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semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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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.

 

 

 

Another chapter

I have completed the work to make my dream a reality. For the last week, I have been reviewing it, changing it in places and, hopefully, making it better. Today I finished. I can’t do anymore.  I now need an expert to read it and give me their honest feedback. And this is where it potentially gets hard.

I now have to expose myself to possible criticism or, even worse, outright rejection. I may be told I have no talent or future in this area at all. You are kidding yourself, Heather, may be their verdict! No doubt it will be couched in polite terms, but I’ll get the drift. This will be heart-breaking; it’s akin to being told your baby is ugly! However, I won’t be destroyed by this. No, I have vowed to myself that no matter what, I will not give up  and will keep on trying.

In the meantime, I am immensely pleased with myself for getting this far. I have slayed the procrastination and excuses I made in the past and I couldn’t be more chuffed.

I have also enjoyed every step of the journey. How good is that?

Another chapter begins ….

 

 

 

Chasing dreams

You may have noticed I am blogging less: this is not because I have lost interest in ear bashing all and sundry in a figurative way via the medium of a post, rather it is because I am putting my energies into turning my dream occupation into a reality. Sorry, exactly what this is remains embargoed information – this girl doesn’t want to end up with egg all over her face.

It is my hope that this new direction may eventually give me a modest income. I also harbour much grander dreams: I dream that my new occupation is so successful that not only does it provide me with a very respectable income, it provides me with an express ticket out of the 9-5, 5 day per week grind that I seem to spend more than my fair share of time railing against.* Move over, Adele!

I am, however, a realist. I know that being a success in anything is far from a given. It is also not something that is likely to happen overnight, rather it will take years of dedicated commitment and hard graft. To make dreams come true requires more than wishing; it requires one to take the first tentative step. In the last week or two I have done just that. I couldn’t be more pleased!

*The goal of reducing the man and my working week to three days by July 2017 still stands!

Letting Go

The son in the bosun's chair

Last night the man and I went on a wee adventure – we stayed on our boat moored in the marina. Odd, I can hear you saying, that is hardly sailing.  And you would be right. However, there was a valid reason behind it; we needed to charge the yacht’s batteries and this was going to take oodles of time, as they were spectacularly flat. Staying overnight was, therefore, the sensible thing to do.

It was nice to be aboard again – it has been a number of months since I have visited, and in the interim, the man has made a bit more progress getting her ready for the market. The middle cabin which was converted to the double berth last year is well on the way to being finished and, if I do say so myself, is looking very, very classy.

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The double berth

Now this is all well and good, except it raises a few issues. You see the more the boat is upgraded, the more we consider keeping it!  Part of us thinks: why shouldn’t we enjoy the benefit of the more luxurious beast rather than someone else?

This is not a new feeling; we do seem to be people who do the things we always had intended to do, when we decide to sell whatever it is. And yes, this always makes it a struggle to let go.

In the particular case of selling the boat, the man and I have also had an orchestrated delegation to contend with: the children love going away on the yacht, and the grandchild too and they have made it crystal clear that they are not happy for us to sell it.

Now we are the first to admit that taking the family out for the day or longer is a great thing to do. The man and I derive so much pleasure from having the kids on the boat and watching them thrive in this environment. It is the stuff of rich memories for all of us and simply cannot be measured by mere dollar value.  In a perfect world, we would therefore like to continue our yachting with them.  Monopoly, anyone?

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The son, daughter in law and grandson off exploring in Te Kaitoa’s inflatable

However, there are questions that need answering here. The first one is: would keeping the boat mean saying goodbye to semi -retiring in the foreseeable future? We aren’t sure: perhaps if we employ some  lateral thinking, we would be able to sort out a way to keep the boat and semi-retire?  Indeed, there are options: we could move onto the boat, give up work entirely, rent the house and sail off. *  Maybe? Maybe not?

The second question is: does the boat actually meet the family’s needs? It is a big, serious boat that is capable of going offshore. Yes, it fits everyone on, but maybe something smaller would be a better match for us, and more doable?

Lastly, if we do keep it, we need to make the best use of it. No point in it sitting in the marina getting a weedy bottom!

Yes, some serious thinking is in order. In the fullness of time, our wants and needs will align  of course,  and  we will choose the best way forward for us.

*This option always becomes very attractive after a slightly off day at work!

Sensibly restrained

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‘Bungalow: From heritage to contemporary.’ The tour we went on was led by Nicole Stock, editor of this book.

Last weekend the daughter and I went poking around four houses belonging to people we didn’t know. No, we weren’t visiting open homes looking for tragically overpriced Auckland real estate; it was, dare I say it, a more ‘cultured’ affair than that. Our slightly voyeuristic snooping was, in fact, a legitimate part of the Auckland Heritage Festival.

A delightful way to spend an afternoon, the houses we toured were 1920s or 30s bungalows which sported recent additions. These renovations managed to achieve the fine balance of incorporating the best of present day design, while preserving the integrity of the original dwelling.

Now I know this architectural style intimately: my maternal grandparents’ home was a bungalow built about 1923 for them at 40 Greenlane Road*. As a child, I have fond memories of visiting their residence most weekends and staying over during the school holidays. This was the 60s and the house still boasted the features unique to its pedigree: asymmetrical composition, shallow pitched gable roof with wide eaves, leadlights, central hallway with wooden panelling, bay windows complete with shingles, and deep porches.

It also had the original 40 year old or so kitchen complete with terrazzo bench, wooden cabinetry, and safe. The only things in this room which weren’t original were the gas stove which sat in an alcove where the coal range would have been when the dwelling was first built, and a 1948 MacDonald refrigerator**, complete with a small ice box. Everything was in superb condition.

In this kitchen, which today would be considered basic, my grandmother whipped up a storm producing meals for the multitudes, laying down preserves, and baking. All was of the highest quality. To this day, she remains one of the best cooks I have come across.

The houses the daughter and I visited last weekend all had replaced the original kitchen with a modern one positioned in the new addition. Interestingly, without exception, the new iteration was neither big or conspicuously flash; rather they were practical, almost understated affairs. This was the situation even in the home of the chef, albeit his knives were definitely of the serious, professional kind.

I am sure the food produced in these homes has not suffered for this restraint. After all, as my grandmother proved, a skilled cook can turn out wonderful fare in the most basic of kitchens.

This premise holds true, I think, for so much in life.

Note to self: Replace knackered stove with one that meets my needs. Do not be seduced by the four oven range that comes in an amazing array of colours that the consumer in me covets. It is simply not necessary!

* The house is still there. It looks the same from the front, but has been added to at the rear.
** The fridge became the beer fridge at the Auckland Harbour Board where my Dad worked. It was still going strong when he retired in 1989.

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