Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 07

A riot of colour

We have had another unsettled week this week, with rain on several days but the temperatures are picking up nicely.

On Friday afternoon, it was +32ºC in my greenhouse. I had a look at my planting calendar for last year and saw I did the first seed plantings on 21st February. I need to get a move on and start some seeds this coming week I think.

I have pruned the new fruit trees that I have planted, this week. Pruning always seems to be held as somewhere between Alchemy and a Dark Art. At least with newly planted Maiden whips, that is one to two year old trees with just a single stem, it is not too difficult. You just cut the whip back to about 40 cm up from the graft union, at an outward facing bud. After pruning, I treated all the cuts with healing compound, to prevent fungal spores entering the wounds.

It does seem a little harsh to cut away ⅔ of a new and healthy tree, but in training them to be "cordons", rather than the small trees that they actually want to be, there is a need to get each plant to produce some very specific new growth.

I need two strong laterals to grow in a single plane, parallel to the row, and also a I need a new leader to grow up. Then later in the year, in the summer, I will do more pruning to get the shape I want and to prepare each young tree for the winter.

The fans I am creating for my Quince and sweet cherry trees, are trained in a different way. Instead of planting at an angle of 45º, they are planted vertically. Then the leader is cut back to three strong buds, around the same 40 cm above the graft mark. So with the new trees pruned, I turned my attention to some established trees.

My one and only apple tree in the top orchard badly needs a haircut. It had one last year, which has brought an out of control tree, back into some semblance of shape. Now I need to do the same again, cutting out water shoots and creating an open goblet shape.

But as it was allowed to grow uncontrolled, I need a ladder to get to the higher parts. I think it will be a "Sunday" job, as Sunday will be a warm sunny day and being a quiet day, I can do these tasks without offending any local sensitivities.

I have also cut away all the new shoots on one of my Šipac (Pomegranate) trees, leaving just two strong new shoots, which I will allow to grow so that I can cut out older fruiting wood in a year or two's time, with a new, vigorous shoot already in place. Šipac for those not familiar with it, has vicious spikes on its branches, and the branches grow thick and strong, so thick gloves are needed to deal with this tree.

In the Citrus orchard, I will take the fleece of last years plantings, now the danger of frosts and the bitter northerly Bura winds has passed. Here on the island we do have four seasons, but their duration is different to other parts of the world.

Winter (the time of year when occasional light frost is possible) effectively last for two months from mid December. Spring starts and there is a sudden boom in growth and flowering, again lasting just a couple of months, so that everything that needs to, has grown, flowered and fruited before the summer heat arrives at the start of May. That lasts until October, where there are a couple of autumnal months for harvesting as the night grow shorter.

Contrast the picture I included last week of my black plum, where there were just one or two flowers that were fully open
with the same picture this week.
The tree is like a white mushroom, covered from top to bottom with blossom.

Once the fruit has set, and the bees have been going mad pollinating this week, a lot will drop off, because the tree cannot sustain the amount of fruit if every flower blossom became a plum.

Everywhere you look around the island, the signs of Spring are there to be seen. There are a miriad of trees and shrubs in flower, and in many of the olive groves and along the footpaths and road side verges, these dainty pink wild flowers, the Cranebill, Geranium tuberosum, are to be seen nodding in the breeze.

I have done quite a bit in the bathroom, principally around tiling the floor, which is now finished. I started the week by carefully measuring the centre line and marking it, then laying reference tiles, around which the rest would be laid.

I had to work around the shower drain, before tiling into the walk into shower area.

And of course they were all laid on a bed of the CM17 super flexible cement which arrived at the end of last week.

It is very definitely some good stuff. I have been laying a few tiles at a time, then allowing the cement to dry, before putting more down, to ensure that they all stay in line. In a couple of place, some small dollops of the CM17 were on the floor, but once dry I could not remove them, at least without probably removing the grey latex waterproofing layer as well, so I just left them where they were.

With tiling complete, I installed the shower drain filter fittings

Then sealed the whole things with silicone and ran a bead of silicone around the edge, which will be under the wall tiles. The white is a protective plastic film on the stainless steel top, which I will leave on, while I am tiling the walls.

And the walls will be the next problem. For the bathroom to look nice, I want all the rows of tiles to match perfectly. That is not going to be easy because there is a fall from the shower corner to the drain and from the side walls to the centre, and also from the other end of the bathroom to the drain. That and the fact that only one wall is vertical.

I put my long level against one wall and found that it touched at the top and bottom, but the wall is concave, with a 25 mm gap in the centre. The wall at the back of the shower just leans outwards, all the way to the top.

By the end of the week, I have my reference tiles in place.

This one on one side of the room and another opposite. I cut a long length of timber to bridge between the two, to make sure that the tops were exactly level, so as i work round the shower seat and into the various corners, all I have to do is make sure that all the tiles are level with these and I know that they will all be in line when it is finished. This of course all takes time. With sixteen holes to be cut into the tiles for the various pipes and services, as well as the tile cutting that will be involved, I think I have about two weeks work. It is much easier when you have a room without corners, pipes and services, and where all the walls are true and square.

Another job I have finished this week is an alteration to a Gerton IKEA table. To make the best use of the dining room, I wanted to have the breakfast bar which came with me from Abu Dhabi, but I needed to cut an offset angle, to maximise space in the room. The first month I was here in my Dol house in 2014, when we had day after day of heavy rain, after one thunderstorm, I found that some water had got into the old cottage where I was storing a lot of the furniture before the building work was done. This table was one of a couple of parcels that got damp. Even though I rescued everything and dried it out, the damp got into the end grain of the sold wood table and opened it.

So at the same time as I was making the diagonal cut, I was shortening the table top by about 5 cm to remove the damage. I also had to create a new void to take the end support rail. This entailed some careful measurement and marking and then time with router to cut the two stage hole to take the stainless steel support bracket.

I left the old bracket in place while I cut the new void, using some wooden guides, clamped to the table to guide the path of the router.

Finally I used a frame clamp to make sure the wood did not spring apart when I removed the steel bracket and then fixed in it the new hole.

Finally I cut the diagonal, you can just see the pencil line in the photograph, before fitting the table in the dining room on a wet afternoon. There were then the comfy bar stools to build, as I had flat packed them for the journey to Croatia. These are well travelled stools, as they came from the UK with me to Spain, then Abu Dhabi and now Dol.

When the sun shines, it is lovely and warm and I am starting to enjoy the fruits of my planning. The spring bulbs I planted last year in the bed outside the kitchen window are in flower, several varieties of crocus and snowdrops and producing a riot of colour,

and in the old stone sink, different coloured hyacinths are just coming into flower. What I would like to get for next year's spring show are Winter Aconite bulbs (Eranthis) which are native to Southern Europe. They are a relative of the buttercup, so should grow well here, judging by the number of creeping buttercup weeds that I see everywhere, including in my orchards.