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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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lifestyle blocks

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 – First death

We’ve had our first death on our piece of paradise.  Yes, sadly we’ve lost our ram.

Two days before his demise, Mr Ram had been happily socialising with his harem in the paddock. Twenty four hours later the man moved the flock into another field, and although the ram was not as fast as he normally was, all seemed OK.

On the day of his death, I found the ram lying in the paddock. His girlfriends were keeping their distance. After getting the man’s opinion about whether a sleep-in was normal for a sheep on a statutory holiday, we rang Karl, our tenant farmer. Coincidentally, Karl happened to be driving past our place at that exact moment, so he turned his ATV hard left up our driveway and was tending the sick animal within milli-seconds of our SOS call.

His initial assessment was that the ram might have caught pneumonia, but as our tenant farmer’s expertise lies with dairy cows rather than sheep, he said he was going to get a second opinion from someone who knew more than he did. Fair enough.

He then hopped back onto his John Deere and left.

An hour or so later he was back with a drench pack and possibly a pocketful of drugs ready to do the para-medic thing. Sadly, it was too late, the poor ram had taken his last breathe about 30 minutes before.  To this day, we don’t know why. It could have been something he ate, old age, or even a nasty worm-thing that is picked up when grazing and kills quickly.  Or it could have been something else entirely. The chances are we probably will never know.

As a precaution, however, the other sheep were drenched.* I am pleased to say they are alive and healthy. P1010227.JPG

Country life: it’s not always nice or fair, but it’s always fair dinkum real.

*Our small cattle race is proving a total asset.

 

 

 

 

New Life – 3 months in

It’s three months ago today that the man and I closed the door on life in the Big Smoke and headed North to a quieter existence.

Since we have been here we may be living a quieter life, but we are way busier. A contradiction, I know, but let me explain. It is quieter because not only do we not have constant traffic 24/7 assaulting our senses, we have the luxury of being able to pace ourselves. You see, each day we choose what we do, rather than follow the regime that comes with working an 8 to 5 job.

Today for example we are having a burn off, but not before our new-to-us Massey Ferguson tractor hauls a few branches from a fallen tree to add to the fire pile. Son Number 1 has volunteered to do this job because although it’s work, it’s fun and he knows he’ll have a blast.

tractor 1.jpg

After the logs have been added to the pile,  we will move the sheep from that paddock  before lighting the fire. Transferring the sheep should be straight forward. Except sometimes it isn’t and we are slightly wary of the exercise: the last time we moved the sheep, one bugger made a break for it and managed to get herself through the fence into the neighbouring farm.

This was beyond us. We rung Karl who owns the sheep. Is it a lamb, he asked? No, we replied, it’s a sheep. Well, you won’t catch it as they are bloody fast, he said. I’ll ring the other farmer and let him know our sheep is in his paddock. And he hung up.

Remember this is Whangarei time – nothing happens fast. Ever. For the next week, we watched the rogue sheep shadowing her mates in our paddock, occasionally giving a plaintive bleat to remind us she was lost.

One day we came home to find we were back to full quota in our paddocks. The sheep had returned.  Turns out the neighbouring farmer had rounded her up into a pen (think dogs and quad bikes here). Once this was done, all  Karl had to do was to get her from the pen back into our paddock. Easy as, right? Actually no. The sheep made one more bid for freedom, but this time round she had met her match. Farmer 1, sheep 0.

Anyway today there were no escaping sheep. They did exactly as we wanted. The MF has done its job and I can smell the smoke of the fire pile. In the background the chainsaw can be heard as the man and son No. 1 get stuck into some more fallen branches which will be destined for the wood pile or burn off.

As for me, once I have finished this blog, I’ve a house to clean up and some baking to do as we have guests this weekend.  In fact, most weekends we have family or friends pop by.

Life in the country. It’s beaut.

Not sure how I am going to fit that paying jobette in though?

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.

New Life – Week 7 – Going down the gurgler

Using the washing machine or dishwasher, taking a shower, or flushing the loo* are things that most of us take for granted. And this is exactly what the man and I did until very recently when things went awry.

The first sign of things going pear-shaped was a strange smell. At first we thought it was the particularly fragrant aroma of the septic tank, but further detective work found the stench was water in the kitchen gully trap that had not drained away in a timely fashion.

We decided we’d have to be more careful with what went down the sink, so instituted the  sieve regime. Everything that was being rinsed under the kitchen tap had a large, fine sieve strategically positioned to catch every skerrick of food. Yes, there would be no more scraps clogging our fragile septic tank system!

This worked well. Or at least it worked well until we had multitudinous guests to stay one weekend. Water consumption rocketed.  And eventually, we had an overflow onto the lawn (no pictures provided – use your imagination!). Luckily, it was fairly minor, and the spillage was easily cleaned up.

The man and I then rang a septic tank cleaning company to come ASAP. ASAP turned out to be the following day.  In the meantime, we texted the former owners inquiring when the septic tank had last been emptied. They replied promptly and said it had been dealt to within the last year or so.

Odd, we thought, a septic should not need emptying yearly. Our grey matters spun into action: perhaps it was a blockage in the drain rather than septic tank brimming to overflowing then? We did an internet search. This latest idea was a match to the symptoms our drains were exhibiting.

The man and I cancelled the septic cleaning company. We then followed the advice on the internet and into our drain poured copious amounts of Draino, a potion that bubbled a bit like a mini witch’s cauldron as it worked its magic on blockages.

And low and behold, the drain was sorted. Emergency over!

Except it wasn’t. The minute we had extra folk staying again, our septic system reverted to form: it backed up and water threateningly lapped the top of  the gully traps.

Today we booked in the septic tank cleaning company.**If it works in sorting out the issue, we think it will be the best $395 we have ever spent.

If not, back to square one!

*  I read today that the term ‘toilet’ is not used by the Royal Family,  instead loo is the acceptable term in politer circles, so loo it is from now on!

** The Bog Doc says that they cleaned our tank almost 2 years ago. 2 years between emptying would be about right, depending on how many people lived in the house (the more people, the more often a tank needs emptying). We have fingers crossed that the former owners gave us the wrong answer and didn’t just use another company to do the deed last year. If it was done last year, there is every possibility that there is a blockage somewhere between the house and the actual tank.

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