Tiling - Pumphouse Control Room October 2014
  We went through for a Tuesday/Wednesday overnight, saw October in on the farm and managed to completely finish off the grouting the tiles in the pumphouse control room.
 

On the far left, the tiling grouted and still needing to be cleaned up with the grouting sponges and some water.

Near left, all cleaned up and Martie giving the finished floor a final wipe down with her magic mop.

And it was such an amazing morning out on the farm. We spent some time pulling black wattle saplings from deep in the forest, filled all the water tanks and geyser and watched a very large bird of prey soaring the ridge. Very hard to pack up and go back home to work.


  Laying Paving Blocks
  The light rain we had the previous week made such a mess of the garage block walls where we were levelling and preparing for grass. At this stage it was only red sand on the wall and can be washed off easily enough, but eventually the bricks do stain.

So Saturday morning of our first weekend of October we made a start on laying those paving blocks we had been collecting together over the past few weeks. We had so far managed to take two bakkie loads of 20 blocks each (don't want to overload the bakkie with it's new wheel bearings too much) out to the farm and that got us just under half way down the garage block wall. I estimate another three bakkie loads of blocks loads before we're finished there.

  First job was to lay a building line from top to bottom to get a level to work to. Then we cut away some sand along the wall to make space for the river sand layer and the blocks so that they wouldn't be too high above the grass.

Next we brought in a few wheelbarrows of river sand, spread it out evenly and stamped it solid to get a good smooth base. Then some thick plastic sheet to prevent any grass growth through the gaps between the blocks and to prevent any water getting down into the soil there. And finally we layed down the paving blocks and lined them up nicely to the building line.

    Ugly - red sand on walls
    Paving blocks ready for laying
 
     Stamping the river sand
40 400x400 blocks neatly layed


  Driveway Garden Protection
  Something's been munching at our driveway garden plants again. Enough is enough now!
  So Saturday afternoon we detached the old chicken mesh fencing from the droppers, removed them and all the wire extensions we erected on top of the little fence over the past months and did the fence protection job properly. Four 2.4 meter Y-standard poles were knocked into the ground and some 1.8 meter high square mesh fencing wire was securely attached to them.

And with that I'm sure we now finally have that problem sorted.



  Some Water System "Firsts"
  We had quite a few "firsts" this weekend out on the farm, which tested our pumphouse water system to it's limits. It all started with simply watering our Pride of India tree next to the pumphouse. We have a hose pipe laying there and I normally connect it to the tap on the outside wall of the pumphouse and just turn the tap on a little for about 10 minutes to water the tree every weekend. Well, on Saturday I got sidetracked with something or other and forgot to turn it off. Martie only realised it late in the afternoon. We gave the poor tree over 2000 liters of water. And the amazing thing is, there was no overflow from the tree clearing or water streaming down the slope. It all just soaked away into the ground around the tree!

So with the JoJo levels way down, on Sunday morning I switched the PV switch to borehole and pumped as much as we could to fill the tanks again. And for the first time ever I saw the "well_low" warning light come on on the controller. The controller then automatically switched the pump off for 30 minutes while the borehole replenished and then switched on again until the borehole was dry again. Up till now I was a bit worried that the well sensors weren't working, but the whole system seems to be working perfectly.

   Pride of India now very green
  Then, as our JoJos weren't full enough, the hot water geyser didn't get automatically filled on Sunday morning and for the first time, ran dry. It did give us two baths on Saturday evening plus Martie washed her hair on Sunday morning before it ran dry, so we're not unhappy about that, but we certainly didn't get our 150 liters of hot water out of it.

The supplier's reasoning is that on this new model they had to raise the output pipe in the geyser to a third of the way up for those semi-suburban people using electrical element backup. If the water level in the geyser got too low and the geyser internal temperature dropped, then the element would burn out because it wasn't in water. We haven't even installed a backup element in ours.

So we will have to live with only being able to ever get about 100 liters of hot water out of our geyser. That's still more than enough hot water for our daily requirements in the pumphouse
  bathroom but something we may need to keep in mind when we make decisions on the size of the geyser for the house.

The advantage of this new geyser model for us is that there will always be about 100 liters of boiling hot water in the geyser and tubes when it is "dry" and although we won't be able to get it out, when refilling with cold water it won't need much extra solar energy to get all the water to boiling temperature.


Geyser output pipe level one third from the bottom

  Tiling - Pumphouse Bathroom Floor
  And to finish off the weekend - you guessed it - more tiling in the pumphouse bathroom.

We worked Saturday and Sunday night on tiling the bathroom floor and finished the floor off completely around the bath and got well into the centre of the room. Now having to be a bit careful to get the centre section tiles meeting up nicely with those already layed around the perimeter of the room.

Another two square meters or so will finish off the main floor section and then we can start on the toilet and shower areas. Or we may make a start on the wall sections around the bath first. Not important now in what order it all gets done - it all just has to get done before we can start sanding the roof beams and painting walls.

We again stayed over Sunday night so that we could clean up all the tile glue from the tiles on Monday morning early and manually manage the borehole pumping to get the optimum yield from the borehole to get the JoJo levels up again. Very careful water management - the joys of a low yield borehole!


  Tiling - Pumphouse Bath Surrounds
  The second weekend of October we decided to spend indoors working in the pumphouse bathroom. The weather outside was sunny but very windy. In fact the weather has been very windy for the past three weeks!

First job was to make a start on tiling the bath surrounds. It took a whole day to get just over halfway there. There was lots of tile cutting and fitting to get it all looking good. I also had to shut down the water system and remove the bath taps, then used the ceramic drill to make neat round holes in the tiles there for the pipes.

  And we had a really big problem with the new tile glue we were using. We changed our supplier and brand (another lesson: don't try and save a few bucks on the small stuff - rather stick with what you know works best!). The new glue just sets too quickly. So we would start off tiling the walls and when the glue started setting in the bucket, quickly lay some more floor tiles with it so as not to waste it.

And is the introduction of the ornaments on the bath shelf a little hint that I'm tiling too slowly?


  Eland Bulls Visit
 

Saturday morning while I was tiling, Martie took the dogs for a quick run around the farm. She spotted the waterbuck bull (haven't seen him in the forest for a long time) and a small herd of eland bulls. So there must be new calves in all the big herds now.

Later on in the day the young eland bulls came around to the back area, hung around the fence for a while and then dashed across between the garage block and pumphouse to hop our log fence and head out up the hill. Standing there at the pumphouse door watching, this is the closest I've ever been to them.

It must have been a tough mating season. Three of them had lost a horn each during their mating "duels".


  Tiling - Pumphouse Bathroom Floor
  Sunday we made good progress on the pumphouse floor tiling. We finished laying down the entire bathroom floor area.

We also got our little spotter in front of the basins to match the one on the wall above the basins done.

The original idea was to cut the terracotta tiles around the spotter but those tiles just don't cut easily. So we found some mosaics from the samples we collected while selecting tiles that matched in quite well and used them to surround the spotter to fill to the next full tiles.

  It's not looking so neat now - still need to grout it nicely. We also started grouting the floor tiles around the bath. Working in those little corners between the bath and fireplace and bath and alcove took lots of time.

These finishings take so much time. And when I look at how much time we're putting into finishing in the pumphouse, I get a little frightened thinking how much is going to have to go into the main house!



  Gardening Update
  We now have two patches of grass that are getting noticably more green than the rest of the grass. One is just outside the pumphouse where all our bath water runs off onto and the other is the strip along the garage block retainer wall that gets watered every day by our automatic sprinkler system. There we have lots of new grass sprouting from the seeds we sowed and just last weekend I was noting that we would have to move the sprinklers away and cut some of the older grass tufts of grass that were getting a bit long there.

Well, no need to do that any more. Footprints (not sure if it's the smaller cows that sometimes get through our log fence, the waterbuck bull or the eland) show something's been there and those tufts are now very neatly trimmed. Actually very pleased with our wildlife right now.

Below left, Martie's attempt at protecting some small plants growing on the edge of the driveway. And below right, before we left for home on Monday morning, watering the driveway garden with it's new fence - all the plants in there should now be very safe from herbivore attacks.

 

  To Do
  As we've been tiling the bathroom floor we've been moving all our "stuff" into the shower area. Now we're at a point where we need to start tiling there and the "stuff" has piled up rather high. So first job next weekend will be to clear the shower area of all the excess tiles, tile cut-offs, paint tins,
  electrical wire, plumbing equipment, tools and a few rocks so we can start tiling that shower area.

On the right, the toilet area with a few floor tiles laid at the entrance - had to put them down quickly when our glue mix started to set prematurely. Also now have to remove and cut a bit off the bottom of that door to clear the tiles.



  Tiling - Pumphouse Bath Surrounds
  Well, the third weekend of October came and went and we didn't get to clean up that shower area in the pumphouse. There's just so much other stuff to do.
  We had to take a slow drive out on Saturday morning loaded with our new trees and some more paving blocks and only arrived out at the farm mid-morning.

After offloading we got straight down to some more tiling in the pumphouse bathroom. Finnicky work cutting and fitting tiles around the other side of the bath. In the picture on the left, all the tiles glued and grouted. Waiting for the grout to dry a bit before cleaning up.


  Waterbuck Bull in the Back Yard
  Sunday morning was one of those lovely calm, quiet, sunny mornings (no wind, for a change!) out on the farm. We sat in our "workshop dining room" having early morning coffee and rusks watching the waterbuck bull grazing peacefully in our back yard. What a magnificent beast. And with those horns he must be a real hit with the females in the herd over the hill.

But you don't want to get too close to this guy. The obvious reason would be his horns, but the other is that he's also a really smelly animal. That's because that shaggy brown-gray coat of his gives off a greasy secretion for waterproofing. On our walks through the forest we often smell him long before we see him.


  And while I had the long lens on the camera, I walked back almost to the fence and took a picture of the garage block and house. The big lens gives a bit of a different perspective. We laid more paving blocks along the garage block wall - another twenty next weekend and we're done. And our grass along the retainer wall now getting very green with it's daily automatic watering.

 


  "Energy Circles" Hike
  We took the rest of the day off working on the farm to go hiking with Debs and Dot to investigate some of those mysterious "energy circles" up in the hills. We walked a round circuit of 5.5km and climbed 150 meters up into the hills.
 
On the way up, a rock wall on the side of the slope   
Martie and the dogs taking a rest in a circle

 
Rocks packed perfectly to make a very strong walls   
And here some planted into the ground in an S shape

  What the purpose of these rock circles are, who built them and when, is a complete mystery to us. It's unlikely that they are old settlements as they're right on top of the hill. It would not be possible to grow any food up there in the rocks and getting water up there would just not be practical. Cattle kraals? - unlikely. A bit hostile and difficult to get the cattle up there - and not much useful grazing.

So the only "reasonable" explanation so far is from an author/researcher/scientist Michael Tellinger (yes, our Ubuntu political party leader), who claims they are "energy circles" built by ancient civilisations with alien connections to extract gold from the ground using sound frequency energy. Wow! But very interesting that there are many old mine shafts dug out by hand penetrating into the base of all the hills around there. But we do know that those were dug by prospectors tapping into the southern end of the Wits-Nigel Reef around the mid 1940s).

Make of that what you will but it's worth looking at some of the research material, theories and videos in the Research section of Tellinger's website at http://www.michaeltellinger.com. And personally, I've always felt a special "energy" in the whole area around there. Whenever we're there we move into a special calm and secure space. I've never in my life been able to achieve anything like we've been able to achieve on that little farm of ours.

 
On top of the hill, big circles made from rocks packed neatly one on top of the other

And to give some idea of the size of some of them

Normally always one smaller circle attached to and inside the big one

Dot, Debs, Martie and the dogs resting in one of the rock circles on the other side of the hill

  Then, while on the way back we came across this poor little blesbok lamb laying in the open grass area scared and bleating weakly. The lambs can normally run with the herd within 30 minutes of being born but after what looked like a few hours this poor little female lamb still couldn't stand and
  was obviously just deserted by it's mother and the rest of the herd. Nature's "survival of the fittest" rule sometimes seems so cruel.

There was no way we could just leave it lying there so we carried it off back to the farm with a very optimistic aim to try and save it. But it was too young and there must have been some reason why it couldn't walk. And there was just no way we could give it the nurturing that it's mother could and it died later in the afternoon.

We ended off the day with a late afternoon braai after Al, Kelly and her friend from the US arrived. Che, Janine and Lara joined us later after their afternoon outride for sundowners.



  Painting Colours
 


  Despite working from an initial colour sample, it has taken four attempts, adding more tints every time, to get the paint colour we wanted to replace the yellow/mustard colour we used in the control room. I think the guy at HyperPaint down in Booysens was getting a little tired of seeing me back every Monday morning with my 5 liter can of paint for colour adjustments. But they were always obliging and persevered with me until we got it right.

In the pictures above, two of the three attempts in getting to a terracotta brown to go with the tiles. The first one was so way off into orange when we opened the tin that we didn't even bother to paint some onto the wall! And above right, the wall repainted with the correct colour. Now still got two more walls in there to repaint, then the white enamel on the window sills, and we're done.

On the right, Martie has decided to paint the feature wall in the bathroom area this cherry-bright-dark-red. It blends well with the woodwork, the tiles and the off-white paint we will use for the other walls and most importantly, matches the towels she has planned for the bathroom. She got that one right first time.


  New Trees
  I found some reasonably big paper-bark acacia trees in a demolition yard in Kya Sands and bought four at a good price. We're not sure where we're going to plant them yet so we temporarily put them into our pride of india tree enclosure at the pumphouse.

They took some strain in transportation from Kya Sands and then out to Heidelberg on the back of the bakkie so we carefully repacked the sand in the bags and gave them a good watering. As we would only be able to water them every weekend, I needed to make a plan. I decided to set up a
  drip watering system for them and while I was about it, included the pride of india tree.

I tapped a thin pipe into the 20mm water pipe going down to the grass sprinklers and put in little T-peices and a mini-tap at each tree. I switched the borehole on to test the system and adjusted all the little taps to give a very slow stream of water to each tree. So now the trees will be watered for an hour every morning when the grass gets watered.



  Unexplained Endings and New Beginnings
  The previous weekend while I was opening the front gate on my way in to town I noticed four meerkats in the open area on the edge of the forest at the gate area. They all stood up on their hind legs to watch me and then dashed off into the forest.

When we arrived on the farm on the last weekend of October, we found this little guy dead under one of the logs of
  our broken log fence gate. The little meerkat didn't look like it was injured in any way, just seemed to snuggle into the gap there and died. That's just nature, I suppose.
   
    Back at home we were very privileged to have a pair of Karoo Thrushes make their nest in a fork in the giant strelitzia under the eves of the house right outside our bedroom window.

Earlier in the month they took a few days to meticulously build their little cup shaped nest from course grass strips.

Then when we got home from the farm one Monday morning, there were two little light blue and brown speckled eggs in it and from


 
    then on the female would spend most of the day brooding on the nest.

The next Monday when we got home from the farm the chicks had hatched and the parents were feeding them vigorously. It's hard to believe those little chicks could eat so much. And I didn't know we had that many earthworms in our garden!

They grew very quickly and after about four days the nest started tipping over with all the feeding activities. Martie tried
 
    to prop it with some grass which did stabilise it a bit.

Then one morning one chick disappeared. We're not sure if one of the neighbour's cats got it or it fell out of the nest and was being cared for in the garden somewhere.

We were able to watch the second chick outgrow the nest and as soon as it could hop and flex his wings, it disappeared as well.

What a wonderful experience it was to sit in bed each morning and watch the little family grow.

 


  More Sightings
 
  The waterbuck bull is getting a lot of exposure this month, but he's such a great feature of our forest at the moment - we spot him on almost every walk. Above, he's just hopped the fence and standing watching us from outside the property as we come out of the forest on one of our walks.

On the left, still not properly identified, but most probably a Steppe Buzzard, our big bird of prey has arrived back for our summer season.

We don't see him that often, but a magnificent sight when thermalling over the farm or flying between the taller trees in the forest. He's so big he casts a noticable shadow as he flies overhead between the trees. Here he was spotted perched on a branch of our big dead tree in the bottom corner of the forest.

We're now looking forward to the arrival of the Amur Falcons in January from their long annual migration from Asia.


  Paving Blocks All Down
  The last weekend of October and we took the last load of paving blocks out to the farm and managed to finish off laying them all the way across the front of the garage block.

That should keep the wall clean from red sand splashes when it rains.

But that paving exercise worked out a lot more expensive than we estimated. So I think it will probably be a temporary solution to our sand problem next to the buildings. We'll probably take the pavers up again and use them for the lapa when the builders get back and can cast a concrete slab down the front of the garage block.

I'll do some experimentation with adding colouring to the topping to get it a "sandy" colour, although it will probably end up that colour anyway as we walk our red sand onto it.


  More Pumphouse Tiling
  The rest of the weekend we spent tiling in the pumphouse. We finished off the bath surrounds and most of the floor up to the shower area. We also layed the floor for the toilet room and made good progress on the walls there as well.
 
Martie grouting the main floor
Bath surrounds all done
Toilet floor and walls so far


  A Birthday Gift with a Difference
  We stayed over Sunday night and invited Che, Janine and Dave over for breakfast on Monday morning.

And what a great birthday present Che had for me - all neatly packed in bags, one ton of horse manure! What more could I have wished for. And seriously, thanks a ton, Che. It will go to good use, I promise.


  A Bit of a Setback
  A lousy way to end off the month. On Friday night some lowlifes paid a visit to the farm and made off with all our power tools and solar equipment!