Okay, please, nobody panic. There comes a time in most people’s lives when they begin to look towards the end of their working career, and shepherds are no different than the rest — although we sometimes wait until we are very old before we begin down that path. Yet in my case, I knew when I married my husband Rick (thirty-eight years ago this past August), our six-year age difference would mean that he’d likely be ready to head into retirement before I would — whenever that would be. And with the birth of our first granddaughter last December, the idea of living closer to our son and daughter-in-law (who live in North Carolina) took on a new focus. We aren’t ready to retire yet, but for the past few years, we’ve been entertaining various possibilities and trying to envision what retirement might look like when we are ready. We haven’t been so concerned with exactly when this would occur, but have instead focused more on where, what, and how so that we can begin to get ready.
Only those who read my blog posts closely will have noticed that visits to North Carolina have become a bit longer in recent years — and the reason is simple: we’ve taken time at the end of each trip to look at housing in that region of the country. Driving through many of the states neighboring our North Carolina target, Rick and I have zeroed in on a few facts: we like having four seasons and beautiful mountain views, we need good internet and phone coverage (which tend to be poor when coupled with those mountain views), we don’t want to live overly close to family, and we want enough space for both visitors and sheep. After much discussion, we decided that the sheep would continue to be present in our lives. Although perhaps not to the same degree as right now, we would still shepherd a flock, breed for lambs, and shear and sell high-quality wool for some time into retirement.
Over these recent years, we’ve slowly come to focus on the western Virginia mountain region as a possible site for future retirement. We’re taking things slowly in spite of the fact that the more decisions we made, the more excited our family in North Carolina became about our retirement. We’ve had to keep slowing them down and reminding them that this could still be many years away. We don’t yet have a schedule — we only think we have an area that we like. We want to be prepared when the time comes, but we aren’t rushing into anything.
We’ve started looking at properties in the western Virginia area, and if we find something that looks right, we’re thinking it would be a good idea to buy it. This is an area where tourism is a fairly big industry, so we could rent it out until we are ready to retire and move in ourselves. (Please don’t contact me with possible homes — we have a great real estate agent who knows what we are looking for and where.) I think that having our retirement housing in place would help to bring into focus one part of what seems like a very complicated puzzle, where most of the pieces are still shrouded in mystery.
This is an exciting new adventure that we are only beginning to talk about, but I know how these things work. I’m assuming that it will be much like the birth of our first child, who is now (unbelievably) nearly thirty-three years old! Or like the decision to purchase a few sheep, and now we’ve tended a flock for over seventeen years! Time is sneaky that way; it feels like just yesterday and suddenly many years have passed. With Rick at retirement age already, it is time to start thinking about and planning for the next step. I’m letting you know that the planning has begun, but don’t hurry us along, okay? It’ll take some time, since we’re moving at our own pace. This is one piece that we don’t want to rush, but the process has begun.