The Skills I Learned from my Parents That I Still Use Today

How Old-Fashioned Skills are Helping Me Now

In my previous post, I explained that I am investigating self-sufficiency as a prospect for a sustainable future. We plan to supply most of our own basic needs, including growing our own food. My parents taught me some important skills as I was growing up, most of which I took for granted and have not used in my adult life. As I am heading into my later years, I am realising that those old-fashioned skills are relevant now.

If we are to supply our own food, we will need to be able to preserve food that we have grown ourselves, so that we have a steady supply during the months that our garden isn’t producing. Plants grown in season are more easily grown – you don’t need to provide an artificial environment (such as a green-house or water sprinkling system) to keep them alive. This means you harvest a large quantity at one time. Learning how to preserve some of the crop is essential.

My sister and I in 1977 with our mum – holding a 9 lb trout. Our love of fishing and the outdoors stems from our parents. We always had a boat for fishing on the many lakes around Rotorua, New Zealand

My mother was a down-to-earth, practical and savvy woman. She was a stay-at-home mum of four kids under 5. The skills I learned from her were:

  • Budgeting – she took full advantage of using discount coupons, bought in bulk, never racked up a debt, and seemed to be able to stretch her money so that we never went without;
  • Sewing – mum made all her own clothes. She taught my sister and I to sew and knit. Mum also had a spinning wheel and made her own wool out of sheeps’ fleece;
  • Gardening – my parents were avid gardeners and grew most of our vegetables. They researched alternative growing methods and put them to use through having a greenhouse and hydroponic set-up which could produce out-of-season food in a cold climate. We also learned composting from them. Their green thumb has passed on to the rest of the family and we all enjoy growing our own produce;
  • Cooking – we rarely ate out, and mum cooked all our food. She baked cakes and biscuits, made icecream and other desserts. My dad cooked every Sunday for a house full of guests – he loved to experiment with food and entertain our guests. We all love cooking, and especially love to experiment with new flavours and techniques.
  • Preserving food – My mum used to make chutneys, jam, and preserved fruit. Dad made brawn – preserved meat. These skills are ones I now want to learn as a skill that will be needed for self-sufficiency. I have made pickles and chutneys, but only in small quantities. I am going to learn about bottling food so that it can be stored safely for future use;
  • Smoking food – we have a smoker so we can make smoked fish and meat. I know this has been used successfully to preserve food so we will learn how to do this as well;
  • Fishing – my husband and I both grew up in families that loved fishing. My parents owned a boat and we used to go trout fishing on one of the many fresh water lakes around our city. My husband’s father took him sea fishing and they still enjoy that now on their boat.
  • Health promotion- my mum was into natural therapies throughout her life. She knew every natural remedy known to man! She preferred to promote health by having a healthy diet and supplements. She practiced yoga and meditation as part of her philosophy of self-care.
  • Housekeeping and house maintenance – my parents did all their own cleaning, yard work and maintenance. I learned many skills from them and still struggle to hand those tasks over to anyone else. I prefer to do all my own cleaning, and my husband does everything he can in the garden and around the house. We are only able to hire someone else when we acknowledge that the skill required is outside our limits, or would take us too long to finish. As we get older we are realising our bodies aren’t up to doing hard work and sometimes it’s better to hire someone to do it;
  • Researching – my parents passed on their love of reading. They used to research all different things, and that love has passed on to me. My other hobby was genealogy which I learned from my mother – I was able to use her research as a basis for my own. I have another blog, This Is Who We Are about our family history
My father and his tomatoes – grown in New Zealand during the winter in a greenhouse.

I guess I was like any other teenager and did not really appreciate my parents until I left home and had my own family. My mum passed away when I was 24. I really missed her presence in my life – it was very hard bringing up my sons without my mother to advise and help me. I was lucky that she was such a wonderful parent and I learned so many skills from her as I was growing up. I was able to draw on that knowledge throughout my life. I certainly don’t take it for granted – I really appreciate everything my parents taught me.

My sister working in the hydroponic greenhouse my father set up in the mid-80s. It was the first hydroponic garden in New Zealand and used to attract tourists from all over the world

Many of the skills I learned like preserving food will be necessary as we aim towards self-sufficiency. In the next few years I will be researching different skills in order to be able to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.

10 Skills my Parents Taught Me that I Still Use Today
10 Skills I Learned from my Parents that I still use Today
Continue Reading

You may also like

How to be Self-Sufficient as a Sustainable Future

Investigating Self-sufficiency as a Retirement Goal

My husband and I are in our early 50s so we’re not at the official retirement age and won’t be for over 10 years (67yrs in Australia for those of us born in the mid 60’s). The prospect of working for the next 13 years is daunting for me. I have chronic back pain caused by several back injuries and general wear and tear from over 30 years as a nurse. I’ve already reduced my work hours but the writing is on the wall – I know I won’t be able to work as a nurse for much longer.

I have been looking towards retirement for the last few years. Our current situation is that we have a large mortgage on a big property in a very busy city. It’s a rat-race and we feel like we are just rats in a wheel, chasing our tails – working long hours in jobs that aren’t easy, often not seeing each other for days at a time. Quality time together is limited. Our overheads and cost of living are huge. Living here is not sustainable in the long term, either financially or practically. So we must look at alternatives to our current lifestyle.

We have been considering downsizing as the first obvious choice. Once my older son leaves home and there’s just the two of us, continuing to live in our large house would be silly. It’s not designed so that we could create a self-contained unit to rent out so that’s not an option. So our first step would be to sell it and buy a smaller house on a smaller block – one that is easier to maintain.

We would still have a mortgage, however. To be able to buy a house mortgage-free we will have to sell up and move to a regional area where the cost of housing is much lower. The drawback is that we would probably be too far from medical services to be able to do it. That is why we are looking into becoming self-sufficient.

Being self-sufficient to us would mean being able to provide for most of our needs ourselves. It would mean that we would have to set up a property with energy, water and food supplies so that we didn’t have to rely on outside sources.

How to meet our basic needs

Basic needs for self sufficiency – water, food, energy, shelter.

Here is what we’re considering as our options:

Shelter – a small house on a small block. If we can afford it, a separate dwelling to rent out for income.

Energy – solar power, with a generator for back-up.

Water – rain tanks, with town supply as a back-up

Food – gardens with a variety of food such as vegetables and fruit. Chickens for eggs. A beehive for honey. Any surplus can be sold, or swapped with other gardeners. Any food that we can’t grow ourselves would be bought in bulk from bulk food supplies, or from local producers to inject money back into the economy. We love fishing so we could catch our own fish. I’ll be learning how to make my own preserves, bread, etc. – going back to skills my mother had like bottling fruit, making jam and sauces and cooking everything from scratch. It’ll be healthier as well as cheaper.

Other Considerations

Waste – Recycling and reusing everything we can. Septic tank for waste. Compost and worm farm to use our garden and food waste up and improve the growing conditions for the soil in our garden. We already have those in our current property.

Community – You need to have a network of people who are willing to share their expertise when you are starting on this type of venture, especially if you’re moving to a new area to set up your self sufficient household. Our future plans include being close to my brother so that we have support and can help each other. Getting involved with the local community is also important – being self-sufficient doesn’t mean isolating yourself behind a wall. Just the opposite – you need to be connected to the community in which you live. We’re no doomsday preppers!

Suitable property – My brother has been researching self-sufficiency for over 30 years and much of his knowledge stems from our parents. They researched much of this in their life-time, incorporating vast knowledge of using your property to provide most of the food you will need. They were avid gardeners and often experimented with alternative growing techniques – the first hydroponic system in New Zealand was set up by my father. I’m lucky to have this knowledge base to assist me.

He has stressed the importance of choosing land that is rich and fertile and slopes or faces North. We currently live in an area where the soil is very sandy and doesn’t hold water or nutrients which poses a huge problem for growing plants. We’ve dealt with this by having raised garden beds and containers, and choosing the right type of plants for our climate.

Our raised garden beds

Town planning / Council Restrictions – we would have to ensure that the property we buy is in a Council area that allows us to use tank water, keep chickens etc. Most Councils have restrictions on keeping animals, dwelling size and use of the dwelling for commercial purposes, for example.

The Benefits of Becoming Self-sufficient

Self-sufficiency makes a lot of sense to me, both financially and as a way of being more environmentally friendly and reducing our footprint globally. It comes as no surprise that it’s a cheaper lifestyle and it appeals to me to not have to pay large energy bills and rely on the government to supply our every need.

The initial costs will be the house and land, solar system, water tank, gardens, and septic tank. If we purchase a dwelling that has the basics, we can supply the rest initially or over time.

Comparing ourselves to our parents, my husband and I will probably have at least 30 years of retirement because most of our predecessors lived to at least 80. Our superannuation will not stretch that far and the Government pension will not be enough to live comfortably on, so reducing our cost of living is essential. Providing most of our own needs will save money in the long run, even if the initial set-up costs are high.

I’d love to hear other ideas that my readers may have for self-sufficiency or reducing their living costs. Please feel free to comment.

Our goals for retirement include being as self-sufficient as possible in order to create a sustainable lifestyle
Continue Reading

You may also like

How to Make the Most of Your Staycation

It’s not surprising that more people are choosing to stay home when they have a holiday. Termed a Staycation, it’s a nickname for just that – staying at home instead of traveling. The latest coronavirus outbreak in China has given everyone the spooks, but over the years there have been multiple reasons to stay at home rather than travel, such as terrorism, natural disasters, plane crashes, outbreaks of gastro on cruise ships to name but a few. Other reasons may be ill health, economic or commitments at home.

My husband and I try to make the most of our annual leave and travel either overseas or within Australia. Our time off is precious to us because we both work odd hours and can go days at a time where we barely see each other. He has to go away for work sometimes, and I do shift work.

I am currently on annual leave for 2 weeks, and my husband only has one of those weeks off so I find myself with some time to myself. So that I don’t waste this time, I’ve compiled a list of tasks to do. It’s a chance to do things uninterrupted. I thought I’d share some ideas that other people may find helpful, to make the most of their Staycation.

  • Get on top of chores e.g. spring cleaning, yard work, gardening
  • Make appointments to the Dentist, Optometrist, skin clinic, etc. for your six monthly or yearly checkups.
  • Have coffee or a meal with friends and family you haven’t seen for a while
  • Visit the local art gallery, museum or historical society
  • If your town/city is in a touristy area, be a tourist for a day and go to a theme park or local attraction
  • Invest some time in yourself. Have a day of pampering at a spa, do a course on mindfulness or meditation, get your hair restyled
  • Read a book, do some craft or another hobby that you usually don’t have time to do
  • Cook some meals in batches to freeze for when you’re back at work
  • Rent accommodation or go camping in a nearby area that you wouldn’t usually stay. I often have a weekend away in a unit or house I’ve rented through Airbnb, in a town or suburb within an hour or two of home. That way we can feel as if we’ve been on holiday without the outlay of transport costs. I’m constantly surprised at the difference it makes to have a weekend away without going too far from home – it’s enough to revitalise you.
  • Declutter and sell or give away all the excess “stuff” you have. Your holiday at home might end up making you some extra cash
  • Do a short course to learn a new skill
  • Do any repairs around your property or organise for tradesmen to do work while you’re at home. We’re getting our roof repaired and repainted while I’m on a staycation
  • Rearrange the furniture in one room, redecorate it, add indoor plants or change the soft furnishings. Just giving one room a new look will be uplifting.
  • Plant a herb garden or some vegetable seedlings. If you don’t have a garden, use pot plants. Adding fresh herbs and vegetables to your diet will improve your health and wellbeing
  • See a movie or concert with a friend
  • Take your children or grandchildren to the park or beach. Make the most of your local area and spend quality time with the younger generations
  • Make the most of not having to do anything to a schedule. Sleep in, stay up late, have a rest during the day or exercise every day. You’ll go back to work refreshed and feeling great

You certainly don’t have to go out of your way or clock up a huge credit card bill to enjoy a vacation. Globally, the increased fear of traveling due to disease, natural disasters, terrorism etc., will lead to more people staying home. That doesn’t mean you should feel deprived – make the most of it! I’m such a homebody that I never feel as if I’m missing out by having a staycation.

I’d love to hear about my readers’ ideas for a staycation. Do you usually go away, and if so, are you considering staying at home for your next vacation?

Make the most of your holiday at home
shared at this link-up party https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/why-did-i-32-51-lifethisweek-64-2020/
Shared at this link-up party – life this week, https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/taking-stock-3-27-51-lifethisweek-54-2020/
Continue Reading

You may also like

Just Change One Thing

Many people feel daunted by the prospect of getting healthier because the goal seems so hard to achieve. For me, I wanted to lose 10kg. I thought that goal was going to be impossible to achieve. It came down to breaking a bad habit. The thing I’d noticed that was in common for the slimmest people I knew was that they ate salad for lunch. One of my colleagues brought a massive salad to work – the size was like a family sized amount to me – and she was really slim. My lunch consisted of sandwiches, a large muffin, a full sized yoghurt and some fruit! So I started by eating a large salad at lunchtime instead. That one change meant I swapped a meal consisting of high calories, with one that had healthy vegetables and was only around 150 kcal.

So the start of changing any unhealthy habits, including weight loss, stopping smoking, or reducing alcohol intake, is to start with one thing. My one thing was swapping out my lunch with a healthier option. One of my relatives changed drinking beer with a vodka and soda and started losing weight. To stop smoking, many people stop the habit that they do along with the smoking, for example if they normally drink coffee and have a smoke, they stop drinking coffee and that can help them stop smoking because there isn’t that trigger anymore.

My healthier lunch - a salad and Kombucha.  Swapping my lunch to this one helped me lose a lot of weight.
My lunch nearly every day

New habits can be gained as well. I started walking up the 4 or 5 flights of stairs at work. At the beginning I could barely breathe at the end of it and my heart was racing for the next 15 minutes. Over time I have improved my stamina, to the point that my husband and I could walk up to 19000 steps a day on our recent holiday to Japan, and climb Mt. Mison while we were there.

So if it seems too hard at the beginning, start by just changing one thing – start a new healthy habit by swapping one thing with another. It can lead to other changes and the end goal will become that much easier to achieve.

Small Changes You Can Make Today

Some examples of small changes that you can make today, that will lead to a healthier lifestyle:

  • Take a salad for lunch instead of getting take away food,
  • Walk the stairs at work instead of taking the lift,
  • Have fruit instead of a muffin or cake for morning tea,
  • Eat breakfast instead of waiting to eat until mid morning,
  • Don’t eat after dinner,
  • Eat a snack sized chocolate instead of a full sized bar,
  • Don’t drink soft drinks. Drink water instead.

If you enjoyed this short article, more information is in the following:

All healthy lifestyle articles may be found at this link. Please share and comment if you enjoyed this article.

Continue Reading

You may also like