Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 24

Grow your own Chocolate Puddings

Not many photographs this week. been too busy just doing, er... things! 

Thursday was a big religious holiday here in Croatia, the Feast of Corpus Christi, so rather than upset anyone, I didn't use any machines. Instead I used my pick axe to create a rainwater channel in the courtyard. I found out this week that I have some more problems over my boundaries and land use to solve. Just as I thought we were getting to the point of being able to start building too! 

Because of this, I decided that I had better create a runoff channel as it may be a bit longer than I thought, before I get the nice stone sets down in the courtyard and I don't want water penetrating into the big Konoba store.

It seems that the legal protection offered to property owners in the UK is completely absent here and whilst you carry out your "due diligence" checks, advice which you are given by people who should know and whom you have to trust, including legal advice, is flawed and 'local rules' apply. Being a foreigner in a foreign land is not always easy, in fact most of the time it is very hard.

We had a storm system come though on Wednesday night, bringing some much needed rain - but not a lot. 

As the daily temperature maximum in the shade has steadily climbed to +33ºC during the week, this generated convective activity. Sadly for holiday makers, there was light rain on Thursday as well, but for the gardens and orchards it was a little blessed relief. Both my rain water irrigation cisterns are now empty and the 6.5mm of rain did nothing to change that situation.

I also took the opportunity this week to buy and cut 8 x 5 timbers for floor joists. 

With the study cleared (I had been storing bales of insulation while working on the ceiling framework) it was not difficult to find the lowest point. Just throw some of my feline's roller ball toys on the floor and see where they finish up.

With the low point established I worked out the location of the joists. The next job was to establish a master level at the lowest point in the room. 

I had to puzzle over how I could cut the profile of the new joists to match the uneven floor and after consulting my neighbour Steve, I came up with an idea. 

An amalgam of a surface gauge and a ruling pen was needed. I have some ruling pens, also sometimes known as lining pens, but they are precision instruments, so it is not something I would want to run along the edge of rough wooden joists.

A piece of scrap paper and a pencil later and I had a plan. The device needs to slide along the floor, so must be big enough to hold. At the same time, I need to run a pencil along the joist to mark where to cut the profile to fit the floor. It has to be adjustable, because the floor slopes - a lot! 

Delving into the workshop, I came up with all the bits I needed. I used the same principle for the height adjustment as I have used on my window mosquito screens, of cutting a flat blade screwdriver slot into the top of brass threaded rod. Brass is a soft metal and is easy to cut with a Junior hacksaw.

The nuts are there so that I can re-thread the bar in case there is any damage caused during the cutting process. It's simpler and quicker than getting my Tap and Die set out. 

With some wooden off-cuts, I made a base, then making the four threaded bolts to go into the base I drilled through the top piece at the same time ensuring that the holes line up and finally fixed the pencil in place with a small stainless steel tube saddle. A little bit of sanding rounded off the sharp corners and it was finished.

With a proper carpenters pencil (thanks Malcolm) clamped onto a moving table, I have the perfect device, fully adjustable and easy to use. Heath Robinson has nothing on me... (My favourite Heath-Robinson machine? The Training Frame for Cat Burglars!)

Using this little device is incredibly easy. I just had to draw it along the floor, after setting the correct height, to perfectly mark the joists for cutting.

"The proof in the pudding is in the eating", as the old saying goes and after removing the joists, I used my bed saw to cut along the lines. 

Once the joists were reinstalled, they fit the profile of the uneven floor perfectly, to the point you could barely get a cigarette paper underneath them.

By the weekend, I had all the joists cut, together with the noggins (who remembers the cartoon character Noggin the Nog?). Although I had chosen lengths of timber that were as straight as possible, having marked one up for cutting, when I saw it outside in daylight, it was curved.

I still cut it, but found that once it was in place, the curve took the floor out of level again, so I bought another length and cut a new joist. This one fits perfectly and keeps the floor level. If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. 

This photograph shows the wall plates before being cut to fit the floor profile.
And then after having been cut to profile, with Noggins.
It's a simple little tool, but work well and has leveled the floor.​ ​ 

On Friday I ordered the hardwood flooring, all 17 meters². There is little hardwood still growing in Croatia. It was all used up in years gone by to make the sailing ships of the Venetian merchants and the Venetian Navy

So being imported, it was not cheap. One blog reader, with the nom-de-plume Captain Methane, did offer to "fly in" a large pallet of Douglas Fir for me on his Chin-hook, after I wrote about the knot problems a couple of weeks ago, but it would mean quite a few inflight refuelling rendezvous between the Pacific Northwest and the Adriatic. So I will just have to wait for the pallet to come by road and boat from Germany.

Talking of puddings, anyone here NOT like Chocolate Pudding?    Thought so!

I have been waiting for some seeds to come in the post and they were delivered on Monday. They are for Diospyros digyna, also know as the Black Sapote, although it is neither black nor a true Sapote

I came across a reference to the Chocolate Pudding Tree when I was reading about unusual sub-tropical fruit trees and saw they are grown in the northern Levant

The Levant at the eastern most edge of the Mediterranean, shares many of the same climatic traits as Dol, so I ordered a packet of seeds. 

Our village postman chugged up the hill in Monday morning, on his ancient yellow Puch moped, he was early, it was not yet 10am and usually the post does not come until lunch time. 

He is only ever early when there are important letters. Moments later he was at my gate and called to say I had a "Priority" letter. When I opened the gate he said it was from Israel. Unfortunately it had been franked by a machine, because his son collects stamps and some time ago he asked if I would save stamps for him on the letters I get, which I now do. 

In the jiffy bag were 5 large, oval and dark brown seeds. These have to be soaked for 24 hours in lukewarm water, before being planted, so they were immediately put into a jar. Then in Tuesday morning, following the instructions, they were planted and sealed in plastic bags. It may be up to a month before they germinate, so I will wait and see what happens. Rather than going to the dessert counter at your favourite Buffet, wouldn't it be nice to be able to pop out into the garden and pick a couple of Chocolate Puddings, fresh from the tree - just add ice cream.....

Harvesting Chocolate Puddings

I have been picking my yellow plums this week, although a lot have been blown off the tree too. 

Apart from making plum and rhubarb crumble and bottling some in Kilner jars for use in the winter, I have also given bags of fruit away to friends and neighbours. ​ The fruit at the top of the tree, and there are a lot, have been left for the birds, as I just cannot reach them.

My aim to try and pull some weeds out of the Top Orchard this week has rather fallen by the way side. 

I really want to try and get the study finished quickly, so have been concentrating on that. I am aware that I seem to take a long time to finish jobs once started. 

Partly it is that a lack of storage space makes for a difficult working environment, but also doing a professional job does take time too. I do keep reminding myself that I am only doing this whole renovation and restoration project once....