Archives for posts with tag: Building from Scratch

It’s been almost 3 months since we migrated down to Cape Town to wait out the final stages of our building project.  When we left Johannesburg, we were hopeful that the house might be finished by April and when it became clear that it would not be, we set our sights on the end of May. As the finishes started going in, we also realised that one of us, but preferably both of us, needed to be either on site most of every day, or close enough so as to be able to get there fairly quickly to answer the seemingly endless string of queries that crop up at this stage.  So, on Sunday the 17th of May, we packed up in Cape Town, loaded Daisy into the car again and set off on the long road north back to Johannesburg.

Loaded Up Again.

Loaded Up Again.

Fortunately we both enjoy road trips and Daisy has proved herself to be a very good traveller.  The long, open road, spooling out ahead gives one ample time to adjust to the change of environment from the laid-back coastal atmosphere of the Cape to the frenetic, somewhat disorganised one of Gauteng.

Leaving Cape Town

Leaving Cape Town

The last of the mountains before entering the Karoo.

The last of the mountains before entering the Karoo.

We stopped in Laingsburg for coffee and look what we found at the filling station…

Now I'd also like a car with a picnic basket...

Now I’d also like a car with a picnic basket…

And eventually, after about seven and a half hours on the road, we arrived at Kuilfontein Farm, about 12 kilometres outside of Colesberg.  We’ve been stopping over there for years, not least because they have a special section of accommodation called The Paddocks where dogs are also welcome.

Approaching the Farm.

Approaching the Farm.

Homeward B Kuil gate sign

Farm Buildings

Farm Buildings

We set off quite early on Monday  morning but not before giving Daisy a bit of a run. Homeward B Kuil Daisy   We arrived back in Johannesburg at about 2pm in time to check into yet another guest cottage and to do a quick check on the progress of the house. We had thought we might be able to move in during the first week of June but what we found was not very encouraging and that idea has been scuppered.

This does not look like a house ready for occupation in 12 days.

This does not look like a house ready for occupation in 12 days.

The flooring and carpeting was scheduled to go in this past week but instead, we’ve had to postpone both installations for approximately 2 weeks.  Ideally both the wooden floors and the carpets should go in after all other internal work is complete. It has become clear over the past few weeks that the contractor and the electrician have had some conflict and the electrical work seemed to have come to a complete halt.  At this stage the contractor is – unsurprisingly – avoiding all contact with us and from my point of view that’s probably best as I simply don’t know what I could find to say to him right now.  I rather hope I never have to see him again, ever.  For the past three months all our dealings have been with the site manager only.  Fortunately on Tuesday I eventually managed to contact the electrician directly and the impasse has been breached.  His team is back on site and making good progress.  In the four working days that we’ve been back from Cape Town, we’ve managed to move things along quite a bit so it seems we made the right decision to be here fulltime from now on.  Although, having said that, this gypsy lifestyle has begun to pall somewhat.

View of house today, May 23rd 2015.

View of house today, May 23rd 2015.

The green netting is around building materials that have been stored in the park much to the dismay of some of our neighbours.  Repeated requests that the builders keep this area tidy and keep the quantity of material stored to a minimum have gone unheeded.  We will have to do some serious grass planting and rehabilitation here when spring comes around. Where the wall ends on the right, you can just make out a space before the neighbour’s fence begins.  Our gate into the park will be going into that space.  The opening you can see in the wall just as it turns a corner back towards the house, is the underground ‘bunker’ which will house the increasingly essential generator and also, water storage tanks which were delivered and installed – not without some difficulty – last week. To cheer ourselves up after our first visit back on Monday, we went for a walk in the park which – unlike the house – was looking immaculate. May 18 Park 1

During this house-building process, I have often wondered what it is exactly that shapes and influences our individual concepts of ‘home’.  Why is it, for instance, that I have always wanted a Weathervane and why do I have an obsession with garden swings?

Classic Weathervane

Classic Weathervane

Not many houses in my town had weathervanes in my formative years.  In fact, I don’t think I can think of a single one.  Perhaps it was the English literature on which we were raised; all those books with beautiful illustrations of country homes, gardens and barns.  Or perhaps it was the time I spent as an exchange student in America.  I was strongly influenced by the architecture and ‘street appeal’ of so many American homes during that time, although I think I absorbed some of it by a process of osmosis.  Even since then, I have gravitated towards the combination of white woodwork and wooden floors.

Pig Weathervane on a friend's Suffolk farm.

Pig Weathervane on a friend’s Suffolk farm.

Weathervane from a distance on Suffolk farm.

Weathervane from a distance on Suffolk farm.

Searching for photos of weathervanes online, most of them are found in the States although England also has a fair share.  Driving around Cape Town I have spotted a few, always on older houses or newer houses built with a nod to the old vernacular style.

Weathervane on an old Victorian house in Claremont, Cape Town.

Weathervane on an old Victorian house in Claremont, Cape Town.

So, given the relative scarcity of weathervanes locally, I was quite surprised to come across Weathervanes Exclusive, a company based in the suburb of Tokai, Cape Town (www.weathervanes-exclusive.com) and about 10 days ago, set off to see what they had to offer.

Weathervanes Exclusive

Weathervanes Exclusive

For some reason, despite the lovely website, I didn’t have very high expectations and so it was an absolutely wonderful surprise to find, down a little country lane, a beautiful property set against the mountain and a perfect loft studio/workshop housing a plethora of weathervanes and brass sundials.

Loft Studio

Loft Studio

The choice of designs was quite overwhelming and it was helpful to have samples on hand of all of them.

A Choice of Options.

A Choice of Options.

Having pored over the website at length, we had selected a few favourites.  I was rather inclined towards a witch and cat on a broomstick, an owl, the absolute classic rooster which  is perhaps always the safest option – and the retriever.  There were no spaniels on offer or we may have been tempted by one of those.

Tempting - given how I've felt over the last year...

Tempting – given how I’ve felt over the last year…

Getting to see and handle the actual product was good and after some thought and quite a bit of research, we concluded that a good silhouette is quite an important weathervane feature and although sorely tempted by the witch, good sense prevailed:  We settled on the retriever, a reference to the four beautiful golden retrievers, Jason, Bonnie, Tessa and Cody, who have shared lives and homes over the past thirty-something years.

Golden Retriever assembled in the studio...

The Weathervane Man with a Golden Retriever assembled in his studio.

 

...and how we hope it'll look positioned on the roof.

…and how we hope it’ll look positioned on the roof.

Tessa aged about 13.

Tessa aged about 13.

Cody on the stairs.

Cody on the stairs.

The next decision will be deciding just where on the roof to position the weathervane. I think it should go on the point of the roof above the library where it will be unobstructed and high enough to catch the slightest breeze.

The left peak, above the long narrow window, seems like a good place to position the weathervane.

The left peak, above the long narrow window, seems like a good place to position the weathervane.

I wish all aspects of the building process could be this enjoyable.  Now I just might start thinking about a sundial for the garden.

Another outing, in search of chimney pots, turned into a nothing more than a picturesque wild goose chase…  But more of that another time.