Here are some of the many readers' tips we have received recently.

Happy Harry from Whangarei writes: "I was buying nails at Bunnings the other day. I needed 2000 (it was a big handyman job!) so I bought two boxes of 1000 each. The friendly chap at the counter asked if I had looked at the price of buying 3000 instead.

"I hadn't so he went to the aisle to check the price and returned with a box of 3000. The costs was about 10 per cent less than the two 1000 boxes. Not only did it cost 10 per cent less, but I ended up with 50 per cent more nails! I was very grateful for the excellent service."

JB, also from Whangarei, has a number of interesting tips. "Living on a lifestyle block means we are too small for the machinery a 'real' farmer has, but we do need it from time to time. So we have friends who will mulch our gorse with their tractor, and let us use their workshop for carpentry.


"Whenever we get a favour, we make sure we return it though. One friend likes a bottle of our homemade rum; another likes a roast of lamb from our own flock. Many of these people don't have time for the activities we enjoy because they are too busy making money - asset rich, time poor."

And this tip about fire starters, which is very appropriate given the recent cold snap. "The best fire starters we have discovered are our flax bush flower spikes. A friend told us when pruning the flaxes to cut up the flower spikes and store until dry for kindling.

"They are better than any kindling we have ever tried apart from pine cones, which we never have enough of. We also save our grapevine prunings, which are great because they are so thin."

We also harvest flax flower stems - not only do tui feed on the flowers, but we benefit from an endless source of excellent kindling. And once the fire is going, here's a tip about clothes drying. "We have a clothes rack on a pulley above the woodstove so we are heating our house, drying clothes, cooking food and heating hot water all at once."

JB also has this comment. "Looking around our home, I realise most of the furniture is recycled. My husband made the dining table out of planks from his dad, the chairs don't match but I painted them all the same. When my mother-in-law downsized, I painted all the garden furniture she had no need for. The lounge suite, piano, coffee tables were all passed on. We even scored the kitchen bench from someone who was doing up an old house. Friends had concrete laundry tubs lying in long grass and an old chip heater and hot water cylinder in their garage.

"We have found that people doing up houses are reluctant to chuck their old stuff on the tip, so we take things away - including a house-lot of windows from a home being refitted with aluminium frames, which the owner was going to have to pay to dump at the tip."

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PB is already thinking about Christmas. "I bought two inexpensive pillowcases and have just finished embroidering a design on them. With the addition of a bit of lace, I have some pretty, personalised pillow cases for a Christmas present. I did the same with a plain tablecloth, which I found at an op shop, but this time I used fabric paint for the design.

"One does not need to be an artist to do this, just copy or trace a simple picture, and transfer using transfer paper from an art supply store. I start making/buying presents early in the year, so that by Christmas, I have them all already."

*If you have a favourite recipe or oily rag tip that works well for your family, send it to us at, or by writing to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei, and we will relay it to the readers of this column.