Reaping what we sow

Posted October 15th, 2006 by Penny Wise

Jings it's been a busy week! We survived the school holidays and the boys went back to school only to be confronted with the first major event of every rural NZ school calendar at this time of year – Calf Club. It's a bit of a daft name really, considering there are just as many other types of animals involved, but presumably the term originates from somewhere. As soon as the first wafting of Spring hits the air, children all over the country pick a calf, lamb or goat to feed, groom, train and lavish affection on for as long as three months, before competing against their peers in various leading and rearing classes under an official judge.

Having participated in many Calf Clubs as a child, it's something Noel feels very strongly about. It's a hugely valuable exercise in teaching children discipline and responsibility. So every day without fail since mid-July, the boys and their Dad have been out with their calves after school, feeding them, teaching their calves to lead around the required course and brushing them. It's great to watch them progress – even though after a few weeks the novelty has well and truly worn off and getting them to go out in all weathers to brush their calves is like pulling teeth. They know it's worth it though - the more you put in to looking after your animal, the more you will get out of it on the big day and of course that's the incentive. Not that our boys are really interested in winning pretty ribbons mind! As far as they're concerned, they're in it for the money.

I can't say I blame them – it's a nice wee earner for just a few months' hard yakka. As we loaded Joe and Rico (named after prominent All Blacks of course) on to the trailer to take to school on Friday morning, Maggie and Mabel – their Calf Club calves from the year before – were being loaded on to a truck to be taken to their new home. The boys had paid $80 each for them from their own bank accounts the year before and this morning their bank balances were going to be $470 each better off. The boys are well-pleased with their hefty profit and the farmer is very happy with his new well-fed and friendly animals. This time next year, Joe and Rico will be off to new homes too, but for now it was their chance to shine – which they certainly did after all that brushing!

Calf Club in our tiny district is a big social event. All the local farmers come out, along with parents, grandparents and other supporters. Every year a bus-load of school children from the city travels down to spend the day in the country and get up close to the animals, many of which have never seen a calf or lamb up close before. It's lovely to watch their obvious delight in being able to touch and help groom them. 'Look – poos!' they all giggle hysterically, pointing at the ground. With around 90 calves and lambs hanging out on the school field for the day, there's certainly a lot of that around, but their young country counterparts don't even notice. Where we come from, poos are a fact of life!

A fun day was had by all, it went without too much of a hitch and while we didn't scoop the ribbon pool, we certainly didn't disgrace ourselves. We were proud of the boys and their calves; they had worked hard and done well. I looked around smugly as we tucked into our picnic and watched everyone else part with dollar after dollar on sausages, coffee and drinks, knowing I had saved our family at least $10 on bringing our own food. As always, saving money was the object of the day – although for Ali it was all about making money. One of the most important parts of the day is where the judge questions the children. They need to know all kinds of things about their animals, from grooming and feeding to veterinary requirements. From my ringside vantage point, I could hear Ali chatting away happily to the judge. 'So is this your first calf?' she asked him. 'Nah – this is my second' he replied. 'My brother and me used to have lambs instead but we changed to calves. There's lots more money in cattle!' he assured her earnestly. The judge roared with laughter 'you're absolutely right young man!' she said and winked at me. 'He'll go a long way!'

While my sons have been busy making money, I have still been staunchly saving it. I had to venture into the supermarket yesterday. I go there so little these days that it takes me ages as I never know where anything is any more! As I walked around I thanked goodness for the hundreth time for my Simple Savings savvy. I breezed through the cleaning aisle and turned my nose up at the cans of furniture polish, Spray and Wipe and window cleaner and it occurred to me that I never have to buy them again, thanks to my home made versions. I sped through the health and beauty aisles, thinking of all the pre-purchased specials I already had in my 'Buy-Ahead box' at home and couldn't help glancing scornfully at all the brightly packaged sanitary products and feeling very righteous that I would never have to deal with the expense of those or contribute to their effects on the environment again. Being a member of Simple Savings has made me look at everything so much closer, to see if it's actually worth my money. For example, in the lunchbox aisle I picked up a packet of 'Wobblies' in my trolley for Ali. At $4.59 it was a rather appealing term for a small pot of pears in lime jelly, I was about to put it in my trolley and then realised what it was made of and picked up a 50c sachet of lime jelly instead so I could make my own. I also spied a new release in Carnation evaporated milk with coconut essence as a healthy alternative to coconut milk and wondered if they had come up with the idea thanks to Annette Sym. I spoke to a nutritionist several months back who actually sells Annette's books and recommends her recipes, so they must be good! I must try and get my hands on some – at the right price of course!

While in the supermarket I also spotted some tofu, which triggered off a hint I remembered seeing called 'Tofu a tasty option for meat savings'. I have never been a tofu scoffing type of vegetarian but I decided to be brave and give it a go. Now, if I can just persuade the rest of the family to try it! I am aiming to get a bit more adventurous with my vegetarian repertoire. Being the only non-meat eater in the family, it's easy to get into a bit of a rut and I tend not to go to as much effort to cook for myself as I do for the rest of the family. However I have a whole new range of divine sounding recipes to try, thanks to the help of member Claire M. Just type the words 'choko' or 'lentils' into the Discussion Forum thread search for some examples. You'll be amazed what you can do with them! Talking of the Discussion Forum, isn't it brilliant now all the threads are divided into categories! I still can't resist having a look through all of them though! If you haven't had a look yet, go there!

Today is Sunday and there are so many things I want to do, if the weather would only let me! It still amazes me how things have a habit of popping up in the Forum at the exact time I am wondering about them myself. For example, last weekend I wanted to spray my roses for aphids. I didn't have any ready-made spray but I remembered reading in the Vault that I could make my own. I found the recipe I wanted in a hint called">inexpensive aphid spray but it sounded so simple that I wasn't convinced it would actually work. I did my usual quick check of the forum before departing and you could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw a thread with someone wondering exactly the same thing! I was really pleased to see that the hint does indeed work and have been cursing our blustery weather every day since, as I can't wait to get out and give it a try!

I have been feeling a bit envious of Noel's gardening prowess and decided that I wanted to contribute too and try out some SS tips at the same time. When I decluttered the pantry I found some sprouting potatoes (oh, the shame of it!) but instead of throwing them out I read that I can plant them instead, so that's what I've done. I felt much better not letting them go to waste! I've also been collecting toilet rolls like mad ever since I read this hint Recycle toilet rolls for raising seedlings and now have enough to keep the average kindergarten in craft projects for at least a semester, let alone growing any seeds but I am proud to say that my gardening thumbs are not as black as I thought. Last weekend I planted some seeds which I had kept from a Butternut pumpkin and a capsicum. I planted them in recycled containers I had saved after reading this hint called Hothouse in a small container. I popped the containers on my sunny kitchen window sill and was chuffed to bits this morning to see they had all leaped up out of the soil overnight. At last I can make a valuable contribution to our veggie patch. I also picked up a raspberry plant yesterday at a school fundraising stall – I'm just not quite sure what I'm supposed to do with it yet!

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