Life in a Dol House
2015 - Week 47

Bathroom spies

It's Saturday and it has been raining since 10am, which is good because I planted bulbs this week. It's also good because at 9am, my new bathroom tiles were delivered.

So I was able to get them into the workshop in the dry. Seeing the tiles in daylight, they look quite different to how they were when I saw the display in the shop. I'm not disappointed, far from it, because as there will be little natural light in the bathroom when it is finished, I think they will look just right.

I have had several deliveries this week. The first was on Monday, when the latest box of hard-to-get items arrived from the UK. There was a whole range of things, from books and magazines, through plumbing and electrical DIY goods, to camera stuff and several bags of spring bulbs and seeds. 

I sorted the bulbs into things I needed to plant straight away and things that can be left for a few days. It would have been lovely to just take time out from the bathroom renovation and spend it in the garden, but I need to push that bathroom project along. So on Tuesday I cleared annual weeds and planted traditional English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta  in a location in the citrus orchard where I will be able to see them in flower from my kitchen window.

Bluebells are a lovely spring flower, seen across much of the British Isles, but it was only when I was looking up the botanical name for them for this week's newsletter, that I was surprised to come across a Royal Horticultural Society webpage  where they are classified as an invasive weed.

I used to live in an area where in the spring, the woodland round about was carpeted with blue. In many places in the UK, locations are given the name "Bluebell Wood", because of the riot of blue to be seen there in the spring.

In the UK there are 11 streets called 'Bluebell Wood', from Canterbury in the south east of England, to Stirling in the north of Scotland. The Woodland Trust  lists 1,300 bluebell woods in the UK, half of all the bluebells in the world. Because the bluebell reproduces very successfully using underground runners, and seeds, it spreads quickly.

l also planted some blue Allium, Allium caeruleum. These showy flowers with blue pom pom heads will bloom next summer alongside the path leading to the sundial, that is if the local felines stop digging them up again! The rest of the bulbs I hope will be planted this week.

In the greenhouse I planted winter tomatoes. It is another experiment to see if I can grow a variety called Glacier in my unheated (except by the sun) greenhouse. 

When the sun was out, the temperature climbed to over 30 degrees, making it a lovely place to be. So much so that I have decided to extend the greenhouse past the doorway that currently leads to the study/lounge and bedrooms, so that the natural solar heating effect can be used to the full. 

In an afternoon this week, when I had had enough of the bathroom, I created the framework for the polycarbonate sheets to be attached to. Another advantage of having a comprehensive workshop, is being able to quickly build and make things for around the house.

I have taken things a little easy this week in the bathroom because my thumb has been quite sore from when I injured it last week. I want to give the sprain time to heal, so have done light, but necessary work. 

All the wiring has now been chased and fixed in the walls. I have also carefully measured where the water pipes need to go and have chased out the channels to take the piping. This led to the discovery of two spies in the bathroom.

The internal wall is a recent (30 to 40 years ago) addition. It is made of small hollow terracotta bricks, sim ilar to what is now known in Europe as Eco'Bric  which have then had a concrete render added to their face. 

The advantage is that these bricks are very light but strong. It also means that you can remove a small amount of the outer wall and then quickly open up space for wires or pipes. I use a favourite old 1/2" firesharp fishtail Tungsten masons chisel  which is the ideal tool for intricate work like this. 

Using a masonry drill first to delineate the track to follow, I was almost at the end of the wall when, as I pulled out some of the fractured terracotta I thought I saw movement inside the brick. 

Then out poked the head of a very sleepy lizard. As he tentatively crawled into the daylight I saw that my drill bit had grazed a rear leg and he had just lost his tail.

Then a second lizard poked its head out.

Because the brick bloques are hollow, I presume these lizards could move freely throughout the wall. I moved them to safety before continuing the work. Now, I have most of the chasing finished. The last big job is to remove a 570 x 350 by 20 cm deep piece of the old stone wall to take the hidden water cistern. I admit I have left this until last, because it will be both difficult and messy, but it is on the list for next week.

Another piece of equipment that was delivered this week was the water conditioner computer, to remove calcium and help prevent calcium carbonate in the solar water heater. 

The water on the island is piped from the mainland and it is very hard. I have had a huge build-up of lime scale in kettles and water heaters over the past year, so I have invested in some preventative measures. I could not buy a water softening system here, so have gone for an electronic system. I had to open the rising main insulation jacket, then feed a two metre long electric cable tightly round the pipe.

Once finished, I connected the computer and field generator and finally built a nice box to protect it. Now I will leave it to reduce the dissolved minerals in the water to prevent damage to my systems.

There has been a heavy dew most mornings this week, which has coated the leaves and spiders webs all around the garden. The early morning sun reflecting off these thousands of tiny lenses and evaporating the moisture has made for some interesting photo opportunities.
While on the road down to Stari Grad this week, I saw that the winter signs have been erected by the municipality to warn road users of potential slippery surfaces where there are exposed sections of road.

And that is about it for another week. As we race headlong towards the shortest day in the northern hemisphere, with rain pummelling down outside, Christmas is around the corner, soon to be followed by New Year. 

So until next week, wherever in the world you are - and the stats tell me this newsletter is read in some strange and exotic places - I hope you have a good week. I intend to.