Butterflies January 2013
Crowded grass blade

I'm sure everyone in Gauteng and surrounds saw them: thousands of little white butterflies.

On the farm they were just everywhere, making their way through and over the forest. Every grass blade had butterflies. Some grass blades had a few on them. They are the brown-veined white butterfly and annually make their "migratory" flight in a north-east direction across the region.

  Lapa Floor Levelling
  Back to the builders. They needed the first two days of January off so I took the opportunity to get some work done on the lapa.

Early January was very hot but it was great working in the shade of the big black wattle tree with the light breeze. We also had a variety of birds serenade us while we worked. I think we have chosen the spot well - it is always pleasant working under the tree. The only problem will be those pesky lttle leaves that fall all year round so I must make sure the floor surface is easy to sweep or wash down.

I decided to use the time to level out the floor so that I could get a better idea of how it would look inside. I got a bit ahead of myself and had to stop levelling the sand because the side rock retainer wall wasn't finished. But it all looked good.


  Eland and the Cows

  We now have the eland passing by quite regularly and it's so interesting to see the interaction when the cows graze with them. Here the eland herd are passing by the cow "nursery", where the cows leave all their calves together and move off elsewhere to graze. The calves aren't totally comfortable with the eland so close (I wouldn't be either with the size of that eland bull!) and go on alert. The adult cows sometimes graze very close to the eland and I've seen a young eland bull give one of the cows a mock kick when it got too close.

  Grass Cutting

  Taking a break from digging soil I hopped on the tractor and started the season's first grass cutting. After cutting I raked it up by hand (must get a wheel rake for the tractor one day), loaded it onto the bakkie and as I had no use for it, took it over to Robert. He dries it, puts it through his hammermill and makes cattle feed. Got some lovely fresh cucumbers and a big bag of green beans in return.

I only cut a small section as there are so many areas in the grass with these beautiful little cleome plants still blooming and we want them to seed properly before we cut.


  Garages and Workshop Block - Brickwork to Floor Level
  The Builders were back onsite for the first weekend in January and raring to go. They only started back on their Meyersdal job after the second week and wanted to work the first two weeks on the farm. I took the first two weeks off as well and we planned to get a full two weeks ahead on this project.

First job was to finish off the garage block outer wall brickwork to floor level.

Last bit of brickwork to floor level of outer walls finished off

  Garages and Workshop Block - Inside Wall Foundations
  They then "quickly" dug the trenches for the garage split level wall and inside wall between the open workshop and storeroom.

The wall between the garages will not be a full wall, just a waist high separator wall where the floor level drops 40cm. It will have a gap on the garage door side for a small step.

The wall between the open workshop and storeroom was a supporting wall for the roof trusses and will be double height as it is the front wall of the upstairs workshop. Extra reinforced steel bar and strong tie-ins to the side walls were required there.

Then the trenches were compacted, the rebar wired together and set into the trenches and finally the concrete cast. We were then ready for brickwork to floor level and then the big job: levelling the whole floor area, keeping in mind we had to dig down into the top corner half a meter.

  Pumphouse - Filling and Compacting

  While the foundation concrete on the garage block was setting the builders headed up to the pumphouse, filled in the floor with the fine stone what was dug out of the ground for the borehole (hence the white dust) and compacted it in readiness for the floor slab.

I then put the pumphouse project on hold until I could lay out the bathroom properly and lay the drain pipes into the floor.

  The Builders Bakkie
  The builders bakkie was a mess. It got them out to the farm from Thokoza every day but they were always getting stuck on the roadside, sometimes mechanical, sometimes engine problems and sometimes just simply run out of petrol. Somehow they always managed to get it going again and get to the farm. And home time always started with a tinkering session battling to get it to start (push start of course - the battery was always flat). This is a rough bunch of characters and on more than one occasion we saw them siphoning out mouthfuls of petrol from the fuel line and spitting it into the carburettor to get the engine into action!

But now the clutch was giving in and it had to be stripped down properly. So they drew on some of their project money and we lost the first Saturday, Sunday and Monday of January while they got their bakkie fixed. Wednesday morning they were back and the plan was to use the bakkie with it's new clutch to move the sand from the corner that needed to be dug away to a storage area where we would use it for building.

  More Lapa Rock Work and Floor Levelling
  While the builders were away I carried on with work on the lapa. I finished the rock wall on the side and filled in the entire front section and then tackled the back section.

This was the hard part and involved a lot of digging. I started by digging into the deepest corner to get a point for levelling and dug the foundation to there as well. The foundations did not need to be too big or deep - just enough for a decent base to build on. But we did put a bit of reinforced steel in just in case.

In the picture above right, getting the level right and below, all the little trenches dug and levelling around the foundations. Top section poles also in place. That pile of sand sure grew as I dug more sand away for levelling.


  Garages and Workshop Block - Floor Levelling and Builders Bakkie Crash
Starting the levelling on the bottom section ...

What needed to be cut away ...
... and levelling completed

... and the guys busy at it
  It was the peak of summer on the Highveld and we had a severe heat wave for a few days. And just the time we choose to do the heaviest work! But the guys came through and got the whole garage and workshop levelled in a day.

Their original plan was to load the sand onto their bakkie to move it away but that didn't happen. The first load was successful and they managed to get the second load loaded. But during offloading, the bakkie jumped the bricks they had put under the wheels (yep, you guessed - it didn't have a handbrake) and trundled off down into the forest where it was stopped by a big tree. That bent the fender and wrecked the radiator. The rest of the sand was moved with wheelbarrows.

They managed to fit another radiator and bent the fender out of the way of all the mechnical bits and drive it back to Leno's house but even they admitted the repair wasn't good enough for the regular farm trip. Without transport they were sunk. We discussed the situation and decided the best would be for us to pick them up in the mornings from Leno's house in Zonkizizwe and drop them off back there after work. It was not much of an inconvenience to us as it was on our way between our house and the farm. In fact it was a more direct path taking a shortcut through the township, which was a little scary at first but something we got used to very quickly.

  In fact we got so comfortable with the situation that Martie started doing her early morning shopping for milk and bread at the spaza shop next to Leno's house.

It did mean we had to get out the farm early to get them going and then head into Heidelberg to arrange supplies where up till then we would do that on our way in to the farm. The situation looked to be short term as Leno did have a Mazda bakkie that he was busy getting fixed up and they would also get their old trusty Toyota repaired.


  Garages and Workshop Block - Preparing for Floor Slab

  This job was going to be done properly and although I was advised that plastic and steel reinforcing wasn't really necessary, I decided to put it in anyway.

The builders did a fairly good job of laying everything down neatly in preparation for casting the concrete.

Picture on the right shows James finishing off laying the steel. Trusty water trailer at the ready for many more loads of water for the concrete and the crashed builders bakkie still with it's nose in the forest.

Plastic and reinforcing steel layed on and ready for concrete

  Garages and Workshop Block - Casting the Floor Slab
Jada had their big tipper running
all day for the amounts of
material we needed here

My estimated calculations showed we would use as much concrete on the floor slab as what we put into the foundations. Turned out we used more!

It was a big area (150 sq meters) and one brick (7cm) deep over that area works out to a lot of concrete - over 10 cu meters.

Bag after bag of cement and truckload after truckload of stone and river sand went into that floor.

Pouring the first wheelbarrows of concrete for the garage block

James ankle deep levelling concrete

James spreading concrete (and yes, that is Martie's garden rake!)
Top section of garage floor prepared and ready for pouring

Dropping load of river sand directly onto mix area

Quickly spreading cement onto sand. Tipper waiting to drop stone

Dropping the stone onto the mixing area. Next, add water and mix!

First wheelbarrows of concrete going onto top garage area
  The builders worked tirelessly mixing, pouring, spreading and levelling. While they were busy pouring I had a go at the levelling - very hard on the back and arms stretching out to pull the concrete level with the straight edge. Luckily James could step in and fix up.

The first mix for the workshop and store room was done on the middle section (double garage) floor so it was closer to the pouring location. They then mixed at the normal mix area for the middle section (double garage) area. Then we were able to save sand/stone moving time by good coordination in getting the sand and stone tipped on the mix area to finish off the top (three single garage) area.

Jada's delivery team were fantastic and played a big part in getting this operation done smoothly and efficiently. Thank you Shahid.

And as always, when the camera comes out, there's always one of the team that goes into clown mode.

By the end of the day we had the entire floor cast, despite the constant threatening thunderstorms all afternoon. We had been very lucky with the weather - after all, we were in the peak of our rain season.

The delivery team clown

  First Growing Tunnel Foundation
  We had just enough concrete left over to finish off the foundations for our first of three growing tunnels.

I had already knocked the steel poles into the ground and levelled them so that they could be cast into the concrete. The PVC conduit will slip over the poles to make the loops for the plastic covering. Not too sure how we're going to seal off the sides yet but working on some ideas.


  Beekeeping Course
  With January being such a busy month we still managed to sneak a Saturday morning off for our beekeeping course.

Our lecture was on bee stings and bee poison and bee deseases. We also covered keeping proper records of hive performance and honey quality, safe transportation of hives, best apiary sites and the beekeeper calendar.

We then nailed together our super boxes and headed off to Crystal Park Cemetry to see if we could crop off some honey from Peter's hives.

Super frame full of honey

Queen cells on a brood frame
Knocking up supers

Removing supers full of honey

  Nursery Gate
  When we got back to the farm after our beekeeing course we found evidence of an intruder in our nursery.

We hadn't made a gate yet and just put sticks across the entrance. Well, our clever little duiker found he could step in between the sticks and made a meal of Martie's pumpkin plants. Again he left his footprints so we knew exactly who the culprit was. Time for the gate!

We picked a few thick sticks from the forest, selected some nails from the toolbox, cut off a bit of diamond mesh from the roll and within an hour we had a gate. We just used some wire loops for hinges and another bit of wire loop as a lock. Should have done that long ago.

Now our nursery is secure we can start planting a few of the hardier vegetables. We can't get too carried away because we can only water the plants on weekends and sometimes when we can make it out to the farm during the week.


Pumpkin plants before ...
... and after being eaten by the duiker

  Cutting More Grass and Baling

Did some more grass cutting one late afternoon until it was dark and arranged for Kallie to rake and bale it with his square baler. We gave the bales to him. He will store them in his shed and use them to feed his cattle during the winter.

We got twelve bales from two hours cutting
Kallie's square baler

  Odds and Ends

Over the Christmas holidays we put up a fly trap near our campsite. It took a week to get going and then started attracting flies in a big way. Got quite a collection - they will go onto our compost heap. Also set up the aviary temporarily in the forest.

  What the ....
  Saturday morning of the third weekend in January was rainy so the builders didn't want to come out. If they come out they want to be able to get a full days work in.

When we got out there we saw the eland had been through the farm. We notice they seem to munch the tops off the green weeds but what on earth they did on our smoothed out pumphouse floor we just couldn't figure out.

It looked like they had their eland dance concert on it!

  Wet Weekend Wildflower Walk

  The rest of the weekend between downpours we cleaned up the building site and on Sunday morning we took time off and went for a long walk. After the few days of intermittent rain the wild flowers were again in bloom.
Wild mushroom

  First Growing Tunnel Brickwork
  The builders were back for the last weekend in January and they used it to catch up on smaller projects that needed to be done.

First was to build a small brick retaining wall around the growing tunnel on the foundation we had layed.

I will eventually clad this around the outside with rock.


  Lapa Foundations and Brickwork
  Sunday morning we poured the concrete for the remaining lapa foundations and aligned and secured the log poles into them. Then in the afternoon we did all the brickwork for the server and retaining walls.

Lapa from the front - rock walls looking so good

  January Achievements

Being able to work on the farm every day for half the month allowed us to really get a lot done.

We had the lapa almost levelled, all the foundations done and brickwork on retainer walls and server complete. Lots of rock building and the floor still to be done.

  Foundations for the garage block were finished to floor level and we were ready to start building. All levels worked out well and we had enough sand left over from the foundations and digging in the top corner to build the entire structure.

  Our first growing tunnel was levelled, we had the retainer wall built and the steel support poles were in place for the PVC pipes for the hoops.

Outer rock cladding of the walls still to be done and we could start conditioning soil for growing when we get a chance.