Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 23

The gardening week

I had really hoped there would have been some meaningful rain this week 

But although there has been the sound of thunder several times, together with lightning which has lit the night time clouds and it started to rain on Thursday night, followed by light rain around breakfast time, but by the time the sun came out on Friday, there had been a grand total of just 0.75 mm. A couple of hours of sun later and it had all evaporated. 

The result has been that I have been watering plants and trees again this week. My planning and planting is influenced by sustainable development theory, waterwise planting and dryland habitat management. However, that does not prevent the need for irrigation. 

There was less than half the amount of rainfall last winter, when compared to 2014/2015. Although I have three water cisterns, they are under half full and are only replenished by rainfall. The overlying rock structure of the island backbone is Karst, a limestone landscape with the white rock visible just 50 vertical metres above my Dol house . Rainfall percolates through the rocks, deep into the aquifers of the island. There is no permanent flowing water on Hvar, just dry water courses, which sometimes fill after very heavy rain and then are dry again within a few days. So the rain which falls on the wooded slopes and open higher elevations behind my home, does not refill my cisterns through percolation, instead I rely on the annual winter rains and occasional summer storm, so water management is important too. 

Climate change is a discussion point at the moment amongst my neighbours, every one of whom has fields of grapes and olives. The climate graph for the eastern Mediterranean for the last 50 years suggest the climate is becoming drier. Here in Dol, there are two large dams that were built by Austrian engineers around the end of the 19th century, to hold water back and prevent flash flooding in the village. They are dry and only once in the two years I have been here have they held any water back and then not much and not for long. That they have fallen into disrepair and are no longer needed indicates the changes that have and continue to take place. 

None of this helps me. Even drought tolerant plants need water to become established. My mature trees, with a well established network of deep roots can survive the hot and dry Mediterranean summer, but all new plantings need water to help them become established. Mulching, black plastic and weeding all help, but they all still need water to survive and thrive.

New signs have been erected this week on both the roads to Dol.

 Paid for by the village association, called Tartajun, they proudly proclaim Dol to be the centre of the island of Hvar. Well, we are in the geographic centre of the island, even if not quite in the tourist centre. Also this week, new road markings have been painted on all the roads.

They have been painted by a "pathfinder" in unmissable flourescent red, ready for when the cruise liners dock and disgorge large numbers of keen cyclists, eager to explore the island on two wheels. 

The somewhat garish colour and plentiful number of arrows are designed to ensure that everyone follows the prescribed route and no one gets lost on the way. You just hope you do not meet a Peloton coming round one of the blind bends when you are in the car.

My nice neighbours from Cologne have a swimming pool (well fenced) and I can hear the pleasant sound of water from the filtration system. 

There is something very soothing about the sound of water, splashing and gurgling, but having had pools both in the UK (heated all year round) and in Abu Dhabi (cooled in summer), there is a lot of maintenance involved and with the warm Mediterranean sea less than 10 minutes away, I really cannot justify one here. I was thinking that it might be nice to have a hot tub though, somewhere to laze in, even in winter. However having watched this video this week,

I am having second thoughts. There are European Brown Bears in the Balkans and I don't want to invite trouble....

Meanwhile, my No.1 cat Risha, has become rather bored with all this.

I have started to harvest the fruits of my endeavours this week. The first tomatoes have ripened, and they were beautifully sweet and full of flavour. I have been picking my yellow plums, although I do not have such a large crop this year, after losing half the tree to disease over the winter. As the plums at the top of the tree, which I estimate to be more than 10 metres tall judging by how far my ladder reaches up the trunk, fall to the ground and then rot, they are enjoyed by large numbers of butterflies, like these Two Tailed Pasha, Charaxes jasius.

These butterflies dart around the orchard at high speed and then glide for some distance before completing "High G" turns and then landing to feed on the fruit lying on the floor or hanging upside down on the branches of the plum trees.

This week I have cleared the Drupe orchard of weeds, by hand, because the soil has baked too hard for the Dutch hoe to penetrate it. I hurt my wrist in the attempt.

Once again, with pressure dropping, I anticipate there will be rain early next week and if there is a reasonable quantity, I will be able to break the surface and then keep on top of the weeds. But having looked a few minutes ago at the pressure charts, the picture is changing very quickly and we may get no rain at all, or a thunderstorm downpour, but not the steady rainfall which will do most good. 

In the Citrus orchard, where after two years of hard work I have finally got on top of the weed problem, it took little more than a couple of hours one morning this week, to whip round with the hoe and take the tops off several Convolvulus, a noxious perennial weed with extremely deep roots and rather pretty pink trumpet shaped flowers. In the spring I planted a deep red and a purple Buddleja davidii, the Butterfly Bush, in one especially dry and stoney corner of the orchard, where nothing else would be likely to grow.

This shrub is known for it's long deeply coloured blooms which are irresistible to butterflies and moths. It is also know for it's ability to colonise waste ground and especially the railway embankments of Europe. Both plants have flowered for the first time this week. I have been watching every day to see if they attract butterflies here, but so far not. Perhaps it will take a couple of seasons for them to grow big enough and have lots of blooms to become attractive. There have been butterflies around, like this Pale Clouded Yellow, Colias hyale, which has beautiful yellow wings with black markings when in flight, but I haven't seen them feeding on the Buddleja yet.

Also my Nasturtium plants have shown their first flowers this week.

The Nasturtium, Tropaeolum, is a multipurpose plant. It will tolerate drought and any type of soil, in time it also spreads and suppresses weeds and in the Mediterranean climate should be perennial, rather than the annual bedding and hanging basket plant that people from cooler latitudes will recognise. It's leaves can also be used as a salad crop. They have a spicy flavour which adds a little bit of zip to plain old lettuce. They also seem irresistible to the neighbourhood felines, who I have caught rolling and playing amongst the plants several times during the week.

Although they have been rolled over, they seem to spring back. This is one dryland habitat plant which seems to be thriving in the drought and summer heat.

Another job I have completed is the removal of excess grapes from my vines.

It would be a factual inexactitude if I said I really knew what I was doing. I ask advice, read my books and look at the excellent Royal Horticultural Society web pages.

Where there are large number of bunches forming, then around β…“ need to be removed, so that is what I have done. Hopefully it will encourage the remaining bunches to swell nicely. I will not pretend that I will make any wine, but I will use them for grape juice.

Just occasionally I come across a really useful piece of electronics.

I updated my Canon scanner software last month and received through the post an IRISPen Air 7.

I have had a pen scanner previously and found it useful, but this new device is a whole order of magnitude better. Not only does it scan, but it translates as well, and it works on BlueTooth as well as with a USB cable so it will work with mobile devices as well as laptop and desktop machines. ​

Now there are a lot of pieces of technology around which scan and translate, but this little device recognises some 138 languages, including Arabic and Croatian. Using cloud computing, it talks back to you, so you get a near real time translation and there are 40 languages included in the App. How I wish that this had been available when I was out in Abu Dhabi! For anyone who needs help with translation (as I do all the time) the IRISPen by Canon is something I would seriously recommend you look at.

And that ends my gardening week. So until next week, good gardening.