Minnesota Farmer

Building in the Ondini
August 24, 2017, 10:08 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, projects, Shetek Conference, South Africa

Building projects are moving in the Ondini Circuit, but they are not buildings such as I would see in Minnesota.  First of all the climate is different.  The more or less benign climate means less emphasis on heating or cooling.  Most buildings are built of home-made block or brick, with a steel roof.  Some in the area of Bethlehem circuit were using steel for walls, but they were an exception.  Those built in the rondavel (round) style usually had thatched roofs.  The walls are thick and windows only single paned.  Doors are often left open.  There are bars across windows and doors to keep out larger animals and burglars, but no interest at all in keeping out insects.

The visitors housing complex near the Centre is a good example of the methods we should see in the area.  Being a government subsidized project, this one used purchased brick.

Steel framed windows and doors are added as brick or block go up and are later glazed.  Floors are usually concrete.  Floors might be painted, or tile.

Electrical conduit and plumbing are cut into the walls which are later smoothed, skim-coated and painted.IMG_1111

The finished layer before painting is smooth and durable.

This will be a toilet area.  Making straight walls fit in a round structure can make for some interesting rooms.

A smaller rondavel will have poles set up for thatching to cover the roof, a larger rondavel will have a central post.  Rondavels could also have a steel roof much like our grain bins.

There was a block church under construction in the Hoffenital Parish which gave us a view of how these structures were built.  

This picture gives you a bit of detail on how windows are installed.

Narrower churches will have the wooden rafters left open.

Wider churches would have steel beams to hold the roof.

I only saw one church building that had evidence of insulation on the ceiling, the larger building (above) at Phangweni had been insulated, but the insulation had since fallen.

Building standards are much different when you get into town and visit businesses.  The interiors are very similar to what we see in comparable businesses in the states.  The climate does make for changes.  Because temperatures rarely get to freezing in the winter, and do not get much over 80 in the summer, people do not think about heating or cooling.  The months of December and January could see 6 inches of rainfall, but May to August usually see less than an inch if any.  One big difference is the presence of bars on windows and doors.  Every window and door has bars on it.  All houses and most businesses have fences.  Our Kwazamokuhle Centre kept a guard at the gate, as do many businesses.  The living quarters had lockable gates.  Living conditions and buildings are just plain different there.


Projects; New from old
January 14, 2017, 4:28 pm
Filed under: dust, family, happiness, projects | Tags: ,


Wife has had me moving furniture again.  She gets this idea that I need to be bumping into old things in the wrong place periodically and nothing will stop her.  Along with new furniture arrangements can come new projects.

This one as usual came with a need. There was a space on the wall that needed a special hanging.  Nothing too much, but a lot just right.  She gave me a direction with some pinterest pictures, where do I go from there?

First I go digging through my mental closets, I have “stuff” stored away all over the place.  Some of this “stuff” has been the subject of “When are you going to clean that up” requests.  The problem is that, what at one time may be “junk,” at another time becomes “raw material for a beautiful object.”    Digging in my mental closet disclosed the location of some of my “treasures.”  Off to the hidden corners to retrieve my raw materials.

Ages ago I was at an auction and saw a bunch of cedar shingles.  For no special reason I bought them.  They were cool and I knew I would need them someday.  They were piled away in a corner and awaited inspiration.

When an old family barn was to be torn down I came across some old half pint glass milk bottles.  Some even had the remains of metal caps on them.  I dusted them off and put them away for inspiration.

This picture is the result of the inspiration.  A bit of twine to hang the jar, a hole drilled in the shingle, some fake grass and we have an inspiring dust catcher (I don’t dust).  The grass could be swapped out for other seasonal items.

Yep, I made her happy again, all because of a bit of “junk” and her inspiration.  We do well together.

Weekend projects

I’ve been working on a pair of woodworking projects that have been on my mind for a while.  Both are from materials of opportunity, found things, that will make for unique items. Garden Bench100_3104 The garden benches are made from weathered 2X12’s that once were part of a cattle yard fence.  The wood has incredible weathering patterns and bits of lichen that add to the look.  I had actually made two of these last winter and have now made two more.  I have material to make a few more depending on how the material can be worked in each plank.  Not every part is suitable for legs or seat, some parts are not even usable for the stretchers.  Joints are glued and all screws are hidden.  This bench must stay unfinished, but placed in a secluded, shaded spot, it will look like it has always been there.  I sold one of them for $80.  The three that are left are for sale. Slab Chair 100_3105100_3106 This is my first attempt at making a chair.  The material is from a pair of spruce trees that were cut down by our house.  There is a bit of work needed to finish this piece.  Working with unusually shaped lumber adds some difficulty.  I hope to make more, but production of these will also be limited.  The orange strap is to hold it while the glue dries.  No screws here, wooden dowels hold it together.  I’ll finish it off with a sealant of some kind to preserve the wood.  Not sure what I would sell this for. These have both been interesting projects that took a bit of thinking to figure out how to do.  The bench was much easier, but the chair has been more interesting to build.

July 23, 2014, 8:58 am
Filed under: church, projects | Tags: , , , ,

A bit over a year ago we had some work done on the outside of our church.  In the process the sign by our parking lot door was taken down.  Originally each letter had two or three screws that secured it to the limestone wall.  We decide to change those letters and mount them on a bar to cut down on the holes into the wall.  Thanks to a pair of talented members of our congregation the letters were mounted on aluminum bars and powdered coated.  Yesterday  the letters were placed back on the wall.10560438_10152397916545677_2963932186419901231_o

I’ve often joked with others about how few people notice the things that change.  I’ll be waiting to see if this is even noticed.  The real proof for that was confirmed as we were installing the sign.  Two ladies were exiting the church as we were working.  One of them, says ‘Oh, You’re taking the sign down.”

So what happens around you that is unnoticed?

A new front door

Our front door was in need of work.  It had weathered many a storm here in southwestern Minnesota and was beginning to show its age.  The door itself had already been replaced once since the remodel in 1981.  Now it was time for replacing the frame and everything.

100_2709The old door is out.100_2722The rot on the bottom of the side lights is why this thing had to go.100_2711We were lucky the rot had not yet gone very far into the framing on the bottom.  Just a little repair and we were ready for the new door.100_2714Installing a new door in an old house takes a lot of careful measuring and some heavy lifting.  This is not a one man job.  This BayerBuilt door looks like it is up to the job.100_2718Weather out here on the prairie requires a storm door.  We added a Larson storm door that is colored to match.100_2729The exterior construction is done.  Now it needs some paint and I have to get at the interior trim work.  This should keep out the Minnesota cold and still look good.

We found the price on the frame of the old door.  It cost 10 times as much for this door as for our old one in 1981.


Our problems are small!
December 9, 2013, 1:22 pm
Filed under: cars, cold, house, projects, repairs, School bus, snow, weather, wind | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Oh yeah, It’s been another one of those days.  It’s cold!  We are in the midst of one of those brutal cold snaps that do not happen very often, and all you can do is try to stay warm.  I’m glad I do not have livestock to care for anymore.  It’s not even officially winter yet!

The cold has caused trouble for lots of folks here and repairmen are busy.

  • Our car was just hauled in for the second time this week.  Something went wrong, we thought we had it fixed, but we did not.  With the cold, tow truck operators are working overtime.  Semi’s stalled on the side of the road are more important than a car sitting in the garage that will not start.
  • The plumbers finally came to fix a venting problem that has had sewer gas leaking into the house for several weeks.  They were here earlier and thought they had the problem fixed, but no.  Now we have walls and ceilings opened up that will need to be repaired when they leave.
  • We’ve had over 6 inches of snow in the last week.  It seemed to have settled down, but now the wind is blowing out of a new direction so the snow is moving again.
  • There are several school buses that have been having fuel and battery related problems.  Lucky for us that all of them got back to the barn.

I am thankful for electricity and modern snow removal equipment.  Repairmen are available to fix the problems I cannot fix myself.  We can pay our bills.   Our problems are all fixable.  Others have it much worse.

  • We have a friend who has family in the Central African Republic where there is no rule of law.  He is not sure day to day if they are even alive.
  • People in the Philippines have only rubble to live in and are not sure where their next meal or drink of water will come from.
  • People in Illinois are still cleaning up from a night of tornadoes a few weeks back and it is cold there also.
  • Many around the world struggle with disease and injury.

Yes, our problems are small.


The art of the snow fence
December 2, 2013, 11:33 am
Filed under: Farm, Minnesota, projects, snow, Trees, weather, wind, winter | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here on the northern prairie we know snow fences.  We have to.  When the cold winter winds start blowing around winters moisture the beauty of snow turns ugly.  That being said, there are good snow fences and poor snow fences.  There is an art to making a good snow fence.  Now I’m not saying snow fences are artistic, but that there is an art in the placement and building of a snow fence.100_2509Trees are natures snow fence.  Where they grow there will be snow deposited nearby.  A farmstead wind break, or a fence line of trees can stop a lot of blowing snow.  But trees or snow fences in the wrong place can be a disaster.

We had a non-prairie native move in near us a few years back.  They tried to put up a snow fence the way you would put up fences to keep livestock contained.  They had a line of snow fence on each side of their driveway about 5 feet out.  It happened to be a very snowy and blowy winter, and they had 4 feet of snow on their driveway anytime we got a whisper of wind.  Snow fences need to be placed back from the road 50 to 75 feet.  That gives the snow a place to pile up in the lee of the fence or tree line.

The best place for a snow fence is up wind of what you are trying to protect, but wind can be variable, so a long fence may be needed.  Our winter winds here in southwestern Minnesota are mostly from the north or northwest, but west and even south or easterly winds can blow in and deposit snow.  For us, snow protection is needed both north and west of the buildings.

We have a gap in the trees just west of our house that funnels snow onto our driveway.  Snow fences across that gap, or just up or down wind of that gap, can leave a good sized deposit of snow.  The snow is then stopped on the lawn, and not on the driveway.

Buildings can also funnel snow between them.  Anyplace the wind is compressed into a narrow space there will be less snow, but just down wind there will be large drifts.  A snow fence just up wind from that gap, not in the gap, will stop a lot of problems down wind.

We had a neighbor whose house was set just wrong for wind one winter.  The snow came around the grove of trees and deposited on the east side of the house.  Snow was piled to the second floor windows.  In this case a snow fence was needed where they could not put one since a major highway runs just west of the house.

100_2532A snow fence does not have to be solid.  Wood slats or plastic with holes in it will work better than a solid wall.  You are slowing down the wind so that it will drop it’s snow.  It does not need great height either since the ground drifting snow is what you are trying to stop.

Your posts need to be at least a foot taller than the finished height of the fence and can be placed from 5 to 8 feet apart depending on wind conditions and soil type.  I prefer to place my posts for the snow fence in late fall while the ground is still unfrozen.  If I did not do this, the winds will push my fence and the posts over before the snow comes.

Once the ground freezes I can hang the fence.  I leave a bit of room under the fence for the wind to clear out the snow.  This actually allows the snow to pile higher downwind of the fence.

Whenever possible, I like to anchor the ends of my fence on trees.  A tree has a much better grip on the earth than a little steel post.  If you cannot anchor on a tree, guy wires should be placed at each end of the snow fencing run. These guy wires should be run parallel to the fence and be secured to posts driven into the ground.  The guy wires should run from the top of the post by the fence to the base of the anchor post.  It is best to have holes in the posts to run the guy wire through.  Do not skimp on the guy wire.  The end anchor posts and attached guy wires are critical to the longevity of your snow fence.

I like to wrap my snow fence ends around the end anchor post or tree.  I then use a rebar to “stitch” the end of the fence to itself.  This also works for stitching two pieces of plastic snow fence together.

The snow fence must be placed on the up wind side of the posts.  This means the wind will help hold the fence against the posts.  It also allows you to use a lighter duty strap to hold on the fence.

I use a U shaped steel post that is at least 7 feet tall and plastic zip ties to hold the fence to the post.  If you place a piece of 1×2 or rebar on the up wind side of the fence the zip tie will press the fence into a U shaped posts and strengthen the bond between post and fence.  You may have to inspect your fence periodically during the winter to make sure the zip ties are still holding.

As I said, putting up a snow fence of any type is an art.  I have seen some really nice snow fences made out of split rails also.  The type of snow fence you need is dependent on so many factors.  You can make them permanent with trees, semi-permanent with heavy materials or temporary with lighter weight materials.  Some aspects are the same, and others different.  Either way, if the winds are blowing snow into the wrong place, a properly placed snow fences can keep at least some of the snow out of your way.