Worms in the Mealies!! April 2017
  Yikes! Martie harvested a few mealies for us and found some biggish worms in them. Not too bad an infestation - one worm in every four or five mealies but they chomp away deep into the kernel and damage quite a bit of the mealie. If left to it, I'm sure they'll cause damage to the entire mealie.

We're going to follow up on identification - not sure if it's the dreaded Fall Armyworm. It actually looks very similar but I think it's the Corn Earworm, which is almost as bad! Our problem here is that most of the farmers around us grow maize for food for their cattle and when the plants are tall enough they just mow the fields down and shred them straight into tipper trucks where it is all stored until dry and then mill everything into a finer powder for cattle food. I don't think they even inspect the mealies or will even be aware of a Fall Armyworm outbreak. We will have to keep a close eye on our mealies next year. Needless to say, all the little wormies we found became chicken food.

 

  Workshop Kitchen Cupboard Progress
  This project is coming together rather slowly. The four legs were laminated from 70x35 stock to make 70x70 square block stock, a basic frame to hold them together was made from various bits and pieces and dowelled into the sides of the legs, and the front vertical panels measured out and cut to size to accomodate the available cupboard doors and drawers.

I used lots of wood scraps from basic roofing timber that have been collecting in a scrap pile. But
  the problem with using (and collecting) scraps of wood is that when you eventually find and use a piece of scrap for a part, you end up with two or three smaller pieces of scrap that go back into the pile. But that's just the way scrap piles work - they just need careful management and you have to set a size limit where you start throwing the little pieces out.

The back and sides have also been fitted and there I used some left over chipboard sheet from my workbench tops. I think this thing's going to weigh a ton when it's finished!



  Letting Them Loose Inside
  Seeing as Kobus's team they did such a good job on the pavement and seemed to be working the entire Houtpoort valley area (and now know that indigenous bushes are not weeds!), we let them loose inside the property. Just saves me the time and diesel fuel and we don't really need the grass right now.

So first we let them have a go at the area inside the front fence. We managed to get the driver
 
Very tricky cutting between the new trees around the main forest      
off the tractor (his bum very seldom leaves the seat) and showed him all the bushes we wanted to keep and instructed him to go around all the eucalyptus saplings.

Not sure if he enjoyed the cutting in front there much as he had to work quite a bit harder than usual to dodge all the trees and little bushes. But he got the job done in a morning and then the raker tractor moved in to rake up all the grass into straightish bundles for the baler.

 
A few straight sections but lots of zig-zaging around the little bushes and trees

 
In the main open area the grass was very thick - here's the tractor making it's way slowly through it

 
It's been a while since the dogs could get to run around in this area - lots of new smells to investigate
 

Then it was on to our little "tea garden" area next ot our driveway coming into the forest from the gate. A bit of wiggling around the trees on the edges of the forest but basically a short and fairly straight line field to cut. And hour or two and that was all done.

 
"Tea garden" area cut and ready for raking and baling
 

And finally the back yard. We just let them do the big straight areas. I'll do the wiggly bits and around the buildings myself. We do need a bit of hay for our animals and what's left should provide more than enough to last us through the winter.

 
"Back Yard" area being cut by the now very familiar old tractor driver

  They did that entire section in an afternoon. On the left, the grass in the front yard being raked. The raking process "rolls" three or four rows of grass into one and lifts it off the ground so that the baler can pick it up more easily. Just check how much grass we end up with! And then below, the baler in operation and all the bales ready for loading on the flatbed truck. Kobus scored sixteen bales from us.
 

  Preparing More Log Fence Poles
  After sorting through our pile of log fence logs (still down in the front next to the entrance driveway) we brought a few good logs back and set up a workspace in a cool spot in the forest for Mandla to cut them to size and paint them with carbolineum.

With some gloves and and old shirt and another 5 liters of carbolineum he got through painting the 30 poles in no time. Now we'll let them soak and dry in the sun for a week or two and then we can drill the holes and plant them into the ground.

 

  Another Stunning Orange Sunset
  Sometimes just can't resist sitting down for a few minutes to watch a good sunset. On this day, a bit of heavy low cloud and thin high cloud cover in the west to accentuate the warm colours of the setting sun, giving a lovely warm glow to the entire western sky. I got this shot over the black wattle trees from the back yard. And here's some info on why sunsets are orange.
 

  Moth Watch
  Must be moth season. As you walk through the grass hundreds of them fly up out of your way and then land again a few meters away. So out with the camera and I managed to successfully
  sneak up on a few of them to photograph them for identification.

First, the second biggest and second most striking of all our moths (the Emperors take first prize), the Cream-striped Owl moth. I just couldn't get one to stay still for long enough and let me get close enough for a good photograph. My picture on the right really doesn't do justice to the beauty of the detail on this moth's wings.

Below are a few of the rest of them that I managed to get pictures of:


 
Measured Pearl   
    Oblique Peacock, larvae feeds on wattle   
 
Beet Webworm, Banded Sable, larvae live under   
rotten logs, cocoons covered in faecal pellets    
   (as yet unidentified)
 
(as yet unidentified)   
   (as yet unidentified)
 
Vestal Moth, migratory species common   
to grassland and meadows   
   (as yet unidentified)   
  After a few hours of research using the internet and my insect books I got five of the nine species I photographed identified. This kind of research takes a lot of time so I might leave it at that for a while and just enjoy their beauty when I do manage to sneak up on them in the grass around the forest edges.

But very important to remember these beautiful moths are the reproductive part of the metamorphosis process of these insects. When enough of them, the worm or grub phase of the metamorphosis process can damage the plants we are trying to grow on the farm. Below some of the giant caterpillars I came across on the same afternoon:

      (as yet unidentified)
 

  Another Big One Falls
 

  Another eight days of cloudy weather (our solar battery charging systems really taking strain) in the early part of the month with about 15mm of rain in little daily showers through the week to soften up the soil, then a good bit of wind and another big tree comes down. It was a really big one on Che's side of our log fence in the driveway through the forest. We didn't hear anything through the night but on our way out in the morning we saw the carnage on the other side of the fence which completely blocked Che's road next to our driveway.

Mandla got to work during the day to clear the road and on the weekend Johan came through with his chainsaw and cut up the main trunk, selecting some nice larger wood logs to take away and cut up into planks.


  More Workshop Kitchen Cupboard Progress
  With all the rain on and off, progress on the workshop kitchen cupboard was very slow, the entire unit having to be moved inside for a few days - and it's starting to get a bit heavy to move around now.

When the sun eventually came out we lugged it outside again and work continued. The white melamine base board was fitted and the drawer system designed so that the four drawers were nice and evenly spaced. Oh, and everything was painted and sealed - looking really good so far.


  Lovely Misty Mornings
  Once the week of cloudy skies and intermittent rainfall was over the humidity in the air from the damp ground and vegetation was high and we had the most beautiful misty early mornings.

From my upstairs workshop I got this picture one morning of our little Cape Sparrow family perched on the top branch of our feeding tree with Mandla working out in the large crop field in the misty background.

And when Mandla works the soil over the chicken flock are never too far away to collect all the bugs that get churned up in the digging.


  Woodcutting
 
 
  The little black wattle forest closest to the front gate in the front yard is a real mess. The trees on the edge of the forest try to outcompete each other for light by stretching way out of the forest area and when they get bigger and heavier, they just keel over. On the right is the sort of mess we have on the ground from all the fallen trees and branches.

We don't need the wood from that area right now so Che's farmworkers have made us a proposition to clear the area for us provided they can take the usable firewood. So, often on their days off the come down to our farm and chop up the fallen trees. They make piles of the wood they want for themselves and neaten up and pile all the smaller branches for us to take away.

The area is looking much cleaner already and they've scored a few bakkie loads of firewood for their winter heating and cooking requirements.



 


  Rat #2
  Another few nights of disturbed sleep with the dogs on full alert all night for scratchy sounds in the garage. And it was only a matter of time before Tess got her opportunity to sort out our little problem so we could all sleep peacefully again.

This one was a lot smaller than the last one and this time Tess took it out without getting bitten. Hopefully that's the last of the rats for now.


  Wabbits!
  With Robert Fischer's passing just over a year ago now, his wife Maria had let their farm out with all the crops and small animals to one of the teachers at the Montessori school on Che's farm
  and moved into one of Che's cottages until she could decide what she was going to do long term. She now had a new tennant move in with an option to purchase and needed to do a major end of summer cleanup and move the small animals out.

She and Robert were breeding rabbits for slaughter and she quickly managed to sell most of them off but kept a breeding pair and six of the latest youngsters for us. As part of the deal we also got all the wooden rabbit hutches that Robert had made.

So, first job was to clean up all the hutches - very messy after a year's reglect in which quite a few rabbits were lost. The people that rented their farm for the year didn't do much maintenance on that side of things. Mandla was assigned the task and used a scrubbing brush and water to clean out all five hutches. Three of them were in reasonable condition and immediately usable but two needed new welded mesh bases to be made.

And the new bunnies were welcomed by Martie and Amber. The breeding pair were a bit wild but with a bit of attention the youngsters were soon cute and cuddlesome.


      Mandla scrubbing the hutches clean

      Ducks a little curious about these new residents
 
Amber feeding the youngsters   
   Very soft and cuddly

  Fruit Orchard Raider
 
. . . and here's the little horned herbivore culprit
 
Plum tree bottom branches gone 
and some apricot leaves missing
A cute little duiker was spotted one morning ambling around the back yard. We watched it graze a few short green grass patches for a while and after a few minutes it drifted off through our log fence to disappear into the long grass in the reserve. It was only later in the morning we realised we had lost a good few low branches and leaves from the trees in our fruit orchard.

Timing was perfect as Martie had just scored a whole lot of "shadenet fencing" from our local the dumpsite. We rolled some out and knocked the wooden stakes into the ground to fence off and protect our fruit orchard.

 
Shadenet fence erected around the fruit orchard - fruit orchard now a "no bokkie zone"

  SunFlowers Lost
  We should have harvested earlier. Those eland just don't give up on sunflowers - they must like them so much that they're willing to try and try and try again until they finally get it right to very quietly come into the yard at night and feast on the entire crop.
 
  Above Mandla is out clearing the old mealie plants. But just check what's left of the sunflower crop! Everything was eaten. Leaves, flowers, the lot! Just the main stem stalks left. Don't know how yet, but we're determined to beat them next year.

  Dining Room Table Refurb
  These are the table and bench sets we bought from the local "roadside market" when we first moved out to the farm and after their nearly two years out on the farm they were all looking a little "weathered". The one in the kitchen/dining room was also a bit "grubby" from kitchen duties.

So one day we decided to refurb them - just the top surfaces as the undersides were still ok and to do all the surfaces would just take too long. We did the one from the kitchen first, ran the belt
    Generator and belt sander out to refurb our dining room table
sander over it a few times, stained it with a Nova 16 Kiaat coat and then next day finished it with two coats of Woodoc 30 sealer. When we were done it looked better than it did new!

The restoration took almost two days so we'll have to tackle the other two benches some other time. They've been standing outside and are looking "extremely weathered". And they're going to need some woodwork as well to twist and refix a few of the planks. But after seeing the results of the kitchen unit, we will definitely get them better as new as well one day.

 
Table top after sanding and  
then after staining and sealing

  More Upstairs Workshop Drawers
 
Drawers and cabinet before I started the project    
Then it was back to some more woodwork in the upstairs workshop. I brought across a set of drawers from the old Joburg workshop that I keep my spare radio control stuff and some other modelling odds and ends in for many years. The drawers are in a bit of a rickety cabinet that was probably ripped out of an old desk at some stage of it's long life.

The drawers have served me well over the years and I thought instead of making a new outer cabinet with all the hassle of aligning new sliders, I'd just build the entire thing onto my new upstairs workshop workbench next to my new drawers and make a new door for it.

 
Cabinet and drawers fitted with new door to match the workbench woodwork     
Not such a great idea! Nothing was square and for the time it took me to get the whole thing fitted next to my new drawers, I may as well have made a new cabinet with new sliders.

But once the project was started I didn't give up on it and even though inside the drawers are a bit out of square, the drawers all work fine and the new front door makes everything look square.

  Last job there was to fit a nice wide low shelf across from the drawer cabinet to tie in to the corner undercounter shelves for all my boxes of scrap balsa and plywood and sandpaper stock.

  Big Haystack
  After the grass cutters were finished Mandla went over the cut area with his rake and managed to rake up a massive pile of "left-over" grass. It was added to our already big haystack. Here's the picture of our haystack against with the hill in the background on another lovely misty early morning:
 

  Workshop Kitchen Cupboard in Place
  Good progress being made on the workshop kitchen cupboard. The drawer inner cabinet, sliders and front finishing strips have been fitted and all the drawers are working nicely. The middle shelf is also installed (bottom and middle shelves are white melamine to make it a bit easier to
  clean) and fitted with pine front finishing strips to make it all look good. The brackets to secure the top have been fitted as well.

Then, all the furniture that was against the wall where the new cupboard is to be fitted was moved out of the kitchen workshop and the wall painted with plaster primer and a coat of our brown paint that we used up in the pumphouse control room. Very "earthy".

Once the paint had dried Jacques helped me move the workbench inside into it's position. It was heavy - even without the drawers, doors and top fitted. Only just manageable by the two of us.

Outside, the woodwork continued. All handles and hinges were removed from the drawers and doors. The fittings were all cleaned up and the drawers themselves cleaned and their front sides sanded. The doors were then also refurbished. The outer sections were sanded down and the inner sections painted with the same PVA as the walls, and then coated with a 2K matt clear to make them easy to clean. Finally all the edges of the drawers and doors were re-routered - easier than trying to sand all those fine curves and all wood sealed with Silkwood sealer.

    Workbench in place against newly painted brown wall

    Drawers and doors being reburbished outside