Builders Back On Site March 2014
  After two weeks away Leno and Dino were available on the first weekend of March to continue building on our farmhouse. And unfortunately it was not too good a start to the month.

Their last building session two weeks ago was to build the wall on the driveway side with the double door which will lead out to a small veranda facing the forest. Being quite a simple wall, I got busy with the pumphouse waterproofing and left them to it. Big mistake. It was only the next weekend I noticed that they didn't put any supports in under the top of the double door doorframe. So with the weight of the roller course bricks, when they seated the lintel the top of the door frame bent. The sag was less than 10mm - barely noticeable but for the two weeks they were away, every time I walked past it, I noticed it!

So after a quick early morning site meeting we decided to break down the section, put in supports under the top of the doorframe and rebuild the wall. This set us back a morning but now it is right.

At lunch time we were back to where we were when we arrived that morning.

    Wall broken down and Leno cleaning out the top of the door frame

    And rebuilt - this time with supports under the top of the door frame

  Old Campsite Tree
  How sad. The big old tree under which we used to set up our tent when we used to camp over for weekends is falling down. The tree had grown out into three main trunks. Unfortunately when this happens, rainwater collects between the trunks and slowly rots the wood.

The first trunk had split off and crashed down way back in October 2011. Now the second one has split away and is being supported on the ground by some of the stronger outer branches. This old tree is very sentimental to us. If I get time I will cut some of the lower larger branches of the remaining trunk to see if we can save it (or maybe just give it a few more months of life).

  Aloe Garden Progress
  Martie's aloe garden at the big log along the front fence is doing well despite being attacked a number of times by the various herbivores that frequent our forest.

She's trying different plants and protection methods and seems to be succeeding. Here she's hanging a wind chime from the log which will hopefully make enough noise to chase away any plant munching animals if they get too close to the plants. She's also set up some pieces of plastic netting in front of the more tasty ones.

  The Workbench - Painting
  Work also continued on the workbench. The leg supports were welded on (sorry, still no close-ups of welding possible - still practising - but may have to go on a welding course soon!), holes were drilled for securing the wood top and the metalwork was painted with a silver grey hammer finish Hammerite paint.

"No primer, no undercoat, no rust" it says on the tin. And this is just the most amazing stuff.

  Just wire brush all the rust off the steel, rub the rust dust off with a cloth and start painting. It's thick and gooey and covers with one coat, creating the hammer finish as it dries. A little expensive but just so easy. Also mounted my cute little new 4 inch vice on the corner.

  Big Eland Herd
  During the morning a large herd of eland joined the cow herd grazing on the hillside. Martie and Leno Jr went up to the fence to take a closer look.

  Building - Driveway Side House Wall
  On the building front Leno and Dino built the house wall on driveway side up higher.

We decided that as the stairwell was all brick we would make it as light and airy as possible with windows. The first window opening was placed to overlook the driveway veranda and the driveway from the stairway landing.

Still not sure how high to go to the second level floor slab, we stopped just under the kitchen slab height. We have to finish the steps before we can finalise the height here.

  First Pumphouse Bathroom Tiling
  We also started tiling in the pumphouse bathroom. All the woodwork was removed and I got a few 500x500 very neutral ceramic tiles on special, made a hole for the drain pipe in one of them (used a carbide grit rod saw blade in a hacksaw frame - took me almost an afternoon to cut!) and layed the first tiles onto the floor area of the basin cupboard.

We also fitted the terracotta tile baseboard tiles onto the walls around the basin cupboard area.

  Sniffing Cows
  While we were working in the pumphouse bathroom Dakota and Charlie were out sniffing with Kallie's calves through the game fence separating our farms. They were all just "getting to know one another" when one of the mommy cows came along and broke up the little gathering.

  Building - Inside Walls Higher
  To finish off the weekend and the mortar that was left over Leno built the basement entrance passage wall higher.

We needed to get the inside walls up to ceiling height as these walls will support the second level floor slabs.

Brick by brick we are seeing progress daily. The big stuff - the outer walls - make such a noticable impact on the structure. The inside walls are just work that has to be done.

  More Pumphouse Bathroom Tiling
  So enthusiastic to get on with the tiling, we were back out at the farm on Monday afternoon after work. We set up some solar lighting in the the pumphouse bathroom and tiled away well into the night.

We finished off laying the big tiles inside the basin cupboard and started on the outside wall tiles on the front and side of the cupboard.

We also planned the layout of the tiles on the wall between the woodwork and the window and stayed overnight to clean up in the morning.

  Rain Rain Rain
  The farm had 80mm of rain in the first week of March and over 100mm in the second. Everything was just too wet and muddy for building so the builders took the second weekend in March off.

That gave me the chance to get on with the bathroom woodwork and to get away from the noisy generator and sawdust for a while on Saturday afternoon we took a walk over to the dam.

About a meter away from overflowing (overflow point on the far right of the picture above) it was great to see so much water there. And wildlife was abundant.

  On the way there we met up with the lone waterbuck bull on the hillside. Those horns! Also spotted a very colourful white fronted bee-eater against the green trees. And there were now only three geese on the dam. Could be that only one of the five little ones may have survived?

  Running Streams
  Sunday morning we were up nice and early and not having to fetch builders, we headed out for an early morning walk out into the corner of Che's farm to see the streams running.

On the left, the first gorge stream coming down from the hills running strongly and on the right the second gorge. This stream is filtered through a small wetland on the farm upstream and was also running strongly.

Early mornings are so fresh out there. When we got back we had breakfast and then it was back to woodwork.

  Damp Forest
  Later in the morning we took a walk through the forest. The ground was very soft after so much rain and it was very easy to identify the waterbuck bull's footprints (left). And below, the perimeter of the forest undergrowth just so green.

  Cutting Grass
  Martie headed out to the front of the farm to continue cutting the grass along the fence. She had a particularly tough section to get through. Below left, she's only just visible from the other side of the long grass patch. Below right, from the other side all grass cut neat and tidy to the fence.

  Visit to Johan and Marcelle
  Late Sunday afternoon we took a walk over both dam walls to visit Johan and Marcelle.

With more rain through the day the air was filled with flying ants and the swallows were out in their thousands.

On the right, Johan and Marcelle's cottage. Very cosy with Falco's stable on the right.

Below, lovely evening scene on the way back of mist clouds hanging low over the Suikerbosrand hills.


  Building - House Inside Walls Higher
  The third weekend in March was dry enough to start building again. Leno and Amer continued building the inside walls between the kitchen, laundry and pantry and the basement entrance
  passage. On the right, the basement entrance from the passage leading down from the house to the garages.

  The Workbench - Wait ... There's More ...
  During the rainy periods over the last two weeks we've been working hard on projects in the garage. One of them being the workbench which I can proudly announce is now complete.

I've added a bottom shelf and attached a piece of pegboard I had laying around as a tool rack to the back on one side.

Everything is now securely welded and the wood bits and pegboard all screwed onto the frame nicely and it's ready for serious use. Looks almost too nice to get all dirty!

  Woodwork - Gluing it all Together
  And here it is in use - great to have something to work on in the garage.

I bought an offcut piece of rubber mat on special from the hardware store to protect the wood top and here we're gluing the woodwork for the centre panel of the pumphouse bathroom basin cupboard and the cupboard doors.

Up against the coal stove is the window sill and corner piece for the bath feature window.

  Grass Cutting Progress
  Outside, Martie was making fantastic progress on cutting that grass along the front fence.

She's through that thick patch (it was around those old burnt logs next to the trees) and is steadily making her way down into the corner of the property.

That corner is a real problem as it gets all the water runoff from the property, so growth there is vigorous. We'll have to cut down all the saplings next to the fence again and clear all the fallen branches before winter sets in properly.

  Woodwork - Varnishing
  Sunday morning Leno had domestic problems and couldn't work. He only told us when we got to the township to fetch him so we headed back home, bought some more wood and other hardware stuff from our local Builders Warehouse, packed for an overnight stay, loaded up all our house garden refuse for composting on the farm and only got out to the farm late in the morning.

And it was just woodwork, woodwork and more woodwork. Here Martie is giving the bath corner window sill it's first coat of varnish.

We have chosen to use the Woodoc range of products as they seem to have a good reputation. We're using the Woodoc 30 Exterior Polywax Sealer on all the bathroom wood as it may be exposed to some moisture and some of it will be exposed to the sun through the windows for most of every morning. This sealer will also allow us to maintain it with the Woodoc Penetrating Weatherproof Wax from time to time to keep it looking good.

In the background is the basin window sill and the basin cupboard front frame.

  Eland Carcass

On our walks around the farm we would often get a hint of rotting carcass smell near the bottom corner. We thought maybe a dead guinea fowl somewhere but never thought much more of it.

But on our after lunch walk the smell was much stronger in that area and as there was no wind we decided to track it to it's source in the forest.

First we came across this mound of what looked like fresh sand. Imaginations ran wild - maybe a dead body buried in our forest? But logic took over as there was no smell at the sand heap and there was no disturbance of the soil around the sand heap. When a hole is dug, the sand has to placed next to the hole. Anyway, the little sand heap is still a mystery and soon enough we came across the real source of the smell.

We found it was an eland that had died deep in the forest. From the state of decomposition it must have died a good few weeks before and as there was very little meat left, the jackal had probably made a meal of it.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Progress
  Late afternoon and evening it was all happening up at the pumphouse bathroom.

We fitted the basin top permanently to the wall and fitted the cupboard front. We also temporarily fitted and placed the basin and bath window sills and tiled above the basin to the window sill.

  Building - Getting Everything up to Second Level Slab Height
  The fourth weekend of March and with no rain during the previous week, so we could continue building.

On Saturday morning while Martie and I went into town to arrange the building materials delivery, Leno built the last few courses to get the kitchen and laundry/pantry inside wall to full height and ready for the second level floor slab.

After lunch I put on my bricklayer hat and teamed up with him to build the stairway from the landing also up to second level floor slab height.

  We had a new man on the team for the weekend - Sebastian (above left). It looks like he's had a bit of construction experience and is presently out of work so he runs a sweet stall at the taxi rank across the road from Leno's House in the township. When Leno offered him work for the weekend we had to wait while he quickly shut down his sweet stall. Above centre, the first step above the landing completed and above right, six of the eight steps completed.

So far the steps are working out perfectly to meet with the second level landing. I am finding it very difficult to work out steps. From the start it was all guesswork extending the area out into the driveway an extra meter because I thought we might need the space to get the steps up to the correct height. I drew this stage against the side of the brick wall with chalk but for some reason they just worked out differently but correct. Just very lucky, I guess.


  Old Campsite Tree Down Completely
  Too late to cut some of those branches I was going to cut off to save the campsite tree. There must have been a bit of wind during the week and now all three trunks are down. It must have been a spectacular crash, the main trunk being over half a meter thick and the weight of the top of the tree just breaking it like a matchstick! Now that's going to take some cleaning up.

  Building - Bedroom Inside Walls
  Sunday morning Leno set up the scaffolding inside the lounge area in order to build the lounge/bedroom separator wall up to second level slab height.

We calculated that he laid over a thousand bricks for the day and we finished off with the lounge wall up to full height but still a few more courses to go on the passage wall to get it up to the same height. The entire structure now starting to look very high!

Setting up profiles

Setting up more profiles. Second level steps visible behind Leno
Setting up scaffolding in the lounge area

Building the bedroom inside wall

    Lounge/bedroom wall up to height and Leno waiting for his helpers to cut the supports for the bedroom door frame
Last bedroom inside wall almost up to full height
Martie tidying up the stairway landing

  During the afternoon there was a big commotion in the house construction site - lots of shouting and running around. So I dropped what I was doing in the garage (just more woodwork) and dashed to to see what what going on. With all that shouting I was expecting a big accident with lots of blood and broken bones.

Surprise, surprise - the commotion was a little snake that was spotted by the builders at the basement entrance. The builders are terrified of snakes (and frogs, for that matter). I wasn't able to identify it but knew it wasn't a rinkhals or puff adder and seemed to be very "non-agressive". I was able to easily pin it's head down with one hand and secure it's head to pick it up.

For most of my high school years we lived in a house in Gillview where our back boundary was next to a veld area (actually, for many years our back yard just ran into the veld) and we spent most afternoons after school in the veld. I knew all the reptile species by sight. I've unfortunately forgotten all but the most common ones and really must get the books out again and get back into it.

This little specimen was a common night adder and about 40cm long and when threatened was able to blow it's body up to almost twice it's normal thickness. Normally they are nocternal but it must have been disturbed from it's hiding place under a plank or pile of bricks by the builders. It likes moist places (our basement would be perfect) and eats frogs. As it is part of the adder family it is venomous but the venom is mild.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Progress
  A bit more woodwork, a bit more tiling and the pumphouse bathroom basin cupboard area now starting to look really good.

In the garage workshop I'm still busy with the little wall cabinet with morror to go on the side wall and the cupboard doors for the basin cupboard.

We've also ordered some really neat bamboo blinds for the basin and bath windows to prevent the sun from fading the wood surfaces too much. We should be finished with the basin area in the next two weeks.

  Little Cosmos Show
  This year, probably due to the good late rains, our little cosmos show at the gate and on the pavement under the first big eucalyptus tree is far better than last year. And we're holding off on cutting the grass out there until the cosmos have seeded so we can hopefully get an even better show next year.

  More Woodwork
  On the last weekend of March while the builders were busy with the house brickwork I finished off the pumphouse bathroom basin wall cabinet and it's mirror door.

I also cut and varnished the shelves and all the necessary finishing strips for the tiling.

  Forest Activities
  There's obviously lots of wildlife activity in the forest that we just don't see.

During our afternoon walk we checked up on the eland carcass and to our amazement there was almost nothing left there and the bones were scattered far and wide around the area. Could be the jackal, could be mongoose, or maybe just wild cats or local dogs. Maybe when we move out there permanently we'll get a better idea of what really goes on in our little forest.

  Pumphouse Surround Cleanup
  Martie took one of Leno's helpers and they made a start on the final cleanup of the pumphouse bathroom area. They managed to clear the front area and left over bricks and get one bakkie load of rubble away and dumped in the driveway veranda area for fill.

  Building - Garage Passage Inside Walls
  The objective for the last weekend in March was to get all the inside walls up to first floor slab height.

Most of the inside walls in the house are 9 inch walls as they have to support the stairway and lintel and block system we are going to use for the concrete floor slab.

Leno worked tirelessly building the walls between the garage passage/bedroom and garage passage/bathroom up to the correct heights.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Basin Cupboards
  Lots of work all weekend up at the pumphouse bathroom. I fitted the wall cabinet, all the cupboard doors and we made up our own "listello" trims.
  In the picture top left, the wall cabinet fixed to the wall next to the basins. The "picture frame" opening door will eventually have a mirror fitted. As there is no way to have a mirror in front of the basins we thought the mirror door will serve the basin area with a mirror when the door is partly opened - seems to work very well. The picture above centre shows the cabinet detail for the adjustable shelves, and above right the hinge system for the mirror door. Whoever invented these "kitchen cupboard" hinges was a genius. They are available for overlay or inset door systems (we have used inset doors on all the cupboard doors in the bathroom) and many other variations. You just drill the "pot hole" in the door about 2 to 3mm from the edge with a special bit, screw the hinge into the pot hole, fit the door and screw the other side of the hinge onto the inside side of the cupboard/cabinet and adjust the screws until everything works just right.
  Below, all doors fitted. On the right, we've been walking up to the pumphouse so much we're starting to wear a path in the long grass! Bottom three pictures show some detail of our spotter and listellos we made from wood offcuts and some aluminium strips.

  I found the little "wildlife" spotter on an old stock sale at one of the tile shops. We've got a matching one for the floor for when we get to tile there.

Then I glued on the window sill (used Pattex "No More Nails" - lots of it using a 400g cartridge in a chaulk gun - hope it holds!) and we grouted everything with a light grey grout. The tile shop suggested a white grout but we're not even considering their suggestion. The "cement look" outlines the tiles nicely and will be far more practical for us.

  Jointer Maintenance
  Our trusty jointer is still doing well, despite some blatant manhandling by Leno's kids. I once saw them throwing it around and knocking dried mortar off of it with a trowel!

But now I noticed that the concrete nail that it uses for scraping the mortar from between the bricks was worn away so I took it out of service for a few minutes and replaced the nail with a new one (old and new nails in the picture) I then took it out for a quick test run. As good as new!

  House Brickwork Status
  Leno did well to get the garage passage walls up to slab height on both sides and started on getting the bathroom outer wall on the driveway side up to the same height.

Some bad news. Another check on the steps and we found we're one step short to get to the top of the first floor slab. Have to find a way to inset the last step into the slab - shouldn't be too much of a problem - another creative cover up feature coming up!

Now really only one more wall to go before everything is up to first floor slab height - the one that joins the garage block to the house. And this is a tricky one as it is already built stepped to the peak of the garage roof, so it makes setting up profiles across the roof impossible. We will just have to use existing brickwork as references for building this one. We also want to put some windows in this wall to give light into the bathroom, garage passage and downstairs bedroom so we're going to have to do some serious thinking during the next week. Putting in aluminium non-openers won't look too good and will just be too expensive.

  And to finish off another productive month, an early morning picture of the new bathroom outer wall with the first rays of the sun coming down on the top of the driveway before we started packing up to go home on Monday morning.