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Van Stadens 01.08.2013

I need a bit of time to process it all, it was quite a topsy-turvy day. It started by Ellie being confused and getting out of bed an hour early and that gave us a head start. It was quite an interesting drive, when we left home it was 14 degrees and by the time we got to Van Stadens it had dropped to eight. The mist over Lake farm was quite a sight. Fortunately for us it warmed up quite rapidly after that.

There was a meeting planned at 8:30 and before that we quickly got to the arboretum to attach the piece of pipe to the Gem and try out the new stopcock. All went smoothly and the water came out at a good pressure until some hair roots got dislodged somewhere in the feed pipe and our outlet got clogged. By now we had run out of time and hurried to the meeting.

Goodman, Jenny, Rob, Neil and Tony were also there and the program for the open day got discussed so everybody is on the same wavelength. Rob got called away by working for water and ended up doing a five hour hike up the gorge to show them what needs to be done.

Neil got going with his brush cutter, Jenny with her greenhouse and we turned our attention to the picnic tables, first the fixed one on the main picnic area. I planed the inserted piece down by hand while Ellie fetched water and then we cleaned the algae of the table which was quite a job producing a thick sludge and one container of water was not enough to clean it properly. After that the final coat on the Mountain View picnic site, while Ellie was painting I erected the first cycle track sign:

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Looks kinda cute I think but the pole is too short and will soon be obscured by the bush so I think the poles ex nursery will be better.

Lastly the main table at the Lookout got its second coat, starts looking ok.

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We were hoping we could give the cleaned table a first coat but it was too wet still so we went for coffee instead and afterwards got back to the arboretum to sort the pipe out. Strange to think that after all this time it is actually all done, I can’t quite believe it. Later that was confirmed when Jenny told Ellie that it might be nice to have water on the main picnic site near the old water drum, yeah right!

During lunch Neil got called away for an interview so we had to tackle the entrance circle on our own. Pottaman had deliver a reasonable amount of soil so we could start with our landscaping. We managed to do some rock work, moved some soil and planted 5 aloes, hard work so I had enough at 3pm and we checked out our wet table which was now dry enough to paint, closed stopcocks in the arboretum and had a relaxing cuppa in the Fovs room.

On our way out we saw Goodman was still in the office and Ellie asked him if we could get more soil delivered and we ended up doing a site inspection of the entrance circle with lots of chatting so we got a bit more insight into the history of Van Stadens and Goodman’s plans.

Van Stadens 24.07.2013

Some careful planning ahead of this bitterly cold day, on arrival it was only 12 degrees with a nasty wind blowing. Fortunately it warmed up a little later.

We first collected water at the arboretum, the stopcock had been open all week and no leaks, before going to the lookout picnic site to clean off the large table and then back to the mountain view site to give that one a second coat. Whilst Ellie was doing this I returned to the arboretum to prepare for the installation of the lower stopcock. I needed to dig back a fair bit to be able to bend the pipe enough to line the two sections up. It was too wet though to risk gluing it.

When that was done we went to one of the tables on the main picnic site to fix the rotten section in one of the planks, I had prepared a new piece but it was quite tricky to saw and chisel the old section out.

Halfway it was time for tea and we caught up with Jenny and Rob. Quite a bit to discuss about Open Day, Working for Water and entrance circle.

After tea Jenny and Rob were off to the arboretum, Ellie went and cleared most of the cowshit in the arboretum while I finished cutting out the patch and when Ellie joined me we glued it in. Next time I need to plane it a bit by hand and it will be as good as new.

I had also prepared a new leg for the remaining wreck of a table at the main picnic site and, with the help of the car jack managed to make it useable again apart from the one seat where a new support is in order.

In the meantime Neil came and had a look, he had been brushcutting to his hearts content near the entrance and quite satisfied with the progress.

Lunch was had and then we went with Pottaman to the entrance circle to explain to him what our ideas are and he promised to bring lots of soil. We intend to do the northern side first because we have some aloes that can be planted there.

Back to the lookout site to give the table its first coat and then to the arboretum to install the stopcock, do some weeding and general cleanup. Uncharacteristically we didn’t feel like ending off with coffee but removed some rocks for at the entrance circle to be used later on for the new rockery.

I’m sorry now that I didn’t take any photos, too busy for that.

Van Stadens 2013.07.16

In hindsight we shouldn’t have visited the Reserve today to show Nick and his girlfriend what we have done lately as it turned out to be a bit of a downer.

It started at the entrance circle. We had enthused about how well it was coming along and how Goodman had promised for the staff to move the one heap and provide some soil. Well, obviously Pottaman had a go with his tractor and front loader only to make a total mess of the place with big ruts in the centre, skid marks all over the place and nothing to show for it.

We then went to the newly painted picnic benches to be pointed out how overgrown and messy things are around the bluegum trees in the central picnic area which we had to grudgingly agree with and then proceeded to show the pride of the place. the Xhosa huts. Need I say more.

I thought all would be redeemed by showing our greatest achievement, the Arboretum. This turned out to be a game of dodge the cowshit as quite obviously a herd of cows had made the arboretum their home for a good while, trampled all over the place including our newly cleared and planted ex-shade house. At least it is well fertilised now.

We met Ben doing his regular 25km bike ride around the Reserve and, even though he does enjoy the new tracks, he is weary because the stubbles are a bit long and we should dig the paths over, yeah right.

On the way out we passed a group of four dodgy looking characters which Ellie recognized to be our wayward workers. Don’t know what that does to visitors feeling secure.

The only positive note was that Nick tested the River Walk’s suitability for a trail run (ten minutes) and enjoyed that.

Ellie still sees the glass still as more than half full but for me it is getting rather empty.

Van Stadens 10.07.2013

Quite a day (again). Charles from Fat Tracks had promised to be at the reserve at 10:00 for another try-out of the freshly mown tracks so we got off to an early start to paint some benches before his arrival only to find that they were way too wet from the dew. Fortunately I had prepared a piece of wood to fix another bench so we moved the activities there.

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The left hand seat was supported by some cement blocks courtesy of Rob but we thought that seeing we are varnishing the surfaces we might as well fix it properly. Of course the coach bolts were rusted solid but with a bit of oil from our car’s dipstick I managed to get them loose and replace the broken piece of wood to support the seat. Ellie in the meantime applied her concoction to remove the years of accumulated algae and even though the fixing took longer than anticipated I still had time to go and fill a 25l drum in the arboretum to rinse the table off.

Charles had decided to cycle from PE to the reserve and he arrived a little later than planned and we set off on the tracks. It was quite difficult going with the soft soil after the rain we’ve had. The tracks got the thumbs up and we must now decide on some combined routes and signposting.

Charles left and we wished him good luck getting back to PE in the stiff easterly breeze and we chatted to some people who had just finished doing the River Walk before brewing some coffee in the arboretum. Ellie then put the third coat on the two picnic tables on the main site while I loaded the bicycles again. We still had a little time left before lunch so we went to the fixed table to check if it had dried enough for the first coat and, except for the seat which had been in the shade, this table was also done.

Off to lunch, some chatting, some flowers in the shade house and then armed with the chainsaw to the entrance circle to cut the last strelitzia stump. We were most astonished to find that it had already been done so we could start some plant rescue and reshaping of the rockery.

Another surprise, at 3:00 Neil arrived to give us a hand and he got to work quite ruthlessly to chainsaw a large rhus shrub on one of the mounds. We now have a good view of the whole circle and the ideas are solidifying. Luckily when we were on the way to put our tools back in the Fovs room we noticed that Goodman was still in the office and that gave us a good opportunity to discuss everything with him and the students. This necessitated a site inspection so we trundled back and explained everything to them. They all got quite enthusiastic and we have a commitment from Goodman for assistance with rocks and soil and, above all, labour!

Quite satisfied with the day’s varied proceeding we had one final cuppa in the Fovs room and got outta there at 16:30.