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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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semi-retirement

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.

Goodbye 1980s.

Our kitchen sports an avocado benchtop. Dating back to the construction of the house in the early 80s, it is in pristine condition.

Perfect condition it may be, but it doesn’t work. It is design of the benchtop, rather than its colour which is the main issue. It intrudes on the room. Takes up way too much space. It has to go.

I am studiously ignoring my lack of green ethics in replacing a benchtop that is in tip top condition. Same with the existing overhead cupboards – although they may yet be recycled in the old pantry space, thanks to the clever man.

The kitchen photographs better than it looks and works!

The underbench cupboards are a mixed bag – some will go due to either the change in design of the kitchen and/or condition. Others will stay. There will be new ones installed too. Even some drawers. Thank you, Marie Kondo.

Redesigning the benchtop means I need to make a decision about the hob. It goes well, but as it, too, is 35 years or more old, for how much longer? It is sensible to upgrade it when I replace the benches. And feel free to judge me, I think I am going to splash out on an induction one!

Which brings me to the double oven – the oven is not as old, but it must have had a hard life, so there is no question a new one is the way to go. Luckily the cabinetry it sits in works well and is in excellent condition. It can stay.

The same can’t be said for the pantry. It is huge – not 2020 scullery huge, but large, nonetheless. It is also shabby and not in a cute, chic way.

The need for bench space usurps the ‘not cute, shabby chic pantry’. The pantry will be replaced by (possibly) recycled cupboards above and new cabinety below a bench top.

Tiling. Flooring.

Lastly, the fridge – there’s probably a few more years left in our fridge. It will stay.

Adieu, 1980.

New Life – Mission accomplished

Dear Readers,

This is my last post.

The man and I have achieved what we set out to do: change our lives.

Thank you for following us on our journey and encouraging us (mostly) and caring for us (always).

The man and I are very different beasts. He jumps in boots and all, with hardly a thought about the implications further down the track. I am the polar opposite: I plan and think and overthink before I take the first cautious step to alter things that no longer are making me happy.

The step to move away from Auckland to a smaller place was always a dream for us. To have a shed and some land was the ultimate goal. We spent years  discussing it and more than one road trip exploring areas that might meet our needs.

But  in spite of saying when I started ‘Skidding towards retirement’ that we were going to make the change within two years, we still may have been living the same old Auckland life now, while paying lip service to our dream.

Except for one thing: I found myself in a stressful situation at work. One that no matter how hard I tried, and  I did try mightily hard to sort it, I couldn’t solve.

At the time, it was distressing.   I had many close colleagues I  worked with who I respected and enjoyed and who supported me at the time – and I am sure that wasn’t easy, as I was pretty wound up. Thank you. I also had  a community I knew and loved.

I was also well paid.

It wasn’t enough.

Thoughts of escaping filled my day. Overthinking Heather threw caution to the wind. Our ‘maybe’ plan to leave Auckland was brought forward.

We put houses on the market and bought at auction with a long term settlement.

Meanwhile, I ditched the job. Heart breaking at the time, but strangely liberating.

We have now been in our new home for 18 months. Our home has the shed and the land. It is also surrounded by beautiful beaches. A bonus.

I have a job I like and the man is working in a boat yard. I am back studying too.

We are forming friendships up here, while still retaining close contact with  family  and  friends in Auckland.

Change is hard. No doubt.  But in this case, it was the best move ever.

Simply: life is amazeballs

Au revoir , Readers.

x Heather and Grant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Life – Growing pains

 

It is Easter weekend and we are almost a month into the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn.

The summer crops in the vegetable garden are almost at an end. A week or two ago, I pulled the tomatoes and courgette plants out. I left the cucumber, chillis and capsicum in as they are still producing, but the end is in sight for them too. Not so with the spinach and rhubarb which are continuing to thrive.

All these crops were a success. The garlic and the corn too. The failures were the lettuce which I never have any luck with, and the beetroot which produced wizened up things the size of a fingernail.

And the chillis. Yes, they were prolific but they were also far too hot for our palates.  I ended up giving most of them to my daughter in law who is a hot chilli fan, and making the rest into sweet chilli sauce, hoping that the other ingredients would ameliorate the fiery experience!

Regardless, most of our meals now have our produce in it. The other major thing that has happened is that we have changed from meat and three veg to at least half our evening meals being meatless. This was not a conscious choice, it just happened and we are both enjoying it.* Go figure?

Quite a lot of the produce we grew I ended up preserving. With the cucumber I made a couple of jars of bread and butter pickles and the next couple, I will use in a mustard pickle recipe I make. Both these pickles go well with cheese, of which I am a great fan.

I also made some tomato sauce. For one lot, I used the recipe of my grandmother’s which incorporated apples and onions. The other recipe I used was essentially an unadulterated tomato sauce recipe I found in a booklet put out by the NZ Gardener magazine.

So what changes have I in mind for next summer? Firstly,  I need to increase the size of my garden, realistically I  probably will  triple  its dimensions (presently 5 metres x 3.5 metres). I see this as being three beds, but maybe it will be four (gardening is addictive).  I want one bed to be for potatoes, another for onions and garlic. I will plant more tomato plants  than I did this year – this year I had 8 heirloom varieties.  I intend to use most of the crop next year for tomato sauces and pasta sauces. I also have promised myself I will be way more on to it dealing with the laterals. My plants weren’t pretty!

Next year the variety of chilli I plant will be less potent. My peppers will be the sweeter red variety, as opposed to this year’s green variety. My two courgette plants worked out well, as did the perpetual spinach and rhubarb so I will stick with these. I will plant more corn. I will persevere with beetroot and lettuce and I will win (maybe). I will also plant pumpkin and rock melon. Maybe the garden needs to be five times its present size?

Meanwhile I am planting my winter crops. I have planted broccoli, cauliflower, and more spinach plants. I am also trying leek and carrots sown into the garden straight from seed.  Hopefully, this won’t end badly. Fingers crossed!

The self-sufficiency goal continues with the introduction of a worm farm and compost system. It took a while for me to sort out how to approach this, but a conversation with my friendly garden guru at Mitre 10 put me on the right track.  Two weeks ago, I purchased all the components for a worm farm and a plastic compost bin too. Most of my vegetable scraps, egg shells and even the inner of toilet rolls go into the worm farm. It is amazing what it takes and if I am in doubt, I resort to Mr Google.

The compost bin which has chicken wire underneath to stop rodents taking up residence is where the garden waste such as tree clippings goes. Rubbish going into the council bag is now significantly reduced (maybe two bread bags full a week?)

I know I haven’t discussed our fruit trees .. .next time! Ooh, and I have discovered we have an avocado tree, a  large, slightly butchered avocado tree, but there is hope apparently, although I may have to buy it a mate!

The fun continues.

*We do buy vegetables in, of course.

** Alexa Johnson’s ‘Ladies a plate: Jams and preserves’  The sweet chilli sauce, Mrs Paykel’s mustard pickle and the Bread and Butter Pickle recipes came from this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 – Harvest time

vege garden

Today it is exactly a calendar year since we moved into our new-to- us home in Pataua South, Whangarei.

This means we have experienced four seasons. As a general comment, we think Whangarei is a good 2 degrees hotter than Auckland.  We are also now very attuned to rainfall, or lack of it, as we rely on tank water (again). Strangely, living out on the Heads  seems to mean  the Rain Gods often give us a miss. It will be bucketing down at work, but often when I get home I will find that not one drop has fallen out here.

Needless to say, it is always when we need it the most too. Like in the height of summer when the vege garden could do with a good drenching. Or the time when the man inadvertently filled the troughs but forgot to turn the tap off. In the latter case, Murphy’s Law came into play and the ballcock failed us too.  Yes, it was good bye to more litres of precious water than we care to admit!

But let’s swing back to the state of the vege garden. I am pleased to report that it is doing well, or most things are. We did lose the last lot of lettuce I planted to the slugs. And it was touch and go with the corn and the tomatoes  when a ferocious wind came through about 10 or so days ago and flattened them. Luckily, the corn and tomatoes were able to be saved and are flourishing again!

The crops that are doing well beside the corn and the tomatoes are the garlic, the capsicums, courgettes, lettuce, rhubarb and chillis. These are all down one end of the

scare crow

garden.

The other end has the beetroot, beans, cucumber, and spinach.  These are growing, but unlike the other veges, are not thriving.  The soil here seems to not be as friable, so I figure I need do some research to correct this – maybe add some compost to it or other magic potions? Not sure, but I guess I’ll figure it out.

Which brings me to compost. At the moment I haven’t got a bin. I was slightly put off the idea of compost when a friend told me she had opened hers and found herself eyeball to eyeball with a humongous rat. The pits, right?

However, I have moved past my fear and decided I do want one. In fact, I need one to be Ms Efficient Gardener, so I am going to get one! Actually I am going to twist the man’s arm and get him to make me a wooden affair with three bins in it.  This is going to be one of his summer projects, as is starting on the hens’ accommodation and enclosure.

As for the orchard – well, I pruned in my haphazard learner’s way and started a spray programme a few months back. Yes, this woman had high hopes for bumper crops of plums, apples, nectarines, and peaches.

To date only the plums are ripe. And in spite of having two and a half trees (a past owner cut one tree down which I am now letting regenerate), we have had a miserly crop. I did have concerns that any possum within cooee would have taken up residence in the orchard and feasted on our produce, but there is absolutely no evidence that they are the culprit. No, the sad fact is that our trees have not yielded much at all. So little that I very much doubt that there will be any plum jam made this year.

The apples are another sad story. Last year, the trees were full of codling moth (note Dear Reader, I was going to put an expletive in front of the word ‘codling’ but refrained). This year I was determined to deal to the blighters. I purchased sticky things to pop in a state-of-the-art plastic green thing that a former owner had positioned in one of the apple trees. This sticky pad attracts and traps the male. Once the males start arriving, this then signals to me that I need to swing into action to dissuade the females  from moving into the apple crop. I also sprayed around the two apple trees with Neem oil as this apparently deals to the female before they start to wreck havoc with the fruit.

All well and good right? Well, yes and no. The plan failed miserably because the former owner had the green plastic thing hanging in the wrong tree. They had it on a plum tree, not an apple tree. I therefore had sprayed Neem oil around the base of the wrong tree. By the time I realised my error, the wretched female codling moth had started her quest to damage my fruit.

Of course, I have done some remedial work to try and save some of the produce, but realistically it is touch and go. Next year though, I will win the codling moth war.

I am now pinning all my hopes on the peach and nectarine trees delivering!

Meanwhile in the land of pretend farmers, we are getting ready to say sayonara to two of the lambs. Kayel turned up yesterday and said it was time.  Not so long ago, I struggled with this concept. Now? Well, not so much.

The man and I have grown here. Definitely.

 

 

 

New Life – Merry Christmas

christmas tree

This is the first Christmas in our new house.

Pinned to our door is a Christmas Wreath.

We have  two Christmas cards sitting on our dining table besides a figure of an angel, a home made Christmas cake sitting waiting to be iced and eaten (the recipe is from Alexa Johnston’s Ladies, a plate),  and a Christmas tree we cut from our land. It is not a beautiful Christmas tree, but perfection is over-rated, right?

Our decorations on the tree are interesting, to say the least. Many would say they are non-traditional. I prefer the term ‘eclectic mix.’ It sounds more upmarket.

We have an assortment of Tudor kings and Queens  –  all with their heads, even though many ended their lives without them.  We bought them in the UK when we visited two of our children and other family there.

I have a decoration which is a plaster Bloomingdale shopping bag. Our daughter sent it to her grandmother, my mother, one Christmas when she (the daughter) was domiciled in New York. The decoration lives on, even though my mother has passed.

Our tree has a small Fimo fisherman in a yellow sou-wester hat and matching raincoat and gumboots. He came from a small shop in Charlotte Town, PEI (Prince Edward Island), Canada, and was hand made by a local. We bought three of these. Two are now sitting on friends’ trees.

Years ago we saw a community post that someone wanted a bird bath. We had one so gifted it to the cause. The recipients gave us a pohutukawa decoration to thank us. We hang it on a branch every year.

We have lights on our tree too. These flash on and off.  If you can get past the slightly tacky strip-joint look about them, they are pretty. Especially after a wine or two.

Ditto: the tinsel.

At the top of the tree we have an Angel.  There are no personal memories here. We bought her simply because it’s Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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