Getting Munted and the Principles of Permaculture Pt. 1 – Chunder Road

So what about the much-hyped camping-on-the-farm holiday you ask?  Well I’m glad you did because it was adventure of high renown from start to finish.

First, the disclaimers.  We cheated a little bit over the break.  While the almost entire House of Davidson was staying with us we felt we needed to have some form of transport and particularly if we wanted to head up to the farm for a spot of ‘camping’ – more about that later.

So with the tremendous support of Granny and Grandad we hired a car for a few weeks.  Don’t hate us for our loose commitment!

We always talked about how not owning a car would save us money that we could potentially use to hire one when the need arose.  And it’s true and I’m glad we did.  End of disclaimer.

So.  We ended up hiring the cheapest station wagon we could find – it was little more than a glorified hatchback and there was no way we could fit Aunty Taffy and Brad so our poor couch-surfing Queenslanders had to catch a bus to Blenheim through some of the windiest hill climbs in the whole island – the infamous Hundalees – not-so-affectionately known as the ‘Chundalees’ as poor Aunty Taffy found out.

The rest of us stacked in 4 adults, a bouncing bobbin in her carseat and the bootspace was jam packed, floor to ceiling with two tents, a mattress, bedding and a chilly bin full of food.  Oh and a 5 kg bag of flour.  There was absolutely NO room for the guitar, or the camping oven and table (which were only really for fun anyway seeing as we were camping by a house).  The back windows looked like the car had been vacuum sealed – everything was squished into the corners filling up every available space.  Somehow Elizabeth managed to fold herself in two to get into the back seat with Granny Margaret.

Things were going swimmingly until the wee bear fell asleep at the bottom of the Lewis Pass, which gets rather windy itself, before waking up at the top and vomiting her poor little tum out.  She’s only thrown up in cars twice and both times it was from falling asleep on windy stretches.  She was so good though, as her mother managed to contain most of it somehow (my eyes were firmly on the road) and the car itself survived without a direct hit.  We pulled in at Maruia Springs down the bottom to clean up and get some fresh air.  And become sand-fly bait.

Now Maruia Springs is an interesting place.  I’ve stayed there and camped there.  Pulled in for a cold one and played pool there.  It’s changed over the years from a sort of road house pub with hot pools into a pseudo-Japanese health resort with chalets.  It’s still an incredibly beautiful location and the Japanese-style baths are great.  I’ve always preferred the hot pools at Maruia to Hanmer Springs as the setting was just amazing – they look out onto a mountain river with steep native forest on the other side, it was a bit smaller and quieter and generally less touristy.  Oh how things change.

The first things we notice are what Uncle Puff coined as ‘no-signs’.  Lots of verboten everywhere.  No this, no that.  No, we were not allowed to use the toilets.  The whole entrance has been redesigned – all windows are gone and there’s some sort of design-award-ready trendy wood panelling that makes the whole entrance look intimidating and unwelcome.  You can’t see in and you don’t really know what they’re even offering as most of the signage is dedicated to telling you what they’re NOT offering.  Yikes.  Maybe living in a perpetual cloud of ferociously biting insects has made misanthropes of them all.  We got cleaned up using our own water and towels and got the hell out of Dodge.  Goodbye Maruia Springs.  I miss you.

The rest of the trip was tough.  Hot and tiring and Seraphine was over it.  She’s still not great on these long car journeys.

The flooding that had previously closed the Pass was still evident near Springs Junction with the road down to one lane in places and further up the road we stopped at Maruia Falls to marvel at the swollen river hurling itself over the shelf in an angry tide.  Great stuff!

The sun was definitely on the downward slide as we took the turn-off to St Arnaud and headed for Tophouse.  Once again the journey had taken most of the day and we still weren’t there yet.  But as the golden hour approached and the  trees were thick with cicadas, we saw the farmhouse complete with Aunty Niki and Uncle Ewan waving from the verandah as we rolled up to the gates of… Muntanui!

To be continued…

The Long, Hard Goodbye – Part II

… So now there is an empty space outside our house where the car used to be.

No, the earth hasn’t opened up and swallowed it as has happened elsewhere in Christchurch.

We’ve finally done it.  The last apron string has been cut and the temptation removed.  The Peej is gone.

I hadn’t actually driven her since that fateful day of cheating that seems so long ago.  It has actually been quite easy not to just jump in the car and head off for Indian takeaways these past few months.  Maybe because I forgot to regularly start her and the battery has died.  Oh well.  Just goes to show I’m telling the truth.

Since then we have used a car on a couple of occasions – once when one of our lovely friends went away for a week (most of the time it sat outside our house) and the other day when the gas bottles finally ran out.  At night. As we were cooking.  As they do.  And a lesson for our future selves – hardly anywhere refills gas bottles at night.

But sometime, a little over a week ago, a neigbour from round the corner asked about the car.  A couple more conversations and the next thing I was filling out change of ownership papers and taking my thirty pieces of silver (and some wild pork).  Someone who could do the repair work themselves was going to get a great little car.  She was the Bobbin’s first car and she had the rusks and flapjack crumbs to prove it.  We’ll miss her.

Oh well, we’re up to 4 months of living car free and she’s off to a new life with 14 pig dogs and a hunter.  She should probably start a blog of her own.

Mmmm, wild pork…

The Long, Hard Goodbye

Not sure why I’ve found it so hard to get the car ready to sell.  It wasn’t as if I could drive it anywhere (no WOF) and I was keen to get whatever cash I could for it before it deteriorates any more.  But still, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to do it.

Poor Peej, sitting for 4 months now and looking very forlorn out the front of our house.  I noticed her tyres have started to go down a bit, her hope deflating a little every day.  A couple of Seraphine’s toys still lying in the back even though the child seat is long gone.  The warm, hand-knitted blanket that came with the car still sitting primly across the back seat.  The front console stuffed with receipts and parking coupons.  Two wheels are up on the verge (our street is one of Lyttelton’s classic narrow roads hugging the contour of the hill like the glorified horse track it is) and the grass is trying to grow around her.  She is a sad sight, and starting to look abandoned.

And then someone noticed her…

How much money is this saving us?

Straight up we’re saving the cost of buying a new car, (a new old car that is) but how much are we actually saving in our day to day budget by not running a car?

The AA makes this calculation very easy for everyone. Every year they compile the annual costs of running a full spectrum of cars, from a small petrol shopping trolley to a large diesel guzzling monster. You can access these figures for free if you are an AA member.

We run what the AA refers to as a compact car, (1501cc-2000cc). The AA’s estimate of the annual costs associated with that are below.

Fixed Costs
Annual relicensing $248
Insurance – third party only, no claim $158.63
Warrant of Fitness (biannually) $90
Total fixed costs $496.63
Running Costs
Petrol-litres used per 100km 6.35
Litres used over 14,000km 1039.5
Cost of fuel annually at $1.70 $1,767.15
Cost of oil $55.77
Tyres, cost per year $302.79
Repairs & Maintenance $579.22
Total Running Costs $2,704.93
Total Costs $3,201.56

AA also incorporates the depreciation value and the interest on outlay to purchase into your costs, if your car is less than five years old. According to the AA “a low value, older vehicle will have depreciated about as far as it’s likely to, so the fixed costs will be minimal”. Given that our car is 27 years old, I reckon it’s past the depreciation stage of affairs.

Based on these figures, the cost to run our car is approximately $61.57 per week. This doesn’t factor in parking costs, which can become substantial if you park your car in a city centre every day.

Compare this to the cost of public transport here in Christchurch. It costs Ciaran $21 per week for him to go to work on the bus every day. Assuming we also decide to use the bus as a family both days at the weekend that would cost us an extra $16.80, so $37.80 a week in total. In reality we tend to stay pretty close to home at the weekends, so costs are usually towards the lower end of that spread.

If both Ciaran and I began to work full time again, it might start to make more sense financially, to run a small efficient car and travel to work together. However figures on a spreadsheet don’t take into account the hidden costs of running a car and as we are all becoming increasingly aware, the pollution emitted by cars is a major contributor to the degradation of our environment. I think that now we’ve done some hard thinking about our transport choices, we’d feel morally obliged to buy the most environmentally efficient car we could afford (and there’s nothing like a public forum to make you walk the talk eh?), which means we’ve got some saving to do.

In our current circumstances, ditching the car is going to save us a minimum of $1,225 and a maximum of $2.109 a year, which isn’t to be sneezed at. That extra money is also going to come in very handy later this year when GST and childcare costs go up.

But are we paying for this monetary saving with a far greater outlay in effort and inconvenience? Well so far in my opinion, not so much. Sure some stuff is trickier, but it’s amazing when it comes down to it how many trips we were making were simply unnecessary, and I’m not missing that at all.

We want to talk more here about how convenience and speed have been raised up to be false gods in our society; indeed the title of this blog might give that away a teeny bit. But for now I’ve got to go and drink a cup of Earl Grey and listen to the Southerly gale hurling hail at the windows.