Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 10

A foam malfunction or modern art?

Well here we are again on another Saturday and I'm trying to remember what I've done and accomplished this week, which suggests not very much. 

But I've spent a whole week doing it.

The time is approaching when I will ship the old Land Rover engine back to a specialist Land Rove engine refurbishers in the UK. 

To prepare it for transportation, so I took the covers off and removed all the pipework.

​Everything has been photographed, labelled and bagged securely, ready for the time when re-installation will take place. I think I need to give it a bath with a degreaser before it can be loaded onto a van on a pallet, but that needs to wait for a sunny day, so it will dry off.

Sunshine is something we have had very little of this week. 

Since my last blog, I have recorded 74.5mm of rain or 75 liters per square meter of surface (2 US gallons to 1 Sq foot). 

The winter rain is needed, because it is only in winter when we have regular rainfall, but march is considered the end of the rainfall season. 

Looking ahead, we are going to have more rain over the coming week too.

It should mean that my rain water cisterns will start the summer rainless season fairly full, unlike last year when they were empty by the end of May.

But the weather has meant that a lot of my time this week has been doing indoor jobs.

​The best part of one day was spent in making a permanent connection between the main Consumer Unit and the cottage.

The old building had been connected, via an overhead cable run in a steel conduit, but this was removed when the building work was done last autumn.

As the building has my utility room, with the washing machine, freezer and refrigerator in it, I had made a temporary connection using an outside socket, but with some time inside this week, I removed the external cable and connected the new underground cable into the building.

On one afternoon which was fine and sunny, I went up onto the roof and lifted some of the old tiles to permanently remove the overhead cables back to the Consumer unit. 

It was actually hot working in the sunshine.

In the space of ten days we have gone from the depths of a late winter snowstorm and freeze, to tee-shirt weather. 

I have not needed any heating of any kind in my home since Tuesday, even without a great deal of sun, because we are in the path of warm southern wind. 

A southern wind, called a "Jugo" here on the island, is generally both warm and wet at any time of the year.

I find that doing one job quite often creates another job somewhere along the line. 

In fact it is often more than one job! 

A year ago the concrete courtyard was dug out, to facilitate the access of a site dumper to remove building spoil. 

No bad thing, except I have been living with the underlying sand for the 13 months since the concrete was taken up.
​The concrete was on a considerable slope which when I was building the courtyard gates more than two years ago, meant there was a considerable gap at the bottom so that they would open fully without fouling on the concrete driveway.

​Once the concrete had gone, the gap was even bigger, but my plan is that when the building work is finished, I will have nice stone sets level with the outer yard. 

There is little point in laying it now, when there is some substantial building work to be done - hopefully starting soon!

Once the cottage and loft work was finished, I lowered both gates, to their finished height, but that is where I encountered problems. 

The gates are substantial and heavy, so I used a slightly unorthodox method of construction, using hinge pins drilled into solid stone on both sides to support the weight. 

I then fixed the strap hinges to the gate frames and installed them. I added the wooden cladding onto the already hanging gates. It meant it was a one man operation.

​When I came to lower the gates after the recent building work last Autumn, one side was fine, I could drill new, lower holes into stone and then fix them in place, however on the other side, all three hinge pins were now in mortar.

​Even though they were fixed securely with heavy duty wall plugs, over the past couple of months, the largest gate had dropped and it turned out that two of the three hinge pins had become loose in the mortar. 

Another example of the force of gravity holding things up!

My neighbour Steve came round this week and we removed the hinges from the gate, then the pins from the wall. 

I reinserted the pins into the substantial holes that had been left in place in the stone above.

​The gate then had to be lined up, trued up and new holes drilled to take the Carriage Bolts, fitting the hinges in their new position on the doors. 

I had had to cut and fit some wooden fillets because the new positions were no longer through the horizontal wooden ledges.

But once secured in place, the door swung perfectly and mated with the one on the other side. The rest of the day was spent in refitting the door hardware, including a new Suffolk Latch because the thumb treddle on the original one had fractured at the pin.

Saturday, being another fine day, I used a pipe bender to bend steel bar to make a long stay to hold the door rigidly in place.

One of the reasons for having the gates is because of the wind which whistles through the courtyard, like a wind tunnel. 

I have been using a wooden stay, but decided to make a much more permanent and rigid means of holding the gates in place against wind pressure.

The bar is 10mm hollow section (easier to manipulate and bend), so I decided to inject expanding foam into the bar to prevent moisture ingress and hence corrosion, and also into the holes in the wood, for the same reason. 

In the gates, I will then cover this with wood filler before painting them.

​My last tube of expandable foam had set hard, so I got my new re-usable foam injector out. 

I have mentioned before how ubiquitous the use of expanding foam is here. You can buy 1 litre tubes at the builders merchants, which come with a long plastic straw, but these are essentially single use items, as once the foam has solidified in the plastic tube, you need a new tube. 

The alternative is a stainless steel injector and a different type of tube, which screws into the steel injector and is replaceable.

I tested the injector and closed the adjuster valve, then opened and fitted the new tube of foam. 

This stuff is under significant pressure in the tube and immediately a long thin stream of foam shot from the end of the injector, until I could get the valve completely closed - and I thought it was. 

So now I have some 3 dimensional modern art decorating the wall on one side of the courtyard!

​Lesson learned... 

It is rather like the very well publicised "wardrobe malfunctions" which cause embarrassment to the individual and TV companies concerned. Something which shouldn't happen but occasionally does. 

I wonder if I called it a Picasso would a tourist buy it?

With the stay now prepped, I have given it several coats of rust proofer and enamel paint, together with a repaint of some of the door furniture, after masking, which was showing a little bit of corrosion in places. 

The gates are now vertical and fully functional again.

​I've added some more items seen this week, to my Croatia Spring watch calendar.

 I'm almost a half way through my list. Swallows have been seen, but not by me yet - probably just passing through on their way north for the summer, so there are a number of migrant events to add for this year, like swallows, the Cuckoo, the Nightjar, Scopes owl and similar.

So far 11 events are earlier than last year, by an average of 17 days. 3 events are later, by an average of 5 days and there are still 23 to report, but some are not likely to be until June. 

But overall, the events are much earlier than last year, even given the cold spell last week. 

I think I have been lucky and most of the blossom on my plum trees has survived the cold nights too.