Cutting the last of the Grass for the Season June 2017
  Che's tractor was having issues again so Johan started off his first weekend of the month by borrowing our tractor to cut his paddock grass. It was also a good test to see whether replacing all the fuel filters in our tractor had fixed the lack of power problem we were having with it. It certainly did and the Little Red Devil worked tirelessly without as much as a burp for the entire Saturday afternoon hacking down the thick long grass in Johan's paddock.

And seeing the little tractor was going so well we put it straight back to work after it got back the next day to finish off the remaining of our long grass areas.

First the section above the pumphouse - second cut of the season there. I love riding the tractor so when I get going I find it very difficult to stop, especially when there's so much more grass to cut. So I then moved on to clean up around the large crop area and then on to the area below it where the grass was very thick where
    First, second cutting of the season in area above the pumphouse

    Mandla already raking up the grass down below the large crop area
  those big had been laying for so many years and we had recently cleared away.

With still some daylight left I moved on down the side of the property down the side next to Kallie's fence into the forest corner. This was a real problem area (sorry, no before picture) where the balckjacks and khakibos had taken over. They had already seeded so next year we'll have to just keep mowing it short so there won't be any reseeding.

 
    And down the side next to Kallie's fence - had a big blackjack and khakibos problem there
  Well, I wasn't planning to cut much more than the small section above the pumphouse, so I headed out on the tractor with good white socks and my old immitation crocs. But after getting carried away a bit down the side section where the blackjacks and khakibos were really thick, this is what my socks looked like. It was as if my socks were like magnets for those blackjacks!

When will I learn - always put on the gumboots when you get onto the tractor. Needless to say, we had to scrap those socks - it would have taken days to pick all the blackjacks out of them.


  Gathering Wood
  Mandla's been very busy in the black wattle forest. He's been cleaning up a bit, cutting up all the usable wood and packing it into big piles. Just can't believe how much wood is in there! On the left, an afternoon's work from just a small section around the road through the forest there.

  Winter Crops
  There's not much happening on the crop front right now - we're deep into our winter and in the "no-grow" month of June and we're putting more effort into getting soil prepared for our more productive spring and summer growing months.

Below, I'm having a go at some garlic and onions - just because we had a few in the vegetable basket sprouting.

And on the right, Martie's planted some broccoli and cauliflower - but not near as much as last year.



  Big Grass Gathering
  And the big job of gathering up all the cut grass continues. Below is the the section below the pumphouse and large crop area. Piles and piles of hay about to be added to our already big "dog's playground" pile.
 

  Frozen - Popsicles in the Water Pipes
  Winter continues and cold front number 3 of the season arrived just a week before our Winter Solstice. Not a bad winter so far but this cold front did give us two very cold early mornings which did some damage to our young trees and shrubs. Hopefully they survive to strenghten during
 
the next growing season.

It was so cold it froze up all the water in our water pipes and once the duck pond had thawed we had to run the borehole water through the pipes to clear out all the popsicles!

For us, we survived comfortably in our workshop and garage home. The days were always warm once the sun was out but we did need an extra blanket or two on the bed at night time.


  Fencing Off the Large Crop Area
  Don't know when the supply of the shadenet fencing will dry up at the municipal dump but one of the helpers there keeps it aside for Martie and she gives him a few bucks for his trouble every time she goes there. She seems to come back with a bakkie full every time she maked the trip and we now have enough to fence off just about everything we want to protect against the duiker and porcupine attacks.

We first fenced off the entire orchard area in April and now as we are growing a few winter crops out on our large crop area and the soil is being prepared for spring, we ran a shadenet fence around that whole area as well, including the compost heap (to try and keep the dogs away from that).

And then when that was done we still had enough left over to put right around the house kitchen garden as well.

 
Orchard on the left and now entire large crop area fenced off with shadenet fencing as well

 
House kitchen garden also fenced off to protect all Martie's new plants from the wild herbivore roamers
 
And from the top of the hill, with the large crop area cleared of grass and all the new fencing erected,
the development of our little farm is now becoming very noticeable

  More Grass Cutting
  Well, we thought we were done with cutting grass for the season but with a large field of long dry grass on our north east side on Che's property that had not yet been cut and baled and some scary fires on farms in the surrounding areas, we decided the fire risk to our log fence and forest was just too high and I got the tractor out to cut a "firebreak" of shorter grass about five meters wide on the other side of our log fence.

The grass was very thick out there and it took a few hours to cut. Then I raked it into little haystacks while Martie used the weedeater to clear the bits of long grass around the fence poles that the tractor couldn't get to.

We're trying to teach the dogs to stay out of the long grass, so now they have an additional five meters across the entire length of our "back yard" to run on. And they sure made good use use of it.

      Grass path now cut for about 5 meters outside our log fence

      Some very tired but very happy doggie faces

  More Amazing Sunsets
  With our cold fronts and their bit of accompanying cloudiness, we are getting the most amazing sunsets. The thing with sunsets (and sunrises) is that every one is completely different. And taking the picture a few minutes earlier or later can make all the difference. Here's some pictures of our best sunsets.
 




  Next One Out
  There's not much happening out in the fields right now (June is our no-grow month) so other than doing some woodwork on the workshop kitchen cupboards, I've been fortunate to be able to put in a good few hours in the modelling workshop.
 
Next model completed is the "Bird of Time", now free of all radio control glitch problems. It has a very distinctively odd wing shape and athough it has a 3 meter wingspan and weighs about 1.7kg, it has a very light weight to wing area ratio. It has only rudder and elevator main controls with airbrakes for landing assist and I'm having great fun launching it low and flying it as smoothly as possible in the calm late afternoons.

  Cleaning Up Along the Front Fence
  Mandla's been very busy with a rather big project for us. We desperately need some form of firebreak between the tarred road and our forest and due to some of the neighbours' grass still not cut and baled, burning a firebreak on our pavement grass is just too dangerous right now.

So we've decided to dig out all the grass on the inside of the front fence. And that's about 300 meters of fence and Mandla is spending every spare hour he has out in the front digging out grass and putting it all in little piles. That grass is roots and all so we will use it for fill on the old road up next to the pumphouse were we have erosion problems when we have our big summer thunderstorms and the water rushes down from the hill.

I'm also thinking of laying some down on our driveway road as it's so dry now that the sand is turning to fine powder with us driving in and out so often.


  Moles
  We have moles - and lots of them (or maybe just a few extremely active ones). They're not too much of a problem right now as they are mainly in the front area of the property and in the forest, but they could certainly become a potentially big problem for us later.

Right now they're great fun for the dogs. Tess has taught all the Collies how to dig for moles. On the left she watches on as her top student finds the hole and digs deep. But as good as they're getting at digging into the mole burrows, they haven't yet caught any moles.
That's a lot of mole activity - all the dogs trying their luck at catching moles while Martie looks on hopefully

  Next Project in the Model Workshop
  I like to have two projects on the go at once in the modelling workshop - it just means I can get on with stuff on the second project while I'm waiting for glue, epoxy or paint to dry on the primary project. Right now the Bird of Time has just come off the workbench and the Gentron is the only project still on the workbench and is nearing completion. So, what's next?

After a quick rummage through my pile of old bits and pieces, I decided to finish off an Optima. When one of our model aircraft club members and very good friend, Clyde Seller died (going back many years now), his wife sold off all his modelling stuff and I bought his full unbuilt kit. I also took his only flying Optima and a whole pile of broken bits of his older models as part of the deal.
 

The Optima was designed by Ralf Dekker of Germany and he did very well with it at one of the early F3B World Championships in the mid 1980's. The model was then commercially kitted by Simprop in Germany and became very popular here in South Africa. There were at least five of them flying out at our club around that time.

I chose to refurbish Clyde's old flying Optima as it had most of it's radio equipment installed and all the parts were there (picture top right). But those black under wing surfaces! Sorry Clyde, that's going to have to go. It'll take a bit of work to get all that black paint off but I think I'll sand it all down and brighten up the model a bit with the traditional red under the wings.

The other two broken models (full kit and parts in the picture on the right) would need new canopies, rudders, elevators and wing joiners to be made. I'll put that stuff back in my pile of model bits and leave those projects for some other time.


    All the best Optima bits selected for my next modelling project

    Still got a complete kit plus enough bits for another two Optimas

  More Workshop Kitchen Cupboards
  Back to work again. Another two old shelf carcases were selected from our ex- computer shop stock and patched and refitted as kitchen cupboards. I just had to cut two centre sections and the bottom finishing strip, then four more doors were cut and all their edges routered nicely and
 
Out in the woodworking area (oops, rabbit hutch repair still not done!)     

Getting the new units positioned and level    
they were ready to install in the workshop kitchen.

Fixing the cupboards to the wall is not really a one man job but with Martie out doing other stuff, a good table up against the wall, some cardboard boxes and a bit of scrap wood packing to rest them onto at just the right height, it wasn't too big a job.

The carcasses already had more than enough holes in the back boards from previous installations, so it was just a matter of selecting which holes I was going to use, marking their positions on the wall and drilling the four holes for each carcass into the wall. Then the units were positioned again and after knocking in the wall plugs the "new" cupboards were up.

I only fitted the doors a few days later - so had to work around some of Martie's kitchen stuff that had already been packed onto the shelves.

Now it's just the second base unit to be built to match the first one and we should have enough packing space to make the kitchen much more productive for Martie.

 
All the wall cupboards up now. And Martie's so desperate for packing space
that she's started packing stuff out onto the shelves before I've even put the doors on!

  Hobby Workshop gets AV
  I didn't realise how much I missed listening to good music and watching my favourite DVD music concerts. I had a great sound system in our Joburg house but we decided hifi and TV would be one of the sacrifices we would have to make moving out to the farm off the grid - no power for big sound systems out here. But after nearly two years we've found we easily have enough power to run a small system and enjoy a few hours of good music and video when we feel like it. A mini DVD player, a little computer 2.1 multimedia speaker system and an LCD monitor with HDMI interface and we were back in the audio video business up in the hobby workshop.

I was trying to keep everything running on 12 volts DC so we could use the system without the inverter having to be on but it was really only the speakers that were 12 volt compatible. The monitor needed 14 volts and the DVD player only had 220 volt AC input. So I just used all the 220 volt AC transformers supplied with all the equipment and ran an extension lead from one of the power panel plugs into the cupboard above the new shelf. Amazingly the entire system only draws 2 amps at 12 volts (24 watts of power) at reasonable listening levels. However, it does make the amp meter on the power panel work like a VU meter when we pump up the boom boom music. So we can now have good music and video all evening if we want.

Once all the power tests were done I decided to build a little shelf to keep all the equipment out of the way. I found two suitable small pieces of saligna in the wood stock for the sides, sealed and varnished them and then cut a melamine board for the shelf for speaker controller and DVD player. I screwed the bottom of the saligna sides to the shelf and then screwed the sides up onto the bottom of the cupboards by drilling down from the inside of the bottom of the cupboards. A few holes into the cupboards here and there for the wires and the little shelf was ready for equipment installation. I put the subwoofer way up on top of the top cupboards and hung the two satellite speakers left and right of the main lights under the cupboards.

For the screen I bought a really fancy wall mounting bracket but had to make some custom bracket modifications to hold the screen because they don't put standard mounting holes on the back of computer monitors any more. Anyway, it all worked out fine and now we can swivel and tilt the screen to whichever direction and angle we want to watch from.

 
Speaker controller and DVD player on the new shelf   
   Screen swivel and tilt bracket
  And while up in the upstairs hobby workshop, a quick update on the Gentron. The fuselage has been rubbed down and resprayed, a new rudder made and the radio control system installed. The fuselage and T-tail looking very sleek and neat all in white with bright red nose and rudder.

The wings now need to be sanded down, all the leading edge dings filled and then they will also be resprayed.

    Very sleek Gentron fuselage and tail section

  From Grassland to Parkland
  What's this? A lone farm worker spotted out in the long grass between our fence and the foot of the hill. Looks like he's hacking away at the bossies that have sprung up during the rainy season. Methinks something's about to happen . . .

And so it was. Next day the big tractor spent the day cutting the grass. Another day of raking and then two days of baling and that fire hazard danger zone of long grass was turned into a beautiful parkland for us. The dogs are going to love it!



  Misty Mornings
  We're not clocking these up on our tally of real cold fronts but through the second half of the month we've had a few very mild fronts come through dropping the day and night temperatures a few degrees and producing wonderful cool mornings with thick mist on the hills.