Life in a Dol house 
2016 - Week 48

Life in a Dol house

Well it's December again! The twelfth month of the year and Christmas is approaching.... to be quickly followed by new Year. 

In Croatian December is called Prosinac, or literally the start of the sun shining.

We had a very wet end to last week, with 59.2mm of rain on Sunday. It rained all day. The result is that the floor of the hay loft is saturated and although I started on Monday to remove the planking, I decided it was more likely to dry in situ rather than if I piled everything up, so left it for later in the week.

The weather did allow me to clear the fold yard, ready for the big stones. All the branches I had cut from the big Fig tree were reduced to manageable sizes and were then fed through my mulching machine to make course shreddings, to be piled around the base of various trees and plants, both as winter protection and weed suppressant.

With the forecast of a Bura, I put the plastic fleece protection around my tender citrus saplings. Lemons and to a lesser degree Limes, are susceptible to cold winds. I also placed cardboard around the new Avocado trees I planted way back in the spring. They have both grown substantially and I am concerned that in their first couple of years their new buds may get nipped by the cold winds.

The storm blew in with some force on Monday evening. Although the air temperature was +2ºC, with the wind chill, the feel was -5ºC.

On Tuesday I found that I had some ice on the top of a bucket I had left out, in the shade of the buildings and there was a very slight ground frost in one corner of the Citrus orchard. The ice never melted all day, and as I collected some logs at sunset, it was still there.

My plan 'B' this week was about looking for a couple of things which are somewhere in the Konoba storage area, and whilst I was moving boxes, I would take the opportunity to rewire the light and power sockets so I can use my new dehumidifier. 

Once I had moved the boxes, it was easy to locate the incoming lead for the lighting, which I found was also then connected to the only power socket in the room as well. 

Not only that, when I opened the junction box, there was no earth.

The junction box was a 4 connector model rather than a five or six connector, which is what it should have been, so the incoming earth cable had simply been cut where it entered the junction box and had not been connected to anything.

When I think of the power tools I have connected to the socket and used, without realising there was no earth protection, it makes me wonder about the mentality of the old Yugoslavian electricians. 

This is the last building which needs the wiring upgrading, and it can't happen soon enough! The wiring was the old rubber coated aluminium, not copper, and in several places the rubber sheathing had perished away, becoming powder and revealing the bare aluminium wire underneath. I had disconnected the feed to this room more than 12 Months ago, because I was concerned about the state of the wiring and the potential fire risk. I'm pleased I did, even if it has made it a little difficult at times seeing what I was looking for in the Konoba.

I decided to get a replacement junction box, but with the right number of connectors, so went down to Stari Grad. But after visiting three builders merchants - we don't have an electrical wholesaler - I came away empty handed and had wasted more than an hour of precious winter daylight in trying to get what I needed. Back at home, I took lunch on the run and continued with the rewiring. Most of what I do is about planning. Planning what I need, planning where services will run, planning and ordering parts and any tools. So I had planned exactly where the cable will come from on the floor above, using existing conduit and where it will (eventually) go next as part of the ring main.

What I had to do was a re-design of the wiring, in the light of the lack of the correct junction box. 

This is a temporary fix, using the original box and a smaller 32amp 3 way junction box
One of several I bought for another project, luckily I over ordered - need eight? Then buy ten!

There is a really curious mismatch in the workmanship. Pieces of wood have been let into the walls and have been neatly plastered in, so that the old cable clips could be firmly screwed into place. Then where cable can be seen, the correct type and thickness, even armoured cable has been used, but the moment it goes out of sight there is a short length of the correct cable, which is then joined to light weight thinner (and cheaper) cable with bits of electrical tape. 

I put this down to the "Curse of the Electrician". I know who it was - the previous owner was the electrician who was responsible for wiring the property when electricity came to the village around 1970. If a job is worth doing, then its worth doing well. I just do not comprehend why a lot of time and effort is spent on things like wooden screw blocks, when wall plugs would have surfaced, yet where there are safety critical issues, like earthing and correct thickness cables, corners are cut and there is skimping.

We are approaching the winter daylight minimum and by 4pm, the sun is long gone behind the southern hills. I was able to get the new socket and light switch installed, but there was not enough light or time to do much more, thanks in part to the hour long abortive search for a replacement junction box.

There is only so much that I can anticipate needing and buy ahead
The Bura which blew in on Monday night and stayed for three days was fairly typical for this time of year. 

Yes, it was the first blast of winter and somewhat uncomfortable, but with a woolly hat and gloves, working outside is not too bad. Like everything, you just have to think ahead and plan. Looking at the wind and temperature charts for Tuesday morning, it's easy to see the source of the cold. In this picture, blue is below freezing.

With temperatures well below freezing in Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, the wind when it reached us has not had time to warm up as it passed over the short stretch of sea of the Brač channel, so we feel the coolness of the breeze.

When the days are clear and sunny, with no cloud anywhere and of course with clear skies at night, then air temperature soon falls to near freezing, but once the Bura finishes, it becomes overcast and mild again, which is how we finished the week.

After three days of feeling like a Troglodyte, working in the deepest, darkest and slightly damp Konoba, I have found a few of the things I was looking for. 

There has been some damp ingress on the back wall, which is below ground level outside and also where there is no guttering to take the rain water from the roof. I have laid more plastic down and moved a few things, but nothing save some IKEA steel curtain poles, that have gone rusty at one end, seems to have been affected too much.

This swivel chair is covered in vinyl, so whilst the white mould looks bad, after being washed in warm, soapy water and then treated with "Cockpit Spray", it is as good as new again.

I had lined the walls with cardboard and covered the floor in with boards, but the damp has crept in at the bottom join. One bookcase box had given way, but the contents are undamaged, so I have brought it into the dining room. I really don't have room in the dining room for another bookcase at the moment, but for the short time until building work starts, I can manage. Christmas Dinner might have to be postponed because of a lack of seating, until the weather is better, so we can eat outside though!

I have done some more work on dismantling the donkey stable. 

Once the hay loft floor boards had dried in the Bura, it was less than a morning's work to remove them and then the five timber beams which had supported them.

It must be over a hundred years since daylight flooded into this small building.
I do wonder what the original builders would think, now that I am dismantling their craftsmanship ready for a new building to be erected. 

In the same vein, I am curious about what the people who will be living here in 50 or 100 years will think of the work I am doing now.

The difference is that the original builders are anonymous, their names being lost in the mists of time. There are no photographs and only the most scant of property records. Now with digital photography, the internet and the cloud, there is a fair chance that all my work will still be available one hundred years from now.

By lunch time on Saturday, when work stops here for the weekend, I had removed ⅓ of the west wall.
In the photograph, it looks as though about half the wall has gone, and whilst it would be nice to think I had removed half of the stone, the reality is that there is a much lower floor inside the stable, so effectively ⅓ of the wall is below the outside ground level. 

I need to have all the stonework down, ready for building work in January and I am on target to meet this criteria. 

So until next week, where ever you are, have a good week!