New Model Airplane Flying Experience July 2018
  I really wanted to get the auto stabilization project for those new model aircraft technologies I'm working on sorted first but our local distributor for my brand of radio control system is hopeless and I'll have to get some solutions from the manufacturer in Germany before I can move on with that. But having the micro camera, video transmitter and viewing goggles sitting there in their boxes on the shelf was just too tempting. I also thought it might be a good idea to check some of this stuff out on a present flying model instead of introducing everything together on a new airframe.

So my little electric powered Mini-Phoenix was chosen and in a few hours the camera system was installed, connected and working. Then after a few range checks to make sure the video transmitter wasn't going to interfere with the radio control system, we were ready to go. Although there was big cold front due to reach us the next day, the first Sunday of the month the weather was perfect - a warm winters day with a very light constant breeze.

The model was prepared and launched and everyone had a chance to look at the view from the model high in the sky through the viewing goggles. All except me, of course. I flew the model LOS (line of sight). A very successful introduction to model aircraft FPV (first person view) flying and that all the equipment was working well. The model was landed and taken back to the workshop for the batteries to be recharged.
 
Martie went off to town and with all the batteries charged I decided to have a go at FPV myself. I launched the model LOS and when it was up to a good altitude I put on the FPV goggles. It was great and I flew around for a few minutes trying to get my bearings. I remember seeing the hills, a big farm shed with a silver roof and the tarred road with the burned pavements each side of it. But I had no idea of the direction the model was flying nor could I recognise the location of any of the ground features I was seeing. And then when I took the goggles off I couldn't see the model anywhere in the sky. Panic set in and I put the goggles back on and frantically tried to identify from the FPV from the model where it was. I still had full radio control and FPV video streaming, so it must have still been in range - but I just couldn't figure out where it was. I had run out of options so I just let it fly out of FPV range and after a few minutes, switched off the transmitter.

I took a drive up and down the tarred road with the FPV goggles switched on hoping to get signal to get an idea of where it was, but no luck.

    Model all set up with onboard camera, switched on and ready to go

    I fly LOS (line of sight) while Amber monitors FPV (first person view)
 

With a heavy heart I gave up for the day and decided to go out on foot and search for it the next day. But that cold front came through that night and the next day was really not suitable for going out walking - and we had the freezing cold howling winds for the next few days after that as well. I managed to get in three search sessions in the area where I thought it may be but saw no little yellow airplane anywhere.

It was just by chance that Mandla saw me out searching on the next Friday and told me that Che's staff had found a little yellow airplane. I dashed across to fetch it. They had already found it on the Monday morning at the foot of the hill just above their shacks - in completely the opposite direction that I was searching for it. They weren't sure what it was or who it belonged to so just chucked it up on the roof of their kitchen.

Fortunately it wasn't too badly broken either - very repairable but the motor looked like it took a bit of a knock and may have to replaced - and the battery was missing? Anyway, glad to have recovered it.

Next time I attempt any FPV flying I'm definitely going to have a spotter with me to tell me in which direction the model is heading and how far away it is at all times!

 
    Green spot is the launch point, shaded areas my three foot search sessions and the red spot (you have to scroll across to the right) is where the model was found - distance 1.6km away from launch point

  Nine Out of Twelve
  Back at the farm the batch of twelve eggs were hatcing one every few hours and for three days we were continually reorganising chicks and eggs. If any eggs hatched under the second hen, the chicks were quickly taken away and put under the original hen and an unhatched egg put
 
under the second hen.

After the third day the original hen abandoned the nest with her seven chicks so we moved all the remaining eggs to the second hen. She hatched another two chicks and that was it. We put the chicks with the original hen and the next morning the second hen was chucked out of the coop with the rest of the flock.

Both those bantam hens did a great job of hatching nine beautiful little chicks from the twelve eggs.


  Grandchildren Visit
  Although the weather was not ideal - rather cold and a little windy - being school holidays we managed to arrange to have both our grandchildren out on the farm together for a few days during the first week of the month.
 
Mia and Amber with the sheep    
All ready to go horse riding

They loved it - they were able to feed all the animals, check the chicks every few hours, go on long walks and we were even
  fortunate enough to be able to have Lee arrange one of her horses on Che's farm for an afternoon horse riding session. And the best is they seemed to keep each other entertained most of the time so, although we kept a close eye on them, we could still get on with our normal daily chores.

Taking turns and together on Lee's "lazy" horse    

 
Tranquil horse paddock scene out at Che's farm . . .

. . . and back at our farm - walking the sheep out for a bit of grazing

  More Winter Cleanup
  Burn, burn, burn! That big pile of smaller branches, sticks and leaves on the forest edge is now all gone. And the ash heap is growing daily, but still nowhere near filling our fire pit.

And our pile of saleable firewood is also growing, even though Martie has sold off a few bakkie loads of that already. I'm finding it very therapeutic feeding our fire. Very simple stuff - walk over and fetch an armfull of branches and then feed them into the fire a few at a time. Sometimes you can just chuck the whole armful on but you have to watch the "combustability" of the load. We try not to let the flames rise up too high, especially when there's a bit of wind.

Also, notice in the picture below that we've now moved a few of the logs from trunk of that tree that Johan cut down for us in next to the fire pit. The logs make great seating for when we spread some of the coals from the main heap to the side and cook breakfast or dinner. It's always nice and warm around that fire pit for many hours into the evening after a good days burn.

 
Ash heap getting bigger on our burning pit - but that will burn down to almost nothing a few hours later.
And in the background the forest area where the pile of branches was is now cleared and clean.

We will have to start on that original "dump" area of branches next to the chicken coop soon.

  Television
  We never really wanted TV on the farm but with my country of origin, Croatia doing so well in the World Cup, we decided to bite the bullet and install a little TV system. We tried a small terrestrial aerial to just get the public broadcast channels but that wasn't very successful. So satellite TV it
  was to be - but not the expensive monthly subscription service type. We opted for the OpenView system where we get the very basics: all the public broadcast channels (where fortunately all the games were televised live) and a few extra news and feature channels.

It was great to be able to watch the last few games to the final live. But since we last watched the public broadcast channels they have degraded so much, I don't think we'll be watching too much of that in the future.


    Unsightly satellite dish on the upstairs workshop outside wall
- we'll either have to get used to it or maybe paint it brown or green

  Winter Rain
  Not that much (one whole millimeter) and not that unusual. But every cold front that has come through that came through with cloud this year, we had the cloudy weather hang around for three to four days. Again giving us a tough time with our solar hot water and battery charging systems.

But not being able to have our normal steaming hot bath or shower every evening and having to take it easy on the computer and entertainment system use for a few evenings every now and then has really not been that bad.

 
1mm of rain came down from these clouds on the 9th with the next four days completely overcast.
Sometimes our winters are not all that much fun.

  Old Lapa / New Tea Garden Compromise
  It's been years since we worked on that lapa under the big old black wattle tree. And we were at a point where we really needed to restrategize on the direction our little farm was going. Although our financial overheads were very low, we seemed to be spending an awful lot of money every month on the farm. And that's understandable as we had developed the farm from scratch and there was ongoing development continually to develop the infrastructure we need to keep our farm animals and grow our own food. But the farm needed to start paying back a little.

Martie's dream was to have a little tea garden/coffee shop/farm stall in the forest opening along the driveway near the front of the property and we always wanted our private entertainment area to be the lapa under the big old black wattle tree nearer the house. So with a bit of compromise here and there we decided to combine the lapa and the tea garden projects into a kind of general function structure. We're not exactly sure what functions will be held there yet, but we're going to built the structure to be as flexible as possible for any small functions.

So, first step was to plan the size of the structure - 20 meters long by 6 meters wide should do it with an ablution facility added on to the end of the long side. But when we marked out the area, we found the slope of the ground was not favourable, especially as we wanted the floor level to
 
First trench dug into the "high ground" at lapa floor level produced    
this little mound of sand. Surface grass neatly in another pile.    
be level with the existing lapa floor level. We considered raising the lapa floor level but eventually resigned ourselves to the fact that there was going to be a lot of digging.

In order to get idea of how much digging will be needed, Mandla was tasked with digging a trench into the high ground, level with the floor level of the lapa. Well, after our first day of digging we found we needed to dig in about 700mm at the "deepest" point. So, looks like we're going to be spending a few days digging!


  Preparing for the "Tea Garden" Structure
  We managed to make contact with our builder again and he was very keen to get going on our new project with us. It was still school holidays so in the middle of week two of the month, Leno
  arrived in his beat up old diesel converted bakkie with his two kids Leno Jr and Senele (now big boys) to check the job requirements.

They decided to just start immediately so all our wheelbarrows, picks and shovels were collected from around the farm and on the first day they cleared all the grass from the proposed building site and moved the pile of sand from Mandla's digging off the site to a designated sand storage area.

We just used my rough measurement markers to start with, planning to lay out the structure position properly when we started marking out the foundation trenches.

Our little bakkie worked really hard and was first loaded with grass and was then used to move a few loads of sand off the building site.


    Big pile of grass taken to the crop growing area compost heap

    Sand taken to the sand storage area next to the house
 
End of day 1 - building site cleared - very neat and tidy - ready for some big digging

  Firewood Collectors
 
Ernest chopping down a dead one   
While on the building site we noticed some activity in the forest on the hillside one late afternoon. I took a quick walk up there to find a few of the guys from Che's staff out cutting and gathering some firewood.

We now often call them in when we have sections of our forest we want cleared but we don't have any more clearing to do right now, so now they seem to be moving in on to the hillside forest. Their firewood requirement is quite high during the winter months as they burn wood for their "communal kitchen" and are often seen sitting around their fires for warmth on cold winters evenings.

That "expanding" hillside forest has to go, so it's good to see they're making a start on it, even though they only take the bigger logs and branches and leave all the little stuff behind for someone else to clean up.

 
The size of that forest at the foot of the hill is growing every year - the existing trees
are getting taller and the forest is spreading noticeably

  Tea Garden Structure - First Day of Levelling
  Let the digging begin. Leno arrived with his two kids and a brother and we started on the digging part of the project so that we could have a level area on which to build our tea garden structure.

It's hard to beleive how hard these guys can work. They work in relays with one guy loosening the soil with a pick while the other guy shovels the sand and clods into the bakkie. When those two tire, the other team of two take over. And they just keep going all day long!

The first day of digging I lost count of the number of bakkie loads of sand we moved. But the building area was getting noticeably deeper on the "uphill" side and the pile of sand at the sand storage area was getting a lot bigger. Interesting that only the first 20cm of surface sand was hard, dry and dusty. Below that level the sand was much softer, deeper red colour and actually moist.

    Digging into the high ground and loading the sand into the bakkie

   Offloading the sand at our sand storage area

  A Bit of Woodwork
 
Wooden frame with plywood back to fit into the rock wall   

Outside shower soap dish and shelf components   
I've really got to get that pumphouse bathroom finished so I got going on some small woodworking projects for it.

First, that last inside rock wall was going up really slowly so I decided to put in a wooden frame that we could use to mount a picture into or use as a "light box" of sorts. Not quite sure of the finer details there yet, but it will mean a lot less rocks will need to be laid. I dug into the pile of hardwood planks I got from Robert and found some really nice pieces, planed and sanded them, cut them to size and then attached them onto a plywood backing. A bit of stain for the plywood and varnish on the hardwood and that was job done.

Then while all the wood working tools were out I made a little soap dish and shelf for the outside shower from some of the interesting pieces of wood I picked up at the wood yard. I tried to keep all the wood as natural as possible but needed to seal it properly so it would at least last a few years outdoors exposed to the sun and the rain.


  Tea Garden Structure - More Levelling
  The second day of hard digging work on the building site, but that day another cold front passed over us, bringing more overcast weather and strong freezing cold winds. Not great outdoor working conditions!
 
Lovely early morning "hole in the sky" cloud formations as the leading edge of the cold front passes over
 

But the digging continued and the sand pile grew. We're now getting a better idea of the ground levels - which are very deceptive. Everything slopes in two directions here and to get things level we always have to dig a bit and fill a bit. We were very fortunate that the floor level of the existing lapa area ended up about midway between the highest and lowest levels of the section we wanted to level for the tea garden structure.

 
Second day of digging - getting the ground quite level . . . and the sand pile bigger   

  Tea Garden Structure - Levelling Day 3
  The digging continues. After the third day we had about 8 meters of the total of 24 meters dug out and levelled - we seemed to be averaging 3 to 4 meters a day - but should be able to do a bit better as we progress to the other end where we don't have to dig quite so deep.
 
Digging progress - dug out section fairly level and clean
 
Bakkie taking some strain - about half a ton of sand per load . . . and the sand pile still getting bigger

  New Orphan Lamb "Puddles"
  Our local sheep farmer further down the R23 road had another incident where a mother sheep fell into a hole and broke her back. It had a three week old lamb and again, he wasn't prepared to hand rear it. So the mother was slaughtered and the lamb was given to Martie. It seemed at least a week older than the previous lamb he gave us and with our newly acquired lamb
  knowledge we gave the lamb hand rearing another go.

It was a bit tough on our sleep routines as it had to be bottle fed at least every four hours or whenever it bleated "hungry" at any time through the night and day.

It already nibbled at grass when outside and pooped neat little "raisins", so looks like we may have better luck with getting this one through into it's adult sheep life.

On the right, after early morning feeding, Martie on radio duty with Puddles up to no good around the workshop bedroom.


   "No Puddles, you're not actually allowed on the bed!"

  Tea Garden Structure - Levelling Nearly Done
  It took us six days of digging to get this first part of the project done. The building team worked tirelessly with their picks and shovels and the bakkie took countless loads of sand away to the sand storage area - which was actually only a few meters away from the digging zone.
 
Last corner (after extending the area for the ablution facilities) being dug away to get the ground level

Last load of sand being offloaded from the bakkie at the now huge sand pile at the sand storage area
 

When the ground was all level and cleared we set up building profiles on each corner of the structure, got out the long clear water tube, filled it with water, ran it from each corner to opposite corners and let gravity give us a level point on each corner above the ground. We marked the level point on the profiles and measured down to a floor level that was at the same level as the floor level of the existing lapa structure.

Then the dimensions of the structure were marked on the newly levelled sand out and each cof the orners checked that it was 90°. Then we were finally ready to start digging the foundations.


  Identity Crisis?
  When little orphan lamb Puddles arrived he was very confused as to his new surroundings and suddenly missing mother figure. But he very quickly got into the swing of our farm routines and being bottle fed by Martie, seemed to adopt her as his mother and our pack of dogs as his flock friends.

We keep him separate from the rest of the sheep as both our ewes are pregnant and he badgers them and then the ram keeps trying to butt him out of the way. So he mainly hangs out with the dogs - goes for doggie walks and plays with them when he's in a playful mood. But he plays by head butting and the dogs aren't too sure how to handle this "play". Very entertaining to watch the species interaction at playtime.

 

  Tea Garden Structure - Digging Foundation Trenches
  Another two days of digging and we got this phase of the project out of the way.

Once the entire building area was levelled and cleared and the building outline marked out in the sand, we started digging the foundation trenches. The sand from the trenches was left on the inside of the structure so we could use it as building sand for building the brickwork to ground level and filling around it later.

Whatever is left we will use to do final levelling before casting the floor slab - and probably end up taking another few loads away to the sand storage area as well.
 

The soil was a lot easier to work down at foundation trench level - softer and moist. And in that almost 50 meters of trench digging we ended up with a little pile of large stones and only it one big rock. We are really blessed with the most amazing soil structure on the entire farm.

Only one rock in 50m of digging

    Back wall foundation trench done, starting on the front wall

    Two more days of digging and foundation trenches done

 
And while out taking the daily pics on the building site, a quick change to the camera settings
and time to catch a lovely warm orange late winter sunset.

  More Puddles
  Puddles is doing great - feeding well from the bottle, nibbling on some dry grass from time to time and settling in well to our farm routines. He tolerates the dogs and the dogs tolerate him -
 
Martie with Puddles (with jacket) and Tess. Spot ok to be around but    
doesn't really want anything to do with this new very weird puppy.    

Puddles checking what's going on outside the kitchen door    
so we don't see any special relationships going to be formed there.

He also partakes in all the daily farming activities with Martie now as well: they let the chickens and ducks out in the mornings, go on dog walkies and sometimes he now even hangs out with the big sheep.

Moving a basket full of chicks

 
Early morning around the growing tunnels with a few of our farm animals out waiting for their breakfast

  Taking Down the Big Leaning Tree in the Driveway
  That big, leaning black wattle tree in our driveway was bound to fall over sooner or later anyway. And when it did the roots under the driveway would inevitably rip out of the soil and break up our relatively smooth little driveway to cause us some access problems.

So we decided to call Johan and his chainsaw in to take it down. The deal was he could take whatever of the wood he wanted and we would clean up all the branches and part of the trunk he didn't want. That would be firewood for the next winter season for him and enough branches to keep our fire pit going for a few weeks for us.

The tree was split at the base so there were actually two large trunks. And both were leaning out from the forest edge to stretch their uppermost branches out to get the most light from the competing trees around it.

We started with the slightly smaller trunk and after having the chainsaw blade jam in the first cut and using the handsaw and axe to cut and chop around it to free it up, we felled it into the clearing and Johan started cutting off the branches while I cleared them away onto a really big neat pile.

 
  In the top picture Johan is making the first cut into the smaller trunk. Above, the before and after pictures of the first felling.

On the right, all the branches removed and Johan cutting up the trunk into logs for splitting and below, some smaler logs still to be taken away by Johan and all the branches in a pile to be taken off to our fire pit for burning.

 

  Outdoor Shower Soapdish
  While the builders were busy with their laborious digging on the new tea garden building site and didn't need too much supervision, I was able to get down to scratching a few items off my to do list. First was one of my smaller woodworking projects - the outside shower soapdish and bottle shelf.

I screwed the little shelves onto the base from the back and mounted the whole thing on the wall next to the taps. It looked good and was functional. But we'll only be able to test it in a month or two as the weather right now is just not suitable for showering outside.


  Cutting Grass
  It's been well over a month since I was on the tractor cutting any grass around the farm. The grass from our last cutting has lasted very well for a bit of additional feed for the sheep when
  they're in their enclosure and for their bedding.

But with the weather so nice and coming into peak veldfire season, I decided to get out there and cut some more of the front yard and the section closest to our buildings around the back.

Mandla raked the back yard grass into big heaps and we will use it for sheep feed and bedding. The front yard grass we are giving to Leno to take for his "township farmyard". They don't have much good grass there so this should be a treat for his goats, sheep, chickens and pigs.


    Down in the front yard bottom corner, grass was really long and thick
 
Front yard grass now cut right back to the bushes and forest edge
 
Back yard grass cut near the building structure and already raked and heaped

  Tea Garden Structure - Casting Foundations
  With all the digging finished we started laying in and wiring up the foundation steel reinforcing, lifting it off the ground with quarter brick "spacers". Then it wasn't long before we were mixing concrete and pouring it into the foundation trenches.
 
Foundation for kitchen wall inside the lapa    

Mixing the concrete on the nicely levelled lapa floor    

We started at the old lapa end where we dug a foundation for a wall to separate the "kitchen area" from the rest of the enclosed area.

Leno decided that it would be best to mix the concrete for this section on the lapa floor, pour it into the trench and then "push" it deeper until the trench was full to the corner. That worked quite well but it's seriously hard work "pushing" concrete with a space while straddled over with one leg each side of the trench. But we got it all done.

All done with the concrete here
 

Once that small end section was done it was straight on to the really big job - we had about another 60 meters of foundation to pour. So it was mixing, pouring and levelling concrete for the next three days.

For the big mixing, Leno chose to bring the sand and stone in on a little plank bridge over the foundation trench and mix in the middle of the structure so he could get to all the trenches easily from the middle. Little paths were dug through the sand piles all around the site so that the wheelbarrows could get to the trenches for the pouring.

Pouring concrete has to be the messiest part of the building process, with plastering coming in a close second. Leno tends to mix the concrete a little "runny", and although we do lose a bit of strength - which shouldn't be too critical for the structures we're building - it's a lot easier to mix. Then the heavy wheelbarrow full is poured into the trench. Unfortunately the wheelbarrow is
  very often not positioned exactly where it should have been, so everything and everyone in range gets splashed.

Steel for 25 meters of foundation
    One of the big mixes in progress in the middle of the structure

    Pouring through a pathway between the sand piles


  Tea Garden Structure - Brickwork Begins
  At last, finished with concrete for now (until the floor slab) and we were ready to start laying bricks. But not before taking an hour or two to get the final levels for the structure correct. We set up profiles on each corner of the structure and used our "water tube" level. We set a reference level on the existing lapa server wall - twelve brick courses up from floor level. The idea was to then mark each profile to that exact height which would give us a perfectly level "plane" twelve brick courses from the floor level.

This was done by filling the water tube, having one helper hold the tube at the wall with the water level in the tube at the correct level and having another helper at the corner profile to chalk mark the water tube level there. A bit of moving the tube up and down slowly on each side and after marking all four profiles, we marked and counted the brick courses on the profiles down to where the floor level should be.

Mortar was mixed and the building began. As the foundation was not perfectly level (a bit of uneven pouring here and there), the first course of bricks had some sections of bricks layed as a
  roller course and the rest layed normally. But once the first course was down we should have been able to lay the second course correctly all round. And with two bricklayers with a helper each, we should have had the structure up to floor level in a day.

Setting the level on the wall
    Profiles set up and cleaning up the foundation concrete for building

   Laying bricks, two bricklayers working from opposite ends
 

Yep, Leno found a bricklayer relative and brought him along. The theory to increase productivity was good but these guys had obviously never worked together before and didn't communicate too well over the twenty odd meter distance on the long walls. When they finally came together (on more than one occasion - and even on the short walls!) we found the one guy had moved the building line up to the next course along the way without telling the other one and the entire wall was a mess. I wasn't taking note of such basic stuff and we ended up knocking down and rebuilding almost every wall's first and sometimes second courses that they built together!

I sometimes felt like kicking the whole crew off site a few times and finding a new team, but I work very well with Leno on his own. And as the old saying goes, better the devil you know . . .


  Second Trunk of the Big Tree Comes Down
  Johan must have recovered well after cutting down that first trunk. he was back the next weekend to do the second (and bigger) one.

I couldn't leave the building site so he tackled it himself, taking off all the branches once the main trunk was down and just moving them out of the way until I could get a gap to clean them up.

 

  Tea Garden Structure - Brickwork to Floor Level
  Once I got the two bricklayers in sync with strict instructions not to touch the building line without me present, bricklaying went on quite smoothly. I concentrated on making sure that face bricks were used wherever the structure would show above the ground and cheaper cement stocks were used for all the underground building. I am always amazed how much building material goes under the ground on all our farm structures because of the sloping ground.

Our ground slope is very deceptive, and it always seems to slope diagonally across our planned structures. In this case it has resulted in the floor level of the top corner to be over half a meter below ground level and to be half a meter above the ground at the diagonally opposite corner.

And then once we were finally up to floor level with the brickwork, everyone was able to get a much better picture of the structure (oh, the design was again in my head and with only some very basic layout drawings, so not even the builders really knew what they were building) and how it was placed on the sloping ground.

 
Over 20 meters of wall -  
bricklayers synchronised  
  Front wall brickwork up to floor level - bottom corner
  over half a meter above ground level
 

Along the back wall, the top corner floor level is way under the ground, so we're going to have lay in some plastic waterproofing on the outside to prevent damp creeping in, although it will be face brick inside.

And it looks like we're going to be moving a lot more sand again - we've only used a fraction of the foundation sand for building and filling so far.

 
  Kitchen area design still under development - plans already changed
  to include the tea garden "dead corner" into the kitchen
Back wall floor level over half  
a meter under the ground  

  Off Home with Grass
  Leno is having trouble with his bakkie, so it's a real problem for him to get his team out to work. They are sometimes lucky enough to get a lift with his son-in-law that works in Ratanda, but he also drops off a whole bunch of avocado street vendors, so they often get to us very late. Other days they catch the taxi, which costs them a lot of money and I still have to go out to fetch them and drop them off again in town.

But he needed to get the grass I gave him back to the township for his animals, so one day he hired a big bakkie from one of his family members and little Leno and the driver spent the
  afternoon raking up grass in our front yard and loading it onto the bakkie. They finished just in time to give Leno and his team a lift back home.

The sooner they can get that bakkie going the better - it has really impacted on the progress of our building project. But it looks as if it's going to have to go in for a major engine overhaul, so we'll just have to battle on with transport issue.



  Early Blooms and a Lunar Eclipse
  Although we've had a few rather long and very cold spells, this winter has been rather mild with much longer and very warm spells as well. And I can recall only three really frosty early mornings since our winter started late in mid-May.

Looking at weather events around the world (and locally around the country), it looks like global climate change is here to stay. And the plants must be very confused as all our fruit trees are in full bloom and there are green shoots appearing on all the stalks as well. Just hope we don't have a really cold August and September.

Then on the 27th we had a spectacularly long total lunar eclipse. After putting animals and poultry away for the night we watched a very bright full moon rise over the hill and later in the evening we popped outside every now and again to see the progress of the moon passing through the centre of the Earth's shadow. Some of our pics below:

 
 

  Goat Kid "Biscuit"
  Saturday on the building site was going well until just after lunch a call came through from Leno's family in Zonke township. He had told me one of their goats had given birth the previous day and the call was that the mommy goat was in trouble. She wasn't doing well and they suspected that there was a twin kid stuck in her.

Martie quickly made arrangements with our local vet to be on standby while Leno arranged transport to get the goat through to Heidelberg. But unfortunately by the time they got here
  the mommy goat had died and they were left with the healthy kid born the previous day.

When they got back to the farm with the dead goat they began checking out what went wrong (you can just imagine how) on the building site so we chased the investigation party out into the veld while the builders finished off their day's work.

Turns out there was a dead kid in the mother and when building work was done they took all their goat remains and headed off back to the township. But as we were already hand raising a lamb and had all the feeding bottles and milk replacement, Martie claimed the surviving kid to attempt hand raising it as well. It was named "Biscuit".


   Township life was never like this. You guessed it - it sleeps in our bed!!
 
Folding those long legs away  
in order to lay down  
Settled down on the soft grass and
screaming for food or attention
  Early morning outside
  - and still in our pyjamas

  Tea Garden Structure - Final Floor Levelling
  It was good to end off the month with the completion of a major phase of the project. Now that the outer brickwork gave us an accurate reference for the floor level, all the excess sand was gathered into piles, loaded onto the bakkie and dumped on our already massive sand pile at the sand storage area.

While one team was busy on moving the sand, the other team was already wetting down the levelled areas and compacting it by hand with our "stampers".

 
Front section levelled and loading more sand from the back section onto the bakkie for removal
 
Above left, watering down the levelled area and on the right, compacting the levelled surface