Modelling Workshop News May 2017
  We're going great guns in the modelling workshop. To start off the new month, another two models finished and test flown and the next two on the workbench for repair.

Below left, the Cermark Mini-Phoenix, very modified from the original planform since I wrote off the original wings and tail at the SA Nationals down in Natal way back in 2007. I redesigned new wings with a slightly longer wingspan with flaps and proper ailerons and built the new wings and tail and fixed up the fuselage. I flew it for many years before overstressing the wings doing some silly aerobatics on the Volksrust slope a few years ago and then just shelved all the broken bits until now. But with another fuselage patch-up and some wing repairs in my new workshop, it was ready to fly again. Electric gliders are great. No winches required to get them up into the sky - just step out into the back yard, gun the motor, launch and fly. It flies great and I'm going to be able to put in many hours of flying on the farm with this one.

Below right, from a Chinese "no name brand" ARF kit, a model called the Omei 2000. When I bought the kit many years ago I also bought a really powerful little brushless motor for it. I recently got hold of a matching controller, folding propeller and three cell Lipo battery from Alan Smith at Al's Hobbies and after tested all the electrics, finished off the model nicely. As I knew it was going to be a bit "hot" I took the time to add an extra layer of fibreglass to the inside of the front of the fuselage and to strip off the covering from the centre section of the wing and fibreglass the wings together for extra strength. Flies like a dream but is a little fast and needs a bit more space than our farm back yard for landings.

 
 

Next on the workbench are another pair of models for fixing. This time moving up into the bigger 3 meter wingspan models. Below left the Eismann Gentron. Really out of the ark and when flying again will bring back fond memories of the first F3B multitask contests flown in South Africa. I modified this one (replaced the original canopy brake system with a trailing edge flap/spoiler system) and flew it for many years before moving on to more "modern" composite designs. It's so long ago I can't even remember why or how it broke but it looks like the fuselage was broken just in front of the wing and has already been repaired - so now just have to clean up the repair, reinstall the radio gear and fit everything back together and it should be flying again.

Then below right, an ARF model I bought from a friend in order to fly the Open class at the same 2007 National Championships, the Dynaflite Bird of Time. It's a fairly modern design with an "old timer" look. I remember modifying the wing centre section to fit spoilers the week before we left for Natal and as the model had flown before, we didn't even bother test flying it. We also didn't do the proper radio range checking and although I was aware there would be a "glitch" problem, I took a chance and flew it for the first time in the first round of the contest. The radio locked out and it crashed on the first launch. The problem was that the elevator servo was located in the fin and had it's power and signal wires running down the length of the fuselage next to a solid metal rudder pushrod and all that right next to the receiver aerial. Just far too much metal running in parallel and too close to the receiver aerial. I'm now going to modify it and move the elevator servo forward to the cockpit area and run a plastic pushrod to a bellcrank in the fin to drive the elevator and I'm going to use the solid metal rudder pushrod as the receiver aerial. That should solve all the radio interference problems and with a bit of fibreglass work on the fuselage and minor woodwork repairs and a bit of recovering on the wing, it should also be ready to fly again in no time.

 

  Workshop Kitchen Cupboard Project Complete
  Whew! A bit more woodwork finishing, making a slide-out cutter board on top of the drawers (eventually found something to do with that little bit of extra space above the drawers), fitting the doors and putting all the now nice clean handles back on, and the job was almost done.

  Shahid, the big boss at Jadas organised me a really fancy 900mm wide double bullnose kitchen worktop (the finish pattern is much too flashy for the farm but he went to so much trouble to get it for me I just had to use it) and after cutting it to size and screwing it on, the project was finally complete. And thank goodness we put it in it's place before we finished it off. It's now so heavy it's not going to be that easy to move around!

  New Chick
  Shame. This hen went broody and as we didn't really want any more chickens right now we kept taking her eggs away, hoping she would leave the nest. But then we forgot about her for about a week (probably were able to collect enough eggs for breakfasts from the other hens) and
 
when we took notice of her again she was tucked cosily in the corner of the growing tunnel where we kept her, deep under the plywood cover we put there for their protection and had two eggs that probably had chicks already starting to develop.

So we left her and in another two weeks one of the eggs hatched. She almost immediately left the nest and ventured out with her little pride and joy. But Martie noticed she was pecking at the chick a lot and took the chick away. We looked after it for a day or two and then returned it to the hen. The hen took it in right away and started teaching it chicken things. She still pecked at it a bit but after watching them for a while we realised she was trying to teach it to snuggle under her when she felt it was a bit cold or it needed to rest. It was really a stubborn but tough little chick and looked like it would be ok despite all it's mother's "hen pecking". But unfortunately it must have got too cold and one morning when we went out to check the chickens we found it lying dead on the ground.


  Out at the Front Fence
  Martie and Mandla have been working hard out in the front yard. Firstly, all the summer flowers have now seeded and they have been cleaned out of the front gate garden. Only the wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) plants have been left there as they are more evergreen shrubs than a annual flowers. We're not sure how they're going to handle a bout or two of frost through the winter, though.

Although not a member of the cannabis family, it is possible to make a "calming, sedating and slightly euphoric" tea from the leaves and flowers. But their real purpose out there is to attract and feed our nectar eating birds.

Then last year Martie planted a whole lot of baby variegated Agave plants about 4 meters apart along the outside of the front fence for as far as she had plants for. They have almost all survived the sheep grazing and grass cutting that's been going on out there so she decided to clean up a bit around them and put some little logs across in front of each one to prevent the soil washing away when it rains.

 

  First Cold Front Arrives
  It had to come. The end our our glorious "indian summer" was announced with the first cold front to get through to us just before the middle of the month. We can't really complain as we are only just over a month away from the middle of our winter and this is our first really cold spell!

But it did mean another week of overcast weather to stress out our solar power and water heating systems and nearly 30mm of rain over three days to dampen down the dust nicely.

 

  Che's Saloon gets a New Fireplace
  Johan and Marcell have been working hard on this project for a while now, bringing in rocks from the hills and slowly building up a nice big fireplace for Che's saloon. It is finally finished and we were invited to the first "firing up". The sticks and logs were stacked nicely in the fireplace and
 
the fire was started. It was a little smokey at first and we had to experiment with door and window opening configurations to get a decent draft working.

We had some snacks and wine on hand and had a great social evening with friends and family in front of the fireplace. There's nothing like an open fire for comfortable heat - and the fireplace worked perfectly to produce great heat. But some work will still need to be done on the "draft" to suck all the smoke up the chimney properly. A baffle or two here and there and I'm sure Johan will get it right.


  More Workshop Kitchen Cupboards
  With the summer crop growing season over and all harvesting now done, Martie is very busy contemplating and out planting her winter crops. Not much else happening here out on the farm so I've been catching up on a fair amount of woodwork, some modelling in between and then quite a bit of business stuff as well.

On the woodworking side, we're aiming to have a fully functional kitchen up and running fairly soon. We're finally using some of those old computer shop shelf carcases and making them look a bit more like kitchen cupboards.

The main problem is that they're 1000mm width instead of the standard kitchen cupboard 800mm width. Cupboard doors 500mm wide (with a depth of 600mm) just don't look right so I put in some 200mm filler panels between the doors on each cabinet to bring the door widths down to 400mm wide. That looks so much better but the result is that we do now have uneven door spacing. But they'll eventually be workshop cupboards, so really not too serious.

With a few sheets of various sized 20mm pine shelving, eight Euro hinges and a packet or two of assorted screws we were ready to go. Lots of cutting, sanding, fitting and finishing and the cupboards were starting to look like something.

Then finally it was down to mounting them onto the newly painted workshop kitchen wall and fitting the doors. And then it wasn't long before Martie was packing her kitchen stuff into her "new" cupboards. Not sure what we're going to do for door handles yet - just can't find any old style handles to match the bottom cupboard.

The job is not quite done there though, as we still have more cupboard doors and the rest of the 900mm wide double bullnose kitchen top. So we've decided to build another slightly smaller workbench to match the first one and as we still have a few computer shop shelf carcases left, we're going to extend the wall cupboards another two sections to the left. Lots more woodwork to follow soon.

    Cupboard carcases on the left, cupboard doors on the "workbench".
    In the foreground, and not for the kitchen, a rabbit hutch in for repair.

    One cupboard already fixed on the wall, the other just about to go up

    Both cupboards mounted and bottom finishing strip being fitted

    And done - with all the finished cupboard doors fitted

  Collecting Compost
  Our soil has a way to go before we can get things growing really well. And even though chemical fertilisers are quick and easy, they're just not the answer for long term sustainability. So the only real soil conditioning solution is with organics, and the most economical is composting (economical in regard to money, that is - but not in effort!).

That means we're always on the lookout for composting material. With farms with farm animals all around us, it's not too difficult. Kevin sometimes drops off a load of horse manure and we run a raid on Che's farm often. She's got about 100 cows roaming around her farm during the day and they all come "home" to overnight in a paddock closer to the homestead. And they make big piles of composting material all night every night. Every few months they then seem to move their "home" to another paddock but never clean up the old paddock.

And that's just perfect for us. After a few months dormancy, we scrape off the top layer of the old paddocks for the most amazing organic material - and very often already composted for us. It's just very tedious and hard work scraping it up, shovelling it all onto the back of the bakkie and then off again onto our compost heap at our farm. We really need to do a load every time
 
Old compost heap used to feed our growing tunnels      
we go across to Che's farm, but sometimes just don't have that hour to put in.

Anyway, our last load was absolutely fantastic. Everything was completely decomposed with a rich "earthy smell" and the material was host to some rather large beetle grubs that had been helping the decomposition process along nicely. It looked like they were just about to pupate so we chucked them back into the pile on our farm so that they could finish their metamorphosis process.

 
Just a pile of old cowpoo - but already completely   
decomposed with a lovely "earthy" smell
   Some of the giant worms from the new compost.
   Keyring gives an idea of their size.

  New Visitors
  Since we've had our grass cut short we've noticed a small flock of Kiewiets (crowned lapwing or crowned plover) flying in every morning to come and spend their days foraging in our back yard.
 
 

These birds are rather bold and of noisy habit and their diet consists of a variety of insects, of which termites form an important component. So they're very welcome here as we do have a termite problem in our grass areas. As they're not nesting there yet, they aren't too aggressive but still quite entertainng when the dogs dash out for their run around the back yard.


  Brrrrr!
 
And to finish off the month, lovely wispy high level cirrus clouds moving very quickly across a clean deep blue sky from the south east on the leading edge of our second cold front of the winter season. Time to pile another blanket on the bed, Martie.