Tuesday, 21 June 2011

December 2010

Rene in the kitchen just before ...
 December arrived, and we had in the meantime bought some materials for the kitchen renovation. Reason: The original kitchen floor was really worn to the point that we were starting to worry that we might fall through it!! The old floorboards were just really bad, and the floor was sagging and not level at all, which meant that the structure underneath was unsound as well..

Myself chipping away some of the
uneven bits
So seeing as we had the materials, we decided that now was the time to get it done... 2 weeks before Christmas!! Suffice it to say it was probably the most stressfull 2 weeks ever.. because once we had the old floor off we could see what we wereactually dealing with, and only then did we realise what a huge amount of work it would be.

What we saw was quit a shock. The old supports/beams were hardly resting on the foundation, they were all loose, and I believe that if we had left the floor as it was, they would surely have caved in. So we had to remove everything, which left us with a hole in the floor, which sloped from the sittingroom side to the kitchen window side... this would have to be levelled first of all. Then there was the problem of having to build a false wallon the sittingroom side  for the new beams to rest on..

Jan and Andreas mixing cement for the false wall
Andreas did a stirling job of helping Jan to mix the cement needed for the false wall. To build it we used Hob-house bricks, which is a concrete brick that is about two bricks wide, and two bricks high, with an air pocket in the middle. Anyways itwent rather quick to get them in once Jan had made a mini-foundation for them along the sittingroom side of the kitchen.

Jan smoothing the "foundation" for the false wall

With copious amounts of coffee, he managed to get it all done quite quickly. This left us with nothing much to do except wait for everything to set, and dry.. we would only be able to continue the day after.. By now we had about 1 1/2 weeks before Christmas...

Adding the new beams

We then laid out some waterproofing in the form of black builders plastic, and after that we started to lay the new beams, these were 15cm thick, 60cm apart, and resting on a 7cm thick plank on either side of the kitchen. Jan nailed in small wedges to help keep them in place, and this would be the beginning of our new floor. It was quite exciting at this point though because the prospect of actually having a level floor with no sag for the firt time in two years was BIG!!!

Bubby and Laika
The dogs though this was all rather strange behaviour, and sat for a while watching us work. The next step though would be to get all the waterpipes in place. Jan decided to place the pipes under the flooring, which is what they do in most overseas houses. This prevents water from freezing in the pipes in winter, and you have the added benifit of not having visible piping. After that we had to bring in the chipboard sheets for the purpose of creating a nice surface for the laminate which we had chosen. These went in quickly, and we were soon able to lay out the non-slip insulating layer of foam, and start putting down the first rows of laminate.

The laminate flooring completed
Before we moved all the furniture back, we painted the walls, and sunk in the electrics for plugpoints as well. This was a big thing too, as before that all the appliances in the kitchen would run of on singular plug - in the sittingroom!!! So no more cables all over... :-) We decided on a nice subtle yellow for the walls, and that mixed with the white floor gave a nice Scandinavian feel. It was quite strange to see the "new" kitchen taking shape.

The completed kitchen
The window side of the kitchen

The layout has changed a bit since, and we have also added a built-in shelf on the far side, which is what you see when you come into the kitchen from the stoep. The ceiling has also been painted white, and the beams varnished. Jan reconstituted all the old floorboards to make a corner cupboard for all our odd things, and brooms etc, he also used the old floorboards to make the shelf I mentioned earlier, and to make a door between the sittingroom and our bedroom... :-) So nothing was wasted. We managed to finish about two days before Christmas, which was great, seeing as we had decided to have a traditional Danish Christmas this year with most of the trimmings.... hehehe. But I tell you - It was great fun to do the kitchen, and in hindsight even though it was stressful, we learned a great deal about our own capabilities!!

The corner cupboard the Jan built :-)

Our garden at Christmas... quite green and lush!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

October 2010

 October in that garden has its own charm.. all the bulbs and flowers start being nice and showy.

Small garden daisy variety

Wild vygie (succulent) flowers

Lily - I think..

September 2010

Jan and Andreas painting an ugly spot on the shed
So Spring made her comeback with vigour, and for all of us that meant getting back into the swing of things and preparing for ome new tasks and projects..

The first one we needed to tackle was getting rid of the ugly graffiti on the shed wall, which had been there ever since we came here. So Jan mixed some paint and added some tint to make it more or less cement colour, and started painting over the bad spot.

Of course Andreas, being an avid helper wanted to paint too, so we let him help.

Andreas painting the wall
 And after the snow and drab winter weather, it was nice to see the beginnings of the new season show its face in our garden. But even more so, it made us realise how much was still missing from it, and that we would have to make a plan to get more plants in. :-)

The garden from the shed side
But we still had the whole summer ahead of us too, so this was comfort in itself.

Down at the river things were also happening, and even though we had not had much winter rain, the Haarlem dam was still full past its capacity, and the irrigation restrictions were lifted. This pleased us of course, as the sowing season was about to start, and we needed to get some seeds in, otherwise we would not have any sort of harvest this summer..

Waterblommetjies in the river

July 2010

Kingfisher on the fence
So apparently the Langkloof is a birding hotspot. We get some very varied and wonderful birds here. To name a few we have:

The Black headed Oriole
Cape weavers = common
Mousebirds = pests
Fiscal shrikes

and there are probable hundreds more that I just haven't spotted yet..but for me the most amazing one is the little Kingfisher.

Kingfisher in Apricot tree
 Sometimes he just sits there, and sometimes he shows how they have gotten their name. Its an amazing little bird to watch, and the added bonus is that they are actually quite pretty.

Kingfisher close up

June 2010 in the Veg Patch

The Veg Patch all covered in snow

The Tyre garden covered in snow

Laika not minding the snow

The planting boxes filled with snow

June 2010

As we marched on into winter, with the chill air, and the promise of frost we thought it might be best not to have too much going on. But save for the snow this month, and not being able to do much outdoors, it was a pleasant winter all the same. I think we had about 5-10cm of snow here in Haarlem, and in Avontuur they had 20cm. We had been invited to dinner on a Saturday where is was only sleet here by us, and by the time we got to the turnoff to De Hoop it was hopeless. We had to call Pierre and Carmen, and tell them we were stuck, and had to turn around. This was met with, "Nonsense! We will come and fetch you! So they drove out to the turn off in their VW Syncro, and off we went.... with Jan on the back bumper for extra weight at the back.. apparently this gives extra traction too...lol.

Snow in Gary and Ronalee's field
And despite being cold, a little wet and frozen from the neck up, this theory actually worked and we made it safely to their place. We had a glorious time, had a few laughs about the whole situation, and had some awesome conversation, and some really good food!! The snow stopped, and by the time Pierre drove us back to our car, the road was ok. :-)

The boys building a snowman
There was still snow the day after and the boys decided to build a snowman. But being back in South Africa, and having gotten rid of most of our overseas winter gear, they were not prepared for the wet, biting cold that is snow... still with a little perseverence, and warming of hands now and again they managed to finish said snowman. There is something to be said about the determination of kids sometimes, that where there is a will there is a way, and they will do something to the end... especially if it means that they can have fun doing it. Sometimes I wonder why its so hard for us as grown-ups to have the same attitude...

Looking for extra bits
 Anyways, so with the snowman done, they started to look for extras, like stones for the eyes and mouth, and twigs for the arms. At this point Rene's hands were pretty frozen, and red from the cold, but that still didn't stop him..lol.

Adding said bits :-)
And at last the snowman was all finished!!

All done!!

Friday, 3 June 2011

March 2010 in the Veg Patch

Veg Patch under construction
In the same month we decided to overhaul the veg patch, and so Jan built boxes, and I took on the task of restructuring the raised tyre garden. The latter was sagging, and I felt it needed re-doing..

We had brought in the tyres to build a retaining wall up against the septic tank, and then to be able to use them as planters for herbs and other small greens. So I started stacking the tyres off centre of eachother, and filled them with sand/compost. The tyre garden serves a dual purpose since it also help to hide the septic tank. :-) When it came to replanting, we did herbs, and a whole lot of succulents and a protea. This part of the garden is still in development though, and it might change again in future, but for now it really works well.

Jan's new boxes
Jan built some new planter boxes, for things like spinach etc. We used all offcuts of wood that we had lying around, so in effect we recycled. We have also layered all our kitchen scraps in the boxes with compost, thus building them up and making good soil for the sowing season. The last few crops from the current season would be harvested now as well.

I know it looks rather sad, but the winters here are really dull, and we have not yet figured out the winter crop thing... I am hoping to get that going by next season... :-)
The veg patch from the field entrance

Thursday, 2 June 2011

March 2010

Planning our new walkway
So Christmas came and went, and New Years eve came and went, and we were all of a sudden in March again. Time to start planning some new things, new changes, and new challenges.. :-)

We had decided a long time ago that we had too much grass. Grass = mowing, which we all dislike a little.. hehe. So removing some grass seemed like a good option. The first bit of grass to go would be the walkway from the house to the Veg Patch. This meant digging up the old cement slab that was there, and clearing the grass away as we went along.

But we managed to clear the required area, and then paved it using bricks, and setting these with a cement/sand mix which we wet and allowed to set. Way to much work though, and really sore fingers afterwards... :-\ But sometimes one also has to suffer for progress. We had planted the poles and put across other poles which are fastened to the house with joist-hangers. This will provide a structure for the Hanepoort vines to climb up and over. :-)

Walkway now covered with reeds
 We decided that some shade would be nice, so we covered the walkway with reeds. We have since removed them and placed them on the afdakkie (covered area) that we built over the septic tank which is in the middle of our lawn.. :-\ we did this in order to make a feature of the cement slab which is in the middle of the lawn. It now serves as a nice shaded area, when we sometimes sit and enjoy a coffee. :-)

The Septic Tank Stoepie
 Having a small stoepie in the garden where we can sit and enjoy the greenery, and a coffee.. heheh seemed like a good idea. So we made some flowerbeds along the sides of the septictank and planted climbers like Wisteria, and Clematis, a Zimbabwean creeper, Jasmine and yet another Hanepoort vine.. we also planted some Lavender and some Gazanias for a little variation in height. At some point in the future these, the climbers, will actually form a canopy over the top of the afdakkie.. and we will have a lovely dappled shade. We are still planning to a nice round concrete table and two curved benches for this spot...and plenty more wind-chimes and mobiles.. :-)

The other side of the Septic Tank stoepie..
 But these two projects were not the only things we set up this month. We also built an outdoor shower... for some or other reason this appeals to the kids, and hubs.. especially in summer. Yes its cold!!! Freezing cold!!!

We have now clad the outdoor shower using droppers, and on this a Morning Glory has sown itself, and decided that that was a good place to grow... so now the shower looks great.. :-)

Andreas having a shower... Brrrrr!!!
 And of course to finish off this months post, what could be better than a night shot of the house. :-)

Our house at night from the Garden.