Easter Long Weekend April 2015
  This year the first weekend of April was the Easter long weekend and with Leno's bakkie going well, we decided to contribute to their diesel costs and have them come out to the farm with their own transport for two of the four days of the easter long weekend. I just couldn't afford to have them out all four days (financially).

That also meant we could stay over all weekend and we made the most of it by arriving on Thursday afternoon and only leaving on Tuesday morning!

So after a great full moon braai and a good night's sleep on Thursday evening we were up really early Friday morning to see the waterbuck bull peeking at us out of the forest on our early morning walk.

Then while waiting for the builders to arrive, we fired up the
tractor and I got going on cutting our "backyard" grass.

I finished off a large section before breakfast.


  Water Tank Platform Concrete Slab
  First job on the list for the builders was to get the little concrete slab onto the water tank platform so we could build the outer protective walls higher. We're enclosing the back and sides and fitting a roof to protect the plastic tanks from the sun and to reduce the algae buildup in the tanks as much as possible.

Leno and I layed the lintels in and spaced them for the blocks. Everything worked out well and we then dropped all the blocks into place, everything also working out well there (no cutting of
  blocks required).

Then we layed in some extra steel reinforcing on top of the lintels and cut some steel mesh to fit to prevent any major surface cracks in the concrete.

Next Leno completed the brickwork along the back to get it up to top of concrete height and fixed up some of the front brickwork that was knocked loose while fitting the lintels and blocks.

A bit of concrete was mixed and thrown (yes the walls were full of it as well!) and the job done before lunchtime.

Spacing the lintels

Blocks and steel in place

Fixing up the brickwork
Concrete slab done

  Garden Tool Shed Doorway

With mortar already mixed for completing and patching the walls of the water tank platform, Leno and the building team headed down to the garden tool shed and he built up the base brickwork onto the foundation for the rest of the walls to floor level.

On the left, Che's kids to overnight with us on Friday night, Precious and Tumi look on.

Our double door frame was then brought in, lined up and squared off with log props and the first course of brickwork built to lock it into place.

Martie's idea is to have outward opening doors (that tool shed is a little small to have them open inwards) and be able to hang some of her tools and stuff on hooks on the inside of the doors. Should work.

During the afternoon good progress was made on the brickwork and when the mortar was finished, Leno got the team to use the last of our cement to
  mix a small batch of concrete. I scouted around for all the leftover steel mesh laying around and layed it on the floor area, after which the concrete was poured. There was only enough concrete to cover the front area near the door frame. The plan was to finish off the floor as soon as more materials arrived on Saturday morning.

  Slow Saturday
  Saturday morning I worked out the roof timber requirements for the garden tool shed and water tank platform and over a leasurely breakfast, made up my building materials "shopping list" to get us through the rest of the weekend.

Then I headed off to Jadas to get my order in for early delivery and pick up some cement so the builders could get going as soon as they arrived.

I needn't have rushed. Their bakkie broke down on the way to Heidelberg with some essential wire being burned on the exhaust manifold. After replacing it with some of their speaker wire, they arrived nice and quietly just after 10h00.

The Jada deliveries were also running late so instead of starting off with concrete as planned, Leno had some mortar mixed and continued building on the garden tool shed.

  When the Jada delivery did eventually arrive after lunch with river sand, crusher stone, face bricks, stock bricks, a lintel and our roofing timber, the builders decided to just continue with the building for the afternoon and got the garden tool shed structure up to two thirds the height of the door frame. We sorted the timber beams and perlins in preparation for cutting and painting.

  Sunday Off
  The builders needed to get their bakkie fixed up properly so they took Sunday off. So we decided to take Sunday off as well to just chill out and enjoy the farm for the day.

We had also calculated that we could afford to have them out for a third day of the long weekend so they would be back with us on Monday.

Cosmos at the front gate making a good show despite going
through some of our summer season really tough dry periods

Small flock of green wood hoopoe
in the dead branches above the lapa tree
One of the last of the amur falcons
still with us soaring overhead

The growing tunnel area. Three growing tunnels along the forest edge kind of functional, the new ones
in front still to be prepared. Water tank platform and garden tool shed progress visible.

  Back to Work Monday


Monday morning early was spooky misty. We could hardly see the cow herd grazing up on the hillside. Beautiful.

By the time the builders arrived the mist had cleared and it was back to work. Leno continued building on the garden tool shed and after setting up supports and putting the roller courses on the doorway and window opening, got the structure all the way up to roof height.

I fitted one of the roofing beams to ensure the same roof angle as the north facing side of the garage block. Left top, view from the garage block and left bottom, from the other side towards the garage block.

With a five man building team for the day Martie put the extra hands to work digging out some black wattle trees getting a little too big around her kitchen area.

Dragging the felled
little black wattle trees across for burning
Leftover mortar used to lay down the first
course of bricks on the water tank platform slab

  Stealing Tuesday Morning
  With perfect autumn weather the entire Easter weekend, we decided to extend the weekend well into Tuesday morning.

Martie worked in the veggie garden and harvested a large marrow and some more bell peppers.

One of my ambitions for the weekend had been to cut and fit the six maxi lintels over the borehole up at the pumphouse. I cut out slots for the pipes going up into the manifold, connected all the water pipes under the lintels properly and neatened up the tank feed and overflow pipes to run up against the wall. The final lintel

dropped down perfectly into place to give a nice flat area onto which we could later put some flower pots to disguise the borehole nicely.

It was really hard packing up and heading back home to work just after lunch!

  Midweek Stayover
  But we were back out at the farm again on Wednesday afternoon for our midweek stayover.

I was up early on Thursday morning and worked up on the pumphouse roof. I drilled a big hole through the wall behind the number one tank and fed the electrical wires from the borehole pump into some electrical conduit, through the wall and basically neatened up the whole borehole water pipe and electrical installation.

I'm still very weary to install the borehole controller and solar panels again. But I am working on a plug-in system where we can easily set the system up to pump water while we're out there and be able to fairly easily remove the controller and solar panels and take them home with us when we leave. This would also mean fitting brackets to transport the solar panels on the top of our trailer.

On the left, the borehole pump area starting to look very neat. The borehole pump feed and tank overflow water pipes wire-tied together with the electrical conduit. Now just need to find some way of neatly attaching the whole bunch to the wall.

  Water Tank Platform Brickwork
  The builder's bakkie had big problems: something to do with the head and injectors. So we fetched and dropped them off for the second weekend in April. That meant no weekend stayover for us. And it looks like that's going to be the pattern for the next weeks as the repair will be expensive and Leno doesn't have the money to fix it.

Leno set up profiles around the water tank platform and spent Saturday building on it. He got the brickwork all the way up to roof beam height.

  Preparing Roofing Woodwork
  Martie and I spent the day preparing the roofing woodwork for the garden tool shed. On all the buildings so far we have allowed the builders to put up the roofing woodwork unsanded and unpainted. I now still have to sand and paint it all - a job I'm still not looking forward to, having to work upside down from ladders and maybe even scaffolding inside will not be easy.

  The garden tool shed will need to look good from inside so we're preparing all the roofing woodwork there before it goes up. This does mean it will probably get a bit messed with plaster when Leno plasters the inside, but we'll deal with that when the time comes.

All the beams and perlins were sanded and we used an oil based stain on the wood that will be visible from inside and treated the ends that will be outside the brickwork with carbolineum.

  Garden Tool Shed Roofing
  Sunday morning Leno put the roofing timber in place on the garden tool shed, nailed it all together and strapped it all down into the brickwork with roofing wire.

I then painted the rest of the perlin ends with carbolineum and cut face bricks to size while he bricked around the structure to the top of the timber.

In the picture on the right, all the timber work done. Our "collection" of bags of horse manure is growing steadily while we wait for the open compost heap to be cleaned up after the garden tool shed building operation so we can get going on with making some more compost.

  Afternoon Odd Jobs
"Calculating" roof angle
Pouring floor slab concrete
After lunch I moved on to cutting the roofing beams for the water tank platform (it was more economical to purchase longer lengths of timber and cut it to our odd size) and calculate the roof angle (after the figures didn't work I just done it by sight) for the water tank platform.

And this "little" roof is going to have to be removable so that we can get into the top of the water tanks to clean them. Still working on how we're going to do that!

New diggings at sunset
The builders mixed up a batch of concrete to finally finish off the floor slab of the garden tool shed.

Then we all headed up to the pumphouse again to start on the next project on the list: the water storage dam.

This will be a round concrete storage dam, 4 meters in diameter and about 1 meter high. My calculations show (not a good calculation day for me - hope they're right) we will be able to store about 12500 liters of water in it.

  Being located near the pumphouse, this would take the overflow from the JoJo tanks when we get our solar water pumping going again and the water will be used mainly for irrigation.

Construction will be a little experimental. We'll lay a steel reinforced concrete base, extending the steel reinforcing up into the walls. The walls will be concrete which will be cast block by block, day by day, using a 1 meter long by 30cm high steel form. The steel sides of the form will be curved for the 4 meter diameter circle. Still have to do some design work there.

  Midweek Stayover
  Wednesday afternoon we headed out to the farm again for our midweek stayover. Just so amazing to wake up to the eland bull herd (now somehow grown to eight in number) grazing peacefully on the foot of the hill just outside our log fence.

But then back to work. I had laminated the big front beam for the water tank platform roof on Sunday afternoon before we left and first job was to clean up the straight edge and then run it through the table saw to 180mm wide. Then a full sanding all round and ready for filling (not such a hot laminating job as the beams were left overs from the pumphouse roof and were a bit warped).

I also sanded all the cross beams and got everything ready for sealing before we headed off home back to work.

  Woodwork Weekend
Some filling required on the laminated front support beam

Sealing the cross beams

Fitting the front support beam and cross beams
and double checking the roof angle
With not much brickwork needing to be done at the moment, for the third weekend of April we decided to not have any builders out so we could stay over for the weekend. The weather forecast also predicted intermittent scattered thundershowers for the entire weekend.

We planned to spend the weekend finishing off all the roofing woodwork and to clean up all the builders mess around the garden tool shed and water tank platform.

First job when we arrived on Friday night was to fill in the gaps in the water tank platform big laminated front support beam.

Saturday I sanded the filler and painted sealer on all the beams for most of the day in between helping Martie clean up builders mess around the new building structures. I also cleaned off the water tank platform and crawled in underneath it and cleaned up in there as well.

At the end of the day we were able to dry fit the support beam and cross beams and check that the roof angle was correct.

With thunderstorms threatening all afternoon but passing us by, we finally got some intermittent light showers as it got dark while visiting Johan and Marcelle for dinner. And we were able to fall asleep to the sound of light rain on our steel roof.

  Moles, Rhino Horn Beetles and Glow Worms
  This weekend some of our forest moles made a move across our driveway. On one of our walks, Charlie kept us entertained trying to catch one. She knows there's something down there under those little heaps of sand. When she spots one moving she digs furiously and sniffs deep into the holes, but by then those little blighters are long gone in their underground tunnels.

While digging over the compost heap, Martie came across another very big rhino horn beetle.

We've also come across the larvae under logs when we move them around the forest - very big worms!

And we've got glow worms. Not much chance of getting a photo of one, but we spot their fluorescent glow against the brickwork near the ground along the garage block and the growing tunnel walls. It's many years since I last saw a glow worm anywhere.

  A Bit of Brickwork
  Sunday morning I drilled some holes into the top of the side walls of the water tank platform for the threaded rod to hold the front support beam in place, mixed some mortar and built the brickwork up that will enclose the beam on the front, back and sides.

  Monday Morning

After a lovely quick Sunday evening thunderstorm (4mm), moisture content in the air early Monday morning was high.

It doesn't take much moisture for Heidelberg to get it's bank of mist cover and we were able to watch during breakfast how it sneaked over the hill, hung over the valley for about half an hour and then evaporating as the sun burned it away.

In the garage painting the roofing woodwork with sealer continued - second coat completed.

Then I set up some trestles and
  a board next to the water tank platform and jointed the brickwork from the previous day. And finally climbed up onto the scaffolding and gave the roofing woodwork on the garden tool shed it's second coat of sealer as well. And after the big pack up we were back home for work by midday.

  Water Tank Platform Roofing
  The last weekend of April was our Freedom Day long weekend and with two long weekends in a row to look forward to, we gave our last midweek stayover of the month a miss. We also decided not to have the builders out for the weekend so we could stay over for three days in a row and catch up on some of the woodwork, general cleaning up around the growing tunnels and do a bit of veggie gardening.

We arrived at the farm early Saturday morning to find our rain gauge showing 22mm of rain from a cloudburst the previous evening. Rather late in the season for such a lot of rain but most welcome to keep the summer with us for as long as possible. And the weather in the morning was just perfect. And you could tell by the way the birds were chirping and singing in the forest that they were enjoying it too.

After a quick shopping expedition into town for food and hardware provisions for the weekend, we got to work on the roofing woodwork for the water tank platform.

First job was to clean up all the brickwork in preparation for fixing in the front support beam (top picture on the right). Charlie taking full advantage of the lovely cool space under the platform's 30cm concrete slab.

Then we mounted the big supporting beam into the brickwork and secured it onto the threaded rods with washers and nuts. We did another check on the roof angle by laying two of the cross beams in place. Sighting from the other side of the yard showed it was close enough to the same angle as the garage block roof (second picture down on the right).

All the cross beams were then placed in their positions - but not attached to the wall or big beam as this roof needed to be "removable", remember (third picture down on the right).

Finally the perlin positions were measured and marked and the perlins were nailed down onto the cross beams (bottom picture on the right).

And with some breaks to clean up around the growing tunnels here and there and to eat, that was the day's work! My body was feeling the strain of climbing up and down onto the platform continually to fetch beams, perlins and tools as they were required. As more of the perlins were nailed into place I was also working hunched over continually ducking in between the beams and perlins - definitely using different muscle groups than I usually used for supervising!

  Big Skies
  Did I mention the three days of glorious weather? Just perfect the entire weekend. A little cool in the evenings after getting out of the bath but we had a cosy campfire and our big blankets to keep us warm. Early mornings were just so clear and fresh with lovely thick and well defined cumulus clouds building to isolated thundershowers through the days mostly to the east of us.
Cumulus clouds building to big thunderstorms to the east every afternoon . . .

. . . and amazing sunsets every evening

  Cutting the rest of the "Backyard" Grass
  Late afternoon we fired up the tractor (have to pull-start it with the bakkie with the big chain now as there's something wonky with the starter motor and/or associated electrics) and worked into the evening to finish cutting the rest of the grass in our back yard.

Everything's looking a lot neater there now but we'll have to make a start on raking it all up and figuring out what to do with it soon.


  Water Tank Platform: Finishing Brickwork and Roof Sheeting

Sunday morning first job after breakfast was to mix up some mortar (heavy work again and muscles already starting to feel the strain) for finishing off the brickwork up to the top of the roofing timber on the water tank platform.

I then set up some scaffolding along the side of the structure and got everything ready for a bit of brick laying.

Well, I lost count of the number of times I climbed up and down that scaffolding through the day. First, take a brick up and mark it, then down to start up the generator and cut it to fit with the angle grinder. Then back up onto the scaffolding to cement it in place ... and then move on to the next one.

I eventually got all the little filler bricks in place and headed into the garage to cut the IBR sheeting. Due to some
  miscalculations when ordering roof sheeting for the garage block and pumphouse, we had quite a bit of extra sheeting - more than enough for the water tank platform roof. I layed all six sheets on top of one another and cut them all to size with the angle grinder at once.

Then last job of the day was to lay them up on the perlins, check that they all fitted nicely (had to cut one extra section because I forgot to calculate the perlin ends in) and fix the first two sheets with roofing screws into the perlins.

Enough for one day. Hot bath, dinner at the campfire with a glass of red wine and early to bed.

  Cleaning Garage Door Openings Brickwork
  We've decided we are going to fit our three single garage doors soon and will have to make doors for the double garage and side workshop entrance. So through the day Martie started preparing the garage front section inside wall and doorway surrounding bricks. First job was to clean up the mess that the builders had made in "fixing" the brickwork on the door surrounds.

The brickwork was looking a little shoddy before so to "clean up" Leno got one of his helpers to grind out the excess mortar between each brick with the mini grinder - working on a ladder upside down. Of course he didn't quite get the mortar to a consistent depth between the bricks and ground into the plaster finish on the inside of the wall in quite a few places! They then "smeared" a layer of mortar into the gaps with their fingers, hoping to get the filling mortar consistent, but in doing so just messed mortar all over the bricks!

At that stage we called a halt to their fixing up process and left it at that. From the pictures below, Martie's making good progress with a bucket of water and the wire brush on the bottom of the roller course bricks above the doorways.

before . . .
. . . and after

  Nature Update
  Finally got a decent picture of one of our little glow worms on Sunday night. In fact it's not really a worm but the larva of a beetle - the little firefly beetle.

Both the larva and firefly glow through a bioluminescence process by mixing chemicals in their bodies. In their larva form, the purpose is as a defense mechanism to warn predators of their powerful chemical defense that has an unpleasant taste. Adults are flying beetles and can flash their lights to signal mates.

  On our early Monday morning walk we were entertained for a while by the crowned lapwings (or crowned plovers or kiewits) on aggressive alert in the open grassland next to the forest as we walked by. We have quite large flocks come in to look for insects in the grass around the farm. Haven't seen any chicks around so they don't seem to next there. Maybe one day . . .

And this is probably the last weekend that the tortoises will be with us before they go into hibernation for a few months (in a box in the spare bedroom). Here they're tucking into some lettuce and guava skins.

  Screwing it all Down
  After breakfast we set up the generator at the water tank platform, connected up the big drilling machine and I got up onto the roof for the morning with a hammer, a few nails and box of roofing screws and washers to fixed the roofing sheeting down onto the perlins.

I've found that simply knocking a nail through the IBR sheeting to make the holes for the screws is much easier than drilling the holes (and with only one drilling machine, I don't have to change bits continually). The roofing screws self tap nicely through the holes and into the pine perlins.

The sheeting was a bit dirty from laying around (and being walked on!) in the garage for months, so I gave the roof a good soft brush dry rub and sweep. Hopefully the first rains next season should give it a good wash down, otherwise I'll have to get up there and scrub it down some time.

Below, the growing tunnel area with the water tank platform now complete and the garden tool shed nestled cosily under the big eucalyptus tree waiting for it's roof sheeting.

  Sowing some Winter Flower Seeds
  Martie spent the morning gardening.

Up at the pumphouse she made a narrow little garden bed next to the concrete surround along the front (hill side) and sowed lots of poppy seeds.

Then, next to the Pride of India tree (which was losing it's foliage very quickly now) she sowed a big patch of Namaqaland daisies.

With a good watering to get it all going, she's determined to introduce some colour to our drab dry grass back yard this winter.

  Cutting the Pavement Grass
  After lunch we got the tractor going again and headed out to the front of the property where I cut the grass in the "tea garden" area and got going on that pavement grass.

The grass on the pavement gets very long (see picture below) and it's essential that we cut it down and clear it away so that we have a better chance of putting out fires coming in across the road before they can get into the property and into the forest.

Martie cleared all the branches and wire she could find laying around and I started cutting from the fence and worked my way down in long rows to the road. About halfway through the tractor ran out of diesel. We filled it up but it just didn't go the same again - it lacked power and kept stalling. I remember the last time it ran out of diesel Kevin helped us bleed the fuel system to get it going again but I just couldn't remember the procedure. So, a quick call to Kevin who was almost ready to leave Che's farm for home and he very kindly came across and showed us how to do it again. Thanks, Kev. He also showed me where all the filters were and we checked them. They were all dirty and all need to be replaced or cleaned. But we got the little red devil going nicely again and I finished cutting the pavement grass just before it got too dark to see out there.


The weather was no nice we decided to stay over Monday night to make it an extra long weekend and headed back home to work mid-morning on Tuesday.

A very productive long weekend for us: We finished off the water tank platform structure and roofing completely and it's now ready for fitting the water tanks and irrigation plumbing. We cleaned up most of the builder's mess around the growing tunnel area and cut all the backyard and pavement grass. And we even found time to take in some of the glorious autumn weather.