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Homestead with Health Problems?  RSS feed

 
N Thomas
Posts: 87
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Hi everyone,
I am pondering whether am I might want to look into homesteading as a life goal in the future. Maybe for my retirement years. Before I go too far down this road, I am hoping some of you with experience as successful homesteaders can tell me if this is a realistic goal or if I am just setting myself up for frustration. However, I don't think I fit the profile of someone likely to be successful in the field (no pun intended). I'm 48, have 2 kids, a spendy/consumerist spouse, an autoimmune disorder (only partly diagnosed (I have given up on visiting specialists at teaching hospitals attempting to get answers)), a wide collection of food allergies and sensitivities (I spend more time buying/making safe foods than I do with my kids), and a wholly white-collar skill set (well, I am learning to fix my bicycle but have a long way to go). The health issues are pretty worrisome in terms of my future as a homesteader. Three weeks ago, I pulled out of my driveway on my bicycle, rode a 1/4 of a mile, and likely tore a flap of meniscus. There is a long history of bad rheumatoid arthritis on one side of my family. Looking on the brighter side, I do have a long history as a birder and wildflower enthusiast and am getting better as a forager of medicinal herbs and woody plants. So what do you all think? Am I crazy to be thinking about this?
 
William Whitson
Posts: 50
Location: Washington coast
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Start slowly. Don't put yourself in an all or nothing situation. You may very well find that your health improves with more physical labor and exposure to the outdoors.

Get spendy spouse on board first, because a spendy homesteader is a broke homesteader.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3358
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Everyone has baggage. And you will get frustrated no matter what. That just comes with homesteading.

My grandpa had ra and heated his house with wood until he was in his eighties before he broke down and bought a propane furnace. 6-10 cords a year. All split by hand. You learn your rhythm and don't push too hard. Speed is in efficiency, not brute force.

Our family has successfully overcome Lyme and several autoimmune issues through diet and supplements. Moosage me if you want specific details about that. But basically we did everything we could to reduce inflammation and rebuild the immune system.
 
N Thomas
Posts: 87
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William Whitson wrote:Start slowly. Don't put yourself in an all or nothing situation. You may very well find that your health improves with more physical labor and exposure to the outdoors.

Get spendy spouse on board first, because a spendy homesteader is a broke homesteader.

Hi,
Thanks for the advice. I have often wondered if getting out of a white collar office bureaucracy would help my physical health. I know it would help my mental health
 
N Thomas
Posts: 87
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R Scott wrote:Everyone has baggage. And you will get frustrated no matter what. That just comes with homesteading.

My grandpa had ra and heated his house with wood until he was in his eighties before he broke down and bought a propane furnace. 6-10 cords a year. All split by hand. You learn your rhythm and don't push too hard. Speed is in efficiency, not brute force.

Our family has successfully overcome Lyme and several autoimmune issues through diet and supplements. Moosage me if you want specific details about that. But basically we did everything we could to reduce inflammation and rebuild the immune system.

Hi,
It is great to hear that dieting and supplementing helped manage or cure (?) your Lyme and autoimmune issues. I like your advice: "Speed is in efficiency, not brute force." I need to get out of the corporate mindset where looking busy and "doing" stuff is the key to office success.
 
William Whitson
Posts: 50
Location: Washington coast
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N Thomas wrote:
Thanks for the advice. I have often wondered if getting out of a white collar office bureaucracy would help my physical health. I know it would help my mental health


I sat in front of a computer screen for almost 20 years. I didn't realize how physically and mentally unwell I felt doing that until I stopped.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm sort of homesteading with health problems. I had stress-related health problems that prevented me from continuing my profession, so I started a home business and then my husband and I moved out to the country and continued our home business. My homesteady type plans have been derailed a few times by the health problems, but being in the country and working at home has probably kept me out of the hospital. I think if one can figure out a way to obtain an income from home, even a really small income, the benefits of living in the country and growing one's own food can outweigh a lot of the difficulties. But the whole family has to be behind the effort to at least some extent. My husband, for instance, has no interest in trying to raise animals or grow food, but he is fine with chainsawing and preparing fire wood and keeping the house warm. He loves nature and wildlife but has never been able to bring himself to try to hunt for our food, and I no longer expect him to try. He's just not that kind of guy, and that's ok. I think if you can have many conversations with your family about what you hope for and want to achieve, and how the family members feel about it, what they want and hope to achieve, you can come to an understanding. Formulate modest goals and realize if you have health problems everything will take much longer than it would for a fit person. I had grandiose plans at various times in the past, and wasted a lot of effort through silly ideas and ignorance, but, if you hang out here on permies, you can learn enough to avoid most of the dumb stuff.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 212
Location: New Hampshire
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bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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You can do this.

I understand having weird health issues and not find a doctor who can help. I am 43 years old and have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS). It is a connective tissue disorder that has all sorts of wonky symptoms and side affects. My biggest issues are major injuries to my already damaged joints. I had both of my knees replaced at age 39. I had my right rotator cuff repaired the year before and I have torn the left one this year. At the ripe old age of 37 I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in every joint in my body and the chronic pain that comes with it. I tend to be wobbly due to the hyper-mobility issues that make me more prone to injuries. I have other issues with the EDS but they are less relevant to my homesteading.

Everything I do takes twice as long as it should. I have to plan for that.

I love permaculture because it is a great frame work to develop a life that will work for me. After taking a PDC together we realized that a couple of acres and hand tools were all real would really need to do what we want.
Our property currently has about 1/4 acre of the 2.5 acres developed after 2 years of living here. It takes some trial and error but I am finding ways to garden and produce food with my physical limitations.

My husband is not a gardener. He moves heavy stuff, builds fences, digs ponds, broadforks beds, mows the lawn , and uses pruning loppers for me when I can't do it. He is on board with growing our own food as long as he doesn't have to do most of the work. We don't have any children and we are keeping things on smaller scale so I can manage the day to day stuff. I need to be outside getting sunshine and lots of low impact exercise. Gardening is my favorite way to get what I need.

I designed the garden beds to be tall. They between 12" and 30" high and less than 4 feet wide. The height saves my joints. The paths between them are 2 to 3 feet wide. I prefer the wider paths due to my wobbliness and my lovely garden cart. I do not till and I use heavy mulch during the summer to reduce weeding and water needs. We are on the eastern side of a hill with sandy soil so we put in a 3 swales to divert water from the driveway into the garden. This reduces watering. We are currently working on adding a garden pond that will catch roof run off and can be used to gravity feed half the garden. Perennials are great because they take less work once they are established. I can plant all the flowers I want because they feed my bees and house good bugs which reduces pest issues.

We have 13 laying hens and 2 bee hives. I currently take care of the hives my self and my husband knows he will need to help me if he wants more hives.

We are looking at getting a Pembroke Corgi to train as a herding farm dog. I want a small dog that I can easily take care of and would be happy on 2.5 acres. We are planning on adding more birds and eventually pigs so a herding dog that I can bathe by myself is important.

My point is you can do this but don't expect to do it like anyone else. You will need to find what you can handle and plan the system for you. If you can manage it will be easy for a solid sturdy person to help with the big tasks that you can't manage alone.

When you buy tools spend the time and money to find ergonomically comfortable ones. I am fussy about handles, weight, balance and ease of use for all of my tools. I like a lighter tool usually with a fiberglass handle. Haws watering cans are worth the extra money. I could still water my container garden on one crutch with the Haws watering can. Long handled tools are great too. I have a trowel with a 40" handle on it and a bulb planter you use standing up.

Start small. I had a small garden for 4 years before we moved to our current place. I learned a bunch of the basics in organic gardening, canning, dehydrating and blanching before I planted a large garden.
We have come up with a plan and have broken it down into manageable chunks. The deadlines are flexible based on time, money, and energy. Flexibility is important if you have bad days or bad years in terms of your health.

If you need to work on getting your partner on board start small and see what you can manage. Grow an organic garden. Swap some of the ornamental plants for food producing ones. Buy high quality local food and see if they can taste the difference. My husband really got interested in growing our own food after he discovered how good the food was. Now that we are building the homestead he is happily getting more involved with it.
 
Kim Hill
Posts: 78
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I agree with the other permies here who have health issues. I have rheumatoid arthritis which flared so bad 6 years ago I was almost completely bedridden. It took a lot of work and pain but I can basically do just about anything I want to do now...with time and effort that is. I say begin the learning process with something the interests you. I had a huge flower garden for many years and converted to growing food crops instead. Once I felt I was getting the hang of that, I learned how to dehydrate food and then water bath can fruits and tomatoes. I eventually went to full our canning a few years ago. In the years it took to get to that point, I took classes on making my own yogurt and cheeses. I taught myself how to tap maple trees and boil down the sap to syrup. I took classes in blacksmithing and can make basic handles and hinges now. I had 3 hens hidden in the city for fresh eggs and to learn how to care for them. You will not do all this in a day, week or even a year but you need to start learning as soon as you can.

In October, I finally took a complete leap of faith and bought my little 3 acre farm at the age of 53. I do have my brother living with me now since his divorce so had someone who can do some of the heavy work with me (no FOR me but with me). I can drive a tractor and use a winch to pull logs out of the small forested area for fire wood now. I now raise a dozen chickens and started with turkeys. I will be picking up my new bees in late March after I found a mentor to teach me the ways of the bees. I also will be picking up a couple of pigs soon. Believe me, if I can do it so can you. Don't expect to buy the land and jump in full time. Give yourself the gift of knowledge now and in the near future you can do it. I should also add another thing I am doing is volunteering 2 days a month at a dairy so I can learn how to take care of milk cows. My dream is to have my own girl as soon as I retire in a few years and to get into making homestead cheeses, yogurt, butter and ice cream on a larger scale. My ultimate goal is to grow/raise at least 75% of the food I and my 4 dogs consume.
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Permaculture has a tremendous plus going for it in homesteading: the zone system.

For an elderly person, or one with health issues, the Zone 1 is key to making it doable.
Design the system so that everything you need to do daily (or frequently) is established within the zone 1. Provide ample paths/walkways within this zone. Make it as easy as possible to do your chores within this zone. If you anticipate requiring a wheel chair, or walker in the future, make certain that you design the zone (and pathways) with this in mind. Don't waste your time growing things that you seldom eat, or can replace easily...why spend hours growing sugar beets if a 5 pound bag of sugar will last you months and months?

With health issues, I would avoid larger livestock. Stick with chickens/ducks, bees and/or rabbits. Forget cattle & hogs, or anything high maintenance (goats with their Houdini escape antics). For the bees, it is often possible to get a local bee keeper to bring in his hives (especially if you have an organic bee Eden). He provides the bees, hives and the labor. You get better pollination, and some free honey.

Think carefully about location if you have health issues. If it is a long 4-wheel drive into town during winter, you may find yourself stranded when you need help. Also, does the nearest town have a real hospital, or will they need to transport you to the big city if something major occurs?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9742
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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John Polk wrote:Permaculture has a tremendous plus going for it in homesteading: the zone system.


It took me about a million years to figure out how important this is. My kitchen garden used to be out in front of the house, but when I moved it right next to the house, right out the back kitchen door, it became this wonderful convenient place from which to harvest food for meals! Installing buried wood beds was the second most important thing I did for this garden. It took a couple years and was stupidly hard, but it has been really worth it as I can finally grow food year round instead of the garden dying every Summer.

I also moved the aquaponics right out the back door, but haven't been able to get new fish yet.

I'm trying to figure out how to move the chicken coop a little closer in, as well.

 
a wee bit from the empire
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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