Delivering First Windows July 2013
  Got the call Friday morning early from the aluminium window manufacturers. Our windows were ready.

We were planning to collect the windows in two phases: First the pumphouse windows and then the workshop windows. But obviously this wasn't a very big order for them and they did them all one shot. I was very worried about how we would get them all onto the bakkie so was a little anxious when I arrived at the Alrode factory to collect them.

  We loaded them up carefully and when I left was quite confident they would get to the farm ok. They fitted on the bakkie so perfectly - as if I designed them for the bakkie rather than for the building!

I struggled a little offloading them on my own but working slowly and carefully got them off the bakkie safely and ready for fitting on the weekend.

  Fitting Workshop Windows
  We had a full team comprising James, Leno and two helpers on Saturday to fit windows. First job was to clean up the jointing on the face bricks around the window openings.

James cleaning up brickwork
Fitting the windows - second one in

  Fitting the windows was so easy. We first cut away some of the plastic protection on the outside edges of the window frame and clipped on the neat little aluminium clip attachments, two on each side of the window frame. Then the window was positioned in the opening with wedges on the bottom to get the top of the frame tight up against the roller course. Then we drilled four holes, one through each of the clips into the inside of wall openings, knocked in the quick fix screws and the job was done. It did, however, take us most of the day to fit the six windows in the workshop area.

Simple aluminium
clip attachments
First two windows fitted,
Leno cleaning up brickwork joints for number three

  Once all the windows were fitted we still had some time in the late afternoon to check the fitting of the concrete window sills and fit the first one (picture below).


During their spare time the helpers worked on the foundations. The top corner was now over a meter deep (picture on right).

All windows fitted in the upstairs workshop and downstairs store room areas

  Plastering Window Surrounds
  I just knew I would find a use for them one day!

A few years ago we replaced the fascia boards on our house with thinner and lighter ones as they kept coming loose due to the old wood not being strong enough to hold them. They would make perfect inside window sills. So we cleaned them up, cut them to size (my little table saw battled a bit with them) and Leno plastered them in to finish off the windows inside the workshops.

James took the Sunday off and it was up to Leno and two helpers (who dug foundations in their spare time) to finish off the windows.

Plastering the inside surrounds of the windows was a slow job. Leno spent the whole day managing to finish off only four of them and working well into the night. The picture below was taken when it was dark outside!


  Fighting Dust
  To protect ourselves from the dust I bought some facemasks and goggles. James and Leno appreciated them (although I thought they would have as part of their kit anyway) during their brickwork joint cleanup the previous day. Then I made full use of them when cutting facebricks for the outside window sills. Although not comfortable, together with my trusty old floppy hat I came out of the grinding session still breathing.

  And shoes are just another matter altogether. I've been through three pairs of "farm" shoes since we started out on the farm. It's obvious normal takkies and vellies just can't handle working in the wet cement, kicking over dead tree trunks, getting jammed between rocks, etc.

I notice the builders all wearing those industrial safety boots so I splashed out and invested in a pair. They're amazing. Despite steel toecaps and good leather ankle supports, they are remarkably light and comfortable. Now let's see how long they can last.

  Trees in the Way
  Not having too much to do while Leno was plastering in the workshops, we tackled the trees that were in the way of where we were going to build the house. I'd been putting this job off for a while now but the time had come. So out with the chain saw and down they came. Still got to dig out those stumps, though.

Before ...
... nearly done ...
... all down and cleared


  And what we end up with (sorry, night time photos again) - a big pile of smaller branches and another pile of logs neatly cut up which will now dry out and be ready to join the firewood pile in a few months.

  More Plastering
  The second weekend in July with two helpers and it was just a solid weekend of plastering for the builders. Working the window and opening surrounds just takes so long to get done neatly.

  A Change of Mind
  And while all that plastering was going on down at the workshops, I spent the Saturday chopping away the inner brick layer on the wall in the pumphouse bathroom.

We had decided to build in a small fireplace against the wall next to the basins which I may use for a winter water heating experiment at a later stage and the cement stock bricks won't handle the heat. Once the wall is plastered around the area we will build the little fireplace structure from face bricks and some rock.

  More Plumbing
  I'm into my fourth weekend of plumbing in the pumphouse block now. In the picture below left, the basin section finished and below right, making a start on the bath mixer connections.


  Marking Out the Orchard
  We had decided the orchard area would be in the eastern corner of the property and Martie took a break from the construction site and headed out with the long tape measure (and a can of spray paint?) to make a start on laying out the orchard.

  Some Winter Colour
  Well, not much, but better than nothing. Our little Namaqualand daisy patch at the top gate is in bloom - this time in their correct season - giving a very small bit of colour to the bland winter veld grass scenery. See if you can spot them in the picture below ...

  Fitting Pumphouse Windows
  With not much to do on Sunday afternoon (not much supervision needed for the plastering in the workshops) Martie and I fitted the windows in the pumphouse. Fairly quick and easy job done.

  Four Days of Plastering
  The builders were having problems at their Meyersdal job - the owner let all the workers go and kept just James on, expecting him to do the work of the team. James was having nothing of this and pulled out as well. So now the guys had no weekday jobs so wanted to put in two days a week extra on our job.This would really push progress but I wasn't too keen for them to be there on their own. I like to be there with them to make sure things get done the way I want them done so I took two
  days off work and we pushed on with the plastering. Thursday they managed to finish the double garage section.

  Almost Done Plumbing
  Make this my fifth plumbing weekend! While the plastering was going on in the garages, I made up the copper water pipes to run across the new fireplace wall to the basins and and finished off the bath hot and cold water pipes. Now just need to get the bath fitting properly to get the correct lengths of pipe to the mixer.

  Getting our Money's Worth
  We're not normally out on the farm on weekdays, so on Friday I was amazed to see our municipal workers out in force cleaning up the entire Rensburg Road all the way from Rensburg to the old Durban Road. And that included all 300 meters of our pavement . We had done the major grass cutting so they had only to clean up around the telephone poles, street signs, the trees and along our fence for us with their petrol grass cutters. They also raked all the grass up into little piles.

  That's a lot of sweat they saved us. So again this year I think we got our money's worth for the rates we pay - and being classified as agricultural land our property rates are VERY reasonable.

All tall grass trimmed down
We have noticed the workers tend to linger a little longer
under the shade of the bigger trees

And we're left with lots of neat little piles of grass

  Just Keep on Plastering ...
  On Friday the builders just got on with the plastering. They finished off the long garage wall with all the window openings and the wall that the house will eventually join onto the garage block. They also did the one side (the other side is face brick) of the little single garages and double garage separator wall.

  A Bit More Pumphouse Electrics
  The pumphouse toilet had a concrete ceiling (which will eventually support one of the water tanks) and despite the two little windows, we were expecting it to be a very dark little room.

I've been giving the lighting in the little toilet a lot of thought and the top of the bathroom open cupboard that we built in would be ideal to put the battery and electronics for a small solar lighting system.

The idea was not to spend too much on this single light system but essential to have good lighting in the little room. A small 12 volt solar panel, charging circuit and a small battery with an LED light should do the job.

  There was also a neat little shelf on top of the cupboard we built out of brick, so I spent an hour fitting a top board to the cupboard on which I could put a battery and small charger system for the light system.

Then it was back to grinding. I chased the wall for the electrics from the roof to the shelf, and while I was busy grinding I chased the side of the cupboard wall for a light switch in the toilet as well.

  Then the tricky job of drilling through the wall at the right place to enter the hollow in the ceiling blocks, drilling the hole in the ceiling/cement block and getting a pull wire through. A good Friday afternoon challenge!

  And More Plastering ...
  Saturday and Leno and James just continued plastering.

They were on the final stretch - the long garage door wall - with lots of edge finishing which takes so much time. As Leno always says: "If you want a good job you must have patience".

It did give me lots of time to gather my thoughts and ideas and get planning on the next steps.

  Roof Truss Nightmares
  And the next big step was the garage block roof trusses.

I layed out the truss spacing and room dimensions and sent it off to three truss manufacturers for quotations. Horror of horrors is what these guys came up with!

They all seem to be in a big "make them up as cheap as possible" war and in order to keep costs minimal they use minimal material and rely on high tech truss structures for strength. And if the computer says it can't be done, then it just can't be done!

  My first problem with their designs is that they all want to lift the low end of the truss to around 40cm, which decreases the roof pitch substantially. I would like to have the top and bottom beams come together on the supporting wall. Going higher on the peak is just not an option because of the upstairs window positioning.

Secondly, I've got more old fashioned ideas on trusses and I'd like to see some substantial wood showing on the overhangs. I really don't want to make up all those trusses myself by bolting bits of timber together. So, I'm still working on it.

  And Some More Windows
  While on the drawing board (dining room table, actually) I made up the drawing for the next batch of windows to be made up, although they won't be fitted until the trusses are up and the roof sheeting is on.

But I think it's worth mentioning because it's not very often that I'm one step ahead of anything on this project.

  Big Cleanup
  With only a few plaster edgings to finish off and some minor patching up to do, on Sunday morning we decided to start off with a thorough clean up.

All the bricks, scaffolding, planks and rubble was moved out and all the floors swept clean. All the building rubble was being used to build up the driveway area. Hopefully when we're finished we won't need to fill the driveway ramp or have to dump any building rubble. Even though looking clean, everything was still very dusty.

  Planning the Workshop Stairway
  While the cleanup and patching was taking place I grabbed the chalk, spirit level and tape measure and designed the workshop stairway.

Drawing it out on the newly plastered wall seemed to me the best way to do this.

I just didn't realise how much space stairways take. I used the space optimally and designed the stairway to run into the corner with a small landing about halfway up and then to turn 90 degrees to the floor level of the upstairs workshop.

  Double Checking Roof Details
  With chalk and tape measure still at hand I got up the long ladder and double checked all my figures for the garage roofing - and found a nice newly plastered wall to draw on. Everything was pretty much what I had planned. From the top down, the 70mm flashing will be cut into the wall between the face bricks, then 40mm for the IBR sheeting and 50mm for the purlins. Then I'm hoping to use a 152 x 36 timber for the truss top and bottom beams, which leaves us with a 700mm peak. Now just got to find that truss solution. Should be fairly simple:

  Late Afternoon Walk Moonrise
  We also managed to find time late in the afternoon to take the dogs out for a walk to the now dry dam. Some of the black wattle trees over there were in full bloom, adding a bit of yellow to the winter drab. And then the almost full moon came up over the hill to add to the scene.

  Plastering all Done
  At last. All the plastering finished. Below left the little corner of the separator wall done and below right the workshop opening edges done. The sunset through the trees is a bonus.

  The House Basement

  I had been trying to arrange the hire of a TLB machine for two weeks. As the garage plastering was finished and we didn't have the roof trusses ready, we had two choices for the last weekend of July. We could either start plastering the pumphouse bathroom or make a serious start on the house foundations.

But before we could do too much on the foundations we would need to dig the hole for the basement. After trying three TLB hire contacts with no luck, the builders asked what I was prepared to spend on the TLB hire. After another quick negotiation session they decided they would dig the hole.

Now this was a hole 6.5 x 4 meters and needed to be 3 meters deep. And with not having any rain for about 5 months, that ground was a little dry and hard.

They immediately made a start. It was just dust for the first 30cm. They dug with picks and shovels all day long and by the end of the day were almost halfway there. We emptied about 800 litres of water into the hole to soak overnight and headed off home very tired.

  Tree Stumps had to go
  While the guys were digging the big hole for the basement I did some digging of my own. I tackled the tree stumps in the building area. There were 5 of them. I dug holes around each of them, chopping off any roots growing out from the trunk and used the tractor and big chain to yank them out. This worked fine for four of them.

Number 5 was the biggie. At the end of the day I had dug and chopped through the first layer of roots but I could see there were still many more to go.

  Digging the Big Hole
  With requests the previous afternoon to get going early we picked the builders up well before 07:00 on Sunday and when we got to the farm they headed straight for the hole.

Steady progress was made through the day. They had a good system going working in two man teams. One team would loosen a section with picks, the second team would then step in and shovel the soil out and they would continue to relay, one team working while the other rests, stopping only for short joke breaks and a quick lunch.



Digging the hole was really hard work. Up to a meter deep the digging was hard and it was easy to just throw the soil out. As the hole got deeper the soil got a bit softer but the effort was going into getting the sand out of the hole.

And sand there was a-plenty - it was becoming a real problem as to where to put it all. Our road was closing up fast but we'll just have to spend some time and move it all away when the hole is completed.

  And just check out that soil - perfectly consistent and red all the way down.

At about lunch time we decided to get a few steel stakes together and ran a fishline to check the levels on the top side of the house. Looks like the basement won't be totally under the ground any more. It will have to stick out of the ground about 700mm on the high side of the house. Good news for the diggers - they only have to dig down to 2.5 meters!

During the day I made slow progress on the big number 5 stump. This was arm breaking stuff. Just as you think you're into soil again, the shovel hits the next root. Then it's clearing around it and back to chopping away the root until you hit soft soil again.

After lunchtime we only saw the tops of heads
in the big hole from the garage side
The entire hole produced only these
few rocks and roots

Finishing the month on a "high" again - the digging team with another job well done