Lots of Water February 2014
  The first weekend and first day of February we were out nice and early. Everything was very, very wet. From Friday afternoon to Sunday morning we had over 80mm of rain out there.

We were so lucky to only lose one hour of building the entire weekend to a good Saturday afternoon thunderstorm. And it was an interesting one for us and answered a few of our water problem questions. We always wondered why the inside wall plaster at floor level in the garage was always wet when we arrived at the farm on weekends when it had rained during the week. We had put in good quality plastic sheeting between the inner and outer bricks of the walls there to well above ground level and it was just impossible that the water was getting through that. But every time it rained, the walls were wet.

Being there during the thunderstorm we watched in amazement as the water filled all the floor areas of the house and then cascaded down each level and then down the steps into the garage, and then ran around the perimeter and wet the bottom of all the walls! So, now we know. But unfortunately there's not much we can do about it until we have the roof on the house.

  Old Coal Stove Gets a New Home

On our trip into town to order our building supplies from Jadas, we had them load our new coal stove (and some more lintels - poor bakkie heavily loaded again) and took it out to the farm.

  When we got back to the farm we found Che's cows had pushed open our front log fence gate (we had lost the latching wire in the long grass the previous weekend) and were eating our grass! But that's not so bad, it's what they do with the grass that's the real problem. They're walking manure machines and as well as having to step in their soggy pats, we're trying very hard to sort out our fly problems. While we herded them out of the forest the builders offloaded the stove into our "dining room" workshop. It looked so cool there but couldn't stay as the windows weren't fitted there yet and it could get wet if the rain came in that way.

After lunch they moved the stove out into the garage into some wood spacers and we fitted all the cast iron top covers. If we didn't have to make a hole in the roof for the chimney we could use it there - but for now it'll just have to be covered in plastic until the kitchen is finished.

  On the Building Front

During the week I bought three 6m lengths of 50mm square steel tube. Leno cut them to size and propped them up neatly for the roller course supports. The steel is a bit more expensive than using wood but we do end up with a much straighter roller course, and we can use the steel for building profiles later.

The rest of the day he spent building the roller course on the steel supports and then the first course of face brick above that in preparation for laying the in lintels.

  We slept over on the farm on Saturday night. That eland bull that we had seen the previous weekend was still around and had been grazing up on the hill all afternoon. We watched him and he watched us. Towards evening I took the builders back home and he obviously noticed the bakkie leave. Looks like that's the sign that the humans have gone and he can come in.

  What he didn't know was that Martie was still there to witness his little fence hop and stroll past the pumphouse down into the forest. What a surprise (for both of them)!

  Tractor Stuff

When I got back from dropping off the builders we had dinner and I headed out to the garage to fit the new tractormeter I swapped out during the week.

I now know why when these little things break, the farmers generally don't bother to fix them - the basic tractor works just fine without all the frills. So after two hours of wiggling and refitting the drive cable and bending the mounting bolts a bit here and there it was in. I fired her up and the tractometer needle moved the right way!

I also looked up the the serial number and discovered:

S = Normal Width Chassis
N = Diesel Perkins A3.152 Engine
F = Single Clutch System
Y = Differential lock Transmission
333473 = Built in 1963

  That's just over 50 years old and it was one of 45023 Massey Ferguson 35x tractors built in 1963!

  Lots of Moisture in the Air
  Sunday morning I headed out at 06:00 to fetch the builders just as the mist started lifting. Here's the view on my way out from the driveway next to the house construction site.

  Laying the Front Wall Lintels
  After a quick breakfast Leno and Amer layed in the lintels over all the door and window openings along the house long front wall.

We had a bit of an oops when ordering the lintels the previous day. I measued up each window to compile my order and then only realised when they were delivering the remaining lintels that we had planned the kitchen corner window with a steel support to match the looks of the pumphouse bathroom and needed a single long lintel to run across both windows to the corner. I had to follow the delivery truck back to the yard and get them to load up the 4.2 meter lintel onto the bakkie.

First lintel over the bedroom doorway
Last lintel over the kitchen windows

Laying the bricks in between the lintels
All done - four courses of face brick over roller course

  Face Brick Inventory
  And this is what's left of our first 5000 face bricks. There's still a good few laying around the building site which we will use up and then we'll be starting on our second pile of 5000.

It's difficult to calculate whether we will have enough face bricks at this point as we often decide on door and window openings as we go, but its starting to look like we'll have to order more.

  Odd Windows
  While the builders were busy laying bricks I took down all the roller course supports for our two "odd" windows.

The first (below left) is our basement window. It's a liitle low but should still be above ground level when we get the driveway all levelled out. This was the only place we could get a window opening in the basement and it lets in a bit of natural light onto the stairwell down into the basement.

The second "odd" window (below right) is the one under the main staircase landing. It's there to give some natural light to the space under the stairwell and due to the concrete landing, that's as high as it could go. But it will continue from window sill height on the landing so you can look down into the forest from the landing halfway up the main staircase.

We're certainly not going to skimp on windows. As we don't have the privacy issues that suburban houses have, we'll be putting lots of windows wherever we can to hopefully make the house feel very light and spacious, and being fairly open-plan we should be able to look out in all directions.


  Back to Brickwork
  After lunch we moved some scaffolding to the kitchen and laundry wall and set up profiles for getting that wall higher.

Leno managed to lay down eight courses of bricks before we ran out of mortar. We'll continue there next week.

That little mistake with the basement dimensions where we now have a dog-leg along this wall is turning out to be a very nice feature. It seems to give that whole kitchen corner and kitchen "back door" a bit of character that it wouldn't have if it was just a straight wall.

Kitchen wall up eight courses. Top of corner window hanging midair waiting for it's tie-in.
View from the driveway. Laundry will have two windows above the washbasin counter.

  Hosepipe Repairs
  The second weekend of February I started off repairing our hosepipe nozzle. The industrial type that came with the firehose that I mounted on the water tank trailer had simply been "twisted to death". The builders had twisted it closed so tightly that the insides broke into pieces and now it didn't close off the water any more.

They were now using the ball valve on the trailer to switch the water on and off and by the way they were man-handling that, I realised if I didn't fix the nozzle quickly the ball valve would also be broken very soon.

  I decided on a cheapie garden fitting. The idea is when they twist this one broken I will just replace the nozzle. That's if they don't get the hose fitting and release mechanism so full of cement that we can't get the nozzle off! We'll just have to see how it goes ...

  Kitchen and Laundry Wall to Roof Height
  On the building side, Leno just layed bricks. We had enough bricks, enough cement and all the lintels we needed, so thankfully it was a relatively easy weekend financially.

We continued with the kitchen and laundry walls and by lunch time had the whole side up to top of window height.


After lunch we made up the supports for the roller course for above the window openings which also allowed us to tie in nicely to the "hanging" corner from the front wall.

Once the roller course was on, we laid the lintels and bricked the entire wall to the same height as the front wall.

Bottom left, the kitchen corner was looking very neat with the corner window matching with the one on the pumphouse.

Below, the "back" door with it's little unintentional dog-leg creates a nice little semi-alcove effect under the tree.

  Starting Bathroom Woodwork
  While all the building was going on I started on the woodwork for the bathroom basin top.

It's been a while since we've worked on the pumphouse bathroom and due to the recent continual petrol price hikes, we've moved the pumphouse bathroom up on the priority list, the plan being to be able to have the builders stay over on the farm on Saturday nights with us. That should save us at least two trips from Joburg to Heidelberg every weekend.

  Here our dining room seating bench makes a reasonable workbench on which to clamp everything down to extend the width of the laminated saligna basin cupboard top a wee bit over the 610mm standard sheet size needed for our bathroom basins.

  An Inside Wall goes a Little Higher
  With quite a bit of mortar left over and not enough time left in the day to set up scaffolding for the next wall, Leno decided to use up the mortar to build the laundry and pantry inside wall.

He got another six courses onto the wall - just a few more and we'll be at door frame height. This corner of the house is important as once we have the roof slab on here we can work out the levels for the walkway and other upstairs rooms.

  Pumphouse Water Tank Ledge Waterproofing - First Coat
  Later in the afternoon I made a start on waterproofing the water tank base ledges on the pumphouse roof.

I thinned down the waterproofing and painted it onto the plastered walls and floors on both sides of the pumphouse. Quite a messy job but fairly quick and easy.

And those little black walls just look so smart.

  Long Grass
  On Sunday during our early morning walk around the property we realised just how much the grass has grown with the recent good rains. We had 15mm the previous week and another 5mm the previous night. Some of the varieties (elephant grass?) were already taller than us and it was getting difficult to walk through some areas along the front of the property.

On the left, this grass next to the fence was cut around mid-December. We've still got a lot of cutting to do - but I think we'll wait until all the grass has seeded a little closer to the end of the growing season.

Che is going to cut our pavement this year (if she gets in there before the municipality does). She uses the long grass for feed and bedding for her horses.

  House Wall - Driveway Side
  It took Leno and his helpers almost 3 hours to get the scaffolding erected and bricks and mortar loaded onto it along the house wall on the driveway side of the house.

Building was slow as it was a long stretch of wall with lots of corners and window and door openings.

The picture on the right is taken from the driveway in front of the garages and the bottom two pictures taken from the stairway landing.

  Pumphouse Water Tank Ledge Waterproofing - Membrane Coat
  After lunch I headed back to the pumphouse to lay down the waterproofing membrane and more bitumin. This modern bitumin stuff is quite amazing. It is water soluble! Until it dries, that is.

First problem was after I had laid down the first length of membrane, as I constantly walked and kneeled on the floor coating painted on the previous day, it stuck the soles of my shoes and jeans. When prying myself loose, some of the bitumin coating came away from the floor and stuck to my shoes and knees, making them even more sticky which stuck even better to the floor. Maybe I should have let that first coat dry for longer, but I was up there with the job started so I just got on with it.

Second problem was when I was about 80% completed, a little storm cloud hovered overhead and dumped on us. At that point I was working from the ladder laying down the last three strips of membrane and the rain drops splashed the bitumin up onto me as I was working. What a mess!

The downpour was very short but enough rain came down to make some little puddles on the newly laid membrane surface. In the picture below left, the brown patches are where the bitumin is either thicker or wet from the rain and not yet dried, the black areas have already dried. Below right, my arms with bitumin rubber splash spots all the way up past my elbows. A lot of rubbing with thinners on a cloth managed to get most of it off.

I only managed to finish the one side ledge. It should be ok - I'll check it next weekend. Hopefully the other side goes a bit better.

  The upside to the little cloudburst is that it triggered the flying ants to come out. For about half an hour we were entertained by thousands of swallows doing their low level aerobatics catching flying ants in our back yard.

  Back to Building
  At the end of the day Leno had made good progress on the the house driveway side wall. He had the roller courses and lintels laid over the driveway entrance door and window and he managed to get three courses of bricks on top of that all the way along that side.

On the left, the driveway entrance door. There will eventually be a veranda where the scaffolding is at present. Below left, from the top of the driveway and below right, Amer jointing the facebricks from the scaffold "walkway".


  Builders, Eland Bull, Bees and Antlions
  The third weekend of February and Leno had to take his father off somewhere, so there was no building on the farmhouse for the weekend. Again, we were not too worried as it gave us a break from transporting builders from the township to the farm and back every day and we had an opportunity to do some of the stuff that we wanted to do on the farm.

  First news is that our new bee swarm has moved off. Well, can't blame them really.

Last weekend the eland bull that was hanging around knocked the hive over. I put it back on it's cement blocks and watched a while and all seemed well - there were bees leaving and returning normally. Then, to prevent it happening again we decided to move the hive to the other side of the tree and dug in some concrete blocks to get it nice and level. Their GPS system (or whatever other method they use) to get back to the hive is amazing. Once the hive was moved, we watched as those returning zoomed back to the exact position that the hive was in before and had to buzz around for a while before finding the new hive position. All looked well.

Then this weekend when we got there we found that the eland had knocked the hive over again! It was the eland - we saw his hoof prints in the sand.

This time the bees had just had enough and the hive was deserted. I'll open it when I get some time and check out of interest what went on inside there.

After a dry week the antlions have had a chance to build their little sand funnels again. And they were out in their hundreds - wherever there was some loose sand.

I'm not sure what they do during the rainy spells as those sand funnels just don't work with wet sand. We are grateful that so far they seem to be surviving the building activities around them quite well.

  Our bee hive at home (just outside our front door) is thriving. The frangipani tree under which it situated now has all it's foliage and gives them great shade from the heat of the day.

And they're busy! And very happy in the suburban garden environment - so much so that we've had to add a "super" (a box on top of the basic hive to give them more space) and looks like I may have to modify the hive entrance to give them a bigger landing pad!

  And below, not sure how long the young eland bull is going to hang around in our corner of the farm. He's obviously been chucked out of the main herd for his trouble-making, now he's just making trouble around our farm. Here he's grazing very comfortably with the cow herd.

  Moving the Woodpile
  While getting the braai fire going on Saturday evening we finished moving the woodpile. I also cut up a few of the branches laying around the area to add to it.

Phew, just don't know what we're going to do with all that wood. We'll probably use a lot more of it when we're living on the farm but right now we're not using it near fast enough. And I could at least double the size of the woodpile by cutting up two piles of branches put aside nearby for that purpose.

  Bathroom Woodwork Progress
  My main task for the weekend was to get the woodwork for the bathroom basin cupboard done. I attached the little back board to go up against the wall, did final sanding, measured the hole positions, cut out the holes for the basins and gave it a first coat of varnish.

  Good woodwork takes time. I'd forgotten just how much time is involved. The trick is in the sanding - the belt sander I used was a little too coarse and I didn't put enough elbow grease into the final hand sanding. But good enough for the farm for now.

  Cutting Grass
  While the woodwork varnish was drying I decided to go out and cut some grass. I started on the driveway and then cut as much as I could along the front fence right down into the bottom corner. Martie cleaned up all the branches that had dropped off of the dead tree and we cut the grass and weeds under the tree as well.

Coming out of the forest towards the front gate
Approaching the front gate

From the front gate along the front fence
Halfway down the front fence into the bottom corner

Dead tree from the fence
And with that grasscutting session I clocked up my first 1.9 hours on the new tractometer hourmeter.

That tractor is just amazing how it works through the long grass. And thanks to the dead tree we now have another big pile of dead branches to take back to the woodpile area for cutting!

Dead tree from the forest

  Pumphouse Water Tank Ledge Waterproofing - Second Membrane Coat
  Then it was back up on the pumphouse roof to lay the membrane on the second water tank ledge. Last week I had definitely walked on the first ledge surface far too soon - working up on the second ledge this week, there was no stickiness and without any little afternoon rainstorms, all went well with laying on the membrane coat.


  And while I was up there I couldn't resist taking some higher elevation photos of the farm. Things just look so different from 3 meters high.

On the right, looking out towards the lapa. Grass neatly cut and now still needs to be raked up and taken away to Robert so he can run it through his hammermill to make feed for his cows.

And below the building site so far. The house section now starting to take shape nicely, but still a long way to go to get it up to double storey height.


  Sundowner Picnic at the Dam
  Late Sunday afternoon Che phoned to invite us over to their sundowner picnic at the dam. We took a walk over the hill to find them settled under the shade of the trees next to the dam. There was the usual abundance of dogs and kids and the Weber braai cooking boerewors and ribs. Also lots of sweets and snacks.

With no rain for over a week the dam level had dropped substantially. But there were still a few waterbirds around (we don't know what happened to all the baby egyptian geese) and more than enough water for the kids to paddle around in.


  Very Wet Weekend
  The last weekend of February and big thundershowers on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. We had 28mm on Saturday and 25mm of rain on Sunday. We weren't there for the Monday afternoon show - apparently we got 50mm and from photographs from our neighbours, an amazing flash flood. Again, not a bad thing that the builders weren't on site for the weekend - they do promise to be back the first weekend in March.

We worked outside whenever we could but there was more than enough work inside to keep us busy during the thunderstorms. Unfortunately, finishing off the pumphouse water tank ledges waterproofing was out of the question. But what was already done up there was doing the job - there were no more damp corners on the walls inside the pumphouse.

  Early Morning Walkaround
  Getting up in the mornings on the farm is great. We're up as soon as it's light and after a quick cup of coffee always head out on a walk around the perimeter of the farm.

And like the early morning game drive at a game lodge, you don't want to miss it because you never know what you'll miss if you do.

Due to all the recent rain, the air moisture content was very high and both Saturday and Sunday mornings were misty.

  On Sunday morning we spotted three eland bulls deep in our forest. Not sure if the bull that was hanging around the previous weekend had joined this little herd or if he moved off and these were a new threesome. They watched us as we walked past a mere 50 meters from them and then carried on grazing casually. It's great to have them in the forest as they eat the tops off the blackjack and khakibos bushes before they can seed. But if they would just stay out of our gardens!

And below, here they come! The cow herd on their way across the hill in the mist to graze in front of our farm (and drive Kallie's poor bull crazy).

  And While it Wasn't Raining . . .
  During the mornings we were able to do some outdoor work. Martie went out to the front with the weed wacker and cleaned up the long grass next to the fence.

I moved the orchard fence markers a meter in (so that we could use some of the existing log fence poles for the fence) and dug the hole for the corner fence post. I planned to use log poles for all the orchard fence poles but after seeing the termites half a meter down in the hole, I think we'll be using steel poles at least for the corner and gate posts.

  A Decent Workbench

A while ago I bought a sheet of cheapie laminated pine and some angle iron to build a decent workbench for the farm. The plan was to build it at home and then take it out to the farm when it was finished, but due to space restraints at home I took all the stuff out to the farm and built it there. I'll have to get used to working with only the generator for heavy power at some stage anyway.

I painted the pine with a good varnish and welded the angle iron together to make a frame with legs for it. I managed to finish the basic structure and drill the holes for the little vice.

Unfortunately I had to build it on the floor and our little wobbly picnic table. It would have been nice to have a workbench to build it on!

Now just for some stiffening braces between the legs, a metal pegboard to hang some tools on and we can paint the steelwork.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Door
  I got this old door as a bargain (R100.00!) from a timber shop in Booysens. Thought it would be ideal for the pumphouse main door.

It had never been hung but had been badly abused and needed a bit of attention. The veneer was coming off here and there but it had real rough character.

So, first a tough sanding job (it had been painted with some cheap oil that clogged up the sandpaper continually), then a wipe down with turpentine and a few coats of varnish and it was looking like something.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Basins
  After the Sunday afternoon thunderstorm we took the woodwork up to the pumphouse and fitted the basins and taps temporarily on the counter. It all looked so cool.

From here on I'll be taking the generator and woodworking tools up to the pumphouse (I'll need the generator there to drill for the water tank hold downs anyway) so that I can build the cupboard under the counter.

There's quite a bit of other woodwork to be done there as well: the toilet base box, the bath window corner feature shelf, the towel shelves and the shower bench.

We decided we'll get some cheap window coverings up soon to protect the woodwork from the sun which comes in the windows in the mornings. And while we're working there we'll be doing some of the wall tiling. And then there's still a whole lot of plumbing ...

  Monday Morning
  We decided to stay over at the farm on Sunday night. We were up at first lght and noticed the eland had emerged from the forest and were grazing our short grass up near the log fence. They noticed us (hey, it's Monday morning - what are they still doing here!) and casually hopped the fence and headed off in the direction of the gorge to continue their grazing.

  We did notice that one of the eland bulls was not in very good condition, despite the ample grazing. His ribs and hip bones were showing noticeably, but he seemed to be getting around ok.

After a leisurely breakfast we took a walk out to the stream and Martie filled some bottles with fresh stream water. We then headed back, measured up the windows in the pumphouse, calculated wall tile requirements and then packed up and headed back home to work.