Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 02

Kill the weeds, kill the weeds...

I've always taken photographs, not as many in the past as I take now though.

But then in the past, even when colour film costed what seemed a lot of money, I still always had a couple of rolls of film in my camera bag.  

One of the first things I bought when I left school and had a salary was a Zenit SLR camera.

When I recently moved all my digital images onto a new backup disk, I was surprised that there were more than 32,000. Yes, that is the right number of zeros - no it isn't a mistake. 

Granted they go back to my first experiments with digital photography, in 1992, when I had a Canon Ion 640x480 camera

​- a stone age camera by today's standards - but a fully functioning digital camera none the less and it took good photos too.  Then there are thousands of colour slides. 

Remember when you used to receive a soft yellow and white paper envelope with one of these inside

​or just the box in a cardboard cover?

You had carefully put the film cassette into a plastic tub, snap the lid on and send everything off by post to a PO Box address (if you were in the UK) in Hemel Hempstead, then a week or so later back came the results. 

I remember how it was exciting to look at the 24 or 36 slides, to see if there were some really good ones, and how many had not come out.

The discipline of paying for everything made you careful about what you photographed, how many photographs you took, getting the settings and exposure just right, framing the subject and pressing the shutter. 

It was only on the rarest of occasions that I took more than one photograph of anything. I did have a few failures though and afterwards wished I had taken more.

Digital photography has made us lazy photographers, we now take multiple photographs of every subject. 

Few people ever take their digital camera out of automatic mode. New Atlas has a whole series of tutorials called "Getting out of Auto" which are worth looking at if you want to see what happens when you turn the dial from 'Auto' to 'P'.

Equally, few people really look back at the photographs they have taken. 

There was something about getting the screen out, setting up the projector and feeding slides through, for the enjoyment (or boredom) of family and friends.  

As well as many little yellow boxes of slides, I have folders full of negatives.

​Ranging in format size from 35mm up through 120, medium format and half plate size - the latter three exclusively monochrome negatives. 

In the 1970's I even used to carry a 110 camera in my briefcase for work and still have the tiny colour slides it produced.

For a tiny camera, without the means of changing any settings, it took quite acceptable photographs for the 1970's.​

​It would be some years later that police traffic patrol cars were issued with a small suitcase containing an Instamatic camera and a half dozen rolls of black and white 35mm film. Colour film was too expensive and the photographic department couldn't process it.

Very slowly I am digitising all my colour slides and colour negatives, but it will take a while, however the digital images I do use, not just for this blog, but to document almost everything I do around my Dol house. 

From exactly how many and where where I planted bulbs:

​To the engineering solutions which have gone into the Dol house renovation, and occasionally these are really useful.

​On Sunday I was installing new wall lights in the guest room. 

With the walls painted and waiting for some fine days to varnish the hardwood floor boards outside, I took the opportunity to do some of the other small finishing tasks, like wiring plug sockets and installing lights.

I drilled and plugged the wall, installed the mounting frame and connected the wiring in the first light without the system being powered. 

With the light secured to the wall, I moved to the light switch, a two wire connection as the earth cable was already connected to the metal pattress box. 

I checked the incoming live feed with a cable tester and it had power. 

With the switch wired correctly, I turned the switch on. Nothing. The light didn't illuminate.

​It was the spring when I completed all the new wiring, and I've slept since then, so couldn't immediately remember how I had wired the wall lights, but presumed that the second light would complete the circuit, so drilled and plugged the wall and connected the cables, before fixing the light. 

I turned the switch on again. Nothing. I tested the feed and the light was getting power with the switch on, but clearly the neutral return cable was not working.

Moving to the wall sockets, I had everything on the 13 Amp ring main connected and working by lunch time. 

With nice fine weather I started to do some garden tasks after lunch, it was only at tea time when I started to review the digital photographs I took last spring when I was wiring the lighting up.

This shows the wiring which is now nestled in the ceiling, completely out of sight.

​Another photograph I took in the series shows the open 30 AMP junction box, includes the cable markings on specialist cable ties, made for the purpose.

Zooming in everything appeared to be OK. Then I noticed that I was following the UK standard practice, under 17th Edition Wiring Regulations, of a separate wiring circuit for the lights in the building, using the junction box method.

This means there is a separate 6 amp lighting circuit breaker at the main consumer unit for the building, then a series of 32 amp junction boxes linking the lights in a room to a switch, before connecting to the next junction box in the chain. 

This system can safely accommodate twelve 100 watt bulbs, but as I am using low energy LED lights throughout, I will in total have about 10% of the theoretical maximum.

The clue for me was that the cable running to the next junction box was wired correctly with the lights in this room working. 

I went back and with a torch examined the new lights. They both had a microswitch hidden under the front cover, but just accessible from the outside, to turn the lights on and off independently. 

A press of the microswitch, turn the light switch on and the lights worked. 

The alternative would have been an expedition into the loft to lift a floor board and see if I had forgotten to connect a wire up.

That's one reason why I take lots of photographs! Most will never see the light of day, but form part of a room by room archive, not just for me, but for people in the future, to see exactly where all the wiring and services run, and how everything has been renovated and to what standard. 

It saves having to wonder how close you are to some essential service duct when you have a picture to hand.

The rain that I expected really did not materialise this week, so I have taken the opportunity to spend time in the gardens and citrus orchard, doing some tidying up.

Last year I managed to keep on top of the weeds, thanks in part to the drought which kept them mostly in check. 

That is until the drought broke in September and we had our first significant rain for four months. 

Within days, the weedlings had germinated and were showing pretty much everywhere.

I remarked in my Week 38 Blog in September last year, that I would need to do some weeding. 

But I was in the middle of laying flooring in the study, then when that was finished, the building work started and here we are four months on, and I didn't get around to it.

What is really annoying too, is that I have a round tuit, it is still packed in a box somewhere.

So while the weather has been mild, generally around +15ºC during the day, I have spent several mornings this week getting reacquainted with the annual weeds that inhabit the land here.

​With a bedding fork and a hand fork, I have been gently easing the complete plants, from roots to leaf tips, out of the soil and onto the compost heap. 

Where the builders were working and running barrow loads of cement, the soil has become quite compacted, but elsewhere it is in the perfect condition for weeding. 

Moist but not wet and sticky, easily dug and then shaken off the roots of the weeds.

There are the favourites which I suspect are known worldwide; Dandelion, Thistle, Hairy Bittercress, Creeping buttercup and Groundsel - Senecio vulgaris which has already gone to seed:

Then others peculiar to this region, like Onion Grass and some which I do not know the name of and have only encountered here.

The accepted definition of a weed, is that when you pull everything out of the ground, what grows again is a weed! 

What I did find was that quite a number of the Groundsel had seed heads, so these and some thistle like plants were prioritised for removal.

​I already have enough of a problem with wind borne seeds coming from neighbours and the forest behind, without my own personal supply. 

It takes a morning's work to go from an area under the Pomegranate tree looking like this:

To being weed free, like this

​ Although to be fair, I am also placing large flag stones to make an all weather path through the orchards, as I go. 

So I think my mantra this week has been "Kill the weeds, kill the weeds......"  I can always find someone with a worse weed problem than I have though!

The days are starting to noticeably lengthen and the sun is getting warmer as it begins to climb in the sky. 

Everywhere people are starting to do their spring chores, pruning the olives and the vines and then burning the detritus.

I have varnished the next batch of hardwood flooring, which will go on the newly level floor in the guest room. That will be a job for next week.

Meanwhile I have the first Crocus of 2018 burst into flower this week

​Whilst in the herb garden, my Borage, Borago oficinalis, has been in flower for most of the winter.

​I have also been harvesting the Mandarins and my Kumquats, Citrus japonica.

​So as spring is definitely in the air, I'll definitely get a round tuit next week.