Building - Going Up March 2013
  Another month of holidays. Two long weekends meant another high productivity month for us with building projects. I'll try and make it interesting but March was mostly all about building. The first weekend the builders got going on those inside walls.

One the right, the new inside walls with workshop/storeroom opening and doorway and below, an aerial view (not really - just climbed up on top of the brick pile) of the long wall and building up the garage and workshop separator wall. Leno working on the face brick double garage door column and storeroom outer wall.


Inside walls getting higher
Mid afternoon cloudburst not stopping the building

  Tree Report
  While we were driving in I noticed a big tree down near the log fence and while the builders were busy I took a walk to check it out. There were some big thunderstorms during the week and there must have been some strong winds out on the farm.

This was an old dead black wattle. Their root structure isn't that strong when they're alive, so wind can easily blow them over when they die off. Unfortunately when trees this size come down they sometimes damage good trees around them.


  It must have been quite a storm because I found two more trees blown over - both old dead black wattles. As if we needed more firewood! We'll leave them all just where they are for now thanks.

I also took a walk through where the fire got into the forest last June. Some of the eucalyptus trees had survived with just their lower branches damaged but those that had died off completely had over a meter of growth on new eucaluptus shoots. And that in only 9 months.

  A Little Imagination

  Ok, maybe more that a little. In our black wattle forest there are some very old logs laying around. We suspect they are the remains of the previous forest probably burned down completely by a big fire or felled before the present trees grew up again. When the light is right these massive old logs have the most amazing shapes. Here in the late afternoon sunlight is our prehistoric monster graveyard.

  Martie's sister-in-law and her husband had just finished big renovations on their house in Glenvista and had a whole lot of scaffolding they needed to get rid of. What perfect timing. I parted with a few grand and scored big time scaffolding.

So Martie arranged a 3.5 meter trailer for a Friday and our house gardener Banda and I took on the task of getting the scaffolding out to the farm. Maybe two loads, two trips to Heidelberg, may take the whole day. I thought!

We got going fairly early and had no trouble carrying the heavy scaffolding boards down their steep 20 meter driveway and packing them all onto the trailer. It was big stuff and it was heavy stuff. The boards were made of a solid steel frame with 25mm shutterboard plywood inserts and needed two people to carry each one. We filled the trailer with scaffolding boards, leaving the scoffolding frames for the second load.

Then we attempted to get up the littlest hill in front of their house. My poor bakkie just wasn't strong enough. So we reversed back near the house, offloaded half the boards onto the pavement and tried again until we could get going up the hill. The trailer was only a third full but were were on our way to Heidelberg with our first load of scaffolding.

After offloading at the farm Che offered us her bakkie to do the second load. This went a lot better and we managed to almost fill the trailer with the remaining boards and the majority of the frames. Banda helped load and went home. Martie drove out to Heidelberg with me and helped offload.

We managed to get the trailer back at about 20h00, thankfully with no extra charges and a very grateful owner as he had it scheduled to go to Malawi the next day.

First load of frames
We ended the day very tired with enough scaffolding on the farm for the builders the next day. The rest of the scaffolding we would take out bit by bit on the bakkie (leaving just enough space for the builders) whenever we went out to the farm.

Big pile of very heavy scaffolding boards

  Beekeeping Course Completed
  The final day of our beekeeping course. By the end of the course we were certainly not professional beekeepers but do now know enough about the basics to work safely with our little hard working bee friends.

We did a brief revision of the course and worked in Peter's honey house capping some super frames and getting them ready to put into the cenrifugal extractor to extract the honey. We finished off wiring our super frames and fitted foundation sheets. We were all able to take the brood chamber and supers that we made on the course home. And Peter presented each of us with a full super frame of honey from a harvest he had just done. Yummy.

Peter showing us how he gets stray bees out of his honey house
Using Peter's capping knife

  Building - First Window Opening
  Due to us having to head out to the east rand for our beekeeing course the builders had to make their own way out to the farm on the Saturday morning. When we got there just after lunchtime they had erected some of the new scaffolding and were building the storeroom outer wall to top of window level. This was the first window opening so we were very interested to see how the roller course and lintel would be constructed.
Setting up the roller course support ...
... and laying the roller course

  Leno and James were now working on the top of the first level of scaffolding as the building levels were getting rather high. It was interesting to see how the methods of getting the bricks and mortar onto the high scaffolding changed as the helpers had to get the materials up to them.

Once the bricklayers were up on the scaffolding they stayed there. The helpers made sure they had everything they needed up there. Mortar was shovelled up from the wheelbarrow onto the daggaboard on the edge of the scaffolding board and bricks were thrown up. Picture on the left - thrown up and caught at the top two at a time!

Below left the first face brick course being built onto the roller course.

Below right, the lintel is layed inside the face brick course on top of the roller course. Normal brickwork from there on up.



Once the storeroom outer wall was up to floor level for the second storey, Leno and James moved on to getting the garage/workshop wall up to the same height.

While we were finishing off, Martie and Dakota set off to water the plants in the nursery and our acacia trees at the top gate with the water left over in the tank. We would have to fill the tank anyway first thing next morning.


  Building - Another Wall Goes Up
  Below photo on Sunday morning before start of work. The plan for the day was to build the outer storeroom and workshop wall on the other side of the building. It included a window opening and a big door opening.

James making up support frames
Roller courses done and lintels in

End of the day cleanup. New wall complete and looking very neat

  Late afternoon we took a walk up to the foot of the hill to see what impact our building project had on the lanscape. Not too much so far but I'm sure once we have the double storey section up and roofs on, it will be much more noticeable.

  We have ants. Lots of ants. Ants of all different sizes and shapes. Some are really cute and some are really mean and ugly.

And wherever there is loose sand we have families of ant lions. They obviously eat well and we will need to keep them to help us keep the ant populations down.

Attempting to educate the builders to try and preserve the nature we have on the farm is hopeless. All we can do is try and restrict the builders to the building area.


  Front Grass Cutting
  While the builders were busy on the boring stuff we tackled our "front yard" grass which was getting rather high. We first cleared all the sticks and branches and loaded them onto the bakkie. We filled the bakkie!

Then I used the tractor and slasher to cut along the fence into the overgrown corner and under the new dead tree.



Newly mowed area always looks so clean and neat

  Visiting Again
Another eland visit. Very close but behaving themselves and keeping to their side of our fence

  Close Call
  James took off the weekends before and the Human Rights Day long weekend to go back to visit family in Mozambique. This left Leno and his family/team working alone with us for this period.

So bricklaying went a little slower than with James working with us and often at the end of the normal working day there was still mortar left. Leno would work until it was finished which sometimes meant working well into the night. We gave him and his team our camping headlights which allowed them to lay bricks at night!

The big dead tree right next to our fence and new road was slowly rotting away and losing branches. Often the hadedas would sit on the weak branches and when we came along they would "push off" the branches into flight and the branch would break off and fall.

For two weekends it was quite normal for us to leave the site well after 21h00 and one night on our way out a very large branch broke off and with a mighty crash and cloud of dust, landed 2 meters in front of the bakkie!

  The picture above shows the log moved out of the way. Part of it broke the crosspieces of our log fence. If it fell on the bakkie it would have done some serious damage. And I shudder to think if it fell onto the back where all the builders were sitting snuggled under their big blanket.

  Building - House Wall Goes Up
  Sunday morning Leno brought out a small team and began with setting up scaffolding to work on getting the wall that will eventually butt onto the house up to roof height.

He used some of his own scaffolding and some of mine but set at all weird angles. The building was also looking a bit odd with a room structure on the bottom side and now a high wall on the top side but nothing in between.



  Building - Scaffold Setup for Long Wall
  Human Rights Public Holiday and the builders wanted to work. They say they'll rather be out on the farm earning money than at home spending it. We made an early start. James was away and Leno had his kids Leno Jr and Sanele, his half-brother Toni and a helper. We were getting quite familiar with Leno's family - it was extensive with scatterings of many half brothers, in-laws and ex wives - all of which he seemed to support.

He wanted to build the window pillars on the long wall. We planned the positions and widths of the openings while their helper got going on mixing the mortar. They then started setting up their scaffolding and after seeing their first section go up I put a quick halt to operations and took control of erecting the scaffolding. It took us over an hour but when we had finished we had the scaffolding up straight and would enable them to work the entire wall. I think it looked very smart, would save time in the long run and improve on their non existent safety policy considerably.

Check out those straight frames

Scaffolding setup along the entire wall should take us all the way to roof height

By the end of the day we had the window pillars up to top of window level.

  Building - Long Wall Window Openings
  We all took the Friday off for normal work and were back on site Saturday morning early. No scaffolding setup so we could get straight to work on the long wall.

More roller course supports were made and Leno started setting them up and laying the face brick roller course. The long wall had seven window openings so there was a lot of support setup and roller courses to lay.

First support set up and first roller course going on

Leno Jr and Toni packing bricks for supports

Leno and his boys Sanele and Little Leno
Toni and Leno Jr making supports

Martie helping with supports

We worked well into the night and while we were trying to finish off the last batch of mortar I tried my hand at some bricklaying.

I built the little step between the upper and lower garage levels. And as they tied into the front wall I built a section of the front wall to the top garage level as well.

We cleaned up tools and left the site in the dark again.

Two and a half window openings done, four and a half to go

View of the long wall building from top of inside wall scaffolding

  First Snake
  We knew there had to be snakes around but we hadn't seen a live one yet. I'd seen a squashed baby puff adder and a larger unidentified snake (also squashed) on the road and Che has had to kill a rinkals last year and recently a large puff adder under one of her horse water troughs.

We were always careful when lifting anything and follow the basic rule of lifting it away from you.


So it was with great excitement that we investigated a commotion at the brick pile when a snake was spotted by the builders. The builders are very very scared of snakes. In fact they're even very scared of frogs and I have had to rescue many a frog from being "bricked to death". They still can't believe I pick up the frogs and let them go in the forest. Anyway, this little snake was easily identified as a common brown house snake. But the disbelief on the kids faces when I picked it up was priceless! I took it deep into the forest and let it go.

  Building - Garage Door Columns
  First, on the left a quick look at my handiwork of the previous evening. It got Leno's approval (although not the elation I expected) and the little wall was certainly something he could build onto. I'll fill the step with rubble and concrete the top whenever there's a bit of spare concrete around.

Below the construction so far with the long wall just above window height. Next step is to lay in the the lintels and then build up a few more courses of bricks.


Saturday morning was hot and dry. It hadn't rained in over two weeks on the farm, despite continual threatening thunderstorms.

We started off marking the positions of the garage door columns and Leno started building. His mind must have been elsewhere because he put in a few stock bricks where face bricks needed to be placed. I only picked up the mistakes when he had the columns waist high. We tried knocking the incorrect bricks out but that just loosened the whole column structure.

Lintels being placed on window openings
Martie's very scared of heights - that's her limit

  We left the columns hoping they would "bind" as the mortar set (I had my doubts) and Leno moved on to dropping in the lintels over the window openings and getting the wall up to roof height.
  Due to the floor split level and aiming to keep the roof height constant along the entire span of the building, the floor to ceiling height of the bottom section would be half a meter more than the top. I wanted to keep the top section as low as possible but it just wasn't working out. Leno needed at least four courses of brick above the lintels for strength so we realised we had to lift the entire bottom section by another two courses of brick. A lot of extra materials I hadn't calculated into the cost but better to do it properly.

During the afternoon Kevin and Letitia came to visit with their new baby Zoe. It was Zoe's first time out to the farm. Kevin is a horse enthusiast and manages the horses on Che's farm. He's a great guy to have around and has helped us many a time with his practical advice and fixing our tractor when it broke down and showing us how to prime it when we let it run out of diesel.


  The Aloe Garden
    Martie had been collecting plants for her "aloe garden" for a while now. We were first going to make the garden at the front gate but she found a better spot on the side of a very big old burned out tree trunk near the front fence.

While we were building Martie often headed out to the front side and worked on her aloe garden, digging out the grass and planting all the little succulents she had been collecting.

It was coming along very nicely.

  Second Face Brick Delivery
  We had the Easter long weekend coming up and we were running out of face bricks. So on Monday we ordered another 5000 from Brikor. Delivery was for Wednesday morning. It was a quiet work week before the long weekend so I planned to take some time off work and go out to arrange the drop-off. The call came in at 07:00 that they were leaving the yard in Nigel so I dashed out to Heidelberg to open up for them. When I got to the farm there was no sign of them anywhere.

Turns out that a traffic cop had decided to set up at the weighbridge turnoff on this morning of all mornings and direct all the trucks on the old Durban road into the weighbridge station. The Brikor truck was found overweight and they had to send out another truck and transfer some of the bricks to that truck before the authorities would let them go. They made the delivery (on two big trucks!) at around 11h00. They split the load 3000/2000 so it worked out ok for us. We offloaded the 3000 at the garage area and sent the other truck with 2000 bricks to offload at the pumphouse.

I then went through to Jada and bought the wood beams that would support the floor for the upstairs workshop and offloaded them on the farm, sealing them up well in plastic in case it rained.

  Building - Garage Door Columns and Wall

The long weekend was upon us. We decided to put in three days work and all take Easter Monday off.

  We would use the weekend to finish off the garage door wall. But first we had a good look at those pillars. A decision was made to knock them down and rebuild. The mortar wasn't too hard yet so the bricks were able to be cleaned off for re-use. Picture above right shows the remains of the old column and new column well on it's way up.

I decided to put some steel reinforcing into the new columns. I had some rebar left over from the foundations so we put two rods in each column. Picture of the rebar inserts above left.

  And on the right, this is how the garage door columns and wall went up and the lintels placed through the afternoon (don't watch the people - they just jump around all over the place. Watch the columns and walls going up).

Quite an achievement for the day, I think. All the columns were up (with steel reinforcing in them), the lintels layed on the roller course and two courses of face brick layed above them for three single garage doors and a narrow wall.

  A bit of a setback here. Instead of making up new supports we tried to use the supports from the window openings from the long wall. Far too soon to remove them and the roller course fell down while removing the second one. From then on we made new supports.

The builders aren't too concerned with this. They say they'll fix it all up once the window frame is in.

  Building - Long Garage Door Opening
James not scared of heights
The builders needed to do some banking and shopping on the Easter weekend Saturday so we only really got two days of building out of the long weekend.

I made use of the morning to buy the two lengths of square steel tube to make the supports in preparation for building the double garage opening. When we were finished with the steel for supports they would become bricklaying profiles for when we build the house.

Toni and Leno setting up the steel roller course supports

Leno laying the roller course

I also managed to buy all the plumbing materials for the waste drainpipes for the pumphouse and ablution block.


Laying and seating the 5 meter long lintel
  On Sunday we got going early and the plan was to build the double garage doorway opening. The steel supports were cut to size and propped up with some of our spare fence crosspiece logs and it wasn't long before Leno was laying the roller course. This doorway was the longest in the building and it took four guys to lay and seat the lintel.

  We ended the day finishing off the roller course on the one third height inside wall between the top and bottom garage sections.

  More Aloe Garden
  While all the building was going on Martie loaded up a few rocks onto the bakkie and placed them neatly in her aloe garden.

Looks like she also added a few more plants.

Still looking good.

  Pumphouse - Plumbing
  And while the builders were cleaning up for the day we started on the plumbing for the pumphouse/ablution block.

We marked out where the bath, basins and showers would be positioned and cut and glued all the PVC pipes and fittings.

Next weekend we could get down to digging them into the floor and getting the levels right.