Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 40

What to do when it rains? Make cheese!

I have spent quite a bit of time on the old Land Rover this week. 

It needed to be ready for today, when my friends come back from Germany for the half term holidays, so with most of the parts I needed, it has been time for some reassembly work.

There is something quite therapeutic about working on old machinery and seeing it all start operate again. There is one significant advantage though. These old vehicles need just basic tools for most jobs. 

True, there is a long list of "Special Tools" catalogued in the Land Rover workshop manual, but the removal of all the items I have in mind requires just the normal range of workshop tools. 

Also, tools do have to be Imperial not Metric because even though the vehicle was built for export, in the 1960's metrication had not taken place in the UK. I have no intention of stripping the engine or gearbox, where work can only be accomplished with some special left handed widget tools - I can get my hands and finger nails just as dirty in the engine compartment, because these older 19J Rover engines ooze oil from every orifice! 

First job was to break the seal on the thermostat housing, which I suspected was the source of the overheating.

It was. The thermostat was corroded and stuck.
All the metal faces were cleaned and polished before new gaskets and seals were fitted.
As well as the re-installation work, there are some adjustments required. 

Although I spent almost a full morning poring over the parts and workshop manuals, before I ordered the parts, there were a couple of items which turned up which although clearly for a Land Rover, they will not fit on this Land Rover. But taking time, not rushing to fit things after I have cleaned and painted them with rust proofer etc., has meant that the work has gone according to plan. When everything was reassembled, it started and purred along beautifully.

It does not look very pretty, but as the old saying goes, "you can't make a silk purse from a sows ear". With new pipes there are no leaks and it will be OK for the next 30 years.

Another job this week has been making some changes to my courtyard gates. 

I built these in the early spring, but the heat of the summer has affected the wood. 

The very poor quality timber available, not just here on the island but in Split on the mainland too, is a constant source of frustration. Timber isn't seasoned properly, so even though I buy ahead and store timber, giving it time to season, when external wood is subjected to sustained high temperatures and low humidity, joints open and seams crack.

Although all the joints in the gates were glued with Cascamite resin adhesive and screwed, and were completely tight when I assembled the gates, several have opened up during the summer.

The advertisements for Cascamite say it is stronger than the wood it sticks. I can vouch for that because in several places, the actual glued joint has held, but it has pulled wood away from an upright.

I have purchased some steel plates, which I am using to now bolt through the various joints to add another and hopefully final layer to keep the joints in place. I wanted "arrow plates", but could only get "Tee plates", so have had to use those. Just another of those compromises...

The bolts have tightened everything up again and should now hold the ledges in place. It is disappointing when you spent a long time getting everything square and true to find that joints have opened, but between unseasoned timber and unseasonable weather, there is not much one can do. 

I have learnt a lesson. Any future gates I build, and there will be at least one set which I know of now, will have steel straps and additional Coach bolts added at the time of construction, to prevent this problem from happening again. 

Although I managed to get all the metalwork treated with a corrosion preventer, the frequent (and very welcome) rains stopped me finishing everything with a top coat.

We are losing 3 minutes of daylight a day now. 

It is noticeable that the sun disappears behind the hills to the south around 16:30 and by 18:00 I need lights on inside. I have also needed to wear a pullover when working outside at the start of the day for the first time this week. I suspect the shorts and tee-shirts, which are normal summer work wear, will be consigned to a drawer until next spring. 

It must take a special kind of person to work in the Arctic and/or Antarctic where depending upon the latitude, there will be days to weeks of perpetual darkness (as well as wind, intense cold and driving snow). 

It is not true that there are six months of darkness and six months of daylight, because of course there is twilight in between, once the sun is between 1 and 18 degrees below the horizon you will have twilight. So whilst the sun dipped below the horizon on 25th September at latitude 90º N, from then there will be diminishing twilight daily, and the actual North Pole will be completely dark from early November until 29th January when the first glow of twilight will return. 

Further south, but still above the arctic circle, there will be some sun and twilight, but as I am a sun person I don't think I could manage not to see and feel the warmth of the sun for weeks on end as the scientists working in the Arctic and Antarctic do.

We get twilight here, but because Dol is in a hollow and my home is snuggled into a north facing hill side, I don't get to see much more than a glow. However, getting up early (early for me means 04:30) for a Webinar conference on Wednesday morning, the sky was incredible. 

We have had some rain this week, enough to break the drought, followed by a small Bura, the cold Katabatic wind from the north, blowing off the Great Hungarian plain. This has cleared the atmosphere and the starscape was just simply incredible.

The rainy days have also given me the chance to do some experimentation in the kitchen. 

I had an oversupply of fresh milk so decided to try and make Paneer

Paneer is one of those quintessentially Indian foods to be eaten with curry and enjoyed. It can also be added to salads, cooked or just eaten raw and enjoyed. It is also easy to make, with no curing time involved.

Starting with 2 liters of full cream milk, you gently heat it until it reaches a temperature of 95ºC - just under boiling point.

Once you see it simmering nicely, turn the heat down to keep it at this temperature for 10 minutes and stir to stop any milk scaling on the bottom. As soon as it starts to froth, turn the heat off, it is now ready for 60ml of fresh lemon juice to be added.

The milk will curdle instantly. Stir and leave to stand for 15 minutes until the whey (straw coloured liquid) is on top and the curds have settled.

Carefully strain everything into a cheesecloth lining a sieve over a bowl.

Squeeze the cheese cloth to get rid of most of the whey

Then put the curds in a dessert dish and fold them, in the cloth into a rectangle

Place a plate on top with weights on top to remove more whey. Empty the whey out that collects in the bottom. Leave the pack weighted for an hour.

Remove from the cloth, cover with cling film and refrigerate. It s ready to eat when cool. That's it, an artisan cheese made, as simple as that! I think I might have to make Paneer Mughlai curry this week. If any reader would likie the full recipes, let me know.

The wind, although not very strong has rattled my fruit trees and I have been pickup up the Mandarin windfalls.
These are the small ones, still only partially ripe. The tree is laden with ripening fruit but I am juicing these windfalls. All the vitamin C should keep winter colds at bay, or at least I hope it will.
I have picked my entire crop of apples this week. All four of them! 

There is one established tree, which is a variety called Idared. It had been left to go wild and this spring I pruned it properly . It then produced a lot of blossom, but the majority did not set. The apples I have are excellent, large, sweet and tasty, but it would have been nice to have had some more. I will give it more attention early next year when the pruning time comes.

After the 4 days with rain this week I wanted to get into the orchards and hoe, however the soil is in no state to be worked at the moment so I will have to leave the task until later. If I try and work now, I will compact an already fragile soil structure.

With the rain and wind this week, we have moved from later summer temperatures straight to late autumn/early winter in the space of a week. I have been able to clear and organise the greenhouse for winter. A day of constant rain on Friday gave me the opportunity to spend it in the dry and relative warmth, listening to the rain pattering on the roof, while I tidied the various planters and removed a year's detritus.

When the sun has shone it has brought out the autumnal colours of the pomegranate bushes.

With another unsettled week coming next week I think it will be inside jobs mainly, with the construction of a covered storage area for firewood a priority for outside, weather permitting.