Balfour Name
A little Victorian Cottage Front of house 18th January 2001
My Brains have been eaten 12th February 2001
Murder in Balfour 15th February 2001
Crawlies 6th March 2001
Crawlies - the return 12th March 2001
No floor 23rd March 2001
Garden 2nd April 2001
Ash Blond 5th April 2001
Walking the plank 7th May 2001
Plaster 21st May 2001
Smooth 17th June 2001
The Cape of Storms 5th July 2001
The Fear of Gauls 6th August 2001
Augrabies 12th September 2001
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary 24th October 2001
Wispy Clouds 12th November 2001
Bot Rivier Valley 10th December 2001
A mile of ... 8th January 2002
Floorplan & Pictures Pea Soup


A little Victorian Cottage

What a couple of weeks I've had. Just before Xmas everything started. Marks mom came down from Johannesburg for the holidays. We were staying in her house repairing it etc. In exchange she let us stay there practically rent free. When she came down she said she needed rent for the house. We would either have to doc up or she would have to get new tenants. She contacted the estate agent to see how much rent she could get and it turned out to be more than I get paid a month. As Mark's business was just getting started we couldn't afford that much. We had to either get somewhere to rent or take the plunge to buy. Rent is terribly expensive here. You generally pay more for rent than your monthly mortgage payments.

Xmas and New Year went by and we "umed" and "ahed" and decided to rent because the bank would not give us a mortgage on my salary. Then my mom phoned and said we should still buy something and that she would give us some money. Great! This happened in the first week of Jan. On Saturday we bought a newspaper and circled some places to see in the neighbourhoods we think we can afford. Sunday is show house day here so we ran around looking at about 20 places for sale. Some were in very bad shape, and some matched our criteria but not our budget. My mom was with us. She had also bought the paper and spotted a house that was not on show, but was advertised as being for sale. We drove past it and thought it might be interesting. We rang the agent and made an appointment for Monday evening.

It was one of those things. We walked in and liked the house straight away. It had just what was on our wanted list but we needed a bit more money. So we told the agent we were interested and would contact him the next day. Mark phoned his mom and asked her if she could lend us the extra cash. She said yes so we made another appointment with the agent for Wednesday. Mark's mom was coming down to oversee the re-doing of one of the bathrooms before the new tenants moved in on 1st Feb. As it happened she only arrived on Thursday, but having her OK we went ahead and made an offer. We stipulated that the owners should give us an answer by mid morning on Friday in case we needed to go house hunting again that weekend. On Friday morning the agent phoned me to tell me that the owners had accepted our bid. Luckily the house was empty and we could start moving in immediately.

During all this we were building a new bathroom at the old house and Mark was supervising the builders and fixing a couple of last minute things there.


The house is in a row of typical Victorian terrace houses. There is a wall in front, a small garden (2 x 3 m) and a veranda. As you enter the front door there is a long hallway. Off the hall there are two bedrooms with a lounge following. You walk through the lounge to get to the kitchen and through that to get to the bathroom. There is a huge built in oval bath. The tiling is not too bad, but there are tiny mirror tiles at the edge of the bath - one wonders why. The back door leads off the kitchen into a tiny courtyard that is cemented over. There is a garage off the courtyard The external garage door opens up into a lane running between two rows of houses (The old service lane for night soil.). The house needs work, but is very liveable. It still has a lot of the original Victorian features left including pine floors and ceilings. floorplan

18th January 2001

My Brains have been eaten

Have you ever seen nasturtium seeds? They look like tiny dried up brains - to me that is. I collected some seeds a while ago and put them in a plastic bag in a drawer with some dishcloths. I could not believe it when I opened the drawer and saw that all my seeds had been eaten - we suspect by mice. So, now I'm a real blond as my brains have been eaten.

The mice must have climbed up the back of the cupboard and into the drawer. I had to clean out the cupboard completely as I found they had nibbled on the flour and other dry goods.

12th February 2001

Murder in Balfour

There has been a murder at the end of our street. I don't know the full details, but apparently the police found a body in a cellar. Exciting stuff what! I'm not sure what it is, but since I've moved in there has been a huge drug bust (three houses down, next to the church) and now a murder. The area we stay in is a bit notorious, but very community orientated. It's great though. You still see kids playing in the street and you know your neighbours. Last night I sat on my porch and just watched the people go by. It's like sitting in a movie where you see people in places like Haarlem, NYC just doing their thing.

15th February 2001


Early 80s style Talk about crawlies. At the moment it seems like the game is to spot the wildlife of the day. It would seem that the mice are not the only problem in my cupboard - although they did have a nibble or two. The real problem seems to be cockroaches. After we cleaned out the cupboard for the second time, washed all the dishes, threw away everything we thought had been nibbled on and cemented up the hole in the wall behind the cupboard and what do we see? More poop in the cupboard. It was then that we discovered that it was not the mice, but fairly large cockroaches that were causing the mess. So we had to do the extermination bit. Mark also chased a mouse around the house with a broom. I thought he was just going to chase it and put it outside. The poor thing - very cute - ran under a loose board and the next thing I jumped about 2 feet off the ground as he hit the board and splattered the mouse underneath it. It was not quite dead and was lying there with it's feet twitching. I could not look and had to go outside. I'm more of the "Fumigate and don't let me see I've killed them under the floor." type. I suppose this is what you get for buying an old house.

6th March 2001

Crawlies - the return

Mice - little buggers. On Friday we started to cleaned out the cupboards (in preparation for fumigation) and found little white pieces of plastic all over the place. Looking further, we found a hole in the lid of a sunflower oil bottle and lo and behold two mice drowned in the oil at the bottom. Yuk.

Fumigation: we closed the house, lit up some smelly fog things and went to sleep at my mom's house for the night. Walking into the kitchen the next morning, what do we find? A roach, lying on its back, but with its feet still moving. Mark said . Oh no, this is no good, lets trash the kitchen cupboards and see where the bugs are hiding. . In doing so we found exactly what we suspected, under the sink the wooden floorboards were quite rotten. So now I have a sink sort of floating in mid air, no kitchen cupboards and a huge hole in the floor. The gas stove has actually moved into the front part of the bathroom so now you have to sit sideways on the loo otherwise your knees bump into something.

The next step is to rip up the rest of the floor, use the wood to fix a couple of boards in the rest of the house, fill in the hole with rubble, and then put a concrete slab over that so that we can tile.

12th March 2001

No floor

It's gone We have no kitchen floor. Over the weekend we picked up the last of the floorboards. Now we have a hole with a couple of beams so that you can walk to the bathroom. It gets a bit hairy in the middle of the night. Mark has also started to break down the chimney so it's very dusty.

The wall between the kitchen and the lounge has a chimney on each side (separate chimney's). The kitchen side has two thick walls where an old coal stove used to sit with the chimney piece on top. There is a narrow cupboard between the chimney piece and the wall. It's just too narrow for a dishwasher or fridge and you need extra space for the doors to open. As we had to pick up the floor, we decided to break down the chimney / stove walls and use them to fill up the floor before concreting. This will give us a lot of extra wall space for cupboards on the one side of the kitchen. It also means that the other side can be left empty and we can put in a kitchen table. The kitchen just calls for a table.

23rd March 2001


GardenThis weekend we decided to get the garden going. About three weeks ago I dug in some manure and found an old path buried under a thin layer of ground. The path was made of cement with glass bottles set upside down into it. (My grandfather says that this was the fashion in the 50s). A lot of the bottles were broken. Before I found the path I had already decided to break the area up with a formal brick path. Friday I got home early and we decided to start laying the bricks on top of the cement path. Finished that just as the light was fading. Then on Saturday we decided to sift the sand as there was a lot of rubble, stones and bits of glass in the top layer. This was a very dirty task as the wind started to howl as it can only do in Cape Town. It has also not rained here for about 4 months and the dust got in our ears, eyes and goodness knows where else.

Sunday dawned bright and windless. So I decided to plant the three shrubs I'd bought the previous week. Mark took one look at the poor lost greenery and said I should go off to my mom's house and get some cuttings. I duly went off and came back with a huge black bag full of plants. I spent about an hour planting everything and then put some bark between the plants for moisture retention. As I don't have a tap in front I had to haul water from the kitchen in a watering can. As it turned out planting was very fortuitous as it is drizzling a bit today. I still want to go and buy a couple of hanging geraniums to put in the built in containers in the wall.

The farm belongs to Mark's uncle who has an export business selling dried flowers.

Have a look at Honingklip Dryflowers when you have a minute.

2nd April 2001

Ash Blond

Dusty, very dusty I turned into an ash blond yesterday. I got off work early so we spent the afternoon breaking down more of the kitchen. First I had to wire brush down the brick walls where Mark had broken down the chimney. The bricks were made some time between 1870 and 1905. At that time they were still made of straw and clay and baked in the sun. So after about 100 years they are very crumbly and create vast quantities of dust. After the brushing I painted the wall with a special sealant which penetrates the brick and helps to prevent further crumbling.
At least the floor is now filled with rubble. The next step is to smooth it all out and then put a slab of cement over it.

5th April 2001

Walking the plank

The last stage in a very long day. Then we found that the plaster on the walls needed to come off as well. This was fairly dusty work and Mark couldn't. close the doorway between the kitchen and the rest of the house. As we now needed to plaster the walls we decided to hire a couple of guys to do it for us. The two guys we hired botched the job and we kicked them out after two days.

We decide to concrete the floor ourselves. We hired a cement mixer and got all the supplies ready for Saturday. The cement mixer can only take half the load stated on a packet of cement. No problem, we halved the dry ingredients, but Mark forgot to half the water as well. The result was that our first load of the day turned out to be a little wet. We poured out some of the water and chucked in an extra bag of cement. As luck would have it, the load was just heavy enough to jump the brake and tip the contents out in the middle of the road as the motor got started. We got wise after that. One person started the motor and the other stood at the brake to keep it steady. All our other mixes were perfect. My job of the day was to smooth down the whole floor with a float. My arm is a bit sore after all that work.

It turned out fairly level, but not quite smooth. That's not really a problem as we're going to tile anyway. Now we had a smoothed wet concreted floor and a bathroom only accessible across this great expanse. After leaving the floor to set for about 3 hours we could lay some plastic and a couple of planks over the concrete. We should be getting some other plasterers this week to finish off the walls (Mark and I reckon we could probably plaster, but getting it flat and smooth takes a bit of practice).

7th May 2001


The walls have been plastered! Mark eventually asked his uncle (who's a civil engineer) if he didn't know of somebody who could do it. In the end we had six guys who finished the job in one day. Unfortunately, the plaster has to cure for 21 days before painting. In the meantime the wood for the cupboards has arrived and we will start putting them together and do other bits and pieces:

When Mark broke down the chimney in the kitchen, he found that the bricks were being washed away by the rain. (remember the house was built around 1870 and in those days they did not bake the bricks) There was a hole right through the chimney just below the roof which we couldn't see from below. If we'd made a fire the sparks would surely have jumped out the hole and with it being so dusty and dry in the loft the whole house would have gone up in flames. Mark and I plastered the chimney (well Mark plastered and I was the skivvy who carried the wet cement).

21st May 2001


Plastering We waited patiently for 3 weeks for the plaster to cure. (Before we found out that you only have to wait one week if you only plastered the walls, as opposed to three weeks if the walls are newly built and plastered.) We painted a test patch and found that the walls are still too rough. We therefore decided to put on a layer of Cretestone (gypsum). This time we decided to do it ourselves. It took us about 4 days to cover all the walls - with quite a bit of experimentation and improvement of skill as we moved from the practice wall behind the cupboards to the most exposed wall next to the kitchen table.

17th June 2001

The Cape of Storms

The Cape of Storms. How aptly named by those old sailors a few hundred years ago as they came sailing past in their wooden ships. A lot of newly arrived souls would not believe the old tales of cloudy rainy skies persisting for two weeks nor tales your mom told of not being able to get the washing dry. This year the weather bureau recorded record rainfalls in June / July for the last 40 years.

On the roof As we've broken down the chimney, we need to close the stack on top of the roof. As luck would have it stormed the Wednesday before we were going to damp proof on Saturday. As you can see in the picture, we were on the roof when the rain temporarily abated. The view from the roof is the best we have of the mountain. We had to wait for a week to see if the damp proofing was successful and to let the wall dry out before we could paint the first base coat.

Somebody had built extra brick walls around the chimney in the lounge. They took up a lot of space and we decided to break them down. The original plaster was also knocked off the top. The exposed bricks were crumbling and made red dust all over, so we had it replastered.

While this was going on we had a kids fashion show out front. Mark's sister Karen is a fashion designer specialising in kids clothing. She and her husband Paul were in Cape Town to promote the new summer range. I organized a couple of friends' kids for a photo shoot. Have a look at a couple of her designs modelled by Fritz and Megan.

line5th July 2001

The Fear of Gauls*

Just as you think things are progressing smoothly a few minor delays hold you up:

Scraping the paint of the original cornices - the best way we found was to clean 10 layers of paint off was to use a heat gun and a scraper. The fumes give you a headache so you can't do it for more than half an hour at a time.

When we concreted the floor, we did not add a fixative. Thus cement powder was making the whole house white and we had to screed the floor again.

The ceiling boards went up. Mark had a whole system with small planks and ropes to get the boards up in the sky. The first one was a bit skew, but it seemed to be staying in the air. After a week it started to buckle a bit, but still seemed to stay in the air. We decide to straiten it out. We moved it into the right position and started putting in new nails. Luckily ceiling board is made of plaster of Paris and does not hurt your head too much when breaking in half.

AnaAll the grey skies were getting me down. Just the day for a red hot fire, good red wine and red hair!

*For those of you that are not familiar with Asterix and his tribe of fierce warriors, their only fear was the sky falling on their heads.

line6th August 2001


The first week of September Mark and I packed the tent and drove north to get away from al the rain. We decided go to the Northern Cape. This semi-desert region of South Africa is very dry and arid, but most importantly, the rainy season is towards the end of December. In springtime you don't have the soaring temperatures of summer and hiking during the day is a pleasure.

The landscape is rugged with deep gorges appearing unexpectedly. The life source is the Orange River. The river falls down a deep gorge forming the Augrabies waterfall. This name is derived from the Xan (bushman) meaning 'place of the big noise' or 'the place that roars' When the river is in flood the echo of the falling water can be heard from a couple of kilometres away. We camped and did some hiking in the National Park surrounding the waterfall for a couple of days.

Departing from the Augrabies National Park we headed for a place called Riemvasmaak. The greater metropolis of Riemvasmaak is situated on a dry plain about 80 km from the nearest town. It is a collection of small brick houses and shacks. The attraction is when you go down into the gorges to where the warm bath is situated. To get there you have to drive down a steep gravel road and across two dry riverbeds. We were the only people on the camp site and the only ones to enjoy the warm baths.

On the roofThe area is promoted for echo tourism. Meaning rich people with their 4x4s (or pink Volkswagens in the hands of someone who knows how to drive on sand). Their travel brochure states : With many Hyraxes basking in the golden sunlight (for the South Africans: "en daar was dassies"). The day before we arrived, the BBC shot a documentary of the area.

Heading back to the west coast we enter the area known as Namaqualand. In springtime this vast stretch of sunburnt and barren land is magically transformed into a carpet of flowers. Most of the flowers belong to the different species of daisies. At night the flower heads close, but during the day they open up and move with the sun much like sunflowers. The best flowers were seen in along the road to Springbok and in the Goegap Nature Reserve.

As we travelled south the weather started deteriorating again. We visited the coastal town of Hondeklipbaai in search of more flowers. On the map it looked like a quick jaunt to the coast. We ran out of petrol about 5km from the nearest town. A friendly farmer gave us a lift to and from the petrol station. Grey skies and no flowers meant we had time to stop at a couple of the wine cellars of the Olifants River Valley.

line12th September 2001

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all in a row

Starting to look nice and greenWith all the rain we've had the garden is growing furiously. Difficult to believe, but there are 14 different kinds of Geraniaceae - mostly Pelargoriums - in the front garden. These range from a variety with tiny variegated leaves to more traditional scented varieties. The first cupboards have been installed! Installing them we found that one of the cupboards needed to be made smaller so that the dishwasher and fridge will fit easily. Mark measured up again after the walls were plastered and his measurements seemed fine. However, when it came to installation we found that the walls were not quite as straight as we thought. The work tops have also arrived after being sent back 3 times.

line24th October 2001

Wispy Clouds

In a painterly sort of mood the bathroom was transformed from apple green with supposed fern splotches to sky blue with wispy clouds.

Let's smear grout all over the placeThe kitchen has really turned into a real functioning kitchen in the last two weeks. All the cupboards are now installed and the work tops are in place. The sink has been installed and the plumbing is fully functioning. The gas hob is in place, but not fixed as we've not purchased the oven and extractor as yet. In just 5 hours we transformed the walls by tiling.

line12th November 2001

Bot River Valley

View over the Bot River ValleyFor the last couple of weekends we have not been home as Mark has been busy building cupboards at the new entertainment area on the farm. The work top people made another booboo with the measurements and they need to be redone. Unfortunately they are the only company in Cape Town that are capable of moulding and cutting fancy shaped Formica style work tops. This picture was taken from the house looking across the Bot River Valley.

line10th December 2001

A mile of ...

A mile of bookcasesThis weekend we built ourselves a mile of bookcases. We decided that it was high time that we buid some bookcases to replace the mile of boxes in the hall way.

One of the bookcases is actually a broom cupboard. When we designed the kitchen, we decided that the brooms etc. will need to find some other place for themselves. The bookcases are actually narrower than the boxes, however because they are so tall and block more light, it seems that the hallway is actually narrower.

line8th January 2002

Slate and Quartsite

line8th January 2002

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