Caretaking in Paradise


Anima Wildlife Sanctuary, N.M. 

The further “out in the sticks” that a place is, the more likely it is to need resident help, and the less likely it is that they can afford regular salaried employees.  The people who actually homestead off the grid are often low income, struggling to take care of all the necessary tasks that this otherwise rich and rewarding lifestyle requires.  The same with small ranches, which barely make more money from their livestock to make ends meet.  Likewise, the nonprofit organizations and activists that operate beautiful conservation areas and wild preserves do so on a shoestring budget, funneling their limited funds back into land restoration projects.  This creates some difficulty for the owners and managers trying to hold on to their properties and never sell, but it simultaneously creates opportunities for those of you hoping to make a a healthy life out on the land possible for themselves and their loved ones. 

Wildlife and botanical preserves depend upon volunteers for most of the good work they do, from planting shoots and seeds to controlling invasive species that impact the native biodiversity.  In some cases they also have structures for volunteers or year-round caretakers to move into, or can be convinced to allow you to park a trailer there in order enjoy living on the land you commit to helping make thrive.  Ranches are known for often providing food and a cabin to individuals or families willing to take on the cowboy duties.  Backwoods homesteads tend to cycle tend to cycle though not always helpful, seasonal farm volunteers, but many can prove amenable to hosting long-term or even a life-long caretakers if you ask!

Elka gathering wild foods at Anima Sanctuary

Asking is the key, since the owners of most such operations either don’t think to reach out for resident help, are too dang proud too ask for it.  Others have tried but given up on running notices on the commercial “Caretaker” websites, finding that they mainly contain ads from busy resorts paying offering low wages only to the most qualified.  As a result, 90% of the real caretakership positions that get filled, do so as a result of old fashioned word-of-mouth.  Someone tells the grocer in the nearest small town that they could use a little help with their “spread,” posts a 3x5 card on a co-op bulletin board, or asks their friends to “keep their eyes peeled” for possible candidates.  Thus, it is only through unconventional efforts that one can uncover the kinds of situations that we may long for: out in nature, solar powered, involving work that helps instead of harms our precious planet.

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