Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 22

Teacher to the rescue!

Not much has happened this week, the weather has been warm and sunny, with just a couple of all too brief showers on Tuesday and Friday, which slightly dampened the surface of the soil but did not do one iota to increase it's moisture content. 

The rain stopped work in the orchard at the time, but was over with less than one millimeter being recorded in the rain gauge. 

The weeds have continued to grow as fast as I am working to remove them from the Drupe orchard. The more they grow, the stronger their root systems become and the more difficult it is to completely excise them. 

Between the rows of raspberries, I have been positioning more rolls of black plastic bin liners, covered with small stones, of which I have a surfeit. But as the days get longer, sunrise is earlier and it makes working in the fields and orchards a task for the very early morning.

As the inside temperature rises, I want to have the windows open 24/7. 

But that means bugs, especially the horrid little Tiger mosquitoes, but others as well need to be kept out, so I constructed some frames to take netting, made to measure to fit the window voids.

I have discovered that windows seem to be a cultural thing. I am talking here about how they are made and open, rather than the materials they are made of.

All my original windows are made of wood and are hung using what are called Flush Finial hinges. They open inwards, into the rooms and are set back some 30 centimetres from the outside wall of the buildings. This is about ⅓ of the thickness of the walls. The opening parts, called casements, are hinged on either side and open so they they do not protrude into the rooms. Window reveals are small, to keep the buildings cool in summer and not to leach heat out in winter. The actual Finial hinges are both decorative and utilitarian, but they are let into a vertical slot cut into the wood of the frame and the casements and are then fixed with hand made headless nails. It is easy to lift the casement off the hinge pegs on the frame, but to get the finial hinges out means the destruction of the frame and casement. I do admire the workmanship of the window makers of old. The wood is solid, their windows are well made but they are only single glazed.

On the outside, each window has a pair of louvre shutters, painted brown, several of which are starting to show the effects of decades of rain, wind and sunshine. These are also mounted onto a wooden frame, by the same type of hinges, the frame being fixed just inside the void. This is where I decided to mount and fix my insect screens.

Contrast that with windows in the UK, which mostly have a casement or sash which opens outwards, and a window fitted so that the frame is flush with the outside edge of the void, or Abu Dhabi, where windows are aluminium, also single glazed and sliding. You get the idea I am sure, and no doubt which ever country you are in, it will have its own idiosyncratic ways with windows, my point is, they are all different. 

First job was to pull some timber out of my store where it has been resting and seasoning for many months, to make it more usable. 

With measurements taken and a rough drawing made, I cut the timber to length and then ran it through my planer-thicknesser so that the various pieces were all the same external cross section dimensions.
These frames are going to be a summer fixture, so in the interests of expediency, I decided I would not be painting them. 
Cut to length and with planed straight edges, I marked and then cut simple half blind lap joints
and then used some 90º frames on each corner to hold the pieces in place while the glue dried. Last job was fixing each joint with a brass screw, just in case......
The final task would be fixing the netting to the frame. 

I have a Rexel staple gun, something which I bought in the UK many years ago and which has travelled the world in my tool box. My tools are stored in labeled IKEA plastic transit boxes, on vertical shelving in the workshop. Alongside the staple gun was a cardboard box, marked in indelible felt tip marker "Staple gun staples". See, I am a planner and I also buy ahead and keep tools and associated spares together. It helps immensely when you are looking for something.

I opened the staple gun and saw there were about a dozen staples left, so opened the box of staples and pulled out a cassette of 50. I would need at least that number. But when I dropped them into the magazine on the staple gun, they were too small. I checked the box. All the staples were the same size. Something clearly had gone wrong some years ago when I bought the staples. It also shows that the gun is not a tool I have used very often. 

Taking a small section of the staples from the gun, I measured them with a vernier caliper gauge, 12 mm, then got the bike out and taking them with me, pedalled off down the hill to Stari Grad. It has been just too nice this week to use the car. At the builder's merchant, I showed the assistant what I wanted, Spajalica in Croatian. Magically they had just had a delivery and large numbers of different sizes were spread around the floor, waiting to be put onto their shelves. The assistant asked me the size, hunted round and triumphantly presented me with a box marked 12 mm. I paid and pedalled up the hill (a longer journey than going down) to home. 

After a coffee, I opened the box and immediately saw they were the wrong size. The shank - the bit that sticks into the material - was indeed 12mm, but the width was 10mm.

I decided I would do just one window and then go back later and change the box. The fixing method is my patent removable design. I use M5 threaded brass bar, cut to 45mm lengths, and with a slot cut in one end with a hacksaw to fit a fine flat blade screwdriver.

Offering the now dry and fixed frame up to the window, I clamped it , then drilled two 4.2mm holes through the centre of each vertical side frame, through into the brown wooden frame from which hang the shutters. Then I enlarged the holes in the screen to 6mm.

A piece of threaded bar is then screwed into each side of the shutter frame.

With the screen on a flat surface, I unrolled the white nylon insect screen and being very careful with the few staples I had, stretched and fixed the nylon to the wood.
With a Stanley knife I cut an opening for the threaded bar and then positioned the frame. 

The threads poked through on the inside and I fixed and tightened the completed frame in place with a washer and wing nut on each side. Voila! A completely insect proof window with easily removable frame.

I went back later in the day (by bike again as it is still warm at night), when the builders merchant had reopened after the afternoon siesta, to exchange the staples. 

Every box was checked and opened, none of them were 12mm wide. Although there was a dimension on the outside of each, it seems that this refers to the shank length. They did offer to sell me a new stapler which would take their staples, but as I already have one, that was not what I had in mind, so with a refund in hand, I thought I would try the town stationers. They were closed.

At this point I decided to visit my friend Cvjetko. Over coffee I explained the purpose of my trip to town. As if by magic, his wife Helga, who is a Secondary school teacher produced a box of staples, exactly 12mm wide. Perfect! Work can now continue. It sees that had the stationary store been open, I would have found what I needed there. 

Thank goodness for teacher's supplies cupboards!

The open window at night has been nice, with refreshing, cool air coming into my home, but I have been woken several times by noisy neighbours. 

Take saturday morning for instance. Around 03:15, just as the first light of dawn was starting to spread across the north eastern sky, I was woken by the sound of a Nightingale, Luscinia megarhynchos, singing in the Fig tree which is close to the window. I thought about trying to record its singing, but my digital recorder was in a drawer and I was concerned that my movement would disturb the bird, so I just lay still and listened. The beautiful melody, being answered by another in the distance, was a very pleasant wake up call. Then ever so gradually, other song birds started to join in. The perennial resident Blackbird, Turdus merula, some chirpy sparrows and the Golden Oriole, Oriolus oriolus, all joined the dawn chorus. The previous evening, it had been a Eurasian Eagle Owl, Bubo bubo,with its deep booming call which had woken me. Noisy neighbours like these I can stand any amount of.

The tracks around the village are still carpeted with wild flowers, grasses and young saplings - seeds from the Maquis and open woodland which line the hills on all sides.
Walking up to St. Michael's Parish church this week, I came across many wild flowers by the side of the path. 

These paths have been around literally for centuries, but in recent times, the well made limestone slabbed pavements which would have been wide enough for two donkeys to pass, have been narrowed as the plants encroach from each side towards the middle.

There are a few people who walk these trails, but only just enough to keep them open. I suspect the nocturnal prowling of the Wild Boar probably do more than people do to keep the network open.

On my way up the hill I came across some wild orchid that were in flower.

These are from the variety Anacamptis pyramidalis, Pyramid orchids, and lying almost hidden in the wayside grass, they would be passed un-noticed by most walkers I suspect.

At the edge of some open woodland, I was surprised by a lanky shrub, overhanging the grey stone wall.

Large pale yellow seed pods were hanging from the branches. I could identify it as a member of the Senna family, but it was not until I arrived back home and got my wild flower books out, that I could narrow it down to a Colutea arborescens, the Bladder Senna. 

It is the only one I have seen in Dol. Cutting back through woodland, there were only the sounds of nature, a Blackbird chortling away and another Nightingale, out of sight in a tall pine tree to my right. That is the sound I will leave you with this week. Click on the link below to hear it.

Woodland sounds