Keeping things in perspective

Posted January 16th, 2007 by Penny Wise

It seems I am not quite the outstanding pillar of self-sufficiency I thought I was - not now, and I probably never will be, in one area at least. Apparently I need to 'harden up', just like Linda Cockburn had to in 'Living the Good Life', Noel informs me. By this he means that not only are we supposed to be eating our home grown garden produce, but our home grown livestock as well. I know it makes sense - and let's face it, being vegetarian it's not as though I ever have to eat them myself, but walking through the orchard every day without being jumped on by Friday or baa'ed at by Bob is just not the same any more. Yes, our two much-loved (by me, anyway) sheep finally overstepped the mark. We tried everything to ensure they stayed out of trouble; really we did, but it did no good. Friday still managed to find a way to climb up seven foot high netting to strip every fruit tree in the orchard and Bob, who had always been so well behaved sealed his fate by taking a flying leap into the vegetable garden - while Noel was still in it. Bad move. Right up until the end I thought Noel would change his mind. I certainly did my best to change it for him, but no amount of wide-eyed pleas and sticking out my bottom lip would sway him. Deep down I knew he was right - what was the point of putting time, money and effort into creating a productive orchard and vege garden for our two fleecy delinquents to wreck it time and time again? Still, it didn't stop me from bawling my eyes out for half the weekend. The freezer may be full now, but if he thinks I'm cooking any of it he's got another think coming. Noel thinks in time I'll forget about it and change my mind but you'll never catch me serving up Roast Friday or Leg of Bob, it's just too familiar! RIP boys.

With all the rain we've been having this summer, Mum was shocked to receive notification of a total hose pipe ban for all residents in the district receiving town water supply last week. I realise this is an everyday occurrence in Australia, but in the nine years Mum has been living here, the water has never been so restricted. While she was rather perturbed about how she was going to keep her vege garden alive, I was quite excited to hear of the news, as I could share all kinds of water saving tips from the Vault with her. 'Lots of Simple Savers still manage to maintain amazing gardens using these hints!' I enthused, while reeling off all kinds of snippets from catching excess water in the shower to recycling grey water from the washing machine. The Vault has a whole section devoted to watering in the Garden category and I'm sure the boys will happily come and water Grandma's garden with their Super Soaker water pistols if she needs a little extra help! Being on farm water supply, we have never been affected by restrictions (except when there's a water leak somewhere!) but even Noel is a water saving convert since I showed him how much water gets wasted down the drain every time we wait for the cold water to run hot. He didn't believe it was that much until I managed to fill up an empty three litre milk bottle AND the two litre kettle before the water was hot enough to wash a few dishes! So these days we keep all our empty milk bottles handy. We always have one by the sink to fill up with excess water and use it for all kinds of things from watering plants to filling up the dogs' water bowl. If we find we have too many, we just put the full ones in the chest freezer to fill it up and help it run more efficiently. Noel thinks this is a particularly good idea as he is able to take the frozen bottles fishing with him and saves him buying ice to keep the catch of the day cool!

With things around here being so out of routine over the past couple of weeks, it feels like I have a lot of catching up to do. My menu planning went out the window when Liam got sick and my $21 Challenge took a hefty knock when Noel returned from a day's fishing with a bumper catch and unbeknown to me had invited his parents, brother and my Mum over for dinner to help us eat it. An admirable gesture but by the time I found out it was 6.45pm and they were already here. 'What am I going to feed everyone?' I hissed. 'It's supposed to be $21 Challenge week, I haven't been food shopping in ages!' I had no choice at that late stage in the day but to dash into town to pick up $10 of hot chips from the takeaway, a loaf of garlic bread and a bottle of cooking oil, as we didn't even have any of that to cook the fish in. Noel's brother is currently visiting from England and Mum assured me that a spontaneous celebratory gathering did not come under the $21 Challenge, but it still felt like I was cheating.

Besides, I was still feeling cross with myself for my totally needless splurge from the day before. My neighbour Maxine called me and suggested we take the kids to one of the nearby beaches. 'We'll take a picnic, then it won't cost us anything!' she said. I thought it was a great idea and we agreed to meet at midday. I needed to get some work done in the morning and was confident I would finish in plenty of time to throw a picnic together, but the time just flew and at 11.30 I rang Maxine. 'Have you packed your picnic yet?' I asked cautiously and breathed a sigh of relief when she said she hadn't. 'Do you want to get fish and chips instead?' she asked. 'I'm such a Sad Sally!' I moaned. Maxine assured me it was no problem, so we decided to go to the fish and chip shop first. I must interject at this point that the fish and chip shop at Kaiaua beach is no ordinary takeaway - their locally caught fish and chips are out of this world! It's won more awards than you can count on one hand, so going there is a real treat. Anyway, we duly arrived and placed our orders. Marvellous Maxine had already been savvy enough to bring her drinks from home, all she needed to order was $5 worth of chips. I also ordered $5 chips, but Pathetic Penny succumbed to buying a vege burger for me and Ali asked if he could have some fish too, so I ordered two pieces of snapper. By the time we added three drinks to the bill, I was floored when the cashier told me my order came to $30 - eek! On checking the docket, I saw that Ali's fish alone had cost $10.40! Pathetic Penny hadn't even thought to check the price of the fish when she ordered and as it turned out, one piece of snapper would have been more than enough. Everyone else was too full to eat it, so to add insult to injury one of the $5.20 gold plated fish fillets was sadly thrown away. Marvellous Maxine and her boys were more than happy with their $5 chips and home made cordial and Penny the Plonker spent the rest of the day kicking herself for not being more savvy.

Honestly, lately it feels as though I couldn't organise a drinking contest in a pub. I only just avoided dashing to the Forum for support a few days ago - the title of my thread was going to be 'HELP! Save me from getting a cleaner!!!' I seriously considered advertising for a cleaner - the only two things which stopped me were Fiona's 'time is money' equation and the fact that I would be one of these people who would race around madly cleaning before the cleaner arrived. 'Look at this place, it's a pigsty - I never seem to get anywhere!' I wailed to Noel. 'It's not that bad, I can help you', he consoled. He's very good like that, but I don't feel he should have to - I work from home for goodness sake, you'd think I could keep on top of the housework when I'm there all day! I wish Supernanny would appear and put one of her lovely big FAMILY ROUTINE boards up in our kitchen. Ever since we wound down at Christmas, we haven't managed to wind up again! I can start cooking dinner at six, we're still waiting for it at eight and the kids are still up at ten. Half the time I don't sit down until 11pm and the house is still a bombsite when I do! I hope it doesn't sound like I'm feeling sorry for myself - on the contrary, I'm really cross with myself for not being able to get things together. I tried the Flylady thing and it was brilliant for a week before the daily email reminders sent me insane. Does anyone remember what the Baby Steps are? I can't remember anything past the first two - well, that's only as far as I ever seem to get! I've been sorely tempted to join Carol's super motivated GO Crazy Clan in the Forum (GO = Get Organised) - the only thing is, I don't want to embarass myself by not being able to keep up with everyone else!

Liam is doing well, we still have the odd 'moment' - such as two days ago when he was supposed to be staying overnight at a friend's house, but was returned home unexpectedly at 9.30pm in a distressed state because he had inadvertently 'swallowed something' (such as an insect or piece of grass) while playing badminton outside and couldn't stop worrying about what it might have been. The poor chap was supposed to be going to the movies the next day, but he missed out once again, due to his worrying. It doesn't help that one of his greatest fears is having a blood test. He was supposed to be having it yesterday and was in a right old state. Maxine and I tried everything to persuade him, but nothing worked, not even bribery! He finally got his own way when his Dad returned home and said 'Look mate - you know how important this is - do it for me, please? If you go and have your blood test, I'll give up smoking, I promise.' At this revelation Liam snorted loudly and said 'No way - I don't trust you, you give up all the time and you can never do it!' No amount of assurance from Noel was going to do the trick and with a track record like his, who could blame Liam for not being convinced? Ten minutes later, Liam appeared with a contract neatly written out. 'I solemnly swear that if Dad manages to give up smoking FOR GOOD on January 18th, I will have my blood test, but Dad has to prove he can do it FIRST.' There followed a signed agreement by the pair of them which said that if Noel manages to successfully pass the week-long mark (he has never got past Day Three before), Liam will willingly go and have his blood test next Thursday'. 'You might be worried about me Dad, but I worry about you putting all that crap in your body too, you know?' he told his Dad. This could be just the motivation Noel needs to kick the habit once and for all - and I wouldn't mind the extra $4,500 a year we would save as a result either! Good on ya, kiddo!

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