Saturday, July 31, 2010

Date night for Mr6

Last night Mr6 had his first ever date night. My Mum picked him up about 4pm and off they went. He had chosen Pizza Hut for tea so they picked up my Dad and first stop was a "beer" at the pub. Mr6 being the wee fuss pot that he is had a water. Mum didn't get him a bag of chips as they were headed for dinner but 2 of the locals at the pub asked the bar manager (who is a friend of mine) who he was and then brought him a bag each.

Pizza was super cool and it sounds as though he ate so much desert he should have popped. And then he spent the night at Nana's all by himself which is something he has never done before. They have plenty of nights away from home coming from a single parent family but never without each other for company.

Mr8 and I snuggled in bed and watched America's Funniest Home Videos and then the start of the Saturday night family movie. This morning once we get off our lazy butts we are going out for breakfast.

So a really nice weekend. It's very quiet in this house with only one lad. And Mr8 loves the computer so without having to share it he had a great time. I was left to entertain myself.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A much happier day

Well today started and is finishing in a much more pleasant manner than yesterday. And it's amazing the effects that can have on the way I approach the day.

It's mortgage day and if you remember from yesterday I was hoping to pay $1525 in principal from my loan. Well the good news is that I paid $1529.50! Ever so happy with that. So I am now only $389.54 from reaching my goal of $150k on the mortgage. I will be ever so pleased to reach that goal. Of course after that it's the goal of $145k by the end of 2010. And then there will be another goal I am sure. But I find without a goal I am aimless when it comes to ridding myself of the mortgage.

And another advantage to the day would have to be the sunshine :O) It always feels much better in sunshine than in the rain. It was totally freezing this morning which in our area means there is about a 90% chance of a beautiful day. So where I live frosts are a real advantage.

I learned today how to add pictures to my blog so tomorrow I will update with before and during pictures of the jungle area. That way you can see the fantastic work I have done.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Does anybody like the tax department?

Today I came home to one of those scary letters in the mail. You know the ones that are stamped with the tax department logo. In our case the IRD. Aaaaaaaaaaargh these are never normally good in NZ unless you have applied for something. And this one was no different. It was an ever so lovely bill for almost $1200 - WTF?

It became very quickly apparent where the fault lay but I was still fearful of the papers in my hand. It seems that even though at the start of this financial year I told them that the only child support I receive is what comes through them they had figures saying I received over $8000 in extra "private" child support. Hmmm I wish but not likely. I tried ringing several times and almost gave up until tomorrow but I knew that this would eat at me all night if I didn't get it sorted. So after about an hour I finally had someone on the phone and she agreed the problem was easily spotted and helped me fix it. Thank goodness. This should not have happened however as I had already told them that this payment was incorrect. I hope this time it's all sorted.

So that pretty much wasted my afternoon. Not too concerned though as it's my fortnightly ME day tomorrow and the weather is supposed to be cold but fine so I can do the last job in the garden then. I just need to rake things level then I have to wait.

My other plan for tomorrow is internet banking. Like other 30th of the months it is mortgage payment day tomorrow and I want to see just how much I have managed to pay. By my rough estimates (just worked out in my head so will be interesting to see how accurate) I should manage to reduce the principal by $1525 this past month. That's totally awesome. It's really cool to see how each month the amount of principal increases even though I'm not paying any more than the previous month. I know that is how these things work but it's pretty cool all the same.

So I will be back tomorrow night with updated totals and also hopefully good news on the progress in the garden.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wow aching muscles

Today I have discovered muscles I didn't know I had. Woke up feeling pretty good which surprised me but as the day has progressed it's gotten worse. Things really seemed to seize up once I got home from work.

So instead of getting out there with the rake I decided to pass on that and chill out a bit instead. Am pleased I made that decision and the weather is supposed to be great on Friday so will do it then.

Washing even managed to get about 3/4 dry today which given the location of my washing line is a small miracle. It's cool though because it won't take long to dry under the heat pump and if I am lucky I will get it folded and put away in the morning and then tomorrow when I get home from work the house will not resemble a Chinese laundry. I am so over that part of winter. Still at the end of next month we will have lived in this house for 3 years and in that time I have not used the clothes dryer. I won't sell it though because it is nice to have it there as a plan b if the washing gets on top of us for any reason.

Anyway I have lots of reading I want to do tonight so this will be a short update and will be back tomorrow.

OMG I am shattered.

Wow what a day.

This morning I discovered Mr8 was not 100%. Went in to see Mr6 and he was quite snuffly so decided it would be a good day to keep them at home with me. I've got a case of the sniffles too but if I took a day off for every day that happened then I'd only work about 50% of the time. Turned out that I was wrong about which child was actually sick as it was Mr6 who sat snuggled with his teddies, pillow and love blanket on the sofa for a good portion of the morning.

I decided to make the most of a day off work and set the lads up with their favourite computer game and headed out to the area formerly known as the jungle to keep up with the digging. An hour later I came back in covered head to toe in dirt and sweat but feeling great about the progress I had made. Had a snack and a half hour break and then back out for another 20 minutes until it started to rain.

I had planned to head to work at 2.30 for 3 hours so decided it was a good idea to toss myself in the shower before lunch and then heading to work. Then my boss (my Dad) surprised me by telling me not to worry about coming in. Well I had to make the most of that so got back into the jungle and completed the area that needed to be dug. Wow it looks so different out there now. I am aching head to toe but I'm sure at this stage that it was all worth it. Ask me in the morning and I may feel different about it.

On the downside I got a whoppa of a credit card bill today. Ok so I knew it was coming but I'm not used to going near my $2000 limit. This bill however along with the day to day insurances that come along with it and the weekly grocery spending contained the airfares to the Gold Coast next year as well as a $400 deposit for the accommodation while we are there. Lol I hated seeing the bill so big so hopped onto internet banking and fiddled the accounts a bit making the transfer for the holiday stuff. I know the idea of offset accounts is to leave the money in my account for as long as possible but I hate seeing such a big bill. Also it's nearly mortgage day so I feel rich. Couple of days and that feeling will be gone.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

So much to read

Tonight I have so much reading to do so this update will be short and sweet. The lads seem to have brought home their very own novel of paperwork from school and that's on top of the info that has been emailed through.

Then I am right into the self sufficiency book - "living the good life". They are half way through the journey and I must confess while it is so not something I would do it is very interesting to say the least.

And when that's done I have a crime/thriller type book out from the library and a very large pile of other self sufficiency books. That should keep me busy off line for a week or so.

And the weather has been glorious so have managed to do some more in the garden. Borrowed Dad's rake and have flattened down the area where the sand pit will be built. One more spot to dig over and rake and then my part of the hard work is on hold for a bit. I'm hopeful it is sunny on Friday as it's my day off and I can get so much done.

Anyway off to start through the stuff the lads brought home.

Self sufficiency can be kind of scary

Well over the weekend I have read a book and a half on alternative lifestyles.

Funnily enough the books have pretty much the same titles - The Good Life by Francesca Price and Living the Good Life by Linda Cockburn. Both ladies are kiwis however Linda lives in Queensland on the Gold Coast and Francesca returned from London and now lives in Auckland. So while one book is based in Oz they are both still very relevant.

The books however are different. The first is the ways an average person can work towards reducing their carbon footprint and work towards a self sufficient lifestyle. It's a real treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration and I enjoyed it so much I am looking at purchasing a copy to keep for reference. To put it honestly I love this book and read it cover to cover in the space of an evening.

The second book I am about halfway through. It is a tad extreme for my liking but very informative all the same. This family basically tries to take themselves off the grid for 6 months spending on essentials only. No food - they have to grow it and barter surplus for the things they cannot provide for themselves. I'm yet to know if they succeed but it is a very interesting concept. Now while I could never ever imagine going to the extremes like they do I have managed to pick up some very useful ideas that I can carry over to my current lifestyle.

Anyway you look at it small steps towards protecting our environment can only be a good thing. I may not be able to save the world but I can save my little corner of it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A trip to the library

My original plan for today was to have a car free day. That got changed however when I logged on to the library website and saw one of the branches nearby had a copy of a book I wanted to get my hands on. In fact I was even considering buying it when I decided to see if one was available. It's been highly recommended by a friend who is right into self sufficiency.

Now the library we visited today is not our local library but is only 8-10kms away from home. And it's quite a new branch and therefore is very modern.

The first advantage over our local branch was the fact they have a lot of computers. So I was able to log the lads in for up to an hour free of charge with high speed internet. There are 2 bonuses to this. The first is at home we have just the 1 laptop so they take turns but often have "issues" when 1 does something the other wanted to do first. The 2nd is the fact that I can happily wander around the library while they are playing their game and actually get time to browse the shelves.

The second advantage was the larger variety/quantity of books. Our branch is quite small and desperately needing expansion as the neighbourhood has grown over the past 10 years. And having lived in this neighbourhood pretty much since returning to Christchurch in 2001 I think I may well have checked out most of the books that interest me. Having more books meant less chance the ones I wanted would be checked out saving me a $2/book transfer fee.

Now I read a lot. Fiction I really like crime/thriller novels and some other stuff like Jodi Picoult. Non fiction I read a lot of personal finance, debt reduction, mortgage reduction type books. I have recently taken an interest in self sustainablity books however.

I am both amazed and horrified at what I can find in these books. Did you know that by the time an apple makes it to your fruit bowl it can have 18 different chemicals sprayed on it and have been in cold storage for up to 6 months? Hmm no wonder they don't taste as good as they did when I was a kid. I've been concerned about the stuff in our food for a while now - especially since having my own children. And as organic/chemical free becomes more popular the prices are getting more reasonable.

I want to go one step further than that at this stage however and am heading head first down the self sustainable track. My current reading pile is testament to this with titles such as The Good Life (a NZ book) and Leading the Good Life. I am already inspired with what I am reading and I have only managed 1 chapter. It's amazing what you can find and learn from if you just make the effort.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Boys recreational gym classes

Today the boys went to their first gymnastics class. They were able to be in the same group which with their ages is becoming more and more difficult. And the wee guy doesn't like not being with his big brother so often sulks and won't participate. So you can imagine how happy I was to see this class was designed for not only boys but made to cater for a variety of ages.

And what a hoot. Think 10 lads ages maybe 6-11 all doing a full hour class of gymnastics designed to increase strength, flexibility and agility. At first their teacher made them spend about 10 minutes doing warm up exercises and it was funny to watch the faces as the first timers were getting perplexed about when the fun stuff would start.

And then it was all on. Hopping, jumping and skipping through hoops, forwards and backwards rolls, some work on the uneven bars, double mini tramp and the rings and climbing ropes. Omg I don't know how they had the energy for it all - they wore me out just watching. I had promised to stay and watch today and then was planning on skipping out to the supermarket and doing a quick grocery shop each week. Hmmm might have to reassess that as it was so much fun to watch.

As expected the lads are shattered. After demolishing a box of crackers on the way home, a large dinner of devilled sasuage casserole (thank goodness for the slow cooker) and huge ice cream Fridays they have hit the sack already. I won't say it out loud but I think you can guess what I am thinking about tomorrow morning. Sssssssshhhhhhhhhh just don't tell them!

Also got the car sorted today. At my last warrant the mechanic informed me I would need a new tyre to pass next time. What he failed to mention is it wasn't anything to do with the tread wearing down but a major and dangerous problem with the rubber perishing - especially on the side you couldn't see without removing the tyre. When I went to pick up the puncture repair after lunch they removed the dodgy tyre and put a new one on. They showed me the old one and how we have managed to drive around safely is beyond me. Needless to say we are now safe and I will not be going back to that mechanic. Had I have known it was dangerous I would have had it replaced immediately. I thought he was just giving me warning to start saving for a new tyre.

And started window shopping for a new cellphone today. Mine is on the old CDMA network and needs upgrading before next year or it will no longer work. Have been dragging the chain with looking as it works fine and it's pink so I kinda like it. Also there are so many different kinds of phones available and from cheap to unbelievable. One thing I did discover though in a kind of lightbulb moment is that all the cheap phones didn't have cameras. Now to begin with I was annoyed about that - after all what's a cell phone without a camera and pxting? The lightbulb moment came when I then considered how often I have "needed" my camera on my phone. Um can remember 2 times and that is all. Still haven't found out though how to get those pics off the phone and on to paper. The upside of this is I don't have to rule out the cheap phones just because they are missing the camera. As long as it texts and makes the occasional call then it's good enough for me!

Rain rain and more rain.

Why does it always seem to rain over the weekend and then be sunny on Monday? I've just seen the weather forecast and the next 3 days are rain before sunshine on Monday. This sucks because I really wanted to get the back garden nice and even. And then there's the weeds that still need some attention. I've got my fingers crossed that we will get some sort of a break so I can slip on my gumboots and get some work done.

And the other problem with rain is the washing. It's been nearly 3 years since I have used my clothes dryer. I must say that the airer under the heat pump is a great money saver. If I wasn't using that to assist with the drying then I would have an even worse situation going on. Actually I'd probably have to use the dryer whether I wanted to or not.

It's a good thing we lead a frugal life though. Today I dropped the lads at school and noticed one of the tyres was a bit flat. Decided to stop at the nearest petrol station and put some more air in it. Got there and ooops jolly large screw stuck in it. Now it was cold and wet this morning so I finally decided I would actually use my roadside rescue membership. Best part about all that was that the petrol station I had stopped at was where the roadside rescue mechanic operates out of. Within minutes the guy had the jack out and was walking over to help me out.

So about 10 minutes after realising I had a problem I was back on my way. I was already late for work so took the tyre in to a tyre shop for repair and while there I decided to check out the price for a new tyre I need before getting the next Warrant of Fitness. Was going to do that tomorrow anyway but now it is booked in and sorted.

Getting that done should be the last maintence issue I need to sort and then the car will fingers crossed be sorted for a while.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5 down 475 to go

Well I have worked out that 480 is the magic number when the chickens break even. It's actually slightly sooner than that as I have been paying $5.50/dozen and my calculations have been worked out at $4/dozen. Either way you look at it though we are on our way.

The back yard hasn't made a lot of progress in the last few days. It seems that returning to work has slowed things down considerably. Not to mention the fact that the weather is not as good as it was during the holidays. It's hard because I tend to have a bit of an out of sight out of mind mentality. I think the only salvation at the moment is the fact that we are out there daily rain or shine to tend to the girls so I am getting a constant reminder. I wish it was spring already.

No more progress on the holiday fund either. Really need to get off my butt for this one as there's only something like 30 weeks to go. I just sort of have this feeling that the holiday will all fall into place but we all know that's not how these things work. It's just that now I have paid for the flights and the accommodation deposit (and have the rest of the money for the accommodation saved) I feel like the big stuff is all taken care of so no need to worry. The problem is the longer it takes me to get off my butt the less time I will have. I think over the weekend it might be time to make a visualization board.

A lot of this lack of direction I think is coming from not knowing what is going on at work. Lol in many ways it might be easier to not know it's for sale and job security is insecure. I'm sort of feeling like if it's not sold then the money is not a problem - life will just continue as it is and all will be good. But if it is sold then I need a better plan.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mum we don't want to go to school today

That's what the boys were saying to me this morning. And what was their reason? There was a chook in the nesting box and they want to wait for the egg to be laid. Yeah that would be a good excuse - "sorry Mr Principal the boys won't be at school today because they are waiting for the chicken to lay an egg".

Part of their problem was that they were heading to Granny's for dinner after school and wouldn't be home til after dark therefore I would be the one collecting the egg. Oh well you win some you lose some.

Personally I didn't want to go to work today either. Actually I didn't even want to get out of bed. It's rather cold here in the mornings at the moment. Yes I know it is winter. But it's mornings like this that make me wonder why I didn't book the holiday for the colder parts of the year. After all it's like summer all year round on the Gold Coast. Then I remember why I left it until the warmer months. I want the boys to be able to swim all day everyday. And while it's much warmer in Queensland than it is here it's not exactly swimming weather.

And winter does of course have it's upside. Today I had to go into the city for a work appointment. I hardly ever head to the city - can't say I'm particulary fond of it really. However today I was on the 11th floor of the Holiday Inn Hotel and the room had a view out across the city and over to the alps. The sky was pretty clear and you could see the snow capped mountains and to be honest it was totally stunning. A great reminder that there is always a plus side no matter how things look or feel.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back to tightening our belts

Well now that the back yard is half done it's time to tighten our belts again and put our full short term focus into our Gold Coast/ Sunshine Coast holiday in February. I still have the money aside for the rest of the garden and now I am this far I know I will get it done. I will keep you all updated with the progress in the yard as it happens. And one day if I ever learn how to add photos to my blog I will show you the progress.

No eggs today. I think the girls must have heard me break their egg yesterday so now they are sulking with me. Or maybe the one that is laying is just taking a day off. I am getting impatient though as I need them to get laying so they can cover the cost of their food and then start contributing to the holiday fund.

Today for the holiday I emailed the rental car company as I realised they had not emailed me back after I confirmed my booking. Was concerned something had gone missing in cyberspace and they never received my confirmation. All is good and car is booked so I can relax with that one.

Other than that I have no real plans as to how we will organise the rest of the funds. Really need to come up with a plan and soon so that I don't spend the trip worrying about money. I currently add $20 every week to my holiday account but that's about all I am doing. So it's about time I got out some of the lads old stuff and get to work on Trade Me. I guess I could do a couple of grocery challenges too but I think I'll leave that until after Mum and I have spent our Christmas Club money - after that I shouldn't need a lot of groceries as the vege garden should hopefully be self sufficient by that stage. Wonder how many weeks I could carry on with challenge for before it got to be a struggle.

Actually I think I have just sent myself a new task. I now have 19 more grocery shops between now and the first shop of December. I'm going to be as smart as I can with these grocery shops and then after getting the big shop at the beginning of December I will see how many weeks I can go doing $30 challenges. If I can manage 10 weeks then that's $500 for spending money.

So that's 2 tasks between now and the end of the year
1) finish the back yard and get as self sufficient as possible
2) smart shopping then $30 challenges

I'll keep you all posted with how I am getting on.

On a light, non financial note you should have seen Mr8 trying hard to get the girls back into their house for the night. Lol it appears the chickens prefer outside to inside and are not keen to head back in for a sleep. So as he eggcitedly put each one back into the house a little head would pop out and join the group again. Was so funny to see the puzzled look on his face as he kept realising there were no birds in the house!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A big batch of bad luck

Oh you wouldn't read about what happened today! My poor girls had all their hard work go to waste.

Mr8 and I decided to have scrambled eggs for lunch. I apprehensively cracked ours open first and then one in the pantry from the shop. Oops something off with the brought one so had to toss them both. Had another dozen that I brought at the chicken place on Thursday so used them instead.

Then the hens laid us another lovely spotty egg that Mr6 was so proud of. He eagerly raced inside to show my parents while Mr8 and I were still wandering in. Never thought to ask him where he put it. Lol text my friend who started all this chicken craze and bragged how we got another one. As I was cooking dinner I moved the hand towel that was sitting on the bench and across the kitchen the egg went landing splat on the floor! Oh the rotten luck of it. Turned out Mum had told Mr6 to be careful it didn't roll off the bench so he wrapped it in the hand towel. I had to laugh though. There will be more tomorrow I am sure.

Other than that though is has been a good day :O) I had promised the boys we could go to the markets if the weather was good enough and while cold it was dry which was what I needed. We were really organised and managed to get there at 9.05 which I was impressed with after lots of slack mornings in the holiday. Mostly I was there to look for seedlings but only one stall had them so I decided to wait and get some more seeds to grow my own instead.

Had a lovely time though just wandering about the stalls. As the boys are getting older I feel comfortable for us all to stroll along and just stop whenever something catches our eye. As long as we are all in the same aisle it's all good. We stopped at a fruit and vege supplier and Mr8 wanted a bunch of celery, I wanted bananas and we decided to get silver beet for the chooks. After looking at all the stalls we shared some mini doughnuts and also some hot chips and then headed off.

Next stop was Bunnings. Each weekend they have a kids DIY activity and today was supposed to be making a pencil holder. Actually turned out to be decorate a pot plant pot but hey it was free and involved paint so it was all good. While the lads did that I wandered around the store getting the bits and pieces I needed to finish the chook run and just generally having a wander around. Was lovely to just wander along by myself. Perfect timing as when I had sorted out what I needed they were finished. We then went to the seed section and they each chose some seeds of something they would like to grow - we now have seeds for capsicum, celery and corn. Have to wait until August/September to sow them though.

After that it was a quick stop at Kathmandu where they had a sweater I was thinking of for the little man. They had it advertised in their email and it was reduced to $29.90 which was a great price for a quality sweater. Got there and they didn't have his size (or rather the size he will be next winter) so had to look at other options. Got one was $139.95 for $45. So little more than I planned but considering I haven't brought this lad anything new clothing wise for about a year pretty good. And he is really proud of his "new" sweater. Lol he asked the man at the shop if he could please wear it home. Super cute.

When we got home it was time to finish the chicken run. Took us about an hour and then we were able to let them out to free range for a bit. They were very apprehensive to begin with but Mr8 carefully picked them up and placed them into the run and then they were off. Gave them a practice run at getting put away and then let them out again for a bit. They are very happy outside :O)

So that's the end of a very productive day for us. Roast chicken for dinner with my parents and Sophie Grays choc chip cookies for dessert and it's all good.

Friday, July 16, 2010

We got one :O) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This morning I had to feed the chooks myself. I was rather apprehensive but had to be brave and all went well. Looked in the nesting box but alas no eggs :O(

Fast forward 5 hours and home again from work. Lads super keen to check if there had been any progress while we had been gone. So we all eggcitedly raced from the car to the hen house and yipeeeeeeeeeeeeee. We got our first egg. You can imagine the look on the boys faces. We had not been too hopeful as the man at the chicken farm had said it could take 2 weeks to get eggs.

Other than that the last couple of days have been pretty normal for us. Yesterday we went to meet Mum in the city for lunch, visited the public library for chook books and Mr6 needed to go back to the podiatrist for his new orthotics. That's something I had been putting off so great to get it over and done with for the next 12-18 months.

Then we headed out to Pak n Save for our monthly big shop. They had frugal Friday on which is always a great day to shop and also if you spent $200 you got a 20c/litre petrol coupon. My budget was $200 so I had to keep a note of the prices to ensure I got to that level to get the coupon but not go too far over. Managed to do this and only went $2.71 over budget. Very happy with that. So will have 3 weeks of just bits and pieces + fruit n vege.

I had the lads staying the night at my parents last night so went out for a drink but wasn't really into it so was home by 9pm. Great for the budget though and also meant a good nights sleep with no interruptions. Feeling a bit tired this afternoon and snuffly so hope I'm not coming down with anything.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Halfway there

Well it's hard to believe the changes in our back yard today. The stump man arrived bright and early at 7.45. I had conned the lads into getting up to play with Lego while I dozed until my alarm went off at 7.30. Lol I had allowed myself just enough time to get up and dressed and brush my teeth then get the lads breakfast. Phone rang and I got grumpy with Mum cos she was ringing so early and I may have been sleeping. "but you've got someone coming over in 10 minutes" she said. Argggggggggggh I had set the alarm for 8am so was super lucky she had rung and got my butt out of bed.

It's amazing how different the yard looks now with the surplus stumps removed. A couple of the trees I have had removed were dead, 1 was huge and blocking the sunlight from the neighbours and others were just too many trees in an average sized section. A couple were either trees I didn't like or I needed the space where they were for the gardens. And one was the tree that was responsible for my smelly drainage problem a few weeks back. And while he did the stumps along the back fenceline he dug over the dirt in that garden for me which removed the ivy that has been growing wild. So now I can just pull out the ivy and don't need to do the hard out digging. Yippppeeeeeeee. Now that's what I call money well spent.

For a while I felt guilty for chopping down trees. Today I planted 3 new fruit trees (making my total planted 5) so I don't feel so bad now. And by planting fruit trees I am working towards my edible back yard.

When he had finished and left the lads and I got to work on the chicken run. Now bear in mind I am in no way "handy" but always prepared to give these things a go. Well I am pleased to report the run while not finished (due to running out of chicken wire) it is looking totally awesome. Will need to head to Bunnings on the weekend and get some more wire and then do the last piece.

Now can you imagine how excited the lads were by this stage? Bear in mind they woke up at 6.45 and came to my bedroom making excited little chicken noises. So by now they were almost beside themselves. It's the fastest they have ever eaten their lunch I am sure.

So off we set to the free range chicken farm. Within minutes I was freaking out at the sight of the guy walking across the carpark holding 3 chickens in each hand as if it was no big deal. OMG I am terrified of these creatures what was I thinking is what was going through my mind. Still they stayed put in their box and behaved all the way home. It was home I was most worried about though. How on earth was I going to get them out of the box and into the hen house? Didn't need to worry though as the lads proved very capable and now all hens happily in their home eating mash and fruit and vege scraps.

The boys have headed out there several times over the course of the afternoon and all has been good. Seems we have 6 pretty tame chooks which makes me a little more relaxed. I have made them promise me they will give them some peace and quiet tomorrow so the chickens can relax and get started on laying us some eggs.

I'll let you know if they can manage that one................

Sticking to the budget

Well so far the back yard is sticking well within it's budget. The chicken coop has arrived and almost made it's way to it's final home. We had a fantastic shopping trip to Bunnings this afternoon and managed to get everything on the list at great prices and even managed to toss in a 6 pack of spinach and silverbeet for the chicks to feast on in the future. We also found the grain store that was recommended to us and purchased enough grain for 2 months. Next time we are heading in that direction I will stop and get more. Ideally I want to have 4-6 months supply on hand meaning if finances get tight for whatever reason we won't have to worry about chook food but will still get plenty of eggs.

Tomorrows task is to create the chicken run and pick up the chickens. That should be interesting as it will be my first real challenge with these creatures. I have boxes in the car and will be brave and not panic about having them in the car with me. And any problems and the lads can jump around in the back getting the birds back in the box.

Then it's time to focus on the garden. The stump guy postponed until tomorrow so he will be here about 7.45. Cringe. Still I want it done and if that's the time then so be it. Then I need to get a price for the wood for the last gardens and see how much money I have left to pay the handyman. He's a friend and will do them for free but I want them done now so will offer to pay for at least some of his time.

So it's an early night for all of us as an early start to an exciting day ahead. I'll keep you posted as to how it's going.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All systems are go

Well things are moving along rather rapidly here at the moment. We have gone from wanting chickens to getting chickens. Hen house will arrive tomorrow afternoon and we will get our chickens on Thursday. Went to check out the coop today after work as I was worried about buying it sight unseen. It is fantastic - better than I thought. So gave the guy the all clear and he will deliver free of charge tomorrow.

So tomorrow along with going to see Toy Story 3 (in 3d) we also have to buy the things we need for creating our chicken run. And we will need chicken food too. Have rung the place my X mother in law uses and their prices seem very reasonable. And they are just one suburb from home which is super handy. The tree guys are coming in the afternoon to remove all the stumps so we will have to be home for that. Somewhere in that we will also need to pop to the bank. I need to get the boys to withdraw the money for their 2 chickens each and I'll need the money to pay for the coop as well.

That's a busy day we have planned and I will need to right myself a list or I am sure I'll forget something. Luckily with all that spending I have had a couple of no spend days so far this week.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Things seem to be falling into place

Well getting this garden stuff sorted seems to be flowing quite easily. My X Mother in Law gave me some contact details for chickens and also for food. The chickens are not ready until the end of August at the place she recommended however I let my fingers do the walking and after a few clicks found another supplier with point of lay chickens ready to go. I just have to ring the day before I want to pick them up and they will be ready for me.

Then rang the grain store and got prices. I had budgeted $110 for 2 chickens and some food. The boys are using their savings to buy 2 chickens each as well. So the cost of my chickens is $40 and I have calculated the cost of food at $70 so that is spot on. And the grain store is reasonably close to home so that's even better.

On other money savings front we have been very well behaved. Only planned expenditure which is always great for the budget. And with the home days we had last week the petrol is lasting longer than I expected these holidays so even better savings than planned. Any extra petrol money in my budget is going onto a BP gift card so I have a wee bonus if money is ever tight. I always like to plan ahead.

On the babysteps mortgage challenge of $500 for this month all is going well. Looks like I will have about $80 surplus for this month so that will make up my shortfall for paying the stump man with cash. By managing to scrape together enough cash for this bill it's $240 less I will have to use from savings which is always good. And only about 7 weeks to go until my mortgage dips under the $150k mark which is really exciting. I have always seen $150k as the point at which my mortgage becomes manageable. So it's great to have it so close.

And all this excitement has given me a real buzz. For a while now I have felt that my only goal has been the mortgage and it's a big long term goal. Turns out I needed a couple of short-medium term goals to balance things out. So short term is the back yard. I'd love to have this finished by the end of September so I can get the planting done in time for bountiful crops. My chicken deadline is the end of July however. My short-medium goal is the Australia holiday. So far I have covered airfares and accommodation. The lads have almost covered the rental car and then we need spending money. We have about 30 weeks to come up with approximately $2k but I'm not worried about that one at all.

Well today I bit the bullet

Tonight I am the proud winner of Trade Me auction #301328690! That means I am now or soon to be the owner of a hen house. Now to find some hens. Luckily my XMil has hens and has recommended me a place and I will ring them tomorrow. She has also told me a good value place to get grain from so will check that out during the week too.

So it's all systems go in this house. I have gone from thinking and procrastinating to actually biting the bullet and moving full steam ahead. I feel excited and nervous at the same time.

The lads however are super excited. After we won the auction they raced out into my parents living room and started doing happy chicken dances. So totally cute. They know what having chickens entails as they have spent lots of time dealing with Grannies so they will be the ones teaching me.

Well in the budget too which is great. I still have to build a run for them and this afternoon went to Bunnings to price some chicken wire. Even once that is purchased I should still come in between $50-$100 under budget.

So now I just need to finish clearing the jungle and prepping the land. I got out there this morning even though it was so cold I couldn't feel my feet about 5 steps out from the house. Another area is cleared and once the stump guys come mid week the progress will be easy to see. How exciting.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fruit trees galore

Well very unexpectedly got called in to work this morning. Was only for a couple of hours though and was really busy so the time went fast.

After work I headed out to Country Gardens nursery and OMG talk about variety and outstanding advice. I am a newbie in the garden and I guess people like me have a look on our faces that says we are clueless about these types of things and please help.

The lady who helped me was a real wealth of knowledge. The kind of good old fashioned knowledge and service that is becoming harder and harder to find these days. She took the time to ask about the size of my section, what I am looking for fruit wise, how to prune and all sorts of other valuable information.

As a result of her wonderful advice I came home with 3 trees. 2 apple trees because we all eat the apples and want a surplus to stew for winter breakfasts and also a peach tree. And I can assure you I will be heading back for more.

So we got home all fired up and wanting to start planting but that cannot be done until the tree men come visit on Wednesday. Not much point planting trees and then having them stomp all around to get to the right place.

Next phase on the garden is getting the raised vege beds completed. I have the timber for another 2 just waiting for friend to build them. I have now cleared the area they need to go though so fingers crossed he can squeeze me in soon.

I've also been looking at chicken coops. We want one large enough to fit 10 chooks and my budget is $600. I want a bigish coop so we can have extra chooks and sell the surplus eggs. That way eventually the chooks can pay for the cost of their house. I'm currently looking at one on Trade Me but it doesn't say how big it is.

Then once all this garden stuff is done it will be back on the money saving wagon. Still at least this time even though I have fallen off the wagon it's been for wise spending.

A fantastic money saving day

Wow what a profitable day.

With my save/earn an extra $50 a week challenge for July I was really struggling to come up with ways to do either. As a single parent receiving government assistance I get heavily penalised for increasing my income. I know it sounds crazy but that's the way the system works when you reach a certain income level. In fact for me to earn $50 in the hand I need to earn about $90 before tax. So totally not going to happen.

Then there's the trying to save money alternative. When you lead a frugal lifestyle it is extremely difficult to save more money. So difficult in fact that I almost gave up. After all the only things I can seem to do to save me any money are reduce my already small grocery budget or have home days on the days I am not working. I don't really want to reduce my grocery budget as if I am facing unemployment I want a nice healthy stash of food and toiletries on hand to cover the time until my next job. Home days are slightly more possible at the moment as it is the school holidays so I don't work as much. Still with work and taking the lads out it's only realistic to squeeze in 2-3 a week.

Today though I looked at it from a different angle. I had heard on Simple Savings that people were getting up to $150 credit on their power accounts simply by asking for it. So I asked and got $50. Considering I have the lowest power bill of anyone I know I was happy with that. Then I rang and canceled my mortgage protection insurance. I am now at a level on my mortgage where I can manage unemployed to pay the bills and survive. And my policy didn't cover redundancy/unemployment just illness and accident. Another $30/month saved. I then rang a different car insurer and they couldn't do me a better deal so I got $40 in petrol vouchers and lastly I added a $500 excess to my medical insurance saving another $10/month.

So I have succeeded in meeting this week and next weeks challenge and that's without even taking into account yesterdays home day.

If you haven't taken the time to ring all the companies you pay by direct debit or automatic payment then you should. You will be amazed at what you can achieve.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We are on a roll

Man it's hard to believe all the progress we are making in the garden lately. After all we do have 2 pretty big things working against us. Firstly it's winter and our climate is cold and wet at this time of the year. Secondly and perhaps the biggest issue is the fact that I hate gardening.

Years ago in my married days we built a new house and did the landscaping from scratch. One thing I learned about myself with all that was that I like nice straight lines in my garden. Also something I've always known is I hate silly little gardens or trees planted in places that in my mind should be grass.

Hmmmm so here I am with a curvy garden house with a couple of trees planted in stupid spots. For almost 3 years my plan has been to ignore it. Let's face it once you face something it often leads to fixing it. So quite successfully other than at lawn mowing time I have been turning a blind eye.

Well blind eye no longer. Today's attack was the jungle area. This thought came to me last night. I woke about 5.30 am and suddenly realised it might be time to get a bloke in with a stump grinder. And if I am going to do that I need to have chopped down everything that is in my way for my master plan. So when we woke and it was cold but not raining it was a quick breakfast and off to the jungle.

Now right about then is when I thought "man it would be a great idea to have a chainsaw". Never mind because that was not going to stop me. Out came the handsaw and off to work. With lots of encouragement from the lads we chopped down almost everything in our way. The jungle is cleared and ready for de-stumping. I still have 2 trees to chop down but that will have to wait for more sunshine. By the time we were finished in the jungle it was raining and we were back indoors.

That wasn't the end there though. Out came the yellow pages. First company estimated about $400. Second company said they would send somebody out. He arrived and pleasantly quoted $240. Much better I think. So he is booked for Wednesday. The cool thing is that once he is done all the fun but hard work begins. It's so not like me but I just can't wait.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I can't believe we did it!

Last night was a shocker of a night with the lads both having problems meaning I got very little sleep. And today we were supposed to have appointments with both the dentist and the podiatrist but due to one of the boys having tummy issues these had to be postponed until Friday.

So the day started with no plans on what we were going to achieve. I had this annoying feeling I should accomplish something but had no idea what it was.

After lunch I decided to head out to the garden and start to loosen a flax bush that has to be removed for the 4th raised garden bed to be built. My friend who is a handyman had asked me to start digging around it so he could put a rope around it and pull it out using his quad bike. So out we went with gloves and spade and would you believe we managed to get it out just the lads and I. I cannot believe it was easy enough for us to succeed, if I'd known I'd have done it much sooner.

So now the space has been totally cleared for gardens 3 and 4. This means when my friend gets enough good weather to do all his outside paid jobs then he can come to my place and make much quicker progress than we planned.

Tomorrow we have no plans either and we have decided that if it's not raining we will head outdoors again and clear some more of the jungle area making room for the new sandpit and the last of the raised gardens. I'll need to get out the tape measure too so I can see if there will be room to squeeze in the pit and just one or the pit and two gardens. Probably only the one garden seeing as our goal after the gardens is chickens and they will need some space to free range.

Also on the to do list is I have a spot where I wish to plant a new apple tree. I already have an apple tree but it's in a really silly spot that I want to develop into a cricket pitch/soccer field. So I'll need to purchase a new one and when it's fruiting get rid of the old one. First though I have to see if there is enough clear space amongst the roots of the older trees that have been removed. So I'll have to get out the spade again and get digging. Then if that is a success we will head out to Country Gardens at some time during the holidays and purchase a triple grafted tree.

Monday, July 5, 2010

An uncertain future

Well it looks as though the business I work for is sold. This means I know I have work until the end of next month but after that things start to get uncertain.

For those who don't know I currently work for my father. It has it's moments but as a general it is a great job that works well for us both. It's time for Dad to semi-retire and he is very close to tying in an offer. Currently I have been requested to stay for 7 working days and in the due diligence clause there is mention of possible work for me.

The thing I have to weigh up is how it will feel working in the same place under different circumstances. If those who know me were to run a sweepstake I don't think you would find anyone backing me for longer than the end of the year. If you ask me I really don't know. I can imagine it will be different after the change of ownership but I am hopeful it will still continue to be an enjoyable place to work.

To my advantage is that I have choices. Through hard work and determination I have managed to get my mortgage to a level where I can survive on government assistance if required. I have qualifications in the Early Childhood Education field that I could go back to - either on a casual or permanent part-time basis. And I have 9 years of retail experience now as well. So there is plenty I could do. At this stage I would say a bit of time off and then maybe after our Queensland holiday next year find something else to do.

Living a frugal lifestyle is another thing that will enable me to take a break. By working hard in the garden I hope to grow enough to provide most of our fruit and vege needs for at least a good portion of the growing season. And I hope to get a triple grafted apple tree this season. And of course we are still considering chickens. I will give away/barter excess. I have discovered I don't need a lot of stuff to be happy and shopping no longer makes me feel good. It's great to know that doing without is not a hardship.

So all in all exciting times ahead. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The sunshine is due to end

Well we have had a fantastic start to the school holidays weather wise. With 2 boys aged 6 and 8 I am always grateful for weather suitable for outdoors play. They can run, bike, jump and scream and release all that pent up boy energy without coming to too much grief. Lets face it when it comes to boys nothing beats outside time. Unfortunately this good weather is not expected to last a lot longer. But it is winter after all so it's expected.

Today the boys had fun at a friends place while I worked and this afternoon we have just chilled out. We have neighbours over in the back yard as well. Last count it was only 2 extras but you never know at this house. As long as they stay outdoors I don't mind.

I noticed when I filled up with gas this morning that the ETS has increased the price of petrol. Just 3 cents/litre at this stage but wthl the added downside of GST increasing who knows what will happen. I am pleased to say though that it has been 12 days since I last got gas and today's bill was only $61.50. It would usually be $70-$75 so that's money I have managed to save in the last few weeks.

All these things like ETS and GST make me glad I am a non spender. Lets face it the less you spend the less they can tax you. And spending less is much better for your bank balance and the environment too. More stuff is harder to look after, find suitable storage for and I think when you have a lot you can take it for granted. I'd rather have a little and make memories on holidays and outings. Let's face it memories are priceless. It's a shame tickets to the Gold Coast have a $ value lol!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cheap holiday entertainment

Today we have decided to have a home day. I belong to a forum called Simple Savings and the challenge for July is to try and save $50/week every week of the month. Alternatively you can earn an extra $50/week if that's the way you choose to do your challenge.

Week 1 started on Thursday. So far I have had 2 car free days, saved $30 on grocery shopping and also turned off the heat pump during the day every day since Thursday. This is thanks to bitterly cold frosts followed by gloriously sunny days. And the meat we put in our burgers last night was free from my parents as Dad has won too many meat raffles lately. So I'd be guessing at this stage that I am up to saving about $44 for this week. Hmmmm just need to find a way to save an extra $6. Cannot squeeze in an extra car free day between now and Thursday as I have work Monday and Tuesday and the boys have appointments on Wednesday. All my savings from this challenge will be split 50/50 between Queensland holiday fund and grocery stockpile.

So to start the holidays off on a cheap note we have done box construction today. Over the past term we have been collecting boxes from anywhere we can. Mostly empty pantry boxes - crackers, weetbix etc - and some shoe boxes and other interesting cartons from work. This morning it was what the boys chose as a home day activity so we got all our bits and pieces out and heated up the glue gun. The lads spent a good hour gluing and making and creating and had a lot of fun. I had fun watching them co-operate with the glue gun and thinking out their ideas. Some of which were successful others not quite so.

The next two days of the holidays will be reasonably cheap too. Tomorrow the boys will go to my girl friends for the morning until 1pm while I head into work. This is a shift I don't usually work in the holidays but I've had time off for bits and pieces lately and feel as though I haven't quite been pulling my weight enough. Also by working an extra it means our school girl will get Sunday - Tuesday work free and next weekend she'll have slightly more time off. It's good to ensure we all get a bit of a break. On Tuesday it's Granny day and the boys will spend the day with my X Mil. I think they are going to a production at the Court Theatre which is their usual holiday treat with Gran.

That's it for the cheap days though as Wednesday sees us at the dentist, podiatrist and also an outing to the movies. Still doing all this on the one day means the other days seem cheaper.

Friday, July 2, 2010

School holidays have started

Well it's the start of the winter school holidays today. Lots of people we know have headed off to warmer climates like Queensland and Fiji. I'm so glad we have a date for our holiday so that we don't have to mope that we are missing out. On one hand it's tempting to head off in the cooler weather to warmer shores but our timing means lots of really warm days and sunshine.

I had work today - I have only 4 half day shifts and 2 whole day shifts over the entire holidays which is really cool. Lots of time to spend with the lads. That said these will be a holidays on a budget again. We have a Hoyts gift card that was given to the lads as a birthday gift so that will pay for their entry to the movies. We are going to have a construction day using boxes we have collected all term and we may be heading to Ashburton to visit friends.

My lovely Mum kindly gave the lads $20 each to help them pay for any activities they wish to do and also took them swimming at QEII today. Their first purchase with their money was to go halves in dvd hire. Our video store has a deal on older dvds - $10 for 10 dvds for 10 days. They chose 4 each and I chose 2. We have a great selection for the first part of the holidays.

Last year we did this in the winter holidays as well and it was a lifesaver as I managed to get the flu for most of the holidays. This year not starting well either - I have a shocker of a head cold again. Still as long as it avoids turning into the flu all is good.

So tonigh'ts treat is about to start. One of my choices - Monsters Inc dvd. We are going to snuggle in our jammies with our love blankets and watch it together. And we are even having an intermission with ice cream sundaes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A petrol free day

Today is my Friday off work. And seeing as I didn't have work I decided there would be no need to use the car. It was very cold and frosty this morning and I must say the temptation to stay in bed a little longer and just take the lads to school in the car almost got the better of me.

Then I thought of the sunny Gold Coast and how holidays are always much better if you are not worrying about the budget every 5 minutes. So just 1 day of not using the car can add another couple of dollars to our holiday fund. Petrol costs me an average of $6-$7/day but generally on a day when I only have to do the school run it's only about $2-$3. So that's another couple of dollars that can be used to get into a theme park or towards our accommodation or rental car.

So I dragged all 3 of us out of bed and organised breakfast quickly because time was passing us by. Biking to school takes about 20 mins with the lads. But it was me who was sluggish on the bike today. I was horrified at how slack I have gotten and how my fitness levels had suffered. Each turn of the pedals was a real struggle. Heading home again this morning I actually walked my bike part of the way. Now as you can imagine I was not looking forward to biking back to the lads at 3pm.

As I walked past my bike after doing some gardening I suddenly thought to squish the tyres a bit. Now they were nowhere near flat but I decided to add some more air on the way to school. OMG what an improvement. It felt like I had new legs. So now I know that while my fitness levels have dropped as always during the colder weather it's not as bad as I thought.

And it was a jolly good wake up call. Let's face it there is often a need to be slack in the colder wetter weather but often it's just cold and we are just being lazy.