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Good Yarns and "I remember when . . ." stories
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.
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.
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.
up on the smell of an oily rag
here’s a nice yarn from Marian about how she grew up living
off the smell of an oily rag.
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.
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.
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.
you for running this website... and glad to join your "Down
Under" meeting place on the net for like-minded folk!” -
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",
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.
were the days!
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.
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
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
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.
* * *