New Years Day Visitor January 2014
  On her way back from town Martie came across this little guy in the middle of the road. She had to stop the traffic to save it from being certain road kill and brought it back to the farm with her.

I am so surprised and very pleased that there are still chameleons in the area. And this chappie looked exceptionally healthy.

We let him loose on our "dining room" table in the workshop and he immediately made himself at home and started darting flies. The perfect natural fly eradication solution!

  To make him feel more at home Martie went out and broke off a branch from one of the black wattle trees and planted in a container. We put him on there for a while and he immediately changed colour. He went all spotted to match the foliage perfectly.

After lunch we went out to work with the builders and when we got back to the workshop later in the afternoon he had disappeared. I hope he will make his permanent home in our forest.

  Back to Brickwork
  We had a lovely relaxed evening with Johan and Marcel at their campfire to see the new year in and slept over at the farm so that we could get away from the fireworks and party mayhem of the suburbs where we live. Dakota was much more at ease there as she is terrified of fireworks.

The builders wanted to carry on working on New Years Day so I fetched them early in the morning and they got going on the house brickwork.

Leno was keen to get the kitchen wall and the outside wall above the basement to window sill height. I was more interested in getting the inside walls connecting to those walls built at the same time so we compromised. He helped set up the door frames for the laundry and pantry and the profiles for the inside wall and I built the inside wall while he did the outside walls. The system worked well. I worked furiously to quickly catch up my four meters of wall to his wall height and then easily kept up with him through the day (my four meters of wall with two door frame gaps vs his 15 meter wall with a kink and a corner).



At the end of the day we had the ouside and inside walls all up to two courses above window sill height so that we could finalise all the window sizes and positions.

  More Wild Flowers

On Thursday Che passed by on her early morning outride and gave us this huge bunch of wild flowers she came across on the field that they were ploughing up for teff. We put them into our watering can. Some of the stalks still had roots - we'll try and plant them when the flowers die off.

  Holiday Building Last Few Days
  We had been working on the farm almost every day from the 13th of December and this was our last week before going back to our "normal work".

We were planning a big push to get the house brickwork up to window sill height on all the outer and inside walls.

Leno started off on Thursday morning building the walls we started the previous day up to as far as he could comfortably build. In the picture on the left, the window openings for the kitchen, laundry and pantry now clearly defined.

  Fly Protection
  We hadn't had time to put up any fly traps so the flies this year were a bit of a problem.

The few days of rain and now the quick heatwave seemed to have made conditions perfect for them. As soon as Martie started preparing any food they were immediately around to irritate.

Our solution: a mosquito net around our dining table allowed us to at least eat in peace.

When we finally move out to the farm we will need to give this problem a much higher priority.

  House Brickwork - Starting on the Bathroom and Stairwell
  Late morning Leno set up the profiles, put down the dampcourse and started laying down the first few courses of bricks for the bathroom.

But not so fast, Leno. The reason for starting the bathroom down the bottom of the house block where the ceiling will be almost a meter higher than the kitchen, is to help with working out the ceiling levels.

I am thinking of dropping the ceiling on the bottom bathroom and bedroom slightly, making the inside ground floor ceiling levels also "split level".

This will be achievable if I can get the stairwell calculation correct and a step somewhere in the top landing for the second level.

So, I convinced Leno to include the third and fourth walls, which are for the stairway, into this stage of the build. The same deal applied. He helped set up the profiles and I built the smaller walls. I managed to keep up with him and by the end of the day even had the first step built.

  BIG Visit
  Later in the afternoon Che arrived for a short visit with a friend, her two daughters and "son-in-law", her seven little adopted kids, seven dogs varying in sizes from little hairless jobs to great danes and her pony, Applejack.

They had taken the little kids for a swim in the dam on their way over (swimming costumes and gum boots looked so cool) and brought Dave, Janine's partner, to see our construction site.

Janine and Dave are presently in the process of moving up from Balito onto Che's farm as well and will be starting a building project of their own soon.

After snacks and cooldrinks Dave successfully mustered the kids into a line, military style, and off the colourful group marched back over the hill to Che's farm.


  More Walls and Door Frames
  Friday and another day of brick laying. But it's just great to see the big concrete floor areas being neatly enclosed and the room divisions being built up slowly.

We continued with the bathroom and stairwell brickwork and by lunch time Leno's walls were waist high. Unfortunately due to the complexity of building the steps and the walls running each side of them, I was beginning to slow him down too much.

So we decided to set up profiles for our "front door" wall which had a double door frame and the basement entrance door frame incorporated into it and would join the bathroom/stairwell wall to the pantry/laundry/kitchen wall.

We worked together on the door frame positions and getting them perfectly vertical and straight, layed down the dampcourse and Leno began laying bricks.

By the end of the day he had that wall up five courses and I had four steps built.


  Building Site Overview
  With only two days of our holiday building remaining, we have done very well. Above left the view from the top corner of the house. Above right the view from the top of the driveway. Soon we will probably not even be able to see the garage block from the top of the driveway.

Below is a picture of the the entire garage block and house so far, showing the relative size of the house compared to the garage block.


  Saturday Morning Walk
  Martie went out with her sister and her kids for the morning and while the builders were preparing and getting up to speed on the wall they started the day before, I took the dogs for a walk up to the dam.
  I won't bore you with more wild flower photos, but yes, I did take a few. Then when we got to the dam we found that a pair of egyptian geese had settled in there and had hatched six goslings. They quickly herded them together and took them out to the middle of the dam.

On the way back we stopped at the old railway tunnel to take advantage of the shade and the dogs lay down for a while on the cool, moist sand.

We then headed back to the building site and here's a picture from the foot of the hill.


  Building Steps and Adjoining Walls
  Then it was back to work, where Leno was making good progress on the front door wall.

Actually, we're not too sure ourselves at this stage which is the front and which is the back of the house. The driveway will run down the forest side and we'll have a small veranda with wooden double doors as an entrance from the driveway side into the lounge area. The other side of the house will be very open with lots of aluminium sliding doors which will lead out onto a bigger veranda.

Maybe we'll just have two fronts and call the little stable door leading out of the kitchen the back door, although that will be the door you see first when approaching the house coming down the driveway. We're as confused as you are.

I built step number 5 before lunch (slow going as I build all the walls around the steps at the same time) and Leno got his wall up 9 courses and joined it with my little wall that was supporting the steps lintels and the wall on the other side on top of the basement.

  We've got lots of frogs. I'm continually rescuing them from the basement (nice and cool and damp down there) and one night had to stop the car three times and get out and chase them out of our forest road on our way out of the farm.

This holiday period we were really giving Martie's sister Rina's kids the full outdoor experience. First the porcupine episode on their sleepover night and then poor Megan putting her foot into Martie's gumboot before going out on their walk to find a frog in it! Outdoors lesson number one, girls: always shake your boots out thoroughly before putting them on!

The frogs all seem to be the same species. Very cute, but we'll have to get a frog book and identify them some time. We don't have much standing water on the farm (it runs or soaks away very quickly after the rain) so they must be breeding over in the dam or the gorges, both almost a kilometer from our farm.

  More Steps
  After lunch it was much of the same as before lunch. We set up some scaffolding and Leno continued working on the front door wall.

And, you guessed it, I got some more steps built. Two more to be exact - numbers 6 and 7 - and now everything at the same height as Leno's wall (picture on the left).

Below is a picture of the driveway "front" of the house - all the walls to window sill height and underneath of the stairwell visible on the left.


  New Bees
  A few weeks ago we set up a hive to remove a swarm of bees from a hollow tree and elecricity meter box on the pavement outside Rudi and Angie's house out at Sundowner. After closing up all the holes of their old hives we're not sure which swarm we got, but one of them settled into our hive. On Saturday night Jacques sealed up the hive and brought it out to the farm for us.

Bees are amazing. The next morning they had orientated themselves to their new location and when I checked on
  them later in the morning the workers were already returning to the hive heavily laden with bright orange pollen. Not sure where they were getting it from but something in the area was blooming.

We hope they'll prosper on the farm. Thanks Rudi and Angie, you can at last mow your pavement grass, and Jacques for bringing the hive out for us.

  Cleaning Window Sills
  During the morning Martie started cleaning the window sills for the newly installed garage windows.

She had already cleaned up the top three for the windows that had been installed a while ago and had painted the undercoat on the ones in the workshop where we set up our temporary bedroom. But there were many more to go.

These were the window sills we cut from the old fascia board from our house and had to have all the old paint scraped off of them. Hard work!

  Holiday Building Season End
  The first Sunday of January was the last day of our long holiday building season. We were out building for the last 10 days after our Christmas 2-day break and I don't know about Leno and the boys, but I sure needed a rest from building.

Since we started on the 13th December long weekend (just over three weeks ago) we covered the basement, levelled all the house floor areas, cast all the house floor slabs and got half the house brickwork up to window sill level. Whew. Looking back I can hardly believe the progress we have made. But it has been heavy on the finances. And with hardly any income over the holiday period the building materials and labour for the builders has really sapped our reserves.

  Leno started off the day building the front door wall, getting it up to the height of the kitchen and basement height. I built another step (number 8).
  Then we set up profiles and he built the waist height wall that will close off the basement passage from the pantry. It was then on to the wall to close off the basement passage off from the dining room/lounge area.

  Charlie's First Swim
  We were in a mid-summer heat wave (quite normal for our December holiday season) and while the builders were busy with the tedious stuff we took a walk up to the dam.

With the egyptian goose family safety out in the middle of the dam and we set up camp at a narrow section with me on one side and Martie on the other to see how Charlie would take to the water.

Dakota was a fantastic swimmer and would even "dive" on command, so she was a great help in getting Charlie into the water. And once wet, Charlie had a ball.

After a few encouragements she would also dive (actually more like a pogo-jump) into the water and swim across between me and Martie. And it cooled them down (and us, with all their shaking every time they got out) wonderfully.

  Getting Some Grass Cut
  My highlight of the weekend: getting the old tractor going and getting some grass cut. With good, regular summer rains this year the grass has grown very high. I made a start and cut the orchard area and top section about 10 meters along the log fence. This year we plan to borrow Kevin's wheel rake and learn to rake the grass into lines with the tractor instead of raking by hand as we did last year.

Before ...
... and after

  Basement Passage Wall
  And before my fingers had time to grow fingerprints again, the second weekend of January was upon us. And it was a brickwork marathon. Leno started off getting the basement passage wall up to about the same height as the rest of the house brickwork.

  Laundry and Pantry Separator Wall
  Then on to the only single brick wall in the house so far between the laundry and the pantry. Leno had this one up to height in less than two hours.

This was built on top of the basement roof slab and tied the two door frames together nicely.

  Bathroom Walls
  And later in the afternoon we set up the bathroom door frame, laid down the dampcourse and Leno made a start on the bathroom walls. The one side of the bathroom wall will also be the support wall
  for the second part of the stairway, so I was keen to get this up so that I could get the stairwell landing planned.

  Lower Level Brickwork
  By mid-morning on Sunday Leno had the bathroom walls up to window sill height, but because the bathroom and bedroom were eight brick courses lower than the kitchen, we needed to build higher to get to the same height. So it was time to set up some scaffolding.

  Below left, while building was going on through the morning, in his spare time Dino did a fantastic job of cleaning the house area. Below right, a very tight workspace with everyone very busy on the bathroom wall area. And did you notice step number 9? Steps are now finally at landing level.

  Action Dog
  During lunchtime we were entertained by Charlie. She will dash off and give chase to anything that moves out there. Butterflies, grasshoppers and birds flying by - no matter how high. Her sprints always include a few pogo hops. And the more we laugh at her, the more she pogo hops.

  Relocating the Aviary

  During the morning Martie cleared a patch of forest next to the road opposite the "front" door where she wanted to put the aviary. The plan was that one day it will be great to sit on the forest side veranda and look across the driveway onto it.

So just after lunch everyone got together and we carried it out of the forest, up the driveway and moved it to it's new location where Martie then used some of our pile of half-bricks to make a level base for it.

  Bedroom Brickwork
  After moving the aviary it was back to brickwork. We set up the bedroom door frame, laid down some dampcourse and Leno built the first few courses of bricks for the bedroom walls.
  At the end of the day and weekend, below is a picture of the house building site. The forest side of the house had all it's outer and room separator walls to window sill height and we had made a start on the bedroom inside walls. The other side of the house will be very "open plan" and other than a support pillar between the kitchen and the lounge, there's not going to be many walls there.

  Stairwell Landing Lintels

The third weekend of January and at short notice on Friday afternoon we decided to take a bakkie load of garden refuse and our Pride of India tree we were growing for the farm out to the farm. This meant we would sleep over Friday night.

On Saturday morning I went to fetch the builders and Leno immediately got busy on getting the bedroom wall higher while we went off to Jadas to fetch building materials for the day.

The plan was to get the stairway landing planning finalised and all the lintels in place. I decided against using lintels and hollow block system in favour of just lintels to save a brick course of headroom for the area under the stairwell landing.

The standard 2.1 meter lintel size just didn't work out so we got 3.3 meter lintels which I would be able to cut to the correct size for the landing and still use the off-cuts for the steps.

  We also used the "maxi" lintels which are 13cm wide and seem to be much stronger than the standard 10cm lintels.

Once the lintels were cut Leno got going on finishing off the brickwork around the stairwell landing. And this meant we would have our first roller course for the house on the little window we were planning to put under the landing to give some natural light under the steps. The guys all helped lay the heavy lintels and then we called it a day as we weren't staying over Saturday night.

  Old Coal Stove
  While at Jadas we spotted a lovely old cast iron coal stove.

Shahid has a contact that collects these old gems from old farms and then refurbishes and resells them. We've often browsed through his stock and had our eye on a small Union stove that looked like it was manufactured in a steam train factory. But he sold that one off and we've been keeping an eye on his stock for another.

And it looks like this is the one. It's the Falkirk Ruby in excellent condition and we've reserved it. Now we'll just have to redesign the kitchen for it and somehow get it out to the farm. These things weigh a ton!

  The Power of Water
  During the week there was a thunderstorm that produced over 20mm of rain. And the power of the water runoff was evident. As Martie had cleared a nice pathway from the driveway into the forest, the water had rushed through there and washed some of the half-brick base out from under the aviary.

  We also noticed how the rain had settled the fill around the house foundation about 10cm! Although we didn't really compact the fill material when we put it into the outside of the trenches, it looks like nature is doing that very nicely for us now.

  Starting on the House Last Outside Wall
  On Sunday morning Leno continued building on the bedroom inside walls to get them to the same height as the rest of the structure and then he started on the front wall (the front of the house that faces the hill).

He started logically from the lowest level. In the picture top on the left, the start of the last outside wall of the house down at the bedroom. Not too much building as the front of that bedroom will be one big sliding door and it's joining neatly into the garage wall.

In the picture middle left, four courses on and then continuing on to the lounge front wall. Two big sliding doors there with a centre support pillar. Again, just to keep Leno on his toes we upped the complexity level to include some steel reinforcing rods in the brickwork to beef up the pillar (picture below).

In the picture bottom left, another four courses on and the wall continues on to the kitchen front wall. Lots of brickwork there up to window sill height.

  We had three helpers for the day so we tried to use the labour to best advantage and got them to do a bit of gardening. Amer helped Martie dig and prepare the hole for our Pride of India tree and Dino cleared the grass a meter away all along the garage wall.

We then knocked in two Y-standard poles and ran some fence wire around them from the pumphouse walls to protect our new tree from the local browsers.


  Small Lintel Support Slabs
  The lintels were in place for the stairwell landing and I got going on preparing the steel reinforcing.

Leno wasn't too keen on my lintel plan. He said he's seen landings made from lintels without the hollow block system bend slightly with just two people standing on it. I made him a bet that wouldn't be happenning to this one. I layed in a grid of Y-12 steel which would be raised well above the lintels but still well into the concrete and then put a layer of Ref-100 mesh over that to prevent any serious cracking on the concrete surface. Together with the extra strength of the maxi lintels, nobody's going to bend that once that 100mm of concrete is set in place!

Then it was on to the basement entrance stairwell. We needed a "roof" over the stairwell and I laid the lintels in there - worked out perfectly for standard 2.1 meter lintels, but we were just short of three.

This little roof area sticks up from the basement stairwell into the pantry and will make a really nice large raised work space up in the pantry.

  Surrounded by Cows

And then it was suddenly the last weekend of January. On Saturday morning the builders got going with brickwork on the long front wall they started the previous weekend so we took some time off for an early morning walk around the property.

On Kallie's side, all the calves were grazing together near the fence and got quite inquisitive when Dakota and Charlie approached.

Then on the opposite side we met up with Che's herd at their favourite spot - the little patch of black wattle trees just outside our fence where they take turns in scratching themselves against the trees.

Later on in the morning we had to get up into the top corner of the farm and move some stragglers from Che's herd on as they were getting Kallie's bull a bit excited. When we hear him
  snorting loudly, we know he's excited. This is the corner where we often have the bullfights through the game fence between Kallie and Che's farms. Unfortunately the game fence always comes off second best!

  Water Problems?
  Friday evening we had over 20mm of rain and everything was damp, cool and fresh. Checking the building site we found the floor slabs were not too level. We had some low spots on all the slabs with big, almost 5mm deep puddles. Leno says that's quite normal and we'll fix it with the screed.

We were also still getting water down in the basement. I don't think it was coming through the walls as the bricks were only damp at floor level. I'm sure it was coming through the concrete slab but we'll only be sure when we've got a roof on.

  Using up the Materials

When the building was up to window sill height, Leno decided to set up scaffolding and take it higher.

But before we could put up any scaffolding we had to fill the foundation trenches. So we loaded the bakkie twice and used up the last of the fill material to fill the foundation trenches all along the front of the house and garage block.

We have noticed that Dino is a very neat helper. His job is normally to bring bricks and pack them within easy reach for Leno to build. He has been taking face bricks very neatly from the furthest piles and puts the unusable and half bricks aside in a neat pile.

And on the left, this is what is left of our one pile of 5000 face bricks. There are still about 1000 left in this pile and we still have another pile of 5000, but we are using them up quickly now. I estimated 10000 would be enough to finish the house?

  Stairway Landing Concrete Slab
  Sunday morning we started off with a concrete mix. The concrete was brought from the mixing area by wheelbarrow and then transferred into a bucket where it was poured onto the stairway landing and levelled off nicely.

  Basement Stairway Roof Concrete Slab
  Then it was on to the basement stairway roof concrete. We had put in the missing three lintels and as no-one was going to be walking on it I didn't put in any steel reinforcement other than some Ref-100 mesh to prevent cracking.

  Cutting More Grass
  During the afternoon while Leno was building the front house wall higher I got down to some serious grass cutting.

While cutting near Kallie's fence I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a lone young eland bull running down the fence line into the forest. A while later we spotted him up on the hill where he grazed casually and watched us.


The area I had cut two weeks ago had grown noticably but I continued from there on. I first cut the whole eastern corner from the lapa to the fence.

Then I continued from the northern fence downwards towards the building site. There I managed to get just past the pumphouse. Earlier Martie and I had cleared all the builders rubble in the long grass from around the pumphouse which allowed me to cut closely all around the pumphouse.

Robert has indicated that he could use the dry grass, so now it's just a matter of finding time to rake it all up somehow and getting it across to him.

  Building Site So Far
  Leno worked on that front wall for the rest of the day - section by section it went up steadily one course at a time. The bottom bedroom sliding door opening was now getting high! It was eight brick courses higher than the kitchen. The door and window tops have to be on the same level on that wall for the veranda roof to work correctly - just have to see how it all works out.
  By the end of the day the entire wall was one brick course lower than required to start building the roller course over the window and door openings. Next week we will be tackling that - a tedious process with building the supports from wood and steel, but it does finish off the structure so nicely.