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Juice bottles: Cut the head off, drill some holes in the base - for some practical flower pots.

Juice bottles: Cut the head off, drill some holes in the base – for some practical flower pots.


The shape of these juice bottles is actually ideal for flower pots:

– The diameter of the bottle is about 10cm, a standard size for flower pots.

– The base is raised into a punt and gives the ideal points to drill drainage holes: As they are raised, it ensures there will always be a bit of water in the very bottom.

– The top bit can be used as a greenhouse roof to protect seedlings from weather and mice.


How to make flower pots from soft drink bottles:

With a pair of nail scissors, cut the top bit off.

You’ll have to cut round, that’s why it’s easier with nail scissors. Follow a line on the bottle, it’s hard not to cut skew.

Depending on the length of roots the plants will grow you can keep the bottom bit quite tall or cut it down to a standard size.
Because the plastic is see-through, you can leave a wide rim above the ground level which keeps in all the mess.

Drill drain holes in the base of the bottle.

Hold the drill steady, it’s easy to slip on the plastic. Drill about 5 holes around the centre point of the base.

Depending on the water consumption of the plant you can drill large holes so the earth will drain well or small holes to capture water.
If the plant likes wet feet, you can drill the holes higher up.

Drill ventilation holes in the top bit of the bottle.

Hold the drill even steadier, this is a slanted surface. Drill about 5 evenly spread holes in the shoulder of the bottle.

You can use the remaining  bottle tops as mini greenhouse roofs. They fit very tight into the flower pot and won’t easily come off.
Depending on the humidity preferences of the plant, you can drill large holes for good ventilation or small holes for capturing moisture and heat.



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Aside from aesthetics, for practical reasons alone paint is the best wood finish.

For its long life expectancy alone paint is the best wood finish.


With hopefully some rain coming to Cape Town during winter we need gutters!


But before we can install gutters, we need to decide on the look of the fascia, the trim board on which the gutter sits on.


Paint is generally the longest lasting finish for wood, but we’d like to keep the natural wood look.


Apparently there’s a well kept secret for wood treatment: water repellent preservatives (WRP).


The U.S. Forest Service did some research on ‘Wood Finishing: Water Repellents and Water-Repellent Preservatives’, pointing out:

“Homeowners can avoid many exterior wood-finishing problems by first treating with a WR or WRP solution to guard against damage to the wood and paint caused by water and by decay and stain fungi (mildew).
WR or WRP treatment of wood is recommended both before painting and also as a natural finish for wood.”

and concludes in their PDF ‘Water Repellents and Water-Repellent Preservatives for Wood’:

“Water-repellent preservatives can be used as natural finishes and can greatly improve the durability and appearance of wood exposed outdoors.
They can also be used as pretreatments prior to the initial painting of wood. The water repellent improves the dimensional stability of the wood, and the preservative improves the mildew resistance of the paint. These properties work in concert to extend the service life of the paint.”


So as long as we’re using water repellent preservatives that are paintable, we can start with the WRP wood treatment, and still apply paint later.


While this still doesn’t answer the question for us, it gets us a step closer! 😛


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Cement Burns right at the tip of my fingers... Ouch!

Cement Burns right at the tip of my fingers… Ouch!


There are still some snags around the house that we’re bit by bit attending to.

The other day we made good progress again, when plastering the remaining exposed brick work.

But when, after having asked already to finish the job nicely, I saw that there were still some gaps that had not been plastered shut, I took it upon myself to deal with it:


Being overly proactive, I thought: Let me just quickly smooth out the plaster and fill the corners properly.

Being highly perfectionist, it didn’t go as quickly as I had hoped.

Being totally absorbed by the task at hand, I did not feel any pain at first.


While dry cement is calcium oxide and relatively harmless to the touch, it turns toxic when wet:

The cement becomes calcium hydroxide, a highly alkaline substance with a pH level of 12 or higher. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, so any direct contact can result in serious chemical burns.

As the cement is eating through your skin, you only feel the real pain when the outer layer has breached. Now the cement reacts with the water coming out from your wounds. At this point it gets difficult to simply wash off the plaster, as the chemical reaction progresses:

First brush off any dry cement, then rinse the affected areas with clean water for 20 minutes.


Dry cement is also dangerous when inhaled as dust in large quantities: Prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to a disabling and often fatal lung disease called silicosis.


Stay clear from any health hazards caused by cement.

Always wear the correct safety gear:

– overalls with long sleeves and full-length trousers

– alkali-resistant gloves

– waterproof boots

– safety glasses

– dust mask


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Looking at what lies beneath to find the cause for the crack reveals two coliding walls.

Looking at what lies beneath to find the cause for the crack reveals two colliding walls.


What to consider when building a new wall onto an old wall


1) Foundation: The new wall must sit on the same level foundation as the old wall.

“Where no foundations exist the new wall will not be on solid footings and will sag or crack. A single wall no higher than 1.8 metres requires a 300mm deep x 300mm wide footing, while a double wall, or a wall higher than 1.8 metres should be 600mm deep x 300mm wide.”

“The success of a join in the wall without any cracking still lies in the foundation, however. Any movement of the foundation will result in a crack in the wall. Proper compaction of the new area before digging foundations is important. Alternatively, dig down to solid ground before laying the foundation. There is no short way to do it properly.”


2) Cavity: Any existing cavity must be maintained and continued.

“Before adding a new wall to an old one you must check with your building inspector to see if a vertical damp proof course is required between walls, and whether or not any existing cavity in the walls of the existing construction, needs to be continued into the new construction. Building regulations must be upheld at all times for your own, as well as any future owners, safety.

When tying new extension walls to an existing building it is important that the cavity is maintained. This means cutting into the existing walls to continue the cavity around the building.”


3) Joint: The two walls need a joint between them. There are different types, but basically a joint is a gap between the two building parts.

  • Control Joint

“Most materials experience small changes in dimensions, due to temperature changes, moisture changes, sometimes long-term chemical changes, and loading. Dimensional changes by themselves do not necessarily cause problems, but if the movement is restrained by contact with another part of the construction which is unaffected, or behaves differently, it can result in cracking or overstressing of some elements, and possibly in structural failure.

The usual way of combating relative movements is to provide control joints, which are capable of opening or closing to a certain extent while continuing to provide the structural and enclosure functions of the element.

Movement of the foundations will also cause relative movement of parts of the construction, and is sometimes compensated by the provision of control joints, but this is a different type of movement and its magnitude is more difficult to predict. This is known as articulated masonry, and can be useful for constructing small buildings on relatively unstable sites.

Control joints are by definition a discontinuity in the wall, and thus they reduce the amount of support given to one part of the wall by the remainder of it, or by the building’s frame. In many cases it will be necessary to use sliding wall-ties to transmit some support across the joints.

The joints also must be sealed to maintain the integrity of weatherproofness, acoustic and fire isolation.”

  • Expansion Joint

“Unlike control joints, expansion joints are left completely free of mortar. They are filled with an electromatic sealant to keep them free from water.”

“Brick is the smallest dimension it will be in its long service life when it leaves the kiln. As it is exposed to moisture from a variety of sources including the air, wet mortar, rain and condensation, it will naturally expand since it is a clay product. Temperature will also cause brick to expand and contract. Consequently, it is important to incorporate expansion joints into brickwork to accommodate this movement. Expansion joints should be located where stresses or cracks are likely to develop in brickwork. Prime candidates for expansion joints include long expanses of walls, corners, offsets, setbacks, and parapets.”

  • Slip Joint

“Slip joints are designed to take movement on a load bearing structure such as corbel/slab and brick interfaces where a low friction sliding interface is required. They ensure that the load transfer is correctly through the centre of the horizontal joint thus eliminating any chance of fretting at the edge due to the rotation of the slab. Live load deflection of the slab by means of settlement of adjacent columns/walls and piers is also diminished. Applied in a continuous length they are ideal for both reinforced and post-tension slabs in car parks, shopping centers, airports, hotels and recording studios.”

  • Toothing

“Toothing-in or Toothing-out involves hacking away every other brick in the main building at the point you want to join the extension wall to and then make a seamless connection from the main building with the house extension. For this to be possible, the builder needs to build with the exact brick size and for the bricks to be perfectly aligned with the existing building when constructing the extension.”

“Toothing of the masonry is not permitted in many architectural specifications. Why does toothing provide less strength than raking or stepping back the masonry wall?

Toothing is not as strong because of the difficulty involved in properly filling and compacting the mortar for the full depth of the head and bed joints. Much of the mortar at the tooth portion of the wall must be installed by pointing the joints, and it is difficult to point the mortar in the back portion of the joints. As a result, these tooth joints are often poorly filled, and as a result, create a weak plane within the wall that is susceptible to cracking.

Toothing, however, is sometimes necessary when connecting to an existing wall. If the joint cannot be stepped back, providing a vertical expansion joint at such interfaces may be an alternative to toothing.

When toothing must be done, extreme care must be taken to carefully point these joints to ensure that they are completely packed with mortar for the full depth.”


4) Wall Ties: Wall ties strengthen the bond between the two walls.

“Wall ties are used in cavity walls to connect the outer and inner walls, or to connect a new masonry wall to an existing one.”

“Wall ties should be flexible enough to accommodate the relative movement between both leaves of a cavity wall but stiff enough to transmit axial loads. Stainless steel wall ties should be specified.

Additional wall ties should be placed either side of the movement joint at every block course up the length of the joint and within 150mm of the joint.”


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Usually the sourdough bread comes out nicely. Yum!

Usually the sourdough bread comes out nicely. Yum!


I have IBS and am looking into the Low FODMAP Diet in the hope to relieve my tummy from this grief.


FODMAP stands for ‘Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols’, or in lay terms: rapidly fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates.

Basically all non-complex sugars such as fructose in apples and lactose in milk or fructans in wheat and galactans in legumes or sugar alcohols used in artificial sweeteners.


One cause for IBS can be food fermenting in the large intestines. How about fermenting the food beforehand then?

That’s basically what sourdough is: Fermented flour.

So the good news is: Even if it goes wrong, it’s still beneficial for your digestion. Because the longer it sits, the more it ferments, and the easier to digest.

But: It also gets more sour and compact, a very different taste from the fluffy, light and sweet bread we’re used to from the supermarket.


Experimenting with my own bread starter, I experienced this to the extreme when my sourdough didn’t rise again after I fed it with more flour. In the hope it might just need more time I let it sit and sit and sit. When days started to turn into weeks, I decided: Either throw it or bake it.


So I put it in the oven and because it had been fermenting so much, there were no bubbles left to rise and the bread came out incredibly dense, almost moist.

Still, I like sourdough bread and find the taste goes particularly well with rich creamy gouda cheese. In addition, my tummy says thanks with a big warm fuzzy feeling of a healthy digestion. 🙂


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The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden:

The foundation of a house that previously stood here in our garden: “The Broken Palace”


Renovating a heritage house in Woodstock comes with lots of surprises. Turns out our garden is full of them too!

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden.

Lots and lots of rubble we excavated from our garden, and this is only the work of one morning.


Loving urban gardening we can’t wait to grow our own herbs and veggies.

But the ground in our garden is not what the lush grass field might have indicated.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of lush grass.

The original garden: What lies beneath is covered by heaps of grass.


Instead of digging up rich soil, we have to tackle the solid surface with pick axes.

Loosening up the soil in our garden has to be done with a pick axe.

Loosening up the soil in our garden is real hard work.


Beneath lies one jaw-dropping curiosity after another:

From dishes and pots and pans, to tools and screws and metal plates, to clothing, in particular shoes, also lots and lots of buttons, to entire intact bottles and lots and lots of glass shards, many many stompies,

to tiles that can be puzzled together from the broken pieces, metal roof sheeting, wooden floors, to entire bricks and even four matching columns,

to old light bulbs, coins from the 1950s, to lots and lots of bones, teeth, hair clips, marbles and other toys,

we’ve probably dug up an entire house by now, together with its contents.


So what happened here?

Neighbours tell me there once stood a house called “The Broken Palace”.

One anecdote goes that, as the naughty boys ran away from the police, they’d take a shortcut into the alleyways behind The Broken Palace. A fishing net would catch the police, as only the boys knew where to slip through.


As we’re uncovering more objects from the depths of our garden, we can only imagine the stories that took place here.


Do you remember The Broken Palace? Does any of the items we found in our garden jog some memories? If so, please get in touch: 🙂


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Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.

Dog urine can leave lawn burns from overfertilisation.

Why is dog pee harmful to vegetation?

“There are three primary reasons why dog urine burns grass: alkaline urine pH, the concentration of the urine, and its nitrogen load.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

“One of the primary components in dog urine that affects shrubs and other plants is urea, a type of nitrogen waste that is produced as the body metabolizes protein. Because dogs have a large protein requirement in their diets, a significant amount of urea can be produced by a healthy dog. When a dog pees on your shrubs, the urea in the urine acts as a source of nitrogen for the plant and the surrounding soil.
Nitrogen is an essential element for plant development, and in small amounts the nitrogen provided by dog urine can actually benefit your shrubs.
While shrubs need nitrogen for proper growth and development, too much nitrogen can be detrimental; it can stunt or potentially even kill the shrub.” – Will Dog Pee Kill Shrubs?

How to prevent dog pee from damaging your plants

– Protect your plants

While fencing your garden off is a bit of a harsh way to keep your dog out, raised flower beds are just as effective and have other practical benefits.

– Train your dog not to pee on the grass

“Provide an area in your yard, away from your garden, consisting of sand and soil covered in mulch or pebbles, where your dog can urinate without harming any of your plants or lawn. Plant salt-resistant greenery and grasses near this potty spot, in case it has any accidents. These plants are typically found along the coast and are more urine-resistant than other flora.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

– Steer away from (distressed looking) plants and trees

“Of course, a dog’s gotta go when a dog’s gotta go. But when you have the option, steer Fido to a lamppost rather than a tree and a bark covered area rather than a stressed-looking lawn. You can spot stressed trees by bark that is discolored or even peeling off around the base. And trees that are under six inches in diameter or have thin bark are at higher risk.” – Why Does Dog Pee Kill Plants?

– Keep the pH in balance

“For the health of both your dog and your lawn, you should strive to keep your pet’s urine pH right around 6.5, and no higher than 7.
I recommend buying pH strips from your vet or at the local drug store to check your pet’s urine pH at home so you know when it’s in or outside the desired range. In the morning prior to feeding your dog is when you should collect the urine sample. You can either hold the pH tape in the stream of urine while your dog is voiding, or you can catch a urine sample in a container and dip the tape into the sample to check the pH.” – 3 Reasons Your Dog’s Urine Kills Your Grass

How to help your plants recover from dog pee

– Neutralise the soil

“You will need to neutralize the acid fairly quickly or your vegetables will not survive – my father’s trick was to use a few tablespoons of baking soda in a watering can and water the area.” – Is Dog Urine Bad for My Vegetable Garden?

“Sprinkling lime or gypsum in the affected area speeds up the recovery of existing grass, or new growth if you’ve reseeded, by neutralizing the acidity of the affected area.” – Gardening 101: How to have your dog and keep your garden, too!

– Dilute the urine

“After your dog urinates on any plants in your yard, douse the area with water from your garden hose. A thorough rinsing of the area within eight hours of urination dilutes the urine enough to prevent damage to the plant, according to Don’t wait more than 12 hours to rinse the plants because this could actually increase the damage to the plant. Provide your dog with plenty of water to drink, which dilutes the urine even before it winds up in your garden.” – Does Dog Pee Hurt Plants?

– Treat dog urine as fertiliser

If you fertilise your lawn, take into account the overfertilisation your dog can provide and avoid fertilising these areas on top of it.

– Consider plants that like dog wee

“Selecting plants that can survive getting drenched in dog urine is a good idea around your property perimeter. Violas, columbine, lilac, ornamental grasses and a host of other plants are virtually urine proof. Make sure the border plants are not poisonous to dogs.” – How to Stop Dogs From Urinating on Plants

“Clover is highly resistant to pet urine and helps maintain a uniformly green lawn.” – Benefits of a Clover Lawn

– Grow a back-up lawn

“With a little planning, you can easily grow small “turf repair” pots in your back garden. All you need is a small plastic flower pot (3 inch is fine), fill it with some soil, either compost or garden soil, then sow a few grass seeds in the top. Give it a good water and leave it outside somewhere keeping it moist over the next week or so. When your dog has burnt a section of lawn, simply dig out the circle, drop your lawn repair pot grass into the hole and hey presto … fixed! You can set up a number of these pots next to your shed and the grass will sit happily in the pot until needed.” – Dog urine patches killing your lawn?

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