Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 35

One man went to mow.....

As summer in the Adriatic moves inexorably into autumn, the trees are starting to change colour and each morning there are a few more brown leaves around my courtyard and patio. 

This week I have seen groups of people picking white grapes in the fields around Dol, the first early crop. 

I have been watching newly hatched Red Admiral butterflies doing their aerobatic dance to impress potential mates, sensing like the rest of us that the year is quickly passing, but they barely stayed still long enough to be photographed. More migrant birds are passing overhead 24/7, on their way south, following one of the established migratory flyways.

One windless night when I could hear European Bee Easters calling from the overhead, I tried to get a height for them using a laser. I failed, but instead the intense beam of light in the sky attracted flying insects and two bats appeared flying in and out of the beam, drawn in to feed on the prey. I'm used to using lasers for measuring, but not to help the local bat population gather supper.

The final growth of weeds are approaching flowering
So in the top orchard I decided now was the time to cut them down again. ​ 

The two previous cuts which I left on the ground, plus the application of Glyphosate at the start of the growing season has seriously reduced the number of weeds but there were still a lot of seed heads which had appeared. These are from the highly drought hardy varieties. 

As there are visitors nearby, and noisy machines are still banned until the 21st of the month, I went back to old but tried and trusted methods. I have a hand scythe, which does the work of a strimmer, but perhaps not as thoroughly, so I used that. 

Remember the "One man went to mow, went to mow a meadow...." playground song? Well he would have been using a hand made scythe. I am pleased it is just an orchard, not a full meadow.

Despite its age, it is remarkable how effective it is. I have left the cuttings in place, because I am conscious that there are many insects which are still dependant on greenery, like this young Katydid, the Oak Bush Cricket, Meconema thalassinum.

Having seen several of these crickets, I think that around the edge of the orchard I will leave a margin of grasses, where they are out of the way and they can be a haven for the wildlife, without interfering with the running of the orchard. There are a huge number of self seeded briers though, which will have to go.

One of my regular parcels of supplies arrived from the UK on Monday, which has enabled me to finish some jobs which have been waiting for specialist parts. 

Things like a litter of genuine Linseed Oil glaziers putty, and also some new items, for example a soil warming cable for a greenhouse propagator. The box gives very good value, as both felines adopt it to play in.

So while I have finished odd jobs, I have also started and finished some new ones.

 Cutting the base and side pieces for the propagator was made easy with a plastic template, which the circular saw slides along. Very accurate cuts can be made with this invention.

However having purchased screws, I quickly found that even though the 9mm marine plywood had been pre-drilled, because the screws were thin, the screwdriver kept jumping out of the head. 

I had wanted TORX heads, but there are none to be had on the island, so had bought Pozidrive cross head. I will have to get the TORX screws from Bauhaus. Everything has been cut ready, I have the plastic liner and sand, all I need is a few of the right kind of screws!

There has been no rain for weeks, but looking ahead, a frontal system will pass through from Monday, and hopefully it will bring some substantial rain. 

The summer sun has rotted the plastic sheeting which covers a leaky corner of the old cottage roof.

It bears retelling that whilst the age of the buildings is around 1880/1890 - but I am still trying to find a date stone - the roofs in the main are from the 1940's, because during World War II, all my buildings, and most of the others in the village, were set on fire by the Axis forces in retaliation for partisan activity. 

The old cottage was burnt, but being just over a single story high, the fire did not develop enough to completely destroy the upper floor and roof. The walls and timbers inside the loft still bear the marks of the fire, but the traditional Croatian slab roof remains.

In one corner it has been leaking. Someone has tried to fix it with some tin sheeting and a spout, but essentially, it leaks into the utility room. 

It can only be fixed by completely removing the roof, re-timbering and replacing it, so to keep it water tight, I have used heavy gauge plastic sheeting, weighted down with stones and iron barrel hoops. 

There have been all manner of running repairs over the years, with mortar being pushed between the stone slabs, but removal, cleaning and replacement is the only option now.

But the sunlight, specifically the ultraviolet light degrades the plastic, rotting it so it becomes brittle and breaks up into small pieces. All good for the environment, but after a summer of unrelenting sun, the old cover was well past its sell by date. 

Having bought a new nine metre length on a roll, the first job was to get it into some sort of a shape where I could easily manoeuvre it into position.

I used the old donkey track, where there are no sharp stones or anything that would tear it to spread it out, then fold it double, into the right proportions.

Finally I rolled it up - easier said than done on your own with a 4.5 metre length of plastic.

Then it was up onto the roof to remove the remnants of the old plastic sheeting and roll the new one into place. I got it finished with the new weights in place, just as the sun was reaching its zenith, which was good timing. Working on the roof is hot work.
Never being short of a job or two, I have started this week on preparing a guest room. 

It has meant the removal and relocation of my main computer system away from the study and into the dining room. At the same time I installed the new motherboard and then spent a couple of evenings reinstalling software and trouble shooting. I still have an issue around the type of RAM, but at least I am back to working on a big screen again. 

Meanwhile I have tables and other furniture to remove to create a clear working space, then I will start by bringing the ceiling down. 

I'm not sure what I will find, but I want to install insulation, a new plasterboard ceiling to replace the hardboard which is in place and I will continue the rewiring. I will also need to level the floor. 

When I put the laser over the floor, it is 15 centimetres lower in the centre than at the edges. The floor joists are tree trunks and it is not that they have sunk, it is that the builders just laid floor boards over the uneven tree trunk underneath. This was a building completely gutted by fire, and when it was rebuilt circa 1944, the builders used what ever they had to hand, which just happened to be trees. 

There will have to be some detailed planning, measuring and creative use of timber to get the floor to somewhere approaching level! 

To end the week, there was good news on Friday when the postman delivered an official letter from the Urban Planning Council, with the approval for my building work. There are still a few things to do before the work can start, but

 "Let the planning commence...."