Finishing Off the Garage Doors August 2015
  A good thing the first two days of August were a Saturday and Sunday - it gave us a chance to catch up on painting the wood panelling for the new garage doors and to move in properly (more or less).

We spent the whole of Saturday painting sealer onto the panelling and fitted the panels into the doors as they were painted.

With the garage door panelling finished we had painted a total of just over 400 individual knotty pine panels with sealer and fitted each one neatly into the steel door frames. I fitted the filler pieces (the last panel needs to be cut to fit)
  into the sliding doors while we were doing the panelling there and we've noticed they are now too small. The wood obviously shrinks a bit as it weathers (that door takes full afternoon sun) and the shrinkage there is about a centimeter over the two and a half meter width of the door. I'll have to make new filler panels for the sliding doors - must get them in before the rains come and the wood "unshrinks".

You'll notice in the picture below there are quite a few gaps in the panelling on the sides of the doors. I'll fit the filler panels in a week or two once the wood has "settled". There are also gaps around the doors and the brickwork where we will fit hard foam sealing strips. I'm having a selection of sizes made up by a foam manufacturer in Robertsham.

All the wood panels fitted - picture taken behind the forest shelter from a gap in the trees

  Garage to Workshop and House Entrance Doors and a New Dog
  While Martie finished off the panels on Sunday, I hung the doors leading out either side of the garages to the house and workshops and fitted the handles and locks.
  When the doors were hung I tried using my battery powered drilling machine to make the holes for the locks. It was powerful enough to do the job but the battery didn't last too long. So I had to get the generator going for the big drill to finish off the job. And without the battery powered drilling machine, I had to resort to the old manual hand drill to make the smaller holes for the handles. Old manual tools still work well for the small stuff.

We also took on another dog. On the right with Charlie is the new addition to the pack, Tess.

She is a stray that attached herself to Janine on one of their Dullstroom trips. A very

submissive little dog and she fitted in with Charlie in no time.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Fireplace Woodwork
  While all the woodwork tools were out I decided to put together the top for the fireplace in the pumphouse bathroom. I selected some nice pieces of saligna from my collection and glued everything together, measured carefully and cut out the hole for the chimney to go through, made sure everything fitted nicely and then varnished it.

  More Solar Power and Lighting Up Around The House
  The first week of August and our first week commuting from Heidelberg to Johannesburg to work every day. I have decided for the short to medium term to keep the upstairs area at the Johannesburg house as my office base.

During the week between work I was able to source some really reasonably priced solar equipment from a Chinese wholesaler in Crown Mines. The equipment is probably not that
  great in quality but it will allow me to experiment a bit more with solar power and hopefully my mistakes won't be too expensive. My philosophy on solar power is that until I really know what I'm doing with it, I'd rather buy a bit on the cheap and nasty side than spend big on super reliable branded equipment. It is such a new and fast growing technology that replacing equipment every now and then at more reasonable pricing to take advantage of new technology may not be such a bad thing.

I bought a 200W solar panel, a 105 A/h deep cycle lead acid battery, a 30A charge controller and a 500W modified sine wave inverter. They also had some interesting and very reasonably priced 12V 20W floodlights so I took one of them to try out. The main plan for this power system was to be able to run a laptop on the farm. We still had a business month end to do and as I see clients through most of the day, being able to do admin in the evenings out on the farm would be essential.

I spent much of Friday afternoon and Saturday setting up everything (just laid the solar panel on the roof temporarily) and tinkering with getting the cables through from the roof to the workshop.

The laptop worked fine on the system and I mounted the floodlight on the upstairs window sill and Friday night we switched it on. What a surprise - it was fantastic, drawing hardly anything from the battery (I calculated I could run it for over 60 hours on the 105A/h battery) and lighting up the entire growing tunnel area beautifully. The spooky effect of the flood light on the forest trees was an added bonus.


  Felling Trees 1, 2, 3 and 4
Cutting into the trunk of      
the first tree      
First tree coming down - ensuring      
it falls into the driveway clearing      
The builders decided they would prefer to work the Sunday and Monday on the second weekend of August, our Women's Day long weekend. Their next project was to build the rest of the driveway retainer wall from the forest shelter down to the end of the workshop. But there were some big trees in the way and we decided they just had to go.

With no chainsaw any more, they were happy to tackle them with the hand saw - they were up for the challenge of taking down a total of five big ones.

I helped where I could but was mainly around to ensure none of the trees fell near the buildings. With some care and planning they could all be felled into the open driveway.

Once each tree was down the top branches
 were cut and cleared away from the work area

  The team worked tirelessly through the morning, sometimes working in pairs and sometimes taking turns with the hand saw to cut through the big trunks. When the cheers were over and the dust had settled as each tree were felled, everyone climbed in to clear the branches. By lunchtime four trees were down and only the biggest one was left.

  Pulling out the First Stump
  Once the driveway was cleared Leno brought his bakkie in - he said my bakkie would be too small - to pull the stump and root ball of the first two trees (one root ball produced two full trees!) out of the big hole they had dug.

Leno Jr did the driving while the rest of the team got into the hole and helped by lifting the heavy root ball out.

A lot of revving, smoke and burning clutch smells and they managed to pull it out of the hole and drag it well away from the work site.

They also scored a considerable amount of firewood to take home over the weekend.

  Number 5 - The Big One
The team dwarfed by the big tree      
It took the whole afternoon to get the last tree down. Although rested after a good lunch, the team were noticeably tired but completed the task with their usual dedication.

Extra precautions were needed for this one. We secured ropes to other trees deeper into the forest to prevent it falling towards the house. If it fell towards the buildings, it was tall enough to fall onto the roof surface. And that would have certainly ruined the day for all of us!

Digging around the root stump
 while chipping away at the trunk

Tying to another tree to ensure it doesn't fall towards the house

Cement stock bricks crushed      
Respect cutting off top branches      
With great jubilation the big tree came down - and dropped only about three meters off it's planned course. I was hoping to fell it into the driveway but it fell about three meters further into the forest, stripping one or two trees of a few branches on it's way down.

And how lucky can we get. It fell directly on our pile of cement stock bricks, breaking a good few into small bits and crushed them under it's weight. And it was stopped by
Top branches of tree number 5 covering the driveway area       
the stock bricks just centimeters above the driveway retainer wall. If the trunk had fallen directly onto the driveway retainer wall, there would certainly have had to be some rebuilding necessary.

Once it was down, Leno's new helper, Respect climbed in and cut off all the top branches and dragged them out of the forest into the driveway so the rest of the team could drag them away.

  Digging out Stumps
  It didn't look like we would be seeing any foundations or building on the driveway retainer walls this weekend. Monday the building team were back to continue digging out the big tree root balls.

We had already removed one root ball from the hole the previous day and they made a start on digging out big number 5's root ball. Very hard work and it took all morning.

  Touching Up the Steel Doors
  A busy Monday on the farm. Verlyn and Brian also arrived to do the "touch-ups" on the steel doors.

An extra wheel was fitted to the top of the big section of the sliding door as the track was bending a little under the weight of the door with all the wood slats installed. He used a wet blanket to ensure the welding wouldn't burn the wood in the door.

Then all the onsite welds on the painted frames and the floor plates were painted with red oxide to prevent any rust. They planned to paint over the red oxide with the dark bronze colour paint but by mid afternoon the red oxide wasn't dry enough, so they came back later in the week to finish off the colour touchups.


  Dumping Builders Rubbish
  Two and a half years of cement bags and builder's junk (we have been very carefull to use the builders rubble for fill wherever possible) had been building up at the entrance to the forest shelter.

Just before we started laying the paving in the driveway we moved it all a bit further into the forest so we could get the driveway levels right. But now it was time to get rid of it.

We had found the municipal dump at Ratanda not too far out on the Vaal Dam road and just before lunchtime Martie arranged the team to load up the bakkie and she made two trips out to the dump to get rid of all the rubbish.

  Clearing the Last Stumps
  After lunch we only had one stump to go - it was from the very first tree we felled. Leno got the guys busy digging around the stump so that we could hack through the main root just below the root ball.

While I was in the upstairs workshop I took the pictures below of the weekend's digging.


We used our bakkie to pull out the remaining two stumps with the big chain and drag them away from the work area. A lot less revving, smoke and dust with the "little" bakkie - technique, I guess.

It's such a pity to just fill in holes that took two days to dig. So, I've got two weeks to decide what I want to do with them. The builders will be back on the last weekend of August and we'll do a bit more digging for the foundations and hopefully get to some brickwork.


  Workshop 220 Volts
  Being out at the farm every evening has allowed me to get some of the smaller inside stuff done during the week so that we could tackle the big outside stuff on the weekends.

First priority was to get our lighting and power working properly. Up till now we used small solar panels and batteries and moved them around with their lights to where we needed them. We now had a decent sized solar panel, charge controller and battery and a 500 watt modified sine wave inverter to give us 220 volts from the 12 volt battery.

I had hooked everything up temporarily upstairs (because wiring from the solar panel was relatively simple to there) and that gave a good 12 volt supply in the right place for the floodlights. When we
Charge controller, battery and inverter upstairs      

220 volt mains socket fitted downstairs      
built the workshops I planned to have all the electronic equipment upstairs and put electrical conduit into the walls in order to run 220 volts down into the bottom workshop. But what possessed me to put two 90 degree bends in the conduit in the wall I just don't know.

I battled for two evenings trying to get the 220 volt wire into the conduit and eventually gave up and chipped the plaster off the wall upstairs to get to the straight part of the conduit to get the wires down to the plug point downstairs. With much frustration (and some plaster patching now required upstairs) we had 220 volts in the downstairs workshop.

  Spring Already?
  Wakey, wakey. With the rather early spring weather, the tortoises started scratching in their hibernation cardboard box. So we took them out into the sun, put them in some water so they could rehydrate and gave them their first meal of lettuce.

  Spring was showing it's presence in everything around us on the farm. Many of the eucalyptus trees were in bloom (great for the bees) and the sagewood bushes - especially those on the pavement where the eland hadn't been able to get to them - were filling the early morning and late afternoon air with their amazing fragrance and attracting the bees and butterflies (it is the host plant for the African Leopard Butterfly).

And our the birds are looking noticeably more smart and colourful than they had looked through the drab winter - they're all out eating any insects daring to also take advantage of the great early spring weather.

      Some of the Eucalyptus trees
      in bloom
      Sagewood flowers attracting
      the butterflies
Regular visitor pair of White-fronted Bee-eaters
 Our pair of Bulbuls on the "feeding tree"

Crested Barbet visiting the "feeding tree"
 Cape Robin-chat patrols the compost heap area

 Large flocks of Helmeted Guineafowl pass through the forest often

  Pumphouse Gets Doors At Last
  The third weekend of August was really about getting our living space organised but in between I found some time to hang the pumphouse doors.

On the far left, the doors being varnished in the garage and near left, the doors from inside the pumphouse bathroom. The early Monday morning sun shining directly in on the main door and the door on the right leading into the control room.

Below, the pumphouse looking a bit more "finished off" with it's new door. And yippee - no more doors to hang until the house is done.

  But with doors comes locks and keys. And isn't it odd how the human mind works. We've been staying over at the farm for about two years now with no doors or locks (and before then in our tent). But now that the doors are on and they have locks, we make sure we lock up every night before we go to bed?

When I bought the locks I tried to get key-alike locks wherever possible. Despite that, we already have a sizable collection of keys. Martie is making sure they are all organised and labelled.

  Working Compost
  Martie's been working on the compost heap - she moved all the big stuff from the top of the old compost heap to the new compost heap and turned the old one over a bit.

She is determined to produce some vegetables this season. With us out on the farm permanently to water plants and chase away eland every day, I think we've got a good chance of getting it right.

While I was getting some wood at Jadas she rummaged around their shop and found a small piece of mesh for a sieve. I made up a frame for it from some scrap perlins and a few screws and she can now sieve her compost.

  Little Namaqualand Daisy Show
  The winter has been very mild. The driveway garden survived well (although Martie did put on some protection fabric) with the delicious monsters not losing any of their leaves due to frost.

Martie sowed Namaqualand Daisy seeds under the acacia trees at the top gate again and this year also next to the Pride of India tree next to the pumphouse. They are blooming at the moment and giving a beautiful show of colour against the drab winter veld grass.

  Pumphouse Bathroom Lighting
  The fourth weekend of August and the mission was to set up some decent lighting up in the pumphouse bathroom and also get our borehole functional again. For almost a year now we've been fetching water from Che's farm and with us up till now only being on the farm on weekends and for midweek sleep-overs, I've been reluctant to set up the equipment again.

For the pumphouse bathroom lighting I cut up a sheet of laminated saligna sheet into strips and knocked together some light boxes. One long one for above the washbasins and a triangular one for above the bath. Once the glue was dry I painted the boards black and fitted three downlight fittings in each. I had a selection of 12 volt LEDs to try - we settled for a diffused 3 watt Eurolux LED - both light boxes drawing a total of 1.5 amps from a little 7.2 a/h 12 volt battery (18 watts) once they were all up and connected.

Triangular box glued and jigged on the workbench
Both light boxes - boards painted and lights fitted

Warm and not too soft lighting over the wash
And looks like we'll only be firing up that
basins and bath in the pumphouse bathroom.
 fireplace for the first time next winter.

  Pumping Our Own Water Again
  I connected the new borehole pump controller onto the control box, laid the two solar panels temporarily on the pumphouse roof and connected everything up again.

I also installed a new battery charge controller for the bathroom lighting and a small inverter to power the timer and on Sunday morning as soon as the sun was high enough to power the solar panels, we had lovely sweet water pumping out of our borehole.

  You will notice that the charge and pump controllers all look a little "bare". I'm stripping all the electronic devices in there down to bare pcb level as much as possible and removing all the connection labels - the object is that everything in the pumphouse control room must look "custom rubbish" and "commercially unresellable".

  Pumphouse Fence
  We took Monday off work and dismantled the fence around our original nursery along the game fence. We measured it first and it fitted almost perfectly around the front of the pumphouse where it was now needed to protect Martie's poppies from the wild herbivores.
Digging holes? Who, us??
It was diamond mesh and was attached to the log poles with staples. A long and tedious job and working with diamond mesh is just not nice.

We knocked in some steel Y-standard poles and attached the mesh to the poles, straightening the mesh back to it's "diamond" shapes as best we could. We joined the fence with the welded mesh fence protecting the Pride of India tree and even re-used that little gate I had made out of a few sticks from the forest so long ago.

Front of pumphouse now fenced off - little green patch in the centre are the poppy plants

  Growing Tunnel Work
  Now that our borehole is producing water again and as we are seriously planning to grow a good vegetable crop this season, it's going to be essential to have a practical and organised watering system for the growing tunnels. Pumping for three quarters of an hour every morning we so far have easily managed to replenish the pumphouse JoJo tanks daily, fill our first water tank at the growing tunnel water station (1000 liters) and keep the water trailer at around 80% full (taking it easy on the axle and tires).

At the growing tunnels we up till now have been watering with the watering can filled from the water trailer or if we need to give it a good soaking, we start the pump on the front of the water trailer and water with the hose pipe.

So with a good selection of 50mm pipe fittings at hand (with a bit of help from The Pumpshop), on the last weekend of August I started putting the plumbing system together to get the water from the tank station to each growing tunnel. I suppose I could have just run hose pipes
Water tank station plumbing started.
Pipe bending under the weight of the water in the pipe - it will
straighten out when we install and connect it to tanks 2 and 3.

Growing tunnel #2 - Our temporary nursery
  from a manifold at the water tank station but I've opted to run the water pipes underground from the tank station to a separate tap at each growing tunnel.

This will give us maximum flexibility for drip or manual watering for the various watering requirements in each tunnel.

We are still moving stuff from our Joburg house and during the week on one of our trips we brought through a few of our plants and set them up in our only protected tunnel #2. Looks like it's going to be the nursery tunnel for now.

And our little gooseberry bush has been planted out in tunnel #5 (with netting set up around the hoops for protection) against the north facing wall of the back of the water tank station. And it's doing very well - we manually pollinated the little flowers when it was still potted inside and now it already has little gooseberries developing in their little protective packages.

Gooseberry Bush

  Sunday Sunset
  Sunsets on the farm are great. Although we don't see the sun setting from our farm buildings and have to make an effort to either go to the front of the forest or up the hill a bit to see them, the efforts are always well worth it.

The air at present is very hazey from distant veldfire smoke (no fires close by this year so far, thank goodness) and makes for spectacular sunsets. And what better way to end off the month. September should provide us with our first spring/summer rainfall - just can't wait for the first thunderstorm to wash our little corner of the highveld clean and turn the grass green again.