July 16, 2014

Aging Gracefully

Homesteading is hard work, and I'm not getting any younger. I doubt anyone will argue with that.

We moved to Oak Hill almost eleven years ago. We started out getting as much done as we could, which was a good thing since even then we weren't spring chickens. Eventually we got the major items on the to-do list knocked down. Two and a half years ago we had a barn fire. It took hubby and me both some time to get over that. About 24 months, to be exact.

This year I've been working hard, trying to get back on track. Now my age is beginning to be a consideration. Fortunately, I started thinking about this several years ago. What would I do when it became more difficult to do the work I needed to do?

My plan was to move to smaller goats as I age, but over the years I've realized that a gentle and cooperative personality are what make a good goat, rather than size. I've had a couple of flighty and difficult does; even though they were raised just like the others, they were still silly. I'd think twice about keeping a bossy goat, or even an overly-shy goat nowadays. I'm too old to be chasing a goat around a pen.

My current buck goat is a gentleman, and behaves himself even during breeding season. He recently had a wound that had to be treated twice a day, and he never fought me about it as long as he had food in front of him while I worked. When the food was gone, he simply wanted to walk away, not fight me. His good attitude and personality are desirable traits. Hopefully he's passing them on to his offspring too.

Over the years, I've perfected my horse-feeding routine to make it easy and safe, both for me and for the horses. I've been knocked down a few times over the past ten years by horses that were arguing among themselves. I've sold the worst culprits. Each horse I currently have goes politely into its stall before being fed. They know which stall is theirs, and they go in without a fuss. A nice side effect is that we've not had a horse choke on their feed in several years because they no longer feel pressured to gulp it down before another horse chases them off.

I've also downsized quite a bit in the past couple of years. I still have one more horse I'd like to rehome. Having fewer animals makes my chores much easier.

And let's face it, it's easier to break ground when we're young. Shoveling and moving dirt and heavy stuff is much harder as we grow older. I am still working on my garden and it's hard, physical work. This year we enlarged our garden a bit too and I had to refence it.

I use the wheelbarrow to move fifty-pound bags of feed from the truck to the feed storage area. I can move two bags in one wheelbarrow load, or move one square bale of hay from the storage area to the goats' pen with it.

Fencing is another task I don't look forward to at this age. We have fencing and cross-fencing in place, but horses are very hard on fences and we need to replace some of it, one line in particular. Fence mending and maintenance are never-ending tasks, but driving t-posts is the hardest part. Fortunately I just need to replace the fence fabric, not the posts. I'm hoping to talk one of the son-in-laws into helping with some of the fence-mending while he's here this fall.

The moral to this story is don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Learn as much as you can now, and put it into practice so that you can tweak your systems until they work for you. And have a Plan B, just in case you get sick or are injured. Spend some time now to look ahead, identify tools and strategies, and turn your homestead into a property that will sustain you when you are older.

Have you thought ahead? I'd love to hear your thoughts and plans on this, you might have the answer to something that I need to change. Please leave a comment.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.



  1. There are many things we have changed over the years, Kathi. Now, when we buy 50 lb. bags of feed, we slide them to the end of the truck tailgate, have a large trashcan under the opening of the bag, open it and just let the feed fall into the bag. That way, we don't have to pick up or carry them at all. Our trashcans have handles on each side, so they can be dragged without lifting, or moved by two people.

    I definitely agree with your evaluation of animals. I won't keep a goat that I have to wrestle around or chase. I won't keep one that spooks the herd either, even if all of their other characteristics are great. Gentle and easy to handle is the only way to go, for me and for them.

    We bought a tractor with a tiller attachment for the garden, otherwise we wouldn't be able to do near the gardening we are doing now. The bucket on the front of the tractor has made a huge difference as well.

    Wagons and carts come in very handy for moving things that we used to carry. We are also looking into a battery powered ATV that we can recharge with solar panels so it is not dependent on fuel. If we can get what we want, then we can get a cart or wagon to pull behind it to help move things as well.

    Thank you for this post. It is a good reminder of things to think of and plan for.


  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead11:06 AM

    Those are good solutions too, Fern. We have an ATV with a cart and use it a lot to haul things from one place to another. I like your idea of just emptying feed sacks into a trash can.

  3. I've been thinking about this too, as we are planning on acquiring acreage. You are so smart for having thought ahead about these things. Have you no young adults near you who would relish helping out in exchange for lodging, food or community service credit?
    So glad your animals are of a gentle nature. That's gotta be so comforting.

  4. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:03 PM

    Those are good ideas, Daisy. I had several 4H girls that would come and help, but they've grown up now. When I need an extra pair of hands and hubby isn't available, I ask my riding buddy to help.

  5. Anonymous8:24 PM

    If you have a tractor with a front loader you can use the front loader to push the t-posts to the depth you want. We are senior citizens and we have fenced a LOT! If we have had to pound the t-posts in we would not have any fences.

  6. Thank you for encouraging us.

  7. I do think about it. The barnyard and animals are mostly all my responsibility - my husband loves me but the animals are not his passion at all.

    I agree that my best friends are my wheelbarrow and flat cart. I'd never be able to move the hay or feedbags without them.

    I'm lucky to have young kids who live next door that love the animals and like to help out!

  8. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead7:29 PM

    I'm in the same situation, Joan, the animals are my responsibility. You are fortunate to have helpers living next door!

  9. Good morning, Kathi. Yes, these are things my husband and I have been considering as we get older. We aren't spring chicks either - and we are just getting started! One main consideration for us is the gardening. I don't want to be on my hands and knees weeding the garden when I am in my 70's (Lord willing I get there), so we plan to make permanent raised boxes with concrete block two high. That will be the perfect height to sit on and tend to the garden. Permanent raised boxes also make tilling not necessary. The house we are going to build is a two story - but the upstairs will only have two bedrooms and a bathroom for guests only. Otherwise, we will live on the first floor. I wouldn't want to have to climb stairs when I get older and especially if I wasn't feeling well. We have also acquired an ATV and love all the work it can do for us. It can get into tight spaces and pull out huge logs, but just as easily takes us on adventures through back trails and forestry roads. I do know that because of the work we are doing on our future homestead, although I am older, I am also in the best shape of my life! You should see my muscles! :) Have a great day.

  10. Vickie, those are good plans. I like the idea of raised beds high enough to sit next to. We have a one-floor house for the same reason you stated. And - I had to laugh - yes, I have muscles too!!

  11. to put in a t-post fast. use a front end loader. rent one for the week-end? makes it tap, two,three, four. done. more of a walk. :)

  12. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead12:18 PM

    Thank you, Carol. I'll have to talk hubby into doing this with the tractor.

  13. Kathi, I just love this post. I found your blog via Tilly's Nest blog hop.

    I am 66 and disabled with an incurable lung and heart disease. We moved from another five acre hobby farm to this one two years ago. Before we moved, I planned everything out so that I could care for the animals, even with my limitations. I know it won't always be that way, but for now I am living my dream of hobby farming in an 1800's era farmhouse with 66 chickens, two donkeys, two goats, four emus and a spoiled rotten little rescue terrier.

    We don't have a barn here so I had a shed built at one entrance to the circle driveway. We can stop right there and unload the fifty pound bags of feed. We go through a lot of feed with all the chickens. I have covered containers that we pour the feed in for storage. If hubby isn't available to help pour, I can just scoop feed from an open bag, roll the bag down and lay a rock on top to keep creepy crawlies out.

    I use collapsible plastic buckets filled with enough feed for one feeding for all the animals. I hang them right by the back door, enough buckets for two days of feeding. I have a cute little scooter called a Cricket that has a small utility bed in the back.

    We configured the pastures and animal housing so that every creature big or small has a section of fence adjacent to our back yard. All I have to do is ride around and fill the feed buckets, put on and take off fly masks, hug the emus and I'm done.

    We have a plastic storage container that holds one bale of hay perfectly. It sits right next to the donkey's hay feeder. We use our ATV to carry out a new bale when we run out.

    We have 5 chicken coops with huge, covered runs that sit in a row next to the house. They are all walk-in coops with feed buckets attached to the front doors. All I have to do is open the door, and fill the buckets. The nest boxes are in the back so I can either go in the runs to collect eggs or go through the front door. All of our coops have water lines to them with two separate types of self waterers, nipple waterers and bowls. Unless we lose water completely I never have to carry buckets of water. When we clean coops we just back the Polaris with the big dump bed up to the coop door, shovel the shavings in, ride out to the compost pile and we're done.

    Next to the coops is a 4x8 playhouse that I use as a brooder room. I have two large, built-in chick brooders. We have a large basement so I keep my cabinet incubator down there as well as a small brooder for keeping chicks for the first 24 hours out of the incubator. I can keep a close eye on them until they are ready for the big brooder.

    Hubby built a small garden for me with raised beds right outside the utility room. I would never be able to garden if I had to stoop over for very long.

    We took everything into consideration before buying this property and configuring it to suit our needs.

    We were just talking yesterday that when we are no longer able to do the work that is required, or maybe we need more care ourselves, that we will sell the place, inclusive of the animals! I don't ever want to have to load princess Diana, the mini donkey into a horse trailer again.

    So thanks again for your post and good ideas. Happy homesteading!

  14. Mary, you obviously spent a lot of time planning all that out! Those are all excellent ideas to make the chores easier. I'm very glad you are able to live your dream in spite of the difficulties.


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