Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 36

Still here, but no longer used

The schools have gone back here this week, always a sign that summer has ended. 

We are also in the changeable weather pattern that seems to occur in tropical regions as the seasons move. We did have some much needed rain earlier in the week, but at just 8.5mm or 8½ litres per metre, not as much as is needed, so irrigation of my trees and plants has been a continuing theme. Especially as the mid day temperatures have been around 30ºc. 

I seem to have spent much of the week doing odds and ends, some admin stuff, for example collecting the monthly electricity bill by bicycle, a trip to Split and I finished a few more little jobs. The dismantling of my old buildings has been going slowly, partly because some of the very large stones are simply too heavy to lift. 

Whilst one of my kind neighbours has offered to help, more than once, it is not as simple as just lifting, but also where in the Top Orchard, which is my architectural salvage area, I am going to put them. 

I realised early on that to complete the next couple of months work, I will need to get some supplies from Bauhaus in Split. I haven't been across to the mainland since April. The supplies I got last time having lasted me well, I decided that I would do a run this week. 

That meant creating a list, or more correctly adding details to my running list, so I know exactly what I want when I am there. I keep a running list of tools and materials I need, which I cannot get here on the Island, but it is mainly just headline items: screws for wooden floor. 

As I mentioned last week, I will shortly start a makeover upstairs, but there is quite a bit of preparation to do first. I established how much the floor is out of level in one room - it dips by 9 centimetres or about 5 inches - but as with the bathroom, it will not be too difficult to construct a new floor above. It is going to take some planning though. 

On Monday I began to remove furniture from the study, which will become a guest room. It was an opportunity to do some filing as well. When I looked at the height of the door, if I lift the floor by 9 centimetres, I will crack my head on the door frame, so I am going to have to lift the whole of the door, remove some of the wall and lift the frame as well. 

Then there is the weather station base unit. It was only every a temporary measure where I installed it, but it works and sends data every five minutes to various meteorological agencies and the 'Cloud'. So I was looking for alternative locations where I can still access the base station, where it can still communicate by radio with the various sensors that are outside, but where it is built in rather than just temporarily fixed to a wall. The wiring looks a mess because of the number of systems which come together in one place. I want to bury it all in the wall, in conduit.

I also need to think about future upgrades to the system. I have had my IROX system for 6 years now, which in electronic terms is probably towards the end of its life and it is no longer made.

But back to the floor. 

If I use 8 x 5 cm timbers, with some nice hardwood floor boards on top, I will have my 9 centimetres. I therefore need a few hundred 7 cm hexalobular T20 screws (that is the fancy name for Torx screws).

With the 8 x 5's countersunk and because towards the outside walls the depth of the new timbers will be less, 7 cm will be sufficient. So much of Tuesday was spent in measuring and checking and trying to think ahead, then recording in detail what I needed to buy. There's nothing quite like having a comprehensive list! 

Back in April I was successful in buying everything I needed for my summer work projects, obviating the need for a visit until now. I just needed to do the same again. 

So prepared with a list of some 30+ items, large and small, early on Wednesday, it was off to catch the 05:30 ferry for the trip to Split. 

I had already been to two stores and a supermarket by the time I got to Bauhaus at 8.45. By 10:30, I was finished and that included a break for coffee. At this time of year there is a mid morning ferry back to Stari Grad, but I decided I would catch the 14:30 ferry instead, so I could go to the market near the Diocletian Palace

With the roof of the car loaded with block polystyrene for in between the new floor joists and insulation for the ceiling, I was at the ferry terminal by 11:15 and was number 2 in the queue for the next boat. That gave me plenty of time to wander off to the market. There was intermittent sun and a profusion of interesting ships at the quay.

There were one or two things I was looking for. I have only just started some winter tomato seeds. I had thought about planting some brassicas, but have not got round to it, so I bought a few plants of different varieties from the green market. 

There is a lady who sells raspberries and as my plants were only planted this spring and have had few fruit, I came back with a couple of punnets of rasps. 

With time to spare I had a wander through the palace Peristyle up to the flea market, which sits behind the main market. The area around the palace and the Riva was packed with visitors. Costumed performers act out scenes from the time the palace was built.

Large crocodiles of people participating in tour groups following guides carrying different coloured flags criss crossed the area, and the language I most often heard was English even if the accents were sometimes a little thick.

There were fewer people at the back of the palace. 

Under the tall Linden trees and out of the sun, six or eight artists were busy painting local scenes, with just a few tourists looking over their shoulders, their pictures hanging behind them on their stalls, priced ready for a quick sale. 

The flea market was much quieter. The Split tourist guide euphemistically calls it an "Antiques Fair". I think "Bric-a-brac" would be a better description. There were some small items of furniture, but mostly it was old radios and gramophones from the communist era, Russian military fur hats (just what you need in the middle of summer) and lots of badges and medals from the U.S.S.R. period. 

On one stall I spied a small cardboard box with some Vatrogasci (fire brigade) patches so I had a look through to see if there was one from Stari Grad - there wasn't - but in amongst the cloth patches, I came across a couple from the Croatian policija. I had wondered if there was a Militicija patch or badge, from the Yugoslavia days, but there wasn't, so I came away with these patches instead. A few more to add to my collection.

Readers who visited me in Abu Dhabi may recall some of the other patches I had on display in my Majlis there.

Back at the quay, I had my picnic lunch and when they started to load the vehicles, because of the load of materials on the roof, I was sent right to the front, alongside the heavy vehicles.

Because there were several tour buses, the passenger lounge was quite full, but only ¾ of the main vehicle deck was used.
The upper decks were not in use at all and just a few small vehicles were sent down into the bottom deck. 

Back in Stari Grad, I followed the busses' and trucks off the ferry and was back home, car unloaded by 5pm.

First job on Thursday was to plant the young vegetables I had bought at the market. 

Unfortunately by Saturday, the snails have been at the winter lettuce and have devoured the smaller plants completely. ​ 

And despite being watered night and morning and it not being especially sunny at the end of the week, all the brassicas are wilting! More water is required I think, but they will survive. ​ 

I had wondered about putting them into black plastic to conserve moisture, but thought that at this time of year it perhaps wasn't necessary.

With the screws I needed to complete the seed propagator frame, on Thursday I had the parts laid out and then glued and screwed them together, I then left it to dry for 24 hours.
Once it was completely dry, I needed some help to line out the inside with a double layer of polythene and to ensure that I got the waterproof membrane right into the corners. ​ 

Everything was fixed with a staple gun and excess plastic was removed. ​ 

Once on the greenhouse shelf, I put a 2 cm layer of sharp sand on the bottom and then had "Bob the builder" come over with his John Deere and a harrow to make sure it was completely level.

Next the soil warming cable went in, held in place with a few stones.... ​ 

just until the top covering layer of sand has settled. 

The propagator frame has been made to take 6 standard size 37 x 23 cm seed trays. I need to get some clear polycarbonate sheet - which I can get on the island - this week, to make the cover, then I can plug it in and I am in business.

I was fortunate this week to have been given a tour of the village Still - sadly no longer in use. 

In a nondescript building close to the old school room, there are some huge boilers and copper vessels. It is a sad reminder of the industries which used to thrive in bygone days. 

The hills surrounding the two parts of Dol have been terraced over the centuries and where now the Maquis has taken over, there were once thousand upon thousand of lavender plants. Once the lavender was harvested, in the early summer, the sacks of flowers were brought here to be rendered down to produce the fine lavender oil. This was the boiler, which heated the water and it still has the dates and chalk marks on it from the last time it was fired - 1982.

The sacks were hoisted onto an upper loading bay, the wooden shutters were opened and the flowers were placed into these substantial wooden vessels, where the valuable oil was extracted.

Lavender oil has many uses, but such was the quality, most of the oil from the Island of Hvar was exported for the perfumery industry. Now there is just one village on the whole island high in the hills about the town of Hvar, in the village of Velo Grablje Lavender Oil is still distilled on a commercial scale. 

However, back in Dol, this building also was the location where the local "Moonshine" was made each autumn. And it was all legal! 

On the floor below the lavender vats, there are several huge copper vessels, a myriad of pipes and tubes and an ancient and now very rusty vertical boiler which generated steam.

When you think of grapes, the product from the vines which would immediately come to mind would be wine. But there are a lot of left overs, once the juice has been extracted. The remains of the fruit and some juice was brought here and emptied into huge copper vessels.

Where through a process of distillation the drink Rakija was produced. Rakija is a strong Fruit Brandy.

It was carefully bottled and is known for its strength, usually an alcohol content by volume of well over 40%. 

Here on the island, Myrtle berries are added to make the drink Grappa, a brown and bitter tasting liquid, rather than the pure Rakija which is a sweet fruit liqueur. 

It's sad that this once hive of local activity is now relegated to a store, with the equipment gathering dust and slowly rusting into oblivion. Rakija and Grappa are still made, but by the local vintners, at home, rather than in one central, communal Still.

Back in the garden, I started to use another of the items from this week's trip to Bauhaus. 

I had seen in their monthly catalogue that they had Sack Barrows on offer, so I came back with one which is capable of moving 250 kilogramme stones. 

Rather than having to try and lift the stones onto a wheelbarrow, I have only to roll the biggest stones onto the sack plate and then wheel them away.

There are still a huge number of butterflies around, like this perfectly camoflaged Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus.

Silver Washed Fritillaries, Argynnis paphia, are everywhere too.
Whilst elsewhere there are any number of colourful insects.
This is a Striped Shield bug, Graphosoma lineatum.

Where ever in the world you are, enjoy the season, because it will soon pass.