Death and Potatoes

 

(Written on the 30th
of October)

 

Pearl, Thimble’s calf, has died. We are not sure of the exact cause of her death but she probably had Red-water.

Ermyntrude has died of bloat, possibly caused by a twisted stomach. She was nearly ten. It is huge thing to have her gone, it’s almost hard to remember a time when she wasn’t around. She is the only dog I have ever known to get less grey the older she got. She started off a merle (a patched grey) and ended up off-black.

 

Photo 1 Strudy, a dated photo

 

Photo 2 Proud mom

(Written 4/11)

The potatoes have been growing nicely despite a few break ins from goats and pigs. Jochem and I have hoed them, this consists of pulling the soil up around each plant so that lots of potatoes can grow. It is also good for getting weeds out as the weeds are hoed out and sometimes half buried. We have had to add two extra strands to the fence of the potato field to stop the goats from getting in. Ironically after the hoeing they stopped trying to enter. They were only interested in the weeds and thought nothing of the potatoes. However, as they stand on and damage the potato plants, they are not good weeders.

 

Photo 3 Potatoes

 

Jochem is building a still to distill essential oils with, much to Dad’s enthusiasm. Dad has wanted to this for a long time but has never had the time. They are using an old industrial pressure cooker and assorted odds and ends that have been saved throughout the years. If the still works we will be able to distill all sorts of oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary and maybe even something like khakibos.

 

Photo 4 The old industrial pressure cooker

 

Jochem has also been experimenting on another project, he has made orange beer. With brewer’s yeast and bicarb (Bicarbonate of soda/sodium bicarbonate) to keep the acidity down, he fermented twenty or so litres of orange juice. The product is very bitter, because, as the acidity did not stop the reaction, the lack of sugar did. However with a spoon of sugar the beer is apparently very nice, and has quite a high alcohol percentage. The only downside to the beer is its odd orange-yellow colour, which looks, though not unappetizing, rather unorthodox.

We have been having very strange weather, partly because there is snow on the Drakensberg. The Drakensberg influences our weather with far reaching wind. Hot, dry ‘Burg’ winds in spring and sharp, biting winds during and after snow. Despite the fact that that spring should have come and been, we have not had proper ‘Burg’ winds and now we are getting cold winter winds. Coupled with summer-blue sky, bright sun and a variety of clouds the weather is erratic.

The best story of this week is that of Fem’s project. For several years a pair of crowned cranes have made a nest in the Dam field, owned by our neighbour, Wayne. Every year the chicks get to the age where they are ready to learn to fly, and reach a nice meal size; at which point they suddenly disappear. The field which the dam is in is badly fenced off and boys come to illegally swim in the dam when it is hot. Thus the idea that someone may be eating them. This year when we saw that the Cranes were nesting again, Fem started a project to save their chicks. She has emailed bussinesses and people from the village asking for donations to put up a strong fence. The Coastal’s Co-Op in Richmond donated 100m of fencing and wire staples. Several people from the village have donated money for poles. Soon we are going to collect the materials and put up the fence. This year the chick’s survival chances are going to be far better.

 

One small billy-goat sold,

Maybe three more on Friday,

Brabazon in mourning,

Farmer Girl

 

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Horses!

 

(Written on the 21st)

 

The biggest news, at present, is that we have bought two horses. For a while now we have been looking for horses, but what really made us get these two was the Hardy family. The Hardys spend their weekends in the village and we made a deal with them to get the horses together. We share costs, the horses stay on our property and we all get to ride. The horses are both sixteen year old mares, the brown one is bigger and called Tanagra, the smaller white one is Silver. We have had them for about two weeks and everyone is beginning to grow confident on them. The first week coincided with the school holidays and we took advantage of this to ride often and to build an arena. Everyone helped and by the end of the holidays the enclosure was finished.

 

Photo 1 Silver

 

Photo 2 Tanagra

 

Photo 3 Arena

 

A momentous thing that has happened, Mom has got a job. Her first one, if you don’t count the full time job of the farm, in over a decade. She is working at Esse a successful organic skincare company which is based in Richmond. She has the lofty title of assistant production manager and seems to be doing well. Her having a full time job is of course a big thing for the farm as one of the principle managers/workers is gone.

 

In other news a while ago we had a baby goat born, Da Vinci had a girl whom we called Lina.

A large number of chicks have hatched, we have separated them from their moms and put them altogether in one big cage. We did this so that the moms could start laying again.

 

Photo 4 A mass of chicks

 

Photo 5 Lina

 

Agriculturally we have been doing well. We have planted a large crop of potatoes and Jochem (one of our volunteers) has put up a row of sprinklers in the garden. We have had a large crop of strawberries which has been heavenly.

 

Photo 6 Potatoes among the weeds

 

Photo 7 Overhead Sprinklers

 

I hope to write more frequently…

Farmer Girl

 

Photo 8 Fem found this moth, dead but still beautiful

.

 

 

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Bad Luck and Holidays

 

A lot of bad luck on the farm has been combined with a wonderful two week visit from my Mom’s Sister and her family.

It was amazing to have them here and Fem and I took the two weeks off to fully enjoy it. It has been more than two years since Fem and I saw them and even longer for Dad. My cousins, now six and nearly eight, were great, not city girls at all and lots of fun to have around. Not only did we spend a lot of time at home, which was perfect for getting to know them, we also went to a game park, a museum, Mfula Store and the beach. We were all sad to see them go, but hopefully we will see them again soon. In the meantime I need to practice my chess so that next time I play against my Uncle I can at least stand up against him.

 

Photo 1Blue tongues at Mfula

 

Photo 2 A taste of what we saw

 

On the other end the drought hasn’t ended and the hay Dad bought is now finished too. The cows are just going to have to survive until the rain. There is still a relative amount of grass, though it’s not very tasty, in the fields so the cows won’t starve they’ll just be grumpy.

 

Sproet had her piglets the night before we were going to move her away from Chris. He managed to squash every single piglet. By Christmas Chris will certainly be gone.

 

Photo 3 Killer!

 

Red, our horse, was stolen. We reported the theft but nothing will come of it as he wasn’t branded. The only good thing about this incident was that we got to see how responsive and helpful the stock theft unit is. It was a very pleasant surprise. As he was stolen in winter we at least know the person that wanted him wanted him badly.

 

Better news is the two calves that were born. Scrabble had a brown girl who we have named Catan (my favorite board game) and Faigala had a black boy.

 

Photo 4 The Boy and the ugly mother

 

Photo 5 Catan

Dad decided to castrate Faigala’s boy as ox meat is better and an ox can be kept as long as you want, as it will not interfere with the cows or challenge the dominant bull. Castration is done by putting a tight rubber band above the testicles. The blood supply is inhibited and after a few weeks the balls drop off. The rubber rings are specially manufactured and there is a special instrument to put them on with. It is a plier shaped tool with four metal spikes that pull away from each other when the handles are squeezed. The ring is put on the pins and is pulled open by them. It must be uncomfortable at first but apparently it doesn’t hurt. Even if it does the pain, harassing of cows and, if given the chance, bloodshed, that young, stupid bulls cause, makes it worth it.

 

Photo 6 Castrating

 

Photo 7 Just after

 

Photo 8 The size of the rubber rings

 

(First three photos by my Uncle.)

To Margate with Connor,

Nearly Mom’s birthday,

Nearly my Birthday!

Farmer Girl

 

Photo 9 The trees think spring is on the way – but is it?

 

 

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Back On Track

 

Due to holidays, broken computers and the difficulty of getting Microsoft office, it has been a long time since the last post. Therefore this post will focus on the main events since the last time I wrote and next week I’ll write with more detail.

Comings and Goings

 

Three more calves have been born. Gerty had a girl, Grayfus. Yentle had a boy who is a doppelganger of Sudoku’s boy. Soapy had a white boy.

We have also had a crop of baby goats.

All the piglets have been sold.

We haven’t managed to sell any of the older calves. We advertised too late to sell them, at the beginning of winter instead of autumn. Besides the coming winter there is and has been a bad drought and no one want’s extra mouths to feed. We have already had to buy a load of hay. However that was partly because of our bad hay harvest.

Since Sam and Xander, we have had no volunteers. However Sam and Stella have just arrived and in late August we are expecting another volunteer.

My Aunt, her husband and her two girls are coming next week. They are from the Netherlands and are spending the summer vacation in South Africa. We only see them when we infrequently go to the Netherlands, so it is going to be a big treat to see them again. They have been here once before, that I can remember, but then only my one cousin was in existence, and she was a baby.

 

Other News

 

More of my tower is in place including a bathroom door, a few steps of the stairs and half the battlements.

My Mom and Dad bought a huge cupboard which we put in the dining-room. We painted half the dining-room burgundy to match the dark wood of the cupboard.

The verandah floor is in the process of being painted which means it is really hard to get to my room.

The mild winter has become frosty and cold.

The Byrne fair has been and gone as have the mid-year holidays.

Brabazon is the new suspected culprit in the “no puppy” saga.

We have been to Pretoria to renew our passports and to get a new wood stove.

The stove has yet to be installed because of the everyday complications of living on a farm as well as the impending guests (if something goes wrong at least make sure it’s when they have gone).

Mom has made all the dogs ‘trampoline’ beds. (Thick shade-netting secured to steel frames with lots and lots of strong thick string.)

A family from the other side of Richmond is buying goats’ milk from us twice a week to make cheese with.

 

Bad Billy Goat,

Slack lining; a new phenomenon,

Farmer Girl

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Viruses

 

(Written 11th of May 2015)

 

The reason for the lack of posts these last weeks has been due to our errant laptop. I had thought our computer troubles were over when we got our new, shiny laptop but it was not to be. After a month of hassles and guarantee debates we got a new laptop. However it has put me far behind in posts.

 

Some Points:

 

  • We have had two wonderful volunteer couples, now both gone. Ruby and Dan were from the UK and budding ornithologists cross app makers. Sam and Xander are South Africans and were on their extended honeymoon.
  • There has been a bout of illnesses, enough to last us another year without any major complaints. Fem had Mediterranean tick bite fever-giving her days of 40°C fevers. I had bronchitis for no good reason. Mom was unwell for days… only Dad survived intact.
  • My Oma (Grandmother) has come to stay with us for a month, she arrived on the 8th.

 

News of Note:

 

Thimble has had a beautiful black and white girl who is as wild as the wind and as fast. Some quirk of fate has made her sure that humans are dangerous, nasty and generally bad. Dehorning her didn’t help change her opinion. We named her Purl (as in knit and purl).

 

Photo 1 Will they eat me?

 

Sudoku also had her calf, a liver and white pattern which is very striking, but unfortunately a boy. He unlike Purl, is very friendly.

 

Photo 2 Drinking (curious Purl on the side)

Photo 3 Sudoku’s Boy

 

Rusty had been making a nuisance of herself for months. She broke through fences, into the dairy and ate the neighbor’s roses. As the Oaks has been producing fewer and fewer kitchen scraps, pig culling was becoming inevitable, which is why Rusty is now in the deep freeze. We have smoked much of her meat and also made sausages. The slaughter was slightly different to usual because she was so big. Dad had to drag her to the garage with the tractor. We heated water in the bath as usual but poured it on cloths we had covered her with. This was to keep the heat on her for long enough to loosen her hair. It took a chain block to lift her and several days to have her cut up completely.

 

Photo 4 Dead

Photo 5 washing Clean (Xander is the man in white)

Photo 6 Sauna instead of bath

Photo 7 Smoked Joints

Photo 8 Reality is tough (dogs food-the hairs were too hard to remove so no brawn)

 

The hay has been made, I was sick and so sadly couldn’t help, I love hay making. Due to setbacks and bad weather we only got half of the hay we should have and so will have to make more or buy in.

 

Photo 9 Hay

 

Today we had a school group from Epworth (PMB), they stayed for just under an hour.

 

Photo 10 Milking

 

Back in action,

No volunteers,

Oma in the Cabbagery,

No puppies – “oh, deplorable dogs”

Farmer Girl

 

 

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Cursed Calves and Daytrips

(Written on the 19th of March)

 

It has been an eventful three weeks, with a dying calf, a depressed dog, daytrips and a very ill sister.

Within the last three weeks we have been out and about three times. First on the 28th of February we went to see the Rainbow Warrior which was docked for two days in Durban. The Rainbow Warrior III is the Greenpeace action sailing ship. It did a tour of South Africa’s coast to promote green energy and help Greenpeace Africa raise awareness of nuclear energy problems. The main reason we went to see the boat is because ten years ago the captain was one of our volunteers and had now invited us as his guests. The boat was amazing and about a thousand people came to see it. Consequently it was rather a rushed tour but luckily we got to see Michael, the captain, again, when he came to visit us at home.

Then on the 6th of March we drove Magda and Robert (volunteers) to the Drakensberg, where they were going to do a few days of hiking. We didn’t do any walking ourselves but it was nice to see the Berg. The scenery was, of course, spectacular.

 

Photo 1 Waterfall

Photo 2 In the foot hills, the proper mountains are not visible

Photo 3 Foothills

 

They came back late on the tenth and the next day we went to Tala with them. Tala is a small privately owned game reserve which we have gone to many times, because of its relatively small size all the animals can usually be found and observed which is why we like it so much. The park has all the smaller antelope and also has giraffes, rhino, ostriches and hippos. We saw everything-giraffe, rhino, hippo, eland, impala, kudu, eland, bushbuck, waterbuck, nyala, wildebeest, blesbok and zebra. We also saw a huge variety of birds, even oxpeckers, which are almost extinct.

 

Photo 4 Kudu

Photo 5 The only Giraffe we saw

 

Bailey, Zeedonk’s calf, is dead. It is official: Zeedonk’s calves are cursed. Liger, her first calf died, Bailey died. However this time it wasn’t Zeedonks fault, Stuck drank all her colostrum before Bailey was even born. Without these first antibodies from their mother every calf dies. Even though we did our best when Bailey got sick we couldn’t keep him alive, his immune system just didn’t have that vital boost it should have got.

 

Photo 6 ‘On his last legs’

 

On the subject of calves we finally got around to starting the weaning process for our seven devils. They are stationed in the furthest field from the house, with our strong boundary fence keeping them away from their moms. As expected they mooed themselves hoarse within the first few days and now seem to be settled into the horror of living without a mother.

 

Photo 7 Mom

 

Photo 8 Mooomm!

 

Photo 9 Mom?

 

Anna and Tomec left before Magda and Robert did. They walked off with their loaded bicycles because the driveway was too muddy to bike, I think it is the first time that volunteers have left us on foot. They were good company and it was sad to see them go. Magda and Robert we dropped off, after going to Tala.

 

Photo 10 Off into thee unknown… with Mom to open the gate for them

 

Mandy and Gerhard, our tenants, have a candle making business and their brand Un-wine-d comes in cut off wine bottle bottoms. It is a very clever idea and the candles look unique. The tops of the bottles are of no use to them, so Dad asked if he could collect them. Crushed up small the glass is going to be used instead or with stones for concrete.

 

Photo 11 Crushed wine bottle tops

 

Guin is a neurotic, paranoid schizophrenic. She knows Mom wants to do terrible things to her and you can’t fool her, Dad definitely wants to slaughter her. As for her collar, touch it and she is ten meters away from you writhing on the floor with fear. If mom calls her, she hides and she won’t go on walks with Dad if the other dogs aren’t coming too. The only ones who can do anything with her are Fem and I. How she got like this beats us all, we have had her since she was a tiny puppy so there is no possibility of earlier life mistreatment. She is intelligent-to the point where on windy days she doesn’t like walking under trees (a branch might fall on her!) and she knows all the other dog’s names.

In the hope that we could quell her collar fears we bought her a harness. It works relatively well, she won’t come near you for days if you have put a collar on her, but she still acknowledges you if you put her harness on. Best of all, with a lot of coaxing, and frantic dashes on her part, we can now walk her on a leash. This is a big relief as a dog who hides when you call her and will rather die than be led by the collar can be troublesome. Not that she is, because Guin is not naughty, she is terrified of trouble, if I were to shout at Brabs she is the one who would dissolve.

 

Photo 12 Harness

 

The Bio-gas tank (which was previously referred to, incorrectly, as the methane tank) is working! It is producing a flammable gas which burns with an almost invisible flame, this was a documentation problem until we lit it at night, it is then visible and blue. It is going to be a big job to pipe it to the house. We will use it for refrigeration and maybe cooking.

 

Photo 13 Gas burner on the gas tap

 

Photo 14 The flame!

Photo 15 Will-o-the-Wisp

 

 

No Volunteers,

Fem Sick-fevers up to 40C and lots of pink spots,

Ravenor depressed and with a sore leg,

Behind in school work-sick siblings interrupt the routine,

Oma coming in May!

Lots of wind, little rain.

Farmer Girl

 

Photo 17 Moth on Magda’s arm, we couldn’t identify it

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Death and Dog Fights

(25th of Febuary)

Dad had to put Dale down on Sunday night, he had already been sick for days. Though he showed the signs of a tick born disease none of the medicine we had for those helped. The reason he got sick in the first place was probably that he simply did not have immunity to the illnesses around here. Just 10km can make a world of difference to what makes one sick and what one is immune to. I didn’t get any photos so the following is one of when we got him:

Photo 1Dale, now dead

Guin had one of her half heats and as usual she acted oddly. The moment Brabs got amorous she snapped at him and moved away. Magda witnessed a fight between Guin and Brabs which left Guin with small teeth marks in her neck. We don’t really know what happened but I guess Brabazon just got frustrated. A couple of days ago there was another fight, none of us saw it though, so we don’t know who fought with her, but Guin had more wounds.

Photo 2 Some of the wounds, most are on the side of her neck

The last bit of the veranda roof is on (even though not all the screws are in). It hasn’t blown off and is not leaking so all in all we have done very well. Now comes the possibly bigger job of giving it a floor. At the moment there is even still some grass, but we don’t know what we are going to put down. The biggest job will be tidying up!

Photo 3 Last bit of roof on. My room is now painted on the outside. This happened in January but I forgot to record it.

Fem’s old room has had a makeover: Mom tidied, emptied and painted it, found a second hand carpet, bought underfelt and moved furniture in. We have put our media in it, as well as Fem and my school desks and a couch. After much debate over a name for the room (suggestions included: ‘the family room’, ‘the snug’, ‘the with-drawing room’ and ‘the den’) we choose to call it the Cabbagery. This originates from Fem and I saying ‘cabbage’ instead of ‘cool’. As saying ‘cool’ has no real meaing and contradicts with other slang, we chose to use our own version- ‘cabbage’ (this was partially chosen because we said cool the way cabbage is said in Afrikaans).

Photo 4 School Desks

Photo 5 Moving in

The methane tank seems to be working and has lifted up considerably due to the pressure of the gas under it. We haven’t made any attempt to use the methane yet.

Photo 6 Bouncing on the gas filled tank

The grape vines are having abundant crops and we have picked buckets of grapes. After having eaten ourselves full and Magda making grape and apple chutney, there are still many bunches to be picked.

Photo 7 Katorba grapes

Mom is making the dogs new beds; their steel frames and shade netting bottoms will make them greatly resemble small trampolines. The idea is that there is nowhere for fleas to hide and that the beds can’t really get dirty or smelly. As Mom is having some unexpected trouble with sewing the shade netting on, it is yet to be seen if they will work.

Photo 8 The frame

The deck has slowly been losing condition and with the hopefully imminent flooring of the veranda the verdict was out. With crowbars and hammers, the volunteers have made fast work of it and the deck is almost gone.

Photo 9 Taking the planks away

Photo 10 Nearly all away

Photo 11 Planks already out

Going to the Greenpeace ship in Durban!

Good weather,

Lots of green peppers,

Digging up our own potatoes-sadly a small crop this year,

Farmer Girl

Photo 12 Too big for the hat

.

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New Arrivals

 

When Sproet and Rusty were a few days away from farrowing, the last piglet had to go. The slaughtering was more difficult than with the other piglets. The carcass has to be lifted into the bath, out again, onto the table and then hung up. For those who don’t know the pig slaughtering process look back, I’ve explained it several times. The piglet weighed 34 kg when gutted and beheaded.

 

SDC18908

 

Photo 1 Hung

 

We were just in time. A few days later Sproet had her piglets and the next morning Rusty had her’s. Sprout has eight big healthy piggies and Rusty had fifteen piglets three of which are already dead and two of which are runts. That is why Rusty is to be our ham and bacon after her litter is big enough to do without her. Sproet gets to stay.

 

Photo 2 Some of Sprout’s piglets

 

Photo 3 Rusty and her piglets

 

One of Rusty’s runts is so small we are stealing him three times a day and bottle feeding him. We have called him Wilbur (name of the pig in Charlotte’s Web) but unlike his namesake he stays with his mom. He drinks about 40 to 80ml a feeding of warm milk but for the moment he is still weeny.

 

 

Photo 4 Drinking

 

Photo 5 Milk, glorious milk

 

To add to the host Zeedonk had her calf. A beauty of a boy; we’re hoping he’ll survive. His sister didn’t, she was big and strong too, but Zeedonk didn’t have any milk for her. It looks like she only has a very small amount now too but hopefully it is enough.

 

Photo 6 Zeedonk and boy

 

The veranda roof is nearly all on. I was to put the last screws in because I am light and the roof can hold me. Unfortunately the first time I went up the screws were too short and the second time, when we had the right screws there was a power cut.

 

Photo 7 Putting screws in

 

Now that I have a new bed my old high bed is obsolete so Mom turned it into a chicken cage. She did a great job of it and the chickens are now in.

 

Photo 8 My old bed

 

Wilbur squashed, horrible Rusty!

Julie’s left,

Magda, from Poland arrived.

Farmer Girl

 

Photo 9 Cold day means a family day

 

 

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The Forgotten Events

 

 

Here are some events I forgot to mention in my last post;

 

The Mystery of the Missing Ring

 

During the holidays we all got rather a shock, one morning Dad went to fetch the cows from a field over the road (which we lease) and came back without Humphrey. Dad was not unduly concerned as he simply presumed that Humphrey was with the calves, who we separate from their moms every evening. However when he realised that Humphrey was not with the calves he became worried. The field over the road (Wayne’s field) does not have the best fences and it is not the first time Humphrey has escaped so he can romance a cow on heat. In the past we have had one of our cows butchered in that field overnight.

Taking me along, he took the bakkie out to look for Humphrey. After searching around and inspecting all the nearby herds, with no result, we realised that Dad had not actually searched Wayne’s field. This had not occurred to us earlier because Humphrey, like every bull, likes to stay with his Harem, so for him to stay in the field would have been out of character. When we did look, however, he was standing in a grove of trees, calm and unperturbed. This is unheard of for a cow away from its herd (unless of course it is a female soon to go into labour). When we chased him out he didn’t run or moo for his family, he just walked along, and strangest of all his nose ring was missing. Mom put that ring in when he was a calf and it is a real one, she had to pierce his nose and lock the ring permanently in place. Humphrey has got it stuck on any number of things in the past but never even slightly shifted it. Yet it was out, nowhere to be found, and not a drop of blood on Humphrey’s nose. How it happened we are still at a loss to find. We think he was hiding, too embarrassed to be seen without his ring.

 

Photo 1 With a ring

 

Photo 2 Without a ring

 

Apples

 

Some friends of ours have two marvellous apple trees, whose apples they never eat. So every year we come over and pick as many as we can. The ones on the floor we also gather for the pigs. After the picking the next few days are spent cutting the bad bits off and quartering apples. The quarters we stew, vacuum pack and put in the freezer.

 

Photo 3 Apples, apples everywhere

 

 

Photo 4 Quartering

 

Methane Tank In

 

The methane tank is in the hole and it took a quantity of rope, a chain, three men, a chain block, a tractor tire and a tractor to get it there. The first step was to lay the tank on top of the tire and secure it. Next the tractor, the tire and the tank were joined by a strap and the tank pulled to the hole by the tractor. The tire protected the new paint on the tank.

 

Photo 5 Pulled along

 

By the hole Dad repositioned the tractor and with it pulled the tank into an upright position.

 

Photo 6 Pulling the tank up

 

Moving the tank from on the road to in the hole was a long and complex procedure. First the chain block was set up on a tripod with the centre slightly off from that of the tank and more towards the hole. The tank was pulled up by means of the chain block causing it to shift in position, and come closer to the hole. The tripod was moved a little further and the procedure repeated. This was done several times till the tank was at the edge of the road and right near the hole. At around this point the tractor had to be brought back and a rope tied to it and the chain block, so that the tractor could act as a fourth leg and safety measure, the rope is visible in the second photo.

 

Photo 7 The set up

 

Photo 8 At the edge

 

The tank was carefully lowered into the hole in an attempt not to scratch the paint.

 

Photo 9 Nearly over the hole

 

Photo 10 Over the hole

 

Photo 11 Lower and Lower

 

Photo 12 In the hole

 

In current news I have started to move my belongings into the tower, I have not finished because I ran out of shelf space. Dad will put some extra shelves in.

 

Photo 13 The containers all contain stationary and the like, not food

 

One new volunteer, from England, called Julie.

Lots of rain so the expected drought was thwarted.

Back to school, but not with all subjects, as waiting for books,

Farmer Girl

 

Photo 14 Pets food out, five cats and three dogs to be seen, Raven is next to me

 

 

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The Summer Holidays

(From the start of the Christmas holidays (10thDecember 2014) to the end (21st January 2015)

 

The holidays have been full and busy: with between four and eight volunteers, Christmas, New Year, building my tower, giving the veranda a roof, walks, a canopy tour, a visit to an aunt, an uncle staying over, a family of friends over for a few days and half moving into my tower.

 

Volunteers

 

In the last post I mentioned that an American family was arriving, who have been and gone. They were congenial and full of interesting stories as both parents had been teachers in schools in New York. They helped bag-wash my top room in the tower and Racheal helped me paint it. At the time there were many oats sachets and the three children along with Fem spent many hours opening them.

 

Bag-washed and painted

Bag-washed and painted

Ursin, the Turkish volunteer (mentioned last post as arriving the next day) is still here and will be for another month. About a week ago his wife, Celine, arrived.

We also have three French volunteers, Amalia, Eline and Pierre. They will all be leaving soon.

 

Building Projects

 

For a long time Mom and Dad have wanted to put a roof over the veranda and glass in the front of it. This will make it another room of sorts and hopefully stop the kitchen being so crowded. We often all sit in the kitchen, but with four or more volunteers there isn’t enough space.

Because of the large area of the veranda and us not wanting columns in the middle of it, the roof sheets and supporting beams had to be very long. Mom specially ordered them from a steel works in PMB who delivered them straight to us.

 

Over the bridge

Over the bridge

 

 

To the garage

To the garage

 

They deliver the steel just after it has been produced, without any protection, which means it rusts very easily. Unfortunately it was drizzling the day it arrived and the beams were too long to fit fully in the garage. Luckily the roof sheeting was painted and could get wet. We put some of the clear sheets over the sticking out ends of the beams.

 

Offloading

Offloading

Sticking out

Sticking out

 

The painted beams, with the help of the welding machine, a chain block and an angle grider the beams were made to fit and put in position. In some places the edge/overhang of the existing roof had to be cut away. The glass panes, column and roofing of the small veranda were taken away.

 

 

Cutting off the overhang

Cutting off the overhang

Supporting Columns

Supporting Columns

The frame working

The frame work up

 

Next came the roof sheets, we heaved them up, over the pond, onto the beams at the far right of the above picture. Above the door and windows, a section of clear sheeting was added. This was done so that the kitchen and dining room would not become dusky throughout the day. Dad fastened all the sheets down onto the beams. The beams were welded to metal brackets on the walls that Dad had bolted into the wall. The columns were embedded in concrete.

Te first sheets

Te first sheets

Increasing roof

Increasing roof

Glass out

Glass out

 

Nearly finished

Nearly finished

 

 

 

The tower has seen great progress too. All the glass is in the windows and the bay window is up and in place.  Dad made a roof and frame and I put in the glass and sanded the seat (with a sanding machine). Then with six people, we got it up. It was hoisted up with two people pulling on the rope and three pushing the window up while stopping it from scraping against the walls. When they couldn’t reach any more Mom helped pull the rope and the two others went up and helped Dad manoeuvre the window into place.

 

The setup

The setup

 

Placing the window

Placing the window

First try, with too few people

First try, with too few people

Second try with everyone

Second try with everyone

Nearly up

Nearly up

In place

In place

The view. The cross on the window was to make sure everyone (dogs included) knew there was glass in while it was on the ground

The view. The cross on the window was to make sure everyone (dogs included) knew there was glass in while it was on the ground

 

Dad started to put up my shelves in the bottom room. The whole back wall is finished. Fem and I cleaned the wood and then I stained it.

 

My shelves

The shelves

Dad also put my bed in, with a canon shell as the only leg! The other three corners and two sides of the bed are fixed to the walls. I have been sleeping in my tower since the 1st of January, an auspicious date, if I say so myself.

 

My new bed

My new bed

The tower has now been bag washed on all sides of its exterior excepting the inside of the battlement. It required scaffolding and a head for heights but thanks to Pierre, Eline and Celine it is done. The tower looks much better for it.

 

Bag-washed

Bag-washed

 

A building project that has been ongoing is the Methane tank. However with the help of Pierre, Dad has managed to half-finish the project. The Methane plant is actually a giant hole, dug long ago, in which a tank will float open side down. When the goat’s house is cleaned, or the cow waiting area hosed, the manure and water will flow down pipes to a small holding tank and then into the hole. In the hole the manure and water will build up and ferment creating methane gas. The gas will bubble up into the tank. Methane will be piped from the top of the tank to the house. Old manure and water or slurry will be flushed out by new slurry into a second tank (not yet in place) from which it can be collected for fertiliser. The first slurry has been washed into the hole. However the tank, with open bottom, is yet to go in.

The tank to go into the hole

The tank to go into the hole

The hole

The hole

The setup, white pipe (here turned away) brings the slurry into the small metal tank, which through the small black pipe lets it flow into the hole via another white pipe

The setup, white pipe (here turned away) brings the slurry into the small metal tank, which through the small black pipe lets it flow into the hole via another white pipe

Pierre with the wall he built at the bottom of the hole, the tank will rest on this when there is very little slurry in the hole

Pierre with the wall he built at the bottom of the hole, the tank will rest on this when there is very little slurry in the hole

Metal tank, full of slurry

Metal tank, full of slurry

Outlet blocked

Outlet blocked

Slurry into the hole

Slurry into the hole

Christmas and New Year

There were the four of us, four volunteers and five friends visiting when we fetched the Christmas tree. We always ‘harvest’ a tree from the plantations. It is not really stealing though as we only take trees from on the road reserve, or in a water course, were they shouldn’t be in the first place. We took a medium tree, about four meters, and put it in the lounge.

 

Looking for a tree

Looking for a tree

Christmas tree loaded

Christmas tree loaded

Only Dad, Fem and two of the friend’s children went home with the Christmas tree. The rest of us did the quarry walk. This beautiful walk starts just above an old quarry and among the plantations. You walk along the ridge of the hills lining one side of the valley and when you get close to our house you cut down diagonally towards home. The big dam you pass, which is never fill, was now completely empty. The day was a little hot but it was a wonderful walk.

 

Setting off

Setting off

A crowd

A crowd

Over the rise...

Over the rise…

"the hills are alive..."

“the hills are alive…”

A flower on the way

A flower on the way

Brief walk through the trees

Brief walk through the trees

Christmas was also hot. We (Fem and I) were both up early, and by six we were all around the Christmas tree. After breakfast we spent a long time at the dam after which we had a big lunch and lounged around. Dinner was left-overs.

 

Dishing up

Dishing up

From above

From above

 

New Year we invited over lots of people to a ‘bring and share’. There must have been over twenty of us. As it was wet and there was no chance of fireworks Zoia, Fem and I did a dress like a firework competition. Basically we tried to dress up with as many colours and patterns showing, we looked like something from a circus. We all, even three year old Pia, made it till the New Year.

Contestants (Fem is showing her tongue because it is blue)

Contestants (Fem is showing her tongue because it is blue)

 

Other

This summer has been exceptional for bird sighting. Usually I only see one or two herons at a time. Lately I have been seeing groups of six or more. A flock of at least ten spur wing geese flew past, I have never seen any in Byrne Valley. We’ve seen three adult crowned cranes instead of the usual two. The Egyptian geese, a cormorant and a pair of coots have been competing for the dam and there is a flock of egrets constantly around. The most special sighting however was the stork who has been here twice.

 

Yentel (cow in the background) has no yet had her calf, despite appearances

Yentel (cow in the background) has no yet had her calf, despite appearances

 

The weather after being mainly cold and misty has warmed up. Though the heat has its problems there are some who love it…

 

Days in the pool, Fem, Zoia and Pia)

Days in the pool, Fem, Zoia and Pia)

Enjoying the warmth, from the shelter of the shade, all five cats were sprawled out for days like this

Enjoying the warmth, from the shelter of the shade, all five cats were sprawled out for days like this

Even though my stuff isn’t yet into the tower, Fem has moved into my old room. Only fair as I am already sleeping in my tower, but it does mean that there are a suprisingly large amount of boxes full of my books and belongings on the landing.

 

My room no longer

My room no longer

Back on track,

Volunteers leaving soon,

Volunteer arriving soon,

Four dogs and never a puppy,

Farmer Girl.

 

Dad got a haircut on New Year’s Day

Dad got a haircut on New Year’s Day

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