Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 46

Strange the things you find....

I've achieved my work target this week and with a day to spare! 

Dismantling the old stable is taking time, partly because the further I move away from the front, and the paved access area, the more work is involved and hence the longer it is taking. At the start of the week, I decided that I would try and remove the whole of the gable end, down to the level of the hay loft floor. This means I can still move about on the floor, but a substantial part of the masonry will have been removed.

By Friday afternoon, I had achieved it, but my OHIO principle has been completely compromised.

Many years ago, on a management training course, I learned that the acronym OHIO stands for Only Handle It Once. 

This was all about dealing with files and paperwork, and in any public service organisation, paperwork both flourishes and is the bane of managers lives. Around the same time, I also learned the American vernacular equivalent, from a friend in the Washington State Patrol - Do it, Delegate it or Dump it

So I can accurately date my learning of the principle to around 1985. It is one of those so called "Life Hacks", that can be applied to many different situations to do more in less time or work more efficiently.

At this time, I had a Compuserve email address (anyone remember those?) but could only access what was then an almost exclusively American email service, though a few BT dial up nodes in the UK, which were both expensive and s l o w.

Move forward 30 years, and today when I tried to find who was the original author of the principle, even with the might of Google and Bing, I can't trace it's origin. But what has changed is that OHIO is now almost singularly applied to the handling of email.

But OHIO can be applied on a much wider basis than just for the computer and handling of electronic communication. I use it to make sure that I have the correct tools in the right place in the workshop. Around my Dol house, if i pick something up, I use it, and when I have finished, I put it away. This both saves time and makes sure that next time I need the "left hand threaded widget" I can go straight to where it is.

So the ideal was of dealing with all the stones I am removing from the walls of the old donkey stable, as I dismantle the building, is to remove the stone, clean any mortar off and then place it in the wheelbarrow, ready for transfer to the architectural salvage area in the Top Orchard. That is the theory.

But the practice is that I am working on the raised floor of the hay loft, removing the walls down to the floor level, so after separating each stone from the wall and cleaning it - and every single stone is being removed by hand - I transfer them to the edge of the floor, closest to the wheel barrow. Once I have around a full barrow load, I climb down the short ladder onto the hard standing and again handle each stone to place it in the wheelbarrow.

When the barrow is in the orchard, I put the stones in one of several piles, according to their size and shape. The square corner stones go in one pile, large stones in another, small fillets somewhere else. Then it's back up the ladder to remove more stones from the walls.

At the end of a week, when I have actually done what I set out to do, and sitting back reflecting on the progress, I can see that whilst I am handling each piece of stone more than once, in fact several times, it is still the most efficient way of achieving the objective, namely to have the buildings dismantled by January, ready for building work to start, so maybe the principle hasn't been compromised after all. My objective for the next week is to remove the back wall, down to the level of the hay loft floor. The walls by the way, are 600mm thick.

On Monday night I went with a couple of neighbours to photograph the Super Moon rising, from one of the old Greek watch tower sites on the north side of the Stari Grad Plain. 

It rose behind the peaks of the Dinaric Alps, some 50 kilometers to the east.

It was a little chilly waiting, but the wait was worth it, watching the first sliver of the moon rise behind the mountains and then become full. We also all agreed that we will do the same, the next time there is a giant Super Moon event, in November 2034.

Even with a 200mm lens, it hardly brought the moon into closeup and most of my photos were blurred because of camera shake, caused because I forgot my remote lead and when I pressed the shutter, the tripod shook. I hope where you were, you were able to see the spectacle too.

With a couple of clear sunny days and absolutely cloudless nights, we had our first frost of the winter on Wednesday morning. With a minimum overnight temperature of +0.6ºC, there were a couple of pockets of ground frost in the orchards, mainly visible as a white coating on the mulch around the base of the citrus and fruit trees.

It is early for hoar frost, but I have given up on trying to work out what is, and what is not "normal". The Croatian word for November is "Studeni" which means cold, or the cold month, but the past two years, overnight temperatures have been around +eight or nine degrees celsius.

Anticipating some cold nights, on Tuesday, I dug up my crop of Sweet Potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, There were some extremely large examples, weighing in at over 1.2 kilogrammes, and in total I harvested over 25 kilogrammes from my 12 plants.

So not a bad return. If they get frosted, they will not keep, so it was a good decision and I now have a ready made bed for my onion sets. There has only been one night of frost and it has not damaged any of my plants or trees.

I have continued to find Geckos hiding beneath stones in the old buildings and have continued to relocate them to safer places. 
I have also come across probably more than a dozen large Queen wasps hibernating in the crevices.
One or two, I could understand, but not so many. 

During the summer I have only come across one single wasp's nest, and I did not find it until September. Whilst there are a lot of wasps flying, especially eating the fallen fruit in the summer, such a large number of breeding Queens seems strange. Being such an old building, which has never had the joints between the stones pointed, it has allowed all manner of insects to live in the spaces. 

There are many of these tiny mud tubes, exquisitely made, which crumble the moment you touch them.

Almost every one is empty, some having the remains of a brown chrysalis case, but I did find two which are still occupied
One broke open, revealing a yellow caterpillar inside, the other is still sealed.

 These next photographs were taken with a digital microscope, magnifying the the picture of the pupa 500 times.

Because I took the photographs inside, where it was warm, the little caterpillar/grub started to wake up. It is clearly still alive, although I had wondered whether because there are so few cases that are still sealed, these were non viable. I have carefully replaced the cover and put the whole thing in a protected, cold space in the hope that next spring, I might see it as it emerges and find out what it is.

Whether they are a moth, or more likely a solitary species of bee or wasp, I know not. But you cannot but marvel at the thousands of mouth fulls of soil that it takes to construct these miniature incubation chambers.

One puzzling case which I have found is this

It is the only one I have found so far. It was under a stone, in a crevice and as I picked it up, I thought it was piece of foam, it was so light. But as I held it, I saw that there was an opening. Inside there is the remains of another, much bigger chrysalis case.

I can only speculate that this is a very large moth of some kind, but I will be on the lookout for more. The case is made from tiny strands, held together with a paper thing mud inner wall.

Each fibre is less than the thickness of a human hair.

It is truly incredible the strange things you find hiding under these old stones.

While working in the orchard on Thursday afternoon, my neighbours and I were treated to the spectacle of a very large flock of migrating birds heading due south.

My longest lens would not bring them close enough to identify the species,

but after consulting experts, they think they were probably Eurasian Cranes, Grus grus, flying from their summer breeding grounds in Estonia on a regular flyway from the Baltic to North Africa where they will overwinter.

They were calling noisily and at one point circled over the island, before continuing south again.

My neighbour suggested that as I was ahead of my work plan, I should take a day off on Saturday and go swimming or sit in the sun. 

Instead, I went to Stari Grad and helped my friend Cvjetko get his olives ready for going to the press in Hvar on Saturday afternoon.

When they are picked, olives are as hard a nails. Some producers send their olives straight to the mill, which produces the first press of Extra Virgin oil. The old way on the island though, is to soak the olives in water for between ten and twenty days, changing the water once, before draining and packing them. 

In the Konoba, the olives have been kept underwater in the huge vats.

A tube siphon is used to remove the water while the olives are placed in 30kg plastic sacks. As with most things here on the island, work is generational, with everyone pitching in to help.

The sacks are tied and placed on a pallet ready for the truck to come and take them to the mill in Hvar town.

This mill still used the old method of large mill stones to press the fruits, rather than the more modern steel rollers which some mills use. Here are 1,000 KG of olives, the sum of this years crop, bagged up and ready to go.

It did give me the opportunity to ask about what sort of trees I need to get for table olives, rather than the commercial kind, used for oil.

I do not have the space for dozens or hundreds of olive trees, needed to make it profitable to grow them for oil, but I have space for a few trees, some black and some green, to make olives to eat at the table, or perhaps turn into the delicious paste with pimentos, onions and garlic.

In the background of the photographs I took inside the Konoba, the large stainless steel vessels each hold 500 litres of this years wine, both red and white.

I sampled some of the new vintage and have to say it was very, very nice. I came home with a bottle of red, to savour with some home cured table olives - both essential parts of a very healthy Mediterranean diet.