Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 45

Bottoming out

I'm sitting writing this with orange flames from old timber beams dancing behind the glass of the wood stove in the corner. 

There is something extremely satisfying about having a real fire in the room. Central heating is nice, but a real fire is nicer!

It has not been especially cold, and when the sun comes out during the day, the temperatures are great for outdoor working. In the greenhouse, I am doing some monitoring of the water heating system I discovered by accident.

After I built my little greenhouse, I was using a plastic sparkling water bottle to bring water for the plants. Then one day when I picked it up, I discovered the sun had done a wonderful job of heating the water inside.

With a rows of water bottles from floor to ceiling, the sun heats them during the day and they release their latent heat at night to keep the greenhouse around 15º Celsius. I am aware of the physics, which says that dark colours absorb more heat than light colours. So I have some opaque blue plastic yogurt bottles as well as the clear green plastic water bottles. Since the beginning of November I have been measuring the temperature of the water in the bottles, and rather surprisingly, have found that the water temperature in the transparent green bottles is significantly higher than the water in the translucent blue bottles. 

On Thursday, the green bottle temperature was 37.0º C, whereas the translucent blue bottle temperature was 33.4º C, just under four degrees, but a massive 10.22% difference. I have just one transparent blue bottle, which also has a higher temperature. I may have to start eating unhealthily though, because the translucent blue bottles are from a line of less then 1% fat yogurt. The same make has the transparent blue bottle with 5% fat yogurt. I will need quite a few transparent bottles to replace the blue translucent ones......

The absorption qualities of dark colours is well known. That is why solar panels are black, and also why there is so much concern about melting sea ice in the Arctic ocean, because open water, being dark, absorbs solar energy increasing warming, whereas ice and snow, being white, reflects it, so reducing warming. Once again I have been surprised by the difference between scientific fact and theory - darker isn't always best!

Whilst on the subject of water, I've had a bottle of distilled water, sitting in front of the wood stove this week, gently warming to room temperature. 

I had to go into one of my stores this week and I discovered that I have a problem with damp. Not really surprising, because neither the floors nor walls have any damp proof membrane, but it means things are being affected by the damp. In particular a photograph I had in a box, I thought had been affected.

This is a photograph of the entire St Helens Borough Police, taken in March 1969, just before they became part of Lancashire Constabulary. But one end of the photo print, around 30cm of the total size of 110cm, is all stuck together.

One of my day jobs on Friday morning, while it was raining, was to use some photographic techniques, to try and "unstick" the roll, without damaging the print. But I need the Kodak chemicals and the distilled water all to be at the same temperature, of about 18ºC.

After "unsticking" and straightening, then allowing the photo to completely dry, I will then scan the image to preserve it. 

I carefully placed the stuck end in a bath of water and Kodak Photoflo, a wetting agent. 

After 10 minutes it was unstuck and I could unwind the roll.
There has been some damage, but I think I can digitally repair most of it. 

What I did discover was that whilst it was damp that had caused it to stick, it was actually some small insects which have been eating the surface of the print and have then died, and it was this that was causing the stickiness. This will be the subject of a future article for a family history journal.

I have been doing more work on the dismantling of the donkey stable and hay loft
I had been using the hayloft to store wood, so a first task was to remove everything and cut it all up, then place it under cover to use as firewood. 

Next came the painstaking removal of the stone roofing slabs.

Which revealed the underlying wooden structure. When the building was constructed, the builders just cut a few trees down in the forest to the south, roughly shaped them and nailed everything into place.

It is taking time because dismantling is a slower and less violent method of building removal than demolition. 

Each of the roofing stone slabs has had to be moved by hand, in several steps, to get it from the roof, to the architectural salvage pile in the Top Orchard. My overriding working principle of OHIO (Only handle it once) has gone out of the window on this one!

But at the end of the week, the roof is no more and I have made significant progress in dismantling the south wall and saving the stone arch over the stable, which I want to use on the new building, once work starts in January. I marked each stone with yellow wax crayon, not so much that they can be reassembled in the same order, but to identify them as the outside stones of the arch.

It did make me think though, as I was using a large wrecking bar to lever apart the wooden rafters from the ridge beam, that if the ceremony for when a building is finished is called "Topping out", if there is a ceremony for removing a roof, is it called "Bottoming out"?

With the roof timbers removed, it was clear that although the roof has kept the elements at bay for more than 100 years, it had reached then end of it's life. Much of the wood was starting to rot and a lot had been eaten by insects and is only fit for burning. Hence my roaring fire tonight.....

By the end of Saturday, the front wall of the hay loft is down, together with the arch over the doorway and I have made a start on the side wall. The rain we have had over the past week has soaked into the lime mortar, reducing its dustiness and making it easier to remove in clumps. There are still a few more weeks work, but I am on schedule to have the building dismantles by January for when the building work should start.

I am having to be careful as I remove the stones in the wall, because of the number of hibernating lizards.

I estimate that there are five lizards per square metre. They are quite sleepy, so are easy to catch and move to safer places to hibernate. There are various kinds and colours, as well as sizes, from small 5cm youngsters, to ones like this 15cm adult Moorish Gecko, Tarentola mauritanica.

Before the rain started on Friday morning, I found a tiny lizard, in amongst some broken eggs, deep in a cavity in the wall. This is a Kotschy's gecko, Cyrtopodion kotschyi, identifiable by its long slender and bent toes, together with the dark body and tail bands.

Clearly it had not just emerged from the egg, it is completely the wrong season and it is too big, but I suppose it may have gone home to hibernate for the winter.

 It was very sleepy, so I brought it inside and let it hide in a crevice in the kitchen. I have a number of Gecko's and lizards which live inside my home. In Spanish culture, having a Gecko live in your home is considered a sign of great good fortune - apart from which they eat all the undesirable insects and mosquitoes, so I am quite happy to have another resident.

My architect friend Željko has been this week with the final version of the plans for the building work, due to start in January.

The municipality will write to all the neighbours seeking objections, once the plans are deposited for planning approval, so I thought it best if we have all the various neighbours round, to see the plans and to discuss with Željko any areas of concern, so fears could be allayed before we actually submit the plans. 

The morning seemed to go well, with no one raising any concerns and everyone commenting positively on the plans. So I think another stage in the long and tedious process of getting the building work under way has been passed.

When the sun shines, the fields of grape vines really show off their autumnal colours

And in places, the colours vary from yellow, through scarlet and gold to bronze.

If you have a camera and tripod available, you might want to get it out on Monday, the 14th November. 

Monday night is Full Moon, but not any full moon, this month it is not just a Super Moon, but a giant Supermoon. This is the first time since 1948 that the Full Moon and the Perigee – the point at which it's elliptical orbit brings it closest to the Earth coincide. This point is around 30,000 miles (48,000 km) closer to Earth than the farthest point of the Moon's orbit, (which is known as apogee and is when we get a "micromoon"), so it will appear about 14% larger and 30% brighter than when it is at its most distant. 

While 14 percent is quite a bit, noticing the difference when the Moon is high in the sky can be difficult due to the lack of any reference points, so your best opportunity will be to try and get a look as the full moon rises and there are things on the ground to compare it to. It will seem much larger than normal. The moon will rise almost due east, will be at it's zenith around midnight and will set almost due west, just before dawn.

There is a good video about how to photograph a full moon here on YouTube.

If there is cloud cover, or you are otherwise engaged, not to worry because the next one will be on November 25th, 2034!