Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 25

Plants galore

Is anyone following the World Cup football championship in Russia?​

Didn't Croatia do well, beating Argentina 3 - 0! 

They have won two games out of two and are set to play Iceland next week, but with 6 points they are top of the group, having also beaten Nigeria, it looks as though they will be through to the next round. 

There was a lot of celebrating going on in Dol on Thursday evening, and all over the country. 

Good job Friday was a public holiday here. And because next Monday is a public holiday too, effectively we have a four day holiday weekend in which to celebrate and recover. 

I really have little interest in the sport, but it is nice to see the local team doing well and being well supported at home.

I've been over to Split again this week. 

'Again' is probably the wrong term, as it was March when I was last there and I think every three or four months is about right. 

My list of needed things was running at 47 items from Bauhaus and some things from other places as well.

I was outside on the top deck of the ferry for all of the journey across. At 05:30, the sun had risen but the air was still cool and it was very pleasant. 

I was able to do a bit of studying, using internet resources on the way because since our regular ferry has had its winter refit, WiFi is now accessible on all parts of the ship.

Shopping Bauhaus took longer than normal because I needed a number of different types and sizes of nuts, bolts and washers.

You can buy just two, three or a dozen of something, but each item has to be bagged and weighed separately to get the barcode ticket, all of which takes time.​

​We had a little accident a few weeks ago when my youngest feline knocked a picture over as she was climbing. 

It fell off the shelf and the glass smashed. Climbing is something Arabian Mau's do a lot of, all the time, in fact we even have a bed on top of the bookcase because that's where we are most comfortable.​

I tried to get a piece of replacement glass here on the island, but was told I had to go to Split. I knew where the glass merchant was and turned up, measurements in hand. 

In less than 5 minutes, the piece had been cut to size for me, for a cost of £3. 

It's some of the simple things like that which i miss on the island.

I was also looking for a couple of plants, but came back with half a dozen and some bulbs. 

The extreme cold of a couple of winters ago killed most of the Bougainvillea plants in and around Dol.​

This is another of those quintessential Mediterranean species but the colours you see here are almost uniformly turquoise or purple. 

I want the orange variety, called Sunset, or California Gold. But although the Jadro garden centre had row upon serried row of Bougainvillea, they were all turquoise or purple.

In wandering around I saw some dwarf Red Hot Pokers, Kniphofia uvaria, just begging to be bought and planted, so along with a highly fragrant Jasmine Azoricum, they came back in the car with me. 

I did find a Zizyphus jujuba, which I had in my garden in Abu Dhabi, where it is called the Sidr - السدر 

Which is one tree I had gone for, but the​Witch-hazels Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aphrodite' , Hamamelis mollis 'Goldcrest' and Chimonanthus praecox 'Luteus' , the Japanese Allspice were absent. 

So much for shrubs for winter colour. 

In Bauhaus there was a single packet of autumn flowering Nerines looking very lonely, so they have been planted this week as well.​

Afterwards, I found fresh raspberries in the fruit market - mine are all now finished, and some other fresh vegetables, then it was back on the top deck of the ferry again for the journey home. 

I was off the boat very quickly and was home, with the car unpacked by 5pm.

Thursday was the northern summer solstice but cloud both in the morning and evening obscured the sunrise and sunset. 

Whilst it has been hot here every day this week, and by that I mean highs of +32ºC with night time lows of +20ºC, there has also been some wind which has freshened up the atmosphere. 

I am irrigating the orchards now night and morning, with watering cans for selected plants, shrubs and trees, especially those recently planted. But with some welcome rain on Friday afternoon, I was able to put the new plants into damp ground. 

We only had 10mm, but that equates to ten liters per square meter, so at just more than three watering cans, a reasonable amount.

Another heavy box of supplies arrived on Thursday, with a lot of small parts I need for my Triumph.​

There were some essential items, like Whitworth spanners and Unified sockets because there are both UNF and UNC bolts. 

In Europe, where nuts, bolts, washers, screws and in fact most things metallic have been sized in millimetres for more than 30 years, my 50 year old motorcycle mostly has fixings in the old pre-unified Imperial sizes

This means that you need a completely different set of tools to do even the simple things properly, or you risk damaging bolt heads if you don't. I have a limited selection of the old tools, but have upgraded to a full set. 

In addition there were things like an oil filtration system, because the bike basically had a metal strainer to catch anything in the oil. Now it is getting old, I decided to upgrade it so it will last another 50 years at least.

I also decided that I would make a raised working platform for the motorcycle, to ease working underneath it. You can of course buy mechanic's motorcycle lifts, which are hydraulic and raise and lower motorcycles or ATV's, but they are expensive and take up a lot of space.

​It is also something I don't need, or hope I won't need very often. 

Having some hefty baulks of timber, offcuts from various projects in my wood store, I decided to use these to make a platform that can easily be assembled and disassembled. 

It will not be as high as a hydraultic table, but will be lot easier to use and then put away.

I brought the steel work back with me from Bauhaus and on Friday morning, started to bore the holes in the timber. Because I am joining the timbers together, I needed to make sure that the holes were accurately mated between the top and bottom pieces. There needed to be recessed holes for the big nuts and washers.

I am using 12mm threaded bar, cut to size so that everything will be recessed.​Having bored holes at one end, I used a piece of bar to make sure that the wood was held in place, while I bored the holes in the opposite end. 

There are six pieces of timber, bolted together in pairs and then a piece of board is laid on top and screwed to the timber supports. This lifts the bike 30cm off the ground, and provides a wide and stable working platform.

​I was well on with the construction outside in the courtyard when the rain started on Friday afternoon, so everything was put away and construction recommenced on Saturday morning. 

Once the timbers were fixed together, I rust proofed the cut ends of the threaded bar, greased the threads, to make it easy to dismantle them should I wish to in the future, and then drilled and fitted the board. 

There is a lip at either end for a ramp to get the bike up onto the platform. 

With this platform completed, I can get on over the coming weeks in getting the bike ready for use on the road again.​

I will have to use my pickaxe to level when the timber baulks will sit, so the platform is level and on firm ground. 

Until the courtyard is paved over, it's not a problem driving the car over the rough flooring, but for working on a heavy machine, I don't want it to wobble.

Around the gardens and orchards,, I have an ever growing number of different plants, trees and shrubs. 

Some are endemic to the Mediterranean basin (weeds!), and some are known widely across Europe and beyond. 

What I find fascinating is that plants that I know from the UK, which have certain properties, seem to completely lack them here. 

For example Buddleija davidaii.

In the UK it is known as the "Butterfly bush" because it acts as a host plant for a large number of the common species of butterfly and moths.​

My purple Budleija is in flower at the moment, and looks lovely and the white flowered variety is covered in buds, but although we have a number of the same Lepidoptera species here as can be found in the UK, together with several which are primarily Mediterranean species, there are no butterflies to be found feeding on the shrub's flowers. 

Why, I do not know, but clearly in this region the butterflies, even the Red Admirals, have different tastes.

Having watched leaves being munched on the courtyard trees, at what seems like an ever increasing rate, I had a close look at my Greengage tree. 

It was only then that I saw there were more than dozen, and probably more, grasshopper nymphs, busily munching their way through the tender new growth.​

I have no wish to spray them, and when I was looking for a Preying Mantis to relocate onto the tree, I couldn't find one, so I opted for removal and relocation. 

With a fine fishing net, I could persuade the nymphs to jump into the net and once I had three or four, I took them down to the Top Orchard where grass and foliage abound and released them. 

All I can think is that because the sand in the courtyard is quite soft and sheltered from the cold weather, they have overwintered here and have now hatched. 

I'd just like them to leave a few new leaves and shoots though.

Then later when I was doing some tidying close to my neighbours boundary, I found several young Preying Mantis. Like busses, none for ages then three all at once...​

I've picked the first fig of the year this week, a Brown Turkey cultivar.

They are a month earlier than last year and are very sweet, but a lot of fruits and vegetables are coming into season earlier.​

This year's Circada's have hatches this week and have started chirping. But I also have Crickets in and around my buildings. 

This common cricket was on the patio and has a body length of less than 10mm.​

Also in the photograph is the empty case of a newly moulted grasshopper.