Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 27

This week's lesson - Don't wallpaper when it's +35ºC

The gardens and orchards are wilting somewhat this week. 

I have completely emptied my water cisterns and the 3mm of rain that we received on Monday morning did nothing to replenish the supply. 

In fact the only thing it did was provide some surface moisture for the adapted weeds to grow some more. 

Every evening I spend some time irrigating the essential plants and my young trees, those that have not yet gown the root infrastructure to survive the hot, dry Mediterranean summer. 

Early mornings are best for work. By early I mean before 06:00. It is light well before 05:00 and the sun is not too hot to bear until after 08:00. By 9am, it is just too hot to do any serious work outside. 

We are close to the eastern edge of the time zone boundary between Central European time, which is UTC+1 and Eastern European Time, UTC+2. 

Time zones are strange beasts, they cover thousands of kilometers of land and sea and in my case extend from Serbia, two countries to the east, to the Atlantic coast of Western Europe. So we all share the same time, but here it is light earlier and dark earlier all year round, than in Cherbourg and Galicia. The difference is about an hour between the east of a time zone and the west of the same zone. (1,440 minutes in 24 hours. 24 time zones. +/-15º latitude to each time zone. 4 minutes for each degree of latitude. 15x4 = 60 minutes)

I have created this map to show the European time zones and also a rough latitude and longitude grid. 

In the centre is Croatia and my longitude line of 17º East of the Prime meridian. You can see that the Central European time zone is actually more than 20º across and in places approaches 30º of longitude from east to west, a two hour sun rise/set difference between east and west. 

Locals here are generally up and out in the fields around 5am in the summer, then in the afternoon we enjoy that wonderful Mediterranean pastime, immortalized by the Spanish, the siesta

At least we are far enough from the time zone boundary not to be worried by it. When I was doing some flying in Arizona, at a place called Bullhead City on the Colorado River, for more than half the year, when you crossed one of the bridges over the river into Laughlin, Nevada, the time changed by an hour. 

Arizona is in the "mountain" time zone and the state does not observe a different summer and winter time. Clocks stay the same all year round. 

Nevada is in the "pacific" time zone and the clocks advance by an hour in the spring and go back by an hour in the autumn. It plays havoc with making social arrangements, schools and everything else. No wonder that in aviation, we use UTC or Zulu time, where ever you are in the world.

Hoeing and pulling weeds at this time of year means that once removed from the soil and left for 24 hours, the heat of the sun will render them lifeless.

This week it has been over +35ºC in the shade, on my weather station, and the temperature sensor in the car, albeit situated low down for warning of ice on the road more than heat, has registered +43ºC. 

I did decide that it was just a little too hot to cycle back from Stari Grad, so being somewhat ashamedly lazy, I used the car! 

I think we could learn a thing or two from the felines which regards you as their significant human (you will never own a cat - they own you). Callie, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi and is part Arabian Mau, so both likes water and high places, has decided that from breakfast to supper time - with occasional short comfort breaks for food and drink - she would perch in the roof over my patio.

Getting up there is not difficult as there are grape vines which can be climbed. Once there she gets advantage from the circulation of air and cooling convection currents. I had thought about obtaining a cat hammock, but on reflection, I think a full size hammock would be better, then there would be room for me as well.... Just let sleeping cats lie!

Work has continued in the study and I have started papering the walls with 1400gsm lining paper. I wrote about getting the paper in my week 18 Blog. But this week has not been without problems. The stone walls have been covered with lime plaster and then several layers of paint. I know there are several layers because where pieces have flaked off, you can count them.

This room had been divided into two, with a very rough partition, something I removed when I bought the property, so half the room is painted purple and half the room is painted green.

I am a lot happier working with materials I know, and it becomes cost effective to order from the UK, when you can get free delivery, so I ordered good quality lining paper, Solvite professional grade adhesive, Polycel flexible filler and some other odds and ends from Screwfix.

The large holes in the walls were filled with a local hard cement, MPI25, smaller cracks and blemished with Polycel and then I sanded the walls with a big orbital sander to reduce the roughness. Note: I don't say "to make them smooth". That would be an impossible task, hence the need for lining paper. 

With the messy jobs out of the way, I coated the walls with size, a water based glue mix which makes the walls less porous. So far, so good. With concave walls and skew corners the most important things was to establish a plumb line at each corner. 

With that done, I pressed an old door into service as a paste board, mixed up some wallpaper paste, according to the instructions for heavy paper and went to work. All the work is done by hand - no cissy wallpaper paste machine for me! So I know that every square inch of the paper has a more than adequate coat of paste.

On the face of it, the walls look good, In fact there is a vast improvement - but only for 24 hours! The next morning, the carefully but-jointed vertical seams have lifted, and the bottom of every sheet has come away from the wall, by a significant amount.

Analysing what has gone wrong, I suspect two things. Firstly the lime plaster walls are so old, so dry and so porous, that I think that one coat of size was not enough. 

Secondly, the wallpaper paste mix is for northern Europe, although it does not explicitly say so on the box. Making it thicker, for the heavy paper means it dries more quickly, and hence the seams, where air can get in, dry before the glue has attached to the walls and they lift. 

The centre of the sheets has stuck fast - so fast it pulls paint away if you try and lift it. 

So my lesson for this week is, don't try and hang wallpaper when the temperature is over +35ºC - and if you do, make the wallpaper paste a very sloppy mix! 

I did run a short master class this week for my neighbours - Wallpapering 101 - Wallpaper is another of those fiendish northern European inventions, unknown in these southern latitudes, but one I have many hundreds of square meters of experience of. 

With some thought I seem to have solved the problem though. First, I gave the walls a second coat of size and let it dry, then when actually hanging the paper, I paint the area to be covered and an overlap of the joint with wallpaper paste. 

Thirdly, I have made the paste wetter than recommended, adding an extra two liters of water to the mix, and lastly when I am actually pasting the paper, rather than allowing it to soak in on the past table, I have folded it into a small concertina before leaving it for the recommended 10 minutes. 

The result is that paper lengths I hung on Saturday do not seem to be suffering from the problems I experienced earlier in the week. There is usually a solution to be found, and I thought that if I folded the paper lengths completely, it would reduce the surface area available for evaporation and wetter paper might stick better. So far, the theory and practice are running in parallel.

Another issue this week has also been around the temperature. 

Getting up on Tuesday morning, I was surprised to see that the pressure relief valve on the solar water heater was already lifting and water was dribbling out, down the roof and onto the kitchen flower bed. True, the kitchen flower bed needed the water, but this was not the intended way to irrigate... 

Shutting of the stop-tap, in short order I was up onto the roof ridge tiles with a Stilson wrench to remove what is called the Temperature and Pressure valve, or T&P valve.

This is a safety device to prevent damage to the solar water tank. It has a temperature probe and also a pressure valve, so if either the temperature reaches +90ºC, which it does easily, or the pressure is more than 7 Bar, the valve lifts. 

Even with ¾ of the solar array tubes covered for the summer, the valve must have been lifting slightly - and water has been leaking out. 

The temperature on the roof then quickly evaporates the water, leaving behind a mineral deposit. This had built up, until there was a large amount of calcium carbonate which was preventing the valve re-seating once the temperature/pressure drops.

With the valve removed, I used a household product to dissolve the contaminants, in a green bubbling flash. ​ 

It also did rather a good job of cleaning the brass valve, inside and out. An application of PTFE teflon tape and the Stilson re-fixed the valve and there have been no more leaks.

A good job, because I had already made enquiries about getting a replacement valve here, with the usual result - "Ne!". 

I will order one from the UK though, to have on my workshop shelf, ready for when the valve does actually fail and I can't fix it with some domestic cleaner.

Another of those "European Standards" issues came to light this week. 

For years we have been told in the UK that tools, parts, equipment - all manner of things in fact - have to meet European standards. 

So when I ordered a length of compressed air hose, to replace the one I have which is starting to perish, I presumed it would come with connectors that would fit my "Euro Profile" air tools. Wrong.... 

It arrived very quickly and I collected it from the new Tokić tool shop in Stari Grad, but when I got home, the connectors are almost the same, but just not quite! The result it that they will not seal and lock. 

I have sent emails to the manufacturers in Germany, the local suppliers on the mainland et al, but have not had any replies. Another recurring theme in Croatia, where email addresses are something to be paraded on websites, but not actually used for making contact. 

The extremely helpful guy at Tokić is now trying to get connectors which match the tube, but also match my Spanish made air compressor, which has Imperial screw threads. 

Not at all unusual in Europe, where most plumbing and pipe fittings are measured in Imperial sizes, marked as ¼", ½", ¾" and the like. The more you look, the more you realise that far from the European Union being a bastion of standardisation, it is in fact a complete mish-mash of different standards, randomly applied! 

A ¼" and a 12 mm thread may look similar, but they are not interchangeable. I think I need to go and find another wet towel then go and lie down.....