Life in a Dol house
2018  -  Week 30

Off the beaten track

I've underestimated the difficulty of digging a trench through sandstone and broken rocks. 

I thought it would be straightforward and a week's work, but between the heat and not being able to use noisy power tools, it's going to be a two week job, at least. 

I've made progress, starting at 6am and working until 9am, by which time the sun is over my buildings and the trench is in a direct line, so I pack up until late in the afternoon - just when the Tiger Mosquitoes are biting.... 

I've also looked at what else can go into the trench. 

Learning from the UK example, when generally in succession, BT digs a trench, which once it has been filled in and resurfaced is dug up by British Gas, followed a month later by the YEB and then Yorkshire water, I have made my trench wider than I need, so that I can lay all the services I am ever likely to require into the trench, in one go. 

It started out as a means of harvesting rain water from the courtyard, but I will also add an electrical conduit to take the earthing cables down to the orchard, followed by a water line so I can put a tap close to my garden sheds, then one of my neighbours suggested an Ethernet cable for internet..... 

But that is may be going just a little too far. 

The lack of a high quality electrical earth that I can rely on, has been a concern of mine since I moved in. 

At the present I have a single earth rod, which is laid horizontally under some stones, on top of the sandstone. 

I don't have the equipment to do a proper earth continuity test, but I suspect it would fail. 

It is however better than some of the earth straps I discovered dotted around my home, like a piece of 1.5mm earth cable wrapped around the head of an old steel orchard tool, which had then been buried a few inches into the earth floor of the basement.

But it was OK, it was only the earth for the electric cooker socket! 

There is no earth here on the incoming power cables from the electricity supply company, so every property has multiple different earth leads, installed over time, none of which meet any modern standards. 

I brought back from the UK a full IEEE 17th Edition Wiring Regulations kit of double earth rods, clamps, leads, ground boxes etc., to install a modern system. 

I will put it in the orchard, where the soil is deep and moist and do the job properly, so the line to the consumer unit will go into the trench along with everything else.

I have had some internet difficulty this week. 

And as usual I have run up against the complete lack of interest from the local company, Intersat in Zagreb who is my ISP. 

I have a satellite system, because I cannot get a land line telephone line. 

There are no more available, even though I have been on the waiting list for four years, the national telephone company has no plans to install more, because of the cost. 

Here I am talking copper twisted pair. The chance of ever getting a fibre optic link  on the island is light years away! 

My internet system is based around a Tooway Satellite system, which when it works, is great, but over the last couple of weeks, I have been having a lot of signal dropout. 

The the main Router in the cascade started to fail. 

A call to the Intersat help line went unanswered. I did get a response to an email, then everything has gone dark. 

Unfortunately they are the sole supplier of Tooway satellite services in Croatia, so I am stuck. The promised new router has failed to arrive and my request for checks to be made to my system have gone unanswered. 

It is issues like these that are just not covered in any guide to any country, but which have a disproportionate impact of actually living somewhere. 

When I did some diagnostic work of my own, I found that the strength of the signal at the dish was lower that it should be, and lower than I've had in the past, so I spent a good hour early one morning this week realigning the dish. 

I discovered that the earth strap on the dish has disintegrated, but my knowledge of satellite systems is such that I am unsure if this will have made any material difference to the signal strength. 

Bearing in mind the dish is high on a wall, so it has an unobscured view of the sky to the south, I have to have my aluminium ladders fully extended to get up to do any work. 

It then requires some acrobatics to a) hang on, b) use a mobile device to access what is called the TRIA - the bit of the system at the dish which transmits and receives the signals, c) use 13mm spanners to make minute adjustments to the direction the dish is pointing and d) listen to the audio signals from the TRIA which give a clue as to how close you are to getting a perfect signal. 

And while I was at it, my young cat Callie, who likes heights decided she was going to come and join me at the very top of the ladder to "help". 

All this needs to be done while it is cool, so the metalwork has not expanded and changed and when there is no wind. 

After two attempts, all I succeeded in doing was to reduce the strength of the receive signal instead of increasing it. 

Somewhere in a box (don't ask!) I have a digital satellite signal strength meter, but being small, it's not on my box inventory... 

Hence my request to the company for advice, which has completely fallen on deaf ears. 

All I can do is try again, and see if I can find someone locally who has a meter, which I very much doubt, nut I have posted on an online forum for satellite systems a request for advice.  I think these days there must be pretty much an online help forum for everything anybody needs!

My car has been in for it's annual MoT check this week, called in Croatia the Tehnički pregled osobnog automobila - the technical review of private vehicles.

Calling it an MoT is much easier!

Unfortunately it has failed. I need four new tyres. 

Not that they are below minimum tread, a little threadbare, have a bleb or anything. 

No, they are life expired. I had forgotten that in many hot countries, as well as the physical condition of tyres, because of the extreme temperatures, part of the checks are the date codes stamped into the tyres to make sure they are within limits. 

My tyres are 9 years old, so I am now in the process of trying to source replacements. 

On the island of course there is no equivalent of ATS or whoever your local quick-fit tyre company is. 

The way of dealing with this is the usual multfaceted way, firstly having to source and obtain four replacement tyres, then once they have been delivered, you take them to a small workshop, wherein a man who knows about these things will fit the new ones for you. 

After soliciting advice from my neighbours and finding an on-line supplier, I went to see the friendly guys at Kotać. 

The result was that I ordered my new tyres from Kotać, they were delivered FoC within 24 hours and I have arranged to take the car to the back street tyre man at 10:00 on Monday. 

I then need to take it back for them to be inspected by the Pregled-HAC staff and I will be issued with my new windscreen sticker for the next year, confirming I have passed the test.

Already the Outlook diary for next week is filling up!

I've been up to Jogodna again this week, as the harvest of the Lavender should have been starting. 

However when I got up there, I was completely alone. Obviously the harvest  has been delayed. 

What I did find though was a profusion of interesting wild flowers and large numbers of butterflies and insects. 

There is a rather a nice YouTube video, made promoting the guesthouse, bungalows and restaurant which are just below the highest point on the island, but it gives you an idea of the area.

This really is off the beaten track. But there were a profusion of these Globe thistles, Echinops ritro, spread across the parched sandy soil.

Scarce Swallowtail butterflies, Iphiclides podalirius, were plentiful.

As were the Large Tortoiseshell, Nymphalis polychloros.

And everywhere you walked, the Common Field Grasshoppers, Chorthippus brunneus, scooted away from you.  Once on the ground they are almost impossible to spot.

Back down in Dol, my Hibiscus has come into flower this week. 

It has its own irrigation water, because as soon as the soil dries, the leaves start to droop. 

The colours are a delicate Mauve with a cream centre and cerise patches at the base of each petal. They only last a day though.  

Friday night was the longest lunar eclipse this century. Unfortunately we had cloudy skies, so saw none of it. 

I'll have to make do with photos from the Internet.