Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dear Diary: May 2006

19 May 2006

Shortly after we planted our first trees at The Plot, the agent contacted us to say that five people were hiring a digger-loader for the day to do various digging  operations on their land and he asked whether we wanted to join in, pay a sixth of the expense and have a large hole dug for our septic tank. We jumped at the opportunity, especially now that we knew how impossible it is to dig that shale with a spade. Roy went up to our plot on his own last week to buy and install a septic/conservancy tank in the new hole. He slept in a tent every night and was able to have a hot shower either with the camping shower or at the agent's house. Willem helped to pack rocks and earth around the submerged septic tank and then Roy ran about 1000 litres into the tank to weight it down while the ground settles and hardens around it. 

Roy also built the framework for a little  shelter under which we aim to park a secondhand caravan which we have managed to buy for an absolute song. We spent two weeks cleaning and painting the caravan inside and sewing new curtains and cushion covers. Whoever lived in the caravan believed in fixing everything with TicTac! Lots of scraping off of ancient old blobs.

Roy is going to put a roof onto the structure's framework next month and then we will enclose 3 sides around the caravan. No real building plans for it apart from my sketches but it will be temporary in nature, the main posts simply sunk into the earth without foundations. Roy's credit card is taking a hammering from buying all these materials!! He is so enthusiastic about the project that he has not watched television for WEEKS now!!

9 June 2006

I am back from my trip to "The Plot", sunburnt and stiff. Roy is still up there and this has turned into a monstrous task for one Boy Scout!! 

We left home on Saturday morning at  4 am as planned, choosing to use the N1 route instead of the usual N2. We thought it might be less undulating for the caravan. Roy was a bit nervous towing the old caravan with its temporary 3-day lisence, with our friend's Toyota Hilux. The roof sheets were also loaded in the bakkie. It didn't help that we took a wrong turn in the dark in Mitchells Plain and then had to reverse with caravan out of a cul-de-sac. Eeeeek! Found the R300 and then the N1. As we moved up Du Toit's Kloof Pass outside Paarl, there were tremendous crosswinds buffeting us, especially just immediately in front of the tunnel mouth, where he struggled to control the vehicles. 

We stopped in Robertson to refuel (amazing how the fuel consumption increased so dramatically with the load against the wind) and we then discovered that the skylight had been lifted and then smashed by the wind and was hanging down miserably inside the caravan by a few strands of plastic. We realised that it must have happened back at the tunnel and figured that the driver of a huge truck who had passed us after the tunnel and who had hooted at us, was not annoyed that we had gone through the tunnel so slowly but was in fact indicating that he could see problems on the caravan's roof. 

Actually, I was glad we did not discover it until Robertson because we realised then that traveling with an opening in the roof on to Swellendam would be ok. Luckily it was not raining or else we would have been towing a swimming pool. 

There was still much wind but we arrived in Swellendam at 9 am. Stopped for coffee with my friend who owns a private school and while we caught up on our news, Roy nipped off to the Hardware to buy some hardboard adaptation to put on top of the skylight that night.  I mentioned to my friend that I was going to catch the bus back to Cape Town on Wedneday because I work on Thursday at KPS and I had moved my Tuesday night class at College this week to Thursday. Can you believe my luck! She was coming down to Cape Town on Wednesday evening, so we arranged that I would travel with her.

We arrived at the plot, unpacked and then went off to Barrydale to collect the generator and tools which Roy had left at Suzie's house when he was there last month. I saw their house for the first time: they have really turned a shack into a palace and the location is fabulous. I don't foresee them ever moving back to Cape Town. They now have a very active social life compared to living here. I think the village's smaller size gives it a bigger heart than a larger town like Swellendam or a city.

Saturday and Sunday nights the wind HOWLED through the plot and we realised, as the caravan rocked and tilted from side to side and the make-shift skylight blowing off at one point, that the roof structure for the caravan's bungalow was not likely to withstand such a wind. We spent Sunday strengthening it with extra wood. 

I also met and went to tea with a retired couple who are staying on one of the other plots since 3 weeks ago. If I thought we were crazy doing this then I was able to take comfort that we are moderate compared to what they have done. They have sold their house in Cape Town and are living in their luxurious caravan and tent PERMANENTLY while they go through the process of planning and building a house there; at least 12 months or more I would say before they will have a house. Imagine living like that full time, without electricity or other mod cons in the extremes of summer heat and winter cold, with wind all year around!!

Monday we went into Swellendam and placed the order for the wooden planks at the local sawmill. I had originally wanted Roy to hammer wattle sticks/poles around the structure for walls. It is all the rage at the moment.  But he was not keen and finally, when I realised how much work it was going to be, I agreed with him on wooden planks. But on Willem Klaasen's advice, we are still going to have the sticks on the sides of the roof to allow the wind to blow in and escape out, rather than have the wind lift the roof because it cannot escape fast enough. 

Then a shock. We had had a price list from this sawmill faxed to us and I understood that the prices quoted for each length was actually the price of the full plank. What an innocent....the prices quoted for each length were per metre! Why did they not just give me the total for each full length of a plank? So that immediately doubled the outlay. They would not take a credit card and we don't have a checkbook. The ATM machine has a daily limit on withdrawals, so we had to draw half that day and half  the next day.

After placing the order at the sawmill,  I went to have tea with another friend,  who has moved to Swellendam, while Roy went off to buy other goodies at the hardware and then we were back on our plot, getting ready to go through for dinner at our friends in Barrydale. Where did the day go?? After having a lovely shower there, we enjoyed a pleasant evening, good food and met one set of their new friends. We left at about 9 pm, driving back once again through the magnificent Tradouw pass in the moonlight.

On the next day, we invited the local caravan couple for supper and I think they enjoyed it immensely. The weather was perfect, the moon was bright and a miracle: there was not a breath of wind. We could sit outside (thankfully, because our caravan is teeny) and I could unload some of our food that needed to be eaten. The little gas fridge in the caravan worked at home but not up there. Something on the trip must have dislodged or broken. Luckily I had frozen everything and it all held out in the cooler bag long enough for us to eat without poisoning ourselves!! After spending this time with them, I realised that we were looking at a possible solution to the problem in our watering system: "Who was going to turn on the tap?". At that time, the agent was turning it on periodically for us but it would become more of a problem in the summer.

Wednesday saw us rushing about madly measuring and drilling in order to prepare as much as possible for Roy to continue on his own. The wood order arrived about 20 minutes before Roy was due to take me through to Swellendam to catch my lift. I insisted on counting and measuring all the planks and the annoyed driver soon realised how wise it was when we discovered that there were 24 planks short (over R1000). After Roy dropped me off in Swellendam,  he went on to the sawmill to  pay for the wood that had been delivered and they promised him, with many apologies, that they would deliver the rest today.  But even if they don't manage it today, it doesn't matter because he has got plenty to get on with the job. A brilliant worker who works for Suzie, lives in Suurbraak about 10 km away, so Roy will fetch him this morning to help with putting the bungalow together. Willem is elsewhere with his brother, putting up new fences for a farmer.

I never took any photos up there......was so busy but left the camera and told Roy to take photographs to show me when he gets back. Hope he does, because when he is so busy he doesnt even eat, never mind take photographs!!
Onduline roof sheets. Light but not made to last forever.

1 comment:

  1. You must feel very proud to see how far you've progressed since these early days.