Oily Rag: How many lattes in your hourly rate?

By Frank, Muriel Newman


Many thanks for all of your letters, emails, texts, tweets, posts, faxes, telegraphic transfers and snail mail tips and titillations in recent weeks. They are always interesting, often amusing and appreciated by others looking at ways to save money. Here are some comments that have captured our attention of late:

Canny Scot from Christchurch has a tip for small section gardeners. "Make use of your fences. I have a 392sq m section which includes a 60m drive but I have managed to grow 56 varieties of edibles this year. Get plastic trellis and attach it to your fences and grow beans, peas, boysenberries, blackberries, cucumbers, snow peas, etc. They don't all need full sun just warm ground temperature."

A Canuck from One Tree Point near Whangarei writes, "Enjoyed this week's sweet treats column in our local newspaper but realised the Canadian thing I do that my Kiwi friends love should be passed on. Toast some bread, spread with butter or margarine while warm, sprinkle and spread soft brown sugar, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Delicious, and washes down well with a milky coffee or hot chocolate."

A reader from Masterton has lots of tips to share from her oily rag lifestyle:

Kitty litter gets expensive and becomes a disposal problem. I now use wood shavings which can be used to help mulch the garden once used. There is no smell with this.

When I do my weekly bread baking I make an extra loaf for my dogs. They love it and it's cheaper than dog biscuits. As the oven cools I put any leftover stale bread in there in slices to give them a crunchy variety also.

I collect wooden pallets (they are free). I have managed to fence off the back third of the section for my chickens and my vegetable patch is fenced to keep out the dogs and chickens. These fences now provide lots of vertical areas for me to grow climbers. I tie them together with old stockings or plastic bindings which make them easy to move. To keep them upright I place spacer pallets at right angles which gives stability as well as creating rooms/spaces in which to grow produce.

I order a truckload of manure at once. At $60 a truckload it's really economical, as opposed to $12 a bag.

To keep making improvements in my oily rag lifestyle I set goals. It might be trying to cut out the grocery shopping once a month. Or saving power so I can afford to attach the wetback. Or filling my woodshed with free wood so I can save $500 by not having to buy it. Or substituting bought tea and milk with herb tea from my garden.

I've worked out the hourly rate I earn compared to a cafe coffee ... in my case it is three quarters of an hour to pay for it. That's the fastest way to convince me not to buy a coffee and cake.

I wash my hair with Sunlight soap. Where it was becoming very coarse and straight with commercial shampoo, it now gleams and is soft to the touch. I no longer need to use conditioner either. So cheap and good.

A friend gave me some basil mint with the caution not to let it spread out of its container. To stop it spreading I trim it weekly and make a batch of basil mint pesto. Basil is a real oily rag plant - so good to have it providing us with such delicious pesto.

This year I experimented with making cider vinegar with windfall apples from the side of the road. It was beautiful cider vinegar and well worth the effort.

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips at www.oilyrag.co.nz.

- Hamilton News

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