My wife are I are at an awkward age (which keeps getting awkwarder). I talked about this three years ago in "Too old for ten acres and a big house -- too young for retirement living."
I guess you could call us tweeners. Senior citizen variety.
At 65, my wife and I are beginning to find that the joy of maintaining our large 1970's era house on ten rural acres is beginning to wear thin. So we've started to think about where we'd like to move when and if we really want to.
But only a year later in 2015 I wrote "I couldn't mow steep slopes in a retirement community." I wasn't talking about a typical lawnmower, but rather a large, heavy DR Field Mower with numerous mechanical problems (like, a barely functioning brake).
Maybe it was because the ground was quite dry, but I was able to get enough momentum on the flat to impel the mower up the slope. Barely. As before, I'd let the mower roll backwards down the slope, angling it as it went so some additional tall grass was cut on the backswing, so to speak.
What's strange, of course, while completely understandable, is how something that I really dislike doing is so enjoyable. I was tempted to say "satisfying" rather than enjoyable. However, there truly is a joy for me in doing something difficult and challenging.
Especially when it is physical, sweaty and needing a lot of muscle power.
So last month I was two years older than in 2015 -- for some reason this keeps happening to me; when the heck am I going to get younger, damn it? -- and found myself burning two large piles of woody debris that had spent the late fall and winter under a couple of tarps.
I was so eager to get the fire going, I forgot to take any "before" photo. But here's my wife adding fuel to the fire after we'd burned the largest pile.
Cautious senior citizens that we are, we didn't burn the big debris piles directly. The grassy field where we burn isn't very big, and it's surrounded by oaks, firs, and other vegetation. Even though it had rained recently, I feel much more comfortable starting with a small fire and throwing the debris onto it bit by bit.
My slight smile in this selfie doesn't fully reflect how satisfying it was to turn the two large piles into ash, smoke, and warmth.
Yes, the three hours or so it took to do the burning deed got me tired; occasional smoke in my eyes wasn't all that fun; a few flying embers singed my skin a bit, but not seriously.
I was happy to trade all that for the feeling of vibrant physical reality burning gives me. I'd miss that a lot if, or when, we move to a regular house in Salem proper. (Currently we have a Salem address, but are five miles or so outside of the city limits.)
Being able to pee in our front yard.
Having the ability to throw limbs, yard clippings, and other vegetation into the brush rather than hauling it away.
Enjoying the fire'y satisfaction of burning large woody piles.
Mowing tall grass in fields we like to keep clear with a new and improved DR Mower I got recently.
Walking on the edge of our roof, cleaning out the gutters with a backpack blower.
These are some of the things that keep me from seriously considering moving from our non-easy-care home. My wife has her own reasons (I'm pretty sure her list doesn't include peeing in the front yard, but I could be wrong).
Here's a photo of what we wrought last April 1. The brown areas covered with leaves went from being 4-5 foot high debris piles to the pile of ash in the foreground. As strange as it may sound, this is happiness that couldn't be had if we moved from where we are.
I completely understand why people our age -- late 60's -- decide to either downsize to a smaller house or move to some sort of retirement community (active living, continuum of care, whatever). Believe me, some days I wonder whether we're insane to keep on doing what needs to be done to maintain our home and property.
Perhaps we are. If so, it's a fine madness, as I blogged about.
Many people about our age downsize, moving to a condo or whatever that requires little inside or outside maintenance work. With our 3,200 square foot home and ten natural acres, there always is something that needs doing, fixing, maintaining.
I hate this. I love this.
Hauling cut branches to a burn pile in a field irritates me. After I'm done, the work feels satisfying. Part of the reason we're as physically and mentally healthy as we are is that our house and property drive us crazy. Go figure.
Recently we went on a week-long Maui vacation. The grass was crazily high in our yard when we got back. I spent quite a bit of time cutting it with the same DR Mower that I use in the fields.
When I was done, I grabbed my iPhone and took a photo to remind me why all the work we put into our house and property makes so much sense.
For us. Right now. At this time in our retired life.
Almost certainly, when we leave our rural home we'll be on a one-way trip into city living. Either a regular home on a small lot, or a retirement community.
I'm not ready for that. Neither is Laurel, my wife. I don't want to go "gently into that good night," so to speak.
At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, I want death, disease, disability, dementia or whatever other "D" comes after me to have to pry my field mower, my burning implements, my backpack blower, and such out of my country living hands.
Because I don't feel like giving them up voluntarily.