Life in a Dol house
2015 - Week 46

A little push to get things finished

It has been a lovely week this week, with sunshine every day. The mornings have been cool, but with the sun up over the hills to the south, it has been very nice working outside around my Dol house. 

I had to go to Hvar town on Wednesday for a meeting. There are two possible routes from the north to the south of the island. . (OK, three if you have a boat and want to go the salty and very long way round.) 

The new route goes on the 116 highway through a 1.5 kilometre north/south tunnel, drilled through the rocky Dolomite and limestone backbone of the island, then hugs the southern coastline passing the hamlets of Varaće and Milnar before dropping down the steep hill into Grad Hvar. 

Then there is the old road which was the original and once upon a time, the only route between Stari Grad and Grad Hvar, over the island's hilly centre and through the communities of Brusje and Selca, and passing Velo Grablje, famous for its lavender fields and products, on the way. 

On the new road there are several rocky cuttings and I was held up at one because men were hanging off the vertical cliff face, secured by ropes, and using explosives to bring rocks down, before they fell of their own accord. But having time to spare, the 15 minute delay was nothing to worry about.

The last time I was in Grad Hvar was in back in January, but it doesn't change much. Having finished my business there, I decided to come back home using the old road and I was very pleased I did. From Brusje to the Trajekt at Stari Grad, I didn't see another car or person on the road.

There was a temperature inversion, where cool, moisture laden air is held down under warmer clear air. The highest point of the island of Vis, called simply Hum was visible in the distance, sticking out of the low level mist.

The area on the south side of Hvar's watershed was ravaged by a major forest fire in 2003 and burnt timber stumps are still visible. The result is that there are few mature trees. 

Instead the Garrigue landscape bears the visible scars of man, the intricate field layout with walls and terraces built over millennia, with the aromatic crops of Lavender and Rosemary still evident. 

Rosemary bushes are a mass of pale blue flowers at the moment.

The low open scrub typical of the Garrigue landscape is populated with small evergreen shrubs.


The Strawberry Trees are a common sight and their fruit, glowing red and orange in the autumnal sunshine were very visible. So too were the flowers. This species bears clusters of small white flowers in the late autumn, which then take a year to mature into next year's fruit.

As I took this photograph, close to Velo Grablje, the only sound was the distant church bell in the village, hidden in the valley in the distance, announcing the midday prayers. There was no wind, no birdsong, just unbroken silence.

Crossing the watershed, the old road begins the long and in places precipitous decent into Stari Grad. This area was also affected by the forest fires but the results are less noticeable.

The Garrigue on the top of the east west ridge of limestone gradually changes into pseudo Maquis, characterised by evergreen oak trees, and fig trees that were showing their glorious autumn foliage.

Looking north to the island of Brać, the temperature inversion layer was still visible.

On the home front I have at last finished the major portion of the rewiring. After three straight days of work this week, it's done. I still have a couple of ceiling lights to renew, but these will require the removal of more hardboard ceilings and at the moment with the unbridled chaos of the bathroom and hall, I am not willing to create yet more mess and work. 

Disconnecting old wiring and removing it has made the appearance of the back of the master consumer unit look much tidier. Just compare these photographs.

I think that in the spring I will remove the remaining antique ceilings, install insulation and finish the wiring job, but for now I am happy with the result and I know it is safe. 

In the bathroom I finished installing the new ceiling frame, to take plasterboard and packed the void under the loft floor with insulation.

Already the room is so much warmer and that is before the radiator is installed. I levelled two walls and fitted the new floor joists to establish a floor level. I have some wood butchery to do, because I need a fall on the floor, so that water from the shower drains properly, but it will not be difficult to remove the 120mm wall bolts that hold the joists in place to create the fall. 

I also made a start on excavating a couple of holes in the wall. One will take the plumbing machinery for the toilet, the other a convenient shelf in the shower area. Plaster hides a multitude of things, especially the uneven stone walls of the old building, so my technique for getting nice even edges is to drill with a 10 mm SDS bit around the shape of the cutout, and then to chisel out the stone to create the void. 

I didn't get as much done as I would have wished because as I was drilling, the bit hit an especially hard edge of a stone and the drill kicked back straining my wrist at the base of the thumb. This has happened to me before, but because you cannot see what is behind the plaster it seems it is an occupational hazard. Using a powerful 900 watt drill to make the holes makes it easier and neater to cut square holes but a twisted thumb hurts!

Ivan the plumber, together with his colleague Bruno arrived on Tuesday morning and connected up the solar water heater. Then in the afternoon Ivan and I filled tubes with the special fluorescent pink antifreeze mix and fitted them. When transportation is included, the cost per vacuum tube is around €60/US$60/£45 so we handled them extremely carefully as you can imagine. We filled as many as we could until we ran out of the Glycol antifreeze mixture. 

The system needs 75 litres to fill it and so more was ordered from the mainland. This arrived on Friday and Saturday morning saw Ivan and I up on the roof again, installing the remainder of the tubes as we listened to the BBC news reporting on the appalling terrorist attacks in Paris the previous night.

I have asked Ivan to help me speed the work along in the bathroom, especially now a lot of the hard work is finished. He will also help install the central heating system and link it all to the boiler.

With luck, the installation and commissioning of the solar system should mean the end of boiling kettles for washing up in the kitchen. I will be interested to see how well the water is heated as we approach the point where the roof only get sun from around 08:30 to 13:00 daily, after which it dips behind the hill which abuts my property to the south.

I have watched the lowering elevation of the sun on its ecliptic journey and this week saw the sundial which I installed back in June, lose all sunlight to remain in shadow all day. I find it difficult to imagine how people in the far north, and in the Antarctic manage knowing that for the three months of their winter period, they will not see any sunlight. Having 24 hours of sunlight in mid summer hardly makes up for it.

Amazingly there are still plants coming into flower in the garden. By the side of the path which leads leads up to my Kapelista and the donkey track I have a Lilac shrub Syringa vulgaris. It is earmarked to be removed and replanted this winter when it goes dormant, because it is too big for its current location but for the time being it still has all its leaves. This week I walked past and noticed a lovely scent and looking closer I saw that it has a number of small mauve coloured flowers.

I am surprised that this shrub has flowers in November when there were none in the spring. I'm not sure if it is an aberration and I don't recall seeing flowers last year. I will have to see what happens next year.

I built a substantial sawbuck this week, all in preparation for the wood stove being connected.

I have quite a pile of timber ready for cutting and my friend Cvjetko has a machine to sharpen my chain saw's teeth.

Another outside job has been to start on the last bit of fence between my home and my German next door neighbours.

I managed to get the posts and rails fixed before bad light stopped play.

Everything has been drilled ready to take the vertical bars. 

My neighbours presented me with a big bag of black olives, the last of the season, with instructions how to make a liqueur drink. Something that has been enjoyed since Roman times and is even mentioned by Dante in his writings - but it takes 6 months to make.....

So without further ado, I am off to the kitchen. 

 See you next week, maybe........