Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dear Diary: August 2006 - April 2007

Looking back through e-mails and notes, I find no record of visiting the Plot after the building of the caravan structure in June 2006 until 20 August, when Roy went to house-sit until 5 September for the local agent, while he and wife went on a holiday. Roy drove down to Cape Town on the 1 September to fetch me and I was introduced to the quaint and eccentric house where we would house-sit many times in the years to come. 

August/September 2006


The house-sit involved looking after two dogs, 3 huge pigs, their little offspring plus cows and two horses. I recall that one piglet was the runt of the litter and was getting pulverised and lost in the pig pen. Roy brought it in, scrubbed it up and then fed it on Pronutro until the agent's return. It seemed a shame that piglet eventually would be sent to market! Even their offer to donate it to Roy could not save it from its destiny. How on earth could we keep a pig?

The entire period while we were there, it rained or the wind blew ferociously. We had to park our car half way up the hill from the house to ensure that we did not get stuck in the mud around the house! Nevertheless, at our plot, we were still able to do some work and we fitted pipes for a toilet and shower. We had found a plastic toilet and cistern manufactured by 4Ever Plastics which was ideal for this situation.  We bought some paving stones from the nursery in Buffelsjag to cover the floor of the bungalow and for a fee, the owner delivered to us.

Sept 2006

At the end of September, until 2 October, we spent time up there again, this time along with our dogs. We cleaned and dressed the paving slabs, started a rockery behind the bungalow and varnished the wood which enclosed the shower area. (Over the subsequent years, from time to time we would  oil the outside of the bungalow with Linseed oil.)  We attached a plastic hoop to hold up a shower curtain and used a simple basin to stand in while showering. We would put a 20 litre camping shower bag out in the sun during the day to heat up and would have to shower before it cooled down in the late afternoon. (We still do this up to the present moment, if our little plastic tank on the roof does not get hot enough.)

Roy returned on his own about a week later to build an extension to the bungalow. Someone in the area was desperately trying to sell off their caravan and it was such a good price, we just had to buy it. While we were able to store it in a barn nearby, that was fine, but we wanted some shelter for it when the time came that this would no longer be possible.  While he was at it, Roy also built a shelter for our car. It was very simple and yet has proved most effective in sheltering from the harshest element there, the sun. The roof would consist only of shade-cloth and black wattle sticks. 

While proof-reading this, I see that it all sounds so easy but I can assure you, just digging holes for the poles in that shale was a mammoth task for Roy.

Oct 2006
Start of the front rockery.   Note the plastic tank on roof. It feeds 100 metres of black irrigation pipe, coiled up on the roof. Great in the summer for showers. We just have to make sure that it never empties, so we top up after each shower. or else, the remedy is to suck on a 100 metre pipe to "bleed" the water through and this is no joke!
Someone had given us their old kitchen cupboard and sink which Roy adapted to fit into the bungalow. 
We later bought a second hand tap mixer at a market to fit the sink.

Between Christmas and New Year, we house-sat again but during this time  we did not do a stitch of work at our plot. We decided to just enjoy being in the countryside and chilled out with  reading books and taking dips in the plunge pool, in between the livestocks' mealtimes.

Exactly a year after we paid for our water connection in March, Roy arrived at the plot to find that some animals had bitten through the soft rubber tubes which lead from the black irrigation pipes to little irrigation heads at each tree. They had done this at some of the trees, obviously to get at the water, and our water consumption was very high that month. The agent had turned the water on as we had requested but he did not realise that it was just pouring out copiously in some places. Roy removed all the little tubes and we changed over to the simple system which we have today.....we use a needle to make holes in the thicker black irrigation piping and that is that. It does mean checking the system every single time that we are up there to make sure a grain of sand has not blocked the minute hole in the pipe. Roy mowed around the bungalow to allay his fear of veld fires at this hottest time of the year. He set about finishing the "roof" and side wall of the extensions he had built in October.

March 2007
Finished off the decor for the toilet with some stones and fine shells from the beach and hung the curtain for the cupboards.

Some of the trees were already peeping over their shade-cloth protection. It was at around this time that the couple living in the caravan near to us offered to turn our watering system on every two weeks. This let the agent off the hook and was a relief because he lives at least 3 kms away from us.

Celtis Africana
Dry and hot veld

A month later we both went up to the plot with the dogs. We had decided to extend the watering system in anticipation of planting more trees and luckily Willem was available to do the necessary. We sealed the corrugations of the bungalows roof with some amazing material.... foam which you spray from a can and which hardens and you to cut it off neatly afterwards.

April 2007
Front rockery preparation
Front rockery gets water
It was really hot
Willem Klaasen, digger supreme
Sealing the roof
Half of roof was sealed and trimmed on a previous occasion


  1. Oh yes, and that wind can blow...

    Lovely to read your path of progress... similarities abound, and very grateful advice on pin-pricking the black pipe has been sucessfully implemented :)

    Do you think that so much effort went into the initial accommodation compared to what effort our mutual permanent houses have taken.

  2. Initially, we had no plans to build a permanent structure, so I think that is why we made so much effort with the bungalow. It was just going to be a little camping spot. Building in 2009 - 2011 has made it feasible to live there now and when I see my trees, I just crave that opportunity to give them more attention. I would love to plant a ton of Olive trees (they do so well there) but after the latest meat-mania saga, feel that it would have to wait for permanent residence.

  3. Looks good. Simple, but very practical.

  4. It certainly has proved to be very functional. Thanks, John.