Money, money. Must be funny . . .

That ABBA song is stuck in my head, sorry if it’s now stuck in yours.

It’s been a while since I wrote a post, not because life is now boring that we don’t live in a tent, but because this post is about money and I have been sitting on it contemplating whether or not to write it up and post it.

Life is not necessarily boring here, but it is calm and that feels awesome. Here in the Bach it is so much more relaxing. There is a lot of time for sitting in the sun on the outdoor swing chair and taking naps 😉 There has been time for walking on the beach, daily. For Sam to surf, to play the guitar a lot, something I haven’t heard so much of since before we had Joey.

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The sun shines so much more here then under the cloud covered mountain and I’ve been soaking it up like a sun-starved lizard. I have been baking bread like it’s going to disappear any day (thank the Gods for Homebrand Flour $6 for 5kgs) and . . . um . . . I, ah, may or may not now be having trouble doing up my skinny jeans.

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Yep that’s three lots of dough rising! And me soaking up the sun 🙂

But there is is this one little thing that sort of weighs it all down and that is good ol’ money.

Its been a very strange thing to go from a very lucrative job where there was always money to being here, where we are living week to week and struggling to pay bills and are in the (apparently very lengthy) process of getting help from the government. If you happen to be thinking you need to go down this road at some point, of takig a helping hand from the Govt, I suggest you take a small brick wall with you, to bang your head against. For you know, when you go in for your 5th appointment, that’ll take approximately two hours because they haven’t met with you before and have to go over EVERYTHING again, and for some reason the same information you gave to the previous four, changes the conditions or situation.

Just. Breathe.

It sometimes makes me feel as if we’re teetering on the edge of a cliff and the tiniest thing could push us over the edge or perhaps like we’re in water up to our chins, trying desperately to stay a float so it it doesn’t cover our heads and drown us.

But despite all that, this is the calmest our lives have been in along while. I think the intention was there, with the idea of tent life but in the end it wasn’t plain sailing and it had a lot of ups and downs, in fact too many in the short amount of time that we were there. We don’t have a lot of money but we have enough, to pay rent and feed ourselves and right now that’s the most important thing. And we’re happy here and I don’t want anything you know – I mean I want stuff and if someone handed me a million bucks I’d find a big old list of things I want pretty quick, but I don’t have a desperate need to go out and have it right now – which my mum says is a sign of contentment and she’s a wise woman.

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These little men checking out the surf

Our move to dryer ground

I have fallen in love . . . Madly, deeply, completely, with our little place by the seaside. We have moved into a Bach, not too far from the beach. It is surrounded by farm land and trees, with views of the ocean. Inside all the doors are painted purple and gold on one side and orange on the other! The bathroom is turquoise blue and yellow. It has solar hot water and a composting toilet. A bookshelf, a bright red table and a community garden, oh it’s gloriously beautiful.

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The first few nights we were here, it was really hard to sleep because it was so quiet! The bush is so full of noise and the tent was obviously quite thin. When it was windy, the trees blowing about would sound like the waves crashing on a beach, when it was still, you could faintly hear the river flowing, down beyond Mark’s place and when it rained, the noise was as soothing as rain on a tin roof. There was also the night birds that called to each other. All. Bloody. Night. I don’t really have anything nice to say about them, them I do not miss!

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Glorious new views

It’s amazing how much, in the three months that we lived totally off grid, I missed so much, all the small things about living in a house on the grid! The oven, that amazing thing that cooks all of the fantastical things I can throw in it! And a shower, with running hot water whenever I want it! Lying on the floor in the sun, having a mirror, being able to charge my computer whenever I want, which means I don’t need to write my blog posts down on paper first, then transfer them onto the computer when I happened to be near power and a WiFi source; and it feels really good to sit on a couch again.

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These guys think so too.

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Pizza and bread and all the goodies

I really love being close to the ocean too, Sam is getting back into surfing again after eight years! I go for walks with my camera, that I haven’t had out for ages and the boys ‘accidentally’ fall in the water. Every time. We have done a bit of fishing, but it’s pretty new to us, so, so far no luck, but Sam has managed to nab some muscles in the low tide.

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Yum!

The next door neighbors kids come over to play often, they are sweet kids and the boys get on well with them, so during the weekend days the kids are off on adventures; and are hanging out for 3:30 pm when the girls get home from school.

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And I get to relax with a pot of tea 😉

Our chickies have a brand spanking new home, it’s massive and they have new friends and rooster to hang with. They are laying again after a small hiatus. I think, just like us the cold and damp was getting to them, so they did what any smart animal would do I suppose, they stopped laying and reserved their energy for simply staying alive in the cold, muddy conditions.

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Happy chickens = lots of eggs.

The curse of the waremould

I’m not feeling the tent living love guys. We currently have a major mould problem :-/ Being approximately 1.5k from the base of the mountain (our beautiful MT Taranaki, that is considered a bit of a rain forest) it rains a lot here! Like a lot, a lot. It is one of the wettest places in the ‘Naki. The air here contains quite a bit of moisture, so basically if the sun isn’t out and shinning, everything remains damp. Ideally the fire needs to be going all day and we need to have a fireplace of some kind in the kitchen/dinning shack and that too needs to be going all day to keep the damp at bay, unfortunately between work and the kids, we are in and out most days and that makes it virtually impossible!

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Our poor mouldy shelves . . .

It is really uncomfortable coming home too, if we’ve been out at night and we don’t get home till later, the temp inside the tent is often the same as it is outside. It doesn’t feel good to see the boys so cold, it doesn’t feel good to me either to be living in such a cold damp place where mould is growing everywhere. It doesn’t feel safe for them or for us.

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My prayer flags are not outside and don’t even get wet!

On top of having a mould problem, I am really feeling the need to have those four solid walls around me, to enjoy some of today’s modern amenities. I really, really miss having hot water on hand. I miss having a fully functioning kitchen, where I can make stuff! I use to make all sorts of things all of the time, from bread, to my own homemade cleaning and beauty products and now I don’t. I don’t do any of that, it’s just much too hard here.  It’s left me feeling somewhat creatively stifled, I have been so use to spreading myself out, my knitting, my art, my sewing (basically in other words, I’m a bit messy 😉 ) but it’s something that I feel is important to me, I am a creative person and it makes me sad that I cannot easily do what I most love. Adding onto that I am finding it increasing difficult to concentrate on the boys education, to me this is VERY important. I need to know in my heart that they are getting everything that they need and that I am providing them with everything that they need. We just do not have the space here. When educating kids at home they need to have the opportunity to spread out as well, to go from one project to the next and then come back again; and when I talk about the space needed, I’m not saying that what we now need is to move into a mansion, I like small living, I like that we don’t have a lot of possessions, only those few that are really important to us, but I think that the 6 metre tent doesn’t quite afford us with what we need at the moment.

Soooo, we might have to pack the tent away for a while and find a small place for ourselves. I have had a little bit of time to think about this and I have gone back and forth between what I want, what we need. Giving this us up and moving off of Mark’s beautiful land makes me feel sad and disappointed in a way but I think that in the future we could plan to do it again but perhaps in the summer and with a bit more forethought and planning, especially with the kitchen area to make sure it’s water tight and heated properly, that it has storage space, that we have a table big enough for us to not only eat from but to spread and do our various projects on. To make sure that I have an oven, where I can make my stuff!

I think that the reason that we came out here and did this, is still really important to us and not something that we want to give up on at all. I think now that we have been here and now that we have decide to give ourselves time, we can work out the kinks

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This, I think was what I imagined our life in the tent would be like . . . unfortunately it wasn’t our reality 😉

I endeavor to keep my blog, if you still fancy keeping up with what we are doing.

Almost two months and still settling

Well here we are! We have been living the tent life, just shy of two months now. It feels as if it has been a lot longer to be honest. When I think back to living in a house, it seems so long ago. I can’t honestly say that I am yet fully settled here. I don’t think I’ve had the time or allowed myself the time to settle. I guess my top priority has been the boys, making sure that they are coping with this major change in their lives, in the way that they live. People will often tell me that they’ll be fine, that kids adapt and adjust faster then us adults and while that is probably true I personally feel that it would be a very bad idea to simply dismiss their feelings and thoughts about our situation. But they are settled nicely now. They are once again reading and drawing and making up stories. I am incredibly happy and grateful about that.

When we lived in a house, the boys would more often then not play minecraft for a couple of hours in the afternoon; sometimes with their friends and cousins, that lived in different places via the internet. Because we homeschool, this small amount of time everyday was a blessing in keeping us all sane. It gave us time to be apart, it gave me time to escape to my bedroom with a coffee and just be. I don’t get that here, we all live in the same small space and there are not many places, if any, that I can escape to get a few minutes reprieve from them and their constant questions about life. By the end of the day I can often feel completely exhausted by them. This is not to say that I’m not enjoying it, enjoying this life or that my passion for schooling the boys has ebbed away. I love that they are around and in my life; I love watching them chase their passions, I love learning the weird and wonderful things they long to know alongside them. I’m honoured to see and share in their success and I am grateful to be able to give them the chance to learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and at their own pace.

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In the last month Sam has also been off and on unwell, so a lot of my focus has been on him and trying to lift as much of the load as possible from settling on his shoulders, I am in more ways then one feeling very thankful that he is on the mend!

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The kitchen area has been getting a lot of work done to it too, I have done a few update post about this but now I think I’ll wait until it’s done and show you all the finished result (it’s looking pretty good) It does mean that every weekend we are busy, there are people around and the place is a work sight, there are screwdrivers next to the chopping board, I’m finding nails in the strangest of places. I am dusting sawdust and bits of wire off of plates and out of mugs. There are chainsaws hanging next to the coats and other bits of odd tools and machinery sit around the dinner table with us at night; but I cannot thank my master builder enough, for giving up his weekends to be here, sometimes leaving well after dinner and completely exhausted, his body sore and temper perhaps a little frayed.

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I have been working alongside the owner of the land that we live on (Mark) on a garden. He has allocated about half an acre of bush, that is mostly Australian gum trees, to the garden. It has become my sanctuary and we have been working hard during the week (when it’s not raining) trying to get, at least a part of it ready for spring planting. I love it down there, I love the physical work of digging and lifting. I love the smell of the freshly dug earth; I love the feel of it under my nails and the fact that I empty it out of boots when I get home.

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The garden. It’s getting there.

Mark has been wonderful with the boys, letting them use his tools and making things for them to keep them occupied, working tirelessly up in tree, one week, to produce a swing, then up in the little clearing just beyond the garden, he made them some monkey bars. They go off and play leaving me some space to breath. I am incredibly grateful.

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The boys on the swing and Joey on the monkey bars.

So while I haven’t quite found my unique routine and daily rhythm out here, I know that it’s not far off. With the rest of the family having found their feet, I know that I can now turn inward and begin to spend some time each day focusing on myself. I already have days where I simply stand under the trees and feel them, feel their spirit here, feel completely in awe of them. I listen to the birds and am beginning to understand, whose call belongs to who – the type of bird, not the exact individual 😉 and it grounds me in ways I’ve longed for, for a long time.

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Frustrations, worries and a little flooring update

Let me just start by saying, I’ve had an incredibly frustrating morning! It sort of spurred me to write this post.

It’s absolutely freezing here, I have been informed from a confidential source, that it’s currently zero degrees in our little slice of paradise! This morning, of course, I have had the worst trouble getting the fire to go, most of wood is wet, due to the total and complete lack of a wood shed, but in general it tends to burn alright once it gets going. Just go already, I am threatening it majorly with tossing it out and buying a brand new fancy one! I’ve had to sneak to my Dads and steal some of his dry wood. Now after numerous attempts at lighting it, I finally get it to go. Whilst there I also stole his data to update my phone and now it’s not working properly! Then I was starving, and couldn’t use my phone to distract me, what else are you going to throw at me Day huh? I’m frustrated as I write this and I’m typing too fast and I find I can’t spell, which makes it worse. It’s 11:28, to early for alcohol?

Okay, I think that’s all out of my system. . .

Over the weekend the professional tradesmen came back and pulled the entire place apart, for a good reason. I got floorboards in the kitchen, check it out!

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No more boots falling through the pallet slats! I also got running water that runs in to the sink, ooo yeah. The kitchen got walls and oh em gee! A freakin window!

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( A freakin window!)

The tent got vacated and the floor in that revamped. Because, here’s what happens when it rains: the clay we put down on top of the poly panels would get so wet and slushy under foot that it sort of felt like walking on a water bed, sounds like it could potentially be fun, but it’s not when you have to permanently live on it. The clay never really dried out like we hoped it would. A part of the problem with that is, that the tent is not actually 6 meters around, though it was meant to be, I think we got cheated a 1/4 of meter or so, but the platform we built for it to sit on is, so there is a gap all the way around that lets the water from the rain in under the tent, thus making the clay slushy. Sam is going around with strips of tarp, making a kind of skirt, not very pretty but practical.

There are now solid bits of plywood under the main walking areas. The fire place also got a little fixing, with extended flue, now there WILL (<- determination) be no more leaks and flooding. I actually think it burns a little better also. When we shut it down it’s lasting a lot longer, not all night still, but definitely a lot better.

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 But today in my stressful state all I can see is the mess left behind, as with any build on any house, there is always a certain level of stress. I just want the end result. Our place currently looks like one of those hoarders places you see on T.V. (shudder) The dinning area is what you can see all tarpaulined up awaiting it’s turn for walls. Oh gosh it looks awful. Please don’t visit us until the summer 😉

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I find that I worry a lot, everything makes me a little anxious. What if this is the rain that makes the tent leak? What if the canvas gets a hole in it? What if the place starts getting damp and mouldy? What if all this makes us sick? What if the kids look back and hate this time in their lives? What if something bad happens and the car get stuck in the mud and I can’t get out? What if we can’t find work this month and can’t pay the bills or afford to buy food? There has been some close, tight times already. What if the fire Sparks and burns the tent down? What if I constantly smell like fire smoke? Because I feel like I do. What if it snows right now? I’ll never get a nice photo with all the crap out front!
Tent life lesson number 4: If like us, you have built a kitchen area out of tin, building paper will be your friend! Get some. The tin roof will condensate, then drip all over you. Also cover up any holes in the tin first otherwise it just drips through and builds up, then when it gets too heavy with water, dumps it and if you happen to be standing under it . . . well you get the picture.

The ultimate tent test – a record weekend of rain.

Well we had a very exciting 72 hours over the weekend just gone! Yes, it’s taken me this long to finally publish this post. It maybe because I’ve been so busy or it maybe because I’ve just been lazy.

I was blown away by the amount of people who got in contact with us, in way or another, to make sure we were O.K. Thank you! I think considering how much rain came down in 48 hours and how some other parts of the country fared, we came out really well.

On the 19th and 20th New Zealand got absolutely drenched in some massive amounts of rain. Flooding and slips affected lots of the country. Here under the mountain where the tent is pitched we got 250 mls in one 12 hour period! That’s a huge amount. Our water tank is now filled to the brim! The river rose and lapped over the bank and the sounds of the boulders being pushed around under the rushing water was loud and impressive, we are lucky to be quite a bit higher then the river so there was never any fear of the river flooding the land.

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The normally peaceful river.

But the rain water still pooled and the drains overflowed to create mini rivers of their own, running down the drive way making it feel like it was going to be washed away. I did get stuck in the driveway on our way out to a homeschooling museum visit about the stars. The drain had risen up over the sides and I couldn’t see where the edge was and in the end I had no choice but to stick my head out in the downpour so I could see, ruined my beautifully done hair. Not really, I finger brushed it, then pulled on a hat, but it was more then a little stressful. Later on in the day when I got home, the entire front part the tent site (which is normally the slushy mud I complain about) was just one giant puddle that came half way up our gumboots but that worst was yet to come . . .

Imagine suspenseful music here.

When we got inside there was also quite a lot of water! What had happened was that, the rain had come down the flue into the fireplace, then out of all the little seams (if you happen to know potbellies, you’ll know they come apart in three or so pieces) and all over the floor, it’s seems though, that the floor is leaning slightly in one direction, which totally saved our arses! Because the water headed for the main door and away from our beds. I ended up with a lot of towels and clothes to wash but at least I didn’t have to figure out how to dry beds (they’re not yet up off the ground, it’s on the ‘list’)

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Sam mopping up all the water.

Once the rain had stopped and the water level had dropped, the next part of the exciting 72 hours set in. I got a bench, with a sink! And I got a gas hob, like a real one from a real kitchen, put into the bench!! I was so excited and so in love with my bench/sink that when I went looking for a pic to put up here to show you guys, I had 7 to choose from, and you know what they all looked pretty much the same 🙂

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The picture on the left is the most annoying way in the world to do the dishes and on the right, is the bench being installed by these professional tradesman. Below is the best way in the world to do dishes (unless you have a dishwasher, then honestly that’s probably the best way)

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That weekend was probably the very first time, since moving into the tent that I actually wanted to be in a house. I wanted to take a long hot shower, then sit under a blanket on a couch and watch mindless T.V. But we made it through, we cleaned up and dried the tent out and it is our home in every way. I love living out here on this land, the beauty of it far out weighs the times when it’s hard.

Tent life lesson number three: Make sure your kid goes poop before it gets dark, I can’t think of much things worse then standing outside of the long drop, in the rain holding the damn lantern.

Two weeks in.

As I sit and write this it’s sunny, like actual sun that hurts my eyes and blue sky! I’d do a happy dance but I’d hate for the universe to mistake it for a rain dance.

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Rain

It’s one of the biggest challenges that I am struggling to deal with. The amount of rain that we are having is insane. We knew that living this close to the mountain would be wet, but still, actually living in it is taking some mighty adjusting.
Emotionally, over the past few weeks since we moved here, I’ve been bouncing all over the place. I have times where I am so happy and content and the reason why we did this is shining like a beacon. I enjoy the evenings when we are all settled and quiet and spending time together, reading or drawing or listening to Sam as he plays the guitar.

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Time to be together, the whole reason we did this.

Times when we are all sitting around the table in our coats and hats, eating and the rain is falling all around us (I can’t help but hope that we will get some snow at some point because I think that it would be just magical) well even at these times I can see the beauty in the rain. We have nights that are so clear and so freezing cold, that we can pretend we are dragons breathing out smoke, and the sky is just amazing. I feel like we can see all the stars there are in the universe and the Milky Way is like a large white smudge in the inky sky. Mornings when the cloud is so low it wraps completely around us like thick fog and the cobwebs stand out like jewels. It’s not raining on these mornings but this wet kind of mist still settles on our coats and on our hair. I love how our beds are always piled with blankets and pillows, none of it matching but it’s so comfortable and warm and it just feels like home should.

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Then, there are times where everything is too much. Where I realise how spoiled by the modern world I have been. How much I have taken for granted, the most basic of things. I can happily plod along for a few days doing dishes in our little purple tub, of boiling kettles of water, of leaning over our makeshift bench that it too short, then a day comes where I feel so fed up with bending over till my back aches. I don’t want to cart water from wherever we’ve managed to collect it, then proceed to spend the next half an hour boiling it because the gas burner takes bloody forever. I want to stamp my foot and for it not to go through the slats in the pallets that serve as our kitchen floor, till my boot is stuck and demand that I have the convenience of running water and damn it while your at it, a sink for it to run into! (Since I began writing this Sam has got us running water! I happy danced, then it rained)

I’ve not ever particularly thought about power usage all that much either. How much we can consume and how it even matters. At the house I would put the dishwasher on and then the washing machine and the dryer or both, then at night the kitchen, bathroom, loo, lounge and all of our bedrooms, so basically the entire house of lights would be blazing away, as well as the T.V, the kids radio and something would definitely be plugged in charging. Now we live off two 100 amp hour batteries that are currently being charged by the generator and everything, everything gets thought about, nothing is left on when it’s not in use.

Then there are the small frustrating things, like not being able to just jump on the Internet, it needs to be connected thought the hotspot on my phone and that bugger is not always reliable! Going to the loo in the middle of the night when it’s cold and wet and I’m in my P.Js. Also it’s really dark out there and I always end up hearing weird noises, then of course my imagination goes wild. There are vampires (and not the sexy kind) and bears in this bush and they are going to attack me on my way back to the tent!

Having to choose between lights or the toaster, because together they take too much power and it freaks the inverter out. But then I get up and watch the sunrise, while drinking a hot coffee. I watch the kids play and they help me cook lunch and dinner and we talk and I listen to their weird little nonsensical ramblings, that show me the quirky and different ways they both see the world. And at night while the boys sleep I curl myself into Sam’s side while the wood crackles in the fire and I feel this great sense of peace come over me and I’m glad that we are here.

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Oh yes and here is tent life lesson number two: if you are using a generator to charge your batteries, don’t leave it for 9 days before charging. Two and a half entire day’s the generator ran for, to fully charge the batteries, the noise drove me absolutely bonkers!