Life in a Dol house
2018  -  Week 29

More frustrations!

It's another of those frustrating weeks when despite my best efforts, I have not achieved very much of what I set out to do. 

There are things like the SAE50 gearbox oil I need for my Triumph. After three visits to the auto spare-parts dealer in Stari Grad, I still don't have it. 

It's not the fault of the Kotać shop whose young staff are super helpful, generally knowledgeable and eager to please, but their partners Tokić at first didn't respond to their request, then when I went in on Friday again, Zagreb said it was "very difficult" to obtain - but may be next week. 

I just refuse to believe that statement. 

There are old vehicles here and for some specialist applications, like the gearbox, I need this specific oil because of that is what is recommended by Triumph for bikes of this age. 

SAE refers to the viscosity of oil and there is no substitute for for an SAE50 lubricant. You can't put say an SAE90 in and hope it will work - it won't. 

Then the battery on the car started playing up, but topping it up with the charger didn't do much either, so I went on a longish run (30 milometers each way) to Grad Hvar. 

There would have been a really long run on the island, to Sućuraj, that 45 kilometres each way, but with narrow, unimproved roads, I didn't want to meet the holiday traffic.

On hilly road with long winding bends, I expected the battery would have charged nicely. 

It didn't, so I replaced it on Friday morning with a new one while I was at Kotać. Then I renewed the annual insurance and before I knew where I was, it was lunch time. 

Half the day and lots of money gone!

We have continued to have hot weather most days, with some very welcome overnight rain in a Thunderstorm early on Tuesday. 

Then on Tuesday afternoon, the thunder clouds rolled in again, only they kept on rolling right past Dol and we received less than a millimeter of rain. Most of it was on Brać the neighbouring island to the north. 

By Thursday, even though we have had 22 mm, just under an inch of rain, everything is bone dry again and I'm back to irrigating the orchards night and morning, with additional watering cans of water for selective plants I am trying to keep alive - little flourishes in the baking mid-summer heat here. 

Already some of our summer migrant birds have left. I woke on Wednesday and was trying to work out why it was quiet. 

There was something missing. Quiet is relative. There is the incessant "tch, tch, tch" of the Circadas, but I realised that the resident Swallows have departed. 

They arrived on the 1st April, have raised a single brood of young and our local birds have left on their mammoth migration south, down the length of the continent of Africa to their southern hemisphere summer homes. 

I still have the Red Backed Shrikes, feeding their young, from the nest in a nearby Pomegranate tree, but it will not be long before they depart too. 

Meanwhile my family of Blackbirds continue to raid the grapevines, taking ripe fruit and throwing the smaller, unripe green fruits at the felines. 

Talking of which, it has been so hot this week, I discovered No 1 cat Risha asleep in the bottom of the dish washer, after I had emptied it and left the door open. 

Cool stainless steel is an attractive resting place for a cat with thick fur, when the alternatives outside are hot enough to cook an egg on. 

He grew up in Abu Dhabi, where there was always a choice of air conditioning units to curl up under for a doze - no such luxuries here!

I have managed some heavy work, before 9am that is, when the sun makes outside work unpleasant. 

One of the several jobs on my "to do" list is to install a drainage system in the courtyard, to collect and harvest the rainwater and direct it to the Top Orchard, where it can be used. 

While I have been waiting for building work to start, there has been little imperative to do the job, however after seeing this weeks rain soak into the sandy courtyard , I decided to complete the job I started months ago. 

There is still no sign of any building work starting, because I am still waiting for papers! 

I've let the weeds grow, mainly to camouflage the pile of sandstone rubble, so first job was to remove them onto the compost heap. 

Then I used rollers and a crow bar to move several boulders out of the way. 

I'm keeping these for use in a wall I want to build. 

With a clear path, I used my laser level to establish the fall of the underground pipe work. 

When I lived in the UK, I had a part of my garden which became completely waterlogged whenever it rained. 

The farmer next door advised me to install some clay land drains, then he loaned me the various installation tools and showed me what to do. 

You start will a fall of one quarter inch per Chain, so I am using the same criteria here. 

The difference is that in the UK, digging down was easy and the soil was the soft sand of an ancient deep alluvial flood plain, so soft that I found Fossil Crinoids

I need to have a fall in the plastic pipe work, so the water drains, but I don't want too much, or I'll have a waterfall at the outflow. 

Equally, I don't want too little fall, or the water will not drain away. 

The laser makes getting the correct fall a fairly easy task. Here the courtyard is sandstone with yellow sand between the pieces of stone. 

It's not difficult to break with power tools, but because this is the summer, power tools are banned, so I will doing the work by hand with a pickaxe. 

A more time consuming and arduous endeavour in he heat. But I've made a start with the route of the underground pipe marked out, so I'll finish it now - my summer holiday project...

The Mediterranean summer season is when plants (and people) rest. 

I have been "dead heading" my Budleja shrubs. This is another import, especially to provide food for the butterflies. 

As this week is the start of the International Big Butterfly Count it seemed appropriate to do a quick survey of the butterflies I have, and there are not very many different species. 

I've noticed that unlike in more northern countries, where the Budleja is known by the common name of "Butterfly bush" because of the way it attracts insects to its nectar filled flowers, here there are relatively very few insects to be seen feasting on the flowers.

Although they are some of the plants that get a watering can of water night and morning, and they have a deep mulch around their roots to conserve moisture, I suspect they are still on the dry side. 

So I wonder if that means that they do not produce as much nectar as the northern, wetter relatives do? 

Another possibility is that the butterflies here are feeding on specific foods. 

There are several which like orchard fallen fruits which are starting to ferment. 

It is perhaps a combination of the two. 

To encourage flowering to continue throughout the long summer, I have been cutting the seed heads off as well. 

These all then go onto the compost heap so nothing is wasted.

It's almost time to do some summer pruning of the apples and pears. 

I need to get my pruning book out, to make sure I am making the cuts in the right place. 

Fortunately the art and science behind pruning is well understood and explained in any number of gardening books, so I just need to follow some simple instructions and pictures. 

As most of the trees in the cordons have now reached the height I want to keep them at - around 2 meters, this year is probably the most important year for doing this pruning and maintenance, because this will be their size for ever more.