Friday, February 12, 2010

chapter 1: first time parents and suburban survival

Chapter 1:
Jo and I live in Springwood, in the Blue Mountains, N.S.W. We have two kids, three chooks, a vege garden and a two bedroom home which we think is beautiful, sometimes we have to pinch ourselves just to realise that this really is our life. This is our story of how we got here, as just 12 months ago we never thought that owning a home and making ends meet on a single teachers income was possible and even totally comfortable. If you are just starting out in the search for a home, or have a young family, or you just want to learn how to grow your own veges and keep chooks (all without turning into hippies) then you might enjoy reading this blog.

When Jo and I got married 6 years ago, we were cool. We were into cafes, theatre, playing pool at the pub with our friends and hosting the occasional dinner parties...we had reached our socio-cultural apex, at the tender age of 26, when suddenly our first child Noah arrived. After 4 days of labour and an emergency caesar, Noah arrived and our world stopped and so did our sleep. Three days later, whilst Jo was still in recovery I ducked out of the hospital for a coffee and a cigarette, I was so tired I fell asleep on my cigarette and burnt a hole in my forehead, everyone sitting around me got up and left suddenly. It dawned on me there and then that things were going to change, but I had no idea how much so.

Apart from the sleep deprivation we had absolutely no idea how the birth of a child and the loss of an income could change our 'change' bowl! Our Blog is for normal ppl, with no agenda who like meat, drink fashionably cheap wine and want to read about how we evolved from double income, play station obsessed, take-away-eating, laisez-faire, latte swilling late risers couple into a family of four who have their own chooks (Henrietta, Billy Holiday and Charlie), a vege garden, their own home, and a brewery on one teacher's income. P.S We are pretty normal.

Having spent 10 months in my Dad's garage, with our 1 and 1/2 year old, where, if you showered for more than a minute and a half the sewerage would back up and come out the shower drain hole and flood the entire bathroom. but it was o.k. because the glugging sound would give you at least a 30 sec warning before your feet were covered in poo...we were sad about the idea of really.

We had managed to save enough for a rental bond and so in 2007 we moved to the Central Coast, Umina Beach which was an hour and 20 mins drive to Sydney along the freeway to Joe's work. When we first moved in, we couldn't understand why the beach was so beautiful but the rent was so cheap. We made this move (away from our beloved inner-western Sydney suburb of Summerhill) with our nearly 2 year old son because we couldn't afford to live in Sydney anymore. I had stopped working as a highschool teacher when Noah was born so as I could stay at home to care for him and on Joe's income and our living habits we found it impossible to meet the rent for our apartment.

To describe Umina Beach, one could simply stop at 'Beach, Beer and Bogans' (especially frightening on Australia Day)...but that is not entirely fair, whilst the bogans were uneducated they were nice...enough. This said, Umina was where Joe and I learned two invaluable skills: Budgeting and veggie gardening.

We lived in a fibro beach-house with our Italian Femme Fatale 68 year old landlord, Maria, who also lived in  a condo in our backyard. Maria was a grumpy, old Italian woman who shamelessly walked around our yard in a black bathing suit saying "you mow lawn...dis child boy orrr gel?" whilest hanging her size 26 knickers on the clothes line that we were paying rent for. Maria became our impetus to escape the rental market once and for all.

The idea of budgeting was initially as foreign to us as a 'transnuchal ultra sound' is to a first-time mother. It was in Umina Beach, where we were so far away from any of our usual indulgences - good cafes, cinemas, friends, babysitters, take-away etc - that we realised our 'usual indulgences' were quickly becoming unusual.
"Babe, where has all the money gone? The car is out of fuel and I cant afford to get to work" "Ive got 3 dollars worth of coins in my bag, you'll have to use neutral on the downhills!" It was time to start budgeting.

We began to work out all of our monthly expenses. Groceries, fuel, bills, rent and so forth, then subrtacted it from our monthly income. We aimed to save a grand a month. We limited our daily spending to $25 dollars per day, and kept a record of every penny we spent each day. It started working!

Joe became addicted to the idea of saving money and started researching other possible money saving schemes, when one day my husband had a 'brilliant' idea. We sould become self sustainable! Not to save the world or trees or whales, or cut carbon emissions, we would become self-sustainable and save money! (in order to escape the evil size 26, black bathing suit, knicker wearing, Italian landlord that was Maria) and to finally one day own our own home and never have to rent again (up until this point we had collectively rented 9 places).

Chapter 2 - Joe goes crazy and starts a vege garden to cut grocery costs, consequently this blossoms into a beautiful friendship with our 86 year old neighbour David and his wife Nancy who had the most competitive nature, so that vegetable growing took on a whole new level.


  1. Hey guys, I am thoroughly enjoying reading about your journey after stumbling on your blog recently. It's kind of a similar path to what we are on, I've only this winter really begun to commit myself to growing in the name of cutting grocery expenses and seeking to be more self-sustainable... and one day buying our own home for our small family. It's so nice to read about your journey going before us, it gives me more hope for the future, and as you're local to me it's also great to read about other peoples gardening experiences in this area. I'm looking forward to reading more, and I'll join you at the crop and swap in the future when I have something the swap ;)

  2. Hey there Erin, nice to hear from you. We so look forward to meeting you on day at the Crop & Swap. Make sure you come up and introduce yourself! A hot tip that we are going to blog about soon is the bounty of mulberries up for grabs down by the river at penrith. I doubt its a big secret, but we had a great time picking them and froe them to make all sorts of goodies. Loads of fun to do with the kids. Ours turned purple, but we still love them.

    All the very best with your journey. Good luck and we would love to hear from you again some time.