Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 47

See, we have rain here too....

I had a minor setback to my plans for dismantling the stable north wall at the start of the week, when on Sunday as I walked past my wheelbarrow, I saw they I had a large bleb in the tyre and the inner tube was poking through the outer tyre casing. 

So first job on Monday morning was to remove the wheel, tyre and inner tube.

The tyre has completely perished, but the inner tube is still sound, and is marked "made in Yugoslavia", so that dates it to over 30 years old. Bearing in mind I have been using the barrow to shift more than 250 KG of stone in each load, and upwards of 5 loads a day for the past couple of months, over the very rough path down to my architectural salvage area, I'm not really surprised the outer case has worn out. 

I'm pleased I spotted the bleb before I used the barrow, as I would not have just been replacing the tyre, I'm sure! I had to clean the rust off the inside of the rim, and there was no tape to protect the tube, so there was quite a lot, but my Black & Decker Powerfile did the job in minutes. Then I gave it a coat of zinc rust proofer, and left it to dry.

This gave me the opportunity to plant the spring bulbs which had arrived last week. 

There is something about seeing the first blooms of spring; Crocus, Daffodil, Narcissi etc., early in the New Year. I had ordered some 400+ bulbs on-line, of various kinds, some orange Crocus "Monarch",

three different Iris - Reticulata, Blue,

Reticulata Pauline

and Dutch Bronze Perfection
The latter to increase a drift of the same type I planted last year.

Then there were some Fritillaria michailovskyi, an especially showy Fritillaria for outside the kitchen window

and 100 Mixed blue Crocus.

Lastly a few Gladioli nanus Claudia to try.

My planting plans are about creating spectacle. So the blue Crocus have been planted where they will be seen as a splash of colour by people walking on the old donkey track. 

The iris will fill part of a border in the Drupe orchard and the Gladioli will go beside a path. I also bought a bag of 200 Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, to naturalise under a Mandarin tree in the citrus orchard.

By lunch time, I had everything planted. I just have a couple of months to wait to see them flower.

Another gardening job which I have been intending to do, but have not got round to it, has been to remove concrete and lower a step into the Citrus orchard. 

This being a good opportunity, I marked the cutting line with a wax crayon, before attacking the concrete with an electric Stihl saw.

This made a lot of dust, but left a perfectly straight edge. A few blows with a 6KG breaking hammer and I had a new lower step.

I lifted the pieces carefully, because I was anticipating finding some hibernating, and true to form, there were two European Toads, Bufo bufo, both of whom have now been relocated to other places where they can hibernate in safety for the next few months.

With the day length approaching the minimum, I try and spend the maximum amount of time outside, so went shopping for a new tyre late on Monday and came back with everything I needed. 

It took a couple of hours on Tuesday morning to refit the old inner tube and the new tyre, then grease the bearings, screw threads and bolts, and reassembled the wheel.

The result is a wheelbarrow which no longer squeaks (and will do 200 KPH down hill with the wind behind you) but is easy to push. 

So that let me press on with dismantling the stable wall. 

Keeping an eye on the weather, I was aware that rain was likely on Friday and Saturday, so I pushed on and by mid afternoon on Thursday, I had met my target for the week and had the north wall down to the level of the hayloft floor.

There were a number of substantial corner stones, which were too heavy to lift and so have been moved individually by sack barrow, after rolling them off the wall into the fold yard.

Friday and Saturday being wet, as I had expected, have been used for planning. 

I have some branches from my Fig tree, which I had to cut back because they were overhanging the stable, which are piled up in the fold yard. 

These will need to be chopped in my mulching machine, to make space for the remaining corner stones. 

The old corner stones are going to be re-used in the new building and they also get larger, the closer to ground level you get. So I have decided not to move them to the main storage are, but to keep them close by. 

There are a couple of plum tree saplings I need to dig up as well. Then there is the hayloft floor to remove and cut up, before I can start to dismantle the remaining walls. 

But after another unsettled day on Sunday, next week looks as though the weather will be set fare to continue with the dismantling. 

One thing I did observe this week, is that there is a significant difference in the various creatures I am finding in the walls which face different directions. The south facing (and hence warmest wall in winter) had many geckos, the west wall had fewer geckos but a lot of queen wasps. 

In the cold north wall, I have found no geckos, no wasps but a lot of ants, beetles, spiders and one female katydid. I am surprised that in quite a small building with such thick walls, there is such disparity between the north and south sides. I am being more careful where I relocate species to, in the light of this discovery.

My erstwhile huntress cat, Callie, an Arabian Mau,

who in common with the breed, likes to be as high as possible, all of the time

was calling on Wednesday and indicating she had found something interesting in the wood pile. 

She has an extremely soft mouth, meaning that what ever she catches is brought into the house where the trophy was placed, very much alive, often shaking with fear, in the bath. 

Since removing the old cast iron bathtub last year and replacing it with a nice new, walk-into shower, the trophies now go into the shower. Much less secure - an open shower curtain does not keep very much in, but at least I know where to start looking after she comes to tell me there is "something" for me! 

What had attracted her attention this time, was an Eurasian shrew, Sorex araneus.

On this occasion, she was content to draw my attention to the little mammal, in the hope I might make it more accessible for her. She was disappointed. I am very happy to encourage such useful small creatures in the garden.

There is quite a debate about how many birds and mammals cats catch and kill each year. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK, has an interesting web page, which suggests that although the UK cat population catches a minimum of 275 million prey items a year, it is not having any great effect on bird populations. In the USA, a serious suggestion is to have "Catios" - cat patios, so they can be outside, but constrained/contained.

Fortunately my two have seldom ever caught birds, although Callie did have a penchant for Bulbuls, Pycnonotidae, when were were in Abu Dhabi - delivered alive to the bath, where I would scoop up the petrified little creature and place it on a windowsill, ready to fly off for another day.  There were lots of them and they were easy to catch.

My No. 1 cat Risha, the 'House Tiger' as my friend Cvjetko calls him, is now over 10 years of age and just chases the odd grasshopper, although he did bring me a dead adult black rat in the summer. In his 10+ years, I can only remember two occasions when he brought birds in (dead), so not all cats chase and kill everything within sight, all the time!

Last month Risha woke me in the very early hours one day and was absolutely insistent that I follow him to the bathroom. 

There I found Callie had brought in a young brown rat, and was corralling it in the shower with a paw. I could read Risha's thought bubble as we stood in the bathroom door, "You better come and have a look at what my sister has brought into the bathroom - I'm having nothing to do with it!" 

Having showed me, he turned round and went back to bed. So in the middle of the night, with a young ratling in a gloved hand, I took it up into the Maquis as the back of our home and let it go. 

A 'Catio' will not be on my "to do" list any time soon!

With over 59mm of rain on Saturday (59 Litres/m² - 2.3 inches), everything is now extremely wet. 

The rain was cascading off the roofs for most of the morning.

There were pools of standing water in all the orchards. ​ 

But then the mediterranean climate is "Summer hot and dry, Winter mild and wet"!