Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 23

A walk on the wild side

Things have moved along at a reasonable pace this week on the building renovation front. 

The building inspector called on Tuesday and said he was satisfied with my efforts to construct a frame for the new ceiling in the study, he found there was a discrepancy of 2mm in one place - but I was allowed up to 10mm! Given that nothing here is either level or square an error of +/-2mm is not bad. 

That meant that on Wednesday, the day was consumed with stuffing two cubic metres of insulation into the voids between the ceiling joists. Everywhere now has a minimum depth of 10cm of insulation and in most of the room, there is a depth of 15cm (6"). It should make it a lot warmer in winter.

It's a horrible, messy job though. A dust mask, eye protection and gloves are required because of the fibres, which then stick to clothing. And working with full PPE in temperatures of 28ºC is not at all pleasant. 

I think for the first time here, I thought a swimming pool in the garden would have nice. The sea is not far away, but a little too far on this occasion. 

With that job out of the way, I started to fill in some of the holes in the walls where the electrical conduit had been installed. All the pattress boxes are now firmly fixed into the walls and are very secure. 

Each time one of these jobs has been finished, it is another tick on my list of tasks. On Thursday, the 2.5m² plasterboard sheets were delivered. being two metres long and with the only foot access to the room via a narrow hall, I had to move some of the storage boxes to allow ease of access.

On Friday, Cvjetko arrived just after 7am, somewhat annoyed. He had been to buy a box of plasterboard screws from the local builders merchant. They charged by the screw and had insisted that they count the remaining contents of the box, marked as being 300 - all 310 of them. 

That of course meant that they could charge an extra 10 cents /1 Kuna for the oversupply. Not out of the ordinary and whilst it is of little comfort, having experienced similar treatment it seems that this particular builders merchant treats everyone the same - locals and expats!

Holding lengths of plasterboard in place while they were fixed, I happened to glance along one wall and noticed that is is completely concave, resembling the parabolic mirror on the Hubble space telescope, if a little less shiny. Taking a photograph of a concave surface is a little difficult, but if you look at the ceiling line, you will get the idea...

No wonder when the plasterboard was fitted, it did not exactly line up with my framework everywhere. A number of edges had had to be trimmed so that they fitted more or less flush with the walls. This then meant that following board joints were stepped rather than square. But once the ceiling has been painted, you will never know.

The filler between the gaps had to be sanded smooth and it is now ready for painting. Another incredibly messy and dusty job.

I also took the opportunity this week to buy and cut 8 x 5 timbers for floor joists. With the room cleared (I had been storing bales of insulation in the room while working on the ceiling framework) it was not difficult to work out the future location of the joists. 

The next job will be to establish a level and cut the other timber joists so that there is a reasonably level surface - at least one that is more level than the current one. At the moment the floor has more spring in it than a Canadian Maple sprung dance floor... 

Not quite what I have in mind for my Study. With Saturday being the end of the week, rather than start on a new task, it has been a "tidy up and finish off" day. 

Next week is the last week before the 'summer noise ban' comes into effect here, so I want to do things which need power tools and the leave some of the silent jobs, like papering the walls with lining paper for later.

In the gardens the weeds continue to grow. 

In the Citrus and Drupe orchard, a little gentle hoeing puts paid to them, but the large Top orchard, which I have neglected somewhat, resembles a bit of jungle of mainly annual weeds.

Around a number of the trees I have planted, there are weed suppressing mulch mats, but beyond those, I have not had time to devote to the task of removing the invaders. 

Whilst I have kept the vegetable plot weed free, a walk on the wild side takes you to the two frames with shade netting that I built around the Avocado trees I planted. I was very pleasantly surprised this week to find that they have both sprouted again.

Although they were protected with a plastic fleece and then wrapped completely in cardboard, the cold at the start of the year, which decimated my Citrus trees, also killed off the top of the avocados completely. 

Believing them to be completely dead, I had left the frames and their protective wind screen in place and the weeds had grown into the frame. it was only when I happened to look a little more closely at some of the convolvulus flowers that I saw the unmistakable leaves of the Avocado.

They seem to have thrived on neglect and the new shoots look surprisingly healthy. They have had no irrigation water but have survived. This next winter will require more protective measures to ensure that they and my other nice trees and shrubs are all well protected from being frozen.

In my Blog for the first week of May, I wrote about finding a Lappet Moth caterpillar merrily munching my apples. 

Ever since, I have been watching the little guy grow steadily bigger as it enjoyed hearty meals of my Mono Vesna Apple leaves. This week, it measured 9cm long. Then suddenly on Thursday, it had gone. The evidence of its presence was still there - skeletonised leaves, but of Heimlich there was no trace.

That is until I lifted a few leaves on the stem of his columnar apple, to see if had moved home. He has. It has spun itself a cocoon, well hidden between the leaves of the apple stem, AND, there is not one, but two of them.

As one is considerably larger than the other, I suspect they are perhaps male and female moths. ​ 

I spent one evening researching the life cycle of Gastropacha quercifolia, or at least trying to. The critical element I was searching for was was the length of time it spends as a chrysalis, enveloped in its cocoon. 

They are very much alive, because as I was taking this photograph, it was wriggling about inside the silk, clearly aware its covering leaves were being disturbed. This is the time I need a time lapse camera setting up. 

There were a number of interesting facts; it is listed as a highly endangered species, but at the same time it has not been inscribed into the European Red List. The adult moth when it emerges, can have a wingspan of 5 to 10cm, so it is a large moth. I want to protect both of the cocoons so they can have the best possible chance of hatching and reproducing.

I have checked all the other 8 apple trees in the orchard, together with the pears and plums, all of which the Lappet Moth feed on, but there is only evidence of leaves being eaten on this one tree. So watch this space...

Another job I have been finalising this week is an article I was asked to write for the village Magazine, Tartajun

It should be submitted today! They wanted me to write about weather and climate change in Dol . Something that having only been here three years, I am simply not able to do. 

What I have written about though, is what I have found the past three years together with some statistics from my weather station

Given that the summer edition is for both residents and visitors, I have tried to make it relevant, but given that every single day of the year, the station records 34 separate parameters 290 times a day, which is 9,860 separate daily data points. Multiply that by 365 for the days in the year and you can see I have a problem in developing meaningful charts which display relevant data, that can be readily understood by people who probably do not have English as a first language and that is if they speak English at all. 

I like following the KISS principle, so after having had several discussions this week with friends and neighbours, I will just some include sample data, but put all the information on-line for anyone who is interested to look at or read for themselves.

What is clear is that there is a significant difference, of over 50% in the total winter rainfall between 2014 and 2017. But having no previous figures, it is not possible to identify a long term trend. It is well reported that the eastern Mediterranean is becoming drier.

If you, dear reader can understand the graphics, without further explanation, I will have succeeded!