Woodwork Project Progress May 2018
  We started the month by finishing off those two small woodwork projects started at the end of last month.

The forest shelter workshop roof support post was sanded and sealed and now needed to wait for a small foundation with a key rod to be layed in the rabbit hutch area to stabilise it. Also decided to this properly to prevent such a nice piece of wood having to rot away in the ground.

The lamination of the top for the small wall at the outside shower took a few days, laminating one strip at a time, but was now finished and ready to be planed and sanded. We were looking forward to seeing the wonderful natural wood colours of the saligna when it was finsihed.

Roofing support post sealed  
  Topping for the outdoor shower wall laminated

  Farm Life
  Well, not always as calm and relaxed as this, but below is a typical scene outside the garage workshop area one lovely autumn mid morning after all the early morning chores have been done, all animals have been fed, all the water tanks are full and we're just about ready for our mid-morning tea break.
Mealies drying on the bakkie bonnet (otherwise the chickens get at them), a duck and a few chickens about and Charlie and Spot out soaking up some sun. Just a few glorious moments with no stress!
  . . . and to end off another great day on the farm, nothing better than a lovely sunset with a few late summer cumulus cloud formations still hanging about - here the same cloud just before sunset and after it moved off a bit to the north just after the sun had set:

  Beautiful Wood
  To me, there's just nothing like the look and feel of good wood.

After a lot more hours of planing, sanding and sealing, here's the result of that saligna lamination for the top of the little outside shower wall.

Then with the edge strip glued on and after measuring and cutting it to fit the width and length of the wall, there was even a little piece left over which I edged with the router to make a little cutting board for Martie to use in the kitchen.

  New Farm Animals
  Flip, the farmer a bit further down the R23, who gave us our original three sheep, had one of his ewes die and was left with a little orphan two week old lamb. He didn't have any other ewes that had just given birth to help bring it up and had already tried bringing up very young lambs before with little success and neither he, his wife or the staff had the time do be a sheep mummy for the few weeks required to bring the lambs up to weaning stage.

They were at the vet one afternoon trying to save the ewe and were making the decision to put the lamb down when they thought of Martie. She was very willing to take on the task and we welcomed little Oreo onto our farm to attempt to get her started off in her sheep life. She came with a 10kg bag of Biolam power milk replacement for lambs and some feeding teats.

The little lamb was just so cute and cuddlesome and we persevered to get it drinking from the silicone teats. And after two days it was out nibbling grass as well!

  Just so happens that we were in the middle of one of our mild winter cold spells and Martie even went out and bought it a nice warm jacket. The lamb rested in an umbrella shaded basket outside during the day and had a basket inside next to our bed where it spent the nights. But with all our efforts, we couldn't replace the mommy sheep. After a few days the lamb "bloated" and died. We weren't even aware of the condition which apparently could have been fixed if spotted early with some probiotics and a bit of antibiotic medicines. We continue to learn with another very emotional farm animal loss experience.

At the same time one of our bantam hens hatched another two Potch Koekoek chics. We were doing really well getting our bantam hens to raise Potch Koekoek chicks but alas, this would be the last of the Koekoek eggs we would be able to get from Thea, our neighbour farmer across
Spot the odd one out. Little Oreo only about the size of a chicken.    
the road, as her entire flock got wiped out one night (in a fully chicken-wired coop) by some unidentified predator.

Our new Koekoek chicks

  More Peppadews
  Wow! Our little peppadew bushes are producing profusely.

Martie harvested another big basket full. More processing, more bottled peppadews. Yummy.

And while we were processing preserves, a brinjal, a few green peppers and some onions (unfortunately, those onions aren't ours) and we managed to produce a few bottles of chutney as well.

  Egg Stash Found
  Right under our noses! We often wondered why our egg supply "dried up" from time to time. The hens are obviously still laying but they either hide their "communal nests" very well in the forest or the dogs find the eggs and eat them (but we know when the dogs eat them because they smelly fart us out of the bedroom that night).

Here we were about to use the grass we were storing in bags for bedding for the chicken coop and discovered this neat little nest on top of the grass in one of the bags. And that bag of grass was stored right outside the chicken coop door.

But in general, our egg supply is really coming on nicely and we seldom have to buy eggs any more. The bantam eggs are a little small but our Potch Koekoeks have started laying and they produce a good medium sized egg - but we're confident the eggs will get bigger as the hens mature. And all our chickens are genuine free range, producing the tastiest eggs with bright deep yellow yolks.

  More Winter Cloud Formations
  Our winter cloud formations are so amazing (actually, our summer ones as well). When the cold fronts manage to penetrate deep into the interior of the country, there's bound to always be something interesting when you look up to the sky. Below, just after the front had passed over, the sky was split between a beautiful clear blue above and to the west with thousands of little "fluffies" to the east.
  . . . and just after sunset a new bunch of fluffies heading our way. The little lights on our water tank structure have already come on (fully automatic) and our evening star is shining brightly to the west. I'm still trying to get my head around a bit of amateur astronomy but that evening star is probably Venus, the closest planet orbiting the sun in our planetary system - so it's never too far away from the sun and kind of follows the sun across our sky.

  Rotten Gate Posts
  Well, it took just over 18 months for those little poles we planted for the gate from the front of the garage workshop area into the grass field (which so far, didn't even get a gate) to rot. We did only treat the bottoms with a bit of carbolineum and then cast some concrete around them
  (careful to leave the bottom open so the water didn't dam up in a concrete "bowl", but when a bit of pressure was applied to the tops, we could feel the wood under the ground was "crumbling" away.

But that gate is still going to stay on the todo list as the dogs are running a trough path up that little "passage". So the gumpole posts were removed, the congrete blocks dug out and they were replaced with steel poles in new concrete.

    Mandla cleaning up after planting the new steel posts

  Forest Shelter Workshop Roof Overhang Support Post Foundation
  Whew - the actual job was a lot smaller than the heading! Just a little square hole in the ground with a steel threaded rod pushed down into the soil in the middle. Mandla made quick work of the digging and while we were throwing the concrete for the new fence posts, we mixed a little extra and filled this little hole as well.

The trick with this project was to have the concrete foundation stick out of the ground about 100mm so that there would be no chance of moisture getting up onto the wooden post. So I built up around the sides of the hole with some scrap wood and once it was filled with concrete, I sloped the top surface of the concrete so that if water ran down the post (unlikely as the post was under roofing), the water could run down the concrete base into the ground.

We're also trying desperately to save that monkey plum bush in there. It has already been cordoned off from the sheep as they keep nibbling at it and we've now lost a few smaller live stems to the foundation hole. If it survives all this we'll have to trim the top a bit as the top few branches are just touching the inside of the roof sheeting.

  New Toys
  Another new step up in model aircraft technology. Well, not really new for the drone enthusiasts, but I'm planning to incorporate some of the technologies from their weird little flying machines into my fixed wing model aircraft. There are going to be some very interesting challenges with this over the next few months.

There are basically three technologies to be investigated. The first is auto-stabilisation systems. Those drones would be imposible to fly without this technology as none of their four electric motors produce exactly the same power, so a controller is placed in line with the motors which senses any movement of the craft that was not initiated by the intentional controls transmitted by the pilot and automatically corrects by speeding up or slowing down each of the four motors continually. To sense movement that little controller has three really miniature gyros (one for each axis), an accelerometer and a barometer, as well as intelligent channel mixing capabilities so it knows if the movement of the craft was a result of a pilot control instruction or from a gust of wind. All I have to do is figure out how to connect the motor controls to fixed wing aircraft control surface servos and reprogram a little here and there. It has all been done successfully before and all the information is on the internet, including all the amazing open source programming tools.

The second technology to get to grips with is FPV (First Person View) flying. This involves installing a miniature camera and video transmitter on the model which transmits a video feed from the model back to the pilot to a pair of viewing goggles. And that's going to be like learning to fly all over again - instead of watching the model from the ground, by wearing the goggles you would be able to fly the model as if you were in it!

Number three technology is GPS capabilities. By adding a miniature GPS module to the controller, you can have the GPS coordinates, direction and altitude of the model displayed (OSD) as an overlay on the video feed in the goggles. Although some of these features are still under development, progress is rapid and already allows RTH (Return to Home) where the controller can be programmed at the push of a button, or if the radio control signal is lost, to immediately climb to a safe altitude, head back to the launch point and "loiter" in a big circle above the launch area. You could even program GPS tasks to get the model to fly to preprogrammed waypoints, which could be way out of range of the radio control system. And then we have the "blackbox" feature which stores all your flight info during the flight and can be downloaded from an SD card
  to a computer. Then you can analyze the data to see where your radio lost range, what controls were given during the flight and even view your entire flight as an overlay on Google Earth. The mind boggles.

So I spent a few hours chatting with the drone propellerheads at RC Edge in Strydom Park and after some information gathering, purchased the little BetaFlight controller.

Then while looking for a computer solution for my workshop I came across the "Stick PC" technology. Wow! A fully operational Intel based computer with Windows 10 preloaded. It only has a little Quad Core Atom processor with 2GB memory and a 32GB solid state hard drive. But with an HDMI plug that feeds video straight into the monitor I use for watching

Little 35mm x 35mm   
controller board already   
mounted on it's platform   
to be fitted into my new   
Ibis model.   
DVDs, a USB port for mouse and keyboard and full wifi capablilities, it was just perfect for the workshop to browse the internet, download software and program the controller boards.

So with the Stick PC connected to the monitor, the mouse, keyboard and controller connected to the USB port and the BetaFlight APP downloaded, I was ready to play around with a bit of BF programming.

    New workshop computer setup, Stick PC
    dangling from the bottom of the monitor
    by an HDMI extension cable, USB hub
    for keyboard, mouse and controller
   and  Windows 10 up and running.

  Winter Light (and some Sheep)
  We're well into our winter season, and although a bit cold, winter has a special beauty. Winter sunlight has to filter through a lot more atmosphere to get to us down here at 26.5° south,
Early morning, Martie taking   
the sheep down into the forest   
resulting in the heat energy from the sun being a lot weaker than in summer and giving everything long shadows all day. We're especially aware of the long shadows when walking through the forest, where in some places the ground only gets direct sunlight when the sun is directly overhead during the summer months.

But we are blessed with a very short winter season and even when it's cold and the shadows are long, the normal farm chores still need to be done.

Fresh water for the duck pond every few days, chickens and quails to be fed, rabbit hutches cleaned and the sheep herded out away from our garden plants every day.

   Driveway in late afternoon shadow
   . . . and some sheep
Our "spooky forest" - winter late afternoon sunlight filtering through the high branches

  Peppadews Just Keep Coming
  There's been a lot more peppadew processing going on in Martie's kitchen (actually, they're sweet piquanté peppers - Peppadew is a trademarked brand name for them in South Africa).

Those five little peppadew bushes have produced an amazing amount of peppadews and after the latest processing session we were still left with half a basket. We'll keep them and let them dry out. Not sure yet what we can use the dry peppadews for though.