March 1, 2017
Dear Frontline Editors:
I watched you recent program titled How the Deck is Stacked. I have some thoughts and experiences to share with you.
My husband (age 72) and I (age 67) are retired and the due to my autoimmune illness two of us are living on basically on one retirement. We raised and educated our four children from our first marriages. We were both divorced at mid-life, remarried each other starting over at ages 50 and 45 and like many in our community we are struggling as we age.
The only reason we are surviving is because 15 years ago I predicted that we were going to have to become more self-reliant if we were to survive during our retirement years. We moved from the city (with high taxes and ever-increasing prices) to very rural Allegan County, MI (the largest agricultural county in our state and began to homestead with few sevices and lower property taxes.)
Forr nine of those years my husband made the long drive into the city for his job while I stayed home and renovated our old home, began a small home based business and started our garden. My job was to create a comfortable and healthy new life for us here.
We keep chickens for eggs, raise vegetables, DYI whenever possible and buy our food that we can’t grow directly from the farmer (at wholesale) and our clothes and household items from Goodwill, auctions or a flea market. Here no one cares what we wear, or if our hair is cut and colored in an expensive salon with a $120.00 price tag or by our $12.00 per hair gal in her home-based shop. For us silver is the new black.
Our entertainment is working in our garden, playing with our chickens, walking our dog in the Allegan Forest or picking in-season fruit and freezing it. We read, we birdwatch and we listen to music or NPR on the radio. We have no Smart Phones, no Cable TV, no big screen televisions, no air conditioning, no vacations, no new vehicles and keep our life as simple as we can. We have not been to a movie theater in over 15 years. We still watch DVD on our ancient DVD player. Our one big splurge is our once a week $9.00 yoga class.
Our biggest expense now is trying to pay for our out-of-pocket health care needs and healthy organic food. We paid out over $12,000 alone in out-of-pocket medical costs in 2016 and had to draw out our savings and retirement funds to do that. Maintaining our aging 1950’s home and 5-acre property is a constant challenge too as we age. In spite of these challenges I try everyday to maintain a positive outlook and be grateful for the small things in life.
Our primary values are to live our life now as mindfully as possible, is to make choices that benefit the land, the birds and our health. We believe in sustainability, living simply, protecting the earth, the air, the water and above all people over profits.
We left middle class America by choice. I felt it was our only option to survive.
Donna Allgaier-Lamberti https://smallhousebigskyhomestead.wordpress.com