Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 28

The more I learn, the less I understand

The electronic pixels had barely dried on the digital paper of last week's Blog when I discovered that I had spoken too soon! 

On Monday morning, I was both surprised and disappointed to see that the lining wallpaper I had hung so carefully on Saturday, which had had perfect joints, had started to peel away at the edges and the top.

I thought I had solved the problem by giving the walls two coats of size, then pasting both the walls and the lining paper before hanging. True, the lengths of paper had remained stuck to the wall longer than before, but this time, the paper had peeled away with several layers of paint attached to the paper and several more layers still attached to the wall. 

The peeling did not start until 36 to 48 hours after being papered, so there is a slight advance - but not much!

When the time comes to say I have "finished" my Dol house, I think I will be able to write an alternate DIY Book, something on the lines of "Doing DIY where DIY does not exist", or "DIY without Appurtenances".

Everything on this island is an exercise in forethought and planning. If you are going to need something, order two (or three) and buy ahead. 

I have a well stocked pantry because I do not know when I will want something, and the supermarket will not have it. Example: this week's supermarket shop included four jars of low fat, smooth peanut butter, because for the last two months they have not had any on the shelves. A peanut butter cheesecake is a summer favourite. 

I have planned the colours for the painted walls and ceiling. The walls will be Magnolia, the ceiling gloss white. I already have the paint, but in addition, I have recorded the colours on my house log, so if I want to recreate the colours any time in the future, I know exactly what to get. 

To break up a large wall area of magnolia paint, I decided I would also use a printed border. In my decorating tool box, I have a part roll of border tape which I used when I was re-decorating the entrance hall of my English cottage home in 1996.

I know it was 1996, because my house log told me so, and the label gave details of the pattern. I stuck a piece on the wall to gauge the height, then I could measure how much I needed.

This is a 20 year old roll of self adhesive border, that has not been kept in its wrapping, or in any way ideal conditions, having travelled extensively in numerous shipping containers and has been subjected to Arabian desert heat and English winter cold. 

Yet this piece resolutely refuses to part company with the old paintwork here in Dol. How can it be that this sticks like a limpet, yet the new formulations of adhesive and paper peel and lift within hours/days? 

The more I learn about renovating these old farm buildings, the less I understand about some of the processes involved, especially those taking place in the background.

I resorted to the internet to try and resolve the peeling problem. There are some very good help forums. Ones like DIY Doctor, and the Screwfix Professionals forum, and the well named and well patronised DIY Not

I received really useful replies from the Screwfix forum, some were things I have already tried, but also there was a suggestion to use "Zinsser Bullseye 123 high adhesion primer/sealer", something I have not heard of before. An email I sent to the Solvite Technical Support team remains unanswered. 

One suggestion I have had is that there may be a chemical reaction of some sort going on between the quick lime in the plaster, the ancient Yugoslav paint and the modern adhesives. I have now painted the blank walls with dilute PVA glue, as a super sealant and will let it thoroughly dry before doing a test with more paper.

Meanwhile, I tried to get another 5 liters of PVA, but of course here on the island........... 

I didn't even bother looking for nice paper borders, instead I ordered direct from the UK, where to my surprise, the border I had in the UK is still a stock item, so I ordered some rolls of that as well as a nice beige border for the study. As I said, thinking and ordering ahead is all a necessary part of the planning needed for any future work here. It does contribute to overflowing stores though.

It's hot outside again, +35ºC in the shade and as pressure continues to build, I think next week will be hotter still. 

The grasses and wild flowers by the side of the paths have died back and Dol bakes in the unrelenting mid-day sun.

This week I have been cutting the raspberry canes which have finished fruiting and tying in the new canes, for next year's crop. 

One variety I have is called Yagoda, Rubus illecebrosus, and they are fruiting at the moment for the first time.

These are a low growing ground cover variety, with a distinctive, dense green foliage and a pleasant, slightly tart flavoured fruit when eaten from the bush, but better cooked (think pancakes with raspberry syrup topping!). They are known by the common name Japanese Raspberry, or Strawberry Raspberry because their shape mimics a strawberry. 

Everything I need to keep alive is being irrigated now, with no sign of any rain. Although my experience tells me that if we continue to have daytime heat, there is a chance of a pop-up thunderstorm, but when, whether and how much rain it would bring is an open question. 

Some tomatoes have started to ripen, but when when I went to pick them for lunch on Wednesday, I found that they are diseased.

I've got a case of the "nasties", known technically as Blossom-End Rot. This is caused by a calcium deficiency. The actual mechanics of the calcium deficiency can be many and varied, but I suspect in my case it is because of high ambient temperatures. 

They are planted in my 'experimental' vegetable plot, which is against a south facing wall. As these are the first of my crop planted in this location, I thought initially it was the fruit being scorched, but the physiological disorder is apparent in developing fruit hidden under leaves. 

I am waiting for my comprehensive soil test kit to arrive, then I can start to do some real investigative work on the orchard soils and see exactly what is present, but more importantly what is missing from the soil nutrient and mineral composition. But if the cause is heat, there will not be much I can do. 

Isn't this just what every gardener needs - a plant suffering from psychosis! Next, I'll have plants with an "attitude problem".... Ahh, OK, I have some. They are called weeds! 

I need to spend more time in the orchard I think, but having caught the problem early, I hope I can solve it before the plants really start to crop. It seems to be only affecting the F1 Hybrids I planted. My Heirloom tomatoes are not affected.

I have been watching for some signs of growth on any of the citrus trees which were cut back to the ground in the New Year freeze. 

Ten out of fifteen trees had the tops completely killed. Although one local suggestion I received was to rip out and replant everything, I have left them to see what would happen and nothing much has happened for six months, but now there are some signs of growth. 

Several are completely dead, a Lime, Red Grapefruit, a Sevilla and a Blood Orange. But over the past few weeks, some new green shoots have been appearing from around the graft union.

Today all citrus trees, like most fruit trees, are grafted onto a rootstock

The rootstock imparts different properties to the scion above the graft as well as having the properties of the root plant, perhaps keeping it small, giving drought or cold tolerance, or other qualities. But what I can now see clearly is that some trees have completely reverted to the wild root stock, with the small leaves and fearsome spines.

Whilst others are showing two definitely different leaf types, the rootstock being much smaller, often darker in colour and always with spines. Going back to my information file, the rootstocks used are mainly bitter orange.

Like all grafts, if growth from below the union is allowed to happen, it takes vital nutrients away from and can slow growth above the graft, so I have been at work with my sharp cutter, excising the below union growth and sealing the cuts to stop them bleeding. 

I can now identify which citrus will need replacing this winter, and it is 5, so I am happy to revise downwards my loss of citrus from ten to five. 

Some other plants caught in the winter cold, notably six different Passion Flowers, and a Lantana show no sign of growth. I am already thinking of how I can better protect the plants this coming winter.

Whilst globally temperatures are rising, you only need a sudden cold snap to do a lot of damage.

The known unknowns (to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld) are how climate change and the wild thrashing of the high level north Atlantic Jetstream, will actually affect the weather at a micro rather than a macro scale and over short duration, seasonal variations.

Enjoy the moment, where ever you happen to be.