"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Clay floor tiles, kitchen counter and lime render

During the time that we were unable to get to the farm we kept ourselves busy with preparation at our house in Cape Town. I purchase two bedside tables from a roadside vendor - these tables are made with off-cuts of wood and woven grass basket drawers. I also ordered 6 slightly bigger extra drawers, to use in my kitchen island for storing foodstuffs etc. These I sanded and varnished (with Swartland Maxicare) at our home in Cape Town - a very good idea as on the farm there is always a breeze of some sort blowing building sand about - not ideal for wet varnish!

Due too business commitments RMan went to the farm on his own for 11 days in early October. We needed to get the flooring in and sealed, to give it time to dry before the family visit in December.

On the internet I found Overberg Tile and Clay - a company in Swellendam who made clay floor tiles and who were able to install them as well.


Given that the actual factory is based in Swellendam, and we didn't have to add to their eco footprint by schlepping heavy clay tiles 256 kms all the way from Cape Town, I bowed to RMan's preference for clay floor tiles in place of the oxide screed on the floor.

The installed and sealed 'seconds' tiles on this page look more amazing than the pictures show! The only difference between the normal and 'seconds' tiles are that the 'seconds' can be a little uneven, and / or have a small crack - we love them - we feel it adds real farmhouse character to the room.

RMan used the opportunity to get the plasterer's back to compelte the plastering of the external walls and do the finishing round the windows and doorways. True to form it rained! That caused the plaster to fall off the walls during the night, which meant they had to be re-done the following day. It's amazing, though, what plastering the building has done - it is starting to look more and more like a house and less like a building site.

RMan got a reality check - when he lifted a piece of the gunplas (black plastic) which was covering the plaster sand he met his first Cape Cobra face to face. He said that he's never leap so far so quickly - clearing what he explained as 3 mtrs in one leap! Unfortunately the plasterers decided to throw sand at it which caused it to rise up and show it's hood. They were not happy about it, and RMan, being in a state of shock, didn't realise until too late that a couple of the plasterers had picked up planks which were lying around and with which they proceeded to kill the cobra. Sad and totally unnecessary - there is place for everything on this planet and a bit of patience would've allowed the cobra to go on it's way. Nevermind interrupting the food chain - cobra's eat mice and rats - and personally I'd rather have cobra's on the plot than rats and mice, of which there must be plenty in the area, as many of the surrounding fields are sown with grain.

He also got the digger/loader back - we know have 180 holes ready for the pomegranate trees which we will be purchasing in January 2010. The trenches we dug for the mains water, grey water and septic tank pipes have now been closed and the reed bed has had a berm placed on the uphill side to prevent rain water from flooding and overflowing the reed bed before it's had time to filter the grey water.

Unfortunately, there was not enough time to seal the floor tiles on RMan's previous visit, so we both went up to the farm at the end of November to get that finished and to ensure that the house is as complete as posssible before we go up with our kids / grandchild later in December. I never realised how much stuff we had accumulated in the caravan - no wonder it felt cramped and claustrophobic. Transferring it all and sorting it out in the house took me all of three hours and at least a dozen trips from the caravan to the house.

We fitted castors to the kitchen counter / island and I proceeded to fill every inch of it. When I consider the cost (the unit cost R1200.00 at Builders Warehouse, the six baskets R600.00 and the castors R240.00) a total of R2040.00 - a company which specialises in kitchen cuboards would charge a heck of lot more than that for a 1.5mtr long kitchen island. It is also 1.05mtrs high - 15cms more than the normal kitchen counter - it feels so much more comfortable to prepare food on.

Ronnie was an absolute star and moved the caravan stove to the house too - easy-peasy thing for a man to do!!

He also knocked me up some temporary kitchen counters / draining board round the butlers sink / stove - the butlers sink is absolutely brilliant! In order not to waste water when doing the daily washing up I use a bucket which fits into the sink - naturally, when the demand arises I will utilize the entire sink.

So, finally on the 1 December 2009, a year and a half after purchasing our plot, we "moved in" - yes, we still have to paint the walls, put the vermiculite ceiling boards in and sort out more kitchen shelving, but the basics are there. And we had our first home cooked meal even if it was only spaghetti bolognaise - we didn't cook in the caravan because of food smells, grease, etc. And what a pleasure to be able to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without having to peer all round for night adders as one walks to the "bathroom"!! Those simple luxuries that one takes for granted assume on a whole new meaning. I can tell you all that the resin roof tiles in the double volume room together with the double glazed windows work brilliantly! Hot as hell outside and very comfortable inside. The addition of lime to the render (8 parts sand, 1 bags cement and 2 bag lime) has created walls which could withstand a hurricane easily - it took RMan three hours to knock a 20cm hole through the west facing wall for the dover stove chimney - he couldn't believe the strength of the walls. Even the howling sou'easter is bearable when one is within a sheltered structure - especially one that doesn't sway in the wind as the caravan did! Admittedly the sisalation which was fitted (again in a howling sou'eater) is not as secure as it should be in a couple of places, but when we fit the vermiculite ceiling boards, we will be able to do any minor adjustments that are necessary.

Perhaps next year we will be equipped enough to spend Christmas on the farm with the whole family. I can't wait to see their reaction - so much for "elderly" parents - I reckon we've done a sterling job thus far. And we're not that old any way :-) In fact - our lives have just begun, but don't tell our kids that.


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