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semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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New Life – New Year

New Year’s resolutions.

I admit I have occasionally given these a whirl. You know, stuff like I am going to adopt a junk-free life style.

The lifespan of my resolutions is about a week. Or until the first piece of chocolate is offered to me. Whichever is sooner.

So this New Year’s Eve, I didn’t even indulge in the charade.

Yeah, nah, I don’t need NY resolutions conjured up while slightly tipsy on cheap plonk to feel in control. Ditto: the man. Yes, 2018 is going to be a great year for us.

So what is it that will make 2018 a stellar year?

2017 may have been the year of change, but 2018 will definitely be the year of consolidation.

First and foremost is that we go into the new year incredibly happy and content with all aspects of our lives.

A great foundation to begin with, we think.

We won’t stand still though. We do have plans.

The man and I will continue to develop our property in our slow way.  There is no rush, we will focus on the journey.

The man intends to get a jobette. In part, this is for the social aspect. Working by yourself is isolating. And even more so when living in a new community. Of course, we would be lying if we said the money wasn’t welcome either, but it is very much a secondary consideration.

For me, 2017 saw me land a job in a new field and finally shut the door on a career that I had wanted to walk away from 10 years ago. Except I didn’t have the balls.

This career move has paid dividends. I now wake up every  morning looking forward to going to work, to being challenged, and learning something new.  And it gets even better, my bosses have plans for me. Career development. To this end, they have offered me the opportunity to upskill and study in 2018. This old girl said yes.

Travel plans this year are dedicated to catching up with friends and family. We intend to (finally) fit in a trip to Christchurch and Wanaka to see friends. Another trip to Melbourne to visit a sister is on the cards too, with, maybe, a bit of a side excursion thrown in. And the lovely Hawkes Bay also beckons. Like always, the main constraint to these plans will be time!

No doubt, like every year, things won’t necessarily pan out exactly as planned. There will be obstacles. We are, however, starting from a grand position.

2018. Bring it on!

New Life – Simply living.

 

I am writing this on a winter’s afternoon. The day is fine but slightly cold, so we have the fire burning slowly in the hearth. The man’s sterling efforts cutting and storing firewood over the summer months means we have no shortage of this resource.

This morning I made marmalade from the fruit grown on our property.  This is the first lot of 50 jars that I want to put down this season. The man is a marmalade fiend. I chucked some whiskey in this batch for good luck.

Yesterday I planted some rosemary. This is the beginning of our herb garden.

Earlier in the week I planted a couple of rows of garlic in the newly resurrected vegetable garden. I will plant another two rows in about a month. And other vegetables too.  Although only ones we like – no point growing produce we won’t eat. The rotary hoe we bought a couple of months back is finally earning its keep!

Last weekend our youngest son and his wife came visiting and he and I cooked a roast for dinner. The potatoes were found in an overgrown garden in the corner of the home paddock. He recognised them; I thought they were weeds!* The  lamb, too, came from our property and although it took me a few days to get my head around this fact, any reservations about the meat’s provenance evaporated at the first mouthful! It was delish.  And that rosemary I planted will be the making of future lamb dishes!

Last week I made guava jelly from the remnants of fruit on our trees. The trees were fruiting when I went away and I thought they would have been well and truly finished by the time I got back. They weren’t. There is definitely a longer growing season up here.

A couple of weeks before that I whipped up a batch of feijoa chutney. Again the fruit came from our land.

Meanwhile plans are afoot for the chickens. I have a bid in for a recycled roost on Trademe and have worked out where the hens will go. I am thinking 6 might be a good number – enough eggs for us and enough to gift to visiting family and friends.

Next week we have to think about pruning the fruit trees and working out what we want to do about spraying.  As we don’t know a lot about it, I will head into the garden centre and get some tips from our favourite shop assistant there (she knows EVERYTHING about plants). It is also the time to plant more fruit trees so we will be talking to her about this too.

In the next month or so, the macadamias should be ready to harvest. Not sure what I’ll do with these; but I’ll figure it out.

Country life. Perfect.

*This is now our official potato growing spot!

** I also have a bid in on a mincer which I think will be great for mincing fruit for marmalade etc.

New Life – Change challenges

 

Six months after moving from the big smoke to our rural idyll in Northland, the man and I can now say we feel we are home.

So everything has worked out well, you are saying. Another successful change story, right?

Well, yes and no. Lots of stuff has turned out smashing – we love our lifestyle block: the quietness and privacy, the orchard, the shed, and the animals make for our perfect life.

We love our new community too. Parua Bay is a place where everyone, regardless of whether you know them or not, waves as they pass on the road, and the shop keepers have time to have a yarn. And the beaches are amazing!  Nice.

There is only one fly in the ointment: the income side remains a work in progress.

As I’ve said before, we have a business idea or two which may or may not become our source of income – in fact, I have started experimenting with one idea, but if the drain keeps on blocking due to an inefficient ‘Heather’ manufacturing process, any profit will  just disappear into the wallet of the drainlayer!  No one said this working for yourself lark was going to be easy.

Meanwhile, I am attempting to land a part time job to refill the coffers. This has not been at all successful to date. I think this is for multiple reasons.

  1. As I want a career change, I am applying for things outside my area of expertise – but the fact is convincing someone that one’s skills are transferable is not easy.
  2. I am also at a certain age i.e. although I am fit and able, I am no longer a spring chicken.
  3. I know I don’t interview well – I am not good at talking myself up and tend to be quite self-effacing.
  4. As we were going overseas for almost 6 weeks, I mentioned this in cover letters. Honest me, right? Actually, it was job suicide! The interviews dried up. Completely.

Am I crushed by all this rejection? Well, I was on one occasion as I really, really, really wanted the job, so I cried when I got the ‘lovely to meet you, but, sorry, we have given the position to someone else’ phone call.

But on the whole, I am pretty philosophical about the length of time it is taking. You see, the man and I knew when we instigated this great lifestyle change that the chances were  it wouldn’t be plain sailing, and there would be some rough patches as we sorted out our new way of life.

Regardless, the changes that we chose to make have definitely been worthwhile and delivered exactly what the doctor ordered, even if there is still the odd challenge ahead! Having said this, we do feel we are totally in control of our destiny and that is an amazing place to be, we reckon.*

*I have been in a position where major change was ‘done’ to me. I found this really hard to cope with and went through a whole range of emotions often associated with grief. This response is apparently normal and healthy.

 

New Life – Jet setting

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Floating houses, Victoria, Vancouver Island.- perhaps Auckland needs to consider these?

It’s been over six weeks since I blogged, and I apologize, but I’ve been away with the man exploring the world. Or parts thereof, to be precise.

Yes, we left our rural idyll to hop on a plane which took us to the Northern Hemisphere. And as it wasn’t first class, or business class, or, even, premium economy,  voyaging to the other side of the world with our knees around our ears for hours on end required both fortitude and dedication. But we managed it and found ourselves (a very long) thirteen hours later in Vancouver.

From here, we spent 3.5 weeks making our way across Canada to the eastern seaboard. We visited Vancouver Island, Toronto and Niagara (don’t bother)*, Quebec, Halifax, Baddeck, Charlottetown, Lunenburg and many places in-between. We then backtracked to the very French, very edgy and very cool Montreal to catch a plane across the Atlantic to Heathrow.

During the ten days we were in Old Blighty,  we caught up with friends and family, plus saw some sights (Cutty Sark, Kenilworth and Warwick Castle, Stratford-on Avon) and explored Coventry where my Dad was born and his forebears lived. I also did some family history, but that is another story.

Now they say travelling is good for you. It opens your mind apparently. And it did. It also plays havoc with your budget, because travelling always costs trillions more than you think it will. But it is worth every penny.

Why? Because we have caught up with family and friends, met a host of (other) awesome people and saw amazing sights, and we will remember all of these things for the rest of our lives.

We have also returned invigorated and ready to face the world.  Or we will be, providing the jetlag abates!

We have a confession to make though.  Despite loving the travelling, we did look forward to coming back. You see this is our home and our life and we love it.

Brilliant, right?

PS Now we are back, we are going to focus on getting the income sorted. We think it is the adult thing to do!

PSS And yes, we are planning the next trip, but that will be a while away!

*Toronto was the only city in Canada we didn’t like, and Niagara Falls is OK, but the town itself is basically a very tacky theme park.

Week 8 – New Life – 2 months in

Last night I realised the man and I have almost achieved what we set out to do when I started my blog. Yes, we are now living the lifestyle we were aiming for: the one with a better work life balance.

To do this we have spent the last 18 months actively reducing and/or eliminating debt so we could afford to work less. Of course, the aim was to ensure an excellent standard of living now and in retirement* –  this was never an exercise in subsistence living!

So how did we achieve it?

We paid off the credit card and cut it up, never to be used again! Now I know people use the 55 days free credit to their advantage, however it sat better with us to just get rid of it altogether.

We sold the rental which had a mortgage on it.

We sold the family home which did not have a mortgage on it too, as we wanted to live in a quieter place. We did give thought to renting it out, but we have had two nightmare tenants  -different reasons, but equally as unpleasant to deal with –  and decided it was not worth the grief!**

After deciding what we wanted, we searched for 6 months for the ‘perfect property’.*** We moved here in January. Moving here meant our outgoings went down substantially with a 50% reduction in land rates (not on mains for sewerage), no water rates (we are on tank and spring-fed dam water), no rental for a shed and no transport costs for the man to get to work.

In winter there will be further savings as our heating will be provided by a log burner. This makes sense as our land will provide the firewood.  At the moment there is not a wetback facility functioning, but the hot water cylinder is all set up for it and our intention is to get it up and running again in the near future.

In addition to this, we took the opportunity to review insurance cover, electricity, and internet and mobile companies charges. We changed some of our insurance policies, although we stayed with the same company. The house replacement cost went up (bigger house), but everything else went down a couple of dollars reflecting the area we live in apparently.

With regards to electricity, we also stayed with the same company, figuring out the $12 a year saving that the ‘What’s my number’ website predicted was not worth the hassle of swapping. We did change our internet and mobile phone providers though and went with a bundled offer from Slingshot. This saved us $40 per month or 2.75 weeks groceries which the parsimonious part of me applauds!

There are other savings living outside the big smoke too: doctors, dentists, tradesmen are all considerably cheaper. Petrol is cheaper.

Having said this, wages are often less too, but for us that is not an issue. I still think we will be on the winning side financially. And as for living the lifestyle the man and I were after – we are absolute winners!

What didn’t work out? There was only one thing we intended to do which has not panned out: go down to one car.

Yes, we still have two cars. Why? Simply because I will be heading back into part-time work and we live rurally and do not have public transport option. Two cars, therefore, makes sense. We will review this once I retire.

There are also two things that still need to be sorted. The first is my income and the second is selling the boat.

For those who remember, after 39 years in the same profession,  I said adios to my job in September.  Phew! My intention is to work part time and in a different field if at all possible. I also have an idea for a small business. This will all happen after June.

Why? Because a long-planned six week trip to Canada and UK has made me unemployable! I mean who in their right mind is going to employ someone who is going on a long overseas jaunt a month after I start?

Now the boat. We have used it once this summer. Meanwhile it is growing all sorts of life forms on its hull. Sadly, we can’t see this pattern altering. Our lives have changed. We are busy doing other things.

It now makes absolute sense to sell it to someone else who will use it as it should be used. We have priced it accordingly. We hope it sells fast.

So has anything changed since moving here?

Yep. My attitude to eating the livestock in our fields. I am a meat eater. It is time for me to be honest about where it comes from. I bought a freezer last week. Karl, our farm manager will organise everything. I do think I may be out when the homekill truck rocks up for the first time though – forgive me for this bit of denial!

So where to from now in relationship to the blog?

I think for the remainder of the year, a monthly update is in order. After that I think the man and I should be completely settled in our new work/life balance. Mission accomplished and all that!

I also think I might have sorted out the use of commas by then correctly… miracle, right?

* Financially we are well set up for  retirement. We were in Auckland too, but our outgoings are cheaper here which is always a win.

**a small lifestyle block with a shed and a nice house with 3 bedrooms, and a fireplace preferably, which was located near the water in Whangarei

*** Most tenants we have had have been exemplary people.

Marmalade days

In 7 days the furniture truck will arrive to pick up our stuff to take to our new home in Whangarei.

At the moment, the man and I are too caught up with cleaning out cupboards and sorting final readings and new connections to give much thought to this new life north of Auckland.

Yes, we have a vague idea of how we want it to be: a better work/life balance, but, to be honest, the finer detail as to what that is going to look like is still missing at the moment.  We do know our income is going to be derived from several streams: the man’s business, my part time paid work, an AirBnB and perhaps some sort of payment from the land.

The property we have bought is 3 acres (just over 1 hectare for those readers who work in metric measurements) with a house,  the big shed for the man and his business plus several other outbuildings. The majority of the land is presently in pasture, although in a former life part of it was used for growing calla lilies commercially (obviously not on a huge scale).

The big question is what do we do  with the land? After some thought, we have realised that we aren’t interested in running stock for our meat supply so we have closed the door on that idea. We also don’t fancy mowing it, even though the ride on mower is going to have novelty value. At least in the beginning. So after thinking on it a while, the man and I have decided that planting some sort of crop might well be the go.

Now this is where I default to the librarian part of me. Sigh.  I have started researching options and although NZ green may be the crop of choice in the north, I have decided that we won’t be going down this track, rather Seville oranges might be where the man and I put our money.

Now for those of you who don’t know, Seville oranges are the traditional oranges used in marmalade, are quite sought after and freight well. And even better, from my reading to date, I think the land and climate we have will lend itself to Sevilles. So here’s the cunning plan: plant a trial crop of half an acre in the first eighteen months on the land and see how it goes.

If our calculated punt is right and they grow and they sell, we plant more. And maybe at that stage, we investigate the feasibility of putting in a small commercial kitchen to do the value added bit by making preserves (now those who know me well will know I like preserving so I kind of fancy this!). Regardless, if it works out and the fruit grows well, it will be magic, if not we will look at other options for our small part of God’s own.

And in the meantime, we’ll have a heap of fun doing it.

Opening doors

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The Shepherd’s hut made for a client by the man. We will have one on our land  as an airbnb.

Aaah, you thought I had disappeared again, didn’t you? No such luck…I have been busy. Sort of.

And because I am busy still- sort of – this is going to be a very quick update.  You know ‘life for Heather and the man in a nutshell’, if you like.

So here goes:

The man and I became grandparents to Amelie Matilda. Now, we do have a delightful step grandchild who came into our lives when he was 5, but this is the first baby we have had in our family since our babies, so we are enjoying having lots of cuddles.

Our house is still waiting for that buyer to come through the door. Yep, it is languishing on the market in spite of it being in a desirable location and in good nick. I feel like I have an orphan and part of me is quite affronted. And yes, the market has changed and we have adjusted our price… no doubt it will sell, but I wish it would hurry up.

Meanwhile, we have bought at auction. No, don’t shake your heads .. we haven’t lost our marbles. Quite. .. ok, maybe a bit! Anyway, we have a long term settlement and will rent our present home if we can’t sell in time, but I do have faith that everything will fall into place and we will be sweet.

So let me tell you about our new home. It is in Whangarei Heads between Parua Bay and Pataua South. It is 1.19 hectares (3 acres, thereabouts) and has the ubiquitous shed for the man’s business, a shed for the tractor and ride on, a nice house (not flash – we don’t do flash) with 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 2 toilets and a study for me.

The garden contains an orchard and there are big trees on the boundary for firewood which is a bonus as we do have a log burner in the house.

The property is situated a  5 mins drive from Parua Bay shopping centre which has the well-known Parua Bay pub with restaurant over the water in it, a large community centre and a doctors’ surgery ($18 a visit in Whangarei, by the way, for all adults – at these prices,  I may just go and see the doctor for a social chat!). A further 5 mins drive on is Onerahi which is a bigger shopping centre with the library in it (very important for us bookworm types) and a supermarket. Whangarei proper is a further 10 minutes or so on (20 minute drive from the house with the wind behind). But most importantly, our new home is 5 mins drive from a host of glorious, pristine beaches.

Our plans for the land include putting a shepherd’s hut on for holiday accommodation.

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In a past life, the property did have calla lilies growing commercially on part of it, so we are giving consideration to putting some flowers in for a bit of income. We will also run a few livestock and have hens. Very exciting… I can’t wait!

I have also started looking for part time work again up north. Working will serve two purposes: the most important being providing social contact and integrating me into our new community. The second thing is supplementing the coffers, although we are fine as we are for a while.

Yes, we are on track.

Life is good.

Living well

Pop the champagne corks, peeps!

I am officially semi-retired.

To prove it, I got my final pay today from full time employment.

So where to from here? I may be semi-retired but I am also completely and utterly jobless. This is not a state I want to be in for too long, and, hopefully, I won’t. I just have to find that perfect position – interesting, great hours, well paid … you know the caper!

My semi-retirement goal  has always been to work 24 hours or so per week in paid employment, with the balance of my week being spent doing other (more important) things with my time.

The driver here is I don’t want to enter (or, Heaven forbid, exit) my dotage with a long ‘I wished I had done’ list.

No, I want my list to be an ‘I have done’ and the extra time I have available to me should allow me to do the other things in life I want to.

Needless to say, the act of reducing my hours has resulted in a drop in income.  l have done the Sorted budget and  I think we can achieve what we want with careful spending.

Ok, there is an outside chance the venture might morph into “Scrooge lives again”, but I hope not. If this happens, the man and I will simply make the necessary changes to make it work. Stew again?

Interesting times! Exciting times! I’ll let you know how we go.

 

 

Toppling over

There is something cathartic about blogging.

I am aware, however, that wearing my heart on my sleeve could be viewed by some as me being totally self absorbed.

If this is the case, then I make absolutely no apology for it. Why? Because this was never my intention.

The purpose of blogging was to clarify things as the man and I explored how to work less and live more. This was both for us and also for those of you who are interested in our journey.

I have also found blogging cheap therapy. You see, life doesn’t always pan out the way one thinks it should or would.  And writing about what happens makes sense of it. Go figure?

This week has been one of those weeks when nothing has panned out.

Firstly I got a thanks, but no thanks to the hospice job I was interviewed for. It was nicely couched, of course, but it still hurt as I really, really wanted it. I admit to being a bit sad for a day or so after getting this news, but then my pragmatic side kicked in and I re-framed it.  This was not failure, this was an opportunity.*

So for the last few days I have been thinking about ways to make a living without working for someone else. Now here are a few of my ideas (sharing is good):

I could start my own library. This sounded sensible as I know the business inside out, right? Sadly no.  This was never going to fly as public libraries are free, so even if I had enough stock, who in their right mind would pay to join my library? Except, of course, naughty people who can’t use the public library because they owe too many fines. Strangely, these people don’t seem  the ideal customer base for my proposed start up. The idea was shelved, no pun intended.

The next idea was to run an  0900  line (psychic or sex, I wasn’t fussed). I must admit that this wasn’t my own idea, I stole it from a book I read years ago. Anyway, it had immense appeal for two reasons. There would be no bad debts because of the 0900 number and no need to even leave the house in the morning. This idea was quickly discounted when I realised I would have no idea what to say to my customers, and if I did think of something I knew that the minute it was out of my mouth, I would giggle like a silly school girl. The ambiance of the occasion would be lost for ever and I would have a disappointed customer. There would be, I was sure, no repeat business. I canned the idea.

So, I got to the last idea.

I could make a living out of telling people how the man and I survived on diddly squat in semi-retirement, but still managed to live an amazingly happy and fulfilled life.  I was not sure how I was going to make a living from it, but it’s been done successfully before, albeit in different guises – the Destitute Gourmet cook books and the ‘Living on the smell of an oily rag’ book being two successful iterations of this theme. To date, it is the best option. More thought is needed.

Or maybe, I just look for that three day a week job after I have moved to Whangarei?** Watch this space.

Now the second thing not to pan out this week is that the buyer for our house has yet to materialise. The idea that he/she would magically appear as a result of the first open home was always just a dream, and I knew this from the get-go. Selling a home is stressful and it would be lovely if we could pre-empt weeks of open homes and bring the auction forward. Having said this, it is only day 4 and the first open homes did attract some interested parties, and the agents are bringing buyers through on a regular basis.

Which brings me to the beautiful house we saw on the internet in Whangarei. The man and I went to see it. It  was absolutely gorgeous and we loved it. We also probably aren’t going to buy it. You see, it is too isolated. And it’s on a main road. No matter, something else more suitable will turn up.

Now the last thing to happen this week was I was challenged (nicely) by a friend. Were the man and I doing the right thing leaving Auckland? Did we know that if we sell up and leave, it would be highly unlikely we would ever be able to afford to come back, she wisely pointed out. I looked at my dear friend and nodded as she was absolutely right. The answer is neither the man nor I know if we are doing the right thing. What we do know is we want to live a quieter life in a quieter place and we think it will work out. In fact, we will give it our best shot. If it doesn’t work out, then we will live with consequences. And although we may not be able to afford Auckland again, we can afford every other place in this beautiful land.

Change is never easy. Some days things fall into place; other days they don’t. I think this is normal.

 

*Thank God for those twee management courses!!

** I have decided that I need to be settled and then look for a job.

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