Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 24

I've got a nasty virus

Right on cue the rain arrived last weekend and for once it was the right kind of rain.

Rain which had a fairly constant rate of precipitation, and rain which has provided much needed moisture to my parched orchards. 

Then on Monday we had another storm which deposited more than 32 mm of rain in an hour and left puddles of rain standing on my orchard's earth. But the trees were happy.

The precipitation rate was such that the roof of my summer kitchen was flooded because the rain was falling faster than it could drain away.

I have managed to keep on top of the weeds, in most places.

Although by the end of the week, with hot sunshine and ample soil moisture, they are growing again. It's time to get the carborundum stone out and to sharpen the blade of the hoe I think.

By Saturday morning, my heavy clay soil is already starting to crack again.

There is a short window when you can walk on a clay soil after rain, but without compressing it or coming away with huge clods attached to your footwear, and when the same clay soil has baked so hard that it becomes impossible to work, but still suitable for the weeds to grow. Clay soils are nutrient rich and trees in particular grow well, it is just they are somewhat difficult to work!

I had to go the vets this week with No. 2 cat Callie.

She is an Arabian Mau cross, with a mainly white coat and beautiful blue eyes. 

Summer is her time (winter is spent mostly in bed by the fire - cats are so sensible) when all of the long daylight hours are spent outside, usually as high up as possible surveying her realm and she just appears now and then when she is hungry.

With some bad weather outside on Monday evening, she was on my knee when I noticed some small black insects in her fur, and several places where some fur was missing. The Mau breed of cats only have a single coat of fur, with no undercoat like most cats have. It wasn't difficult to catch one of the black pests which was less than 1mm long, in a small bottle. 

I added a tiny amount of Polish Vodka and left it to die happy.

Under my digital microscope, I could see immediately that it was a member of the Flea family, actually a Cat Flea, Ctenocephalides felis, so I did a little more research and found that the hair loss was a result of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

It also wasn't dead. Being around almost unchanged from the time of the dinosaurs, as are cockroaches, they are born survivors.

Next morning we were at the vets in Stari Grad. There are two veterinarians who run the clinic, and we saw the senior partner, a nice lady who qualified at the Zagreb university in 1971 and speaks excellent English and German. After an examination, my conclusion was confirmed, so we had an injection of steroids for the allergic reaction, a worm tablet, a little vial of liquid on the back of the neck to kill the critters and powder to be brushed into her fur. And it didn't hurt me in the least!

It seems as though fleas are a spring and summer problem here. The online advice is to ensure that the house, courtyard and garden are completely free of eggs with some chemicals named to spray outside. I am not even going to attempt to try that. The number of feral cats around here, which is where I suspect the things came from in the first place, means the gardens and orchards can never be flea free, so I will just go with the citrus scented powder to be used when brushing my felines coats.

She is now back to normal, helping me in the orchards and keeping butterflies on their toes.

I try and make sure that I have a walk around the orchards at least once each day.

That way I can see things are coming into flower, or when fruits are almost ready for picking. I get to watch the different insects and observe and listen to the birds. I can also spot problems.

This week I noticed that some of the leaves on my pear trees were starting to go brown at the edges. A little earlier in the year I had noticed problems with a couple of apple trees, but the swift construction of wind and sun protection has cured them.

Then when I looked closely, there were the the tell tale marks of rust on the leaves.

​ That means I've got a nasty virus, European Pear Rust.
As the trees were newly planted this year, I was surprised to see how many leaves have the first tell-tale signs.

Reading more about European Pear Rust, its host is trees of the Juniper species. I have not seen any Juniper in the woodland around Dol, but my books indicate that there are two varieties which are endemic to the Mediterranean. An infected Juniper can spread spores for up to 6 kilometres. There is no organic treatment, and the advice is to remove infected leaves and burn them, so that they do not release spores - it is a fungus. Looking at my leaves, I think I have caught them in time as the tell-tale pustules have only just developed and do not seem to have released any more spores.

Removing all infected leaves is easier said than done on young trees with few leaves. It is apparently something that once a tree is infected you never get rid of it and if it is spread from Juniper family trees in the woodland around Dol, I suspect I shall just have to live with it.

My Lavender bushes are all covered in masses of flowers.

If you rub against Lavender, the wonderful scent is released. In the old terraces above my Dol house, now sadly overgrown and returning the the Maquis scrub, my neighbors tell me were once fully utilised for growing Lavender. There are a couple of villages on the island which are still known for their Lavender fields, but in the main little is grown anymore.

The flowers are being pollinated by a myriad of insects, but this week in particular there have been large numbers of Wall Brown butterflies, Lasiommata megera, visiting and spending time on the bushes.

We are almost at the summer solstice, the time of year in the northern hemisphere when the days are long and the weather is generally kind.

I am actually writing this a little after 04:30, watching a sunrise colour the clouds. It will soon be time to do some work in the orchards, while it is cool and pleasant and before the heat of the Mediterranean sun starts to beat down again and makes retreat into the cool insides of these old stone Croatian houses the only sensible option.