Life in a Dol house
2015 - Week 45

A 5 legged anthropod doorkeeper

Sunday was the 1st November, All Saint's Day and Monday the 2nd was All Soul's Day. In Croatia, where Halloween is not celebrated, instead the graveyards and cemeteries are decorated in the run up to these two religious festivals with flowers and the graves of family and friends are adorned with candles. Here in Dol, the cemetery at St Michael's on the top of the hill looked beautiful, filled from end to end with colour.

I went up at sunset on Sunday to take photographs.

The nights have turned cooler this week, with temperatures dropping to just below 6 degrees Celsius on three mornings this week, usually around 05:30 to 06:00. The daytime outside air temperature has reached a maximum of 17 degrees with 16 being the average for the week. Even so the sun feels warm when you are in it. 

In the garden I planted some spring bulbs, Hyacinth and Crocus, around the kitchen window, somewhere that they will be seen next spring. Leaves continue to fall and I cut back several of my grape vines, in preparation for moving the stems when I have a few moments.

Red Admiral butterflies, Vanessa atalanta, are still flying here and as in the UK, the species is one of the last on the wing before winter sets in.

And my two cats have grown their winter fur coats.

Callie has an especially luxuriant and thick coat, in complete contrast to her summer pelage.

Most cats have two layers, a thick underfur and outer guard hair, however the Arabian Mau only has a single layer, which is shed twice a year. As she is curled up on my knee as I write this, her thick winter fur makes her look extremely well fed, in marked contrast to the summer when she looks very thin and under nourished. (It also slows down my writing!)

I have started rebuilding the bathroom this week, in fact the week has raced by to the point where I wonder where time has gone. The old orange hardboard ceiling came down very easily, but I also discovered just how much it had been out of true.

I decided that if the wall tiles are to look nice, then the whole ceiling needs to be level. At some time in the past, the beams and the underneath of the loft flooring have all been whitewashed. I had to cut wooden blocks in sizes from 22 mm to 56 mm, to act as packing pieces under the frame I have built to hold the new plasterboard ceiling and insulation.

The wiring plan also called for the loom to be installed before the insulation.

What I also found was that the hollow brick-block wall which separated the hall from the bathroom only goes to ceiling height. This meant that I could access the void above the hall ceiling from the bathroom, which also gave good access to the master electric consumer unit. 

Planning for the future building work, I decided to renew the lighting in the hall, and add two - way switching. When I removed the hall light fitting, I was surprised to find burn marks behind it, together with melted and fused power leads (and no earth connection).

The light fitting has a CE mark, so is not that old, but whenever the heating event happened, there must have been a strong smell of burning. All new, conduit encased wiring should resolve these issues. 

In cutting back the plaster in the bathroom wall to expose the light cable, I also found that the wires had been attached to the wall with 75 mm nails through the wire webbing.

At least one had penetrated the insulation and copper wires were in contact with the nail. This kind of cable is still for sale, and is used where the installer does not want to use conduit, or perhaps does not have the required plaster depth, so just lays the flat cable against a wall and plasters over it.

These two discoveries diverted me away from the bathroom and back to rewiring, with new IEEE standard fixtures and fittings, while I can access the ceiling void.

It is a bit of de-ja-vu, because 12 months ago I was attempting to resolve the appalling wiring when I installed a new consumer unit and modern MCB's. 

However, whilst I have completely rewired and renewed the power loom in several buildings, the one where the consumer unit is has had a mixture of the old and new connected.

Old wiring had principally fed the hall and bathroom. Now that the bathroom is being remodelled, I went back up on the roof to access the void above the consumer unit, so I could finally remove the old cables after they had been disconnected and to lay in the new loom. I can also now remove, or at least cut back cables in the hall too.

Blue conduit is the new loom, black wires and black conduit is the old system.

At the end of the week, I have completed the bathroom ceiling frame and installed half the insulation. Next steps will be the plasterboard. 

Another job this week has been to bore a pilot hole through the wall for the shower extractor fan. I still have a lot more work to do before the hole is large enough to take the conduit for the extractor. But it also enabled me to put in a cable for an outside light while I was making holes through the solid 800 mm or 3 feet thick wall. 

It is taking me a little longer than I would have wished to do the bathroom, but I am a one-man-band! Everything, the demolition, wood work, electrical and plumbing is all being done by yours truly........

November, called Studeni - the cold month - in Croatian is the time for falling leaves from deciduous trees and when insects numbers reduce.

However this week I have spotted several large and powerful predators. 

For those of you of a "nervous disposition" or any Arachnophobes might want to ignore the following photographs! 

There are several large orb webs, strung between trees and one in particular near my greenhouse.

In the centre of the web there is a large spider, some 25 mm (1 inch) long, with rather attractive markings on its abdomen. I came face to face with the one by the greenhouse door this week. It is an anthropod of the Araneus diadematus, a European Garden Spider, sometimes also called a Crown Orb Weaver, but what is remarkable about this example is that it has only 5 legs.

Three back legs on the right side are completely missing. 

However, it does not seem to affect its hunting prowess. I watched on Saturday as it caught and devoured a fly which had flown into it's web. Racing across the silk, it quickly bit the fly, the venom acting immediately to stop its struggling.

It then cut the fly out of the web and carried it back to the centre of the web, where it spun the fly in a silken cocoon, before it devoured its meal.

I would like to take some more photographs of my doorkeeper, but it will take time to set my equipment up, and if I want to finish the bathroom any time soon, time is one thing I do not have to spare. So perhaps I will wait for next year...

Meanwhile all around Dol the colours of autumn are starting to show.

In Stari Grad, there is a beautiful old gnarled and wizen tree outside the Winery on Put Križa, which has put on a wonderful show of Autumn colour this year.

I will leave you with a photograph of the harbour in Stari Grad, peaceful in the warm autumn sunshine. Norman