Life in a Dol house
2015 - Week 53

2015, That was the Year that was

Yes, I know that there are only 52 weeks in a year, but in a normal year of 365 days, that is 52.2 weeks, so in accounting periods, some years and 2015 is one of them, have 53 weeks. 

I also thought that I would write this a day or two early, so that I can thank everyone for their kind comments over the year. I am not sure why so many people seem to enjoy receiving the weekly blog, but as readership goes up each week, I must be doing something right. The introduction of the immersive "Shorthand" edition of the blog has been well received. 

It is also an opportunity to wish you a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2016, 

Sretna Nova godina,

 سنة جديدة سعيدة

It is always nice at this time of year to be reflective and to take a minute or two to look back on things past too. 

On the home front, a tremendous amount has been achieved and in parts, my home barely resembles the same place. Whilst, because of the difficulty over the ownership of the small courtyard, my planning application to the municipality ground to a complete halt, work which did not need permission has moved ahead. 

When I first saw the property, back in early 2013, I immediately had an idea of what it could be. I remember on the long flight back to Abu Dhabi, I sketched out my ideas for the changes I wanted to make and it is that master plan that I am still following. 

Removing the tin roof over the patio and replacing it with a single cohesive span from the dining room was a huge improvement, and something Cvjetko is rightly proud of.

Now having a functioning workshop, where I have the seriously big wood working and joinery tools was another step forward. Then completing the dining room, and ripping out the grotesque bathroom have all been steps along the way.

Some smaller, but no less aesthetically pleasing improvements have been the replacement of a fence made with what looked like tank tracks

with a wooden paling fence.

Following a lovely traditional Hvar Christmas lunch, over some excellent home made Prošek, I was discussing with Cvjetko some ideas for work in 2016. What can we do without the need for planning consent and what will have to wait until after I get the licence to make much needed alterations to join the buildings up. Still following my plan....

There is actually a lot I can be doing. It will be interesting to see how the work pans out in the year ahead.

Whilst generally in the orchards, I have been happy with the progress and development of my trees, I have had some successes and failures in the kitchen garden. You might recall that back in September I planted green manure crops, Red Clover in the citrus orchard and Caliente Mustard in the kitchen garden. The Red Clover has basically failed. Although germination seemed to be good, there are very few plants now and annual weeds seem to have filled in all the gaps. The Caliente Mustard has grown extremely well and has covered much of the kitchen garden, just as intended.

During the summer because of the heat and complete lack of rainfall, some plants like the honeydew melons failed to develop. Tomatoes only grew because I was irrigating them twice every day and in fact nothing really flourished. Even heat loving plants like my Karkadé (hibiscus tea) failed to develop any flowers to harvest because of the lack of water. So I have decided to change things round this year and use vacant space in a lower orchard as a kitchen garden and to make the current kitchen garden into a fruit orchard.

So what have I done this past week? Well, I did take a couple of days off over the holiday weekend, but Monday was back to normal. It has been a short week, because I am writing this on New Year's Eve, rather than my usual Saturday slot.

During the past few days, I have done a little concreting, filled some holes in the wall where the bathroom extractor fan makes an exit, and in anticipation of rain at the weekend, I have reinstated all the guttering that had been taken down. Not much rain is forecast, unlike much of the UK,

but just enough to wet things a bit. 

Cvjetko has been and has replaced the outdoor render which failed to dry - probably because of the very high ambient humidity. There is still pointing of the old stones to do round the door, but otherwise, the wall is complete. 

I collected the replacement thermostat from the plumbers merchant and connected it to the wood stove, but I had some difficulty in understanding when and at what temperature it kicked in. So as a temporary solution, I have wired in a low voltage indicator light, to tell me when the pump is operating.

The pump has been very neatly installed in the workshop

It is just about silent in operation and has no indicator light. The pressure in the system is low, so it barely registers on the combination gauge that is just ahead of the pump. In the dining room, the only real indication of the pump operating is the water temperature. And when after having installed the thermostat, I tested it to make sure it was working, set the threshold temperature to 45c and lit the fire, it was only as the water temperature quickly rose past 100c and started to boil, was it apparent the thermostat had not kicked in as it should.

The instructions are in English, so I can't blame a foreign language. Clearly the wood stove is going to take some getting used to. I have discovered that the best way to load it is to have logs of 33 centimetres length or less, so I can stack them neatly across the depth of the fire. When I built my saw horse, I made the cutting width 33 cm just for that reason, but then I didn't cut all the logs to that exact size. Finding just the right aperture for the rear automatic air valve, and the front manual valve is also going to take time. Add to that the many different types of wood that I have, together with their moisture content and different burn characteristics, all make things more complicated than just lighting the fire and throwing some logs onto it. But, in time I will get there.

Another issue I will have to resolve fairly quickly is the old door and window, both single glazed, which let cold air in and affect the ability of the room to retain heat. With thick walls and a high efficiency insulated roof, it should be a really warm room, but cold draughts are undoing all the good work the wood stove does in pumping heat out.

Apart from a few odd jobs around the garden, that has been it for this week, which is admittedly shorter than normal and with holiday time as well. 

So, as I bid goodbye to 2015, I will raise a glass to you and hope you enjoy your New Year's Eve celebrations, where ever you are, and for my Antipodean readers, it is already New Year's Day!