Building - Front Upstairs Wall April 2013
  April was a very short month for us on the farm - only four weekends and we lost number three to heavy rains.

Building on the double storey section also slowed the building down a lot due the logistics of getting all the materials up to the second level.

And then there was the scaffolding. On the first Saturday morning the setup (picture above right) of the scaffolding to start the back wall of the double storey took us over 4 hours to erect. Why? Because this was the one section of the building that I couldn't stop the builders in time from throwing sand and grass clumps when they were digging the foundations and there was no even ground to work on!

The main reason for getting this section of scaffolding up was to be able to position the wooden beams to support the upstairs floor. I know the builders normally like to do this after all the brickwork is complete where they have to grind and chisel slots into the brickwork, but I decided against their advice to set the beams into the brickwork at this stage.

  Once the scaffolding was up and the beams roughly positioned, they loaded some bricks onto the scaffolding ready for building and moved over to the front wall where the scaffolding was already in place inside the structure.


We have problems with our wooden beams at our house at the moment where due to expansion and contraction of the wood from summer to winter and as the moisture content varies, the plaster always cracks out around where the beams go into the wall. So here I tried wrapping two layers of waterproofing plastic around the wood where it goes into the wall. The idea would be that one layer would stay attached to the wood and the other will attach to the brick and plaster. I would cut the plastic neatly once the wall was plastered and hopefully this will allow a bit of movement and prevent the plaster breaking out as the wood "breathes".

Once the beams were positioned Leno got busy on the first upstairs wall. This was the front wall of the upstaris workshop where the roof would butt up against just under window sill level.

In the picture above left, Leno on our scaffolding making a start on the wall. A small team of Leno, Toni and an assistant working this weekend as James was away.

Left, Leno's scaffolding mounted on top of our scaffolding to get him up higher. At the end of the Saturday we had the upstairs front wall all the way up to window sill height (picture above).

  Building - Back Upstairs Wall
More bricks going up onto back wall scaffolding
Sunday we were able to make a quick start as all the scaffolding was in place for the building of the back upstairs wall.

Getting materials up took a lot of the time. Bricks had to be thrown up one by one and mortar was moved from level to level - with each transfer process resulting in more waste!

Lino got some cement inside his boot the day before and it went hard overnight. He couldn't dislodge it so he worked up on the scaffolding with one bare foot while his helpers fixed it up in their spare time.

Leno and Toni getting the plastic neat around the beams

Laying the bricks between the beams

Both front and back upstairs walls to window sill height.
We had some mortar left over and the scaffolding was in place
so we made a start on the upstairs side wall

Toes peeking over the wall

Scaffolding not quite reaching
the corner so Leno needing
to lean out a bit to get
the corner bricks in place

At the end of the day the back wall
up to window sill height

  Aloe Garden Eaten
  On our afternoon walk we discovered that the eland had been visiting again and devastated the aloe garden. We didn't think they would go for the succulents but the sour tastes didn't seem to put them off. Hope they all got stomach aches!

  Not Fair

Two thirds of the management team down for afternoon snoozies so it was up to me to keep the builders on pace with laying bricks on the construction site.

  Wednesday Dash
  With the forecast for rain later in the week we took a morning off from work and went out to the farm to get the wood beams under plastic. We cut some plastic sheet to size and stapled them across each pair.

While out there we finished off cutting and glueing the last few PVC pipes and dug the ablution block drains into the floor, ensuring a slight gradient from the one side to the other.


  Building - Upstairs Front Wall Goes Higher

Second Saturday of April and James with us again. The plan was to get the front wall above window height.

That scaffolding was getting very high. On the left, James and Leno building that front wall higher.

Below left, while James lays in the lintels, Leno and his helper set up the scaffolding in preparation for building the side wall higher.

  Our helper for the weekend was amazing. He wore old flip-flops and was able to balance on the thinner scaffolding planks, flip-flops half on, half off the plank as he shovelled the mortar up to the next level. And the entertainment didn't end there. When passing bricks up he would hang onto the scaffolding poles, catch the bricks from the thrower with one hand and then swing his arm up to place them on the board above him for Leno and James on the top level.

Below is what the structure looked like at the end of the day. Now starting to look more like a building. And we underestimate the height of those trees. Most of them are well over 4 storeys (at least 12 meters) high.

  Pumphouse - Concrete Floor at Last (... and Building Upstairs Side Wall)
  On the Sunday we had a big team. James had two helpers to get the upstairs side wall up and Leno planned to get the concrete floor onto the pumphouse with his two helpers. There was enough water in the tanker for the first mortar mix and then Martie headed off to Che's farm to fill it up.

James at full stretch
to set up the corner profile
James and Leno working on the upstairs side wall while we wait
for more water for the pumphouse floor concrete mix

James and his helper carrying on with the side wall while we
lay the concrete floor up at the pumphouse

Plastic and steel down and mixing

Leno pouring the first wheelbarrows of concrete

Getting the stone from the bakkie onto the mix
  While waiting for the water tanker to get back I bricked off the small areas where I didn't want the concrete cast. This was where the fittings for the drains would need to be connected to the PVC pipes.

I then layed out the plastic sheet and steel reinforcing and cut out the holes for the drain connection points.

We already had the bricks, river sand and cement delivered to the pumphouse site the previous month in preparation for this project but we had to get the crusher stone up from the garage building site. We used our bakkie and moved about a cubic meter in two loads. On the first load we forgot to stop the helpers loading in time and were a bit worried about the bakkie's back tyres. Those stones are really heavy and I've never had the bakkie so loaded. But we drove very slowly over the bumpy ground and managed to get the stones to the pumphouse site.

Helping level the concrete

Almost halfway there

All that was left was to mix concrete. Leno and his team made fairly quick work of it and we were finished with the pumphouse floor by mid-afternoon.

Once the concrete floor was done everyone went back to the garage block to help James and his team finish off the side wall brickwork.

We finished late but with the side wall completed. A highly productive weekend.

  Thursday Grass Cutting
  We had a quiet work day on Thursday so midday we loaded up the last of the scaffolding planks and took a ride out to the farm.

Once we had offloaded the equipment I got the tractor started and spent the rest of the afternoon cutting the remaining section of the grass at the back of the farm.

When it was finished it looked like a parkland - all neat and tidy.

  Rainy Weekend - Sunday Morning Walk
  Friday it rained all day and night and Saturday intermittently all day long as well. We had over 100mm of rain over the entire region - that's about 15% of our average annual rainfall in two days!

All the building materials were soaked so there was no chance of any building on Sunday, so we went out for a walk on Che's farm.

First we walked out into the first gorge. The stream was still running strongly.


This stream is run-off from the hills. The water just seeps out of the rocks all over the slopes and collects in and runs off down the little gorge. And there's nothing more refreshing than fresh stream water.

Then we walked across the foot of the hill to the dam. Our building was now very noticable.

The dam had a lot of water in it and the feeder stream was also still running. Unfortunately the dam is not sealed, so all the water seeps away into the ground within a week or two.

  The picture above also shows another interesting feature of the landscape on our side of Che's farm.

You will notice a distict line up the slope of the hill. This is the game fence between Che's farm and the neighbour (also a game farm). On Che's side the cows graze. On the other side of the fence the veld grass is long and lush but on Che's side where the cows graze daily there is just veld scrub. The new green blades of grass get eaten before they get a chance to grow out even a few centimeters.

This works to our advantage for veldfires as there isn't much left there to burn and we are able to put out the fires very easily. But how long the land can sustain the little grass that is left without it ever being able to reseed naturally, we don't know. Only time will tell.

The feeder stream area is very pretty. The water filters through the grass all the way up the gorge and is crystal clear when it runs over the lovely little waterfall where it enters the dam.

The water obviously comes down the gorge in torrents in heavy rainstorms and carries rocks over 30cm in diameter down into the dam.

  There is a large "island" with steep inclines near the entry point of the dam area where the cows can't get to and we came across this family of blacksmith lapwings on it. They must have had a nest somewhere there that they were protecting.

They are extremely territorial and aggressively dive-bomb anyone coming within range of their nesting area. They had poor Dakota ducking their attacks a few times.


  On the way back through the valley we met up with the cow herd grazing away peacefully.

As we passed by their "nursery" the little bull was in a playfull mood and looked like it wanted to play with Dakota. They sniffed at each other but Dakota wasn't into playing with cows. To her cows were there for herding but the little bull was not budging.

After a bit of an entertaining stand-off we moved on and left the little bull to find something else to play with.

  Clearing the Western Corner
View into the corner from the front gate side
View into the corner from along Kallie's border

Last of three loads of eucaluptus branches cleared from the corner      
We decided to spend the rest of the day clearing out the overgrown western corner of the property.

We had been putting off this horrible job but it had to be done before the fire season started. We hadn't cleaned up that section last year and some the eucalyptus trees we had cut down the year before that had sprouted to over two meters tall.

  Chopping down the new growth was quite easy and we cleared some overhanging branches from the bigger trees so that we could easily walk along the fence from both directions to the corner.

The job went very well and by late afternoon we had removed three bakkie loads full of branches from the corner area. Those eucalyptus oils from the new growth smell so nice. And they are so strong that the smell stays on your hands for a few days no matter how well you wash them.

  New Discoveries
  There are still many areas in the forest that we haven't explored and while clearing the western corner we came across this little area. During heavy downpours this is probably a little waterfall. Here still very damp after the heavy rains from the previous few days.

  Higher and Higher
  It was the last weekend of the month and having rested the previous weekend, the builders were ready to go full steam again. Our upstairs workshop walls were all at almost full height and due to the bottom corner floor being built up over half a meter out of the ground, were very high. Here the builders are finishing off the back wall before starting the last side wall.

  Never Had It So Good
  I don't think our builders have ever had it so good on any of their other jobs.

They get picked up from their front door every morning they work for us and get dropped back there again in the afternoon (ok, sometimes rather late at night). Unfortunately they do have to bear the cold ride on the back of the bakkie but Martie provides a carpet for them to sit on and a warm blanket for them to snuggle under. We were also getting our old canopy fixed for them.

Then there's the two star breakfasts. After they've prepared the site and just before they get going on bricklaying or concrete work, Martie serves breakfast. Here Martie has made us french toast with tomato sauce and coffee.

During the morning Martie usually heads out to town to get boerewors or hamburger patties and rolls for lunch and gets them their cooldrinks and airtime. Then we have boerewors rolls or hamburgers served for lunch.

  Last Upstairs Wall
Starting on the last side wall
Last side wall almost up to lintel height

  On Sunday we started on the last upstairs wall. A fairly quick scaffold erection while the mortar was mixed, then the bricks were loaded on the scaffold boards and the building began.

We had the wall finished by late afternoon and then Leno did a few facebrick patchups.

Everyone had to stay still on the scaffolding while Martie tried again to see how high she could get. A new record height set for her

  On the right is the the team loaded up and ready for the trip home.

We took the generator out for the first time in a while in order to use the angle grinder to cut the bricks for the face brick patchups.

And with that we had completed the main brickwork for the garage and workshop block.

We still can hardly believe that we have got so far without any electricity or water. We only had the generator out there this once and we are very grateful to Che for the many fill-ups of water for our portable tanker from her borehole.

Once we have our pumphouse up, hopefully we can get the first solar panels operational for electricity, get a borehole pump operational from the solar panels, store our own water in our own tanks and heat it using solar water heaters. But we've still got a very long way to go.