(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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Placing the window
First try, with too few people
Second try with everyone
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.
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
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.
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 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
Metal tank, full of slurry
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
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.
Over the rise…
“the hills are alive…”
A flower on the way
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.
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)
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
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)
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
Back on track,
Volunteers leaving soon,
Volunteer arriving soon,
Four dogs and never a puppy,
Dad got a haircut on New Year’s Day