So in 2010 I was very recently married, to an English girl.
We sold two homes and bought a rural property.
It ticked most of the boxes we both needed when combining two lives, safe place for the three cats she brought, enough bedrooms for her two kids and an office for me, to work from for my day job. Also a rather large garage for the junk I already had and would collect over time.
We both, along with friends, liked cooking on fire, and I had a large “Webber” style BBQ that served us and visiting friends well.
But, being a South African, I knew the way a Braai should be built, and a “small” portable steel thing was not big enough.
So I started off by corrupting my then wife’s thinking and soon had her telling me that we needed a decent Braai if our group of friends were to come visiting.
I selected the place for it to go, between the existing deck and one of the new raised flower beds I had created before.
Once agreed, I did a photograph with a drawn overlay and offered it to Mrs Boss and she approved it.
So excavating started.
With the groundbreaking done, the next step was clearing, and laying out the footprint, as well as trimming back the hedge between me and neighbour Mickey quite a bit.
I have to say, since moving here in 2010 and actually having “owned” the house since 2009 when we agreed to buying it, Mickey has been pretty much the perfect neighbour. Helpful and always ready to advise and guide in various ways.
Mickey at the time ran his own small transport company and had a long, high roof Mercedes Benz Sprinter van. So we had the sand and stone loaded directly into the rear of it at the builders merchants and mixed and cast concrete from the van, on my back driveway, as we had done another future proofing job at the same time. We each gave about a meter of our boundaries to make a shared walkway and concreted storage space down the side wall of my existing garage. 12 years later, it is still one of the best things we ever did, including a gate between our properties down in the bottom of the garden.
Maybe hard to see, but this is all covered over and closed in, allowing a huge 30 foot or 10 meter long dry storage space for wood, steel, concrete mixers, and a dry, outside workbench.
So carrying on with the mixing and casting for the foundation of the new Braai, we worked from the rear of the Sprinter. I really wanted to protect my lawn and garden as you can see.
Allowing the concrete to dry and cure fully allowed me some time to make up some steel parts and an oven and the chimney support, which was made from an old coal bunker I got from Mickey and cut open to suit.
Gas bottle became a successful baking oven.
Hinge, handle, latch all fitted.
Mickey holding a 1944 vintage ball pein hammer Imhad scavenged from the local council tip when one could still remove stuff from there.
Always ready to help.
Those who know, will also note the changes down at the garage since then.
So once the concrete settled and the steelwork was prepared, I was on my own.
Mixing a load of mortar at a time and laying blocks, bricks and whatever fell to hand.
Even back then, Harley was always hanging around me when I worked.
She became one of the greatest companion cats ever, and I have had a few.
Always watching and in later years, just grabbing the bunch of keys, saw her racing out back, waiting for me to get down to the garage to open up and start working. She was a weird cat, never fearful of machines, noise etc, and would even jump up onto jobs where I was welding and grinding to tuck up and snooze. Weird creature.
I found some very thick, possibly 2mm, corrugated iron while clearing up and cleaning out down the side of the garage alley and out back in the farmers fields. I decided to make a frame around some of it after welding two lengths together, and then casting a reinforced floor onto it, on which to continue the build.
Little by little it all came together, and started to look a bit bigger than Nicola had thought.
Looking back at the photos, I realise this was a very cool job, and doing it in summer, while unemployed, looking for a new job, was one of the most therapeutic things I could have done. At the time I was still taking on day jobs on building sites, a few weeks in a factory, packing pallets for the Eastern,Bloc countries etc, so making enough in a month to keep all the bills paid and save a bit, without touching my redundancy pay out.
Using kitchen cling film, I wrapped all the timbers before building them in, and the original street signpost that had laid in a ditch for years, yielded a lovely length of oak that worked perfectly as a feature piece above the fireplace.
Chimney on, in retrospect, not having known what I was doing, the ratio should be 4:1 for front vs chimney, so really needed another chimney pot, or a larger brick built structure.
Still, it has delivered umpteen great gatherings and meals, just need to manage it right.
As you can see, Harley was again all over it, ensuring specifications were correct.
Looking at the whole thing at this point certainly filled me with African pride, it was a job done well, and a result well beyond my expectations. Looking at it now, the garden has matured and I restored it all again after 10 years. Still a great investment for this place.
First fire was a great thing to do.
I also made a savoury cheese bread to test the baking oven.
Over the years I have had all sorts of groups of friends here, including mates like Thörsten, Michael, Ralf and others over here in their classic cars, on bikes etc and this BBQ or Braai has proven itself to be the most awesome place to socialise and make food. The Germans always bring me bags of pretty high grade BBQ Coal as “payment” for their stay.
And so in closing, I would say that if you can, build a Braai, small, medium or “Oh My Word” sized.
The only materials I paid for was sand, cement, maybe the facebricks, and chimney pot. A load of the materials were found, scavenged, recycled, donated etc.
It was not an expensive exercise, but certainly a worthwhile one.
Please comment if you found this amusing or helpful, also any tips for any other builders.
In the mean time, I need to get on and create new content for the YouTube channel.
Three years ago when I refurbished the 9 year old structure, this was the result.
Full build link: