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Starting from scratch over 50 yrs old...

 
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Hello Permies,

I'd love your insights on choosing a location to start a permaculture lifestyle at over 50 years old.

My question to you is - how much does where you LOVE (and know) V.S. what might make better climate sense long-term play-in?

Here's some background- we've worked and or lived in every state except Hawaii, Appreciate winter - I'm originally from upstate NY and my partner is originally from Sweden.  We are looking at land in the same area where I lived several years off-grid at 9500ft, winter access was ski/snowmobile.

Yet now we are both 50+, and when I think about wanting to spend the rest of my life on our property I worry a bit if the altitude and winter access, although thrilling now, how much to factor in the next 20-30 years. I'm not thinking Flordia or anything, but choosing land 50 miles away in zone 6-7 as opposed to 4a/b...then again plenty of people around the world live in much more extreme conditions...all the days of their long lives.

I'm inclined ( stubborn-minded?) to go with what I love, and know, now and to heck with the future unknowns...
 
master gardener
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There are multiple trade offs in a decision of this kind.  You have narrowed it down to 2.  When I had to make that decision, I sought a compromise among all the trade offs I was dealing with.  Ultimately,  it is a decision only you can balance out, but I am sure you already know that.
 
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As John said, it is your call ;)  And it sounds like you're mostly there already and more looking for confirmation than anything else. Not being critical.

At 60 I retired from a job in NYC, where I had worked for 28 years in midtown Manhattan. My wife and I bought land in Michigan - because Michigan is where she grew up and where her family is and because I'm not connected to anyplace in that fashion. My family is scattered, I grew up all over. So we looked in MI and eventually caught a pretty darn good deal on twenty acres of wooded land. We're not talking upstate NY winters, we're only two hours from Chicago, not in the UP. We're not in snowmobile to get in and out territory, but we have been snowed in and unable to get the car or truck out ;) I can tell you that for me the winter cold is hard on my body. It takes paying attention and being careful, dressing appropriately - all things you already know. Four years into our adventure and the cold is noticeably harder for me to manage.

Remember that it isn't just how you get Out that you might need to consider, but how services get In.  Ambulance access gets to be more of a thing as we age ;)

I planted walnut trees here this past spring. I intend to see them produce nuts ;)

It's never too late, we're never too old. But we might want to manage our expectations a little ;)

To directly answer your question - If you don't Love it, it won't work out. No matter how sensible the choice is on other grounds. We're talking about the ultimate labor of love here ;)
 
gardener
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Another factor to consider is it doesn’t have to be forever. You might love every minute of it, until...you don’t. That might just be age, or an injury, or just getting tired of long cold winters when you are 70. So then you sell and find another, easier place to live.
 
master gardener
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Oh, this is me! I'm 56, John is 52. We closed on our (6bplanting zone) place in the Ozarks, on October 5, 18 - after a lifetime of John dreaming of buying/retiring in Colorado. I just wanted to be near both mountains and water. But, heart attacks, arthritis, copd, and more happened. We both grew up in the lower Great Lakes 5b growing area. One of his great attacks was actually a direct result of the cold.

Our health issues, combined with cost of living, political, & land rights issues are the primary reasons we opted to move south, instead of laterally. Colorado has a very complicated, ugly (imho) web of land, water, and mineral rights, that we found prohibitive, plus with certain things suddenly being available, the influx of humanity to the state caused the cost of living to skyrocket. Retirement, for us, doesn't include a desire to go back to an employer cutting us a weekly paycheck, so that was the straw that broke the camel's back. John has always lived the cold weather - but, it doesn't love him back, anymore. So, we decided a little warmer would work, for us. He still gets his cold, snowy winters - but they're not quite as extreme, as they used to be. You don't have to give up all your beloved cold and snow, to make it a bit easier & safer on your aging body. Personally? I wouldn't have been upset, in the least, to move another zone warmer, lol.
 
pollinator
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I am starting over at 50, halfway across the country.  To get BOTH what we love and what is better for long term. Our have to list was Growing zone 7, still cool enough to survive without AC if we have to, lots of woods, Big acreage, reliable water.  You and yours need to sit down and make the have to and want to list and then go with it.  If you find out in 20 years something changes, then adjust.  
 
John F Dean
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Indeed, there are many other points for consideration.   I started in MN and got out after 4 years due to a multitude of factors.  The wrong neighbors can be a major factor. The ability to get employment is another.  Even if it is you goal to not work a job, grabbing onto some added cash for a special project is always nice.  How close is the nearest ER?  How close is the nearest real hospital?  How close is a top quality hospital?  Where is the nearest town with a selection of stores?  There are many factors to consider.
 
pollinator
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As a footnote, I can tell you it's really tough to leave a property for health reasons after you've put your heart and soul into it. If you choose a difficult location, it's better to mentally frame it as "we'll be here for 10 years and then move on." Makes it easier when the time comes.
 
pollinator
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Andy,

When my husband and I moved from the suburbs of Denver, I spent a fair amount of time getting information on potential places in Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana with the intention of living the rest of our lives there. Being a retired engineer, of course I made up a spreadsheet to document the information, but what I included were the following:

1. Water source and any issues relating to this - some places in Colorado limit the amount of water you can use
2. Rain/Snow monthly averages
3. Temperature monthly averages
4. Drought history
5. Wildfire history
6. Mining history - VERY important for clean water and soil
7. Oil and gas drilling history - Also very important for clean water. Colorado has some homes with flammable tap water due to nearby fracking
8. Land type - mountainous, flat, forest, etc.
9. Distance to major city - we picked places <50 miles from a major city for health care and other amenities
10. Community - conservative, liberal, other factors
11. Tax/retirement friendly - states have very different taxation laws regarding retirement income
12. HOA - this was the absolute deal breaker for us, and a lot of acreage properties were part of HOAs in Colorado. We moved out of state.
13. Property/road access

We learned a lot by looking at these factors and amazingly enough, found a nice property that fit our needs perfectly. We're 20 minutes from 2 towns and 48 miles from a big city, but still out in the woods where we wanted to be.  

More importantly, we tossed out whole regions due to drought/lack of water/HOAs, etc. so it allowed us to narrow our search and made the process easier.

If you write down all the things that are important to you, it makes the process of deciding where you want to go a lot easier.
 
pollinator
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Is it possible to have both?

Can you get a a 2 family house with say 1-2 acres of land. That you rent out 1 floor and slowly fix up the other maybe use it as a garage/studio/airbnb/family to crash at.
And then you continue building where you love on all 40acres (or however much land you want).
 
Andy John
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Carla Burke wrote: political, & land rights issues are the primary reasons we opted to move south, instead of laterally. Colorado has a very complicated, ugly (imho) web of land, water, and mineral rights, that we found prohibitive,"

I get it! Almost didn't move to Colorado 12+ years ago because of the water rights stuff.  Was easier to get water living in the desert then living in CO...lol!  Glad you found the best of both!

I'd never thought I'd say this phrase my mom use to use, but in this case, it might be our reasoning - " Better the devil you know vs the devil you don't know.

Having built up community and connections here is a major reason to stay. We've both moved dozens of times and or traveled for work, so we're hoping whereever it is our next move is our forever-move or at least the last move before hospice, assisted living, etc ;)

Carla, thanks for the BOTH reminder! A great mindset reset! And in some ways we already have that; since except for the COVID change-to- plans CA is a place we visit several times a year and have friends and family.

 
Andy John
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John F Dean wrote:Indeed, there are many other points for consideration.   I started in MN and got out after 4 years due to a multitude of factors.  The wrong neighbors can be a major factor. The ability to get employment is another.



Absolutely John. Sorry your first place didn't work. The neighbor thing is HUGE. One of the reasons I like the place I mentioned is because of the neighbors! Having lived there before I got to see first hand how well everyone got along, supported one another when necessary, yet were never noisy. I've stayed friendly with some since I left nearly 8 years ago, so knowing good people and what's up in the neighborhood ahead of time is a giant PLUS.

I also know people in surrounding areas and know that their neighborhood issues have often been very contentious.

Thanks for sharing your story John, it reminds give neighbors a high score on our pro's/cons.  The work thing is also big, and for the last 4 years we and 10+ years before by myself it's worked out in this area, another plus to remember.
 
Andy John
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S Bengi wrote:Is it possible to have both?

Can you get a 2 family house with say 1-2 acres of land. That you rent out 1 floor and slowly fix up the other maybe use it as a garage/studio/airbnb/family to crash at.
And then you continue building where you love on all 40acres (or however much land you want).




Thanks for the out-of the box suggestion. It must be in the air because last night I had an id ea involving Community Land grants, USDA loans and a co-housing scenario...

Where there is a will there IS a way....:)
 
Andy John
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Robin Katz wrote:Andy,

When my husband and I moved from the suburbs of Denver, I spent a fair amount of time getting information on potential places in Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana with the intention of living the rest of our lives there. Being a retired engineer, of course I made up a spreadsheet to document the information, but what I included were the following:

1. Water source and any issues relating to this - some places in Colorado limit the amount of water you can use
11. Tax/retirement friendly - states have very different taxation laws regarding retirement income
12. HOA - this was the absolute deal breaker for us, and a lot of acreage properties were part of HOAs in Colorado. We moved out of state.
13. Property/road access



Funny! My partner is a Computer Scientist, so yes we have a spreadsheet set up, and this weekend we'll be weighting each factor...We'll be answering the questions both separately and together to compare were we most overlap and differ in wants and needs.

20+ years ago I worked for a real estate management company and swore off HOA's. Interestingly enough as I mentioned in another reply, this neighborhood has good neighbors and an HOA. One of the reasons this HOA is okay is because it mandates the neighborhood always be off-grid, and no winter maintenance on the roads, except a plow out end of winter. The dues are extremely reasonable and worth the value brought to the community. And I've read the CCR's back to front, and nothing is in conflict with our values, ideas or budget.

Except for this neighborhood, we're looking at covenant-free areas.

OMG - retirement friendly states I didn;t even know that was a thing..YIKES!....definitely adding this to our research. Thanks for sharing your process, and the good results that come by following your guiding principles.
 
pollinator
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At 67, I'm joining in the chorus of elders discussing "the rheumatism," that gets worse in the cold, "liniment," for the rheumatism, you see, and proximity of first-class medical care.  I've discovered that despite my attempts to keep healthy and fit, I'm slowing down and needing to lift less heavy loads, and having more appointments for physical therapy.  

My back-to-the-land dreams at 62 are different than the ones I had at 22.  We purposely bought a house with a first-floor bedroom and bathroom.  I moved to Vermont  because I love it here and always wanted to move back.  I'm not truly homesteading, and I've never lived off grid.  I'm a permaculture gardener and chicken keeper, and we heat with wood, but otherwise living a somewhat conventional life in the country.

It is so hard to imagine ourselves as less energetic, more frail, and more frightened of falling/getting a deadly virus than we were 10 years ago. But it does happen.  Make sure you have an exit plan.
 
gardener
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Hi Andy,
Have y'all considered Wheaton Labs? It's not quite your zone 6, but it's also not your 9500', either.

I understand a fella in his 70's just got out there with the intent to be and work there until he can't anymore.

Best of luck finding what you both want.
 
S Bengi
pollinator
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HOA are liable to change once a majority votes in new rules and customs. It only takes a few 'old-timers' to leave for there to be a 'sudden' flip. Still I think the culture in a area that you like will be around for quite a while and I love the idea of staying there, and maybe have a backup location in 'the city'. It will not be exactly what you like but it will still be alot better than a nursing home.
 
Carla Burke
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HOAs were on our list of deal breakers, too. If I'm buying property, no one else is going to tell me how I can or can't use it. In fact, state wide legal requirements played heavily for us, for the same reason.
 
R Scott
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County zoning boards are the new HOA's.  
 
Andy John
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S Bengi wrote:HOA are liable to change once a majority votes in new rules and customs.  



Dually noted. The main "consideration" is on vs off-grid, and this neighborhood is designated off-grid, which in and of itself means other issues are mute. I will double-check to see that this stipulation is non-mutable, I believe it is. Also, I'm looking into making the property we're interested in a Community Land Trust so that it would exclude second-homers wanting land for a McMansion and or non-permaculture leaning owners in the future.





 
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Andy John wrote:Hello Permies,

I'd love your insights on choosing a location to start a permaculture lifestyle at over 50 years old.

My question to you is - how much does where you LOVE (and know) V.S. what might make better climate sense

Yet now we are both 50+, and when I think about wanting to spend the rest of my life on our property I worry a bit if the altitude and winter access, although thrilling now, how much to factor in the next 20-30 years. I'm not thinking Flordia or anything, but choosing land 50 miles away in zone 6-7 as opposed to 4a/b.

I'm inclined ( stubborn-minded?) to go with what I love, and know, now and to heck with the future unknowns...



The thing to keep in mind is the changes that are happening due to the global warming effects that are causing havoc to farmers and gardeners. You and those who have already responded have addressed aging and other issues well.

Most people I talk with do not understand, or choose to ignore that the historic long term weather patterns are not only shifting, but increasing in intensity and time duration. The South is headed towards a more tropical climate, complete with increased wet season and humidity. That means that what we are used to growing for food is becoming harder to get the yields we are used to harvesting. We are also getting closer to being able to grow things we historically could not grow (like mangoes, vannila, coffee, etc.).

Taking every thing in consideration would (for me) be a considerable undertaking. I wish you the best.
 
pollinator
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I was originally looking at 5 to 20 acres within 15 miles of the suburbs where I live now. But having turned 61 and realizing how much it would take to make something out of a 5 to 20 acres plot of land would be hard on the body.  An opportunity arrived when the guy who owns the land next door passed.  i am buying the lot (0.6 acres) and will turn it into a small orchard.  Will seek advice here since I want to to either join a Community Supported Ag or form a pick your own orchard.
I am seeing the weather change here and it seems significant already.  I am in a zone 7B and the winters are much shorter and colder and the wet weather seems endless. Very warm and early springs followed by hard cold snaps. It seems too cloudy for solar power.  I live on a slope so the heavy rain we are seeing causes problems for my neighbors downhill.  I will try to capture the water before it leaves.  I am also getting rid of bare ground or only grass covered ground.  I want growing things everywhere.  Critters too.
 
Robin Katz
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Bryant,

Climate shifting is indeed something to consider. We chose a forested valley that right now is a cold pocket and has it's own challenges. Even now people say the winters are later although the stories vary a lot. Since I don't tolerate heat well this is the place for us, with the idea that as we get older, our cold tolerance may go down, but the area may not be as cold either. Predicting multiple, moving, poorly defined targets like my cold tolerance vs. climate change is likely a fools game, but that's never stopped me before. We left the Denver area and stopped looking for land in Colorado after really taking in the scarcity of good water and the rapid increase in heat and drought. I remember telling a co-worker 10 years ago that Denver may be the new Phoenix within a few decades. I hope that's not true but it seems to be heading in that direction.

We also took into consideration population growth (or reduction and all that entails, such as land and property prices) and how that would impact the next 30 or so years. Another poorly defined moving target that should probably only be considered after everything else since it will likely just muddle the process. All you can really do is look at the current trends and extrapolate a bit forward.

On a different note, although the spreadsheet and all of those factors helped tremendously when it came down to choosing an area in the country to focus our search, it was our gut/heart reaction that decided which property to purchase. The land spoke to us of it's need that we knew we could fulfill. As we were walking the property, waiting for the realtor to show up and unlock the house, we made our decision and my husband said "we don't need to see the house." We did look at the house, and did all of our due diligence on purchasing, but the decision had been made during our walk.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Robin, I love that you listened to the earth mother. That is how we found our land. We can adapt far more than the land and the four legs and others who live here.

As long as we know what is changing, we can be ready when those changes arrive.

Redhawk
 
Andy John
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Robin Katz wrote:Bryant,
ered after everything else since it will likely just muddle the process. All you can really do is look at the current trends and extrapolate a bit forward.

On a different note, although the spreadsheet and all of those factors helped tremendously when it came down to choosing an area in the country to focus our search, it was our gut/heart reaction that decided which property to purchase. The land spoke to us of it's need that we knew we could fulfill. As we were walking the property, waiting for the realtor to show up and unlock the house, we made our decision and my husband said "we don't need to see the house." We did look at the house, and did all of our due diligence on purchasing, but the decision had been made during our walk.



Understood. This may be exactly how it is happening for us - Kizmet seems to be occurring all around,  and we trust that your positive intentions and actions in this process will yield us with exactly the "perfect for us" situation. Thanks for sharing - it's such an inspiration and support to know so many other people have gone before and or are on a similar journey.
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