Aging Homesteaders

We have made improvements to our homestead over the years but it still demands a great deal of work and yearly maintenance.

Reader Contribution by Bruce McElmurray
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by Bruce McElmurray
A compact tractor with grappler attachment.

We have been homesteading in our current location in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in Colorado at 9,800′ elevation for almost a quarter of a century. When we started our homestead we were much younger, enjoying good health. We still enjoy good health but are 24 ½ years older. Since our nearest neighbor is one mile distant we live fairly isolated.. 

Physically Demanding

We have made improvements to our homestead over the years but it still demands a great deal of work and yearly maintenance. Our primary source of heat is a wood stove so we require 9-11 cords of firewood each winter to keep us warm. Our winters usually last 7-plus months so we burn a lot of firewood. We also average around 264 inches of snow each winter and that requires removal so we can move about freely. 

Age Matters

This is a pretty severe climate to exist in, especially as we have become older. I am in my 80’s and what I could do when I was 60 now requires more effort. Factor in what many of us seniors experience as we age, arthritis, which is painful and restricting. A good example is when I was younger I would set aside two weeks to get in our next winter’s firewood. Now it takes most of the summer working piecemeal. Strenuous work also requires a period of time to rest and recuperate between gathering firewood plus a different approach.  

Older Bodies Require Rest Periods

The climate conditions are harsh at this elevation and the exterior of buildings get punished by wind and require more frequent attention than in less severe climates. That means we paint, seal and stain the exterior of our buildings more often which is less strenuous than getting firewood or shoveling snow. These tasks give our bodies rest between the more demanding tasks. Our choice of locations to homestead is demanding but we enjoy the wild animals and the peace and quiet of where we are. 

Tools Make A Difference

We acquired a compact tractor to make heavy jobs easier.  Having a front end loader for the tractor helps spread gravel on our driveway and move heavy items that in the past were moved with a wheelbarrow, hand truck or by hand. Moving dirt is much easier with the tractor than making multiple trips with a wheelbarrow or wrestling large rocks into position. 

Tractor Implements That Save Old Bodies

We recently acquired a grappler for the tractor which holds trees at a comfortable level to cut  firewood to length instead of bending over to cut them on the ground. It can grab and move large rocks that previously had to be moved with a pry bar or by hand. Instead of loading piles of branches one at a time onto the trailer, the grappler can take large quantities and crush them into a bundle to facilitate getting hauled to the dump site. 

Health Benefits

The physical demands have kept us healthier than if we lived a more sedentary lifestyle. We have had our share of injuries along the way but the more active, physically demanding lifestyle has served us well. I had one such accident 6 years ago. I slipped on ice and heard a snap in my ankle. I finally gave in after walking on it for two days and saw a doctor. I sustained two fractures in that ankle and had it not been for the insistence of a thoughtful wife, I would not have seen a doctor. Having a high pain threshold can be detrimental at times. 

Seniors Have Aches and Pains

I suspect most seniors have an assortment of aches and pains and I am no exception. I tend to ignore the pain and continue my daily activity. Across the counter pain medication, heating pads, ice packs and analgesic salves work to get me through those painful times. Our medical facilities are worthy of our local population but not like we would find in a more populated area. Treatment is 52 miles away. 

Hard Lifestyle But Worth It

When I wonder if all the demands of a homestead are worth it, I see those snowflakes gently falling outside and the trees adorned in white coupled with our mountain views, all of which does make it worthwhile. We feel blessed every day living in such a gorgeous place. The silence of the snow and frequent visits from the multitude of birds and wild animals are very special to us.    

Senior Homesteading Is Much Harder

When we reach that senior age, it is important that we work smarter and not harder. When I was younger, I was able to clear 2 to 3 feet of snow in a couple of days but now I tackle it over longer periods interspersed with rest periods. Homesteading at this elevation is very hard especially when you reach senior age. It is hard and often very painful but, by working smart, most healthy seniors can handle it. 

From Sedentary To Strenuous

I realize that our homestead may be more extreme than some other homesteads but if Carol and I can still do it, that should be a clear indication that other seniors could also, depending on their level of physical ability. Following my years in the military I was mostly behind a desk and had a semi sedentary lifestyle. Taking a piece of raw land and converting it into a comfortable homestead was a radical change for me.

By Comparison

The only thing in my life that ever remotely compares to this homesteading lifestyle was when I was in my teens and was a newspaper boy. I would carry several canvas bags of newspapers door to door in snow, rain or stifling sun seven days a week. 125 customers would get their daily newspaper on their porch, dry and readable. I attribute that phase of my life as preparation for my current lifestyle. 

Homesteading is possible for seniors and Carol and I are proof it can still be done.  To learn more about Bruce and Carol and their remote homesteading lifestyle visit their blog site.

Bruce and Carol live in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of S. Colorado with their two canine companions in a small cabin they heat with a wood stove. Their neighbors, with whom they live in harmony, consist of wild animals such as bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, deer, and elk. For more on the McElmurray’s visit their blog site.

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