Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 14

Wiring with secateurs

I seem to be running out of time. 

At least on Sunday when I was preparing to tie in this years raspberry canes, that was the thought which came to mind. Last time I looked, the canes were a wild, straggly mess of bare brown stems. I purchased some supports for the end-of-row uprights and designed a system to securely mount them, so I could tightly tension wire between them.

But on Sunday when I actually got round to fixing the supports and stringing the wire, the canes have become a green straggly mess, with lots of new growth and flowers, which of course mean fruit later in the year. In between times, I have dismantled buildings, cleared stones, created a level (well OK, almost level) courtyard, cleared more stones, built steps and done all the day to day stuff too.

Suddenly we are at the end of spring and a lot of jobs I was intending to do, are still on my "to do" list.

I did start the guest room as planned on Monday, by bringing the hardboard ceiling down, together with a large quantity of dust debris and two empty rats nests. 

I knew there were rodents in the loft, because over the winter the pitter-patter of tiny feet could be heard, but now I could see the extent of their domain.

It also showed that the ceiling is quite modern, as compared to the age of the building. At some time, the loft has been properly boarded out and then the floor boards and beams painted in a yellow paint. Then a hardboard ceiling has been added by nailing 8 x 4 sheets of 4mm hardboard to a fairly level wooden frame. The walls below were painted again, and that was it.

No insulation, so all the heat from the central heating was escaping through the ceiling and only the most rudimentary wiring, with bits of cables joined together and bound with electrical tape, no earth connection and that was all.

My plans include completing the rewiring of the building with all wiring to the 17th Edition wiring regulations, IEC 60364, new wall sockets, including both two pin round Schuko type F and 3 pin square, Type G, wall lights instead of a ceiling light, a bedside reading light, a new and level floor, with insulation and then a complete repaint.

The two outside walls are stone and the two inside walls are lath and plaster. I will have to learn the technique of repairing lath and plaster, because I am not going to take the walls down and replace them with new stoothing walls, even though it might be a better option, simply because of the terrible mess involved in removing lime plaster. It was bad enough just bringing the ceiling down!

We had some much needed rain on Tuesday. 

Not a lot, just over 5mm or 5 liters per meter², but enough to moisten the soil and make it easier to work with a Dutch Hoe. But by Friday, even with a little more rain on Thursday morning, the surface had dried out again. I did manage to get half the orchards weeded while the soil was workable. But the problem is soil compaction.

The two small orchards are on a clay soil. Clays are very fertile and ideal for trees, but just walking on them over the winter has really compacted the regular paths. I have completely avoided walking on the soils after rain, because I understand the problem, but even treading on a damp clay soil will compact it. 

In the Drupe orchard I have laid a series of stepping stones around a quarter of the way round between the trees, which seems to have solved the problem. I have a large pile of old roofing flags, but until the roof is replaced on the old cottage, I do not know how many I need, so in the future, I will have stepping stones a plenty, it is just at the moment I could really do with them.

My friend Cvjetko, the builder, called to look at the ceiling I have removed and said that it was too far out of level to fix plasterboard. 

That was solved in a morning when he and a colleague arrived at 8.30, with a large supply of wood on the back of his truck. In three hours, we had the new framework up and completely level, ready for plaster board to be fixed. What would quite easily have taken me a week on my own, was accomplished in just three hours.

That has allowed me to cut channels into the walls to take the new wiring. The most difficult wall by far has been the very old lath and plaster internal partition. This building principle goes way back into prehistory, when mud or clay was mixed with animal dung and straw and then pressed between panels made of woven willow or other similar pliable local wood. This is known as "Wattle and daub".

This method really came of age in the Elizabethan era, when strips of wood were fixed to uprights, and then lime plaster mixed with horse hair was pressed between. In the UK, where there are many listed buildings, special permission has to be obtained before any alterations are made, and in many case the local authorities will stipulate that repairs have to made using the same traditional materials.

Fortunately that does not apply here. 

As I cut away the outer plaster, I could see that the binding material that had been used is bunches of twigs.

The new wiring will be run inside coloured conduit, so I have had to cut back the wooden laths to allow sufficient depth for the installation. 

I will be using a quick drying cement plaster to fill in and seal the holes.

I brought in my garden secateurs to neatly snip away all the twigs and open the space up for the wiring to be installed. That led to the next problem - one of accessing my supplies of flame resistant conduit and cable. 

Because of the cessation of building work, all the supplies of materials which I had obtained in advance, have had to be spread around different storage spaces. However I have reached the point where my storage spaces are now completely saturated. Most electrical materials have been relegated to one of the garden sheds.

I opened the shed and emptied all the garden stuff out, to get at my shelving racks and recover what I need for the guest room. 

While I was in there, and before putting things back, I brought out my big rotavator and ran it along the wall, to prepare the ground for planting tomatoes and salad crops.

Then I put everything back, but packed a little more neatly. 

To make sure nothing is forgotten, I have a written 22 point list of the main tasks, one of which was to "drill the walls". While the walls are a mess, I used a 1 meter long drill to penetrate to the outside at the approximate point where the new central heating pipes will come into the building. I say approximate because the walls are 80cm thick and I want to pick the easiest route through the stones I can find to install two 22mm pipes, plus insulation.

There is also a 22mm hole for radio antenna cable and another for CAT6 ethernet cable. Drilling a 22cm - almost 1 inch - hole through solid walls takes time and the vibration from the hammer drill makes your arm ache. But I finished all the drilling on Saturday afternoon, ready for the rewiring to start on Monday.

There are many delights in spring, but one for me here on the island is to see and smell all the fragrant Wisteria sinensis. It is especially popular as a climber and to provide shade in the summer. But just on the approach to Stari Grad, there is an especially large tree, which covers a field gate and a wall, and at the moment is awash with long purple flowers. I will leave you with the image this week and hope you can imagine the scent from the flowers on the wind.