Innovation - Bushveld Style

When you live far from the towns, and even further away from any major towns, you soon learn to innovate things as you need. Services such as water or electricity cannot be taken for granted and often "go out". Also, living here makes one very aware of the environment, so we make our lives as eco-friendly as possible.

Welcome then, to the Lotz'O'Matic™. Enter on the scene our resident engineer, tinkerer, inventor and chief pliers & wires operator - Andre!

In reality, here at Amanzimlotzi, Andre has had to come up with several projects to make life more pleasant.

Jumps to: Solar Energy | Waterwheel | The Flood | Wheelchair Paths | Brakes | Bio-Diesel | Fix-a-Truck

Solar Energy

Electricity is expensive and also not always 'on' where we are. Gas also costs money, including the petrol to go and fill up the gas bottles. What we do have, for free, is a lot of sunshine. In Summer it is an absolutely normal day at 42°C and even in Winter (apart from overnight) the temperatures are 20°C plus. Hmm, seems like solar is a good idea here.

I went and bought 20 cheap solar panels and hooked them all up together. One panel is good, 20 panels together generate a whole lot more power.

This is my control panel for the Amanzimlotzi Power Station.

This little project has made our household about 80% free from "the grid".

Waterwheel Pump

If you live in as rural an area as we are, you have to provide your own water. Now in this part of the world water is scarce and you can drill down 100m deep and still only find dust.
One of the big drawcards for us was the abundant water in the river, right here on the property. This water led us to name this place Amanzimlotzi - the Water of Lotzi.

With a river, you don't put in a borehole like you normally would on a farm. The water is right here, already on the surface, and you don't have to go looking for it either. The solution is to build yourself a waterwheel pump!

A triumphant Andre having completed construction of the mighty waterwheel (and tested it with the pipes attached).

Down at the river, construction of a weir in a narrow place.

Measuring the gap for a secure fit.

Almost ready for the final assembly.

Success! The waterwheel in place and fully operational.

Wheelchair Friendly Paths

After 12 years experience with able bodied tourists, I got enquiries from a mother with a son in a wheelchair. I told her that I already started building one Bush Tent to be wheelchair friendly. Then I received a Dutch couple for a 10 day safari & tour and I really saw how poorly their needs are catered for. At almost all the scenic viewpoints, the new ablutions are wheelchair ready, but there is no path to get there from the car park!
This lady wanted to see the river and the jungle! So, we made a path through the bush! Martin, our helping hand, and Jan, practised the trip down to the river. Unfortunately, Marysia was too scared to venture into the jungle.
I guess she was still scared from going to look at the fresh leopard prints in the road, and realising that the loose sand will make Jan slower than the leopard! Can't say I blame her! …My wife and daughter both stopped jogging!
I started concreting the path down to the tent and the bush. The road will grow as money becomes available! Here are a few photos of this memorable visit.

[all aboard]
Jan en Marysia van Heeswijk van Grodecka.

[concrete paths]
The concrete surfaces make for easier pushing, especially in wet weather!

[careful - thorns]
Whoa, careful for the thornbushes…

Uphills are nothing, Jan is strong!

[at the river]
At last, we reached the old swimming hole at the river.

MB Vito Brakes

I hate blackmail! With the Phone Mafia we do not have much choice, but here was a case where engineering skills could outwit a blackmailer…
The most I have ever paid for a set of brake pads was around R120. When the (Mercedes Benz) Vito needed them, I was told it cost R1400!! So, I removed one, scratched around in my boxes of spares, and found a pleasantly suprising match .. a 50% good VW Microbus brake pad.
A few minor Lotz'O'Matic™ modifications with an ultra-thin cutting blade .. and 15 minutes later I took the Vito for a test drive! ..perfect!!

[some trimming]

Below - original MB Vito. Above - modified VW part. Functionally: twins!

Biodiesel Plant

With the ever rising price of fuel I have undertaken another crazy project. It is the design and development of our very own bio-diesel 'reactor'. I already have 300 litres of used cooking oil in stock! So far I have assembled the reagent injector which sprays the chemicals smoothly over the turning oil. I have to design a stirrer next.

I don't think we will be competing with Sasol anytime, but this should save a bundle and be another step towards being eco-friendly.

The reactor tanks and stock of cooking oil.


My son came home with a Mahindra bakkie (light truck) that he got a good deal on. However, it needed to pass a roadworthy and had several things wrong that could have cost us thousands.
Problem: roadworthy test on Monday.
Solution: weekend ahead.

1) Both right hand window winders were just turning, but no up or down action.
Problem: Pewter cup, and the slot where the gear fits in was broken - a very common fault. New parts cost R700 each.
Lotz-o-matic™ solution: Remove the remaining cup, drill a 6mm hole through the base and steel inner, insert a 28mm long piece of 5 inch nail. Reassemble.
Cost: 1/2 a nail .. 10 cents.

2) Both Hooters (horns for Americans) were dead. Price of new horns, R60 each.
Lotz-o-matic™ solution: Remove honkers, remove outer cover .. 4 minutes for both. Connect up to 12 volt. Stuff a cloth into the horn opening, adjusting the contact setting screw until the sound is loud and pure. Replace cover, remove cloth and test! Please try to not irritate the neighbours.
Cost: 8 minutes of time in total.

The electronic speedometer did not work. Did some tests and found the transmitter on the gearbox does not work. Cost R1700 for a new one.
Lotz-o-matic™ solution: Cut the unit open with an ultra thin blade. Washed every piece in paraffin, and then washed the paraffin off with soap. Found the small piece of magnet lost inside and re-glued it with superglue. Lubricated bushes with grease, coated both cut ends of the unit with rubber glue, waited till near dry and stuck together. Clamped in vice overnight. Reassemble.
Cost: Superglue R3.00.

5) The ventilator fan not working.
Ha ha ha ha ha! Next!!

6) Aircon not working. Quotes ranged from R1000 to R3000.
Lotz-o-matic™ solution: Spend 3 irritating hours following the wire from the motor back to the fuse box .. where the search started 3 hours before. Next to the fusebox are two grey relays. One was found to be faulty.
Opened it up, with small file reshaped the contacts, then bent the mechanism with needlenose pliers so it could work reliably. Test.
Cost! .. 3 hours and a lot of words not suitable to put in print!

7) Hand brake not good.
Lotz-o-matic™ solution: Got underneath the vehicle and adjusted the cable tensioning nuts which were loose.

Total cost - one weekend of good father/son team-building and R3,50. Value of team-building - priceless!

[light truck]
My son's now roadworthy bakkie (light truck).