Life in a Dol House
2018  -  Week 31

Super Puh!

My experience here in Dol is that the hottest weeks of the year are always at the end of July and the start of August. 

Much like winter time, where there is a lag between the northern winter solstice in December and the coldest month, January, the same applies in summer. 

It goes back to the physical properties of Planet Earth, where the seas heat faster than the land, but also release their heat faster. 

So although there is noticeably less sunlight in the morning - I get the first rays from the rising sun in my study window 30 minutes later than a month ago - and the nights are just starting to draw in with lights being needed by 20:30h, there is still considerable heat in the sun, which continues warming the soils. 

We haven't got the hot air mass from North Africa which is scorching Spain and Portugal at the moment, but none the less, the day time highs have been over +33ºC and the night time lows around a sticky +25ºc. 

Even with the heat, I've continued excavating my trench through the courtyard sandstone. 

I had a trip down to Volat and came back with the lengths of plastic pipework I need, 75 mm ∅ for the rainwater and 50 mm ∅ for the electrics, then I ran into a couple of problems. 

The route of the trench follows my building wall line between the buildings, from the centre of the courtyard, which isn't straight.

I tried to bend the plastic pipes but it put a stress on the joints, so I need a 15º and a 30º angle joint to connect the pipes The only joints that Volat have are 45º and 90º. There is no call for others. 

I don't want to put stress on the joints because in time they will fail. 

It's my "do the job properly" mentality again. 

Once they have been sunk under the new courtyard pavings, I don't ever intend that they be dug up again - at least not in my lifetime, so as the company brochure shows angled joints of the size I need, I set about getting hold of some. 

I started with the manufacturers, Pipe Life in Poland, who referred me to the Croatian and the UK centres. The UK don't stock these items. 

From Zagreb I was put in contact with the distributor in Split who sent me the parts list with numbers, and after another visit to Volat, the pieces I need are on order. 

It can be done and there are pockets of really good service here, it is just far from universal, but where it is good, like Volat and in this case Pipe Life, the service and helpfulness is as good as anywhere in the world

After disconnecting the stressed joint, I was able to install the start of the 50 mm  tube, which will be where the new electrical meter box will go.  I pushed in the fibreglass cable puller and because I am using 45 degree bends, it slid all the way and quickly appeared at the working end of the tube.

The next stage was to extend the cold water feed pipe.  I had already built in a 'T' piece when I relaid the rising water main early last year, so it was just a question of building a short section of PP-R piping with a stop tap on my outdoor working surface. 

I'm using Vargon  PP-R (Polypropylene Random) throughout my home for hot and cold domestic water supply instead of copper pipework.  This is a green pipe which requires high temperature polyfusion welding to complete the joints.  The two halves of a joint are inserted into an electric welder, heated to 120ºc and then pressed together.  After four seconds of cooling, the weld is complete.  

The process works at a molecular level, the temperature softening the Polypropylene material, then as the two surfaces are pushed together, the molecules re-attach themselves, forming a continuous, unbreakable joint.  Quick, easy and foolproof.

With the parts cut from 25mm piping, I completed most of the welds in a clear area, only making the last joint in the confines if the trench.  Once the building work gets under way, I will extend the pipe to supply the cold feed to the central heating module, while the second pipe will provide a garden watering point in the Top Orchard.

The car has been fixed this week, although not without a little difficulty. 

When I took it to have the new tyres fitted on Monday, all four wheel rims were rusted onto the brake drums, which rather gives the lie to the full service I had carried out less than a month ago. 

I had asked for all the brakes to be checked. 

To me that means removing the wheels, checking the pads on the discs at the front and in the drum brakes on the rear wheels, are all exposed and physically examined. 

The tyre fitter says the wheels have not been off for four or five years! There were even cobwebs round one of the rear drums.

True, I've had no need to remove them myself - probably as well because it took a lot of effort with a very large lump hammer and wooden chocks - but that is hardly the point. 

Clearly the most that has happened at the service has been a visual check. 

However, when I went to the test station they were happy and I got my window sticker and paperwork for another year.

I've harvested pears this week. 

A couple had fallen off so I took a bag and secateurs and gathered just over 8 kg from one of the cordon trees. 

Some I gave away to friends and neighbours, the rest have been preserved in Kilner jars for use during the winter. 

The variety is called Santa Maria and this is the first year of fruiting. 

Pears need anywhere from 100 to 1,500 hours of winter cooling, depending upon the variety, but this together with my Asian Pears, Pyrus pyrifolia, have done extremely well this year. 

I have planted nine varieties in the orchard, in theory to give succession crops from early summer through to late autumn, however as this is only their third summer, they are at the very start of their productivity so I am unsurprised that some have not fruited yet, or have only one or two fruits on their trusses.

This week I am including news in the blog, rather than history.

It's that time of year when people in Dol go out into the forest and Maquis to look for the Puh. 

We have our own village Superhero, appropriately named "SuperPuh", who makes an appearance every year at this time in the village magazine, Tartajun

Puh is croatian for the Dormouse. But here it is not the tiny Common Dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius, the sleepy fawn furred mammal made famous by Lewis Carroll in his book "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", ours is the Edible Dormouse, Glis glis, a substantially larger and more visible rodent. 

They are herbivores, devouring large volumes of fruits, seeds and berries and being nocturnal, they are rarely seen but can be heard on evening walks through the denser Maquis. 

They have been eaten as a delicacy since the times of the Romans and Dol is the only place now to have an annual Dormouse Festival - The Puhijada. 

A week of cultural events, an exhibition of paintings, plays, events for children and the Dol Open - the annual Balota challenge, all culminate on Saturday. 

The Puhijada is an annual event falling around the start of August.  It is organised and run by our village association, Tartajun.

Every evening this week, teams of Balota players, a game similar to the French Boules where players try and get their heavy coloured wooden wall as close as possible to a small, white "jack", have been engaged in competition.  The final was on Friday evening, continuing under floodlights as the sun set.

Although I didn't spot a Puh amongst the players...

The barbecues on Saturday were lit around tea time, and for a price, in our own Dol currency, the SP, available at the Exchange on the playing field - and with a special order - you can sample a grilled Glis glis, Roman style.

My neighbour tells me that the number that are caught each year for the festival is declining as fewer people want to sample one. Burgers and Fries are a much more acceptable alternative for supper. I'm happy, because they are quite endearing characters with their huge black eyes, grey fur and squirrel like tails. From the hoards of empty shells I have found in various roof spaces, I think I have had some as winter guests when they hibernate somewhere warm.

As the Life in a Dol House blog is published on a Saturday evening CEST, these photographs are news, rather than history and if you are reading this on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, the people of Dol and the many visitors will still be partying.

The stage is lit as the muted colours of the cloudless sunset which provide the backdrop to the event, held on the sports field next to the Church of St. Anne in the village begin to fade.

In the tiny St Anne's Church, the exhibition of paintings by our local artist are being enjoyed.

Whilst outside the kids have got their helium balloons, and the BBQ stall serving various roast meats is doing a roaring trade.

The night air is warm, if a little humid and more and more people are arriving.

As I write this, some 300 metres as the owl flies from the sports field, I can hear the band has already struck up, ice cold beverages are being served and everyone is waiting for the Zadar Klapa group, Idro to start the evening's entertainment in half an hour at 21:00 h.

Klapa is the traditional group harmony singing that is unique to this part of Croatia. 

It is now listed as one of the UNESCO intangible Cultural World Heritage practices and expressions of diversity. 

The music, singing and dancing will go on until the first light of dawn starts to creep across the sky in the east, around 4am.  Then the weary party-goers will start to wend their unsteady way home.

Hopefully, with such a warm night, the cold drinks will not have run out before the time the revellers start to leave! 

See you next week.