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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

New Life – Healthy concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Life – well-situated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

New life – that Spring feeling

In the last week the weather has turned the corner and it is feeling considerably warmer up here.  Indeed, some days it’s been so hot that I have found myself abandoning my jumper in favour of a short-sleeved tee shirt.

We are, of course, on the cusp of spring  and this is code for ‘unreliable weather’, so I know there will be some days when the barometer plummets and winter woollies will be required day wear, there will be frost on the ground to greet us on waking in the morning, and the need for a fire in the evening will be non-negotiable.

But this is a small price to pay for the arrival of spring the man and I think. Yes, we now have lambs in the paddocks, with more to be born. Having said this, we did have a stillborn lamb. Perfectly formed, it arrived on a very stormy night a couple of weeks ago and was still covered in its membrane when we found it dead the next morning. Nature.

The garden is giving us lots of pleasure. It is sprouting flowers that we never knew we had: freesias, daffodils and other bulbs in hiding since we came in January are pushing through the ground.

The fruit trees have been whipped into order and I’ve started my spraying programme – codling moths: be gone!  In the vegetable garden, the garlic shoots are now visible* and the rest of the garden is being slowly prepared for further plants when my go-to book tells me it is time.

Today I planted the heirloom tomato seeds I got from the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. Once they have grown into seedlings, I will transfer them into the garden, meanwhile they are sitting in pots on a sunny window sill in my study.

I also have put in the first of the potatoes in the garden, after leaving them in sunlight for the required 7-10 days to sprout. My go-to book says that potatoes can be successfully grown in tyres, and strangely enough I found a couple behind the shed today, so I think I will give that a go too. Or maybe, I should make delightful tyre swan planters out of them? The perfect Christmas gift for a friend or two perhaps?

We are also thinking about putting a couple of hives in. One of our neighbours has bees so we went to see them. It turns out our neighbours are actually hosts, rather than the owners of the hives. For the use of their land, they get paid in honey – more than enough for their needs apparently. This may work perfectly for us, so we will do some investigation.

Meanwhile, the man and I are spending a lot of our days working hard on a new product. Yes, we think it may be the answer to getting the income part of the equation sorted. The man is busy perfecting prototypes and streamlining the process while I am spending a good swag of time sourcing materials at the best possible price from suppliers.  It is very exciting, but the best part is that we are really proud of the product as it is beautifully made and fits in exactly with our buy local philosophy. Watch this space!

Yes, life up north continues to be enjoyable and we remain optimistic!

* The garlic shoots look remarkably like kikuyu grass – a trap for the unwary!

New Life – creating opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

At the duly appointed time we returned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We left inspired.

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

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

 

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

 

New Life – learning curves

 

Being newbies to this life in country lark, there is so much information to be absorbed.

Even a task like pruning our fruit trees is a totally new experience, and one that this time around fell to me.

I  knew  that if we were to have the best yield possible, I needed to  prune and prune right, so this simple task to many, but not to me, required:

a. a trip to the nursery to talk to our kind garden guru about how it is done,

b. a perusal of all our gardening books and magazines to clarify the above information, hopefully with foolproof diagrams for me to follow,

c. and just to be doubly sure, a quick look at you tube videos to see it actually being done. In real time preferably.

Some of the advice turned out to be confusing including this gem: a bird should be able to fly through the middle of the tree.  Easy as, right? Except it left me wondering whether the bird referred to was an anorexic wax eye or a kereru with an obesity problem?

And, of course, some advice was just plain contradictory.  Sigh.

Regardless, yesterday I took the pruning saw in hand and began on one of  the apple trees.  I started off pruning fairly conservatively. Yes, the trees probably hadn’t seen a pruning saw in the last decade, maybe longer,  but I still felt it prudent to exercise a degree of caution.

However, there is something about cutting off branches that seemed to bring out  confident me.  Admittedly, probably a decidedly unhealthy level  of confidence, but confidence nonetheless.

I loped off branches like there was no tomorrow, following each cut up with a slap of paint. At regular intervals I assessed my handiwork, and worked out my next move.

An hour or so later, I finally stood back and looked at the tree in a smug and satisfied way.  It may not be perfectly pruned, but it was acceptable.

I put my saw away for the day.  I deserved a drink!

Story Two

Our tame  young farm manager popped by to say hi and check on his flock.

We stood chatting to him for a few minutes as we watched a plane land on the farm airfield across from us.

We asked him who was the owner of the farm and its airfield. He replied the owner’s name was Biggles. First name apparently.

The man and I smirked. A polite smirk, mind you! The farm manager looked utterly confused.

We explained that Biggles was a World War One pilot in a kids’ book from our childhood,

We all laughed.

Story three.

A week or so after the Biggles incident, the first of our lambs were born. Twins and a singleton.

About two days after this, the man noticed a newborn lamb abandoned in the paddock; its mother standing way off.

The lamb appeared to be breathing shallowly.

We called our tame farm manager. He told us to stay away from the lamb and he would swing  by in half an hour.

We kept away as instructed, but kept a close eye on the scene – our townie colours truly showing!

When Kayel turned up as promised, our near-dead newborn lamb was standing up  looking decidedly healthy.

The lamb was neither newborn  or about to meet his maker. Our lamb was in fact the singleton born a few days previously and his near-death experience was simply a nap.

Our young farm manager just grinned at us in a very amused farmer-y sort of way.

And we grinned back too. Sheepishly.

Learning curves – a two way street.

 

 

 

 

New life – well employed.

 

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

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

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

It looks like I might be counting the votes too.

And I may be a team leader on the day.

Oh, the power!

All those years of wrangling staff has certainly paid off.

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

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

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

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

Ditto, the man.

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

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

Reminder to self: No full time permanent roles!

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

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

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

Each has its pluses and minuses.

Decisions. So frightening!

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

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

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

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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

New Life – shaping up

There is a saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I can certainly relate to this!

When we arrived on this property the paddocks were covered in carrot weed and the gardens around the house needed some work.

Six months in and we have made some great headway – often with the help of people who know far more than we do! Yes, Kayel, our tame farm manager, did an awesome job with his hay making and his sheep to bring the paddocks back to something respectable. He actually increased the number of sheep on the property while we were away by another two to nine*. This has made a huge difference to getting the paddocks under control.

sheep.jpg

We still have a couple of patches that need work – one where the old piggery was requires some fencing repairs before we let the sheep lose to eat it back into shape – we have learned the hard way that sheep leave Houdini in the shadows when it comes to escaping!

The second bit that needs some final work is the front paddock which was used to grow bulbs by a former owner. This requires some irrigation and a gravel base to be removed before some re-grassing can take place.

There is also a dam in this same paddock which needs a bit of TLC in the way of some bamboo removed  (who in their right mind ever plants bamboo?), and the dam cleaned out. When we arrived there was a bent and broken windmill beside this waterway. We had it taken away, but the man and I fancy getting a new one to pump the water up to one of the tanks we have.  Eventually. These things cost money and although nice to have, it is not a priority at the moment.

Meanwhile we are continuing to put the  gardens in. Today I planted parsley, thyme, mint, marjoram, chives and sage beside the rosemary I put in last week. I have located this in a sunny spot a few steps away from the kitchen. Nothing like convenience!

I also have started dealing to the overgrown garden where the son found the potatoes growing. This is a mass of horrible weeds so it will take me a while to whip this into shape.

The marmalade making is continuing at pace. This week’s batch contained more lemons than the last lot and I made it less chunky by cutting the pieces a lot smaller. It set a treat – maybe it was the smallness of the pieces or perhaps it was the obligatory whiskey I threw in? Regardless, I have the mystique of marmalade making totally sorted now!

I also cleaned my stove.

No, don’t roll your eyes!

I have always been interested in using other ways to clean than the normal commercial products. I have found oven cleaners and their caustic chemicals get into the back of my throat and are unpleasant, so I decided to give a baking soda and vinegar recipe a shot.

Mr Google provided several such recipes – many of which used hydrogen peroxide too.  I decided I wanted to avoid the hydrogen peroxide so found a recipe that used only a paste of baking soda and water, a bit of elbow grease and a final clean with vinegar. It worked a treat. Goodbye store bought products – I will use baking soda and vinegar from now on.

Lastly I have had my catch up with my tame gardening guru over pruning and spraying. She has given me some sound advice which I will put into practice next week – hopefully I will end up with some amazingly shapely trees which are full of fruit!

Country life – never dull!

*There were actually 11 at their peak, but 2 ended up in the freezer.  We now have 8 pregnant ewes and 1 ram.

New Life – Simply living.

 

I am writing this on a winter’s afternoon. The day is fine but slightly cold, so we have the fire burning slowly in the hearth. The man’s sterling efforts cutting and storing firewood over the summer months means we have no shortage of this resource.

This morning I made marmalade from the fruit grown on our property.  This is the first lot of 50 jars that I want to put down this season. The man is a marmalade fiend. I chucked some whiskey in this batch for good luck.

Yesterday I planted some rosemary. This is the beginning of our herb garden.

Earlier in the week I planted a couple of rows of garlic in the newly resurrected vegetable garden. I will plant another two rows in about a month. And other vegetables too.  Although only ones we like – no point growing produce we won’t eat. The rotary hoe we bought a couple of months back is finally earning its keep!

Last weekend our youngest son and his wife came visiting and he and I cooked a roast for dinner. The potatoes were found in an overgrown garden in the corner of the home paddock. He recognised them; I thought they were weeds!* The  lamb, too, came from our property and although it took me a few days to get my head around this fact, any reservations about the meat’s provenance evaporated at the first mouthful! It was delish.  And that rosemary I planted will be the making of future lamb dishes!

Last week I made guava jelly from the remnants of fruit on our trees. The trees were fruiting when I went away and I thought they would have been well and truly finished by the time I got back. They weren’t. There is definitely a longer growing season up here.

A couple of weeks before that I whipped up a batch of feijoa chutney. Again the fruit came from our land.

Meanwhile plans are afoot for the chickens. I have a bid in for a recycled roost on Trademe and have worked out where the hens will go. I am thinking 6 might be a good number – enough eggs for us and enough to gift to visiting family and friends.

Next week we have to think about pruning the fruit trees and working out what we want to do about spraying.  As we don’t know a lot about it, I will head into the garden centre and get some tips from our favourite shop assistant there (she knows EVERYTHING about plants). It is also the time to plant more fruit trees so we will be talking to her about this too.

In the next month or so, the macadamias should be ready to harvest. Not sure what I’ll do with these; but I’ll figure it out.

Country life. Perfect.

*This is now our official potato growing spot!

** I also have a bid in on a mincer which I think will be great for mincing fruit for marmalade etc.

New Life – Change challenges

 

Six months after moving from the big smoke to our rural idyll in Northland, the man and I can now say we feel we are home.

So everything has worked out well, you are saying. Another successful change story, right?

Well, yes and no. Lots of stuff has turned out smashing – we love our lifestyle block: the quietness and privacy, the orchard, the shed, and the animals make for our perfect life.

We love our new community too. Parua Bay is a place where everyone, regardless of whether you know them or not, waves as they pass on the road, and the shop keepers have time to have a yarn. And the beaches are amazing!  Nice.

There is only one fly in the ointment: the income side remains a work in progress.

As I’ve said before, we have a business idea or two which may or may not become our source of income – in fact, I have started experimenting with one idea, but if the drain keeps on blocking due to an inefficient ‘Heather’ manufacturing process, any profit will  just disappear into the wallet of the drainlayer!  No one said this working for yourself lark was going to be easy.

Meanwhile, I am attempting to land a part time job to refill the coffers. This has not been at all successful to date. I think this is for multiple reasons.

  1. As I want a career change, I am applying for things outside my area of expertise – but the fact is convincing someone that one’s skills are transferable is not easy.
  2. I am also at a certain age i.e. although I am fit and able, I am no longer a spring chicken.
  3. I know I don’t interview well – I am not good at talking myself up and tend to be quite self-effacing.
  4. As we were going overseas for almost 6 weeks, I mentioned this in cover letters. Honest me, right? Actually, it was job suicide! The interviews dried up. Completely.

Am I crushed by all this rejection? Well, I was on one occasion as I really, really, really wanted the job, so I cried when I got the ‘lovely to meet you, but, sorry, we have given the position to someone else’ phone call.

But on the whole, I am pretty philosophical about the length of time it is taking. You see, the man and I knew when we instigated this great lifestyle change that the chances were  it wouldn’t be plain sailing, and there would be some rough patches as we sorted out our new way of life.

Regardless, the changes that we chose to make have definitely been worthwhile and delivered exactly what the doctor ordered, even if there is still the odd challenge ahead! Having said this, we do feel we are totally in control of our destiny and that is an amazing place to be, we reckon.*

*I have been in a position where major change was ‘done’ to me. I found this really hard to cope with and went through a whole range of emotions often associated with grief. This response is apparently normal and healthy.

 

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