life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 52
🎉🎄 The 29 Steps 🎅 🎁
I've been suffering this week.
I started with a head cold at the weekend, and it has followed it's usual course of a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose and blocked sinuses, and some aching joints just for good measure.
There is still no cure for the common cold, just time and some medications to alleviate the symptoms, which I have been taking. However, I have not felt ill, more just a little "under the weather", and have been working away on my projects, albeit at a slower pace than normal.
The weeks on either side of the northern winter solstice, even when quite sunny, do not have a lot of daylight time, so there never seems to be enough time to do all the things you want - or need - to do.
Combine that with a full day travelling to the mainland for essential supplies - that is essential building supplies - and a seven day working week is reduced to six!
We had an electric storm early on Sunday morning and I woke to the first snow of winter.
And around Jelsa, the fields were white over.
OK a picture tells a thousand lies... sometimes. The storm brought a significant Graupel, or soft hail and it was the hail which had slid off my roof which I found. The individual hail stones in this photo give the game away.
I started the week with the intention of getting the central heating back up and running, in time for me to pop into my local forest to collect a Badnjak on Christmas Eve.
However there were a few jobs to be done first to get the system back on line.
The first was the completion of the building work, so I had some storage space, that done, I spent some time on a cool and windy Sunday evening looking at my plans, and drawing up a list of steps in Trello.
I find Trello to be a really useful tool for basic project management. With the list complete, it came to a total of 29 steps.
Each time you complete something, it can be "ticked" as complete, so you see actual progress, and also have a reminder of things that still need to be done.
I know I am a planner, measuring three or four times, then cutting once.
But also I can visualise the steps needed and the tools and materials required for a task, so with a list of 40+ items, from screws and washers to parts for a built in wardrobe, I took the 05:30 ferry to Split.
I think it was the Nurofen tablet, but I slept soundly until 07:15, just in time to see a lovely pre-sun rise sky.
We pulled into the port before the sun popped over the Dinaric Alps, down the coast from Split.
I was able to find most of the things I needed at Bauhaus.
But again there were some gaps in what you can get there. There was a whole aisle of the covered MDF that I was looking for to make a wardrobe from, in white, grey and wood veneer, even some pine panels, but no fittings of any kind.
I decided that without any fittings, there was little point in carting the MDF back, so have abandoned the idea for the time being.
I will be planting them outside once the winter is over.The green market was bustling as usual and there was a roaring trade going on in traditional Norway Spruce Christmas trees.
I was a little disappointed in the Advent Fayre on the Riva.
There were fewer kiosks than in previous years and a number were closed. Several huge concrete vehicle barriers have been placed at either end - a sign of the times we now live in.
On the ferry back I went up to the top deck to watch the sun disappear behind the Hvar hills.
We were too far into the Stari Grad Fjord to see it set into the Adriatic sea. But there was a significant ocean Mirage - something I have never seen here previously.
There were few vehicles on board, perhaps just 1/3 of the main vehicle bay was in use, which meant I was off very quickly and home in time to unload the roof-rack while there was just the smallest amount of daylight left.
On Monday I spent all the day on re hanging the gates that guard the entrance to my courtyard.
They have a cat flap, so the felines can come and go as they please, but they prevent any marauding dogs getting into the yard - at least by this entrance - and the main reason is as a wind break to prevent the wind tunnel effect between the buildings.
Nice though it is in the height of summer to have a cooling breeze, trying to work in the yard, because it doubles as an open air workshop, in winter, with a howling gale is not so pleasant.
It is over two years ago that I installed the gates, at a time when I had a 30 slope on the courtyard.
This necessitated the gates being lifted even though I cut some of the concrete away so allow them to open and close.
Now the courtyard is level with the stones outside the gates, and having increased the thickness of the cottage wall, I have lowered the gates by 7 cm, which has entailed removing the hing pins from the walls, re drilling and fitting, as accurately as possible, so that the strap hinges fit without alteration.
Out of six strap hinges, four were perfect fits, one I had to enlarge the holes for slightly and one hinge needs a big washer as it is still 2mm out.
As the single gate is especially heavy, my neighbour, an accomplished wood butcher, came round to help.
The major work was finished by lunch time and in the after noon, I treated the cut timber and re fitted the various hardware. I now have functional gates again.
We have had a Bura this week too.
The Bura is the bitter wind from a northerly direction that sweeps across the frozen, snow covered plains of the northern Balkans but does not cross enough of the Adriatic sea to be warmed before it reaches my Dol house.
I managed to get all the delicate trees protected in advance so am not too worried about losing anything and in any case, we have not had a serious frost yet. It is the combination of low air temperatures coupled with a Bura that kills tender plants, shrubs and trees.
After my trip to Split, I had the essential pipe insulation I needed for the external pipe runs. I do not want a repeat of last winters freezing event!
I took off all the internal grade insulation from the remaining copper pipe work, and then cut out the burst pipes.
Once that was out of the way, I started in the loft, having brazed a replacement joint into the copper pipework.
Then I cut polystyrene sheets to make a thermal box for the cold water header tank, and wrapped all the pipes in insulation.
Bearing in mind the loft has no insulation, no roofing felt, and daylight is visible between all the tiles, it is effectively in the open air.
I just cannot comprehend why the plumber would consider leaving everything unlagged, even though the outside pipework only had internal grade insulation.
In the loft there was nothing, so little wonder pipes froze and burst.
I was told earlier in the year when a visiting plumber from the UK inspected the system, that probably 60% of the heat in the pipes was being lost because of the poor quality insulation.
With the loft finished, I moved to the other end of the system and fitted the replacement pump, connected up the UPS battery system and wired everything in.
A part of the problem this year was that because of the high winds, the electric supply failed, as it often does. This meant that I could not light the wood stove, because I need electricity to pump the water round, so the system got very cold, when the power came back, it was too late and the outside pipes were frozen and had burst.
Moving to the outside, I started to lag the pipes with insulation and then joined up the plastic HEP20 to the copper pipework. The new insulation is grey. The old interior grade is black.
By the end of Thursday, I estimated I had 30% of the pipework finished and on my Trello chart, it showed I was 41% complete.
Friday was another lovely day, warm in the sun but in the wind, up a ladder connecting plastic to copper pipe and insulating everything as I went along, it was not so warm. Once the sun was behind the hills, I came in and started connecting the new radiators up to the system.
I am using traditional copper tail pipes to connect to the underfloor HEP20 joints. I am pleased that all my work earlier in the year, making sure that the under floor piping and the radiator unions lined up has paid off.
After some accurate cutting of the copper pipes, the radiators dropped neatly into position on the pipes - measure three times and cut once works!.
With the compression joints on the pipework tightened and the radiator secured, the job was done. It did take somewhat longer to do that it has taken me to describe though!. At the end of the day. I was shown as being 48% complete.
Saturday was another lovely sunny day.
Before connecting the last new radiator to the system, I needed to get some joists cut for the sub floor.
The original floor in this building sags in the middle of the rooms.
After some careful measuring and marking, followed by some judicious use of a saw bench, the new joists were level and were screwed into place.
I then needed to get the 22mm HEP20 pipework through the 80 cm outside wall. The holes were already drilled and came up with the idea of using a small diameter wall drill and electrical tape to guide the pipe through.
A job I was not looking forward to and expected to be quite difficult turned out to be simple and straightforward.
I then added some of the last bits of pipework and insulation before the daylight started to fade.
and perhaps after an hour in the morning, I will be ready to fill the central heating system and check for leaks - then I can light the wood stove and go up into the forest to cut my Yule log.
So as the end of another year in my Dol House approaches, where ever in the world you are, I wish you a very Merry Christmas from everyone here.