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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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Tractor Woes

Our trusty Fergie has stopped working.

And we are are missing it. A tractor is, after all, a must- have item for townies new to country life, along with the ride on mower and a chainsaw.

The man and I did our research when we bought it – those new-fangled tractors looked just the ticket, but realistically they were for proper farming folks, not pretend ones like us. And besides, new heavy duty farm machinery was a tad overkill for our three acre block, not to mention the eye-watering price tag for those magnificent machines being way beyond our purse!

After much looking around, the man decided on a Massey Ferguson 35. Circa 1960, this model had a reputation for being a reliable machine and was perfectly priced for our budget – read cheap here.

We duly purchased one. It was the required red – the colour of most tractors in children’s picture books! It also had the ubiquitous PTO. It didn’t have the front end loader blade which the man had wanted, but he was willing to compromise and this one had a hydraulic tray which was a win too in his eyes.

Four years on, we can honestly say that the tractor has been an asset around the property. Sure, we don’t use it daily, but it is handy for all measures of lifestyle block requirements such as pulling out old tree stumps, shifting firewood, and towing old logs around, plus playing on (carefully) when our city friends visit.

Recently we made the decision to start looking around to buy a mower attachment for it. The reason being that we need to keep our paddocks in check, as there are no livestock grazing on the land at present.

So when the tractor failed to start, the man decided it must be fixed. Yes, he and Mr Google are on the case. They are taking a systematic approach to tractor repair- this involves systematically replacing pieces until it starts. So far and in no particular order, we have purchased new spark plugs, distributor cap, and high tension leads. Today we bought a new solenoid, and, still it doesn’t start!

Our tractor

The next thing on the list is an ignition switch. And maybe a Massey Ferguson 35 workshop manual, which could prove mighty handy at times like this.

I know this is a bit of a hit and miss approach to mechanics, but one day in the not too distant future, this approach will work and the tractor will splutter into life again and with all its new parts, it should be sweet for another few years!

Shackle-free

In October, we sold our boat.

Our feelings at the time were a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because she had been ours for ten years and we had had some fun times in her. Relief? Well, relief was due to a multiple of reasons, but the primary one was that for the last four years we had not used her as we should, and we felt guilty we hadn’t!

No, the poor old thing had sat on a mooring in Parua Bay growing weed (not the illegal stuff, by the way) and getting used by the (insert the rudest word you know here) swallows as their home and ablution block. None of this was pretty.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, in the last couple of years the Mediterranean fan worm had infiltrated the bay and every unsuspecting hull floating there had been under attack. This resulted in the Northern Regional council employing dive teams to check the hulls and work out a remediation programme for each contaminated vessel. Once the programme was completed, the boat was then certified and allowed to go into other marinas and areas (no waterway wants fanworm to take up residence!).

The first year we got notification we had fan worms, we had to pay some divers to remove them from the hull; this last year we dealt with them when the boat was hauled for maintenance.

So there we have it, our lovely boat was unused and deteriorating and costing us quite a few $$. The sensible solution was to sell her. This is, of course, easier said than done: boats are notoriously hard to sell. Indeed, we had had a couple of attempts previously with no joy.

We were, however, determined to sell her this time around. Firstly though, we needed to get her looking cared for and loved again. She was hauled in June last year and the man set to work to get her up to scratch. Over a four months period, he worked week days upon her. This included replacing some rot, painting her topsides and antifouling her hull. Our sail cover had fallen to pieces so we commissioned a new one of these. The engine required some work so a marine engineer was employed to do this. Parts were shipped in from overseas.

With hardstand fees and maintenance costs, getting her up to scratch was far from a cheap exercise. We also couldn’t add the cost of this to the sale price of the boat and had to absorb this expense- no surprises there, it is a boat, after all! Luckily, the man’s labour came gratis.

When she was nearing completion, we popped her on NZ Trademe (for overseas readers, this is the NZ counterpart of Craigslist or ebay, I think). We wrote the ad carefully – we pointed out her amazing cruising history, including being part of NZ Peace Flotilla that went to Mururoa in 1995 (see Steinlager ad on NZ TV at the moment), her circumnavigation, her gun running story, and the link to the book about these adventures.**We also pointed out her live aboard potential.

We priced her well – that point between so dear as to be unrealistic and so cheap one wonders what is wrong with it! Within a couple days of putting the ad up, we had had a few nibbles. We had two lots come through her, and both wished to buy her.

We sold her for less than we asked. This is par for the course, and is the cost we were willing to pay to move forward. We thought it was worth it!

We also sold her to the best possible people ever. A young Australian couple, they are intending to head to the northwest coast of Canada with another couple of boats and settle there in a couple of years.* Meanwhile, they are living aboard her with their husky and cat during the week and heading out most weekends and holidays exploring the Hauraki Gulf. We are following their adventures on social media.

Sorry, for quality of this photo: saying goodbye to Te Kaitoa as she leaves Whangarei Harbour with Tash and Patrick and friends

Every time we drive past the mooring where Te Kaitoa sat for the last four years, the man and I no longer need to look and check her out. She is, after all, in Little Shoal Bay, Auckland, where she is being looked after, used and loved as she should be. A perfect ending for us and a perfect beginning for them.

Safe and happy adventures on Te Kaitoa, Tash and Pat.

*We have been invited up to Canada for a sail when they get there. We do intend to take them up on their offer.

** BOAT BOOKS – How to find nautical yarns and stories. Page 1 of our huge WORLDWIDE range of nautical yarns and stories

Competing for the ladies

We have sheep on our land.

When we first arrived here the paddocks had not had stock on them for a while and the fields were covered in knee high carrot weed.

This was a bit of a surprise as the former owner had offered to mow it for us, but this had not transpired.

To city refugees, such as ourselves, how we were going to get the paddocks sorted and what to do with them was quite a headache. Yes, we had no idea. Luckily, new neighbours put us right, ” Just put a sign up that says grazing available, and whomever takes the land on will sort it,” they said.

And that is exactly what happened. A local herd manager took it on: hay was made and sheep were delivered. Three years on and this arrangement is going well.

And us? We are quite the pros. No longer do we run around like headless chooks when a lamb breaches the fence. We know it won’t stray far from its mum. And we can get it back into the paddock with (limited) drama.

It is June now. The ewes are pregnant. We know this as we have been party to Mr Ram’s amorous attempts to have his way with his ladies in February/March.

This year he had a keen as adolescent ram to contend with. That young ram didn’t get a look in.

But his jealousy wasn’t just reserved for the young ram.

The man dared to wander into the paddock. The ram charged, stopping short a few inches from the man. His message loud and clear ‘Nobody, but nobody, comes near my ladies!’.

He is forgiven. In a month or two, we will have his lambs playing in our fields. And they are gorgeous.

Winter fires

Outside the wind is raging and the rain is falling. Thunder and lightning are forecast later today. Regardless, we are pleased. The drought which has been our constant companion since late last year is over. The grass is greening up and our water tanks are filling up nicely.

I am sitting at the dining table writing this. A fire* is roaring in the hearth warming our home, and I can hear the kettle whistling in the kitchen. It is a good life.

This fire was in situ when we bought the house, and is our only source of heating*.* Throughout the year any (unusable) scrap of wood from the man’s workshop gets added to the woodshed to be used through the coming winter.

Over a couple of weekends each year the man will don his chainsaw chaps, ear muffs, and eye googles and spend each day chainsawing branches and felling surplus trees on our property. The trees are a mix of gum, cypress, and manuka. This serves a dual purpose of cleaning up the block and providing fire wood.

At day’s end the tractor will be used to bring the wood up to the shed. Here the man cuts it into sizes suitable for the fire. This wood needs to dry, so will be stored in a separate pile until it is ready to be used the following year.

The man is in his element and we are sorted wood-wise for the coming winter and beyond.

Come the cold weather, the man will light the fire every day we are home.

Hunkering down in front of a roaring fire? Nothing comes close!

  • *Fires have featured in most of our homes. These have included models which you can cook on and have wetbacks which make them very cost effective. These type are our ideal. . And we recently discovered these beauties of fireplace that do everything which are manufactured just down the road —– homewoodstoves. co.nz. With regards to energy cost, bearing in mind our firewood is free, our winter power bills are $125 per month. In summer when the rate is cheaper, they are $90 per month. This includes running the workshop.
  • **A heat transfer system combined with this fire would heat our home more efficiently. It is on the wish list.

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 – Week 5 – Getting there

Yes, I know I am late putting this post up and I apologize, but life has been busy. Actually, there is so much I have to update you on since the last post, there is a real danger that I will exceed a sensible amount of words. Don’t worry though, I’ve worked out a way around this problem: in the name of succinctness, I’ll opt for the list solution!

  1. We have sorted out how the water works here. Jim, who farms 500 acres across the other side of the main road, came around the other day to drop a ram off (another story) and it transpired that he had owned our property for 10 years, so, of course, we cornered him and asked him a shedload of questions. And, of course, he answered them in his quiet, laconic, farmer- type of way. As Kev, our logging truckie neighbour, had told us the week before, water had, indeed, come from the dam. But not now, and it never provided the drinking water to the house (outside house taps, yes). Phew!  In the old days, before someone wreaked havoc on the system, a windmill pumped water from the spring-fed dam to a settling pond (the round concrete thing we thought might be a well or a bore) and this supplied water to a dedicated tank that filled the troughs. The house supply came off the shed and the house into a separate tank. Presently, the two tanks get fed from the shed and the house: one tank with the filter supplies the house, the other tank supplies the troughs.*
  2. We finally had that catch up with the neighbours, John and Marie, after meeting John again at the kiwi release in McLeod’s Bay and getting invited back for the promised drink. Just briefly, the Whangarei Heads area is an area where through the efforts of Backyard Kiwi, supported by a very dedicated community, kiwi  numbers have increased from around 80 in the early 90s to between 800-1000 now.**
  3. Karl, our tenant farmer, arrived 10 days or so ago with 6 sheep. These sheep are doing a sterling job of knocking the paddocks into shape. I guess this is hardly surprising as they seem to eat most of the day. sheep.jpg
  4. The ram arrived two days ago. This is a magnificent creature whose job it is to cosy up to the girls and father as many lambs as possible. Unfortunately, he has gone slightly lame, so is ‘off his game’. Don’t worry though, Karl is on the case and has some medicine which will help the lameness and encourage aforementioned ram to get on with the job he was put on Earth to do!
  5. The man and I are proud owners of a ride-on mower and a rotary hoe. Needless to say, mowing the lawn is now novel and fun. Long may it last.ride on mower.jpg
  6. Lastly, we have managed to get the scrap metal that was around the place picked up. This includes the seriously munted windmill by the dam*, an old cattle trap, a huge cylinder that was probably used as a smoker in a past life, a metal gate that Jim told us had not survived a frisky bull, and some iron fencing that was part of an old piggery.

Week 5 and we are feeling we are getting somewhere as we slowly sort the land and systems out, and become part of this tight-knit community. Awesome, right?

* We will replace the windmill when time and dollars permit.

** Predator numbers are now extremely low in the Heads as a result of the work of Backyard Kiwi and the local community.

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.

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.

Fast-tracking an escape

Yes, I know! Instead of a two word title, I have gone completely overboard and today’s offering is  three, or four words if you count the hyphenated ‘fast-tracking’ as two separate words. And before you get picky, I counted my last blog’s title, ‘Babysitting’, as two words because it is a compound word and I am not beyond a bit of manipulation if it suits.  So shoot me!

Anyway, this blog is going to be short. I am writing it because I have been stressed! Deeply stressed! Sometimes in life, I think, we all find ourselves in a situation which impacts so adversely on our happiness that we start to have a meltdown.

Now I am not going to go into what happened, rather the reason for this blog is to point out that my first reaction to the situation was to be reactive.* I won’t spell out exactly how I reacted, but, suffice to say, being reactive is totally exhausting. With a capital E!

Now this may be a very human reaction, but it is not helpful. No, no, no! The best thing I can do is be proactive and this is what I intend to be.

So yesterday with that thought in mind, I went on a road trip. Strange, I can hear you say, how is that going to solve things? Well, I went on the road trip just to change things up and remind myself that life is pretty good! The man and I chose to head to a small NZ seaside town that neither of us had been to since we were each about 4, and, believe me, that was a long time ago!

And do you know what?  This small, quirky, beautiful gem of a town (sorry about the hyperbole, but it was) inspired the man and me. It gave us some  concrete ideas and options on how to fast-track semi-retirement.

Now it won’t happen overnight and I will still need to sort out the things that aren’t working for me, but I can now see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. And, hey, the tunnel is considerably shorter than it was yesterday! Brilliant.

*There was no physical violence involved.

 

 

 

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