Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 22

Technology is not the panacea

At the very end of May I received the disappointing news that the local Katastar - the land registry - has failed to approve my application for the unification of some of the parcels of land I own.

They have apparently been "too busy" and have not even looked at it. 

This work has been going on now for a year and three months, since the district surveyor did the first survey. 

It means that my building work, planned to start around the 18th of the month has been cancelled yet again.

There really is no end in sight and although my architect is working on it, I have no idea when this final piece of the puzzle will be in place. 

I was assured that this last step was a simple 'rubber stamping' of all the work already done, and the various inspections and approvals already carried given by the Urban Planning Council. 

Unfortunately it is typical of the bureaucracy which is endemic throughout local government in Croatia. This is the reason that locals build first and apply for permission later - something I am not prepared to do. 

Part of the accession agreement when Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, was that the delays in land ownership and registration changes had to be resolved. 

But now the country is a full member, there is little interest in actually doing anything.

I had to go down into Stari Grad on Monday on a different matter, but now I'm feeling guilty...

With a clear sky and the temperature already +29ºC at just after 9am, I decided that I would go in the car rather than on my bike. 

It's not the going down that is the problem. 

It is down hill all the way, from my 90 meters AMSL down to 0 meters AMSL is easy and takes about six minutes. 

It's the coming back up, where there is a fairly constant up slope punctuated in a couple of places with slopes of 10%, in full morning sun on a hot day.  That is usually a 20 minute pedal, so I took the easy way out. 

I did take all my recycling to the bins outside Studenac and bought 10 litres of sparkling water, telling myself that next time, I'll use the bike, maybe!

We are now into June and the irrigation is in full swing. 

I have installed a fully under-ground system, but so far this year I have not used it, as there was still some moisture deep in the soil, as deep as the soil is before you hit bed rock, and with a little bit of rain last week, I have kept things going with just a watering can filled from the outside tap.

Summer is the time when everyone gets up early here, because it is comfortable working outside at dawn, until 09:30 that is, when it is coffee time, then time to find some inside jobs to do. 

So early every day I have been testing different parts of my automatic irrigation system. 

The idea is that being automatic, battery operated, once it is set, it does its own thing and you can forget it. Except that you can't. 

It needs monitoring because there are times when an emitter will come loose and a small fountain will develop, or the battery runs flat.​

When I installed the little Gardenia unit again after the winter, I found that s seal has gone somewhere inside, and it is now dripping, with bigger drips when there is incoming water pressure, but the timer has not activated the flow, so the washer must be on the up stream side of the unit, and of course it is all sealed.

Running the system manually, I checked all the emitters to make sure they were working. A few needed some adjustment and two were missing. I also found that I had managed to puncture the delivery pipe with my fork when I was removing some deep rooted weeds. 

Still, plastic pipe is not difficult to repair. But what I have decided to do it to remove the automatic timer and connect the delivery pipe direct to the tap. 

I'll have to operate the on/off valve manually, but there will be no water wastage through incessant drips. 

Sometimes having a piece of technology is not a panacea, especially when things are made in such a way, so they cannot be repaired.

There has been much discussion this week about recycling plastic. 

In Europe they are talking about stopping all single use plastic by 2025. 

I have a recycling bag in the kitchen. Only certain plastic bottles have a deposit and are part of the return scheme. These are mainly fizzy drinks and cordial bottles. 

But milk, yogurt and similar items, which come in ½, 1 and 2 litre plastic bottles are not. 

There are already strict European Union rules, applicable to all countries in the Union, to do with recycling paper, glass, plastic and electrical items. 

Here the attempt is rather half hearted. Houses do not have individual bins for refuse, rather at strategic locations, mainly in the towns and bigger settlements, there are different coloured maxi bins, blue for paper, yellow for plastic, green for everything else, but nothing separate for metals, glass or electronics. 

What happens to this material is any ones guess. You certainly do not see specialist recycling company trucks emptying the bins and taking the products on the ferry to the mainland. 

There is a suspicion that actually it all ends up in the same land fill sites which are used for domestic refuse.

Recycling seems to be made deliberately difficult. I came across an issue with glass cider bottles. 

When I took them back to the supermarket where I bought them, they refused to accept them. Later I discovered that you can only get your refund back if you produce the receipt showing you bought them. 

Now honestly, who actually ever keeps supermarket receipts? 

What I could do was to exchange them for new, full bottles of the same drink with a price reduction. 

Now that seems to me to be more about clever marketing and conning the consumer, than about a serious attempt to recycle materials. 

There is little wonder there is a problem across the continent with recycling, when impediments are put in the way, whether it is just not having convenient local bins or being obstructive when individuals try and "do their bit".

When is a weed not a weed? 

When it's a pretty weed.

​​Here I am going to fall back on the quotation I found some time ago in a lovely old book, "The Manual of Weeds", published in 1919, is " A weed is a plant that is growing where it is desired that something else shall grow. "

"It follows that a plant may be a weed in some places and not in others".​

This year I have had what I identified as Onion Grass, Allium vineale, growing everywhere. 

It has quite a pleasant smell of garlic, rather like the Wild Garlic, Allium ursinum, I know from the UK. 

However this week, a couple of the onion grass stalks have flowered.

They are tall, over a metre and a half and they have a lovely royal purple flower head. This has made me think about these "weeds".​

In researching them, I am no longer sure that they are actually onion grass. I really am at the maximum extent of my botanical knowledge. 

It's definitely an Allium, and it smells of garlic, but I came across the Round Headed Leek, Allium sphaerocephalon, during my research, which has flowers that more closely match the ones in my orchard. 

When I look at the on-line reference photos of Onion Grass, and Round Headed Leek, what I have resembles the leek much more closely. 

Indeed, I have mistaken the plants before flowering for leeks, because of the shape and size of their stems.​

Both plants are native to the Mediterranean, which doesn't help much, but rather than pulled them up and try and eradicate them, I will dig them out and then plant them in a corner where they can naturalise. 

I have bought Allium bulbs on-line and planted them, but the flowers of these wild weeds far out shine the bought Allium.

Another weed which makes an appearance every year is this one.​

I still can't identify what it is, but it is very attractive to pollinators and has quite a pretty flower. 

It doesn't grow everywhere and it doesn't seem to spread much, so I'll keep the seeds and sow them in one of my wild corners.

Something which is lovely to look at, but has the most disgusting smell when in flower is the Dragon Arum, Dracunculus vulgaris, and vulgar it most definitely is.​

I have a lot of Arum Lillies, known in the UK by the common name of Lords and Ladies, or Parson in the Pulpit. 

They have flowered and now gone to seed, but the Dragon Arum is in full flower and scent at the moment. 

It likes stony dry ground, of which I have a lot and is a hardy perennial.

The month of June is Croatian is called Lipanj.

The month of the flowering of the Lipa tree or Linden tree, Tilia, called a Lime tree in English, but no relation to the citrus lime. 

There are a lovely pair of trees on the lane which leads up to my Dol house, Tilia Europaea, the Common Lime. 

The flowers are out this week and the sweet scent fills the air as you pass and wafts into the open windows of my home.​

They are alive pollinators, with mainly bees, but many other insects too.​

People who suffer from Hay Fever are not too happy when they see the trees at this time of year, but that apart, the cream coloured bracts of the flowers stand out against the light green foliage.

If insects are a bellwether of the health of the local flora, despite the difficulties I have with poor quality, cracked and parched soils, my orchards are not in too bad a shape. 

This week while I was picking some raspberries, a sudden movement caught my eye. One a leaf was this female Katydid.​

With a body around a centimetre long and then another centimetre of ovipositor, it is clearly an adult female from the Eupholidoptera chabrieri family. 

This is another of several species of Katydid that I have found. 

And although I have not seen any males (yet) one was spotted this week at the Dračevica on Start Grad Plain.

Katydids which are also called Bush Crickets are part of a very large group of insects found everywhere but Antartica, however the greatest number are in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. 

There are more than 50 in the sub-species of Eupholidoptera, and these are then broken down into further sub categories.

Orthoptera is the scientific order which includes these insects and a quick look at the European Commission red list pattern of species shows that the Balkan peninsula is an especially rich area for them.​

The Eupholidoptera chabrieri is shown as being of "least Concern" in the published European Red List of species.​

The maps of species provided on the European Commission website give an indication of just how many species there are. 

I wonder how many more are hiding from me in plain sight?​

Although the chirping of house crickets, inside on warm summer nights can be annoying, I am more than happy to let these tiny creatures live in peace as they keep annoying pests in check. 

The same goes for all the bugs I find, like this newly hatched nymph just a few mm in length, also on a raspberry leaf, which is too young to be identified.​

Also down at the Dračevica , there are huge numbers of dragon flies at the moment. 

I occasionally see some in the garden, and whilst I have marked out where I am going to dig a small pond, I have yet to start work. 

Because the Dračevica is the only permanent fresh water on the island, being at one of the lowest points on land, I would hope to attract a range of species with a small pool in the Top Orchard.