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Back Yard Bliss and Bloopers

It goes without saying that oily raggers don't like bureaucrats telling them what they can and can't do in their own back yard.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman

Ashhurst residents made their oily rag views known recently when their local council released a “discussion document” that included proposals that would see the very foundations of an oily rag lifestyle in their lovely locality seismically challenged. The council had proposed bans or restrictions on the keeping of animals – including bees!

It goes without saying that oily raggers don’t like bureaucrats telling them what they can and can’t do in their own back yard. The Mayor back-peddled faster than a mouse on a mono-cycle, saying they were listening to ratepayers, but it does makes one wonder why they were considering such ridiculous restrictions in the first place. It seems to us that their local councillors have probably had too many free lunches to appreciate that many of their ratepayers cut costs by making the most of their own little patch of paradise.

The good news is the media attention has fine tuned the council’s listening skills and it is now less likely that the restrictions will be passed into regulation. The kerfuffle got us thinking about the many things that oily raggers are doing in their own back yards to enjoy the good life without high cost.

The first and most important thing is that they have a garden. Oily raggers do not waste time talking about the price of fruit and vegetables when they could instead use that time to put in a garden or plant some fruit trees.

Kay from Christchurch has as small garden that provides greens all year, even in the winter. “Silver beet (perpetual) if planted mid summer is just huge before the winter stops it growing but before it bolts into seed. The leaves are so big that one leaf feeds one person for greens. And continuous picking lettuce also lasts all winter if planted about mid summer or later. The secret is to plant say a month apart so that both silver beet and continuous picking lettuce are at their best as the first frosts come and they last most of the winter. 4 meters of garden plot feeds two for most greens all winter.”

Dorothy from Whangarei says this. “Why complain about the high price of parsnips, carrots, leeks and silver beet in the supermarket when growing even a few winter vegetables is so easy and much cheaper. One packet of seed or one punnet of seedlings plus the fertiliser is less than one kilo of vegetables on sale.”

Glenn from Wellington has a use for old guttering. “Board up the ends and fill half with sphagnum moss and then soil on top. Plant out with parsley which will grow nicely even over winter. Probably can do little lettuces too.”

Besides the garden there are all sots of animal raising activities. An oily ragger recently told us about his back yard chicken raising activities. He bought some end-of-lay chickens from an egg farmer for a couple of dollars each and built a makeshift enclosure from stuff lying around. His household now has had a continual supply of eggs, a use for their kitchen scraps, and a continual supply of manure for the garden, which means a continual supply of no cost vegetables.

Others raise rabbits which provide liquid manure and pellets for the garden, and meat for the table. Bees can be great fun – they are fascinating, great for gardens and orchards, and the honey is wonderful. Milking goats are suitable too, but do need to be enclosed or tethered as they eat anything and everything – including the washing as we know from experience!

What oily rag activities are you doing in your back yard? Share your comments and tips it with others by visiting the oily rag website or write to Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei. The book Living off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at

* 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 on-line at The book is available from bookstores and online at