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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Buying Local

New life – that Spring feeling

In the last week the weather has turned the corner and it is feeling considerably warmer up here.  Indeed, some days it’s been so hot that I have found myself abandoning my jumper in favour of a short-sleeved tee shirt.

We are, of course, on the cusp of spring  and this is code for ‘unreliable weather’, so I know there will be some days when the barometer plummets and winter woollies will be required day wear, there will be frost on the ground to greet us on waking in the morning, and the need for a fire in the evening will be non-negotiable.

But this is a small price to pay for the arrival of spring the man and I think. Yes, we now have lambs in the paddocks, with more to be born. Having said this, we did have a stillborn lamb. Perfectly formed, it arrived on a very stormy night a couple of weeks ago and was still covered in its membrane when we found it dead the next morning. Nature.

The garden is giving us lots of pleasure. It is sprouting flowers that we never knew we had: freesias, daffodils and other bulbs in hiding since we came in January are pushing through the ground.

The fruit trees have been whipped into order and I’ve started my spraying programme – codling moths: be gone!  In the vegetable garden, the garlic shoots are now visible* and the rest of the garden is being slowly prepared for further plants when my go-to book tells me it is time.

Today I planted the heirloom tomato seeds I got from the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. Once they have grown into seedlings, I will transfer them into the garden, meanwhile they are sitting in pots on a sunny window sill in my study.

I also have put in the first of the potatoes in the garden, after leaving them in sunlight for the required 7-10 days to sprout. My go-to book says that potatoes can be successfully grown in tyres, and strangely enough I found a couple behind the shed today, so I think I will give that a go too. Or maybe, I should make delightful tyre swan planters out of them? The perfect Christmas gift for a friend or two perhaps?

We are also thinking about putting a couple of hives in. One of our neighbours has bees so we went to see them. It turns out our neighbours are actually hosts, rather than the owners of the hives. For the use of their land, they get paid in honey – more than enough for their needs apparently. This may work perfectly for us, so we will do some investigation.

Meanwhile, the man and I are spending a lot of our days working hard on a new product. Yes, we think it may be the answer to getting the income part of the equation sorted. The man is busy perfecting prototypes and streamlining the process while I am spending a good swag of time sourcing materials at the best possible price from suppliers.  It is very exciting, but the best part is that we are really proud of the product as it is beautifully made and fits in exactly with our buy local philosophy. Watch this space!

Yes, life up north continues to be enjoyable and we remain optimistic!

* The garlic shoots look remarkably like kikuyu grass – a trap for the unwary!

New life – Week 1.

Did you notice the change in the title format? Yep, I’ve gone from two words to four in celebration of our new life – this girl knows how to party, right?

So how has the first week gone? The answer is simply stupendous.

Here is a round up:

The move went well – the only two things lost were my spectacles and the tv remote. The specs were found on day 3 safely tucked in with the socks; the remote remains missing in action.

On day 2 the man and I were visited by neighbours from down the road. It was quite early in the morning, and luckily we were up and dressed (note to self: make sure I am fully and respectably clothed when the first rooster crows so as not to frighten visiting neighbours). John and Marie were lovely and joined us for a cup of coffee. We then exacted the price of the drink by interrogating them about the vagaries of this farming lark (don’t be picky – 3 acres to us is a farm!) and they were ever so patient and full of wonderful advice. We haven’t seen them since.*

Sunday saw us heading off to the Parua Bay market. This is a bijou market 5 mins drive from home. Well patronised, it was a chance to wander around the stalls and talk to the locals.  Our purchases included some amazing dry cured bacon and a Jerusalem artichoke plant. We could have spent squillions more on some artisan bread, sausages and vegetables. Next time, we’ll take more cash.

During the week we have done a fair bit of exploring: Pataua South, Pataua North, McGregor’s Bay, McLeod’s Bay and the beaches to the end of the Whangarei Heads. And yes, we have done more than our fair share of oohing and aahing at the beauty of the area. It is breathtaking scenery with soaring volcanic peaks, white sands and clear blue water.

Back at the ranch, we have started knocking the place into shape – there is about 3/4 acre of gardens around the house that just need a bit of TLC. I am attacking it logically garden by garden. I am well through the tidy up of the first one which has involved some trimming  and removing of unwanted plants. In spring I’ll put some replacement plants in. This garden actually contains a cross. As there is no name on it, I am unsure as to whether it marks a dearly departed pet or someone’s ashes. Regardless, I can categorically state that there has been no deep digging done in that area. Some things are best left alone.

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Looking towards orchard and farmland which surrounds us. The garden with the cross is to the left of the photo.

The man has spent an inordinate amount of time down in the vicinity of his shed. Needless to say, he has sorted out his work space, but he’s also renovated what is going to be the tractor shed and hand mowed the knee-high grass in the small paddock in front of it.

Which brings me to the knee-high grass in the paddocks. The man and I need to tame this. We did consider getting the local guy with his tractor mower to do the first cut, but after talking to Marie and John and the rural post lady who is another local gem, getting one of the local farmer’s in with their stock seems to be the way to go so this is our intention. A couple of phone calls has not produced any likely candidates to date (although everyone was super helpful) so we have taken a more global approach:

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Credit where credit’s due: Thank you to Bayley Real Estate for providing the board which the man converted to this spectacular sign!

And while we are on the topic of taming unruly lawns – we have sourced a ride on at a garage sale today. We went specifically to see it and thought it had been sold as we couldn’t see it . The farmer started chatting to us and blow me down, he hadn’t sold it as he still needed it for the next couple of weeks. To cut a long story short, we have bought it on a gentleman’s handshake. No deposit required. We’ll pick it up when he’s ready to hand it over.

Week One: We are happy as pigs in muck and are pinching ourselves at how lucky we are.

*We have been invited down to John and Marie’s for a drink when it suits us.

Made here

While in Mt Maunganui on holiday recently, I bought a dress. It was purchased with an occasion in mind – a wedding in October – and matched the criteria I try to adhere to when buying something: New Zealand designed and made.

I adopted this approach a number of years ago and have found that sometimes this lofty aspiration works out and sometimes it doesn’t. So why do I opt to buying locally made goods when I can? The answer is simple.  I believe that by choosing to buy products made here, I am doing my bit to support the New Zealand manufacturer.  I should say at this point, my contribution to this worthy cause is negligible, as no one in their right mind would ever accuse me of being a big spender.

Expanding on my rather simplistic rationale, I do believe that purchasing NZ made is good for the economy as it provides employment*, ensures a labour force with a diverse skill base, and reduces the country’s reliance on imports. Indeed, our  trade deficit with those rather large figures is not something to be proud of.**

As a general comment I have found NZ products to be well made, and I guess if they are not, I have the capacity to easily hunt the manufacturer down and have a conversation.  Sure, in some cases it may cost more to buy things made here than the imported equivalent, but as far as I am concerned, the benefits far outweigh the slightly lighter purse that can result.

For the consumer, establishing whether something is made here can be problematic however. This happened with the man’s bike. With the best of intentions, we purchased a NZ made bike. The tag line on the company’s website site said ‘ a world class bike from New Zealand’ , so we presumed it was made here. It wasn’t. It transpired that most, if not all, of the componentry was manufactured offshore. The only construction taking place in Aotearoa was the assembly. A lesson learned.

Now as every girl knows, if you buy a dress, especially one that was significantly marked down, it is obligatory to get new shoes. Needless to say, I wanted heels made in NZ.  I hit the internet. At no stage did I think finding a suitable pair would be an issue, after all I had managed to source NZ made gumboots at a chain store (no free advertising in this post, folks) and my scruffy slippers were proudly made here too.

I was wrong. Yes, there are some NZ shoe manufacturers, but the range of shoes on offer was limited and not what I was looking for. This woman was not going to give up though. I resorted to contacting people I know who have shoe fetishes – they would hold the knowledge I thought. And they did, but it was not the answer I wanted. Apparently there is a dearth of footwear manufacturers on our shores now and what is here, I had found. I was stymied. I was going to have to resort to option two: buy shoes which have been manufactured in a country with robust and fair labour laws. Although not ideal, this is my go to default.

Every story should have a happy ending or at least an upside, I think. And this one does. I may not be able to buy suitable NZ made shoes for the wedding, but the man will have no such problem, providing he gives the size 12 stilettos a miss and chooses lace ups instead.

*Sadly, there is often a devastating economic and social impact on local communities in NZ when the main industry in the area closes down or decides to go offshore.

**When I first drafted this post, I found myself drifting into the areas of sweat shops and carbon footprints. I also shared my thoughts on supporting firms in NZ who have been found to have  unethical and sometimes illegal working conditions. Although I don’t want to deflect from or downplay the seriousness of any of this, I edited this section out as I felt this blog was not the platform to air it. Suffice to say, I do my best to buy responsibly.

Well grounded

For the next three weeks, I am on annual leave. I couldn’t be more pleased. I am not going to sit on my hands though. No, sirree, this girl has things to do and places to go; many of which are in the pursuit of the new work life balance regime.

The first thing happening is that I am spending time in the garden. Why do this when you are on holiday, you may ask?  The answer is it is part of the plan. The house we are living in is new to the man and me. We know it well, it was my mother’s home and is directly behind the house  we lived in for close to twenty years of our married life. In December we purchased it and after twelve years living in other places moved back to the area where we raised our children. We have a connection here. It’s nice.

The garden, however, needs work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice garden with flowers and well established trees, but we want to have fruit trees and vegetables too.  Our intention is to plant plums, apples, peaches, pears, lemons, passionfruit and saville oranges. We will put in a good sized vege patch too.

Now I know some of you will be thinking fruit and vegetables are inexpensive to buy, so why bother?  And you are completely correct; they are cheap. If you did a cost analysis, I suspect store bought may even be cheaper than home grown ones, especially when in season.

This is not a budgeting exercise however, rather quality of life is the driver here. Working in the garden, be it plunging hands into soil, watering seedlings or picking the ripened produce, is primal and therapeutic. There is no hurrying: nature is the boss and she sets the pace.

The time, labour, and patience involved is well worth it. The product is more often than not sensational: sink your teeth into a tomato from the garden and taste the freshness and flavour. It is a different beast altogether from its counterpart found in the supermarket aisle*

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Plum jam and homegrown tomato via our little garden at our last house.

There is also the personal satisfaction element.  I derive immense pleasure from preserving produce I have grown or being gifted – no bought fare here. And, let’s be honest, there is nothing more rewarding than toiling over a hot stove in the height of summer making jam or chutney!*  I have done it often. The house we moved from had two magnificent plum trees. On hot days, I would be in the kitchen  happily whipping up plum jam, plum sauce and indeed plum anything I could think of to make use of the crop. The six or so jars that had taken two hours to make made for a feeling of satisfaction, even a wee bit of unbecoming smugness! The product is quite different from commercially produced preserves; it tastes nicer.

As a pastime, the growing and cooking of produce to share with family or friends at the table or as a gift is a caring, comforting pursuit. So, if it’s not cost effective – who cares? Some things can’t be measured by price. I am pretty sure that the Danes with their concept of hygge would approve.***

So these holidays, we have factored in a fruit tree buying expedition to Wairere Nursery http://www.wairere.co.nz/ . Meanwhile, most days I put my gumboots on and in a slow living kind of way saunter into the garden to get it ready.

*We don’t have a farmer’s market nearby. We are a great fan of these and think that although they are commercial, they are a great alternative to the supermarket.

**My favourite preserving book is “Ladies, A plate: Jams & Preserves” by Alexa Johnston

*** See post Simply Present

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