First July Midweek Stayover July 2015
  We only managed to get out to the farm for our midweek stayover on the Thursday night of the first week of July. The weather was back to mild winter and very pleasant.

We took the opportunity to take out another 5 square meters of paving, which gave us 20 square meters of paving blocks ready to be layed. We'll take out another 5 square meters for the weekend and should be able to get a more noticeable section of the driveway next to the garage block paved.

10 square meters of paving on the left in the foreground, another 10 square meters in the background

  While driving through the forest entrance road we noticed lots of hoof-prints in the driveway. The eland had obviously been through the property - and a rather big herd. When we see them on the hillside they just stand around and amble along slowly while grazing. Not sure what gets them into hop and skip mode whenever they get onto our side of the fence.

Getting around to the driveway garden next to the house, we discovered they had managed to move the wire protection away from the plants there and chomped them all down to ground level. We're just not making headway with our garden plants. And although the eland were responsible for the demise of the plants, we can't really blame them. There's not much food out there in the veld left for them now and they must be very hungry. Their condition has noticeably deteriorated and ribs are showing on most of them.

Later in the afternoon, looking out towards the hillside there were eland for as far as you could see. They do honour the log fence boundary when we're there but seem to take their chances when we're not!

  Once we move out to the farm permanently we will have to call a meeting with all the farmers in the conservancy and formulate some kind of game management plan. Without natural predators, the game are just breeding too quickly and the herds are becoming much too large for the area that has been fenced off for them.

We got up early Friday morning and made some progress on cleaning up the upstairs workshop walls and filling in all the gaps around the window frames and roof beams.


  Driveway Paving Continued
  The first weekend of July and we fetched the builders again - we really needed to get some of that paving down to try and reduce the dust around the garage block.

As soon as we arrived at the farm on Saturday morning we unloaded another 250 paving blocks and then got going on finishing the double garage section of paving. We now had a total 25 square meters of paving blocks to lay over the weekend.

A nine wheelbarrow river sand with three bags of cement screed mix was spread out on the driveway, mixed together and lightly wetted while shovelling it into a heap.

When the screed was ready it was laid down in the area to be paved, compacted, cut level and then Leno began laying the paving blocks one by one, knocking them down level and up against each other with the rubber hammer.

By the end of Saturday we had the double garage section and one of the single garage sections completed. I worked on joining the two sections together around the little retainer wall.


  More Driveway Paving
  Sunday morning it was much of the same. More screed mix, more stamping, more cutting level and more laying paving blocks.
Previous day's paving in front of the single garage area with my handiwork combining the slopes of the two driveway sections around the retainer wall
From the other side, the screed layed down and compacted and Leno busy cutting it level before laying the paving blocks onto it

As far as we could go with the blocks we had and starting the dusty grouting process

By lunchtime we had run out of paving blocks and we were finding that due to the paving being layed at quite a steep slope, as we continually walked on it, some of the pavers would move and "creep" downhill. So, we decided to put the grouting in between the pavers we had layed so far.

Jointing face bricks is a very stressful job for me as it shows the builders' disregard for finer detail in their work. And it looks like grouting paving is going to be the same.

The helpers mixed up a plaster sand/cement mix (I only realised later on top of the area where they had just mixed the river sand mix!) and after a quick (and very dusty) sweep over the pavers, were ready to wet the job.

We halted the job and got them to push the grouting deeper into the holes between the pavers with trowels and resweep before we let them wet it. It was then that I discovered all the little stones from the river sand "contamination" preventing the fine plaster sand mix from dropping down between the pavers properly. After much effort to remove the stones, when we wet the job with a fine spray, in a few places the grout sunk in to leave holes that we will need to patch up later.

  And after sweeping the fine sand and cement mix, everything in the garage and workshops has a new layer of dust on it! We live in hope that the dust will end one day.

  Fitting the Big Folding Double Garage Doors
Doors offloaded and laid out on the garage floor

Welding the first door onto the top hinges

First door hung, installing the top hinges for the second door

Welding the second door onto the bottom hinge and all done

We'll have to patch up some of the inside plaster where the hinges
have been bolted through the walls but best to have the washers
and nuts holding onto the brick. Above right, nice heavy duty
latches, metal plates on the floor still to be fitted.
Wednesday was the day chosen by Verlyn to install our double garage folding door. We headed out to the farm on Tuesday afternoon with only 1 square meter of paving blocks - that's all the paving yard had in stock at that point. But they assure us they are manufacturing at least another 10 square meters for us for the next weekend.

I calculated we would still need another 30 square meters after that to finish paving the area we wanted paved around the garage block area!

As soon as we got to the farm we checked the paving that was grouted the previous weekend and got down to give the area in front of the double garage it's first scrubbing to get all the excess cement from the grouting process off the paving blocks. A bit of wire brush, a bit of nylon scrubbing brush and by evening it was looking really good.

We gave it a wash down and then decided that while we were washing off the paving we may as well give the entire double garage a good wash out as well.

When Verlyn and his dad arrived on Wednesday morning it was so nice to be able to have them work in a clean environment.

Our steel workers offloaded the prefabricated doors onto the garage floor and started setting up for the installation. Verlyn had already joined the two side folding doors together with their hinges and all he needed to do was bolt the side hinges into the walls and hang the doors onto them. Easier said than done as the facebrick work wasn't quite as straight as it should have been. But he had it all worked out and measured out everything so that all the doors would end up perfectly straight and level.

He first bolted the the top two hinges for the right hand door into the wall, positioned and welded the door onto them, and then set up the bottom hinge so that the first door hung straight and level.

Then he repeated the process for the left hand door and with a bit of fiddling and tweaking to get the two doors meeting together in the middle nicely, it was job done.

To finish off he welded the latches onto the bottoms of the outer doors and some lugs onto the inside of the centre doors where we could put a padlock. He will still need to put latches onto the center doors as well.

The hinge system was a little "industrial" but very strong and functional. Just perfect for the farm.

We also decided we weren't going to put any locking devices or handles on the outside of any of our doors - all locking and latching would be done from the inside only. Unfortunately that means we can only open the doors from the inside, but we have access to the garages from the house and the workshop, so it really shouldn't be a problem.

  Cleaning Paving Blocks
  And Martie managed to scrub a few more square meters of paving while the garage door work was going on.

She tried scrubbing it wet this time (the previous afternoon we scrubbed it dry and suffered the cement dust around the dinner area and in our noses through the night). Scrubbing wet seemed to work well and the builders can finish the rest of the scrubbing on the weekend.

  Garden Tool Shed Window Roller Blind
  Through the day I drilled the holes into the top of the window inside recess for the blind brackets and fitted the roller blind to the garden tool shed window.

One of our business clients, Danny from Budget Window Coverings found a blind for us lying around in his workshop that a client had rejected and let us have it for free! Nothing wrong with it that I can see and the measurements were perfect, even though we made the window size completely non-standard (kind of to the nearest brick). Thanks, Danny.

The inside of the garden tool shed walls have now been painted with their second coat of paint and we just need to paint the floor before we can start fitting it out with it's workbenches, cupboards and shelves.

  Big Folding Double Garage Doors - How They Work
  This is how our big double garage folding doors work. This gives us total flexibility in being able to have a small center opening, a full opening or two stages of opening for each side independently for access to the double garage.

Next job is to cut, seal and fit about 150 knotty pine tongue and groove strips and that'll be the doors completed.

We've also decided to make our three single garage doors to the same style as the double garage door. The garages should look great once they're all fitted.

  Friday Morning Paving Block Delivery
  We planned to finish the paving in front of the garages on the second weekend of July, so on Thursday afternoon Martie collected another 5 square meters of pavers and I drove them out to the farm early Friday morning.

I took Banda, our suburban Friday gardener along to help offload them and while he was there he loaded all our bags garden refuse onto the new compost heap and covered it over with a layer of fresh horse manure. We were back home to catch up on some work before lunchtime.

  And not sure what went on in our garages during the week - the entire floor had scratch marks in the dust. The scratches weren't hard enough to mark the cement but the dust was scratched away hard enough for the marks to be clearly visible even after we walked over them. All we can think of is a porcupine party, but there were no paw prints of any kind anywhere in the dust?

  Driveway Paving Continues on Saturday . . .
  Friday afternoon Martie collected the next 5 square meters of pavers which we took out to the farm on Saturday morning after loading up the builders from the township on the way.

Leno started off by completing the last section of the driveway in front of the garages. We then layed down another three rows of pavers along the entire length of the paved area. Reason for this was to be able to get the last rows perfectly straight and level as the rest of the driveway will just be concrete and will join neatly onto the last row of pavers.

We're planning to colour the concrete and give it a similar "oxide splash" effect that they used on the paving blocks. Stonecrete has kindly given me the colouring formula they use for their paving blocks.

Last section in front of garages completed
Adding an extra three rows along entire length

  . . . and Sunday
  We ran out of screed mix on Saturday, so first job on Sunday morning was to mix a small quantity of screed and get the last few paving blocks layed down.

The newly laid blocks were checked for alignment and the grout swept and pushed in between the pavers.

With paving completed for now, the building team moved on to digging up around the workshop area. Martie wet the grout later in the afternoon. We'll have to scrub it all clean on our next week's midweek stayover.

Leno putting in the last paving block
Sweeping in the grouting

  Levelling Around the Workshop Area
  Our next project for the builders was to get the area around the workshop levelled and prepared for paving. We want paving all around the house - hopefully this will improve our dust problem substantially.

Lines were laid down so that the paving around the workshop will follow the same slope and meet up neatly with the driveway paving. We kept the digging area wet to reduce dust.

  Painting and Fitting Door Panelling
  We took out some more knotty pine tongue and groove panelling to the farm on Saturday morning and I cut the 2.4 meter lengths to size to fit the doors. Verlyn's accuracy on the doors was amazing. I only needed to cut to one standard length and it would fit anywhere - left, right, top or bottom.

Whenever Martie or I had some spare time over the weekend we painted the panelling strips with sealer and on Sunday afternoon before we left I slotted them into the doors.

  Big Paving Block Delivery
  It was a slow process getting paving blocks out to the farm 250 (5 square meters) at a time in our bakkie every time we went out to the farm, and although only once we had to make a special trip out to take blocks for the builders to work on the weekend, we were at a point where we were not keeping up with getting the blocks out to the farm as quickly as the builders were laying them. I had calculated that we needed another 30 square meters to finish off paving around the workshop area and we decided to bite the bullet and have them delivered for us.

We approached the paving yard on Monday morning and they offered to put the remaining blocks into production at short notice and be able to deliver 1000 blocks (20 square meters - as much as
their small truck could take) to Heidelberg free of charge. Thanks Dean and Debby from Stonecrete.

We still had to get the additional 500 blocks out so we loaded 250 on Wednesday afternoon when we drove out with their truck to Heidelberg. We helped their guys offload so that they would be back at the yard by closing time. We'll take the last 250 out on Saturday and that should allow us to finish all the paving on the weekend.

  Patterns in the Dust
  Our little scrapings in the dust on the garage floor mystery is solved. It's our dogs! When collies walk the fur between the pads on their paws scrape along and cause the marks. And it's not just a lazy dog - both our dogs make exactly the same marks.

But just as one mystery is solved, another one takes it's place. Now we're trying to figure out what made the weird marks in the dust on the floor in the picture below?

  Another Weekend of Paving
  The third weekend of July we fetched the builders from the township and dropped them off again for both days of the weekend - just had to get that paving finished now.

With all the required materials at hand, Saturday morning we were able to get going early - the helpers started of by mixing a screed mix and after double checking all the measurements and levels, Leno began laying down paving blocks.

  We started working from the paved area in front of the garage entrances and worked our way down to the corner of the workshop, taking extra care around our little "survivor" monkey plum bush.

Once we were down to the bottom corner, I reviewed the levelling along the workshop wall and decided we could easily drop the level another 10cm lower, so the ground was cut away and restamped. The level was basically determined by the face brick and stock brick joint at ground level on the little curved retainer wall - we just didn't want any stock bricks showing above the paving. And the more we could cut away, the less fill material we would end up having to use for the concrete between the paving and first growing tunnel (next project). Dropping the level that 10cm It did make the little driveway up into the workshop a wee bit steeper, though.

Then the second screed mix was mixed, layed and stamped and we started laying the pavers around the workshop corner up

to the little retainer wall.

By the end of the day on Saturday we paved up to the retainer wall and started on the first row of pavers across the workshop entrance to get the starting level there correct.

Cutting all those little pieces of
pavers to fit up against the curved wall was my job for Sunday.

The two problems we dealt with continually on the entire paving project were firstly tightening and stretching the paving block spacing bit by bit to prevent having to cut any paving blocks and secondly, working with all the compound slopes. The ground slopes from both directions to the bottom corner of the workshop and we had to increase the slopes up to all the garage entrances.

  Final Grouting Session
  Sunday morning Leno and his team finished laying down all the paving blocks for the driveway into the workshop entrance while I cut all the little pieces of paving blocks to fit around the retainer wall and across the entrance at the sliding door.

By lunchtime we had all the paving blocks layed and after lunch the helpers mixed up the plaster sand and cement dry mix and swept and pushed it in well between the paving block gaps. Martie
  did more cleaning on the main driveway and she was called in to wet the grouting so that it could set in the gaps.

Dry grouting mix in the new paving down the workshop wall

Grouting the rest of the workshop paving area
and up the little workshop driveway

Charlie gets her stick thrown up the driveway from time to time - relieving the boredom of cleaning paving blocks?

  Finishing Off Workshop Driveway Retainer Walls
  Late afternoon Leno decided he would finish off the brickwork for the little retainer walls on both sides of the workshop entrance. We originally left them incomplete as we weren't sure how much space to leave for the sliding doors to work nicely. With the sliding doors now in place we could get the spacing perfect. A few face bricks and a bit of jointing and the job was done.
Leno putting in the last bricks for the retainer wall
Curved retainer wall finished

  Early Midweek Stayover
  We were back out at the farm for our midweek stayover on Tuesday afternoon.

With some really windy days over the past two weeks, when we arrived we decided to give the double garage and all the new paving a thorough wash-down. The water run-off onto the sand will also hopefully help dampen the dust a bit for the next few windy days predicted - another double cold front moving in again soon (our 5th of the season, I think).

  While Martie was making the fire for dinner, I fitted the cabin hooks on the garden tool shed doors so that we could safely hook them open and not have them bashed against the walls by the wind.

We also managed to arrange two deliveries for sand, stone and cement from Jada's in case the weather will allow us to cast the concrete slab in front of the workshop on the weekend. A quick dinner and bath and we headed off to our monthly farm security meeting.


  Woodwork Wednesday
  We planned to head back home after lunch on Wednesday so early in the morning I set up the top garage area for woodworking and I cut another pack of knotty pine tongue and groove panelling to size for the double garage folding doors. While Martie painted the panelling with sealer I cut the house to garage and garage to workshop doors to size and sanded them.

Over the previous two weeks I had collected all my "broken" belt sanding machines together and sent them in to their respective distributor workshops for repair. After a frustrating morning session sanding the garage doors I've decided that these power tools are just not worth repairing. After "repair" my little Black & Decker machine now doesn't even drive the belt (something intermittently slips inside) and the WoodStar unit I bought locally (I have to admit, it's worked fairly hard making the bathroom cabinets) was making a very rough sound and giving off electrical burning smells. After it's repair session with the distributor, it now doesn't smell any more but sounds even worse! I think it's time for a new belt sander.

It's slow going with the painting of the garage door panelling, but we're slowly filling the slots.

  I just love wood (oh, ... and rocks, too). Once trimmed to fit the door frames, I set the open back saligna doors for the house and workshop entrances from the garages up on trestles and began giving them their first coat of Woodoc 30 clear matt varnish. Just look how those beautiful wood grain colours show as the varnish soaks in!

  Workshop Entrance Concrete
  That double barrelled cold front came through on the Thursday and Friday before our fourth and last weekend of July and it brought with it 11mm of rain. It's not that unusual for us on the Highveld to have rain once or twice during our winter months when the conditions are right and a good cold front comes through.

Despite the cold, the rain was very welcome to settle the dust - especially for the job planned for the weekend which involved a lot of digging close to the workshop (and now our living) area. But 11mm of rain was enough to turn the driveway dustbowl into mud for the weekend, and with the paving blocks not yet sealed it was a bit stressful trying to keep the builders (and dogs) off of it with their muddy feet.

Starting the levelling outside the workshop      

Big cement delivery and iron oxide for colouring      
Cutting away from the top to fill the bottom area

After a hectic Friday afternoon having to brave the East Rand traffic to fetch the iron oxide for colouring the concrete we were going to lay between the workshop and the first growing tunnel, we arrived on Saturday morning with the mist still laying peacefully on the hilltops. And not long after us the builders arrived in their boom boom bakkie.

First job was to knock in some pegs and set up the "fishlines" to get the level of the square area
  to run off smoothly from the paving down the slope so that we wouldn't have to cut too much ground away from the top section and also not have to fill too much on the bottom section. Leno and I then planned the mix. We modified the Stonecrete formula a wee bit as we weren't going to use as much
Setting up some edge boards      
agregate in our concrete that they use for their paving blocks. And as that oxide is rather expensive stuff, we also decided to lay a normal concrete base and then top it with the coloured concrete.

Ground all levelled, stamped and ready for concrete

  A plastic sheet was layed over the paving, some old cement boards were set up to give us a straight line to cast the concrete up against along the top edge and the first base concrete mix was mixed on the levelled area.

Once they started laying and levelling the concrete across the wide area, it became obvious that casting another layer of concrete over that one and trying to get it level with a decent finish was just not going to work. The area was just too wide and even in the cold the concrete was setting too quickly, making levelling across the area very difficult.

First base concrete mix
Base concrete halfway finished . . .
. . . and late afternoon, all done

  A Little More Paving and Coloured Topping Screed Mix
  Sunday morning the builders couldn't get their bakkie going. Something about the diesel engine plug warming circuit not working properly and only realising it wasn't warming after flattening the battery. They did somehow get it going and only arrived out at the farm after 10h00.
Laying the three rows of paving blocks at the edge of the concrete      

Mixing in the light brown oxide powder       

Leno suggested we continue with the driveway edging three rows of paving blocks all the way to the end of the new concrete area to finish the edge of the concrete off nicely down there. A great idea and we had enough paving blocks left over to easily do that little strip. The team mixed a small batch of screed and he got going on the paving.

We had also decided that we would top the concrete with a coloured screed mix rather than a second layer of concrete, so we re-adjusted the colour mix formula and left out the agregate completely.

While Leno finished up the paving the team mixed the first coloured screed - six wheelbarrows river sand, one wheelbarrow red building sand and two bags of cement. But oxide colouring is so weird. After adding the 3% light brown oxide powder to the mix, it didn't look any different from a normal screed mix. Only once water was added could we see the brown coming out. Then when the mix was poured onto the
  concrete it looked too dark a brown - but it lightened up nicely as soon as the surface was floated? Hopefully when it dries it will lighten even more and match the colour paving blocks, more or less.
First colour screed mix going down
Slow going . . . levelling and smooth floating
Floating in the dark      
Then for the surface finish: Leno did some sample finishes for us - a rough and a smooth float. Martie liked the rough finish to go with the farm environment. It did look good but for cleaning purposes, it just had to be smooth.

After some experimentation we decided against splashing the surface with darker brown oxide. Firstly, mixing the right colour from the red, yellow and black oxides we had was just impossible - the colour you get
  when the oxide is dry and wet and splashed and smeared varied too much. And the "splashing" technique experiments were also a disaster - no consistency in the "throw". We decided the plain light brown was fine for now. We can always "stain" it later if we feel we need (and have the time) to get fancy.

Late start, late finish. We only got about half way with six screed mixes and we had to set up some lights as the team were floating the surface well into the night. We decided to take Monday off work and have the team out for an extra day to get the job finished.

  Finishing the Workshop Entrance Concrete Screed
  Monday morning the builders were out early. Leno's family were at their weekday jobs and at school so it was only Leno and Amer to finish off the screed. Fortunately the screed layer wasn't as thick on the top section as it was on the bottom section and they managed to finish off the job with three screed mixes.

They assured me they had the colour formula all sorted out but I think they slipped up somewhere. Monday's work was a noticably lighter brown than the previous day's work. Could be that the thickness of the screed makes a difference to the colouring? We'll let it all dry out properly and then see.

They managed to finish the job working into the night again - a little shoddy and patchy in places.

They also scored a line in the screed along the edges where the screed meets with the paving blocks. They actually had
Two man team mixing the screed

Levelling the screed
  to do a bit of chipping to get the line in on the screed layed the previous day as it was already hard.

All in all not the best concrete work but it will serve it's purpose to give us a surface outside the workshop area that we can easily wash down and reduce our dust problem.

From the bottom - the joint between
the two days work very visible
From the top - Colour difference between
the two days work also very visible

  Back to Doors
  In between supervising the screed work I took the door between the workshop and storeroom down and gave it it's second coat of varnish together with the doors for the house and workshop entrances from the garage.

Although I like working with wood, fitting doors is not a job I look forward to. Solid wood doors (even the "open back" ones) are rather heavy and difficult to handle alone and after trimming the edges to fit neatly into the door frames and setting the hinge screws in place, you have to take the door down
again for painting.

Once the painting is all done the door is hung again and you have to hack into the wood in all directions with a big drill and a spade bit and a chisel to fit the handles and locks. I see some people take the door down again when they fit the locks but I fit everything with the door in it's place.

I suppose I'd just better get used to the door job - I've still got a lot of doors to fit before the house is finished.

  Winter Rains and Cold Nights
  We really miss the regular (and sometimes a little irregular) summer rains during our winter months and having a good downpour in the middle of winter is so welcome, even though a few cold days following as the cold front passes over is inevitable.

Walking through the forest when it is wet is such a different experience. The twigs and leaves underfoot go all soft and there are no cracking and crunching sounds as you walk. The moss on the old bark of the tree trunks immediately turns green as soon as the moisture gets to it and the smells are indescribable.

Keeping warm during the cold spells isn't too much of a problem on the farm. We've always got a fire going (although outside and used mainly for cooking) and our workshop storeroom bedroom is very cosy - we just pile on more blankets and sometimes have to sleep with our jerseys on.

As soon as the sun is up over the hill in the mornings the temperature along the north facing forest line rises quickly and in no time we have to take off our jerseys.

  Fitting the Three Single Garage Doors
Unpacking and preparing for work

All the doors layed out on the garage floor

First door fitted - adjusting the hinges

After two days at work we were back out at the farm again on Thursday for Verlyn to fit the three single garage doors.

It was a tight schedule to get the garage block secured by the end of July so that we could move out to the farm permanently from the beginning of August.

Our Johannesburg house will rented out and sub-let room by room as they were cleared. It's a complicated scheme but it's the only way we can think of where we will be able to move out to the farm with just our bare living essentials and without having to move all our furniture out there until the farm house is finished. A rough few months lie ahead.

Verlyn and his dad made a late start (partly our fault only getting out to the farm late) and quickly set up their equipment for the installation.

The doors were laid out on the garage floor and looked great. Verlyn worked methodically through the day to get them all lined up and working perfectly.

We stayed over Thursday night and spent most of the evening painting sealer onto the knotty pine panels. Early Friday morning we fitted the finished panels into the first door before the metalwork team arrived back to finish off the job.

Verlyn managed to get all the doors installed and just needed to come back some time during the next week to patch up the paintwork where he had welded the hinges and latches onto the frames.

All the garage doors fitted, on the left from the top
 of the driveway and on the right, from the bottom

Verlyn welding the latches onto the garage door frames
A very busy July getting the workshop and garage block finished to a point where we could secure the building in preparation for our move out to Heidelberg from the beginning of August.

And we nearly, nearly made it. Just got to hang another door or two, paint and fit the rest of the garage door panels, fit a few latches onto the windows and we'll be able to lock up the place. No more sleep-overs - we're real farm dwellers now.