no rule is set in cement.
Owning the house free and clear was a big help for future expenses. Most of the people I know with financial problems after being laid off have taken equity loans on their house for college tuition for their children or just for luxuries they wanted.
Saving is not the answer to everything, but it sure helps over no savings.
I wish you luck, how nice about growing your own fruit - my nephew is starting a homegrown food trading site. Like he makes jam and trades for corn. Of you are interested, you can check it out on http://www.chowswap.org/. right now there are only entries in Portland, ore but if more people use it and tell their friends, it could grow to other areas. NOTE: this is not a profit making site, he created it for his convenience, no ads or selling of information.