Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 42

Wet and windy weather

After many weeks without rain, a single storm this week dumped 126.2mm or 126 litres per metre on Tuesday evening. 

That is five inches of rain in imperial units, the majority falling in just an hour and a half, between 17:40 and 19:10. The rainfall rate is the bottom graph on the chart below.

There was just one lightning strike, which struck an electric transmission tower close to where the electrical supply comes ashore on the north coast of the island. Although we suffered a power cut, my UPS backup systems did what they were supposed to do and cut in keeping my satellite internet connection and the weather station live.

I had spent all day on Monday and Tuesday in the citrus and drupe orchards, with a Dutch hoe, taking the tops off the weedlings and generally getting the orchards ready for winter.

The rain pulverised the soil surface, bringing more small stones to the surface which now need to be raked, riddled and collected.

It will have done quite a lot of good, but there should be a lot more rain to come over the winter-wet season here, which I need to fill my irrigation cisterns. By Saturday, there were a lot more weedlings showing , so I will have to repeat the hoeing again next week I think, but not until the soil surface has dried enough to walk on without compressing it. The problem when the soil is still warm and when combined with abundant moisture, is it equals germination and growth.

I have mentioned before about the different mechanisms that plants here have, where instead of going dormant over the winter, they go dormant to escape the heat of the summer. 

What has surprised me, and this is the first year I have noticed it, is that annual bulbs which in the northern latitudes are spring annuals, have already started into growth. In less than twelve months after planting, they have reverted to the Mediterranean model of growth. Many of the annual bulbs we know and love originated in the Mediterranean basin, but through highly selective breeding over recent centuries, we have altered their annual growth cycle and adapted them to colder and higher latitude climates.

I planted quite a lot of bulbs this year, including some beautiful Iris "Eye of the Tiger", and also Amaryllis Belladonna.

The Iris were in flower in the last week of April, they then went dormant over the summer, but this week when I was cutting the seed pods off to save the seed, I noticed there is new growth, now some 25 cm tall.

Similarly, the Amaryllis are in leaf.

If we do get any sustained cold, and it is any body's guess as to what the winter holds, then it may well set these bulbs back. Meanwhile, I have ordered orange Crocus, Snowdrop and some different Iris to plant for some colour next spring. Slowly but surely I am planting for colour, spectacle and enjoyment....

I also made a start this week on preparing the 800² metre top orchard for planting next year. 

There is a weed which is quite common here, and which my neighbours tell me is quite poisonous, although I do not recognise it from the UK and have been unable to find it in any of my books.

It grows to about 1 metre tall and has very small, conical yellow flowers, which quickly go to seed and then open to show a star burst of 1 cm long, hard black seeds. These have minute hooks on them and catch onto anything which passes. So it has quite a sophisticated dispersal method. I have pulled large handfuls out this week, trying to get rid of them before they have chance to go to seed and spread.

I was going to use some aerial photographs I took earlier in the year, to help draw up a planting plan for the orchard, however when I looked back at my photo index, even photographs I took in February have the plum trees in blossom, so obscuring a good part of the orchard and the summer photographs obscure more than 70%. The area covered by the Red plum, number two in the photo, a variety of the Myrobalan or Cherry Plums has a canopy which covers more than 170² metres. Together with it's neighbour, they totally dominate the orchard and will eventually be replaced.

Whilst you can use GoogleEarth to help draw up plans, having high definition aerial photographs is a much better and more accurate option.

The cool climate Mango plants I ordered have arrived this week, together with a dwarf Red Banana. These will go into the orchard, once my neighbour's Cupressus Leylandii hedge has been replaced with a wall. So for the time being they are in the greenhouse. Meanwhile Risha has taken possession of the box that they came in. 

He cannot resist a cardboard box and bubble wrap, even though he has a soft, comfy bed.
I finally built my lean to wood shed this week. 

It was going to be a job for last winter, but I never got around to doing it. As I am starting to dismantle the old donkey stable, which is where I have stored timber for the wood stove, I needed somewhere else.

This is not a precision building project. I am re-purposing roof timbers which were taken out of the dining room last year, together with the old metal roofing from over the patio. All I need is protection on three sides and a roof, with an open front, where I can put cut timber, and where in the summer it will dry nicely for winter fuel. First job was to make a couple of side frames, to fit the 2 metre x 1 metre size of the roofing sheets.

These were then erected, standing on stones to reduce the chance of rot and were joined together with three more lengths of timber.

At this stage, it is somewhat less than rigid! I am using 150 mm nails rather than screws, to speed the construction process. Next I added a sheet at the back, which actually makes the structure quite rigid, followed by the roof.

Last job was to make a couple of supports for a canopy over the front. I had though about a hinged panel but decided just to make a support for either side and then nail the last sheet of roofing onto them.

As I said, it is functional and not particularly elegant but will store three cubic metres of timber in relatively dry conditions. I also discovered that the recent cold spell has not killed off the wretched Tiger mosquitoes, as I was bitten several times through my pullover.

Another on-going job has been the removal of more stones from the dismantled buildings. Some are simply too heavy to lift and I have to resort to other means to remove them.
There are still plants coming into bloom in the garden. New flowers have appeared on this Canna Indica.

Whilst building the shed, I found this inhabited insect case.

Whatever is inside, it is well sealed up for the winter. I carefully removed the whole case from the roofing sheet and put it somewhere safe. It would be nice to see it emerge in the spring and find out what built the home out of tiny sticks.

There are still a lot of insects and butterflies about. This adult Preying Mantis was enjoying the sunshine on the top of my car.

While the Gatekeeper butterflies are just one of many species still flying. I am unsure whether this is a Spanish Gatekeeper, Pyronia bathseba, which is not mentioned as being found in the Balkans, or the Common Gatekeeper, Pyronia tithonus, as both rest with their wings open and have huge variety in the number of wing spots.

I have been collecting pine needles from the forest, to mulch round several acid loving plants, for example my Blueberries. There are lots of fungi growing, like this small Orange Milk Cap, Lactarius deterrimus.

To finish this week, I came across one of those mesmerising web pages this week

Created by a former Microsoft code compiler Cameron Beccario, it is a real time Earth Wind Map.

The brighter the yellow, the stronger the wind. You can zoom in and out, move around and centre the map over where ever you are. I am VERY pleased I am not crossing the North Atlantic at the moment.