Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 29

Snakes Alive

I have had to practice some open heart surgery this week. 

I have several computer systems, a laptop, an Android tablet and a desktop system in the study with two 21" screens. Working with two screens makes it easy to work with two or more programmes at once, or when swapping between programmes. 

On Monday evening my desktop system suddenly stopped. No Windows Blue Screen, no strange noises, the power just went. I thought it might be a power cut, until I saw that the digital clock was still working. I re-started the computer and it booted into windows OK. I didn't loose any work, so nothing was lost, but then it happened again. 

I downloaded and installed some diagnostic software, saved some files I know I will need to a Thumb Drive and turned it off. On Tuesday, I ran the diagnostic software and was saving the data, when it turned off again. This time I could not get it to re-start. Good job I have everything backed up to an external hard disk drive as well.

On Wednesday I opened the case and exposed the heart of the system.
I upgraded the system when I was in Abu Dhabi. 

Everything was purchased from Computer Mall in Dubai, a shopping centre near to the Dubai Creek, where there are 50 or more shops selling just computers, parts and peripherals. I think this was probably in 2010 or 2011, so it is at least 5 years old. 

Inside there were a few cobwebs and lots of dust, but nothing obviously wrong.

Nothing singed or burnt, no loose wires, nothing that had become disconnected or was obviously faulty. I removed several items, like the card which you plug the monitor in to. 

After cleaning with a special brush and some compressed air, it looked much better. I have a small vacuum cleaner, made for the purpose, so all the difficult corners were cleaned too. Everything was replaced.

When I restarted the computer, the same thing happened, only sooner. I had only just opened Windows when it turned itself off. 

All of the critical parts are made by a single manufacturer, Gigabyte, so I posted questions and asked for advice on several appropriate forums which I belong to, but without getting any replies. 

You don't realise how much you use something, or how much you miss something until it isn't there. By Friday, I decided I needed to order a replacement part, but I am not sure if it is the power supply which is failing, or a progressive fault on the main circuit board, the Motherboard. So I opened up the chest again and this time removed everything, gave all the parts a more thorough clean, then reassembled them but used some different diagnostic techniques to try and find the cause. I couldn't! 

I suspect it is the Motherboard, but am just like confirmation from an expert before I order a replacement. I have spent several hours online trying to find a similar board, but none are available. The suppliers would rather sell you a new board, processor, memory etc. etc. etc. It does mean that this week's newsletter is being written on just one programme, using once screen and it is taking much longer than usual......

The weather has been fantastic this week, hot sunshine every day with very low humidity and a limpid blue sky.
That has meant that I have had the irrigation going in the orchards. 

Until my fruit trees develop the long roots which can reach deep down to where there are water deposits, I am going to have to use the drip irrigation system to deliver water to where it is needed, at a rate of 1.5 litres per tree, per day. 

I had the system on in the Citrus orchard when I noticed that a small lake was forming because of a a leak. The repair was messy and uncomfortable. I dug down to get to the pipes and found that a 16 mm delivery pipe had split at a joint. It was extremely hot, as I was trying to effect the repair in the middle of the day. So lesson one is not to work in the midday sun. The soil is clay and so once mixed with water it had quickly become a glutenous mass. It stuck to everything, tools, gloves, pipes, you name it.

Irrigation pipe is a very tight fit, and over the years I have discovered that to make the job easy, if you pour boiling water over the pipe before pushing the fitting in, the heat makes the pipe flexible enough to easily push the connectors into. Because the soil is a fairly impervious clay, the boiling water was pooling under the pipes I was trying to join and I burnt a finger when I accidentally put it into the pool of water. I thought it would have cooled on contact with the soil, but it didn't. At that point I gave up in disgust and retreated inside to wait until later in the day, when everything had cooled, before continuing. It didn't take long to complete the job in the afternoon and I soon had the water flowing again.

Callie, my No. 2 feline has been off colour. 

On Wednesday I noticed one eye was completely closed and swollen, so at 8am on Thursday I was at the Vets surgery in Stari grad. He examined the eye for foreign matter, sluiced the eye with water and then put drops in and gave me a bottle to giver her one drop, six times a day. 

It's not easy holding a squirming cat, who knows what is coming next, while you open the eye wide and attempt to get a single drop of antibiotic into it. Once the wrestling match is over, a single powerful shake of the head and centrifugal force can be seen to eject the drop into the bushes nearby, while madam voices her complaints as she trots off. Callie always has been very vocal! But even the limited amount of medicine I can get in, seems to be working and there is no more swelling. I have to treat her for the next 10 days.....

Sometimes you see an advertisement for an exhibition which looks good, but the moment you walk in you are disappointed. 

Other times, the exhibition far exceeds what you expected and you have no hesitation in recommending it to others. Planet of the Snakes - Planet Zmija is one of the latter.

My neighbour Steve, had seen a flyer for a Snake show at the primary school in Stari Grad and we decided to go. The entrance fee was 50 Kunas, or around 7 Euros. When you walked into the room which is usually used as the gymnasium, completely round the outside wall and in a large island in the centre were a series of white vivarium. 

At first glance you could see branches, bushes, a few cacti and bromeliads, piles of dead leaves, but no reptiles. The owner of the collection came up and introduced himself and then started to talk us round each exhibit. 

A professional herpetologist, who is studying veterinary medicine at Zagreb University, he has several hundred snakes at his home here in Dol, which he breeds and exports throughout Europe. Almost all of the snakes at the school were venomous or constrictors, like an albino Reticulated Python. But we were able to handle one, an African house snake.

Dividing his time between us and other visitors, we had what I can only describe as an extremely interesting, enjoyable and informative 2 hour visit. He had just one example of a local Island snake, a Horned Viper, known here as the Poskok, Vipera ammodytes.

They have a small upward pointing horn on the very tip of their nose.

I was surprised how small they were. Locals have told me how dangerous they are, how they drop out of trees and vines to attack, how poisonous their bite is, but apart from the venomous nature, several of these traits were dispelled as myths by our host. 

I also learned that they do not travel, rather they stay in the area they were born in for life. We were told that a lot of superstition has built up about these (and other local) snakes, but if you respect them, they will respect you. With their definitive diamond zig zag markings all the way down their body, they are quite striking and not something you would easily mistake. 

Amongst others on display, safely held behind laminated toughened glass, were Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes, Crotalus atrox, from the USA, and black and green Mamba's.

I learned a lot of facts, for example that most snakes can change their colours, chameleon like, to better blend with their surroundings, and they all seem to eat rats and mice. ​ 

I am fairly ambivalent about snakes, but this is one exhibition that I will go back to and with the depth of knowledge and interest shown by our host, it made the whole thing well worth while and exceedingly good value. Apparently feeding night is every Wednesday at 20:00, so watch this space. 

I caught some thieves and vagabonds in the garden this week. 

Sitting outside enjoying a well earned coffee one morning, there was a flurry of leaves in the grape vines which surround my patio and provide shade during the summer. Two of my fledgling blackbirds had arrived and started to help themselves to my partly ripe grapes. 

With No 1 cat Risha asleep on a chair, these two rowdy youngsters, between making warning calls about "cats", kept filling their beaks with the grapes which were juiciest, and those that didn't make the grade were thrown hither and thither. I could almost swear that several were directed directly at Risha. I now know why I find lots of small green grapes on the floor each morning.

My pair of blackbirds have fledged 3 young this year.

A couple of weeks ago, all three were following mum and dad around nosily demanding food. It's nice to see these local birds, clearly enjoying themselves, and as the bunches they were attacking were in difficult to reach places, I'm not too worried, as I do have an awful lot of them. Also nestling in the vines are a number of these large grasshoppers.

I have continued with the stone by stone demolition work this week.

At the base of the walls of the old pig sty there are some extremely large and heavy stones, more like boulders, which I shall leave, but with around half the walls of this first building on my removal list gone, I am having to think about where next I will store the stones, ready for later use.

When the walls are almost a metre thick, they produce large volumes of recovered stone and an equally large volume of rubble.

It's time to go and water the plants again, after another long, hot summer day, so until next week, I will leave you with a view of the clear, warm waters of the Stari Grad Fjord.