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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 – Eternally Grateful

As it is coming up to a year since we moved from Auckland, I thought it was the right time to  say a thank you to all the people who have made the last year one of the best years ever for the man and me.

In no particular order, here we go!

Thanks to our friends and family for understanding why we wanted to make the move  and encouraging us (mostly) to follow our dreams.

Thank you to these same friends for being solid and keeping in touch with us, even though we were at least two hours away from the nearest ones of you!

Thank you also to those friends who have made the trip up to see us. We have enjoyed seeing you and sharing our new life with you. Please continue to visit. And to the others who haven’t made it yet, there is always a bed!

The same goes for family..  thank you for letting us leave, and for keeping us close, even though we were a bit further away.

Thank you to our new neighbours for putting out the hand of friendship and making the move here way easier than it might have been. We will always be grateful to Marie and John for the early morning visit the day after we moved to welcome us to the neighbourhood, Angela for popping in with a cake and an invite to her weekly patchwork group, Kevin from next door for calling in to introduce himself, and Brian for inviting us to dinner to meet his family.

Forming connections within this close knit community was made so much easier by these kind people.

Thank you to our tame farm manager, Kayel for helping whip the land into shape by making hay and then putting sheep on it. We will always be grateful for  your (ongoing) patience and tender handling of us townies.  Yes, we know you don’t normally pick up a stillborn lamb and place her/him in a special box, but you did so for us. We also know that home kill means on the property,  but this would be far too much for us, so you made sure the deed was done somewhere else. You will be pleased to know that I no longer feel squeamish about eating the animals on our land – I figure they had a good life with us and it would be a crime for omnivorous me not to eat their meat. After all, they made the ultimate sacrifice.

There is one proviso though, Kayel –  Wendy the lamb whom you hand raised and is now causing mayhem on our property by being the biggest escape artist out  will live a long and good life here.  Why? Because she views herself as more human than sheep and answers to her name so, no, there will be no freezer in her future.

Thank you to Clements Contractors for giving me the opportunity to try something new in the employment field. I love every day here, and yes, although my pay is considerably less,  my job satisfaction is off the scale.

So what do I like about my new place? Besides loving the challenge of learning a new job, I love the diverseness of the people I work with, their unfailing humour,  realness (yes, you know when they have had a bad day.. they take no prisoners),  kindness, and approach to life.  Lastly, I also must mention the owners, Sandra and Murray.  The  caring culture they have created here is amazing, and I feel so very lucky to be part of this. Total respect, guys!

I would like to thank the person who built the house we live in and the people who planted the garden.  The house is so easy to live in and does everything it should sun wise. And we love having a fire again for winter.

As for the garden, whoever planted it did the most awesome job. Colour galore – as one lot of flowers fade, another lot come into bloom. All through the year. Spectacular.

The same for the fruit trees, as the last of our mandarins are on the tree, the earliest summer fruits are ready to pick. Plums, apples, peaches, nectarines and apricots – yum! When we say goodbye to these, it will be feijoas and guavas. Not to forget the olives and macadamias! And then the cycle will begin again.

Lastly a big thank you to our Auckland friends, Raewyn and Garry who moved up here first and convinced us on a visit to theirs that it was a pretty good place for us to move to. You were 100 % right. We feel totally at home here and can’t imagine ever leaving.

Change is never easy and it certainly pushed us out of our comfort zone. It was, however, the best thing we have done. It has opened our eyes to a new way of living, and energized us.

Not to put too fine a point on it, we think it has been the making of us!

We are happy and content and the only regret we have is that we didn’t do it sooner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life – Change master

It’s been three weeks since I rejoined the work force. For two weeks of this, I was running tandem jobs i.e.  electoral returning officer for the Advance voting part of the election and my new role as Health and Safety Administrator. This means I have had three pay days to date since becoming a working girl again.  I have another full pay due this Wednesday coming too.  How does it feel? Well, simply fantastic – there will be no more dipping into capital to survive!

Moving without a job was the downside of the change process for me. I did have thoughts of working for myself and explored many business ideas, but the fact is  working for myself is not what I want. There, I’ve said it!

Yes, this girl likes working for someone else. I like the structure of it. I like the regular pay packet. I also like the social aspect. I didn’t want to return to working full time however – it would compromise the lifestyle I was aiming for too much. I, therefore, am happy to be working three to four days per week 9-5, with the occasional early start and later finish (note the change from my last post where my day was going to be 7.30-5… there’s been a rethink on the part of the boss… phew!)

So what is the man up to. He is working for himself and is happiest that way. A creative soul, he is just about to launch some lovely outdoor furniture with a retro twist to it.

Successful change means recognizing what you want, but it also means recognizing who you are and then shaping the change to fit those parameters. For me, it is not working for myself; for the man, it is.

Which brings me to another story. My Dad changed his life entirely. Born in 1929 in Coventry, he was the third son of Lilian, nee Timbs, and John Downing.

Unlike his two older brothers, he was too young to serve in World War Two. He did, however, join up in 1947 and head to Germany where he served in the occupational forces. After leaving the army, he became a merchant seaman.

At some point, he decided that he would make New Zealand his home. He subsequently failed to get back on his ship when it was due to leave Auckland.

He lived the rest of his days in New Zealand, visiting England only twice.

When my last remaining English uncle died, my cousin told me they had photos that Dad had sent his family of life in New Zealand and they would return them to me.

The photos duly arrived and I looked through them.

Dad had missed his vocation – he should have worked for the NZ Tourism Board. The photos portrayed his adopted country in the best possible light. They also portrayed the family in the best possible light. The classic one being of my mother in shorts and running shoes. On the back, Dad had written: Dorothy going for a run. My sister and I can tell you categorically that my mother NEVER EVER went for a run!

I never really understood why my father left his loving family to move to the other side of the world until I spent time in England.

My dad was a Depression baby of working class parents. As an 11 year old child he was in Coventry when the Germans bombed the hell of it. It destroyed his city. It also killed his grandfather and, possibly, grandmother too*. Hardly surprising, Smith Street where they lived had an ordnance factory in it.

Yes, I am picking that his childhood would have been hard. It also would have shaped him. Going on the ships around the world would have opened his eyes to the possibilities of a better life for him, so he jumped ship.

So was leaving his family at the other side of world the right thing for him? As he got older, he missed his English family more and more. He also loved England: its countryside and its history. So yes, he definitely had some regrets. I do think, however, that the life he lived here was unobtainable for him there and he knew that.

Change. It’s never perfect – there is always a price to pay.

 

 

New Life – new reality

Yesterday morning at 6.45 am, I jumped in my car to head to work. The journey to town is normally light traffic; at this time of the morning, it is even more so.  Most people are either asleep or have a later start to their morning, I guess.

But not everyone. As I turned from Addison Road into Pataua South Road, I could see a milking shed all lit up. If I thought a 7.30 am start was early, the cow cockies working there would have been grafting away for a good three hours longer than me!

Regardless, 7.30 am is not a start time I am used to, but it is now my new reality. Or it will be until 1st October. This is when the summer season comes into play and my hours will stretch out even more. Yes, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 7.00 am – 5.00 pm will be my normal working day. On Monday, it is even longer as there is a tool box meeting* after work. It was Monday yesterday. I got in my car to go home at 5.40 pm.

clements quarry.jpg

Am I worried about these hours? No, not at all. I have Tuesday off. And, unlike the rest of the office staff, there is no expectation that I work a regular Saturday morning shift in the weighbridge either.

So how am I finding it? The answer is great.

It might be early days, but I like the culture. I like the eclectic mix of quarry workers, truck drivers, mechanics, project managers, and office personnel. I also like the caring element of this firm – it feels like a family.

Its core values, which impressed me when I was interviewed for the job i.e. Safe -everybody home safe everyday; Trust – do what is right; Respect – treat it as your own; Accountable – stand up and own it; Friendly – great to deal with, and, the priceless, Clever – don’t do dumb shit, are not just written on paper, they are embraced.

I lay the responsibility for this firmly on the lovely owners. They walk the talk.

So in spite of the long days, safety clothing that falls short of elegant fashion, and the port-a-loo facilities masquerading as office toilets, this woman knows she has landed a great job with a great firm.

I have, therefore, cancelled the job alerts on TradeMe and Seek. I am here for the long-haul!

*Toolbox meetings are just another name for a staff meeting.

 

 

 

New Life – Healthy concerns

Until Wednesday last week, this old girl thought she was in fine form. OK, I may no longer be a spring chicken, but I did honestly think I was doing pretty good.

Oh, how wrong can one be? My body, Dear Reader, is failing fast. Or that was what I felt by the time I left the pre-med for this new job.*

It started off well with me flying through my drug test. At this stage of the proceedings, I had no hint that my world was about to crumble.

The first inkling was the jumping on the scales bit. The nurse then did some quick calculations and said ‘you are showing as obese’. She then looked at me and said ‘but you don’t look overweight, so I might have got that wrong, so I’ll recalculate it later.’   Right.

We then moved onto eyesight. Now, as way of explanation, I wear reading glasses and I had left them at home, so I knew at least some parts of this test weren’t going to go as well as they could. And I was right: I struggled with this section of the test. At one stage, the nurse said “see the red line” and I replied “what red line?” Not good. Not good at all!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, further tests showed I had compromised peripheral vision and was apparently colour blind.  I could see a white stick in my future.

Needless to say, a trip to the optometrist was recommended. A.S.A.P.

This obese and blind girl was next subjected to a hearing test. First I had my ears looked in, except nothing could be seen because of the build up of wax.  We then progressed to the hearing test, and, you guessed it, my left ear was not performing as it should.  I now had deaf to add to my list of health challenges.

It was probably a stroke of luck that my blood pressure and pulse had been taken prior to the drug test!

I am relieved to say that the other tests which included lung function and skeletal tests all went swimmingly well!

Now on Friday I went to the optometrist for a check up, and although I needed a new prescription for my reading glasses, everything else was tickety-boo. I cancelled the guide dog.

With regards to my hearing, I am sure getting my ears cleaned out will restore my hearing to normal.

Lastly, the weight thing – I now have a goal to drop 4 kilos! Until I do that, my string bikini will remain firmly packed away.

*My new job is Health and Safety Administrator  at a Quarry and Civil Construction company. I report to a contract Health and Safety Manager. Four years on the Health and safety committees at Auckland Museum and Auckland City Libraries has paid dividends and allowed me to change my career at what is quite a late stage in my life. Ironically, I got offered the same job at a Kumeu timber mill in 2003, but turned it down as the hours offered didn’t work with my uni studies!

 

New Life – well-situated

Today, after months of trying, I have finally cracked it!

Or I will have, providing I pass the obligatory medical and drug test.

Yes, I have been offered a permanent role. And it is part time, which will allow me enough time to help the man launch his lovely new product, and to enjoy our property. It is also a job which expands my skill set, and is not in an industry I have worked in before. Perfect.

The ironic thing is that after months of rejection – I tried not to take this personally – I was in line for two jobs! The other one, however, was a relieving job and I decided to sacrifice the flexibility of  this for a position that actually appealed more to me, not to mention the idea of regular money was pretty attractive!

So how come my fortunes changed? I think the fact that I got to the interview stage in jobs I have never done before was because I ensured the CV I submitted matched the skill set the advertiser was looking for.

Now I know that many CVs contain porkies, and some even stray into the area of outright lies, but rest assured, Dear Reader, mine doesn’t. It is absolutely squeaky clean. Indeed, as someone who is pretty self-deprecating, there is not even a whiff of exaggeration contained within.

No, my doctoring was simply a case of keeping the relevant information and deleting the rest. And this focused approach seems to have worked a treat.

The two interviews also went well – I finally have got my head around two winning interview techniques: engage brain before opening mouth, and, be honest, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot with this honesty!

The job I have accepted ended up being a two interviews affair. The first was the one with the normal questions, the second was ostensibly to introduce me to their software system.  And I did get shown their software system, but I also got to sit a numeracy and literacy test. Surprise!

The literacy part didn’t faze me. The numeracy did, especially when the first half contained the directive that this was a calculator-free test. What is that about? Anyway, I am delighted to say I nailed the numeracy test! Yep, one wrong answer in the entire paper.  Clever me, right?

As for the literacy test, it was straightforward. Strangely enough, the part I probably got the most wrong was checking the formatting in a business letter – it’s changed a lot since a 13 year old Heather sat in a 3rd form typing class (1973, for those interested).  And the fact is this girl no longer writes formal letters, she emails pithy notes to all manner of professionals and signs off with ‘Cheers’.

So what is the job? Well until I sign my contract, I won’t reveal all. I will tell you it is a Health and Safety Administrator’s role with an element of HR in it too. The firm itself  is in the quarry and civil engineering area, so it is completely outside my area of expertise. It also means a bit of fluoro, some hard hat wearing, and some serious shoes!

I am so excited. I know I am going to love it.

And meanwhile, until I start, I will be gainfully employed working for the elections!

 

 

 

New Life – creating opportunities

The man and I are still of the opinion that the move North is the best thing we have done.

Life up here has added a new dimension to our thinking. We are no longer in a hurry. We have slowed down and are far more patient.

Today we headed North to a small place called Oromahoe. This area lies just shy of the turn off to Paihia on State Highway 10.

We went to this small settlement to visit the Northland Kauri Timber Ltd. We weren’t however after kauri, rather we were after eucalyptus, and they had it.

The entrance to the sawmill is marked by a variety of signs at its gate: sawmill, cheese, kindergarten.  What these things had in common was yet to unfold.

We drove up the long driveway passed a field of sows and piglets, a paddock of horses, and a few houses to the sawmill.

The man parked and went into the office. It was smoko time and the workers were sitting around having a brew.  The man explained why he was there. Unfortunately, the workers couldn’t help him.

Why?

Let me explain.

This is the North and it is a Friday.  This means the owner had gone off hunting for the weekend.

Apparently, the owner’s partner would have been able to help, but as it so happened, she was off at a funeral. The workers suggested we come back later.

Now we are realists – this is a country community, chances were that the funeral’s after match function would be long.

We decided to go to Paihia for a cuppa and come back about 1-ish.

At the duly appointed time we returned.

The wake must have been a good affair because the owner’s wife was still absent.

The man and I decided that instead of getting wood, we would settle for cheese this trip!

We drove less than a 100 metres to a small, boutique cheese factory.  On this short journey we passed a honey place on our left. Our interest was  piqued: up this driveway was a kindy, a cheese factory, a sawmill operation, a working farm and now a honey place.

At Fieldays a couple of years ago, we saw a pretty fabulous portable sawmill in operation (the man and I have a weakness for portable sawmills)  and it was named Mahoe Sawmills (http://www.sawmills.co.nz).  You guessed it – the cheese company was called Mahoe Cheese… was there a connection?

So we asked the young man in the cheese shop. The answer was yes. It was his uncle’s business and  he pointed further down the drive.

He further explained that this 110 hectare property was his grandparents’ originally. Grandma and Granddad had approximately 7 children, give or take (the grandson was pretty vague on this). A lot of these children are now running their own businesses on the land.

The grandson is the third generation working there. How cool is that?

We bought our cheese and purchased some organic sausages. Yes, these too are a product of this land.

We left inspired.

We will return for the wood! And more cheese* which is delish, meat and honey.

ON our next visit, we might even venture further down the drive to the portable sawmill company. We have an obsession to feed, after all!

 

*The cheese is sold at the Whangarei Farmers’ market too.

 

New life – well employed.

 

It looks like I am actually about to land a job! Celebrations all round, right? Well, yes and no.

I have (almost) got temporary employment for the election.  Yes,  I am in the running for a poll bunny job.

For those readers who are perplexed by the term ‘poll bunny’, this is the role which checks off each voter against the roll when they arrive to make sure they are 1. who they say they are and 2.  to ensure that the voter before the poll bunny is an upstanding citizen and votes only once, rather than trillions of times.

It looks like I might be counting the votes too.

And I may be a team leader on the day.

Oh, the power!

All those years of wrangling staff has certainly paid off.

Now these jobs are mine as long as I pass a small test tomorrow. I have been told I will fly through it. Blind faith from the woman who interviewed me?

Note to self: remember to take specs so I can read questions and tick the right boxes!

I also am in the running for an administration role for the aforementioned elections. This will mean training and working before the election and maybe some work after too. I am not sure of the hours, but being without a regular job means I have plenty of free time.

At the back of my mind, short term contracts which  replenish the coffers have immense appeal. I want the flexibility they offer. Either this or a part time three day per week role will work well for my lifestyle.

Ditto, the man.

I did sell out on this last week and went for a full time role. Again.

Over a nine month period, I have almost lost my way twice now.

Reminder to self: No full time permanent roles!

Luckily, I am pretty sure I won’t get offered it anyway.  I answered the change question far too honestly!

Note to self: if you truly want the job, Heather, learn to lie. Well.

Ultimately, however, the man and I still hope to run a small home based business.  We know what we want to do, but just have to finalise the product line*and how best to sell it. Internet? Markets? Retail shops?

Each has its pluses and minuses.

Decisions. So frightening!

Meanwhile we are talking to everyone we know who has financed the lifestyle we crave through a similar business model.

From talking to them, we know that by getting both the product and marketing right, it is 100% doable.

We will be sweet. We just need to back ourselves!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

*I, unfortunately, have a tendency to overanalyze things. I need to stop doing this and just do it.

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.

 

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