πŸŽ… Life in a Dol house πŸŽ„
2015 - Week 51 

Danger Men - At work

As I sit writing this epistle on Saturday afternoon, in the warmth of my storm porch, looking out as the last rays of the sun disappear, through the pine trees and behind the hill to the south of my home (it is just 12:55 CET), it is good to know that Monday, the 21st December, is the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. For the astronomers and purists amongst you, it actually takes place at 20:52, well after sunset here in Croatia.

But within a week or two, it will be noticeable that there is sunlight striking my home for a few extra minutes each day. Depending upon where you are in the northern hemisphere, the 21st may be the start of winter, or it may be on the 1st December. But these are really academic, because we have had some more ground frost this week, and as the ground cools, there will be the chance of a frost until the middle of February. 

There seems to be general agreement that 2015 will be the warmest year ever recorded on earth. But the strong El NiΓ±o event, currently under way in the Pacific Ocean will be affecting European weather, and indeed weather world wide, for the next 12 months. 

Using data from my weather station I did a quick comparison between early December 2014 and the same period this year (weeks 49, 50 and 51), this week and this is the result.

Daily maximum temperatures in Dol

Daily Minimum temperatures in Dol

I wrote some months ago (see week 26) about what a "Mean" temperature is, and these are the daily Mean temperatures.

You can see that December 2014 was significantly warmer at the start of the month and that overall December 2015, so far has been on average 5 degrees Celsius cooler, but that there are similarities in the pattern. If you are still reading my weekly missive in 10 years from now, there will be a much more accurate comparison and it may be a much more interesting picture.

In the garden my Seville orange tree has come into flower, and amazingly there are honey bees and solitary bumble bees busy pollinating the blossom.
Citrus are quite unique because on a tree at any given time, there will be ripe fruit, ripening fruit and flowers.

Having cut the tree back in 2014 to bring it under some measure of control, I have few formed fruit, but judging by the number of flowers, which have a delicious scent, even in December, there will be a bumper crop at the end of 2016.

I have also been taming the very old vine which formerly hung across the front of the old porch, and now drapes the new roof over the patio.

It has been one of those jobs that has depended upon something else - in this case the solar heating being finished. So with wooden poles cut to size, routed to fit the new uprights, I was finally able to cut away the very last of the steel frame that used to support it, and a corrugated iron roof, and re route it over the roof and along the front of the patio. It will provide nice shade in the summer.

I still need to complete a polycarbonate roof strip, so there is a complete cover over the patio, but for that I need to get into my workshop and at the moment the heating engineer is working in there.

After several week wait and lots of promises, the plumber and heating engineer have both been this week and have made good progress on routing the pipes for the wood stove. I may yet have a warming fire for Christmas this year. At least that was the target I set the plumber! 

By the end of Saturday, and they were working until after dark, the pipework is connected to the wood stove, and runs inside the workshop, through the wall and is making steady progress towards the bathroom, living room and bedroom radiators. 

Next week I may be able to report the first fire, so watch this space! 

At the beginning of the week Cvjetko and his team arrived to complete work in the bathroom and to start on the outside wall of the dining room. 

He is applying a maintenance free Silica coating to the wall, but it can only be applied In winter here, when the temperature is low. 

After a quick inspection of the old render and a very short discussion, I agreed that as a substantial part of the pink render had "blown" or separated from the wall, the whole lot should come off.

With three Danger Men using industrial strength power tools, coupled with the fact that almost all of the old render was only attached to the wall with the force of gravity, it did not take long to remove it

I had been hoping that once the render came off, there might be a date on the building, but sadly I have been disappointed. 

What we did find though, we're the substantial stone lintels around the door.

These too had been covered by render, however, the main lintel is a lovely arched single piece of stone which would not look out of place on the Taj Mahal

This has meant a rethink on the French door I was planning from the dining room to the patio. The door height is only 173 cm , people 100+ years ago were not as tall as we are today. What I can do though, is to lower the patio immediately outside the door (perhaps as a mat well) so you are not having to duck and move forward at the same time. But that is a job for later. 

What we also discovered on a large stone to the left of the door, were the initials ARM.

More scratched into the stone, than carved, but definitely there. When they were uncovered Cvjetko wondered if it was Roman numerals, but as the stone was cleaned, it was clear they were initials, presumably of the first owner. Nothing as nice as the carved stone set into my neighbours wall, just outside my gate.

Once the render was removed, next job was to throw (literally) cement onto the exposed stones, to give the new render something to adhere to.

Once completed, it had to be allowed to dry for a day or so.
But already the doorway is starting to look nice.

Then a white nylon mesh is embedded into a third layer of cement glue.

Next week when this has dried, the top Silica coat will be applied and the stones round the door pointed.

Returning to the subject of gates, now that I own the little courtyard,

Cvjetko and team broke up the largest and most difficult of gate pillars.

I finished the job, demolishing a smaller pillar on the other side.

And my old cast iron bath will shortly find a new lease of life in a vineyard.

As part of the cottage foundations had been incorporated into the pillar, once the stone boulders had been removed, the wall had to be filled with concrete to restore the corner foundations.

The problem had been that the gates were central to the drive, but because of the pillar on the left and a set of stone step that jutted out into the drive way on the right, I could not get my car into my yard.

The steps are immovable, but the gate pillars and metal posts, both late 20th century additions, were not. Now they have gone, all that is needed is a bit of concrete and I can bring the car in from the lane.

In the wall is a stone hitching post for donkeys. There was a discussion about whether that should be removed as well, but sense prevailed and I have kept it. I mean I have to have some where to tie the car to every night!

With a week to go before Christmas, I am almost ready. All the shopping is completed and on Sunday I made two traditional Christmas cakes, only because I could not locate my big Christmas cake tin to make a single cake. They have fruits (Goji) and nuts (Almonds) from the garden in them.

This week I have been feeding the cakes every other day. Only the mince pies need to be made. I did buy a turkey too. Cvjetko tells me that there is a tradition here that you celebrate lighting the wood stove. It might not be on the actual day of the first fire, but sometime over the holiday.

There was a suggestion that I could spit roast a chicken but I think an oven roasted turkey might just fit the bill. By the time of the next "Life in a Dol house" news, Christmas will be past, so on behalf of Risha, Callie and I, where ever in the world you are, and whether or not you are celebrating or working, may I wish you a peaceful and a very Happy Christmas.