Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 09

The BREXIT effect

We had another damp day on Sunday, with just time to back fill the water main trench between showers. 

I also cut the styrofoam blanks for seeds into the right size to fit my propagator frame. I am perhaps a little bit later that I had intended, but planting seeds in a warm greenhouse should get everything off to a good start.

Most of Monday morning was taken up with a visit to the Geometrist - the land surveyor. 

Last week my architect delivered some bad news. The application for planning permission, even for the first phase of the workshop, was rejected by the municipality. 

The reason? Because my buildings are all on different plots of land. To understand this requires a trip back into history. But I'll make it brief..... The ownership of land in Croatia is a mess. There are millions of tiny, irregular shaped parcels, some as small as one or two square metres.

Each one has a number and is listed in the Cadastral Plan, created in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when like all empires, they wanted to know what they actually owned. 

This area of the village of Dol was owned by the Roić family. The old 19th century map identifies areas of the village by the family who lived there.

Even today, the family name of most of the people here is Roić. As time went on, these parcels of land were swapped between family members on a handshake. No paperwork, no title deeds, just family memory. 

Over the decades as people passed on, so they left their land to their heirs. Some have themselves passed on, some emigrated to South America or elsewhere, some just forgot about what they own. 

Part of the accession of Croatia into the European Union was a requirement that this land ownership problem be sorted out. A system of special land courts was set up and they are involved today in adjudicating over boundaries and disputes. 

It is a somewhat anarchic system which allows you to summons someone who is deceased to court over land they own and when they fail to turn up at court to defend their claim, the title passes to the litigant.

The land I bought was supposed to be what local describe as "clean", ie having had all the ownership issues resolved. But regular readers may remember that I had to sort out the issue of a few square metres in my courtyard, which I did not own and had to "buy back" from the previous owner. 

These were hidden in the Cadastral plan. So I have seven plot numbers, varying in size from just a few square metres to almost 1,000. It happens that my two main buildings are on separate plots, and the stable and pig sty I dismantled, to make way for the new building which will join the living spaces together, is on a third. 

For this reason, the municipality has rejected the planning application. It seems they want all the buildings to be on one plot before they will accept it. So after a morning in the office with the surveyor, I have a number of actions, but sadly I have had had to stop all work. This decision is mainly about BREXIT.

As a European citizen, I have the right to live and work anywhere in Europe, which includes Croatia. 

But I have a 5 year temporary residence card, due for renewal and conversion to a permanent card after the UK will leave the EU in 2019. 

No one knows what the effect will be on the millions of EU residents who currently live and work in the UK, or the millions of UK nationals who live and work in the remaining 27 EU member states. 

Reading the runes, the BREXIT divorce will be messy and acrimonious, and that is likely to affect people like me. There is currently no process or even negotiation about safeguarding residents rights, but the pronouncement last week by Jean Claude Juncker that not every EU Member country will welcome UK residents remaining is worrying. 

Whilst some local advice I have had is to "just carry on" and "build illegally, everyone else does" does not sit well with me, after a long career in the police service doing things right and doing the right thing. 

I do not want to upset anyone in officialdom and cannot afford to do so, so reluctantly after taking legal advice I have called a halt to work until the issue around plot numbers has been resolved, which will probably not be anytime soon. 

Things have started to move in this regard, the Surveyor has been for a preliminary inspection and a quotation for the work and the Urban Planning Council have given guidance about the correct approach to take, but I think it is still months away from being resolved. 

This is going to call for "Plan B". Whilst I haven't actually got to the point to writing my Plan B down, I have certainly given it some thought. I had no warning of this development, especially as it came less than a week after work was started by the builders, but I need to solve my courtyard, which resembles Scarborough North Bay, with the tide out when it's dry and Cleethorpes seafront after rain. 

There is the issue of the access steps up to the house which are more than half a metres above the level of the sand and I also need to resolve the damp storage area I currently have.

But all that apart, everything is fine! 

In the garden, the Iris Reticulata I planted last year have burst into bloom and very nice they look too.

Planted the correct distance apart, there is plenty of space for the bulbs to grow, multiply and spread before I need to think about lifting and dividing them.

Some of the other Iris have also just started to flower and the drift of Hyacinth I planted two years ago now sends their heady scent wafting through the patio on the breeze. 

Although not to everyone's liking, I find the scent very pleasant. Sadly, by the weekend, they were past their best and the scent has gone. They don't last long. 

The headlong rush of spring has arrived. There is nothing slow about it in the Mediterranean, where plants have to grow, flower and fruit before the heat of summer arrives.

Having measured up the Top Orchard and geolocated all the trees, I have planted two more this week. 

I have had a Persimmon Rojo Brillante, Diospyros Kaki, in a pot for a year until I had the right place for it. Having moved the soil mound, that place now exists so I planted it on a beautiful Thursday morning, along with a local cherry tree.

There are still some trees to plant against my neighbours wall, but I am waiting for the neighbours to finish the pointing and clear up the mess before planting anything else. 

I am also waiting to see what trees I lost in the big freeze over New Year. I think my banana has succumbed, but I am keeping fingers crossed for the mango and custard apple. 

They are in the greenhouse getting lots of TLC. Also in the greenhouse are the cuttings of the white Mulberry, Morus alba, that I took before having to fell the old tree.

They all seem to have struck, so I will have some 30 mulberry trees to give away to good homes, once they are large enough. 

The annual weeds have all started into growth and I am digging them up and pulling them out before they can go to seed as well. 

Even though the halt to the building work is very disappointing, I still have plenty of other jobs to be getting on with. And when I have a few moments to spare, I can sit in the warm spring sunshine and enjoy the display of bulbs. 

Huge numbers of butterflies, bees and other insects are foraging for food. The bees in particular have full pollen sacks whilst these yellow Common Brimstone butterflies, Gonepteryx rhamni are enjoying the Iris Reticulata "Pauline".

I especially enjoy the spring because of the daily changes. 

I am keeping a "Springwatch" log of a number of garden indicator species, but as I only starting this in 2016 it means all I can say about 2017 is that in general everything is two to three weeks behind 2016. 

It's going to be another of those "ask me 30 years from now" things, where once there is some long term data, changes in patterns will be obvious, but for now, it seems to me that the January extreme cold has set things back - nothing more. 

It is difficult to know what what I should be tracking as true indicator species. There is a science of Phenology, or the tracking of annual plant and animal cycles. 

Whilst there is a European association for the science, the vast majority of species cannot be found in this little part of the Mediterranean. So I am monitoring my own indicator species - mature plants and trees, like the big Myrobalan Plum which has come into full blossom this week.

One of the first of my fruit trees to blossom, along with the Almonds, which are a little bit late this year it is a shame that most of these blossoms will not set fruit. But the ones which do, will be ripe in just three months time.

The Mimosa tree, Acacia dealbata, that I planted just over a month ago has also come into bloom this week.

Planted in a warm, secluded corner, once it grown into a full size shrub, it will be a blaze of yellow every spring. 

Another good indicator species for the future. With warm sunny days lengthening, I'll leave you with a late afternoon photograph of my Orange Monarch Crocus, just outside the kitchen window.