Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 08

Polar vortex approaching!

It's almost the end of February, the shortest month of the year too and we have had a "wet one". 

Up to today 139 mm of rain, or 139 liters per square meter (1 US gallon to every square foot) has fallen and there is more to come before the 28th.

I'm reminded of some old weather lore that was regularly quoted in the rural part of Yorkshire where I used to live:

                                                     February fill dyke 

                                                 Be it black or be it white 

                                                        But if it be white 

                                                        It's better to like

This is just one of several thousand sayings, from around the world, gathered by Richard Inwards, FRAS, and a past President of the Royal Meteorological Society, and published in 1898. 

The white refers to snow, the black to rain. But the old weather lore saying which I like the most about February in the book is: 

                                            If Candlemas day be Fair and bright 

                                               Winter will have another flight 

                                       But if Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain 

                                           Winter is gone and won't come again 

                                            If Candlemas Day be mild and gay 

                                       Go saddle your horses and buy more hay 

                                       But if Candlemas Day be stormy and black 

                                           It carried the winter away, on its back 

Candlemas day is the 2nd February. 

This ancient festival marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox. February 2nd this year was certainly mild, windy and without any sun.

There were a few windfall Mandarins after some windy weather last weekend, so I used my long pole fruit picker to remove all the rest from the tree this week.

Some were made into Mandarin sponge cakes, which I shared with friends and neighbours and the remainder were put through my Green Power juicer.

I built a wood shed a couple of years back, a really temporary affair, but somewhere to keep and dry firewood.

Now leaning at quite a considerable angle, I plan to remove it once the building work is done and a more substantial permanent shed has been built, so I have been steadily using up the wood over the winter to empty it. 

I am now within sight of the last of the stored cut timber, but with some extremely cold weather to come early next week, I cut some lengths of my stored un-cut timber baulks to fire size pieces this week.

The cold weather this week in the UK, brought by a jetstream from the high Arctic, is going to move east and will sweep down by way of Scandinavia, the Benelux countries, Eastern France and the Alps to the Adriatic by the middle of Sunday.

There is a chance of a light covering of snow from Sunday afternoon and into Monday morning, but Tuesday may be clear and bright if the Bura blows and it has the potential to be the coldest day of this winter, so I have been adding protection to some of the tender plants and trees.

​And all of this because the winter Polar Vortex has split into two. Seriously though, we are not going to get the Polar Vortex here, but we will certainly feel its effect.

Whilst not an exceptional event, it does only happen every few years and seldom this late in the winter season. 

The exceptional warming of the Arctic, in places 30º C above normal around the middle of this month which you may have read about, is all part of the same weather event. 

It does mean in Dol we will have cold until Wednesday and then it will immediately return to more normal temperatures, in the teens, so this should be the last thrash of winter.

​According to the primary school log book for the Dol village school, snow is not unusual in February...

15. veljače 1929 - Pao i treći put snijeg. Studen ne popušta. Sve je pozeblo. Snijeg je padao od 6 sati ujutro do 2 sata popodne neprestano.Sve je zaleđeno. Zvona ne zvone jer ima zaleđena snijega.

February 15 1929 - Fell and the third time the snow. The cold is unrelenting. All is frost. Snow fell from 6 am to 2 pm constantly. Everything is frozen. The bells are not ringing because they have frozen snow.

On the mainland, there is a covering of snow on the top of the Dinaric Alps, even before the storm arrives.

​My plum trees are in full blossom, however it is frost which damages the blossom, not just a biting wind, so they may escape with little damage. You only get frost, especially an air frost, when the air is still.

With rainy days and waterlogged soil preventing work outside, I've been doing some finishing on the new window which was installed last weekend. 

I have mentioned before about how popular expanding foam is here. 

I have never used it until moving to Dol. 

As a construction material it is certainly impressive, having strength and rigidity, the ability to expand and fill small and large spaces, and it sticks to almost everything extremely well.

The window is held in place with long screws into the fabric of the the building and then foam is injected all the way round.

Once it has cured, it can be cut with a Stanley knife, flush with the window frame. slicing off the extra pieces. 

This does leave a few small holes all the way round the window, but the whole window and frame are sealed in place and are weatherproof and draught free.

It means that I can cosmetically cover the foam with lining paper, then paint it to match the rest of the room.

On a beautiful spring Saturday afternoon, I took a walk through the Maquis to St. Michaels Church, the sentinal on the promontory above Dol. 

There were few sounds to disturb the peace as the hills basked in the warm sunshine. 

Lizards are already out of hibernation.

​This is a female Large Psammodromus, Psammodromus algirus. The smaller male, with blue spots on the side of its head is to the right.

There are lots of bees about too, here a large blue black Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa violacea, with beautiful iridescent wings which shine in the sunshine feeding on Rosemary flowers.

​and in my Top Orchard, the bussing of thousands of honey bees fills the air under the plum blossom.

​Even the solitary Bumble Bee, Bombus terrestris, with leg pockets full of pollen, is getting in on the act.

​The first of the spring wild flowers carpet the paths around Dol, here Tuberous Cranebill, Geranium tuberosum.

​While in my garden, the first of the Daffodils burst into flower this week.

Everywhere the Spring renewal of plant and animal life is evident. 

Whether and how much effect the coming cold spell has had, I will report on next week.