Tea Garden Structure - Kitchen Walls & Wood Oven Base September 2018
  With the old lapa concrete floor finished, we were able to start on the kitchen walls.

But we couldn't go too far on that until we had planned the base of the wood oven. I measured out the area we needed and Leno layed out bricks to make easy joints for building so we wouldn't have to cut too many three quarter, half and quarter bricks. That didn't take too long and building began on the kitchen back wall and wood oven base.

    Old lapa floor area concrete complete
Leno laying out the brickwork over my dimension markings for the wood oven

  Sagewood in Bloom
  The bottom corner of the farm is heavily populated with indigenous sagewood (butterfly bush) and in early spring when the blooms are out, the lovely sweet smell hangs in that lowest part of our property for a few days. It is especially fragrant in the early mornings and late afternoons. So on the few days when the wind is not blowing it's normal gale, we make a point of going the long way round to open and lock the gate in the early mornings and late afternoons.

We are indeed fortunate to have such bushes growing indigiously on our farm. Although not in any way rare, the bushes attract butterflies and bees with their pleasantly sweet scent and are hardy enough to survive our dry frosty winters and summer droughts.

And although we're not really geared up to make use of them, the plants also have medicinal uses. The leaves can be used fresh or dried to make an aromatic herbal tea and infused, can be used to make an eye lotion. The roots can also be processsed as a medication for coughing and relief of colic.

Lots of sagewood bushes in the bottom corner - big grass clumps still need to cleaned up

  This Kid Just Likes to be High
  "Well, if you leave my blanket on the table, I'll just take my morning nap up there today".

Yep, it's that goat kid again. So lovable, but it's now learned to climb and with the balancing abilities of an acrobat, only the highest point in the room is good enough. We're learning lots and fast about goats and have been warned by more than one of our friends on having one as a "pet". Being a female, it will be a bit (not much) easier than having a male, but it will none-the-less be keeping us very busy.

Biscuit is of the long-eared Boer Goat (Boerbok) variety. They were bred in South Africa for meat in the early 1900s and are now found almost all over the world. They have a high resistance to disease and they adapt well to hot, dry climates. Extremely tough and durable and, from our experience, can eat just about anything! And did I mention . . . very cute.

  Tea Garden Structure - More Kitchen Walls & Wood Oven Base
Wood Oven base from the inside. Open area to store the wood.    

From the outside, wood oven joining into kitchen back wall    
Back on the construction site, work continued on the kitchen side of the structure.

The main aim was to get that final wall of the structure up to window sill height so that everything was up to the same level. Then the builders could get a much better idea of what I had in mind for the building design.

There were a lot of changes to the kitchen area and we were still planning how all the kitchen walls would tie in together, so my plan was to spend a few days down that end of the site and probably get all the walls there up to full height before we moved back to the bathroom side and the pillars.

Then there were the two complicated projects along the way: the wood oven and the fireplace. Both of which I would probably be doing most of the brickwork while Leno does the brickwork around them.

View of the entire structure from outside the kitchen side. All walls and pillars nearly to window sill height.

  Tea Garden Structure - Kitchen Taking Shape
  We spent a few days down at the kitchen side of the building.

Work continued on the wood oven base - the inner brick course was built up to support lintel level and then we moved on to plastering, as to plaster that inside once the lintels were on would be tricky. Once the plastering was done, the outer brick course was built up three courses above the lintel.

Then the existing kitchen server structure was lowered, also plastered inside and then lintels layed on top of the inner courses and little centre support wall. Once the lintels were in place we could continue building the side walls higher.

And while on plastering, we plastered the lower server wall as well as once the outer walls got higher, it would be difficult to get to those inside corners. I'm not sure if plastering at this stage is a good idea, but we'll just have to patch up all the inevitable damages when the job nears completion.

  Wood oven base so far

   Kitchen server counters

  Spring Rains?
  2mm? Nope, I don't think we can really log that as our first official rainfall of the season. But the cold front that got through to bring it brought us miserably cold and very windy weather.
Very early morning - although the sun wasn't really up yet, it stood no chance of getting any substantial power to our solar panels through those clouds for most of the day

  Tea Garden Structure - More Kitchen Brickwork
  I spent a good few hours on planning and building a form to build the roof of the wood oven. It was going to be round so some fancy brickwork would be required. A bit of scrap chipboard cut half round, some cheap and nasty 3mm plywood bent over the top, a few perlins and lot of screws and we had something we could build on.

We knocked off the third couse of straight bricks around the outside, leaving two straight courses of brick before starting the curve. We raised the form two bricks high with some loose bricks inside the oven. The plan was to build on the form, then by knocking out the loose bricks the form would drop and we could remove it before closing up the front of the oven.

Progress on brickwork for the wood over round roof from the front and side
Kitchen back wall going higher with opening to the lapa and preparation for chimney tie-in

  Fire Gets into the Forest
  Howling dry winds were the problem here. That bit of rain didn't dampen down much and while we were building on the Saturday afternoon we saw the big smoke upwind.

The fire started about two kilometers away on the other side of the train line, jumped the line and started creeping along at a rapid rate with the strong wind driving it, through the farms across the road. There was not much chance of killing it in the long grass across the road (some farmers just have too much property to manage it properly!) and all we could do was wait at the tarred road and ensure it doesn't jump the road onto our side.

When the fire did get to the road we patrolled the pavement, looking out for any embers landing on our side of the road and putting them out promptly. But inexperience showed as there must
  have been one that landed very far from the road and got hold of some short grass without us noticing it.

Within minutes the fire was in our forest and everyone had to get mobilized with water and beaters. We fought the whole afternoon and by night time eventually had it under control, with only branches and logs burning in "safe" areas where the ground surface had already been burned clean all around them.

Bottom corner of the forest on the west side got the worst of the fire
The next morning - the little forest between our forest road and Kallie's fence got really badly hurt
  But with us fighting the fire on the west side of the forest, we didn't notice some "bright sparks" worried about the fire sweeping through the forest and into Che's fields. So they began lighting a "back burn" on the east side of the forest! Talk about inexperience. They obviously lost control of that very quickly and in no time we were fighting fires on both sides of our forest.

Although it is a highly stressful situation where adrenaline is high for everyone, the farmers really need to get their act together on firefighting. One person needs to be in control of things and everyone needs to cooperate and obey their commands. Unfortunately our local fire
  department's "fire chief" on his "limited budget" is hopeless and our local fire association head has resigned. It's a rather responsible position that no-one really wants to step into. So until we have a firefighting leader, we just have to be aware of and be able to somehow deal with a few of our "fire cowboys" that "help" when we're fighting fires.

Here's some of the completely unnecessary damage on the east side of the forest:


  Tea Garden Structure - Kitchen Back Wall Goes Full Height
Kitchen back wall from the outside . . .    

. . . and from the inside    
All the builders that were onsite helped with the Saturday afternoon and evening firefighting, so they took the Sunday off to recover. But recovery must have required more time as they were only back on site on the Wednesday.

And then it was back to building kitchen walls. The kitchen back wall was built to full height and tied in to the long side wall on the one side and to the wood oven chimney on the other.

Work was also done on completing the wood oven round roof to get the chimney and wall brickwork all integrated into that.

At the end of the day everything was looking really good there, although while I was offsite for a few hours they bricked up the front of the wood oven with my form still in there. Not too serious as it's only wood so I'm sure we can break or burn it out if necessary. We'll tackle that one when the time comes.

  Tea Garden Structure - First Kitchen Server Wall Goes Full Height
  Sorry about that toilet bowl. It's not functional yet and we don't purposely put it into the pictures as a prop. We just tend to move it around a lot to get it out of our way - but it just always
  seems to end up in a picture somewhere.

Anyway, next step (and another day) in the building process was the get the walls around the kitchen servers built up to full height. First, one "kind of wide column" wall each side of the main server was built up to support a wall across the top of the server. We could have left the top open to the roof trusses, but we thought having a wall above the servers would just finish things off nicely there.

  The Dangers of Fire
  Fire never ceases to amaze us. And how frightening it can be when watching it consume grasslands and trees on a windy day.

When we had the fire burning in the forest, we had to have firefighters on standby all around the forest and especially on our garage block and house side, where a few live embers were flying out and landing on our back yard short grass. And with the wind blowing so strongly, it took the lookout firefighters a while to get to and put out the quickly spreading "little" fires in the short grass. If our grass was long, they would have had no chance of putting it out at all before it ran away into the hills.

So our back yard even sustained a bit of fire damage. Two spots right near the garage block and house buildings, one around the chicken coop and fruit tree orchard and one way up on our new building site. I can now fully understand how dangerous it is to have thatched roof structures around!

A bit of fire damage on from burning embers that came out of the forest in our back yard short grass

  Suddenly Seven!
  Grazing must be really bad on the other side of Che's farm as more horses are being shuffled over to our side. Four was manageable, but now we have a total of seven. All we really have to do is keep their water troughs full, but that takes at least half an hour of our busy day every day. We're just hoping for some rain soon so they can be moved back to their normal paddocks.

  Still Pumping Ants
  One month later and we're still pumping ant bodies from our borehole. I think they're fresh ones as there's no dead animal smell anymore and we can at least use our water for drinking again. It would be great to see what's happening down in the borehole casing, but that pretty much impossible without really fancy equipment.

So I conducted my own little primitive experiment to see how ant bodies behave in water. Although I still don't have a scientific conclusion, I suppose the results should be pretty logical as ant bodies would behave the same as any dead bodies in water. The fresh bodies seem to sink
Ant bodies in water experiment    
and then as they get older they float to the top. So after pumping the borehole empty, I dropped the ant bodies trapped in the filter into a jug of water and the picture on the left shows the results. Some bodies sank to the bottom, some floated to the top and some hung around in the middle.

Looks like we've just got to keep pumping the borehole completely empty every day and see how long it takes for the subterranean ant colony to fix up their tunnel systems.

Microfilter after pumping the borehole dry

  Tea Garden Structure - Wood Oven Chimney and Starting the Front Wall
  Moving on with the tea garden project, the builders finished off all the brickwork for the wood oven chimney - as high as they could reach. It will need to go a little higher, but we'll tackle that once the roof timber is up and they can perch on that to build it up higher.

Then they moved on to build the first two sections of the front wall. As the main entrance will be along the front and we will need a bit of the front area to acess the main area from the kitchen,
  most of the front wall will be open. It wasn't long before the first two wall sections were up and the front pillars were up to the height of the rest of the structure.

Wood oven brickwork finished
   Wood oven finished with chimney integrated into kitchen back wall

   First two sections of front wall up to their full height

The entire building structure so far - still a bit puzzling for some. Picture taken from kitchen top corner.

  Tea Garden Structure - Some Little Concrete Jobs
First step as a foundation for the next steps     

Foundation for the fireplace    
Another day on the building site and we started this one off with a bit of concrete work.

First, the opening we left on the back long wall was intended for a few steps up to the higher ground behind the structure. I wasn't too keen on Leno's idea to just dig out a big square into the higher ground and build up a brick stairway - such a waste of building materials. So I decided we'd do it my way (have to build it myself) and build up step by step, cutting away only the ground that was necessary for each next step. I had already put in the facing bricks for the first step, so the gap behind them was filled with a bit of contrete, making a foundation for the second step.

Then as I was pretty much going to design the fireplace as I built it, I was going to do the brickwork for most of the fireplace as well. The fireplace was going to be mostly outside the structure, so we dug a bit of ground away and layed in a concrete foundation for that as well.

  Tea Garden Structure - Second Kitchen Server Wall Goes Full Height
  The rest of the day was spent on the kitchen second server wall - tying it in to the kitchen side wall and the other server wall.

  Close supervision was required as there was some tricky brickwork there. The main server wall was on the front of the main server counter while the second server wall was lower and offset to the back of the second server counter.

Both the server walls were really like big window openings, so required a roller course over the top of each one with lintels on the cement stock brick inside to hold everything up securely.

  Tea Garden Structure - Little Steps
Second step front brickwork done and ready for concrete    

Steps complete with side walls 
Those little steps up to the higher ground behind the structure were really taking a lot of my time.

It was a matter of building each step front from face bricks, digging away the soil behind it and then filling in with concrete to make the foundation for the next step.

And I only really wanted three steps up - but that only brought us just up to ground level. At that level there was a real danger of water rushing down the steps into the main tea garden area if we had a really big rain storm. So four steps it had to be, which ended the steps on a little "platform" higher than ground level. But at least no chance of water getting over that.

While building up the steps I also decided to build side walls, so tying them in to the steps and the existing walls also took some time, sometimes having to knock some bricks out of the built walls to tie the new wall in. Finally, Leno was called in to put the roller course onto the new little walls and it was job done.

  Tea Garden Structure - Drinks Station Full Height Wall
  With all the kitchen walls up to full height, the builders then moved on to the back wall and built the pillars there and the wall between two of the pillars up to full height.

From here on all brickwork will have to be done from scaffolding. That does mean losing a lot of time to setting up the scaffolding and getting the bricks and mortar up onto the scaffolding. But we've been through the building process on the garage block and part of our house and that's just how building goes . . .

    Full height wall behind drinks station going up

  Tea Garden Structure - Fireplace Progress
  Then it was on to the fireplace. We had to get a move on with this part as once the bathroom walls were up to full height, Leno was going to need to get the front walls and pillars done to full
Building the fireplace outside wall up to floor level     

From the inside. four couses stright brick and then first angled course    
height. So the fireplace would need to be at least the same height as the front wall pillars to tie everything in.

I measured out the fireplace design and marked the wall positions on the concrete and Leno got going on the bottom few courses of brick, which were pretty straight forward. The tricky bits only came a little higher up where the wall needs to slant and slope inwards to merge into the chimney structure. This was going to be one big fireplace!

Once the brickwork was up to floor level, as Leno builds a lot quicker than me, he build up another three courses for the raised hearth and then another four courses on top of that. The I took over with the slower, fancy brickwork. The outer brickwork needed to be "stepped" in while the inner brickwork had to be angled inwards to allow smooth airflow for the smoke from the fire on the hearth.

  Tea Garden Structure - Bathroom Walls and Toilet Cubicle Window Openings
  Next, Leno set up some scaffolding at the bathroom end and built the back wall and short side wall with all the toilet cubicle window openings up to full height.

I worked on the fireplace, keeping close on hand to make sure that the window openings were all in their correct places.

The little window openings were time consuming as each one had to have a little roller course built over the window opening - and each would require a wooden support to get the bricks nice and straight and also keep the roller course up while the mortar dried.

Instead of laying in little lintels over each window opening I decided to run one long lintel right across the wall to cover all the window openings. The big lintel was heavy and hard to handle in such a little space but in the end made the job so much simpler.

    Single long lintel over all the window openings on the inside . . .

    . . . and roller courses making neat facebrick work on the outside

  Tea Garden Structure - Bathroom Front and Inside Walls
Bathroom front wall up to top of window height    

Lintels layed across all cubicle separator walls    
For the next few days work was concentrated on the bathroom walls. There were lots of little walls all over the place that needed to tie in to each other.

First, the front wall needed to be built up to the height of the top of the windows so we could lay the other two long lintels right across the inside of the bathrooms to rest on the toilet cubicle walls to "frame" the cubicle doors.

Once the lintel was in, the bathroom front wall could be built up to full height and the walls above the cubicle doorways could be built up on the lintels to full height as well.

There was lots of brickwork to be done in there as we would be using a block and lintel roof over most of the toilet cubicles to hold our water tanks. Everything needed to be strong and solid to carry those two 2500 litre tanks.

  More Insects in the Borehole
  What is it with the insects around here and our borehole? As if the ants weren't causing us enough problems, with the borehole covers off, a little swarm of bees started moving in. They were accessing the casing through the holes I had made for the wires in the top of the casing
  cap and there was a steady stream of them in and out of the casing for two days.

On the third day it was obvious they were settling in permanently so we decided to try and relocate them into our catch box. We sealed off the one hole in the plastic cap and made a little paper funnel and put it over the second, bigger hole. The idea was that the bees would be able to exit comfortably through the funnel but would find it extrememly difficult to enter again. We prepared a catch box with clean frames and fresh foundation and set it down so that the entrance was very close to the end of the funnel. If they needed to settle anywhere they would be able to settle into the catchbox.

But it was all for nought. Maybe they didn't like our catchbox or the way positioned it, but the next day they were gone. I hope they found a happy new home somewhere safer than our borehole casing pipe.

    Bee catch box set up at the borehole

  Tea Garden Structure - Bathroom Separator Wall
Bathroom separator wall on it's way up to full height    
Once the bathroom inside walls were up to full height and all tied together, the next wall Leno tackled was the inside face brick wall that separates the bathroom section from the main section.

Some scaffolding was shuffled about, bricks and mortar loaded onto a rather wonky working board and the brickwork began, face brick on the one side, stock brick on the other to get the separator wall up to full height.

  Tea Garden Structure - More Fireplace Progress
  While Leno was busy on all those little tie-in bathroom walls and now the separator wall, I plodded on with the fireplace brickwork.

It was slow going where I could only lay one course outside and then one course inside and then had to wait for them to set before I started the next course. This was due to the outside course being stepped inwards, and the inside course being layed at a vertical angle.

The other main complication was that the inside brickwork needed to be "blended" from the true vertical of the walls tying into the pillars, to the angled bricks in the centre of the fireplace. Lots of fiddling and cutting of bricks there which took a lot of time.

So far it's all looking a little weird. I'm also leaving the raised hearth till last as it's just going to get in the way of the building right now. But once the front lintel goes up and we can start on the chimney, it should hopefully start looking like a fireplace.

Fireplace brickwork from the outside . . .

. . . and from the inside

  Tea Garden Structure - Bathroom Roof Slab Lintels and Blocks
  Time for the next step at the bathroom end of the structure. In order to plan the size of the roof slab to hold the water tanks, we layed some lintels across between the outer wall and the wall across the cubicles and placed the end blocks for each row onto them. We were supposed to use the fancy prestressed lintels but for such a short 1.5 meter span we compromised a bit and
Lintels layed across and first few blocks in place    
just used a few ordinary maxi lintels.

As well as allowing us to plan the slab size, having the lintels with a few blocks in place would give the builders a decent base to work on instead of working from scaffolding to build the walls around the slab higher before we poured the concrete up there.

  The Little Goat Named Biscuit
  This little cutie is really taking over our lives right now. We're used to working with our dogs and I think the goat is almost as intelligent - but in just such a different way. One of the main behavioural differences we are finding is the way the different animals respond to attention. Dogs will come up to you for a scratch and will stick around until you get tired of scratching - and will still hang in there hoping for more. If the goat is nearby and you decide to give it a scratch (anywhere will do), it'll show obvious enjoyment but will simply move on when you're done or something attracts it's attention. And usually with an attitude as if other stuff is more important than the attention you have been giving it!

Our dogs are all super obedient, but the goat is just plain stubborn and persistent in a few really irriating ways. Firstly, it loves paper and cardboard. Many of my "scrap paper notes" have disappeared completely when left lying around. And we're kind of getting used to every cardboard box we pick up fall apart because important bits that hold it all together have been nibbled away.


Biscuit is a terror when left to her own devices in the fruit orchard (or near any bush). So we've got her a comfortable body harness and have to keep her "tethered" to a pole hammered into the ground when she's outdoors. There she happily nibbles away at grass and bathes in the heat of the sun. In fact, we keep her body harness on at all times - makes her much easier to grab hold of when she makes a dash for one of our garden plants or bushes.

But if you want some fun, just go and lay down and try and relax in the soft grass near her. She'll immediately start climbing all over you, doing head butts and hopping around. And you might even get a snuggle or two in between playing.

  And the things she gets away with! And just because she's so cute. Although she now sleeps in the kitchen with the dogs, she still snuggles into our bed some evenings and early mornings. She just loves warmth and as soon as we put the blanket over her she settles down to relaxing and chewing her crud.

Everything within reach is sniffed and tasted. I left my model glider on the kitchen table and dashed upstairs to get a screw driver. By the time I got back she had tasted a bit of the elevator! And her kitchen manners are simply appalling. The kitchen table is her "jungle gym" and she now grunts and groans her dissatisfaction when removed so we can eat there!

  . . . And Not Forgetting "Little" Puddles
  Well, not that "little" any more, but one of our favourite animals on the farm. He now sleeps with the other sheep but when the sheep are let out of their "sheep house" every morning, he "escapes" from the enclosure and comes bleating at the kitchen door for his bottle of milk formula. Once he's gobbled that down he either heads off into the yard to graze on some grass or gets back into the enclosure with the rest of the sheep and waits to be let out into the field with them.

  Resident Waterbuck Bull
  And on the wild side, the last of the the five waterbuck bulls is still hanging around. He's been with us all winter and we see him just about every morning either in our yard or up on the hillside.

I think spring is their courting season so he'll probably soon be heading off over the hill to find a girlfriend and join the herd for a while.

And news is that the eland herds have been "thinned out" over the hill, so hopefully we'll be able to grow some large crops this year.