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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

New to me.

Well into middle age, I discovered the pluses of buying second hand.

I remember school friends scouring the charity shops looking for pieces of funky clothing and other stuff in our youth. But I didn’t. In fact, I viewed this practice with horror – I mean, who had worn those clothes, or used that item before? No, siree, buying from a second hand shop wasn’t something the youthful me would be seen dead doing.

So I am totally late to the party discovering the pluses and joys of buying second hand. And as a true convert, I have embraced it and wholeheartedly recommend it as a way to get well made, and unusual things in excellent condition at a fraction of the price you would buy new.

My new-to-me haunts are the online NZ site TradeMe (a bit like Craigslist and Ebay, I think) and the charity shops.

I use TradeMe most often for work clothing. I am very organised about this: I have favourite labels I know work well for me. This means I know the size in each label that fit me and the cuts that work for my body shape. I also know they are well made, and use good fabric that will go the distance. The last sentence is very important to me as I buy items that are a classic cut that I will wear until they fall to bits. I also will buy shoes second-hand. Everything I bid on has to be in very good or excellent condition.

I am not a clothes horse type of woman, so each season, I buy only what I need. This winter I have bought two pairs of shoes (ballet flats and a pair of rollies).

New-to-me Rollies

These are replacements for the very expensive boots I purchased new a few years back and which are busy shedding the thin leather covering on the elastic gusset in a most unattractive and unwearable way. I also bought a skirt (VSSP). All items are perfect: both in condition and fit. This season’s new to me work items cost me $80 including postage. I have two more items I wish to buy for winter: jeans, and a MacPac jacket like my daughter has. I am looking on TradeMe for the jacket, but will buy new when it goes on sale if I haven’t sourced an excellent condition second-hand one before this. The jeans I will buy new.

Which brings me to deciding on how much to pay for an item. Items on TradeMe are sold by auction. Some will also have a buy now price. Postage is on top of this.

If it is an auction, I determine what it is worth to me and set this as the highest price I will pay. FOMO has no place in sensible buying (don’t get me started on house auctions!) If there is a buy now price and I think it is fair, I will purchase that way.

I have mentioned charity shops. The first item I purchased from an opportunity shop was a breadmaker. I bought it second hand because I was not convinced that after the initial enthusiasm for making bread had worn off, it would be used – it was after all a bit of a must-have fad at the time. The $40 price tag, therefore, worked for me, as did the breadmaker which actually did not gather dust and instead gave me many years of use. Still going, I gifted it to someone else when we downsized to move onto the boat.

The man, though, is the main user of charity shops in our family. He scouts them for old tools (hard to find) and for work clothing too. A woodworker, his uniform is plaid shirts and jeans. The shirts often get covered in varnish, stains and glue, so he is more than happy to buy second hand, knowing that they will become rags within the season. Occasionally he will buy a decent item of clothing he happens upon – often they are unworn garments that are other people’s purchasing mistakes. And the other day, he happened on a lovely lamp which now adds a bit of retro style to our lounge.

Buying second hand is not something only Ma and Pa Stone do. My youngest son and his wife are into it too, so for Mother’s Day, I received a set of Temuka Coffee mugs, circa 1977. Found on TradeMe, they match other Temuka I have from back in the day. They are also in perfect condition and I am thrilled.

Second-hand …. one of the best ways to stretch your money (or in my case squirrel it away for those early retirement plans), and at the same time own something a wee bit different. And, of course, the perfect way to recycle and do your bit to save the planet!

I highly recommend it.

Someone else’s problem

Last week the man and I packed the ute tray with ‘rubbish’ destined for the tip.

As we packed it, I thought about a comment I had read that throwing something away doesn’t mean it disappears, it just becomes someone else’s problem.

And looking at our throwaways, I agree. There was old flooring we had removed from our kitchen – this was a product that was made to look like wood but was in truth a cheap plastic (read oil-based) imitation. Over time, it had become chipped and there was nothing we could do to refurbish it.

There were three broken television sets. Two of these had belonged to a relative and had made their way into our dump pile, and the third one was our old one which after 15 years had finally given up the ghost. In addition to this, there were two dead printers from the same relative and my laptop that had died in one of those nasty computer death throes computers are known for.

We still have another load (at least) to go to the dump. This includes a tent that is old and rotten; a life raft and flares that are sporting expired expiry dates, and an inflatable dinghy that has lost its inflate bit.

In the main, the stuff we are dumping has been well-used and kept on life support for as long as we could. The same can’t be said for the expensive life raft or flares which have never been used but were bought for safety reasons and are to be dumped for the very same reasons.

We take some solace in the fact that the televisions, laptop and printers are being recycled, or should I say, some parts are : I have no doubt the non-recyclable parts will join the tent, inflatable, life raft, flooring and flares in the landfill. Here they will become someone else’s problem.

Sunday musings

Yesterday the man and I went to the library to get our fix of books.

Avid readers, it is not surprising that joining the library was one of the first things we did when we moved here.

And we have not been disappointed: our local library has a great fiction selection and a comprehensive non-fiction offering. The latter genre in particular hits the spot with the man who reads across many subject areas, including boating, engineering, biography, crafts, history, and travel. Occasionally, he will add a fiction book to his pile, but not often.

My taste is eclectic too. I read more fiction than the man. I read this purely for enjoyment, so it tends to be light stuff that I can either pick up and put down over the course of a week without forgetting the plot, or alternatively devour in a one-sitting marathon on a wet weekend afternoon. I like a good crime novel, but also read aga sagas, historical novels and some chick lit. Actually I read anything that takes my fancy! Like the man, I also take out non-fiction. This is often related to my latest information finding exercise and can be anything from how to prune a tree to a biography to history,

Which brings me to this week’s choice: I picked up a book* I had reserved by NZ journalist, Adam Dudding, about his father, Robin Dudding, who published the literary journal ‘Islands’ through the 70s and 80s.

I didn’t know Robin, or Adam, but I knew of them as they were a local Waiake family and I had been in the same year at secondary school as the second of Robin’s daughters.

I sat down yesterday afternoon and started to read it. I finished it this morning. It was enjoyable and thought-provoking – the measure of a good book.

My next read is called ‘Faith’ and is by Jimmy Carter. I am not sure how I am going to get on with this one, or the one I have about world religions, but I am interested in the topic. Why? I am working in a hospital where the pointy end of life and death is raw and exposed. Yes, it is often far from pretty, or fair.

But, much to my surprise, I have found many staff who are working with those who are so, so sick have some kind of inner faith. So agnostic me has questioned them and talked to them about what they believe and why?

So I have decided I need to read about it and learn more. And at the end of my reading, even if I retain my agnostic status, I will still hang out with my mate, the young chaplain, as she is one cool woman and definitely makes the world a nicer place!

*’My father’s island’ by Adam Dudding

Tractor goes

This post could be called a fingers crossed post.

Our tractor is now starting. It also sounds like something that would be at home on a battlefield.

We know, however, that with a bit of adjustment to the distributor (an nth of degree, apparently), it should/will be running sweetly again.

So how did the man get it sorted? The answer was through my last blog post ‘Tractor Woes’ which resulted in two readers who were mechanics shaking their heads in disbelief at our ‘replace likely stuffed parts until it goes’ approach. And not only did they shake their heads and roll their eyes, they decided to give us some advice on how to diagnose the problem a wee bit more efficiently!

And damn me, using these experts’ expertise was the key, and we now have a tractor that is showing signs of life!

Thank you, guys!

Tractor Woes

Our trusty Fergie has stopped working.

And we are are missing it. A tractor is, after all, a must- have item for townies new to country life, along with the ride on mower and a chainsaw.

The man and I did our research when we bought it – those new-fangled tractors looked just the ticket, but realistically they were for proper farming folks, not pretend ones like us. And besides, new heavy duty farm machinery was a tad overkill for our three acre block, not to mention the eye-watering price tag for those magnificent machines being way beyond our purse!

After much looking around, the man decided on a Massey Ferguson 35. Circa 1960, this model had a reputation for being a reliable machine and was perfectly priced for our budget – read cheap here.

We duly purchased one. It was the required red – the colour of most tractors in children’s picture books! It also had the ubiquitous PTO. It didn’t have the front end loader blade which the man had wanted, but he was willing to compromise and this one had a hydraulic tray which was a win too in his eyes.

Four years on, we can honestly say that the tractor has been an asset around the property. Sure, we don’t use it daily, but it is handy for all measures of lifestyle block requirements such as pulling out old tree stumps, shifting firewood, and towing old logs around, plus playing on (carefully) when our city friends visit.

Recently we made the decision to start looking around to buy a mower attachment for it. The reason being that we need to keep our paddocks in check, as there are no livestock grazing on the land at present.

So when the tractor failed to start, the man decided it must be fixed. Yes, he and Mr Google are on the case. They are taking a systematic approach to tractor repair- this involves systematically replacing pieces until it starts. So far and in no particular order, we have purchased new spark plugs, distributor cap, and high tension leads. Today we bought a new solenoid, and, still it doesn’t start!

Our tractor

The next thing on the list is an ignition switch. And maybe a Massey Ferguson 35 workshop manual, which could prove mighty handy at times like this.

I know this is a bit of a hit and miss approach to mechanics, but one day in the not too distant future, this approach will work and the tractor will splutter into life again and with all its new parts, it should be sweet for another few years!

Living a good life

Covid has made many of us reflect on what is important in life.

I thought I would share some of the things I think are integral to a life well lived:

  1. Live a good and ethical life.
  2. Stand up for what you believe in. Never turn a blind eye to injustice.
  3. This planet is our home: respect it and look after it.
  4. Public good trumps your wants and needs.
  5. Do not screw anyone over.
  6. Own your mistakes.
  7. Ask forgiveness when you need to.
  8. Prioritise relationships with family and friends .
  9. Happiness is a great goal, but happiness doesn’t just happen, it takes work.
  10. Respect your body; it is the only one you will ever have.
  11. If something in your life isn’t working, try and fix it first. This holds true for everything from fridges to relationships. If you can’t fix it, buy another (fridge), or move on (relationships).
  12. Experiences are never a waste of money; updating an OK lounge suite is.
  13. Failing does not mean you are a failure. It means you are human. Accept it with grace, not excuses.
  14. Being the best is not important. Trying your best is.
  15. Don’t prioritise accumulating money or things ever. Neither will bring you true happiness.
  16. There is good debt e.g to buy your home and bad debt e.g credit card debt. The former should make you financially secure; the latter will make the lending institution so.
  17. Don’t get wants and needs muddled up. Wants might be nice to have, but never screw yourself (or anyone else) over financially or in any other way to get it.
  18. Buying second hand is a win for the planet and for you.
  19. Don’t idolise other people, be they beautiful, rich or whatever; others lives are not what they seem!
  20. Be comfortable and happy with who you are, but recognise you are a work in progress .

I am sure you will have other things that you think are important. Please feel free to add them to the comments.

Shackle-free

In October, we sold our boat.

Our feelings at the time were a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because she had been ours for ten years and we had had some fun times in her. Relief? Well, relief was due to a multiple of reasons, but the primary one was that for the last four years we had not used her as we should, and we felt guilty we hadn’t!

No, the poor old thing had sat on a mooring in Parua Bay growing weed (not the illegal stuff, by the way) and getting used by the (insert the rudest word you know here) swallows as their home and ablution block. None of this was pretty.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, in the last couple of years the Mediterranean fan worm had infiltrated the bay and every unsuspecting hull floating there had been under attack. This resulted in the Northern Regional council employing dive teams to check the hulls and work out a remediation programme for each contaminated vessel. Once the programme was completed, the boat was then certified and allowed to go into other marinas and areas (no waterway wants fanworm to take up residence!).

The first year we got notification we had fan worms, we had to pay some divers to remove them from the hull; this last year we dealt with them when the boat was hauled for maintenance.

So there we have it, our lovely boat was unused and deteriorating and costing us quite a few $$. The sensible solution was to sell her. This is, of course, easier said than done: boats are notoriously hard to sell. Indeed, we had had a couple of attempts previously with no joy.

We were, however, determined to sell her this time around. Firstly though, we needed to get her looking cared for and loved again. She was hauled in June last year and the man set to work to get her up to scratch. Over a four months period, he worked week days upon her. This included replacing some rot, painting her topsides and antifouling her hull. Our sail cover had fallen to pieces so we commissioned a new one of these. The engine required some work so a marine engineer was employed to do this. Parts were shipped in from overseas.

With hardstand fees and maintenance costs, getting her up to scratch was far from a cheap exercise. We also couldn’t add the cost of this to the sale price of the boat and had to absorb this expense- no surprises there, it is a boat, after all! Luckily, the man’s labour came gratis.

When she was nearing completion, we popped her on NZ Trademe (for overseas readers, this is the NZ counterpart of Craigslist or ebay, I think). We wrote the ad carefully – we pointed out her amazing cruising history, including being part of NZ Peace Flotilla that went to Mururoa in 1995 (see Steinlager ad on NZ TV at the moment), her circumnavigation, her gun running story, and the link to the book about these adventures.**We also pointed out her live aboard potential.

We priced her well – that point between so dear as to be unrealistic and so cheap one wonders what is wrong with it! Within a couple days of putting the ad up, we had had a few nibbles. We had two lots come through her, and both wished to buy her.

We sold her for less than we asked. This is par for the course, and is the cost we were willing to pay to move forward. We thought it was worth it!

We also sold her to the best possible people ever. A young Australian couple, they are intending to head to the northwest coast of Canada with another couple of boats and settle there in a couple of years.* Meanwhile, they are living aboard her with their husky and cat during the week and heading out most weekends and holidays exploring the Hauraki Gulf. We are following their adventures on social media.

Sorry, for quality of this photo: saying goodbye to Te Kaitoa as she leaves Whangarei Harbour with Tash and Patrick and friends

Every time we drive past the mooring where Te Kaitoa sat for the last four years, the man and I no longer need to look and check her out. She is, after all, in Little Shoal Bay, Auckland, where she is being looked after, used and loved as she should be. A perfect ending for us and a perfect beginning for them.

Safe and happy adventures on Te Kaitoa, Tash and Pat.

*We have been invited up to Canada for a sail when they get there. We do intend to take them up on their offer.

** BOAT BOOKS – How to find nautical yarns and stories. Page 1 of our huge WORLDWIDE range of nautical yarns and stories

Pumped up

With another summer of very little rain, our water is now down to under a quarter in our main 6000 gallons tank. Our second tank of 5000 gallons is sitting at about three quarters full.

Yesterday the man made the decision to take all our water from the back up tank. The man also thought that a bit of maintenance wouldn’t go amiss, so he decided to do a filter clean at the same time he did the swap over.

At about noon, I received a text from the man to say that all had gone well. He also mentioned in passing that the water pressure wasn’t crash hot. Now to those who have experienced the joy of showering at our home, you will realise the man’s comment about the pressure was worrying as it is terrible at its best! At this stage, I put on my Pollyanna hat and thought it would come right.

I was wrong. It went from bad to worse.

When I arrived home from work, the man greeted me with the words ‘We have no water to the house’. He followed this up with, ‘We will have to get the pump guys as I think the pump is …. (insert your own choice word here)

I knew in a trice that this was going to be a very expensive exercise; firstly, because it was going to attract an after hours call out fee, and, secondly, we would be in for hefty travel costs too as we live in the back of beyond. I was far from happy.

I also knew as I ran my fingers through my hair that desperately needed a wash that we had absolutely no alternative but to get it fixed as soon as possible.

And as I faced the realism of a huge budget blow out this week, I remembered that son No.1 was most of his way through his water reticulation qualification and knew a thing or two about water and pumps. So we did the sensible thing and called upon his services.

And low and behold, in an hour or so, son No 1 had fixed the issues and we had running water again. We also had a pump and water filter that had had their yearly maintenance. Oh, and the water pressure? Sadly, this is a blog, rather than a fairy tale, so it is still pathetic!

The Garden plot

This morning the man and I dismantled what was left of our vegetable plot. With another summer season of virtually no rain, plus the possums, rabbits, rats and a variety of other pests destroying our plants at every opportunity, it was time to wave the white flag of surrender.

The garden will be converted back to grass and I will buy all my vegetables in this season. Fortunately, there is a local gardener who sells their surplus, and an amazing farmer’s market on a Saturday morning in Whangarei to buy from. I have no doubt these alternatives will be more cost effective too.

I haven’t given up completely on growing vegetables though. I do intend to twist the man’s arm and get him to build me a small raised vegetable garden closer to the house in autumn. This bijou garden will only have things that flourish and that we like to eat. I am over wasting my time, money, and precious water on plants that don’t meet this criteria!

I might have lost the war with vegetables this season, but it looks like I am winning the battle with a lemon tree. This citrus tree was planted about three years ago and became a pathetic, stick-like thing with one or two leaves.

About 8 weeks ago, I dug around it and threw in some worm farm compost and citrus fertiliser in a last ditch effort to save it; or, possibly, kill it. Once I had added the fertiliser, I put the soil back, and watered the tree well. I then put mulch around the base, and left it to its own devices. Today I am happy to report, my once sad lemon is looking healthy with a lovely lot of new growth on it.

Sometimes my gardening efforts pay dividends; other times, they simply don’t.

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