Setting up a business in a small town

We are currently setting up a business manufacturing small steel / wrought iron decor items as well as making awesome lights and other steel work like balustrades and gates.  It’s been a roller coaster ride so far because it’s really difficult to source items when you live out in the bush.  Slowly things are really starting to look good and we have quite a bit of interest in our products.

One of our big stores here in Hoedspruit, that stocks pretty much everything that we need, has such a difficult system to work with that I avoid it at all costs trying three or more stores before having to go there. The system is such that you are unable to walk in, pick up what you want and go to the till. One has to find a sales attendant to help you. They are all so busy packing stock and doing online quotes and helping clients over the phone that they do not have time to assist customers in the store so they avoid eye contact as much as possible. After hanging about for 30 mins one gets frustrated and starts begging for assistance. You are told they will come now but they don’t often come back and when they do the help with one item they then disappear again. Also, some prices are marked quite high and your sales assistant is allowed to give you quite large discounts. So one has to be all sweet and kind even when getting bad service otherwise you don’t get your discount. It seems to be at the salesman’s discretion whether you get discount or not. These are good folk – the system just sucks in my opinion. Yesterday after 45 mins in the store – I walked out in frustration and got everything I needed in 10 minutes at another store, one item in particular being 50% cheaper than the listed price in the big store. Guess where I am going next time?

Here are a few pictures of what we are making.

As soon as I have some pictures of our stunning outdoor wall lamps I will put them up for you to see.


Re-thatching – take 2

In December last year I hired a man and his team to re-thatch the Bean’s cottage.  If you have been following my blog you may recall I have mentioned that this project did not go so well, and after a nasty run-in with the man, I was left with a badly thatched roof that leaked.


This is what it looked like

You could even see daylight from inside…..

In fact, the new thatch job leaked even more than the roof did before they started.

So now I have had to have it fixed.  Farmer Alf to the rescue again – he arranged for two men to come in, remove much of the grass, rebundle it and re-thatch and put a new cement cap on.  Quite a costly exercise but still a lot less than hiring another company to do it.  Now it looks like this

Much better!

They even had a few bundles over and fixed up a few holes in my cottage roof where baboons had pulled out the grass.  Also much better!

So if you live in or near Hoedspruit and wish to have your roofs thatched, best you speak to me about who to use.  I know all about it now!

Getting ready for growing season

Well I’m not called Slowvelder for nothing. I have been really slow in getting posts up onto the blog!  Quite a bit has been happening here though, and because of that I have been quite busy.

I am currently busy finishing off my chicken cage, re-thatching the new thatch roof that was a total disaster the first time round, and getting my shade house ready for growing season. Having a mornings only job has also slowed me down a bit as I now only have half days and weekends on the farm.

I am so thankful to some very kind and helpful people who have helped me so much. My friends Alf and Helen have been absolutely awesome.  Alf was responsible for getting my cool shade-cloth house built.  It is now almost ready to function.

As you can see, it is not only my blog that has been neglected.  All that marula fruit lying on the floor should have been made into beer and jelly.  I’m afraid I missed the marula season completely this year.  This is only of of about 10 trees I have in the vicinity of my cottages.

In April I begin in earnest to grow my vegetables. It feels rather strange growing veggies in winter but very few will thrive in our summer heat.  I think, with the shade cloth I should be able to at least grow tomatoes, peppers and squashes in summer.  The rest all grow in winter.  I just can’t wait to get going!

Update from the middle of nowhere

School is finally over for the Bean after a month of exams. It’s been a long hard year for her and I am so glad that I was able to stop working at the fruit packhouse to give us more time at home to get the school year done. Now it’s the nerve-wracking wait for her final results at the end of December.  Hopefully she will be off to university in Pretoria next year.

We are now holed up on the farm – only venturing in to town when we run out of supplies or for a few social occasions – this is how I want it to be. Things are really starting to come together for me now.  Bookings are rolling in for Jackal’s Den, I am busy on the farm from sunrise to sunset, loving every moment, and I have orders for paintings lined up well into next year.

With regards to the patio, the retaining wall is built

and the floor now filled in with rocks and soil

All I need now are the creepers which I hope to buy next week and then I will be making paving blocks to cover the floor area soon. I am also going to plant some lawn around this area to green it up a bit.  It’s been so much fun doing this project.

The Bean’s roof is still not done.  A job that was supposed to take 5 days is now on 21 days. Hopefully it will be finished by Friday when we leave for Johannesburg to visit our family and attend my sons wedding.

This is my current painting project which I am painting for a commissioned order. Still a long way to go on this too.

and finally here is a picture of our baby Savannah.

She has settled in very well. Cleo and Savannah have a strange relationship – sneaking up on each other when they think no one is watching to get a good sniff. So far there have been no fights or dramatic chase scenes – rather they respect each others boundaries mostly and give each other a wide berth (although this seems to be narrowing as they get used to each other).  Savannah, although very loving, is wild in the sense that she is very nocturnal. Much more so than Fred was. She sleeps solidly all day waking as the sun sets and then she is off out into the bush for the night. She eats at home but still catches mice and squirrels most evenings. We even got a bat as a present last week. She does not like being inside and only ventures in if there is a rain storm. Otherwise her favorite daytime haunt is our veranda where she has set up a type of nest in some hessian on a little wall where she sleeps.

While we are away for the next two weeks some friends of ours will be living at Jackal’s Den, having a well deserved break and feeding Savannah.  I hope Cleo will be able to travel with us as she won’t really cope well away from me, although I still need to clear this with my family where we are staying.  I hope she will be able to come but if she can’t my friends are the best folk to look after her.

I will be back in two weeks. Happy blogging 🙂

Patio – part 2

If you did not read my first post about my patio you may be a little lost. You can read it here.

Yesterday we completed the structure to grow the creepers on and today we dug and built the foundation for the small retaining wall that will be necessary to level the floor.  This is my first building project so everything is a bit of an experiment.  I must thank Warren and the Bean’s boyfriend (who I am now going to call Bushboy) for all their help on this project so far.

I’m dreaming of a cool Tuscan patio….

Doesn’t it look lovely and inviting? Some cool relief from a hot summers day?

Around the back of my main cottage that houses the kitchen, dining room and lounge (or is it the front – not too sure) is a rather bland blank looking space that gets hot sun all day round.  This wall is also the first view of the cottages you get when you arrive at Jackal’s Den and it does not look at all inviting.  I have decided to build a patio along the same lines as a Tuscan patio – covered with something green and leafy.  I need to make it look a little more rugged than the one in the picture and make sure it blends in with the African bush theme. As funds are tight I have decided to do this myself with a little muscle help from an unemployed farm worker Warren.  We got started this week.

All the upright poles are now planted and tomorrow I start attaching the cross bars.  It is really tough working in 40 deg C heat without any shade.

After the main structure is up I will be building some small retaining walls out of stone to level off the floor area and will then pour my own cement slabs using leaves to imprint patterns on the cement. These will be laid out with some pebbles to make the floor.

I think the most difficult part will be waiting for the plants and creepers to grow over the top so that we can have a shaded area. The “growth period” will give me some time to save up for a small table and some chairs to put underneath it.

I can’t wait for it to be finished.

What should I grow over the top?  Initially I loved the idea of a grape-vine as it would then also provide me with some food but grape-vines are not evergreen and I do want it to be green in winter too.  Any suggestions?

(Just for fun here is a picture of me doing a pole dance 🙂  – Trust the Bean to snap a shot like this!)

Final touches

A few more small issues to finish up and then the guest cottage will be complete.  Light switch covers and the toilet pipe are still to be done.  Gone are the technicolour curtains and holes in the walls.  New bedding and linen makes such a difference!

Jackal’s Den is going social

Jackal’s Den now has a Facebook page and I would like to invite you to join me there.

Please click on the following link and once you are there, click on the “like” button (if you would like to of course!)

Jackal’s Den

Promote your Page too

I look forward to seeing you all there.

Guest cottage renovations.

The renovations continue. Wall hole repairs and paint work now completed. I also replaced some of the window putty and painted the window frames.  It still looks very rustic and basic but much cleaner at least.

I would really like to replace the shower door but that will have to wait for now. For now, I just have to polish up the floor, finish descaling the wall tiles and find something to cover/improve that ugly pipe behind the toilet. Any suggestions?  I don’t think paint will stick to it – It is half cement and half plastic with wax sealant on.

Procrastination Place

That should be the name of our cottages.  Purely because I am still really struggling to make a final decision on a name – I just keep putting it off.  Well the deadline that I set has arrived and It’s time to make the call.

I have had so many wonderful suggestions from you all – here on my blog and on Facebook. Thank you.

My short-list this afternoon had these 10 names on.

  • Fat Monkey Lodge
  • Dreamer’s Den
  • African Ochre
  • Baobab Bungalows
  • Jackal’s Den
  • Rustic Rest
  • Rustic Rock Lodge
  • Rustic Rock
  • Rusty Moon
  • Canyon Creek

Firstly I had to remove any that were similar to lodges in the area, so Baobab Bungalows and Rustic Rest had to go.  Secondly, names that could be misleading also had to go so out went Fat Monkey Lodge (we don’t have monkeys on the property) and I removed Dreamer’s Den and Rusty Moon because they didn’t really reflect that African bush scene that I so wanted to portray. I also nearly removed Canyon Creek at this stage but because the river that runs around the farm actually dug the third biggest canyon in the world – it was quite relevant. I was then left with:

  • African Ochre
  • Jackal’s Den
  • Rustic Rock Lodge
  • Rustic Rock
  • Canyon Creek

I enlisted the Bean to assist as she also has to live here and should also have a say.  She eliminated Canyon Creek (not bushy enough) and African Ochre (sounds too fancy for our little spot). Although I loved those two names I did agree that they were not entirely suitable when checking against my list of needs. Between Rustic Rock and Rustic Rock Lodge – we both preferred Rustic Rock Lodge but she mentioned that because many of the 5-star places around here are called lodges – we may be grouped with them and give visitors  expectations that we could not meet. So the final name is

Jackal’s Den

Reasons why I like this name:

  1. My name is Jackie Dean so there is a play on words there.
  2. A jackal represents the harshness of the bush here. As a lower predator (rustic) they have to struggle to find food, often pinching from carcasses already killed and partially eaten by higher predators.
  3. We have jackals on the property.
  4. They are nocturnal and have a beautiful call mostly heard at night. ( African night scene reflected here.)
  5. I love jackals (see this post)

So this weekend, while I finish up the cottage to take photos, I will live with the name to make sure it fits. If it does not, Canyon Creek and Rustic Rock Lodge will be called back into play and when I make my website on Monday – I HAVE to have it all decided.

Thanks again for all the help.

Does your home have a name?