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!

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!)

Design dilemma

The floor in my main cottage and on my veranda is driving me totally crazy.  It is covered in pure white tiles. They would look pretty in a pristine home in the city but here they are just so impractical. I have to sweep and wash the floor twice a day to keep it looking slightly reasonable but most times it just looks like we never clean. Living in close proximity to water and sand does NOT work with white tiles.  Also, living under a thatch (grass) roof creates quite a bit of dust which shows up very easily on these tiles.  To add to the mess the tiles are very old and some of them are chipped and cracked.

I have always planned to renovate this cottage. My dreams of what I would really like to do are outside of my current budget so I need to find a way to improve the building in such a way that I can continue to make changes as I can afford them.

So you may ask why I am puzzling and that I should just do the floor and then do the rest when I can.  It’s not so simple.  I have a dividing wall in the cottage which closes off the pokey pantry/wash-up area from the lounge dining room area which I would also like to change.  How exactly I want to change it is still not clear.  See below – the red line is the wall I don’t like.

If I pull down the wall I will also have to remove the cupboards that are against it – that means new cupboards which I can’t afford right now.  The cupboards are built-in, so if I change the floor and want to change cupboards at a later stage, I would then have to re-do some of the flooring which is not very practical. The same goes for the wall.

One option with the wall is that I just break it down to the cupboard level and make the cupboards into an island – I could leave a portion of the wall up just to screen the washing-up area.  This was what I was going to do until a friend who visited (who is a developer and has designed and built many designer homes, hotels and lodges) suggested I move the wall further out and split my lounge off – make the kitchen bigger to incorporate a dining area and open the whole front of the cottage onto the veranda with folding doors.  This sounds so wonderful but I am sure it is going to be so over my current budget.  If I go this route, which is probably the best way to go, I will be living in dust and cement for months while I do parts slowly as there is no way I would manage to install new cupboards at this stage.

Right now I really don’t care what I do but I have to get rid of the floor before I go stir crazy! I want to replace the tiles with a screed floor similar to one of these – preferably not a light colour.

I like the top two on the right and the bottom one on the right.  One can even insert some type of pattern, pebbles or even wood to make an edge or design similar to  the picture below although I would not go for this type of pattern but rather a type of edging or border around the room.

Anyone got any wonderful suggestions before I rip the cottage to shreds?