Spring Day September 2013
  The first day of September and we were in the grips of hopefully our last serious cold front. The early morning air was freezing, but the day turned out beautiful - perfectly fitting for the first day of spring. It was also Leno's birthday and as we emerged from the forest road he exclaimed "Look that big animal!"

And there stood our waterbuck bull - the closest we had ever seen him. He is a magnificent specimen and with the size of those horns I wouldn't want to get too much closer.

  Building in the Basement
  We were a little behind schedule, hoping to have the basement to roof height with the contrete roof on and the roof fitted on the garage block before the rains started. Thank goodness there were still no signs of rain but with the weather you never can tell.
  We only had Leno and two helpers for the first September Sunday and the plan was to make a start on the basement brickwork.

After a bit of cleaning up of the edges of the newly layed concrete floor, mixing of mortar and passing down bricks, Leno got down to some brick laying.

The basement walls would be three bricks thick. Under ground level the two outer bricks would be cement stock and when ground level was reached the outer layer would be face brick.

Filling the dagga bucket
First bricks going down

Fifth course

  We had just over 1000 very hard and heavy reddish face bricks left over from when we built our front wall at home and had taken them out to the farm about a hundred at a time a while ago and planned to use them for the inside course in the basement.

This inside face brick would not be jointed and should give a bit of a rustic look to the basement. The problem was that we didn't have enough of them for all the inside walls, but we would tackle that problem when we got there.

After seeing the available space eroded by the thick walls we had also made some changes to our original plans of splitting the basement into two rooms. We would now be making it one bigger room but would need to build supporting pillars about a meter in from the one side to support the upstairs walls.

The final stairway plans were also not completed but we'll also tackle that one as we get there.

Progress at the end of the first day of building. The hole is for the basement bottom air breather pipe.

  Basement Face Bricks
  Amazing that after five years we could still get the same brick. After looking at our sample our local brickyard owner pointed us directly to the Corobrik yard. They identified it as their engineering brick and had just under 1000 left in the yard. As their delivery charges to Heidelberg were a little high, we arranged delivery to our house and they were delivered within hours. So now we had 1000 very heavy and dense engineerng bricks to get out to the farm. And in a hurry as we were using up the 1000 that we already had out at the farm at a rapid rate on the basement inside wall.

First load of basement face bricks being offloaded from the bakkie. We loaded one full layer plus four second layer rows - being careful not to overload and to leave some space for the builders to sit.

  Saturday of Mistakes
  A very frustrating Saturday morning.

Firstly I needed to oversee the start of the third and fourth walls down in the basement so Martie went off to Jada's to get the supplies for the weekend. While she was on her way we decided we would need to get the basement stairway in place so the materials list was increased and I phoned the lintels required through to her. Due to the thicker walls in the basement we were also using up our stock bricks quickly so I ordered more stock bricks as well.

Instead of loading all the cement, lintels and door frame onto the bakkie and sending the stock bricks out on their delivery truck (they can normally get 1500 on their truck), they decided to send everything out on their truck. This meant we got 500 less stock bricks than we could have.

  And then they also sent the wrong lintels. We sent the lintels back with their delivery truck and off Martie went to fetch the correct lintels with the bakkie.

Then just before lunchtime, with the walls three courses high, things just didn't look right down there so I decided to go down and check the dimensions and squareness of the basement. As I thought, the corner profile (50mm square profile) had been set incorrectly and the room was 100mm too short on the long wall and 50mm too short on the short wall. There was no way to fix that and the mornings work was knocked down. We set the profile up correctly and started again.

So, lesson number one: Even if the builders look like they know what they're doing, they need to be checked continually. And lesson number two: Check all dimensions and squareness after the first course is down.

Luckily all we lost was time. All the bricks broken down were cleaned and reused all the mortar remixed with more cement and also reused. So at the end of the day we were back to the point we were at lunch time.

Third and fourth walls started

  Slow Progress Down in the Basement
  Sunday morning when we arrived at the farm we got straight down to offloading our second load of bricks and building in the basement. But it was slow going.

Waterproofing around the outside was most important. There wasn't much space outside the brickwork and we realised it would be impossible to drop the waterproofing plastic sheeting in around the structure afterwards.

So every five courses after the brickforce we would drop a 250 micron thick plastic "curtain" down the outside which would overlap the previous one to seal and hopefully waterproof the structure.
Basement work in progress
All cleaned up at day end

But on the side that we were passing down bricks, cement and all the other stuff we need down there, the loose sand was continually falling down into the trench gap. So when it was time to drop the first plastic curtain, we had to spend over an hour cleaning up the trench, having to work behind five courses of brick, so that the plastic would drop right down to the foundation level.

So at the end of the weekend with two bricklayers we had built the other side of the basement wall to almost the same height as the side which Leno had built on his own the previous Sunday! And we were exactly half way to the height we needed to be.

  Garage Roof Truss Check
  While the helpers were cleaning up Leno and James put up one of the garage roof trusses temporarily against the house wall to check that it fitted.

It fitted perfectly with the bottom chord the correct length and resting neatly on the supporting walls on both sides.

It also gave us an idea of how much higher that wall will need to be built to get above the apex of the truss.

  Early Morning Brickwork

The third weekend of September and the basement walls were high enough so as not to allow the basement to flood if it rained. So we were going to give building on the basement a break for a while and before our spring rains arrived we would see if we could get the garage roof trusses up and with a bit of luck, hopefully complete the entire roof.

From the roof truss fitting the previous weekend we realised we needed to build the house wall up a few courses and plaster it so that we wouldn't have to try and finish it off later with the truss in place.

James was off for the weekend again and Leno and his two helpers got going on building and plastering the house wall. In the picture top left, the house wall built and cut back so it will be finished behind the truss.

In the picture middle left, the wall from inside the garage, plastered. This wall is a bit tricky because all brickwork above the roof sheeting will need to be face brick on the garage side.

And while Leno worked on the house wall I took advantage of the mixed mortar and made a start on the basement steps. While building the basement wall I worked with Leno to leave slots open for the lintels which would serve as steps. On the left, the first step lintels in place.

  Setting up the Half-Trusses
  After lunch we began installing the roof trusses, starting with the half-trusses in the workshop. Instead of cutting and chiselling the beams into the walls we opted for the eCo beam hangers.


Leno started off by marking a base line for the trusses and then drilling the holes for the Rawl bolts in the wall. Now the line sure was level, as he demonstrated with the spirit level, but what method he used to get the line position is still a bit of a mystery.

  With the eCo hangers already bolted onto the wall, it wasn't practical to redrill and remount them so I opted for slotting the ends of the beams so that the slots rest on the eCo hanger instead of the entire beam.

I need to watch a lot more carefully when Leno is in action, so that was it for me on the basement stairs and I worked with him on the trusses for the rest of the day. We finished up early but managed to install all the half-trusses and the first two full trusses.


  Roofing Trusses - Flat Out

Sunday morning after breakfast it was everyone up on the supporting walls to get the trusses installed.

It was slow going. The trusses were not easy to handle up there. They were very flexible and wobbly. Each one was passed up, brought upright and then fixed one by one to the top purlin. We also nailed down a bottom support beam to create a box support to keep them upright, and to give us more stuff to stand on.

Each truss had to be measured from the previous one at every nailing point.

Once all the trusses were up and their distances from each other correct at the roof peak, we measured off the purlin distances down the short pitch and nailed down the purlin near the garage door wall, measuring each truss distance again.

The truss sctructure was a little over-engineered with 900mm spacing and 500mm purlin spacing but I prefer to have it on the strong side.


  When all the trusses were upright and I was happy with all the measurements on the short side I left Leno and his helpers to nail the purlins on the short side of the roof.

One of the helpers mixed me some mortar and I continued with the basement steps.

I managed to get the supporting wall up seven courses and get the fourth step in place before it got too dark to see the spirit level.


  Heritage Day Long Weekend
  Having a public holiday on a Tuesday is totally unproductive for business - so we decided to close the business for the Monday (as did many South African businesses) and make a super productive weekend on the farm.

And it would have been if not for the poor quality purlins supplied by our truss manufacturers. This cost us a day but we made good and still managed to complete all the woodwork for the garage roof as well as a lot of other stuff as well.

We also had to contend with winter and summer over the duration of the weekend. On Saturday it was bitterly cold due to another cold front moving through and snow on the mountains in the Cape. Then by Tuesday the temperature was back up in the upper 20's.

On the labour front, James didn't work the previous weekend and we didn't bother with him this weekend either. Leno arranged two helpers (one regular and one newbie) and his kids Leno Jr and Senele joined the team from Sunday onwards. All schools were closed on Monday and Leno reckons it's better for the kids to help him on the farm than to go roaming around the township streets.

  Purlin Problems
  As all the trusses were in place we started off on Saturday morning intending to spend the day nailing on the purlins.

As we broke open the bundles of purlins we were amazed at how each purlin would spring out in a different direction and twist to a different angle. Now, bent purlins we could deal with by straightening them as we nail them onto one truss at a time, bending them straight as we moved along. But twisted purlins, especially when some of them are twisted over 30 degrees, were just not usable.

Purlins branching out at all angles off the end of the roof
  Leno picked out all the usable purlins and nailed them down as best he could on the short side of the roof. He then tried to use some of the others on the long side, but it was hopeless - and time consuming - trying to get them untwisted.

  Growing Tunnel Preparation
  Leno spent the Sunday up on the roof continuing to try and get some more of the purlins on. Enough said!

Martie grabbed hold of Leno Jr and Senele and they loaded all the now dead grass that we cleared away when we began the garage and put it into the first growing tunnel, added some of our old decomposing garden material, covered it all with a bit of sand and then watered it well.

From left: Amer (not sure why he's in the pic), Senele, Martie and Leno Jr

  Back to Bricklaying
Leno building walls up to IBR sheet level
After two very frustrating days of nailing on unworkable purlins, I decided to scrap the majority of the purlins supplied by the truss manufacturers and buy some from Jada's. The ones Shahid supplied for the pumphouse were fairly good.

While I was out Leno started building on an extra two courses of bricks on the walls between the trusses to get the brickwork up to IBR sheeting height.

I managed to get enough purlins to finish the entire roof and replace some of the bad purlins already up on the roof.

  Basement Steps
  Leno spent the rest of Monday building so there was mortar mixed. I nabbed some and did some building on the basement steps. I built the supporting wall and got the steps up to landing level.

  Change of Plan
  We finally made up our minds on how the house stairs will work. We would have a stairwell with steps running halfway to second level height, then a landing where the remaining steps will run 180 degrees to the first steps.

This would mean we would need an extra meter added to house outline and we would have to "steal" another meter from the downstairs bathroom. We would also need to extend the stairwell and bathroom an extra meter out into the driveway which will make getting into the first garage a little tricky but I'm sure we'll manage.

So while Leno was building on the garages with Lucas and I was working on the basement steps, Amer and Senele grabbed pick and shovel and got going on digging the house foundations to the new lines.

The changes didn't pose too much of a problem as the foundations that had already been dug were very shallow and really little more than markings for digging the foundations to full depth.

Senele hard at work
on the house foundations

  New Veld Flowers
  While walking up on the hill slope to take some pictures I noticed a few of these pretty little flowers scattered in one area.

They are tiny - approximately 10mm each - and are always in little bunches of four. There hadn't been any rain yet so they stood out prominently in the dry grass. Must get going on our wild flower identification project soon.

  Very Very Busy Heritage Day Tuesday
  Making up for lost time, Tuesday on the farm was hectic. I have never worked so hard in my life and at the end of the day even the builders were noticably tired. But progress was made everywhere so it was well worth it. And we even found time for a Heritage Day braai lunch break! Below is a brief of the day's activities (and some other stuff):
  First thing Leno and the team finished off the brickwork and then got up on the roof and fixed down the remaining purlins and replaced the worst twisted ones where possible.

Even though it was much quicker working with the new, straighter purlins, it took him most of the morning to finish off up there.

  On the domestic side, a little primitive but functional: Below, oats for breakfast - dishes washed and drying. So great to have some level and plastered working areas.

And on the right, the back end of the water trailer: running water from our tap, new bar of soap on the mudguard "soap holder" and old towel hanging from the "towel rail".

  There was again some mortar left over so I headed down into the basement and finished off the steps up to the landing. From there they will turn 90 degrees left into a little passage with a doorway to the lounge, next to the kitchen.

On the right Lucas and Leno Jr widened the basement trench for the basement breather pipe. The idea is that any warm air in the basement will rise out of a top breather pipe and fresh air will be sucked in the bottom breather pipe to replace it. Should work.

  We bought some kraal manure from the dairy farm down the road and Martie visited the nursery on her morning trip into town. After lunch she headed down the driveway to pretty up the driveway garden. And below, as far as we could get with the house foundation trench.

  Back on the construction site after lunch the builders mixed some plaster and plastered the garage inside walls where Leno built up between the trusses.

Leno's thinking was to throw the plaster and while it was drying he would cut the truss ends and then go back when the plaster had dried a bit and cut and finish the plaster.

Everyone gave a hand and the plastering job was finished quickly.

As the purlins were already on the trusses, we couldn't use the wood saw to cut the beam ends.

  Leno suggested we simply put the wood saw blade onto the grinder. I wasn't too keen (for safety reasons) so I spoke to the guys at Jadas and they said they had a wood saw blade designed specially for the grinder. I bought it and fitted it. I must admit it was a bit scary using it up on the ladder but it cut through the wood like butter! With the truss ends neatened up, the roof structure was really looking good. Another job done.
  The last job of the day was to fit the 50x50mm purlin edge along the open side of the building. I had bought it when we were fitting the pumphouse roofing so it was by now a little weathered and bent.

Everyone was needed up there to push and pull while it was being nailed into place.

Some of the junk purlins dumped in a corner
Fitting the last piece of timber

All woodwork on the roof complete and ready for sheeting

  So now we had a very short week left to try to catch up as much work as we can and get the IBR sheeting ordered and delivered so that we could fit it the next weekend. I have some doubts on getting it out there in time but have to give it a try. And to complete the day, and an amazing long weekend, we were humbled by the most amazing sunset:

  Painting with Carbolineum
  The last weekend of September and as I suspected, we didn't have the IBR roof sheeting in time for the weekend. Now if the rains will just hold off for a few more days we'll still be ok.

Leno spent Saturday morning painting the truss ends and last purlins that protrude from the wall with carbolineum.

Carbolineum is ugly stuff but it's a sure way to keep insects out of the woodwork and preserve the wood against the elements long term.

  Lots of Digging

Looks like giant moles have moved in - big heaps of sand everywhere - lots of digging going on down there

House foundations to join with basement wall
While Leno was painting the woodwork, the helpers finished off digging the house foundation on the driveway side to full depth and all the way up to the basement wall.

After lunch the foundation was compacted (with the manual stamper as I hadn't yet got around to fixing the fuel tap on Ago's compactor) and we spent the afternoon laying up the rebar. As these walls were going to go up two levels, the foundations were wider and we used 12mm steel which took some time to bend around all the corners.

  House Foundations
  Sunday. What a day! Our trusty old bakkie got us all the way to the dairy and then wouldn't start, so Che had to tow us in to the farm.

Leno was intent on getting the house foundations layed. The water tank was full so he was able to make a start on mixing the concrete. The rest of the day was spent coordinating with Che to borrow her bakkie between it's normal farm duties to shoot into town to get spares for our bakkie and run the tanker up to her farm to refill with water. We managed to finish two thirds of the foundations - and we will need another full day to complete them as there is still some digging to be done.

  And then during the afternoon the meanest cold front moved in with a very strong icy winds, which made working conditions on the building site (cement powder blowing away as it was poured on the mix) and on the bakkie (couldn't even keep the bonnet up safely) very difficult.

So at the end of the day the bakkie still wasn't going - I suspect distributor problems - and Che lent us her car to get home. Very special thanks, Che, for everything.

  Driveway Garden
  Trying to end off the month on a positive note, Martie planted some spare ferns from our home garden on the back edge of the driveway garden.

The extra green really makes a difference and the bright orange of the new rock vygie can be seen from far. She also added a few verbena seedlings, some sweet basil seedlings and a rose scented geranium shrub. The kraal manure seems to be doing the job on the bad soil we started out with and as there was very little frost during the winter, the garden is looking good for our spring season.