Life in a Dol House
2015 Week 39

The Horned Melon

This has been one of those weeks where I have done all sorts of everything, and finished one or two jobs as well. After my supply run to Bauhaus last week, I put the covers on the all the electrical outlets in the workshop, and finished the wiring of the sockets in the dining room. 

When there is a clear day, and I am minded to lift all the roof tiles on the old building again, I will make the connection with the mains power for the lighting and ring main in the dining room and workshop, and that will be another job out of the way. 

The rain which I expected on Sunday, turned out to be a short, light shower which did not deliver sufficient rain to be able to measure it on my rain gauge. A "trace" in meteorological terms, but just enough to dampen the surface of the soil. At least it was damp until the heat of the sun evaporated it all away, by the middle of Sunday. 

Having planted the green manure crop in the citrus orchard, I was concerned that the light rain, combined with the warm temperatures might make the seeds start to germinate. However with rising temperatures forecast for early in the week, if germination began then it would be abruptly halted and the seeds would fail as the land dried out. 

To prevent this happening, I have been watering the orchard by hand night and morning, up to Thursday when we had the first meaningful rain in almost 6 months. 

The storm system I had seen came in, and between Wednesday night and Friday lunchtime, there was 42.5 mm or 1 3/4 inches. Not too heavy rain, no damaging hail, the odd rumble of distant thunder and a flash of lightning, but the main thunderstorms passed well to the east. This rain has been most welcome. It will improve the olives but not damage the grapes which are still to be harvested.

On Friday afternoon, when the rain had stopped and the sun came out, I had a look in the citrus orchard and thought I could see small leaves. A very close inspection of the soil confirmed there were a few pairs of cotyledon leaves from some seeds on the surface,

and more seeds which had tiny Radicle roots showing.

These are the embronic roots of the plant. So it has taken just 6 days for the red clover to germinate. I do not want to walk all over the soil, because after the rain it would easily compress, but from the edges it looks as though I have a good germination rate. I will have to use alternative means, I think, to keep tabs on the orchard. I can see the patches where I was walking just to irrigate it, that have been compressed. ​ 

This is one of the problems with clay soils, they compress easily, then when the sun comes out, they bake as hard as........ well clay!

Anticipating this rain spurred me on to remove all the weeds from the kitchen garden, turn it with the rotorvator, then cultivate it and sow the Calliente Mustard seeds. ​ 

I can say that in one sentence. In fact it was at 6pm on Wednesday that I finished sowing the last of the seeds. I had run out of them. Although according to the packets, the quantity should have been enough for the area, some 90 square metres, the reality is that I will need another two packets to finish sowing the whole of the area with this green manure.

Turning this garden over with the rotorvator was very hard work. It has a 5 hp Briggs and Stratton engine, so is quite powerful, but the land was so hard that the machine wanted to run along the top. The only way I could get it to dig and turn the soil was to run at low speed and hold the machine back. Very tiring for the arms and shoulders. 

I was also surprised by the huge quantity of stones, some quite large, which were turned. 

The vast number of stones and the terribly poor quality of the soil were the two things which struck me. ​ The soil is completely impoverished. Although the previous owners had chickens, rabbits, goats and a donkey, the straw and manure that the animals produced has never been put near the garden.

There is no body to it and where in one part it is like dust in other parts, it is so hard that I broke a tine on my fork trying to dig up a weed root. I am going to have to reconsider the use of this land. It may be better to turn it into a deciduous fruit orchard and use some of the top orchard for vegetables, rather than try and grow things, and have the problems I had this year with drought and poor cropping. It would be nice to get a machine in remove the stones. I have seen them at work in the UK,

towed behind a Kubota garden tractor, but I honestly could not get even a small tractor up the steps to work the land. The rotorvator only just fits.

I think some research is called for to see what I can grow in a fairly exposed plot. Several people have told me that every January, there is a big fruit tree fair in Split at Diocletian's palace. I need to go next year, I think. (Or I could just try and find one of these machines!) ​

It looks as though it would probably be a useful and fun machine to have in the garage

I have found a nice, compact wood stove for the dining room online this week, that will heat 3 radiators as well. But in trying to make the payment for It, I discovered that my local bank has changed their online banking and there is a problem with my account. It doesn't work. A full morning this week has been taken up with trying to sort it out, which as yet I haven't been able to. That's another job for next week.

While we had the rain on Thursday and Friday morning, I was laying more floor tiles. I worked out that I can lay a 3 X 3 grid of tiles, which is just over a square metre in size, very accurately by drawing a square and diagonals on the floor. But because the tiles are "rustic" and have no straight edges, it takes much longer to lay them and get them level in all three planes.

So that is my excuse for why I haven't got more files laid this week. Combined with the fact that I managed to put my rotary tile cement mixer through the side of the bucket I was using and when I went to the builders merchant to get a replacement, they had closed early. It was Saturday morning before I bought a replacement, together with another 150 kg of tile cement in Stari Grad.

After visiting the the bank in Jelsa, I popped into the big supermarket and to my surprise, in the fruits section they had a tray of Kiwano, also known as the Horned Melon. ​ 

Clearly they were not selling very well because the price had been reduced to £0.80p, $1 or just over 1 Euro each. If you have never tasted a Kiwano, they have a slightly tart flavour, somewhere between a lemon and a banana. They make very nice smoothies. The skin is very rich in fibre and vitamin C and you separate the green flesh from the seeds in a sieve. ​ 

A very nice and tasty surprise. I guess that you do not see many of them here on the island, because the girl at the checkout asked me how you eat them.

On Saturday I called to see friends in Stari Grad. Cvjetko had been spear fishing and had come home with a substantial haul. ​ 

I was invited to stay for a lunch of grilled fish, lightly rubbed with salt and olive oil and cooked over charcoal in the Kamine in the garden. ​ 

And delicious they were too. And that ends my week on a sweet note. So until next week, keep on seeding.....