Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 43

Lowering the roof

The digital ink was barely dry on the electronic paper of last week's Dol house blog, when I received an answer about the strange larvae case I had found in the garden.

It seems it is the case of a Bagworm moth, according to a leading UK lepidoptera expert. 

Some further research suggests there are just three species in the Mediterranean, the Evergreen bagworm, Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis, an eastern North American species, also somewhat inexplicably found here in Croatia, or one of the Mediterranean Burnet Moths, Lepidoptera: Heterogynidae. 

However, which one it is that I have in my orchards I know not and I am not going to try and open the case to find out. I have found more cases this week too. 

Bagworm moths seem to be another of those really interesting species which I was never taught about at school. The male moths are the only ones to fly, the females live their entire life in their cocoon of plant detritus, dying inside, their offspring devouring their mother's body before breaking out and drifting on the breeze, attached to gossamer threads, before starting the life cycle again. has an interesting page with many photographs of different cocoons. It has piqued my curiosity about which species I have, but the answer will have to wait until 2017 to be revealed!

This week has been another week of clearing up and making ready for winter
Having completed the woodshed last week, this week I have cut up the remains of the diseased tree from the Top orchard, which I cut down in January. 

After the wood has been piled up for the entire summer, the logs and branches are completely dry, the smaller ones being able to be broken by hand, larger ones cut with a Bushman saw and the largest with my chainsaw.

I started with a large pile and finished cutting the last log on Friday afternoon, having filled 9 wheelbarrows and moved all the proceeds into a neat stack in the wood shed. I estimate that I have around 2 cubic metres of cut timber for the wood stove.

I also lit the wood stove one afternoon, not because it was cold, but to test the new flue and cowl, and also the heated towel rail which I installed in the bathroom.

I have to say that the test burn was a complete success. No smoke exited the fire into the dining room when the door was opened, which alone is a significant improvement, the air radiator above the fire gave off a lot of heat and at one point the water temperature passed 100º centigrade, causing the outside steam valve to lift, until I injected cold water into the system to cool it, and closed the draught. 

The flue extension coupled with the rotating cowl certainly seem to have done the trick and the glass has remained clean to boot. I'm almost (note I say almost) looking forward to the cold weather so I can light the fire again. 

Another task was the clearing of old, rusty metal from the Foldyard. A full wheelbarrow was removed.

Together with the collection of some barrows of superb compost from my neighbour Steve. These were riddled and then bagged up and sealed, to be used as necessary to improve my extremely thin soils.

In preparation for imminent work on a stone wall, to be built around my neighbours swimming pool, I have done the preparatory work on my side of the fence. 

This wall will run along ¾ of one side of the Top orchard. The previous owners of the property had planted Cupressus Leylandii, a fast growing, spreading screen that is less than environmentally friendly. It takes up vast quantities of water, required a lot of maintenance and in the UK has been the cause of many disputes between neighbours. 

Being on the north side of the orchard, for me it acted as a windbreak, but a length of shade netting, probably installed for privacy before the the hedge grew, has been blown about over recent years and was overhanging the orchard.

It didn't cause me a problem, as this is year one of a two year programme to reclaim and replant the orchard, so much of the ground has been covered with cardboard, to act as a weed suppressant. 

First job was to remove the shade netting, which came away very easily.

With the netting removed, I cut the green branches off two of the trees, so that when work commences, the builders can easily access the orchard from the pool. 

I will be getting all the greenery, to chop up with my big shreddin machine and use as a mulch. Having cleared the wood pile, I have now have the space for it.

Once the wall is built, it will be south facing, so I will get the benefit of it in winter, to grow and protect some tender fruit trees because the wall will protect against the cold winter Bura winds we sometimes experience. I have plans for a Custard Apple tree, Annona, and a Jabuticaba, Plinia cauliflora, amongst others, in what will be I hope, a very sheltered growing space.

We had a strong Bura this week, which cleared the skies and dropped the temperatures into single digits outside. 

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, it has been at least +28ºC every day. I made the mistake of leaving to top of the heated propagator open, so my seedlings did not cook, only to find Callie has found a comfy new bed. Who says felines are stupid?

Going to the bank and shopping in Jelsa on Friday, the Bura was blowing directly down the Fjord, and the 30 knot windsock at the seaplane dock was completely horizontal.

The Mandarins are fast approaching being ripe, the the wind knocking off fruits which have been infected with a parasitic caterpillar.

The fly makes a hole in the rind and lays and egg.

As the caterpillar develops, it eats into a single segment inside.

This causes the fruit to be aborted. They are still edible, apart from the segment with the caterpillar in it, but are still a little tart. But there are very many more still on the tree.

On Saturday, I started my November project, the dismantling of the donkey stable and hay loft. 

The roof is the traditional Dalmatian style, made of large stone slabs. Even after more than 100 years, it is still completely watertight.

I will get a lot of exercise this next week, because each stone has to be carried singly down the ladder, before being placed in the wheelbarrow.

The stones are just held on by gravity, so it is easy to pull them out. I am dismantling rather than demolishing, so that all the stones can be reused on other projects. There is already a large pile of roofing stones in the Top orchard, from the pig sty. It will grow over the coming week.

In warm autumnal sunshine, it was pleasant working on the roof, even if I was like a frog on a pump handle going up and down the ladder. But as the sun dipped behind the hills to the south on Saturday afternoon, I had almost a quarter of one roof face removed.

And that is about it for the month of October. 

Even though it is a five week month, it seems to have been and gone in a flash. Early on Sunday morning, the clocks across Europe go back an hour - always the sign of winter here in the Northern hemisphere, so there will be an extra hour in bed on Sunday morning, but an hour less daylight every evening until the turn of the year when we look forward to the clocks changing again at the end of March.