Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 50

Deconstruction complete!

This a has been a "Bitsa" week. You know, one of those weeks when you have done bits o' this and bits o' that. 

Sunday began with cleaning the flue for the wood stove. Towards the end of last week I had noticed that the fire was not drawing as well as it had when I first lit it this autumn, back in November, and there were wisps of smoke escaping when I was putting more logs onto the fire. So after removing one of the 90º elbows, I used my home made raking tool and brought out over two litres of shiny black carbon. 

I also took the opportunity to take the top of the stove and completely clean out the insides. The result is that the wood stove is once again burning efficiently and is smoke free, at least it is inside. I am sure that this accumulation of debris is because of the 90º elbows, so until they are eliminated, when the building work takes place next year, I think I will have to set the an hour or two to one side on the first Sunday of each winter month, to clean the flue pipes.

On Tuesday I caught the 05:30 Jadrolinija ferry to Split. I had a list of some 20+ items I needed from the mainland, and after stops at Lidl and Bauhaus, together with several other smaller stores and the market, 

I was able to catch the 14:30 ferry back to the island,

With only a couple of things that I had not been able to obtain. It was a beautiful day, with warm winter sunshine being enjoyed by the locals and a very few visitors. 

What is noticeable is how Christmas is changing here in Dalmatia. This will be my third Christmas in Croatia. The first year I was here, there were few ornaments, few Christmas trees and a few derisory lights. 

Last year, when I went to Bauhaus on the 2nd December, the staff were just unpacking and setting up the seasonal display area. This year, that seasonal display area is ⅓ larger than in 2015. 

In the city market there were huge piles of Christmas trees, with one of those netting machines, so that once purchased, a tree is fed through a tube and packed in a net to create a manageable size and shape to carry home. In shops there seem to be more decorations and certainly more decorated trees and generally there are more prominent displays of seasonal items.

Once off the ferry and back home to Dol, I had the car quickly unloaded and safely garaged by 17:00. As I get to know my way around more, I find I can get into shops, find what I need and get out again quite quickly. Although a round trip to the mainland takes up 11½ hours, so a full day, but at least I no longer have to go there monthly.

The old donkey stable is no more. My deconstruction project is complete! 

The walls are down as low as I can get them, until Cvjetko comes with his truck to remove the debris, old mortar and stone fragments which are neither use nor ornament. I have several large pile of this debris, all of which are taking up space and probably covering some stones. But at least all the hard work is done and with a week in hand. I had set a target of having the buildings dismantled by Christmas, and with a week to go, I have achieved the objective.

In the Top Orchard, there are several piles of large and very large stones, and one large pile of small and medium sized stones. These will get used in due course for walls and perhaps any that remain for a rockery. I also need to replace a path and put some 'all weather' flag stones into the orchards, so nothing will get wasted. Now I am looking forward to the construction phase beginning. It will have taken two and a half years, but there will be a huge leap forward once it begins.

One problem I did not foresee became apparent as I was removing the north wall of the stable. Behind the wall there is an embankment, which I presumed was made of earth. However as I removed the stones below the level of the embankment top, what I found was piles and piles of small flints, chippings and pebbles.

I now suspect that as previous residents have removed the myriad small stones from the soil, they have just piled them up in the corner, behind the stable. No doubt "out of sight - out of mind". These will go on the truck to the tip, along with the other building rubble I have accumulated. I need to have some working space for the builders, but also I want to reclaim this area for a practical use.

I thought that it would not be too difficult to remove the loosely packed stones. Wrong! Although I tried to shovel them away, because they are at all different angles, I could not get my shovel in to dig them out. So instead I resorted to using a 50 year old garden rake. Not the flimsy sort of thing you buy nowadays, no, this is a substantial gardening tool which is capable of pulling the stones away and raking them into a pile for removal. I also could now see a large and very dead tree stump.

With a little effort I was able to remove the stump and will cut it up for firewood. At the end of the week, there is a little more work to do. I will try and reclaim the soil that has leeched between the stones, because it is humous rich from all the years of leafmold, but the major task is now complete.

This whole area was once the Fold Yard, a home for a variety of the owner's farm animals - goats, pigs, ducks and chickens. When I purchased the property, there were breeding pens in it for chickens (or ducklings). However, it is probably the warmest of all the enclosed areas around my home. 

There were several plum trees growing, which I have removed, replanted or given away to neighbours. It is bounded by a stone wall of over a metre high and currently three sides are taken up with my storage for logs for the wood stove, and on one side a rather straggly compost heap. 

None of which is an especially effective use of space. So having made the decision to clear the area back to my boundary line, I will rebuild the dry stone walls and then create a sub-tropical garden area here. Somewhere that will be cool in summer and warm in winter. 

The Clerk of Works has carried out regular inspections and generally supervised me as and when he felt like it....
Some more bits this week have been my six monthly dental checkup and a visit to the Vets with No. 1 cat, Risha, for his annual vaccinations. 

I think he enjoys his vet visits about as much as I enjoy going to the dentist, both necessary evils to be endured and then forgotten about. At 10½ years old, almost 65 in human years, Risha is starting to slow down. 

He is not fond of the cold (neither am I), and prefers to curl up in his bed, in front of the wood stove, or on my knee if someone is talking to me on Skype (inquisitiveness). But after the visits, we were both pronounced to be healthy. I also have spent some time resolving some re-licencing issues around the old Land Rover. All in all, I think I have achieved quite a bit, even though I do not seem to have had a lot of hours dedicated to any one task.

My secret project is coming on nicely - having bought fixtures and fittings in Split on Tuesday, and as I write this some of the wood is secured in frame clamps behind me.

I glued it outside in the afternoon, but have brought it in overnight, in case it got damp. I still have a few more hours work, but the project is taking shape nicely.

With a week to go before Christmas, I have not put up any lights or decorations this year. 

There is too much work going on in my different buildings and although I brought the boxes of decorations out of the Konoba store, I decided not to open and unpack them, as we are already half way through the month, and I really don't have any space this year. But with a display of lights and a big tree in Stari Grad, I can see nice decorations whenever I wish. On Friday morning, staff from the municipality were decorating the tree in the main square of Start Grad.

And yes, the sky really is that blue at this time of year!
Friday night was the coldest of the winter so far recorded by my weather station

The temperature dropped to -1.1ºC and there was a larger areas of radiation frost in two of my orchards than on past nights, together with the first sign of frost in the drupe orchard. It is still not cold by northern European standards, but it is nice to shut the door, close the blinds and stoke up the wood stove at the end of the working day. 

The station received an upgrade this week, when I had new temperature sensors delivered, so hopefully there will be no more days when the temperature signal is lost due to radio interference. All the sensors transmit their data by radio to a roof top antenna.

With just a week to Christmas Day, whether you are in the warmth of the antipodean summer, or the cold of the northern winter, I hope your plans for the festive season are well advanced.