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Good Yarns and "I remember when . . ." stories



  • "I get the most enormous thrill out of making/growing things and generally avoiding supermarkets etc with the consequence that we were able to buy our modest little house here in the pricey S.E. of England for cash on a very meagre income." - Mrs. Valuable Forthright Opinions, Canterbury (in the UK).

  • Living on a lifestyle block means we are too small for the machinery a ‘real’ farmer has, but we do need it from time to time. So we have friends who will mulch our gorse with their tractor, and let us use their workshop for carpentry. Whenever we get a favour, we make sure we return it though. One friend likes a bottle of our homemade rum, and another likes a roast of lamb from our own flock. Many of these people don't have time for the activities we enjoy because they are too busy making money - asset rich, time poor. - JB, Whangarei. 

  • Living cheaply has been a 20 year preoccupation which we call self-sufficiency and it all began with planning. We moved to a piece of land where we can grow all our food - vegies, fruit, meat, eggs – as well as make hay for the animals and have firewood trees for the woodstove. We thought about all our needs so we are not having to produce a high income to live well. We now have our own homemade wine from our grapevine, jars of sauce, and preserves, and enough surplus to take to the markets or trade with friends. It has taken planning but we can now live very cheaply without having to cope with fulltime work as we age. - JB from Whangarei is enjoying the good life. [Well done JB! [Oily Rag Ed']

  • I'm 74 now but I well remember being a poor university student and begging bacon ends from the butcher and ends of the cheese rounds from the grocer. We ate Pavlova most nights - sugar was cheap and we got egg whites free from the laboratories because they only used the egg yolks for their tests.  We used to line our rooms with egg cartons for sound insulation and to stop draughts. That was in 1957.- JWC, Auckland. [Egg cartoons for sound proofing and insulation – now that is an oily rag trick!]

  • To keep making improvements in my "Oily Rag" lifestyle I set goals. It might be trying to cut out the grocery shopping once a month. Or saving power so I can afford to attach the wetback. Or filling my woodshed with free wood so I can save $500 by not having to buy it. Or substituting bought tea and milk with herb tea from my garden.  – Reader, Masterton.

  • I am 76 years of age so was brought up in the days of "waste not want not". It amazes me sometimes when I see waste especially electricity eg: lights being left on, food being thrown out when it could be used the next day, vegetable scraps going down the thing  in the waste disposal unit, huge pieces of land covered in lawn or weeds instead of it being a vegetable garden etc." - Maureen.

Growing up on the smell of an oily rag

And here’s a nice yarn from Marian about how she grew up living off the smell of an oily rag.

Having grown up on a back country farm from birth, then later, on a very remote (no road access) high country station I come from a background of "self sufficiency with tenacity".  Owe a lot to my parents, and grandparents for their example, teaching us skills that are sadly being lost by many kiwis. Literally living on the smell of an oily rag, we had our own diesel generator for power (only when we needed it) and Tilly lamps when the generator played up. Coal range, of course.

There were trout to catch in the nearby lake and river by everyone in the family, as soon as us kids learned how to wield a fishing rod. Rabbits and deer on our doorstep when we felt like a change from merino mutton. My three brothers, my sister and I took it for granted that we could fish, shoot, milk a cow, ride a horse, chop wood, climb mountains, operate a boat, grow fruit and veges, help out with haymaking, shearing, mustering etc.

We were perfectly happy with no shops or "civilization" for miles. Our mail arrived in a large canvas padlocked bag by boat, once or twice a week. Often the phone (party line) would go out, and we would have to follow it over rugged terrain for many miles on horse back, in all kinds of wild weather, to find the problem...like a tree fallen down etc.

I applaud you for running this website... and glad to join your "Down Under" meeting place on the net for like-minded folk!” - Marian.

Ketchup chaos!

I was given a catering size can of pulped tomatoes, so decided to make ketchup, using a tried and tested recipe. All went well and I found plenty of containers to store it in. The problem came a couple of months later when I opened one of the large bottles to fill up the table bottle.   The contents exploded all over the kitchen, the benches, the floor, the walls and up the curtains, not to mention myself. I was supposed to store the large bottles in the fridge to stop them fermenting! -Mean Girl", Hastings.

Tasty shampoo!

This is an incident I remember from my childhood. My Mother, always good at living on the smell of an oily rag in the post war years, had 'prepared' the egg shampoo for the family bath night by pouring some into a glass and adding water to make it go further. Father goes up to the bathroom and feeling thirsty after a hard day in the allotment, takes a swig of the 'orange juice' (the UK welfare variety as he thought).  Such yelling and cursing I had never heard in all my young years! and she never lived it down. - KEW, Auckland.

Those were the days!

My Mum used to whiten her unbleached sheets by hanging them out at full moon, when there was a frost. Don't ask me how, but the combination of frost and lunar beam made them snow white. Old time flour bags were good calico, but all had Champion Roller Flour Mills stamped firmly on them, not a nice sight to behold on a girls knickers when she bent over! So, goodly old Sunlight soap was rubbed on well,  the damp bundle wrapped up and left for a few days.  Result?  After a good boil in the old copper they were snow white, hey presto, no longer labelled. I realise there is no unbleached sheeting, OR knickers made of flour bags, how the modern kids would have hysterics at the thought eh?  Good old remedies they were. - P.M.

Soap making yarn

Dad had one of his bright ideas. The idea wasn't original, but it was for Dad - he didn't have bright ideas very often! Off to the local library he went. Back he came with an Aunt Daisy soap-making recipe. As proud as a peacock at a garden party, he said he was going to show us how to make soap, and in the process show us how clever he was.

Off to the kitchen he went. That was strange enough in itself - to see Dad clanging pots and pans was a real sight. We peeped through the outside window. Dad pretended not to notice us.

Into one of Mum's biggest pots he put some rendered animal fat he had collected from home kills. Before too long the fat was at a boil. Things appeared to be going quite well, and judging by the smirk on Dad's face we could tell he thought he had it sussed - that is until he added caustic soda and Lux flakes to the broth. The boiling solution immediately expanded in size and frothed up and up and over the pot. "Bloody hell," said Dad. We crept lower behind the windowsill.

Unfortunately for Dad the frothing solution kept growing; onto the stove it erupted, the molten solution flowing along the bench, into some drawers, and onto the floor.

"Bloody hell!" said dad again, but this time we could tell he really meant it. Us kids looked at each other, realising lives were at risk - our lives. It was one of those situations - being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Right at this moment Dad panicked. He grabbed the overflowing pot and took the shortest route to the nearest exit, crashing over and through furniture in the process. As he burst through an open door he heaved the still foaming pot onto the front lawn. It is fair to say that we were keeping a low profile.

Back into the house dad stormed. "That bloody Aunt Daisy!" he said as he disappeared back into the kitchen. We beat a hasty retreat to a neighbour's place. It was some hours later before we dared go near the house again. By then things had returned to their normal state - at least as normal as things could be. No one ever said anything about Dad's soap making idea, and Dad never tried to make soap again.

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