Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 01

Not the best of first weeks!

Its cold. Actually it feels very cold, far from mediterranean temperatures! 

The OAT (outside air temperature at 1.25m above ground) is -5.5°C, but with the wind strength, the windchill is -9°C. I have a bust heating pipe joint, no wood fire and am relying on a single electric fire and hot soup... but more of that later.

Well here we are at the start of another year. I have a lot I want to accomplish over the next 12 months. Some things I can do on my own, somethings I will need help with, and some projects will be completed almost completely by others (eg the new buildings which can't come soon enough!)

I sat down on Sunday and updated my monthly and quarterly "To do" lists. I was able to tick off a lot from the 2016 lists, but there are one or two things which have been held over. The last week or so trying to resolve the issue of the smoking chimney has prevented other work. But the major things I have planned for the next couple of months do not involve being outside too much.

January tends to be the coldest month of the year, although it is pleasing that I can already see an increase in the length of time I get sun in my greenhouse. Only an extra 30 minutes a day, but none the less, it is very welcome.

I did manage to get out and walk the forest rides on New Year's Day, and took my new spherical camera out for a test drive. It is a Ricoh Theta S and it takes three megapixel photographs which are completely spherical. I look forward to experimenting more with it and then adding photographs both to Kuula and to Google Maps.

That way you the reader, can enjoy a more immersive experience, like Google Street View, but more personal.

With the chimney problem solved, I was happy to take the ladders down but before putting them away, I did a couple of jobs which have been waiting for both the time and my inclination to complete.

I am upgrading my weather station, from a Class 3 PWS to a Class 2. The difference is that a Class 2 is more professional, rather than the Class 3's which are strictly amateur. I needed to install a new receiving antenna on the roof over the patio but needed the ladder to get up to the ridge tiles. When we were building the roof in 2015, I installed a conduit pipe, and on Monday I pulled through the new coaxial antenna cable.

It took a couple of goes because the cable parted company with the fibreglass pull-through. But working out what was going wrong, the join between the pull-through device and the cable was snagging on the conduit, made the solution simple.

Part of it was I am doing it on my own - although Callie was at the top of the ladder "supervising", but I could not get her to participate,

so I was up and down the ladder rather like the proverbial 'frog on a pump handle', alternately pulling and pushing, until the new cable appeared at the ridge line.

I have work to do inside, to make the connections, and then will move the antenna to the new position.

At the same time, I pruned the last of the grape vines which adorn the edge of the logia over the patio. The buds on the vines are already swelling noticeably. I still have some more pruning to do on the arbour, but I am leaving it until the last of the cold weather has passed because it affords just a little protection to the plants on either side of the arbour.

In the Top Orchard, my established yellow plum has had a couple of quite large branches which have been overhanging and inhibiting some of the smaller trees in the orchard. Having identified which branches needed to come down, I was up the extending ladder again and wielding my chain saw to carry out some delicate tree surgery to remove the branches.
I also excised a couple on the red Myrobalan plum, which were overhanging my neighbours garden while I was at it.

With the need for the ladders finished, I tidied up and before putting the chain saw away, I cut up the tree trunk that came out of the wall behind the stable. It is completely dry, but I wasn't able to count the rings. However, it has added nicely to my winter wood supply.

With a forecast of a Bura and some cold weather to come, the middle of the week was spent protecting tender plants, adding fleece and spreading mulch.

It turned cold on Thursday so I took time to do some indoor jobs, a bit of housekeeping and to catch up with some reading. The storm hit overnight with plunging temperatures and increasing wind.

On Friday I had to replace the protective fleece on several of my citrus saplings because the Bura had ripped it away. I am concerned about one sapling in particular which looked as though it has suffered cold damage. Leaves on my established oranges and mandarin have shriveled after being desiccated by the wind and low humidity.

This biting northeasterly wind was expected. A Bura is caused by low pressure centred over the Ionian sea and moving east dragging cold air down from the north and central Balkans. A look at the temperature chart for Saturday teatime speaks a thousand words.

Blue is cold; pale blue is very cold!
My largest building is not draught proof and it can only be made draught proof once building work has been completed. 

Nothing I can do will stop the wind gettin in, which it does in abundance.

There were frequent power cuts throughout Friday, lasting from under a minute to 50 minutes long. The critical infrastructure here is just not up to the job. A Bura is a well understood and frequent weather event. No electricity means no fire, because the wood stove has an efficient water jacket and the electric pump must work to circulate the water and to stop it boiling. I have a single bar electric fire for these occasions.

By Saturday morning, the wind had died down, but when I got up and looked at the temperature it was below -7°C. First job was to check the orchards. The tender young leaves on the Avocado have been nipped by the cold, but will recover. All the fleeces were still in place, but my Canna Lilly which last week looked like this:

​now looks like this:

It will have to be cut back to ground level. It grows from rhizomes, so will survive.

After assessing the risk of more power cuts as remote, I came in and lit the fire, then to the bathroom and discovered to my surprise and horror that the water was frozen - all taps, everywhere. I turned the water pump to manual and discovered the heating pipes were frozen too. The fire was going nicely so I closed the damper and covered it with damp shavings in an attempt to put it out. But to no avail. The pump came on and started making a funny noise. It is down stairs in the workshop. When I looked, it had fractured the casing and was leaking.

After pulling the plug and isolating it and adding a bucket to catch the drips, I went back to the fire, which was still burning, and poured water on it. Suddenly there was a small explosion and the room filled with steam. A seal on a joint had fractured at the rear with the pressure.

More water eventually extinguished the fire. My thoughts were around how difficult it normally is to get going and are not repeatable in a family blog!

Kicking myself for not checking pipes and other things, but they were all lagged to ensure this didn't happen, I tried the plumber. He hasn't answered the phone or SMS messages. 

On the principle that of I am having a problem, then others will be too, I went to Jelsa, to the only plumbers merchant on the island. They were closed for a week for annual stocktaking! Happy the merchant who can afford to close completely for business for a week at any time of year. Well this is Croatia..... So I bought the last two 5 litre flasks of water at the supermarket and came home. Lots of people were buying water. I need to be first in line at the plumbers merchant when they next open!

The very first winter I was here we had a Bura like this and my water was frozen for three days. However, since then all the old cast iron external pipes have been replaced with plastic, fully lagged and insulated and buried in walls, just to prevent a recurrence. 

I will be asking the plumber some questions that have difficult answers. It will be next week before I can get things back to normal. 

These are my weather station comparison figures from my first and third winters in my Dol house: 

Dec 30 2014 Low temp -4.4°C Sustained wind speed KpH 46 Gust wind speed KpH 53 Average 18 

Dec 31 2014 Low temp -5°C Sustained wind speed KpH 51kph Gust wind speed KpH 51 Average 10 

Jan 6 2017 Low temp -5.1°C Sustained wind speed KpH 42 Gust wind speed KpH 53 Average 20 

Jan 7 2017 Low temp -7.5°C Sustained wind speed KpH 35 Gust wind speed KpH 63 Average 13

So while the cold has prevented outside work at the end of the week and caused quite a few problems, I was able to do quite a lot earlier in the week. 

Working inside while the wind blew, I did some backing up of data. I was also looking for a couple of photographs which I took when I was in Abu Dhabi. I found one, and judging by the serial numbers, the other does not exist. What did surprise me is that I have 36,500 digital photographs in 1,130 monthly photos folders, taking up 143 gigabytes of space. Somewhat more than I expected, and these only go back to 2002.

Office window sunrise, January 2002
Mount Teidi. 3,100 metres, Winter 2004

It reminded me that now we have the ability to keep effectively unlimited amounts of data, and as the cost of memory is cheap, I like many others don't take one, but several photos of any particular scene. 

Now I tend to take two in any case, one portrait for this blog, and one in landscape for the immersive edition which handles landscape images better, so that immediately doubles the number taken.

I also have six digital cameras, if you include a dedicated video camera (not used for a while). In the days of wet film, I only ever had two cameras, an SLR and a Super8 Cine camera. 

But now I have the cameras which are specialist for different things. Apart from my go anywhere pocket Canon, which I use for most images, I have the Ricoh ThetaS 360°, a Canon DSLR with several interchangeable lenses, an Enlaps Timelapse camera, a GoPro Hero3 and a Sony digital video camera. But most of these are of recent or very recent origin. 

The vast majority of those thirty six thousand photos were taken with just one camera, my Canon IXUS. I use Google Picasa as my index and I am scrupulously careful to back up all my photos in two places. I have quite a lot more going back to when I started with digital cameras in 1992 and I have many slides and films which I am slowly indexing and digitising. 

Before Christmas I found some film strips at the back of a drawer in my desk. 

They were of a history exhibition I organised and managed way back in 1983. I had to do some restoration before I could scan them, but the results have been published as a series of articles on the PMCC website and in the monthly magazine. 

The first article about photo restoration is available online by clicking on this link. The second is available online by clicking on this link.There is one more article in the trilogy to come next month about these fabulous old MG police traffic patrol cars.

Another job I have done inside is to do more work on a Fremo module

Some of you know of my interest in scale modelling, and in "Live Steam" engines. There is a German system where scale modellers build "modules" to exacting standards, which can then be joined together at shows. There is a Fremo group in Zagreb and I have designed and started building a display module.

This week having successfully joined some 50mm insulation board pieces, I measured and marked out the 1:1 scale board so I can transfer my A4 plan.

After drawing everything, I then used a laser to align some track pieces

before I lay cork insulation and start to actually lay the track.

But for a first attempt at a module of this type, I am happy with the results so far. 

Things can only get better!