If you are middle-aged and find everything in your life intolerable – your job, your home, your social life – you are not alone. A recent study indicated that people aged 40-59 years old are the least happy and most anxious of any age group. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.
If modern life is crushing your soul, maybe you should become a homesteader! Homesteading can offer you a path to escape those midlife blues, and live a happy and fulfilling life. In fact, if you’re over 40 and want to do something different with your life, homesteading is perfect for you! Let’s look at twelve good reasons you should start homesteading today, especially if your 40 or older.
However, right before we do, we should talk a little about homesteading first.
What is Homesteading, Anyway?
Photo: An old 1940s homestead. Homesteading has changed a lot since!
When people hear the word “homesteading,” they think of many different things. For some, it evokes the settlement of the American Midwest, memorialized in old novels like Little House in the Big Woods and Oh Pioneers! To many others, it is simply a rural lifestyle dedicated to farming. However, both of these descriptions miss the mark.
Modern homesteading differs considerably from what people experienced when they moved west in the 19th Century, and established homes on land the Federal Government was giving away. Today, a homestead isn’t just a place; it is a lifestyle, and a state of mind. The one thing that today’s homesteaders have in common with those of the past is that their contemporary lives left them unsatisfied for one reason or another, so they went off in search of something better. Today, that “something better” is the modern homestead.
Homesteading today is a loosely organized movement to be more self-sufficient, to be more connected to the land and the food you put on your table, and to garner a greater sense of self control over your life and your place in the world. Many homesteaders don’t disconnect from modern life at all; instead they just start living more deliberately, so that they can make the most out of every single day.
Here is a great video discussing what modern homesteading is all about:
And if you’ve seen one modern homestead. . .well, you’ve seen one modern homestead! Since homesteading is a state of mind, everyone homesteads in different ways, and every homestead is different. Some homesteads are actually large, productive farms; other people’s homesteads consist of two hens and a small garden in the backyard of a tiny rental property.
Some homesteaders are living off the grid in remote locations, while others are making a go of sustainable living in places like San Francisco and Washington DC. Despite all of the differences, one thing is for certain: modern homesteading is becoming more and more popular.
And if you’re 40 or older, this is a great time to make a change and start homesteading. Let’s look at why right now.
1. A Perfect Time!
Sure, your kids pick on you for being over the hill, and it may seem daunting to start a new activity that can be quite physical; but the middle of life is a great time to make a change and become a homesteader. If you’re in your 40s, you’re in your prime of life; after all, Tom Brady is in his 40s! You’re old enough to have extensive life experience, and young enough to learn new things. And even if you’re not in great shape right now, homesteading will get you there, and you’ve got years of productive life ahead of you.
You likely have a little more job flexibility as a forty-something that you lacked in your twenties. You probably have equity in your home, and a bit less transient in your current job than you were two decades ago. Your kids are either old enough to help do homestead chores, or you’re getting ready to be an empty nester, with less mouths to feed. So, you’re at a perfect point in your life to start homesteading today!
2. It’ll Keep You Healthy
Adopting a homesteading lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on your health, and all for the better. If you’re in your 40s, you’re likely a few decades into an office job that keeps you inside, chained to a desk, out of the light all day. More likely than not you’re dealing with high levels of stress at work that affect your eating and sleeping habits, too. Work, as vital as it is, can truly wreck your health when you’re in your 40s and older. So if you want to get healthy in a hurry, homesteading may be the answer.
Homesteading, even as a part-time hobby, is a physical affair; weeding a small garden can be a workout. And growing your own food puts you in charge of what you put into your body. Foregoing processed foods and eating fresh garden produce can do wonders for your health. Finally, setting your own hours (even if they tend to be long), and working with your hands outside can do wonders to help remove the stress you carry home every day from your current job. And be prepared to sleep way better at night, too.
3. Do it Your Way
One of the biggest stressors of modern life, especially when you hit middle age, is lack of control; you want to live your life on your own terms, not someone else’s. Homesteading gives you an opportunity to do just that. As noted earlier, there is no one single model for homesteading; your path to a more sustainable, fulfilling lifestyle can be entirely of your own choosing.
Homesteading for you may entail major life changes – retire or quit your job, pull up stakes, and settle elsewhere to live off the land. And then again, your “homestead” can be little more than a backyard garden plot that gets you outside and helps put fresh food on the table. And your homestead can grow bigger or smaller depending on what you want to do with it. When you’re in your forties having that kind of control over anything can be absolutely liberating.
4. Be Less Dependent
A critical part of being a homesteader is self-sufficiency. Most people who enter the homesteading life are striving to do more for themselves, trying to be more than what they were when they started, and working to rely less on others. And when you’re in your forties, it’s a great time to enjoy the satisfaction of getting things done without anyone else’s help.
You don’t have to live off the grid in the middle of nowhere to be a homesteader (although many homesteaders do live in out of the way places off grid). But doing things, even little things, to be less dependent can be a great feeling. Installing a rain barrel can let you turn the next rainstorm into a week’s supply of water for your garden; a summer where you didn’t have to buy eggs or produce from the supermarket, thanks to your trusty backyard homestead, can make you feel proud, too. And when you are having little victories like this in middle age, life is pretty darn good.
5. Unleash Your Inner Kindness
You can barely take care of anything when you are working a forty-hour work week with a long commute; how can you take care of anything else? Well, if you become a homesteader, and slow down a bit, you might be able to change that. If homesteading gives you time back, you’ll fill much of your schedule up with taking care of other things.
Your animals will rely on you every single day for food, water, and shelter, and you’ll have to tend to your garden as well. More likely than not, your home and property will need you every single day, too; something always needs to be fixed on the homestead.
When you are in your forties it is a great feeling to be able to take care of others. It may even make you healthier as well; recent studies have indicated taking care of others may help you lead a longer, healthier life. And you can take great satisfaction in watching your homestead thrive due to the care and attention you provide it.
6. Connect With Your Family
If you’ve spent the last two decades in a hectic lifestyle, you’ve probably lost a lot of time with your family. Did your kids go from being little to borrowing the car without you even noticing; maybe you and your spouse barely speak, because you don’t have anything in common anymore. A homestead can help fix all of that.
Having more time on the homestead, even if it is a lot of work, can really bring a family together. You can catch up on a lot of things if you spend all afternoon splitting and stacking wood together, after all. A homestead can bring a sense of purpose, and shared pride, to a family that has drifted apart after years of fast-paced modern life. And if your kids are grown up, a homestead with open air, chickens, and other small animals is great bait to lure your kids (and grandkids!) back for visit after visit, too!
7. Learn New Skills
Learning doesn’t have to stop when you turn 40. And if you’re a homesteader it definitely won’t stop. By necessity, you’ll have to learn how to do many new things. After all, you are counting on your garden and your livestock, however modest they are, to help put food on your table.
Even running a small homestead will require you to learn more about gardening and animal care. And if you buy a “fixer upper” farm house, or decide to build an off-grid cabin somewhere, you’ll have to learn many new skills to keep your homestead in shape, too.
If the homesteading lifestyle allows you to slow down your life’s hectic pace, you may even have more time to learn new things. Maybe now you can take a community college course on beekeeping, for instance, or learn carpentry at a local technical school. Some homesteaders get even more adventurous, and learn challenging skills, like falconry.
You may even have time to figure things out on your own. YouTube is filled with videos demonstrating how to do learn all types of homesteading skills. If you have more time to peruse through them now that you’re a homesteader, maybe you can pick up a few new skills while you’re at it.
8. Make and Save a Little Cash
If you’ve hit 40 years old, you are likely worried about some fast approaching life events. Retirement is coming up soon, and maybe your kids will be off to college in the next few years. Establishing a homestead can be the springboard to saving more money each month, or maybe even making a little bit of cash on the side.
If you plant a decent garden and raise poultry and livestock, you can cut your grocery bill down considerably; if you learn how to preserve the food you raise, you can extend those savings all year long, too. Driving less, and working towards greater energy independence – by installing solar panels or a wind turbine, and heating your home with wood – can also help decrease your energy bills.
Even a small homestead can generate some cash. Try selling your fresh produce or canned goods at your local farmer’s market. Once you become more confident in your gardening abilities, you can also try establishing a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, as well. Just converting your standard suburban home and producing items for sale may provide certain money-saving tax benefits too, so make sure you check with your accountant.
Here is a great video discussing ways people make money on their homesteads:
9. Build a Second Career
A homestead can be more than just a hobby, even if it starts out that way initially. Many people actually turn their homesteading activities into a fulfilling, enjoyable second career. And when you’re forty, you often have the business and management skills from your current or previous line of work to apply to working as a full time homesteader.
More and more people have opted to make their living as small-scale farmers, especially as organic, and farm-to-table trends have really taken off. Sometimes, being able to supply a few restaurants and a local farmer’s market with niche produce is enough to build a great business on. Other people enter the homesteading life and help share it with would be homesteaders; people are earning a living teaching homesteading skills to newcomers, or writing about their lives for magazines and online publication. There is no shortage of popular YouTube channels devoted to the homesteading lifestyle, either.
So maybe homesteading can be your second act. Here’s a great video discussing how to turn your homestead into a lucrative business:
10. Join a Network
Is your social life wrecked because you’ve spent the last twenty-plus years working like a dog? Has your idea of a fun Friday night been eating your dinner on the sofa, watching your favorite television show? Modern living’s hectic pace often leaves little time for people to get together and have fun. The homesteading lifestyle, however is a little bit different.
While homesteading is all about self-sufficiency, you inevitably meet great people who are trying to do many of the same things as you. The family with a stand right next to you at the farmer’s market may have a lot of the same interests as yours. The person buying the same type of egg incubator as you at Tractor Supply Company is inevitably going to talk to you about raising chickens. The people you meet in classes and events you go to as a homesteader will eventually become part of your network.
Before you know it, the parts of your life that were consumed with tedious work and exhaustion will now be filled with. . .fun! You may find yourself waking up early to get a good parking spot at the county fair, and spending all day there with new friends. Or you may decide to spend a Saturday walking through the woods with that couple you met online, who are master foragers. And if your life is getting more fun when you hit your forties, you are definitely doing it right.
11. Be a Mentor
Sometimes the best part of homesteading can be giving back, and helping new people enter the lifestyle. And, when you are well into your 40s, you are probably ideally suited to be a great mentor.
It doesn’t take long to become an effective homesteader. While some skills do take a lifetime to master, getting the knack of a self-sufficient lifestyle can come quick to people who are enjoying what they do. This is especially the case for the over-40 set, who have the patience and discipline, and often the time, to commit to learning new tasks. In many cases, older homesteaders will be in a good position to help other people embrace the homesteading lifestyle, and start homesteads of their own.
You can teach people, formally and informally, the skills they need to be effective homesteaders. This may involve having acquaintances who are interested in homesteading come to your home, and seeing how you get things done; it may also involve you starting a class at a local community college, a website, or even a YouTube channel
However you do it, being a mentor and teaching people how to do what they love can be very fulfilling. And it can turn out to be one of the true rewards of entering the homesteading lifestyle after you reach your forties.
Famed actress and singer Mae West once said, “You only have one life, but if you do it right, once is enough.” How is your life right now? Are you doing it right? If not, the homesteading lifestyle may be just what you need.
Why go on in quiet desperation, when you can do the things you love, and have time to enjoy yourself as a homesteader? If being outdoors, learning new skills, and taking satisfaction from working your land appeals to you more than your current life, consider taking the plunge to the homesteading lifestyle.
Your 40s are the perfect time for that second act as a homesteader. You still have productive years ahead of you, and can make the most of your life. And maybe you’ll enjoy that life more if your tending your garden, instead of working from your cubicle in a windowless office.
. . . But Before You Take The Plunge
OK, so you looked at your 40-year-old self in the mirror and decided you want to do something new, and that something is homesteading; great! But before you quit your job and skip town for a cabin off grid, here are a few things you should consider.
Take a Test Run
Before you make any life-altering changes, try the homesteading life out first. If you have friends who are homesteaders, try spending some time at their home, and doing their routine; you might even want to try “homestead-sitting” for them a few days, and see what running their homestead is like on your own There are also people who offer homestead experiences for a price on their property; staying a few days at a homesteading style bed and breakfast can give you a feel for what you’ll experience if you start your very own homestead.
Unless you are already a skilled farmer, carpenter, and engineer, you probably shouldn’t leap from your current life into a scenario where you’ll need those skills all at once. Don’t bite off more than you can chew if you decide to become a homesteader, or you’ll exchange one stressed out lifestyle for another.
You may want to start small in the backyard of your current home; a garden or a few hens can give you a taste of what you are in for. Taking classes and reading about the homesteading life can be helpful, too. And if you do buy a homestead property, taking on a few modest projects at a time, and gradually building up the scale of your homestead’s operations, is a great way to transition into homesteading.
Find a Mentor
Someday soon, you may be a mentor for a fledgling homesteader. But right now, it’s you who needs a good mentor. Find someone you trust to show you the ins and outs of the homesteading lifestyle. Whether it’s gardening, or caring for animals, or even who to call when the septic tank takes a turn for the worse, a good mentor can help you have a successful transition into the homesteading life.
If you’re over 40, this is a perfect time to become a homesteader. You’re in the prime of life, and armed with the discipline and drive to make good things happen. So what are you waiting for? Maybe it is time to go out and star becoming a homesteader today!
When Tom Harkins is not busy doing emergency repairs to his 200 year-old New England home, he tries to send all of his time gardening, home brewing, foraging, and taking care of his ever-growing flock of chickens, turkey and geese.