Homesteading after 40…is it a midlife crisis or the perfect time to start? For me, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I’d love to tell you that homesteading is in my blood and that from a young age I wanted chickens and gardens; but that would be a lie. Frankly, as a teenager, I had dreams of running off to New York city and starring on Broadway. But alas, and thankfully, that dream never came to pass. No, my homesteading dreams started much later in life. I can’t really call it a midlife crisis because the seed was planted in my thirties, but it wasn’t until my forties (yes, I’ll be 45 in March of 2017) that it began to sprout and grow. Each year the dream grows bigger and I know I’ve outgrown my “backyard homestead” so we are making shifts so that we can soon be on property.
For me the fire really for a backyard homestead really got lit after watching some food documentaries (Fresh and Food Inc) and reading everything I could by Joel Salatin. I think that had we started a homestead journey in our 20s it would have ended quickly; we moved around a lot for my husband’s job and I started and quit things every 3 or 4 months. That’s not to say that I think you HAVE to wait; no I am envious of the younger folk that get this so much earlier in life!
Homesteading after 40…I often wondered if I was the only one that started later in life. So I asked some of my readers on Facebook how many of them started homesteading after 40; I was pleasantly surprised by all the answers. There were homesteaders that started in their late 30s, 40s even 60s!
Then I took the question to some of my fellow homesteading bloggers and asked them to share their experience as midlife homesteaders. So what did they think about homesteading after 40? They’ve got some great experience and advice to share!
Homesteading After 40 Midlife Crisis or Perfect Timing
Lee Ann Perez of One Ash Homestead: I started at 55 full time homesteading. We are rural- 13 acres. I retired from my full time job (early) to live this awesome lifestyle. my husband was already working the farm while I worked. at the same time our daughter was graduating college and the three of us opened our dairy and started our homesteading supply company One Ash Farm and Dairy Supply Co. online. The idea of working with and creating a business with family every day, being more self sufficient, and not working for “the man” anymore were the things that drew me to it. Advice– stay in good shape, eat well- homesteading is hard tiring work and you need to be healthy. be flexible, this isn’t the typical 9-5 job. Things happen 24/7 and you have to deal with them. Do research- don’t get into something you aren’t able to commit to. For instance, we have a dairy. The cows require us to be here twice a day, every day. No vacations, no holidays. We have helped many startup homesteaders that can’t maintain that reality. Best thing about starting later- for us, we have done the travelling, the spending, the acquiring of goods, so it’s easier now to live on very little vs. how it would have been 20 years ago.
Cheryl Aker of Pasture Deficit Disorder: I was 43 and my husband was 41 when we bought our homestead. When we got married, we weren’t set on having land and animals. But we wanted room to garden. My husband got into woodworking and we wanted room for him to have a shop. We kind of wanted room for a greenhouse too. Living in a subdivision, we would have to have a really large lot to do all those things.
We moved back home to Texas in 2010. We started out wanting to develop and live on a piece of family property, but that didn’t pan out. If we were going to buy land, we didn’t think what we wanted in a piece of land existed – pasture, trees, good soil, good access – or if it did, it would be WAY out of our price range or too far away to be able to commute to jobs in the city. We had even settled on a house in a suburban subdivision; but seven days before closing, the national bank we used to do business with yanked our financing. We were devastated. But eventually we started looking at land again, because by then, we realized we truly wanted a homestead. In the spring of 2011, we fell in love with what is now our property, but we couldn’t get the financing because big banks don’t want to finance raw land. Finally, about six months later, we found a local bank willing to give us a chance! And so our adventure began…
We started growing herbs in window boxes and planters when we first started dating. And we’ve had small gardens ever since we were married, no matter where we lived. We had been dabbling in learning to can foods – we started with making jam. You don’t have to live in the country or on acreage to do those kinds of things. Over time, we realized that wanted to expand those skills and start raising and preserving as much of our own food as we could. We feel such a sense of accomplishment when we put up our own food.
Since we ended up with some acreage, adding animals just seemed like a natural progression. And we love being surrounded by critters! (We have cats, dogs, chickens and cows.) When you have pets and farm animals, you experience the circle of life up close and personal. Sometimes it’s fun and joyous, sometimes it’s hard and heartbreaking. But it’s always real and true.
My best advice is be patient – while looking for the right property or with any project you take on. It takes a LOT of time to do things right and get them just how you want them. And most projects are going to take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expected.
The best part of starting this later in life, is that we had plenty of time to figure out it’s what we really want – we’d been through some ups and downs in life. This is where we want to spend the rest of our lives. If it’s something you have a passion for, it’s never ever too late to make that dream come true. It’s also how I got started with my writing, and then blogging. I’ve even had some articles published in national magazines. And now I’m finishing up my first children’s book. All of that came from starting our homestead.
The name of my blog is Pasture Deficit Disorder (www.PastureDeficitDisorder.com) because that’s what we suffer from every time we have to leave here. We are truly building a life we don’t need (or want) a vacation from. We recently took a week’s vacation and never left the Pasture…and it was pure heaven!
Lesa Wilke of Better Hens and Gardens: I was probably homesteading from the day we bought our first home (early 20’s). As an engineer, manager, and eventually project manager for a large corporation, I was relocated ten times over a span of twenty years. During those years, I became increasingly concerned about our food supply; so with each move, I tried to shift closer to my vision of self-sufficiency, sustainability, and real foods. Over those years, my partner and I built homes, patios, decks, and barns; grew vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees; and raised chickens all while being employed full time.
In 2000 (at the age of 40) we bought ten acres and in 2005, we finally moved onto those acres and named them Bramblestone Farm. The farm is located in Northeast Ohio, so we experience a full range of beautiful seasons. We currently have a large garden, various fruits and brambles, 25 chickens, 14 goats Nigerian Dwarf goats, six honeybee hives, and two cats. The chickens and goats free-range on about four fenced acres, controlling the bugs or weeds, and supplying (hopefully) eggs or milk.
Our lifestyle changed after 40 because we decided we were no longer willing to be relocated by our employer. When considering making a change, be sure to research your options very carefully, and realize that it doesn’t need to happen overnight. If you plan carefully, and take one small step at a time, you’ll still be amazed at what you’ve accomplished when you look back. For us, the best part about starting the journey later in life is that we’re able to afford more. Perhaps we’re not as young, but we can buy better tools and help because we’re financially stable.
Janelle Veldkamp of Homestead in the Holler: My husband and I moved our family from our acreage in Colorado to a 230 acre old dairy farm in the Ozarks the year that we both turned 40. It has been a dream of ours to live a simpler, more self sufficient lifestyle. We were working towards this kind of lifestyle on our acreage, but we wanted to be full time homesteaders. We are both very interested in permaculture and off grid living, both of which can be done anywhere, but our dream was to do this on a large scale.
Our children are still at home and were part of the draw to the homesteading life. We want our children to know homesteading skills and have the opportunity to grow up on a farm. The best part about starting this journey a little later in life is that we were financially secure enough to buy some land and work towards living off the land as our sole income. It is a lot of work to revive a farm and get an income stream going, but so worth it. Past life experiences, such as doing our own remodeling, landscaping and cooking from scratch, have also helped us in this homesteading lifestyle. Our advice to someone looking to homestead after 40 would be to jump in and do it! But plan ahead and save some money before getting started. It takes money to set up a homestead and it takes a while to start generating income, a little cushion helps tremendously. You only live once, love what you do!
Janelle and her husband are building a permaculture farm in the Missouri Ozarks. You can read about their adventures at Homestead in the Holler.
Homesteading after 40 – Midlife Crisis or Perfect Timing….only you can know that answer to that! For us homesteading after 40 was the perfect time to start! The point is just GO FOR IT – there’s never going to be a better time than right now!