When Age and Illness Invade the Homestead


 resting in the garden
A bench in the garden provides a handy place to rest and rehydrate.

You love living close to Mother Earth, digging in the dirt, hand making gifts, building your own structures. So, short of chucking it all in, how do you cope when long-term illness or a chronic health condition, even just aging, becomes a factor? Neither traditional nor modern homesteaders want to throw in the towel. And it’s hard to ask for help—assuming help is even available. What’s a person to do?

Our family has had to face both age an illness on the homestead, so we’ve been thinking about options for when we can no longer do what we love, at least the way we used to do them. Here are some ideas we’ve come up with.

Reassess and Prioritize

Now that you’re older, perhaps some of the tasks on your long To Do list aren’t as critical as they once were. If you have to make a lifestyle change, which jobs could you scratch off, or at least modify? Yes, you need a leak-proof roof, but perhaps that new greenhouse isn’t really a necessity. Or maybe you don’t need so much acreage, farmland, or garden space at this point in your life. Is it time to consider going small?

Once you’re whittled down your list, take a second look. Which tasks are most pressing and which can stand to wait awhile? Which ones are wants rather than needs. Needs go to the top of the list.

While you’re at at, consider this. There is always too much work to do, and we tend to focus on all that lies in front of us. It can get depressing, especially if you’ve recently found yourself unable to keep the pace you’re used to. Instead, take a look around you—and behind you. Think of all the things you have accomplished, all the goals you’ve met, the things you’ve done that you or others once thought impossible. Realizing all the great things you have achieved may make it possible to go easier on yourself now.

3/29/2021 5:38:04 PM

My son helped me to make a new chicken feeder and watering station out of barrels I only need to fill them up once a month. And, he is available sometimes to help refill them, especially the 5 bags of feed. I also got a tractor to help with some of the chores.

2/4/2020 8:29:44 AM

My grandfather lived to almost 93 and lost his sight, but never stopped gardening. He had a permanent fence run down one side where he could grow pole beans and cucumbers. He could find them by touch. He scattered mustard seed and raked it in. The greens grew tall and were easy to harvest. He planted a few tomatoes and peppers. He had just enough vision to make out a bit of red in good sunlight. Sometimes things came in the house green, but he did not let it slow him down. He was a competent cook, both on the stove and in a slow cooker. None of those vegetables went to waste. Yes, he hired help to mow the lawn and do light housekeeping, but he died in his recliner in his own house, a marvelous example of adaptability and tenacity. He always said "Considering the alternative, growing old isn't bad." Something to think about.

2/3/2020 3:08:22 PM

I resemble this article! A few years back my pickup rolled over my legs. Nothing broken except my future. I am still paying for that incident. I gave up my bunnies & goats. Fox ate my hens. I refuse to give up gardening. I am trying to successfully do hydroponics. Years of manually splitting wood have made back hurt so now i use a small hydraulic splitter. My son helps haul wood onto porches. I can only carry a couple of pieces at a time. I rigged a block & tackle to slide it up the back steps. I do have to take frequent breaks. No longer can I walk behind a 30 year old tiller all day. My kids grew up in immaculate house but now, not nearly. Besides how clean can a home be that uses wood heat?

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