’ll no more than lay my cellphone down than the home phone rings:

To quote Charlie Brown, "Aaughhhhhhhhh!"

Happy birthday to me. Yes, I turn 65 in the month of May. But how in the world does every pharmaceutical giant, insurance provider and senior-care specialist know that?

I know that every one of these products and companies are probably wonderful and I may even need some of them in the not-too-distant future, but I have this URGE to phone the assisted living place and ask them how many goats I can bring with me and if there is space in the arboretum for a chicken coop. ...

   

The new little greenhouse I built back in February will soon be enclosed by protective fencing from the chickens!

 

I was able to keep my Mama here on the farm until about six weeks before her death. My husband Roy spent his last days in a hospital bed directly in the center of our living room, happily and peacefully watching old Westerns while I popped in and out from doing farm chores.

I hope and pray I can spend my last days right here on this little 15-acre homestead, doing what I like to do best. My Mama lived to be 86 and I have aunts living into their late 90s ... so there’s a possibility I could be around for quite some time. And even if I drop dead tomorrow, I hope I’m doing what I can on this little farm to make our lives and the lives of others in our community better.

I have looked up to Jackie Clay-Atkinson ever since I started reading articles by her in the 1990s. The last couple of decades, she has written extremely popular articles and books for Backwoods Home Magazine.

She’s probably about six to eight years older than me. She raised a passel of kids (part of that time as a single mother), and eventually found the love of her life and had one more child.

She always had a can-do attitude, growing a huge garden and then canning year-round when she found other things such as hams on sale. And a lot of time, she lived in cabins in what many of us would consider wilderness.

She now lives completely off the grid in a two-story log cabin she helped finish building AFTER her beloved husband died suddenly, leaving her with a teenage son to finish raising.

She milks goats and cows, drives tractors and backhoes, hunts moose and other wild game. She then pressure cans the meat, and still finds time to write her popular columns. Oh, and did I mention right after her husband died she also had her own battle with cancer?

But Jackie is not a wonder woman. But she KNOWS what is important.

In a November/December 2013 Backwoods Home article entitled "Tips for Older Homesteaders," she simply wrote, "I’ll tell you right here that the one biggest asset for anyone considering a later-in-life homesteading lifestyle is ATTITUDE!"

Then there’s J.D. Belanger, the founder of Countryside magazine, who now, I believe, is himself retired. He also wrote an article back in 2013 about growing old being the new normal as all of us baby boomers hang around.

One of his pieces of advice also sticks with me: "Use your head and not your back."

If I could afford a fulltime (or even a part-time) homestead-helper or farmhand, I could get a lot accomplished. But so far finances don’t permit that ... so ....

When it got time to put together that new greenhouse to replace the one I lost in January 2016 to a microburst, it was me, a set of instructions and some simple tools.

 

Hueytown’s Wayne Phillips enjoys these spacious raised beds in the backyard of the home he shares with his wife Yvette. Mine won’t be as nice, but the concept is still the same!

But it needed to be placed in the fenced-in garden area where plants can securely grow away from all the chickens, turkeys, ducks and guineas. The trouble was that fenced-in garden area complete with chicken wire overhead was falling apart since it was built over two decades ago. Some of the 4-by-4s had rotted in place. Some of the wire was rusty and sagging.

It is amazing how much work one short, chubby, gray-haired homesteader can accomplish if she just works a little while every day. I keep thinking about one of my favorite quotes, "You can eat an elephant ... one bite at a time!"

I couldn’t dig all six post holes with the post hole digger in one day like I once could. But I can dig two a day and concrete them in the ground after they are leveled!

My ancient rototiller died an untimely death and I’m not sure I could crank that cord now no matter how hard I pulled, so raised beds are in my future this spring! And I figure, if I make them one or two boards higher each year, by the time I am 70, they will be waist high and I won’t have to bend at all!

Before he died, Roy and I bartered with a local plumber, trading use of our then bucket-truck for his help in digging a line for a frost-free hydrant at my barn areas. I still have to drag a hose around some to water my animals, but that barnyard hydrant has sure made my life easier!

Anything that has to be replaced, whether it’s fencing or whatever, I’m trying to replace with metal or pressure-treated wood; so, hopefully, it will be sturdy for the rest of my life.

Things like replacing the shingled roof on my home with a metal one was one way of planning that I hope really helps in my future.

I think projects through a little longer, plan a little more and figure out ways to do things with the least resistance ... and there are now comfy lawn chairs near the goat pens, near the bunny barn and near the little greenhouse! It’s surprising what a short rest (often with a pet chicken or bunny in my lap) can do to refuel your energy level!

I have some health problems that have taken me kind of by surprise, BUT a big helping of God’s Grace plus eating locally grown food, drinking pure well water, staying away from manmade medication as much as possible, and having to get up and tend those animals every day are enabling me to keep putting one foot in front of the other!

One of my specialists, as he told me he didn’t want to see me in his medical office for at least a year, stopped at the door leaving my little examination room and simply said, "I don’t know what you do on that little farm of yours, but keep doing it."

So if you need me any time soon, I’ll be out here somewhere on my simple little homestead, following my doctor’s orders!

 

Suzy Lowry Geno lives on a small homestead in Blount County and can be reached through Facebook or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..