Thursday 22 December 2022

I made a xmas tree

We don't go xmas crazy, but here and there my mom and I will do a xmas tree of sorts. This year, I made us one based on something I've seen around.

As luck would have it, shortly after seeing a tree made in this theme, I found some felled black wattle branches at the dam. It looks like the alien vegetation people had been at work there. I picked up a couple and took them home.

For this tree, I first cut the pieces to size, each level slightly shorter than the one before. Then I drilled 8mm holes through the centre of each. I also cut short rounds from one of the sticks to use in between the 'branches'. These also had to be drilled. I made a longer stem piece and a short 'cap' for the top. Lots of drilling.

For the base, I tried my first cross-lap joint using a 44x44mm square length of timber. It worked a treat.

Then, I got an 8mm steel rod to run through the centre of everything, embedding it in the base. It stands about 840mm high. This is a pretty good take-apart to store tree.

The big bauble decorations are ones that my mom bought for me from Addis Ababa where she was in transit on a trip back from the Seychelles. The lights on the tree are our original xmas lights, which are close to being as old as me - I can remember them from when I was at least six or seven years old. They're different colours (looks one colour in the photo) and they flash.

Santa's Washing Line decorates the lower level of the tree. I knitted this, with thin thread and skinny needles a number of years ago.

Find It Checkpoint Challenge - Xmas edition

 Last night, I organised and hosted a Find It Checkpoint Challenge (a Metrogaine by another name) as part of the GTR December Social Calendar of activities. GTR (Garden Route Trail Running) has coordinated a bunch of 'events' to keep the community vibe going over the festive period.

I had great fun adding onto my custom street map of George, that I first started drawing for the event I hosted in May for World Orienteering Day - the one that went from old South African Post Office postbox-to-postbox.

I then headed out on my bicycle bicycle last week to ride the streets looking for interesting elements to set as clues for the event. 

The response on Facebook was great - I was expecting 45-55 entries of solos, pairs or groups (3s). Looks like there were 46 maps out there and around 100 participants. The start/finish was at the Trail Kiosk at Ground Zero, which is such a great meeting point for runners and cyclists - and events. They've also got a great menu, good food and a super vibe.

My dear friends Tania and Paul and their daughter Sarah are in town for the holidays so they were there. And then Nicholas and Stephanie, with their young son, were staying with family out Plett side and they came through to run the event - which they won (plus pushing their young son in a baby jogger!). Really nice to see them here. (Paul and Sarah were 2nd and Tania in 3rd).

Nic and Stephanie's route

I'm looking forward to offering some navigation coaching sessions next year to get locals sorted with the fundamentals. With the Big 5 O (five-day orienteering event) in this area at the end of December 2023, it would be great to bring more local support. 

I don't have specific plans for other Checkpoint Challenge events, but I'll probably organise another for World Orienteering Day in May 2023.

Wednesday 7 December 2022

Full Moon social paddle

I've coordinated a few monthly social paddle outings this year, created initially for my Vagabond Kayaks kayak owners in the Garden Route, but then expanded to welcome anyone with a recreational kayak - because something like this is really needed.

On these Sunday morning sessions, we've explored the Garden Route Dam, Touws River, Goukamma River, Grootbrak and Klein Brak Rivers. A few months ago, I had what I thought was a good idea for a Full Moon paddle. I didn't get around to making it happen until recently.
Well, it seems like others thought that my idea was a good one too. Best turnout ever!

A good crows of over 40 paddlers, probably closer to 50 with some out of shot and on the water.

Tonight, recreational paddlers from Mosselbay, Sedgefield, Knysna and Waboomskraal joined the first Full Moon paddle on the Touws River. They came with their plastic sit-on-tops, surfskis, inflatable canoes, handcrafted wood canoes and sit-in riverrunners.
It gets dark after 8pm here so we had daylight on the out route to take in the pretty scenery. After a social stop at the 'top', we turned to head back and it was on this return route that we were treated to watching the golden orb of the moon rising from behind the hills surrounding Wilderness, adding its reflection to the water.

My aim for next year with the Kingfisher Social Paddle Group is to see it flourish with more recreational paddlers from our area discovering the paddling abundance that this region offers - with good company on the water.

Wednesday 30 November 2022

Repurposing pallets to shelving racks

 In the last 2-3 months, I've made seven shelving racks from pallet wood. These used pallets got a second life when we turned them into a shop counter and product display racks. They were planned, sanded, primed and painted in this process. 

These are the original pallets. I spent a lot of weekends planning and painting.

The shop counter in progress. I never took a photo of the finished counter. It came out very well.

Wall-mounted pallets for product display racks.

With the shop now closed and everything dismantled, I have turned the pallets into shelving racks for storage in my garage at home and also for a storage garage. The seventh rack was a smaller one for the inside of the hanging part of a cupboard. 

When I made the first rack, it took me ages to strip the pallets, especially if the wood was quite dry and brittle. It takes time to get your technique right and to know just how much pressure can be applied before a plank will split. I use a crowbar, hammer and a plank of wood. Where it initially took me an hour to strip a difficult pallet, I can now strip a pallet down in 15 minutes with few to no losses. (the one in the video was done in 15 mins with no losses - my best yet).

I didn't bother to do any additional painting or finishing on the planks - they serve their purpose as is and the patchy paint reminds me of their heritage.

Very chuffed with my first rack. It would be the first of seven.

I made a video of the process of making a shelving rack - from stripping down a pallet and removing the nails to assembling the rack. I properly assembled the racks on site. I transport the sides and shelves 'flat packed' and then attach the shelves on site (at the storage garage in this case). There, I can determine shelf height from the actual objects that I want to store on the shelves.

Over a period of a few weeks, I spent every weekend making these racks with some pallet stripping on evenings during the week to build up my plank stash. I think I've worked my way through at least 13 to 15 pallets. My drilling, measuring, jigsaw and assembly skills improved significantly through these repetitive actions and projects. It has been very rewarding.

In 2:30, here is the video of pallet to shelving rack.

Monday 28 November 2022

Pop quiz and your state of mind

I got sent a 13-question quiz by a young friend. She said that it came from a book called 'Factfulness', which I see is by Hans Rosling. Hans was a Swedish academic; he passed away in 2017.

I first encountered Hans Rosling through TED Talks. He was one of the very first speakers back in 2006. His TED Talk in 2010 on the effect of the innovation of the washing machine has always stuck with me. 

This quiz asks questions like the change in the number of deaths per year from natural disasters in the last 100 years (doubled, stayed the same or halved), or percentage of people in the world that have some access to electricity, or how many years of schooling have women had vs men of the same age.

The questions should be answered without Googling the answers.

The quiz is available online. Give it a try now before reading the rest of my post: Factfulness quiz

My answers were mostly on the pessimistic side of the scale, and thus a large chunk were incorrect because things are, as the title of the book tells us, better than we think.

The full title of Rosling's book is "Factfulness - Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think".

The questions asked are actually fairly general knowledge and the answers are indeed stats that we have heard. I really shouldn't have gotten so many wrong, because I do know better with regards to some of them.

That said, I'm not in a very optimistic frame of mind, so this would most definitely contribute to my decidedly negative responses in the quiz. I am not very positive about the world. I'm also swayed by doses of ongoing bad news in South Africa. Is my judgement and perception of South Africa vs The World skewed? Indeed. I find it hard to dissociate the two.

People have family members who drop down dead - unexpectedly or from sudden illness. If I hear of someone's aunt or cousin who has died, I always ask why, especially if the person was 'young' - 50s and 60s. Many undetermined causes. Life expectancy in South Africa is 64. Life expectancy in the World is 72. The quiz offered up 50, 60 or 70. I went with 60 in the quiz. My perception of the world definitely skewed by my South African biases and experience. 

Other things right now that concern me, which affect my biases:

Some of the kayak factory workers, good guys, who still have no work, or just odd jobs. Some have jobs paying minimum wage. I puzzle over how those on minimum wage of around R3,500 survive and support their families and extended families. 

I've also been contemplating how having freedom of transport, even by bicycle, opens opportunities in people's lives. They can transport themselves to work (reliable, safe, time-saving) as well as children to school and also be able to transport products to market or tools/equipment to jobs. It means more time with family instead of walking for 2-3hrs per day to get back-and-forth to work (or school). Also, if you can move around more easily, you can attend events, shop at better value stores, get involved with and contribute more to the community. But, how can someone earning minimum wage buy a R4,000 single-speed bicycle? 

One of the questions in the quiz asked about the percentage of people who have some access to electricity. The answer is 80% (I went for 50%). I know that a low-income household may have access to electricity but they don't have enough money to recharge their pre-paid meter - certainly not to keep them with power for a whole month. They don't have geyers for hot water, which reduces their electricity consumption but means that bathing is out of a tub of water heated on the gas cooker and school homework is done by candle light. I know a middle-income household where they shower every second day so that they only turn the geyser on then as they don't have enough income to pay electricity for use for the whole month. I can go with 80% having some access to electricity as opposed to absolutely no access to electricity. Charging your phone at the house of a friend who has electricity would count as 'some access' to electricity. 

I googled what world electricity access is now... As of 2020, 90% of the world's population has some access to electricity.

I've got a family member who has been going through the public health system. Everything is a standard "come back in four weeks" whether it is for blood results (these only take a few days at most and can be telephonically reported), biopsies, or an appointment with a different doctor. She is almost a year down the line. The aim should be to sort out people's problems quickly so that they are out of the system and also so that the person doesn't get worse and more greatly burden the system.

As I'm learning about plants, my eyes have been opened to how many endangered and vulnerable species there are. If plants are vulnerable, organisms associated with the plants would be impacted too. George is growing. More land space will be used to build houses, schools and shops. This means that the creatures that live in these spaces get pushed out. It is the reality of development, but it comes at a price. 

Did I think that two out of tigers, giant pandas and black rhinos were more critically endangered than they were in 1996? Yes. Of course, I do know that conservation efforts have been successful and that in captivity there have been amazing successes. These animals are still in a fix. The answer is that they are still all critically endangered but none are as critically endangered as in 1996. 

I have just Googled these three animals. We are almost 20 years ahead and numbers in all populations have improved to varying degrees through massive efforts. Black rhino populations have almost doubled. 

More than half of the 13,000 global tiger population lives in captivity with only 5,000-odd roaming wild. This number of wild tigers is much the same as in 1999. With ongoing habitat destruction, wild tigers are almost as screwed as they were in 1996, but, at least there is more awareness, protection and efforts around doing more for them. 

In 1995, there were around 1000 pandas in the wild. There are around 1800 in the wild now, plus <400-odd in captivity.

I've just downloaded the audiobook of Factfulness and look forward to being injected with a dose of positivity, at least in my outlook of the world as a whole.

Tuesday 22 November 2022

parkrun dog-run-volunteer balance

I've been regularly volunteering at our George parkrun since it reopened in November 2021 post-COVID lockdown. I only ran it for the first time in about May this year. I maybe run it every 4-6 weeks and the rest of the time I generally volunteer with barcode scanning being my favourite duty.

George parkrun is a lovely route but it is not the course to set an all-time 5k 'Personal Best' (PB). I'd say that most will be >3 minutes slower here than on a flat course. I've taken 2.5 minutes off my time these past months and I'm looking to further gains as I get fitter and faster with running again. On days when I run, I'm generally in the Top 50 so I'm able to resume my volunteer duties at the finish before the bulk of the field gets there.

I've been taking Rosy along to parkrun, especially on days when I'm running. She has come along to volunteer but it is a bit boring for an exuberant dog. By running first, we drain a bit of energy. She knows that Saturday mornings are parkrun days and she asks me to take her along.

Two weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely run together. It was warm and we took the pace a bit easier. Rosy also enjoyed two swims in streams. 

Rusty used to always come with me to parkrun in Parys to run and to volunteer. I feel bad leaving her at home now but running parkrun is no longer an option for her with spondylosis in her lower vertebra. She would be keen but she would be stiff afterwards. Rusty still loves running, but we keep our runs together very light and short, avoiding anything too steep up or down. We traverse the parkrun route trails regularly, but at an easy pace and without the excitement of the crowds. This is right for her.

I decided to take Rusty along this past Saturday to volunteer as she always used to chill at the finish in Parys and loved watching the people come in. This was her first time at a parkrun since before lockdown. Rusty was super excited at the start. She loves the buzz. We ran about 200m with the crowd before turning back; she loved that. At the finish, she was 99% good, only barking occasionally at some dogs crossing the finish. I was on timekeeper duty, but I think Rusts will prefer the scanning location (more comfy and better views of people), so I'll take her along for the next one.

Rusty with me at parkrun on Saturday.

Where I could still be lazing in bed on Saturday mornings, I favour getting up to volunteer at parkrun instead. It gets me up and moving, the 1.5km run to the venue is a pleasant trot and we've got a lovely volunteer community that I'm glad to be part of. I also enjoy seeing the regular participants. 

A beauty of a day (my photo)

I should be able to strike a good balance with taking Rosy along on run days and Rusty along on volunteer days.

All of these parkrun photos by Louis. He volunteers every week, taking photos of the participants and volunteers, which he uploads to the George parkrun Facebook page. He is always happy to take photos of my with my girls for my picture memories. Thank you Louis.

Monday 21 November 2022

A few days away - for sleeping

 I enjoyed a few days away last week with my mom and our dogs. This was my first proper break since April last year and it was much needed. 

We stayed little over an hour from George, near the little town of De Rust. The other side of the Outeniqua Mountains, near the Swartberg Mountains in the Klein Karoo is vastly different from George in climate, terrain and vegetation. The warm-to-your-core temperatures were very welcome as well as the crispy-towel dryness. 

Looking towards the Swartberg Mountains.

Our three-days, four-nights away we filled with few activities. Day One consisted primarily of sleeping, reading, hanging with dogs, sleeping, reading, eating, dog walking, reading, sleeping.

Our cabin had a bookcase with an interesting assortment of books. I picked up a book of the 'Best of Roald Dahl' short stories, which I devoured. I'm also busy reading 'Burchell's African Odyssey', a new book on William Burchell's return journey to Cape Town via the Garden Route. This was back in 1814-ish and is utterly fascinating. During his four-year journey, the guy collected 63,000 specimens (plants, insects, mammals etc) - a regular Darwin! I'm about 3/5 through the book, which is one to be savoured.

Day Two, I met up with a chap who I met out hiking in April last year. We enjoyed a morning walk on a nearby farm. It was a beautiful out-and-back route along a small river - a section worth a lot more exploring. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon tea-and-cake with Jeanne and his wife in town in the afternoon. After being awake for so many hours, a post-outing nap was in order, followed by a dog walk, dinner, a few rounds of Bananagram and more sleeping.

Day Three: We drove the Meiringspoort mountain pass. We've both been through it before (more than once for me) but it is a drive that can be enjoyed over and over again as you gaze in wonder at the exposed rock folds.

Being a 'poort' that follows a river rather than a pass that goes up and over, the gradient is gentle and the scenery is magnificent with bridges over the flowing river, exceptional rock formations and, according to Mountain Passes South Africa, "63 bends, corners and curves".

That outing demanded another read and nap. 

We left to return home on the morning of Day Four.

Dog walks did give the opportunity to capture observations for iNaturalist. I've been stretched learning about fungi, ferns and fynbos... and now succulents, which are abundant in this area.

Those lichens, top right, were great finds for me. I'm not 100% sure on their ID but they caught my eye and were good to log. 

Nice finds here included the angulate tortoise (top right). It was my first time seeing a spekboom tree in bloom (pink flowers centre top). I found a few cactuses with flowers and learned, from my book on succulents, that we only have one indigenous cactus in South Africa. The rest are all alien.

The dogs loved being away. They settled in immediately, didn't stray and were game for walks and naps at any time and in any order.

We had little to no mobile signal in our cabin, which suited me perfectly.

It feels a shame to go away to such a lovely area - one worthy of a ton of exploring, and to spend the bulk of my time sleeping. But, this was exactly what I needed. I've been exhausted and stress has been getting the better of me physically. These last months have been challenging.

I generally handle stress pretty well and mentally I'm mostly on top of things. For the past few weeks, I've been struggling with swollen and numb fingers and hands. Circulation is compromised as well as dexterity and I wake up in the night with no feeling in my hands. I haven't been able to sleep on my sides. 

Three weeks ago, I went to a physio who nailed the problem as tight muscles in my neck, shoulders and back. I initially thought that it was purely physical as it started in the weeks when I was moving Vagabond and other stuff into storage almost daily for 2.5 weeks. Instead, this is more a physical manifestation of stress with the spasmed muscles affecting nerves to my hands. I've had so many weird niggles these past months and they are certainly all related to stress. I handle fine, but it does take its toll.

The physio's work, my ongoing exercises and these few days away have improved my hands significantly. I saw the chiropractor on Friday. He uses an electrical thing to hyperstimulate muscles to 'exhaustion' so that they relax. This works too for rectifying alignment, which I needed again. I can now lie on my sides to read in bed and even to sleep a little on either side again.

On Sunday morning, I enjoyed a lovely run at the Garden Route Dam. At 13km, this is one of the longest runs I've done in a long time. Pace was chilled, morning was perfect and I ran easy - like in the 'old days' (2.5 years ago). This evening, I joined the weekly 'Social Run' for an 8km at the dam. 

I hope this is the real start to be becoming 'normal me' again.

Friday 4 November 2022

Not 'just' a fern

 The annual Bioblitz on iNaturalist took place this past weekend - from Friday to Monday. The objective of the Bioblitz is for observers to log their observations of fauna and flora of their region to contribute to the database of diversity for the area.

I'm part of the Great Southern Bioblitz - Garden Route region. On Saturday, my mom and I did a little walk - maybe 300m down and then back up, scoring 24 observations of different plants (a drop inthe ocean compared to the high scorers).

This time last year, I saw my first wild orchids along the trail that I chose to visit to capture some Bioblitz observations. I was really hoping to spot more. I got lucky finding two - a Satyre (with flowers) and a Disa (flower buds).

My big score was actually in the fern department.

I've never been big on ferns. Sure, they are green, leafy and pretty, but I've never really paid them much attention. 

The little that I remember about ferns from school is that they are ancient with evidence of ferns in the fossil records going back millions of years before the dinosaurs, and that they have spores, not seeds, underneath the leaves.

A quick search reminded me of the weird lifecycle of ferns, another interesting characteristic of these plants. No other plant has two separate living structures in their lifecycle.

Not knowing much about types of ferns, my identification skills are somewhat limited to the domestic sword fern, maiden-hair fern and tree fern. And then there is the common bracken, a type of fern, that grows all over the place. I tend to ignore ferns, not bothering much to photograph them for iNaturalist.

My mom saw 'our' one and exclaimed, "A tree fern," encouraging me to take photos of it. I did.

I didn't really plan to log the observation. Afterall, it was 'just' a tree fern type fern. On Wednesday night, wanting to contribute more to the Bioblitz, I decided to log it.

I logged it as Class Polypodiopsida, which is the 'Fern' class. I then scrolled through dozens of photos of types of ferns, settling on the Knysna Wood Fern as the closest candidate. There were only a few photos from one observation. In South Africa. I made a note about the almost rectangular-shaped pinnules and that Amauropelta knysnaensis - Knysna Wood Fern looked like the closest option. 

I went to bed.

The next day, I had a response from an identifier who knows his ferns. His response said simply, "It is!".

This 'just a fern' log is now the second observation logged for this species not just for the Garden Route, not just for South Africa, not just for Africa, but for The World!

Base of the Knysna Wood Fern

Uncurling frond of the Knysna Wood Fern

This is it, the Knysna Wood Fern

Frond of the Knysna Wood Fern

Close-up of the pinnules of the Knysna Wood Fern

Back of the pinnules of the Knysna Wood Fern.

This is the real purpose of iNaturalist.

Sure, there are more of these fern individuals that exist, but they haven't been logged. The purpose of observations is to collect data on species, distribution, seasonality, flowering, fruiting, and frequency. The more citizen scientist observers you have out there, collecting the data, the better the boxes will be ticked.

There will be biases because observers are selective in what they want to photograph and log. A non-descript, small green hard-to-identify plant will be overlooked in favour of a flowering plant; and then you get people like me who mostly ignore the plants in favour of fungi. Having more people, each with different preferences, I like to think that so much more will be covered.

I didn't do much for this Bioblitz - a short outing with my mom; but I'm glad I did something. Only one other guy when out to the same area (another trail nearby) and I saw a lot more than I photographed. 

With this fern as a notch in my observation belt, when I took the dogs out on Thursday evening I decided to pick fronds from any of the ferns that I encountered to be able to closely compare them. I was astounded by the diversity.

Within about 300m, next to trails that I regularly take, I found these (and a few more):

Each one different - and there were more. Note the sori (clusters of reproductive structures) on some of the pinna and pinnules. Just fabulous. 

I must have about 12 or 13 different ferns that I brought home and photographed. I haven't tried to identify them yet but I certainly do have a whole new appreciation for ferns.

Friday 14 October 2022

Back in the blood donation seat

When I last went to donate blood in March, I had my first vasovagal episode during a donation - and this is after more than 60 donations since I started donating blood at 16. The needle wasn't put in right, it kept blocking and the jiggling around of the needle was the trigger. I felt the fainting coming on and said to the nurse I wasn't feeling great. I must have gone as white as a sheet and in seconds they had a fan in front of me, smelling solution under my nose and I heard someone say, "She's back".
Today, I was back in the seat with a like-clockwork donation, filling the bag in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.

When I relayed the situation of my last donation to today's nurse, she said, "It is the jiggling that does it".

Although the blood donation marketing campaigns say that every donation saves three lives, this only holds true if you are a regular donor; when you donate 3 to 6 times a year. For your own safety and that of the blood recipient, if you do not go back again and again - three times every year, your donation is not used. Donating blood is an awesome thing to do but don't waste your time, their time and resources, and your blood if you do not intend to go back at least another two times in a 12-month period.
The donation process is on WCBS and SANBS websites, but not as direct as I'm telling you here. They're all about campaigns and getting new donors in who they hope will come back because of the good experience; I'm all about education and getting well-intentioned, once-a-year / blood drive-only donors to become committed, regular donors so that each donation really will save three lives.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Woodwork: glass rain gauge holder

I like having a rain gauge to observe and, sometimes, to record rainfall. since moving to George, I have mostly observed rainfall volumes. In Jo'burg and Parys, I had a 'rain book' to record rain amounts. It was interesting to look back on past years to compare seasons.

I've always had those plastic rain gauges that generally last no more than two years as a result of UV damage to the plastic that renders it brittle. I've kept an eye out for glass rain gauges and finally found one online a few weeks ago. I'd sworn not to buy a plastic one again after my last one was killed by the garden service's edge trimmer.

To feed my rain gauge OCD, I ordered a glass rain gauge but then needed a suitable holder to keep it safe. Applying my woodworking skills, I sanded two scrap pieces of pallet wood, used a circle saw to cut a hole in the one, connected them together and applied three coats of protective wood varnish to exterior use. This evening I attached it to the washing line pole. Ta-da!

Looks like my next project is going to be to sand and paint the washing line poles... My rain gauge is safe from lawnmowers, edge trimmers, dogs and feet.

Only 35mm compared to the 70-80mm classic plastic version. Still, better than another 'disposable' plastic rain gauge. Time to break that cycle.

Adult matric fees and free

I heard an advert on the radio for an adult matric (final year of high school) online programme being offered by the University of Cape Town (UCT). They announced the fees as R2,125 per month. It is an 18-month programme. I nearly had heart failure.

"UCT Online High School for Adult Matric is here to celebrate those adults who were unable, or never given the opportunity, to write their matric when they were young."

A Google search told me that a living wage in 2019 was R4,870 to R7,330, but that the real wage of a low-skilled worker was R3,330 to R4,680 and the real wage of a medium-skilled worker was R6,620 to R10,200. Presumably, low and medium-skilled workers would be target candidates for the Adult Matric course.

To do online courses, the student needs a laptop/computer access, internet and UPS (power supply) according to the course requirements (these can be a challenge for adults without matric). They need to put in 20hrs/week.

Adult Matric learners are classified as individuals who are 21 years or older. They must have a General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) or have passed Grade 9 (old Standard 7).

I was horrified at the cost for adult learners who missed the opportunity to complete school, for whatever reason, and who could be working low-pay jobs. Presumably, an adult student wants to complete matric to open up opportunities for better jobs and better pay.

Thankfully, I found a link at the top of the website to FREE CURRICULUM. They do offer access to all UCT Online High School learning material and unlimited downloads for offline use for those who cannot afford R2,125/month. This is made available by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

The main difference between the monthly fee and the free courses is that the free one doesn't have the facilitators and support coaches to make sure you're doing your work and understanding it, internal exams and community elements. The free course does have computer and self-graded assessments. I can't quite tell whether the free curriculum gives you a matric certificate at the end.

I've been looking at an online course through UCT. Fees are R17,000 for the four-month online course. This is where a jaw-dropping emoticon is relevant. I didn't expect an online course to be so pricey.

In high school, I did Additional Maths as an extra subject. The one thing I remember doing, and enjoying, was to create what I'll call 'feasibility graphs' because I can't remember what they were really named. In essence, it is a graph drawn to see at which point any number of options become feasible. For example, can you make more money selling many items at low profit or fewer items at high profit. The graph indicates where the profitability meets and shows at which numbers one is more profitable than the other. This is actually the only thing I remember from Add Maths.

With online courses, we have the opportunity for smaller margins but a satisfying profit through higher student numbers, low overheads, and repeated use of the same material following the initial investment to create the material.

I'd be interested to know UCT's student numbers for the R2,125/month course and those taking the free curriculum option. I wonder how many low-income adults, who would like to complete their schooling, were listening to that ad on the radio. On hearing of the R2,125/month fee, I wonder how many saw this as out-of-reach to them, not realising that a free programme is also available. 

The ad would have done better to promote their adult matric programme mentioning the free programme and one with full support, coaching and an online community so that all potential students realise that there is something available for them.

Friday 30 September 2022

Woodwork: seat extender

A year ago, I did a work trip to Cape Town and I took Rusty with me. The bakkie is a single-cab and the passenger seat is a bit wider than normal. So that she would be comfortable, I had a bag in the footwell of the passenger seat and her cushion spanning the seat and the top of the bag to give her a bigger area to spread out on.

We had the most awesome trip, visiting dealers and staying in dog-friendly guesthouses.

I've been taking the dogs with me when I go to the storage garage. They love doing anything with me, including riding shotgun, waiting, watching, helping and sniffing around. They know the storage property now and they know them. The dogs are safe and happy there.

Fitting Rusty and Rosy - and sometimes Bella too - on the seat is a problem. 

Rusty is a medium-sized dog, weighing in at 20.5kg. Rosy is a small-sized dog, weighing in at 10kg. Bella is a little dog, weighing in at 3.5kg. 

I've built a 'seat extender' so that the dogs have plenty of space and cannot fall off the seat if I have to brake suddenly. I made it out of pallet wood (legs) and a piece of plywood, and shaped it to fit perfectly between the seat and the cubby hole. The space underneath can still be used and is easy to access from the open door.

Before the seat extender...

After - with the seat extender

My furry assistants helping (by looking cute) with a courier drop off.

Thursday 29 September 2022

Time wobble

A guy emailed me about a rudder kit for his kayak. I replied to say that I had kits, I'd need to check on the right one for him and that if I didn't have it, I would make it up for him over the weekend.

I went to the storage garage this afternoon to fetch stuff for the courier and while I was there I checked on the rudder kits. I had the right one. I packed it to bring home so that I can box it for sending.

I've just sent him an email with an invoice.

On my order list, I make a note of the date I receive orders as well as what, invoice number, amount, payment date, when sent and how sent. It gives me a quick view so that I can see what I'm missing and who I need to chase. I don't usually refer to date orders are received but if I need to cross-check on how long it takes to get something out to customers, then it is useful.

So, I'm updating my list tonight and I see that I replied to him on 29/9. 

That's today.

He sent his email to me last night.

I thought that he emailed and I responded a few days ago. That's a time wobble.

Oh well, he will be delighted to be sorted out the same day.

Monday 26 September 2022

VAGABOND: Moving of stuff and getting my assets back

 On Tues, 6 September 2022, I wrote about my disappointing day in court, which really hit me hard that day, and the next. I had only half a day to wallow in my misery before the action of moving, moving, moving fittings and kayaks for the other kayak companies and also my YOLO moulds, stock and fittings in the 2.5 days that followed. It was exhausting and I was thankful for the weekend to recover. I needed this because the week that followed escalated in intensity.

Monday, 11 September 2022

I sleep like a dead dog. Regardless of what I going down, I fortunately sleep. There isn't much that can keep me awake once my head hits the pillow.

Saturday morning 04h00 I woke up. I lightly dozed for 45 minutes, still feeling awake. I got up, fetched my laptop from my desk and started to write, composing an email to my attorneys about 'what next'. The same happened to me on Sunday morning at 04h00. On Monday morning, I completed my email and sent it off. With the warrant fulfilled and my assets locked up, I asked them whether I needed to go to the police station to file a criminal case of theft. 

By lunchtime, we had a letter from the sheriff's office confirming that the warrant had been fulfilled and that we could make arrangements to collect our stuff. This included my Vagabond moulds, fittings and kayak stock, the shop product inventory and the fittings for the Finnish guy, which had missed being released by the landlord the previous week (whether intentionally or not - I think the release of the US guy's fittings was a mistake the week before). 

We could now make arrangements to collect our stuff - and there was a lot of stuff.

I'd been looking for storage space for my moulds for weeks, struggling to find spaces with width, which is what I needed to get a forklift in. I planned to speak to my storage garage people the next day about a spot on their side.

In my previous post, I forgot to mention that on the Friday, my attorneys sent a 'settlement proposal' to the landlord. This requested payment by him for the extensive legal fees incurred by us as a result of his actions against us and a buy-out of me in return for discussing a manufacturing and marketing agreement. Via his attorney's assistant, we got an almost immediate no.

Now, after the weekend, the landlord's attorney told my attorneys that he would be discussing this with his client and would let us know around lunchtime. Nothing by close of business this day or the next or the next and still nothing to date.

Tuesday, 12 September 2022

I arranged with the sheriff to collect the shop inventory, which can fit in the back of my bakkie. I had the dogs with me for the day and they enjoyed the outing between the factory and storage garage.

To move bigger items, I would need a trailer and workers, which takes a day to organise. I booked the workers and the trailer and arranged for the factory to be opened in the morning. 

In the afternoon, I dropped my Vagabond trailer and demo kayaks with the Great Brak River Conservancy on a farm just outside of George. They had river clean-ups planned for the next day and Saturday 17th. I was happy to loan them kayaks for these initiatives. The dogs loved this farm visit and I enjoyed meeting and chatting to the lady. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2022

With a 4m trailer hooked and a number of workers, we got to work pack up Vagabond's fitting stock, of which there is a lot. I had a storage garage in reserve for two weeks - just waiting for my stock to be released.

I actually had a garage first booked in early July but ended up passing it on as I didn't have my assets. Finding storage in George can be like looking for hen's teeth. I was fortunate to locate a very accommodating bunch who have responded to my needs as they have arisen.

While we were moving and loading stuff, we get a call from the landlord's right-hand guy to say that he had just received instruction from the landlord to get the forklift and to dump Vagabond's kayak moulds on the pavement outside the factory.

The landlord had held on to our assets for three months by this stage, had cost the customers a fortune in legal fees and now 1.5 days after receiving confirmation from the sheriff that the warrant had been fulfilled and the attached assets released, the guy wants to dump our moulds - that he has been trying to take - on the sidewalk. We're talking almost a dozen moulds with a replacement value of R2.5-million.

And, I had nowhere to move them to because I'd still been unable to secure a wide enough space.

I called my attorneys but they said that it wouldn't be worth the hassle of even trying to get more time because they landlord is like he is. They are right. This is the landlord's little power game and he wasn't likely to budge.

On my next trip to the storage garage, I spoke to the people there. They had a 12m-long unit for me, which could work at a pinch but which would be incredibly difficult for us with only 3m width and 200-400kg moulds. A forklift cannot get into this space holding the moulds. My garage people started putting out enquiries to other storage people that they know.

My hands were full with moving - loading at the factory, driving to the garage, unloading and neatly packing - and I couldn't do much but hope that something would come through.

At some stage in the afternoon, I thought of the lady on the farm that I'd met the day before. She is very well connected in her community. Could there be a shed on a farm in the area? She sent out my message to her network and literally within a few minutes a lady had responded to say she had space. I called her. This was already after 16h00.

Later, she sent me a video and I knew the space that was a bit bigger than a double garage would work. I told her that I'll take it.

With loadshedding on, I couldn't get through to the people at a rental company where I was trying to secure a forklift to be delivered to the storage space the next day. I got in my car and drove there. Nothing. Sitting in their parking area, I called another company. They had nothing but recommended another. I called them. This was now 16h45 and the friendly guy confirmed that they had availability and that they could deliver the forklift the next morning. He asked me to call the lady that makes the bookings at 8am.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

At 8am I called the lady, confirmed address and arrangements and was at the factory with a 6m trailer to meet the workers.

On the factory side, friends with a nearby business loaned us their forklift and driver to extract the moulds from the vertical racks in the building and to put them on this big double-axle trailer. We did three loadings and three trips with moulds and a fourth with the cooling jigs.

On the other side, the forklift company came through with punctual delivery of the forklift there. We got in our driver to drive on that side.

The moulds went in beautifully and we finished the last load with just enough time for me to return the 6m trailer to the hire place only a few minutes after closing. I booked the trailer again for the next day, dropped the workers near their homes and headed home myself.

Friday, 16 September 2022

I'd earmarked this day to move Vagabond's kayak stock to storage. I don't have a lot of stock but I do also have some kayaks from the other brands and all of it amounted to three loads.

On our first trip to the storage we created 'hammocks' out of rope to suspend the cooling jigs from the roof beams of the garage. This gave us space on top of the moulds to stash kayaks, which I would need to access to get them out to customers. This took a while but was well worth the effort.

The three loads of kayaks went in and as I locked the garage door, I felt relief at finally having all my assets secured 12-weeks after all of this started.

I did some exceptional trailer driving and reversing this week, finally nailing 90-degree manoeuvring.

While this was all going on, we had been trying to get a container booking for the USA guy to get his waiting order of his own kayaks off to him. Most of the order was ready when the doors closed and in August the balance of shells that needed to be outfitted were completed. Shipping, since lockdown, has been a nightmare and it usually takes a few weeks to get a provisional booking that can be bumped at any stage. We had expected to load this container on the 14th but after delays in Durban, the ship would no longer be stopping in Cape Town and so our booking was moved to the next ship in the line.

On this afternoon, we got a provisional loading for Monday morning (19th). 

Over the weekend that followed, I did not wake up at 4am. Container loading was confirmed on Sunday morning. I booked workers and looked forward to sending off these kayaks - and his two moulds.

Monday, 19 September 2022

The container loading went really well and I delighted to add the seal to the full container. 

Three of the workers stayed with me to start stripping the shop of its shopfittings. We removed display pallets from the walls, dismantled banner frames and un-bolted storage racks. We only had about 2.5 hours but we did well.

A guy from a steel place down the way saw the doors open and swung past, interested in a kayak. He expressed an interest in buying some of my steel, which has a lot value.  

Tuesday, 20 September 2022

We were back at the shop to undo things, move pallets to storage (I planned to repurpose the wood) and move the moveable kayak display racks. 

The steel guy planned to come during the week to cut out the racks, which are too big to get out the doors (they were welded and assembled inside).

On Wednesday and Thursday I had some time to catch up with admin and find my feet while waiting for the steel guy. Tied down with work, the steel guy's assistant hadn't shown for work for days so we didn't do the racks.

On Friday (23 Sept) I went to the shop armed with a broom and dustpan to throw out rubbish and clean up. All that is left are the steel racks.

Over this past weekend, I started on my project of repurposing pallets from the shop

Monday, 26 September 2022

My mission today is to send out communication to my dealers, customers and suppliers. My capacity for communication has been saturated and I've needed some space to think, without dealing with drama and moving stuff, which is very demanding.

With YOLO, I need to sit down with my new moulders and get this up and running within a couple of weeks.

With Vagabond, we're on ice until we find a way forward. 

This whole situation has hit us really hard and will do so for months to come with no manufacturing and our main South African summer season starting now.

We have made excellent inroads in the South African market the past few years with customers now going into stores to specifically ask for a Vagabond kayak. We were looking at a bright season ahead.

For now, I need to lick my wounds, dust myself off and start working on new plans.

Woodwork project - pallet wood shelving rack

 From my ongoing woodworking project list, #6 got a jump on #5 with a pallet-wood shelving rack that I assembled this weekend.

Last week, I pulled out the pallets that we were using in the shop at the factory as product display racks and for the shop counter. Already painted, these are ready to be repurposed.

A while back, I turned to YouTube to find the best technique to take apart pallets. Methods vary from cutting out the planks (waste of material) to levering the planks using a crowbar or hammering the planks from underneath to lift them from the nails.

Whichever the method, it is not easy to pull planks from pallets, especially when the wood is dry because it is prone to break and splinter. Fresh pallets, which I've work on before, are definitely easier. 

I hammered and levered to separate the planks and it took far longer to gather the material than it did for the actual assembly. I kept the 110cm length of the planks and made the shelves the width of five planks at 505mm. I ended up making the bottom shelf using five planks and the middle and top shelves using only 4 planks. Five was overkill and just adds weight.

I do have paint, but for now I'm leaving the unit as is. It has heritage and a story.

I plan to make another of the same size and one that is taller for home. And then one or two units for my storage garage where I have kayak fittings stashed.

Thursday 22 September 2022

What is your funeral song/s?

My mom's cousin's husband died last week. My mom was a flower girl at their wedding 61 years ago (we went to their 60th wedding anniversary celebration last year). He was 84, life well lived. He'd had cancer, recent major surgery and although he was out of hospital and doing very well on the day of his death last week, it was maybe a pulmonary embolism that got him.

My mom went to the funeral yesterday in PE and returned today. With my aunt and her partner visiting, we got on to the discussion at dinner about singing and the hymns we're 'forced' to sing at funerals.

I can whistle a good tune, but I don't sing. I loathe hymns in the pamphlets at funerals (and weddings) and I don't see the point of them being sung by the friends and family. I favour the setup where a good singer sing the deceased's favourite song/s instead, without making the congregation to join in.

Then I asked my family, "What is your funeral song?".

As I asked the question, two songs popped into my head for my funeral:

The first one - I just like it. I even 'sing' it and delight in the silliness of it. 

As for Maxwell... My dad has always been a big Beatles fan. He plays guitar beautifully and sings. He probably curses the first time he did Maxwell for me as a child because it immediately became the one song I always asked him to do. 

For these two songs that both popped into my head, they're mostly on point as they both deal with death (OK, so Maxwell is murder, or more appropriately a serial killer who wields a silver hammer) but they're both upbeat and funny and easy to sing, which works for me.

If I go before you, please make sure these songs are on the pamphlets.

And no service please. No priests. No churches. 

An afternoon tea, with cake and cucumber sandwiches, and scones with cream and strawberry jam. And these two songs. Sorted.


I like music but I don't sit and listen to music. I hear songs on the radio, mostly. I pay little to no attention to the words. Strangely, there are songs that I sing along to - I know the words and they tumble from my lips, but I pay them no attention. I'm not interested in and I don't comprehend their meaning.

Instead, I latch on to melodies, rhythms, instruments, harmonies. I'm a nightmare with CDs because I don't listen to full songs and I'll play a section of a song that I like over and over again because I like the drums or a chord change. I'm the person you don't give control of your remote to.

In thinking of a 'beautiful' funeral song tonight that could be played at my funeral, I had no doubt that 'More than words' by Extreme would be the one. It is one of my all-time favourite-favourite songs. I've been singing along to it for 22 years, not realising that the lyrics are actually so appropriate to who I am.

I found the music video on YouTube tonight to post the link here and the penny dropped as I watched and followed along with the lyrics on screen.

My Love Language (and my language of everything) is 'Acts of Service'. While words may play a big role in my life in terms of writing and communication, I show love and caring through what I do, not what I say. As this is the language that I understand, it is what I expect in return. This is what this song is about.
How easy, it would be to show me how you feelMore than words is all you have to do to make it realThen you wouldn't have to say that you love me'Cause I'd already know
This song caught my attention so many years ago - after hearing it for the first time - for the beautiful tune, beautiful acoustic guitar, and beautiful harmonies (and beautiful Nuno Bettancourt in the video), not the lyrics. But, how appropriate they are for who I am.

Saturday 17 September 2022

VAGABOND: High pressure, demands and moving of assets

 As if last week Tuesday in court wasn't enough, the nine days that have followed were an escalation of intensity - physical, emotional and mental. I'll take you through last week.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

On Wednesday, the day after we appeared in court, my attorneys sent a letter to the sheriff's office demanding their final account reconciliation following the auction of the factory assets that took place at the end of July by the close of business the next day.

After an auction has taken place, the sheriff draws up documents showing the lot numbers that were for sale, who purchased them and for how much. This gives the total income from the auction sale of the Judgement Debtor's assets. They then calculate their expenses for organising the auction, advertising it, their commission, any opening-and-closing of the building and even storage of items. This comes off the total income and the balance is paid over to the Judgement Creditor, in this case the landlord. The Sheriff's documents include the Distribution Award, which details the income recovered, expenses and payout. The balance outstanding on this was only R806 - after a payout of R1m. 

These documents were issued a week after the auction; but it took us a further two weeks to get our hands on them with nothing forthcoming from either the sheriff's office or the landlord's attorney and nothing sent to the Judgement Debtor, the factory company, either. I physically visited the sheriff's office a number of times, I emailed too and my attorneys emailed both the sheriff's office the landlord's attorney. Nothing. 

After an auction, when the warrant has been satisfied, all items under attachment should be released. This wasn't happening. As customers of the factory with our assets under attachment - for nine weeks by that stage, it was in our interests to push for getting these documents.

While we continued to try to get finalisation from the sheriff, the landlord began contacting the customers of the factory to say that he was starting his own kayak moulding company and that he wanted to discuss manufacturing and marketing. All this while holding on to our assets under lock-and-key and having issued us with a summons to appear in court to defend our claim to our assets. We received the summons three weeks after the auction, for which he got paid out the money - to the tune of R1-million that he had claimed. That he bought the factory's primary assets - well, that was his choice.

In the days before our court appearance, the landlord sent letters to most of the customers saying that he had issued instruction to his attorney to release their assets. To Vagabond, he sent a letter telling of his plans for his new kayak factory and threatening "an expensive and long-lasting process" involving Vagabond in his attempt to recover new expenses that he is claiming from the factory. He aimed to recover these debts by seizing Vagabond's assets unless Vagabond "puts an acceptable alternative on the table". Keep in mind here that the factory was his tenant and Vagabond is a customer of the factory. Separate legal entities and all that.

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Thursday morning dawned with a notice from the landlord to remove everything that was not disputed by 13h00 the next day from the factory.

In a separate section of the factory, we have had around 100 kayaks (most not mine) waiting for container loading. The global shipping crisis is still in effect and getting bookings can take weeks.

These kayaks, and others that had been dispatched since the building contents were attached, form part of a list of orders that were given permission for release in mid-July. When we got this permission back then, we started looking at container bookings and by some miracle got a confirmed booking for one container to Europe that following week; this rarely happens. This was when the landlord reneged on this agreement and locked the doors the day before container loading. After no action from them, we initiated an urgent High Court application that night - and won with costs. We loaded that container. Days later they appealed, wanting us to recall the container and unload it. We won again with costs.

The High Court order forced their hand to re-confirm release of the remaining items on the order list. We got another container out in August. The kayaks for the last two container loads have been sitting as we are struggle to get confirmed shipping bookings.

In addition to the kayaks waiting for shipping, other undisputed items now also included the moulds for the two overseas customers and the fittings for the one. There were also my YOLO moulds, packaging and fittings. This is a lot of stuff to move. 

I had arranged the day before to meet the sheriff at the factory on this Thursday afternoon to extract my YOLO stock and fittings. He recommended that I contact the guy across the road from the factory who has some space. This was nice of the sheriff - he hasn't done much in our favour this whole time.

I called the guy and met him briefly but as he didn't have his keys, we didn't see the space. We were to meet with him the next morning. I successfully removed my YOLO items, leaving the heavy moulds for the next day.

Before close of business, we received the final accounts from the sheriff. The amount outstanding on the warrant? Just short of R13,000.

There are a few things to consider here:

After the auction, there was R806 outstanding. I'm not entirely sure how this works but the sheriff should have requested balance of payment from the Judgement Debtor, the factory, to settle this. Nothing. They hung on to documents and hung on to assets. The sheriff's costs would have increased over the five weeks since the auction with coming out to the building top open up, which goes on the landlord's account. I don't know what the other costs were.

In court, two days before, the landlord's attorney had stood up to say that he thought there was around R24,000 outstanding. This was after being sent away by the magistrate to work on his sums (you'll see an explanation of this in my previous post). They had the audacity to take us customers of the factory to court, to make us prove our claim of ownership of our assets, without even knowing how much was owed to them by the factory (not us!) following the auction. It costs multiples of R24,000 just to appear in court. And then the final amount - accumulated since the auction was held - was 'only' R13,000.

After holding our assets for just over 11 weeks and five week after the auction, all it would take to release everything would be to pay the factory's debt. I issued instruction to my attorneys to make the payment.

Friday, 9 September 2022

I met the across-the-road guy early in the morning to see his space. At this stage, we didn't have any option and across-the-road, when you have 15 moulds weighing 200-400kg to move, 100-odd kayaks and other stuff, is the best place to move things. The only problem with this place is that the guy is charging an excessive rate and we've only got the space short-term for two weeks. Right then, we needed to buy space and time.

With four workers, a forklift (thank you to our friends for their driver and forklift) and a big trailer, it took us 10 hours to move the moulds for the two overseas guys and the 100-odd kayaks waiting for container loading across the road; and all of the USA guy's kayak fittings to my storage garage. I moved my YOLO box stock, on pallets, across the road too (temporary - we were running out of time in the day), and my moulds to a tank moulder in town who will be making my YOLO products.

On Friday morning, Vagabond paid R15,000 (R13,000 amount outstanding and extra R2000 for what would be sheriff fees). This immediately satisfied the warrant and released everything under dispute. 

When my attorney called me, I was packing the USA guy's fittings into the garage. I called Celliers and told him to start getting Vagabond's moulds. He told the sheriff who, instead of calling his boss to whom payments and paperwork had been sent, he phoned the landlord. The sheriff started locking the building. The landlord rocked up.

I've only seen him twice, I think, since this ordeal started. He brings out the worst in me. He treats me is contempt and disregard; and so I respond to this. It is a bit school-ground where he will waggle a finger in my face and I do the same back to him. I can’t help myself.

We still had the situation at hand to deal with and so much stuff to move. Fortunately, at 16h00, the four workers from Parys showed up to help. They have been doing odd work for the landlord, like cleaning his new building. They won't like it, but it is work. Other friends showed up with their open bakkie to shuttle loads of kayaks across. We finished at 18h00, 10 hours after we started. I dropped off all the workers at their homes and crawled home.

I've been enjoying my weekends recently because, unlike these week days that unleash surprises and emergencies, the two days of the weekend come with no attorney letters and demands. I use weekends to recover to face the week ahead.

Where this week included a court appearance followed by demands, deadlines, high pressure, drama and long hours, the next week - this one we've just made it through - would follow the same trend.