Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 9

Beware of the hidden livestock!

This is the first edition in March, Ožujak in Croatian, meaning the month trees come into bud, and certainly that is what is happening here at my Dol house.

I have been waiting all week for the specialist tools to cut holes in tiles to arrive, which they have failed to do, so I have been busy doing other things around the houses and gardens.

One task was to gently move the extended trunk of an very old grape vine, that used to meander around and over the tin roof above the patio, and then round the outside of my greenhouse and onwards towards the end of the building.

With the lovely new tile roof in place over the patio, I fixed two curved guttering clamps and then in small stages and very gently, so that I didn't break the main trunk, bent and moved the whole trunk back and into place in the clamps. It was then tied into place.

In doing so, I saw the first buds have burst and full leaves are showing. Another date to add to my Springwatch calendar.

Elsewhere the first leaves have appeared on my fig tree, and the yellow plum, the remaining half of the diseased tree that I cut down at the start of the year, is now covered in blossom, which the blossom is falling like snow from the black plum that is next to it. I would love to find out and know what the variety of these trees are. The black plum comes into flower and leaf first, but the plums are not ready until a few weeks after the yellow plum, which comes into flower and leaf second. The yellow plum also loses it's leaves first in the autumn too. The leaves of the black plum are the colour of an English copper beech tree.

As I mentioned earlier, the specialist diamond drills from Screwfix have failed to arrive on schedule. I asked the company to track the package for me, and I had a call from a very helpful lady on Friday afternoon, to apologise and say that it has been lost.

I have had to order again, but they offered me a €30 discount voucher, which I took advantage of. It does of course mean that there has been little progress in the bathroom. At the start of the week, I marked up a couple of tiles for cutting, but then realised that until I have the holes cut and the tiles fixed, I do not know fore sure about the cuts I need to make. I also fixed one more pattern tile, on a thick bed of mortar, to the crooked walls.

After waiting so long, and with all the difficulties around the uneven and out of true walls, I am not prepared to make guesses and then find the cuts are wrong. I would rather wait and do the job properly.

Another job this week has been to make progress on my entrance gates. After building the frame for the first gate, installing the hinge pins and preparing the timber, I stopped to do tiling. So this week I have primed the external cladding, then cut the pieces to size.

Each length of cladding is 4 metres long. Using Google Sketchup to design the gates, then to sort the pieces of timber for cutting to size - there will be 20 pieces on each gate

I was pleased that I had just five small scraps left over and some sawdust. Not much wastage there!

I wanted stain for the wood, but I wanted a grey. Although it is in the Sadolin catalogue, I couldn't get any, so had to settle for grey paint instead. I think that grey wood always looks nice and "aged", and the colour will compliment the grey stone of the cottage walls.

With the pieces cut to size, I did a trial fixing, working from the centre. There will be three gates, two larger and one foot passage gate, but I want all the panels to line up perfectly.

With the joints nice and tight, I had the starting piece positioned, which I fixed in place, then filled the nail holes with plastic wood.
All of the rest of the panels will be fixed with waterproof wood glue and then blind nailed, so you will not see any nail holes on the face.

Working slowly, drilling 1.5 mm pilot holes (I broke two bits), I was able to fix 5 panels in a morning, but it does require several hammers and punches.

Last job was to hand cut the edges square with the frame.

Finally. I offered the gate up to the new hinge pins I have fixed in the wall and fixed the strap hinges. They passed inspection by Callie. There will of course be a low level gate for the Felines to use to come and go.

Now I need a couple of fine days to finish fixing the panels, then to paint the bare wood and and hang the gate. But the weather prognosis is poor until Thursday, so they will have to wait.

We have had quite a lot of rain this week, interspersed with warm sunny days. The sun is climbing higher each day and I now have sun until 4pm daily, when it dips behind the forest clad hills to the south.

On one rainy day, I downloaded the figures for January and February 2015 & 2016 and did some analysis. Bearing in mind that this is just a two month, two year analysis, what is very clear is that 2015and 2016 daily maximum, minimum and mean temperatures are statistically the same, with just the third week of January this year being somewhat colder.

Rainfall totals have been almost the same, but amounts have been spread evenly, rather than the heavy pulses of rain experienced in 2015.

I have continued to use home grown vegetables for some nourishing and hearty soups, like this Broccoli - but you do have to check to make sure you're not cooking livestock as well!

So, with a cool and gusty east wind rattling the shutters and hooting around the eaves, the prospect of another four days of rainy and unsettled weather means I will be doing quite a few inside jobs at the start of the next week, which I will report on in the next issue.