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Unshakable Oily Rag Resolve

While Christchurch has had the shakes lately, it has not shaken the resolve of residents to live off the smell of an oily rag. Here are a few ideas we have received from Cantab's recently.

 Read more Oily Rag articles by Frank and Muriel Newman 

While Christchurch has had the shakes lately, it has not shaken the resolve of residents to live off the smell of an oily rag. Here are a few ideas we have received from Cantab’s recently.

Canny Scot from Christchurch says, “I have found a great use for a discarded wheelie bin with a locking lid: I got my husband to drill 10 holes in a circle around the lid then 5 holes in an inner circle to fit broom handles. Now we have a very tidy garage as all the brooms, mops, hoe, rake, garden canes etc. are all standing in the bin. It has even proved earthquake proof.”

BMD has a number of interesting tips.

  • “For hair conditioner I dilute 25mls cider vinegar with 250mls warm water then rinse off with warm water to leave hair softer.
  • Purchase large packets of bacon slices on special, get large area of glad wrap, lay each slice, cover with gladwrap, and continue, finish with an all over wrap and freeze with date; each comes apart easily as required.
  • Short of blankets? Use sleeping bags opened out, under the bed spread – they’re not seen and you soon get used to the rustle of the nylon!”

M.A. from Hokitika sent in an innovative idea for using baked beans. “Make a yummy toasted sandwich variation… tortilla wrapped baked beans and grated cheese parcels. Looked in the cupboard for something quick and easy the other night and saw baked beans, but felt bad about serving just that…saw the tortillas and well that was it.  The kids LOVED them! Just be sure to wrap edges so you don't have any explosions.  Stick in sandwich press and YUMMO!”

And here’s a nice yarn from Marian about how she grew up living off the smell of an oily rag.

“Having grown up on a back country farm from birth, then later, on a very remote (no road access) high country station I come from a background of "self sufficiency with tenacity".  Owe a lot to my parents, and grandparents for their example, teaching us skills that are sadly being lost by many Kiwis. Literally living on the smell of an oily rag, we had our own diesel generator for power (only when we needed it) and Tilly lamps when the generator played up. Coal range, of course.

There were trout to catch in the nearby lake and river by everyone in the family, as soon as us kids learned how to wield a fishing rod. Rabbits and deer on our doorstep when we felt like a change from merino mutton. My three brothers, my sister and I took it for granted that we could fish, shoot, milk a cow, ride a horse, chop wood, climb mountains, operate a boat, grow fruit and veges, help out with haymaking, shearing, mustering etc.

We were perfectly happy with no shops or "civilization" for miles. Our mail arrived in a large canvas padlocked bag by boat, once or twice a week. Often the phone (party line) would go out, and we would have to follow it over rugged terrain for many miles on horse back, in all kinds of wild weather, to find the problem…like a tree fallen down etc.

I applaud you for running this website… and glad to join your "Down Under" meeting place on the net for like-minded folk!”

Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag by Frank & Muriel Newman is available from all good bookstores or online at If you have some favourite tips, you can share them with others by visiting the oily rag website or writing to Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag, PO Box 984, Whangarei.

*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