No Building First Weekend August 2013
  Leno had tooth problems again and James had obviously had too good a Friday night party so we gave building a miss for the first weekend in August. Not a bad thing as it gave me a chance to gather my thoughts on the house foundations and finish off a few projects that were falling behind and needed to be completed.

On Saturday morning we had a quick breakfast on the farm, then I stripped off the bolts from the tractor's swinging drawbar assembly that kept coming loose when we ripped out tree stumps (after all, it was only designed to pull trailers and things) and headed into town to buy new bolts and collect the reinforced steel bar for the basement foundations. When we got back I fitted the new bolts to the tractor.

Then we knocked in a few pegs and finalised the house floor levels. We would have to step the floor twice, one step around 350mm between the kitchen and lounge and the other about 500mm between the lounge and the bottom bedroom/bathroom.

After lunch we tackled the little black wattle forest that was doing so well growing from between the dead branches of a big dead black wattle that had fallen down many years ago.

Black wattle saplings in the way

Tractor making short work of them
This little forest was growing fast and would eventually be in our way in front of the kitchen so it had to be cleared away. The young black wattle trees are very fast growers - they are now about three meters high after less than two years. They weren't even there when we started out on the farm.

We bolted the big chain around each tree and the tractor ripped them out one by one with ease.

Fixing the chain

  We also cleaned off all the shutter-ply boards and put them back up on the upstairs flooring. Next step up there was to clean up the roof beams and seal and paint them.

  Back to the Pumphouse Bathroom
  Sunday I mixed a wheelbarrow of mortar and headed up to the pumphouse to get that bath installed properly.

I rebuilt the little supporting wall which was a little shaky from us grinding and bashing it to get the bath to fit. Then I built up the corner where the tap mixer was to be mounted and finished off the last few plumbing joints. Also pulled the electrical wire through for the toilet light.

  Busy Heidelberg Wednesday
  While in town on Saturday morning we noticed the local Build-It was having a special on two items we would be needing soon. This was rather big stuff: roll-up garage doors and water tanks and I estimated would need three trips in and out of town with the little bakkie to get them all out to the farm. We decided we would check out their pricing in the week with their competitors and make sure they really were special and rather shoot out one weekday to get them out to the farm.
  Wednesday was the designated day and we headed out early to spend most of the day on "farm business".

First stop was the fourth truss manufacturer near Vosloorus that had originally quoted on my drawings but didn't send me their designs.

I was getting very despondent with truss manufacturers but my last two truss manufacturer visits were getting better and better. The first two I had given up on as their computer programs just would not do old fashioned low pitch trusses. The last two were happy to build to my drawings and assured me with slightly thicker beams and their internal bracing, there would not be any structural problems.

At last I was getting to people who were thinking like me! I gave number four the latest version of my drawings and they set down to requote. I'll then compare quotes and get the manufacturing process going.

Trip #1 - three single roll-up garage doors

Trips #2 & 3 - two 2200 liter water tanks
  Then we headed off to Heidelberg and made the three trips to town to get the garage doors and water tanks out to the farm. Also got some fire beaters (been meaning to get some for a while) as we spotted the first fire on our side of the highway up on the hill. The farmer there seemed to have it under control but it was high fire season and we needed to be ready.

On the way back home we passed by the concrete steps and stairs manufacturer in Meyerton to see what they had in the way of steps for our basement. Wow - what these guys do with precast concrete was amazing. We'll study their brochure and product range and then get some pricing. A busy day.

  Long Weekend Summary
  We had big hopes of catching up some of the building productivity that we lost the prevous weekend, but Friday it rained lightly on and off all morning so the builders weren't too keen on going out to the farm.

And Saturday was a bit of a slow day - the builders just worked on the basement hole - getting everything cleaned out and all the edges straight and square in preparaton for digging of the foundation trenches.

Sunday it was full steam ahead with digging the foundation trenches down in the hole, bending and wiring up the reinforcing steel and then casting the foundation concrete.

  Where on earth do we put it all. Our entrance road had been covered over completely and we could hardly get near the basement big hole. We would use it all eventually - as building sand and filling - but right now it was really getting in the way. But unfortunately it takes a lot of unproductive time to move it around so we're just going to work around it.

  Moving In
  On Sunday we were meteorogically between two cold fronts: One had just passed through bringing us 3.5mm of very welcome dust settling light rain and the next front was due to reach us the next day. Even though the sun was making it's way over to our hemisphere day by day, it was still cold and there was a rather unpleasant gusty wind.

But wait ... We now had an almost finished room with a roof and windows. And a level floor! It didn't take much to get Martie's kitchen moved in.

  And while we're in the kitchen, we discovered our local dairy on the outskirts of Rensburg. We now often pop in there on the way out to the farm for fresh milk, super jumbo eggs cheaper than you'll ever see in the supermarkets and yoghurt to die for.

  Basement Foundations
Digging the foundation trenches

Compacting foundation trences
Looking at the pictures here it may seem like same old, same old, but doing it all 2 meters under the ground does pose a few additional problems.

Firstly, just getting in and out of the hole is a problem on it's own. Then, the hole being "only" 6 x 4 meters and with four guys swinging picks and shovels around, it gets a little crowded.

I also removed all the roller course supports from the feature windows in the pumphouse bathroom and checked window fittings.

  Then on Sunday it was most unpleasant working down there with the wind blowing the dust from the sand piles around the hole onto the workers. And finally getting that heavy compactor in and out of the hole wasn't much fun. But we got good foundations in and we should be ready to do some brickwork next weekend.

Wiring the rebar together
Pouring and spreading concrete
Foundations cast

  Another dash out to the farm on Thursday. First call to collect windows in Alrode, then out to the truss manufacturers in Vosloorus, then drop off the windows at the farm and back home in time to catch up some work.

This is the last of the windows for the garage block and will be installed after the roof is on.

Truss designs are finalised and we should have our garage roof trusses delivered soon.

  Building Basement to Floor Level
  It was a real slow start to the third weekend in August but there was very important work to be done.

It took most of Saturday morning to set up the profiles for the four corners down in the basement hole. We started off by pegging out the top two corners of the house, ensuring that the house front and back walls run perfectly straight on from the garage block walls. Of course this was all done above ground level, so once we had the house corners marked we had to drop a point down into the hole and then get the basement marked out and squared and fitting nicely on the foundation concrete.

  While we were setting up the profiles the helpers were mixing mortar, so when the four basement corner profles were set, the floor level calculated and the building line set on the profiles for first course level, building finally got going.

Building was very slow. Firstly there wasn't much space to work down there as the centre of the hole was piled with sand. Mortar was passed down in a bucket and the bricks were thrown down one by one. As each course of bricks was completed, the outside and inside spaces were filled with sand so that the builders could compact it a bit as they walked on it. This reduced the pile of sand in the middle a little to give more working space. But we would have to get all that sand out before we cast the floor slab.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Feature Window
  At last. The final windows to go into the pumphouse.

James cleaned up the jointing in the surrounding brickwork with the mini grinder and I welded some steel strips onto the supporting pole and we fitted the feature windows.

I was a little worried about how we were going to fasten the window to the corner supporting pole without dismantling the window frame. I devised a simple system of steel strips into which the aluminium frame locks into. A perfect fitting.


  Pumphouse Plastering

Everything out. My workbench, the bath and all the plumbing stuff all got turfed out on the grass for the pumphouse big plastering session on Sunday.

The team worked furiously and managed to finish all the inside walls except the toilet walls and ceiling and all the smaller walls for the basin, shower bench and bath surrounds. Not very big wall areas but there were lots of little corners for the rock wall sections and window surrounds which took up most of the time.

And if working in the basement hole was crowded, it had nothing on plastering in the pumphouse bathroom. A smaller space with the same four guys mixing plaster in wheelbarrows, throwing plaster all over the place and swinging 2 meter straight edges around. There was just no space for spectating!

  Misty Heidelberg
  It wasn't the first time we left home in perfectly clear weather to get to Heidelberg in the mist. There seems to be a mist channel that blankets the whole valley whenever it's cold and there's a bit of extra moisture around.

The last full weekend (only got the Saturday of the next weekend still in August) gave us a lovely mist show on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Mid-morning the mist lifted and we had two really warm late winter days.

View from our driveway log fence over to Che's farm. Johan and Marcell's cottage just visible

  Pumphouse Bathroom Plaster Finishings

Most of the weekend was spent in the pumphouse bathroom finishing off plastering all the little final bits.

Above, the shower bench walls. They will evenutaly have wooden slats across them.

  Above middle is the bath window sill which will eventually be tiled with a traingular board in the corner.

Above right are the walls to support the washbasin board and washbasin cupboard.

And on the right the final fitting of the corner bath. All the packaging plastic and bubble wrap was removed and it filled perfectly. There is (thank goodness) still a thin protective shrinwrap cover on the bath surface to protect it against dirt and dust - it will need to be in place when we tile.

  Working on the Basement Hole and General Cleanup
  We also managed to fit in a bit more work on the basement hole. On Sunday while waiting for plaster to dry before cutting, Leno and his helper moved a pile of sand away from the hole to make space and emptied the hole of all excess sand.

  Ago's compactor was out of action for a while with a gunged up fuel tap so the helpers spent the afternoon compating the basement floor by hand with a stamper. It was not a very big area but still hard work for them. The basement was now ready for waterproofing plastic, reinforced steel mesh and the floor slab. Maybe next week.

Martie and I spent most of the weekend cleaning up the building site around the garage and workshop block. I recovered a reasonable pile of usable stock bricks and another of face bricks (stacked in the foreground of the picture above left). Below Martie raking all the chunks of mortar spills into the foundation trenches. It really looked a lot neater and tidier after we had finished.

  It is amazing to see how the builders keep their shoes clean. James and Leno wear those builders safety boots and when they leave their shoes are often full of cement and dust (sometimes after being ankle deep in concrete) but always when they arrive the next day they are all polished and clean.

The helpers are not that fussy and use anything they can find, often with plastic bags as socks. But I don't think this pair of shoes on the left here will make it through another day.

  And while working on the pumphouse the eland passed leasurely by, very close to our log fence. Although still in very good condition, I think they are really desperate for good grazing - they're just hanging in there for the first rains and some fresh grass and bush growth.

  Pumphouse Window Sills
  To finish off the weekend we mixed a bit of mortar and fitted the remaining window sills to the pumphouse. The feature corner sill needed some fancy cutting to get to fit around the support pole and meet at 45 degrees.

The pumphouse is now almost finished - just some plaster touch-ups and then the floor screed. Next step here is to get out to the shops in the week and finalise choosing of floor and wall tiles and other little finishings. Very Exciting stuff.

  Roof Truss Delivery
Long truck in the driveway - not able to get through our log fence gate to get to the back of the farm

Offloading roof trusses in a nearby clearing

All offloaded - just a big pile of timber
On Thursday afternoon we went out to the truss manufacturers in Vosloorus and guided the delivery truck out to the farm. They had loaded our trusses on their extra long truck.

As far as we can go ...

  So now we finally have our roof trusses - just got to get them around to the back of the farm on the weekend. We could carry them one by one but we're first going to try laying them a few at a time on the top of the bakkie's canopy and driving them slowly through the forest road.

  Basement Floor Slab
  The last Saturday of a busy farm month and the plan was to get the floor slab for the basement finished.

Very basic stuff - we just had to take extra care to extend the plastic over the brick edges to prevent any damp from ever creeping in. We made an early start and finished well before lunchtime with a fair quantity of concrete to spare.

Almost finished pouring concrete
Plastic and reinforcing steel layed down

Big concrete mix

  Second Growing Tunnel Foundation

Leno is an amazing guy. No job is ever too big or too much trouble for him.

We had a fair quantity of concrete left over from the basement floor slab and were thinking of what to do with it. The driveway wasn't near ready for concrete. The only other place we would need concrete was the growing tunnel foundations, but the foundation trenches weren't dug out yet.

No problem for Leno. I helped him put in some pegs and lines and he quickly motivated the helpers to get digging.

And by day end we had the foundations for our second growing tunnel finished.

  Moving Trusses
  While I was braaing our boerewors for lunch Leno and James decided to start carrying the trusses from the front of the farm. Well, I have to give them a ten for enthusiasm. But I'm afraid they get a big fat zero for execution.
  They walked down the forest road to the front of the farm, and loaded with two trusses, decided to take a "short cut" to the back of the farm through the forest! From the construction site we did hear some commotions in the forest and a long while later they emerged with one of the trusses, but about 100 meters away from the garage block.

Turns out they lost their bearings trying to navigate the 6 meter trusses through the trees, abandoned one truss and managed to somehow get through with the other one. They then had to go back in to retrieve the abandoned truss and this time managed to come out of the forest at the garage block. Amazing.

After lunch they moved the rest of the trusses on top of the bakkie's canopy in about five or six trips along the forest road.