Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 38

No job is ever quite as easy as it seems

We had some much needed rain last Sunday and into Monday morning. 

Altogether some 24 mm fell, just short of half an inch of rain. But by the end of the week, after sunshine, the soil surface has dried out and is cracking again. 

The rain has done a lot of good but has brought cooler early morning temperatures along with it. This week it was the September Equinox on Thursday and in the morning it was just 11.4ºc outside at 07:00 but once the sun was above the hills to the east, the temperature rapidly climbed into the low twenties. The lowest temperature this week was Friday morning when it was 10.9ºc at 07:15. I still have the mosquito net screen doors in use, but I am keeping the windows closed at night now. The Tiger mosquitoes are still biting me too! 

I decided to would try some more experimentation with seeds and planted Nasturtium, Tropaeolum, in between some of the existing plants, in a control group.

I want to see how long before they germinate, given the current optimal conditions of warm soil and moisture, how much they grow before they stop for the winter and more importantly, if they will survive our winter here. In the Mediterranean they are said to be perennial rather than annuals, but the med is a big place and there are huge differences in the micro climes just around Dol, let alone across the region. There should be four rows here, but only the row on the right, which has been partially shaded by the shade netting over the pear trees, has actually survived. The summer drought has taken the rest.

The area they are planted in is between the cordons of pears and apples in the Drupe orchard. However, this is quite exposed and is the coldest of my orchards, so I want to see what happens and will of course let you know.

I have driven in tall metal stakes and then added wires, to support my raspberry plants this week.

I have planted five different varieties of raspberry, although some have died off during the summer, and I will see if they will shoot again next year, whist a group of a variety called Bristol are thriving, having grown spurs of 3 metres or more and every one which is touching the ground has rooted into the soil. 

They are part of the black raspberry genus, Rubus occidentalis which originates in Willamette valley in Oregon, somewhere considerably cooler and more moist that Dol. It may well be that some of the varieties will not survive the heat of our summers, even with irrigation, but the Bristol group certainly seem to be making themselves at home. 

I am going to use the "Weaving" system for these lengthy stems, where there are 5 rows of wire, 1 being the bottom and 5 being the top. This year's canes are woven between wires one and four and the new growth each year is tied in to the top wire, then in the autumn when the old canes are pruned out, these are moved down to replace them. 

The weaving system means that you always separate the different years' growth of canes. The steel angle posts are quite substantial so should last well. They also have an adaption so that if you need to brace them, you can, something which at the moment I am not doing. 

The raspberries are sheltered and parallel to the prevailing wind, so I hope will not suffer from being blown about by the winter winds. Again this is pure experimentation on my part, plant a lot of different varieties and see which grow and which fail, because I have yet to find anyone in Dol who grows them. I did spot a lone Banana plant though on my walk on Saturday, in a sheltered corner behind a wall. I have just such a similar spot and have ordered a Red Dwarf banana from Tenerife, which should arrive in the next week or two.

Having purchased the plexiglass for the heated propagator cover, I set about designing and making it this week. 

The design was not difficult, it just has to exactly fit the base which I have made. So with two gable ends, a front and back, four ribs which will help it seat securely onto the marine plywood base, and a roof, I knew I could get all the parts I needed from three pieces of polycarbonate sheeting. 

After drawing the shape of one of the identical gable ends onto a sheet, I started to cut it out with my Black & Decker jig-saw.

I was working slowly and accurately, but had not cut very far when I realised that the blade was getting so hot that it was re-welding the plastic behind where it was cutting.

I have a number of different blades for different materials, ands so did some experimentation to see if another blade would work. They were all the same, so I retired inside for a coffee and a think. 

The solution I came up with was to reduce the speed of the blade with a rheostat. The only problem was, I didn't have one in my electrical box, so off I went down to Stari Grad, to the only shop I could think of where they might have one. They did and I came back with everything I needed. So having wasted the morning on trying to solve the problem, it then took me a little over an hour to make up a "bread board set" with the rheostat and a CEE7/3 Schuko socket.

The Schuko 7/3 is now the standard throughout Croatia.
With the electrics finished and checked, I plugged in the jig-saw, reduced the current using the rheostat and started to cut the plexiglas again. 

Success, this time the blade was moving fast enough to cut, but slow enough so that no heat was generated. It took another morning's work to cut all the various pieces to size and then to start the process of gluing it all together, beginning with attaching the ribs to the sides. 

To make sure that the joint is strong, I ran a power file over the two surfaces to be joined, to roughen them up and give plenty of surface area for the glue to key into, then after drizzling a fine bead of Bostik SuperFix 009 adhesive along the length of each side piece, I clamped everything together and left it for 24 hours to set.

On Friday it seemed that the glue had set, although where it had oozed out, it was quite pliable, even if no longer sticky. 

I am using a Bostik product I have not used before, but I am acutely aware that joining pieces of plastic with glue securely is at best difficult. It then took a while to connect the two gable ends and the front and back pieces together. I have some light weight frame clamps and wooden block which I used to hold it together and to keep it square while the adhesive set.

On Saturday, with the four walls in place, I moved the frame to mate it with the propagator in the greenhouse and then glued and clamped in additional support pieces for the roof.

Making a heated propagator sounds simple, but is in fact quite a long job, even though it is not technically difficult.

With thoughts turning to the colder weather to come, I started to cut the sizable pile of firewood and sticks which have been drying all summer in the Top Orchard.

These small sticks will be very useful as kindling, but will also burn quickly and give of a lot of heat for their size, as they are now bone dry. The pile was reduced to two boxes of kindling after a couple of hours work.

I have a pile of much larger branches and some logs to cut too (top right of picture). I will attack the branches with a bushman saw and need to service my Stihl chain saw before I can cut the logs. But it will be six to eight weeks before I need to think about lighting the fire and getting the central heating fired up. 

Before then, I have a few other jobs to do, like making some secondary glazing, connecting the heated towel rail in the bathroom, and applying draught excluder strip to the external doors.

I have taken a couple of walks through the Maquis woodland this week. 

The variety of butterflies has decreased slightly, but there are huge numbers of Red Admirals, Vanessa atalanta. These are feeding on Ivy flowers.

Elsewhere, there were some Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea. 

These are extremely difficult to photograph as they simply will not allow one to get close. They rest with wings folded, but when they fly there are orange patches on the tips, which make them quite distinctive.

Another species feeding on the Ivy were the Meadow Browns, Maniola jurtina.

and everywhere there were Honey Bees, Apis mellifera

Although they were feeding on the flower nectar, their pollen sacks on their legs were conspicuously empty, but it is later in the season.
It is very pleasant wandering along the paths and trails around the village of Dol.

The warm sun creating pools of light and dark and after the recent refreshing rain, most trees and shrubs are green.

There are spectacular views across the UNESCO World Heritage site Stari Grad Plain to the island of Brać and the town of Bol on its southern shore.
Passing the gorgeous colours of the Lantana camara by the side of the lane outside my home, there are large numbers of butterflies and many Hummingbird Hawk Moths, Macroglossum stellatarum.

A totally different group of butterflies is collecting nectar here, including the Silver Washed Fritillary, Argynnis paphia.

So as another week passes I will leave you with a photograph of a stunning Bougainvillea which belongs to one of my neighbours.