Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 37

Let the clean-up begin

This week has just sort of slipped past. 

That suggests that I have not done very much. On the contrary, I have actually been busy - and I think I have a lot to show for it - but all of a sudden, it is the weekend and time for another blog.

Finally, finally we have had some rain and there is more to come over the next few days into next week. 

Breakfast on Friday was punctuated by the flash of lightning and the roar of thunder, as a dissipating storm passed over Stari Grad and Dol.

I had been watching the system advance, coming from the north east and originating on the Italian coast. 

As it passed Zadar, some 150 kilometres to the north east, there were multiple lightning discharges every second. This was around 3am. 

Number 1 cat had woken me to tell me he was hungry - or perhaps to tell me there was a storm coming (and he was hungry) - and I could see the distant lightning flashes against the clouds.

By 7am the storm was passing over the channel that separates Split and the mainland from the island of Brač and Hvar, with the leading edge approaching Otok Hvar. The intensity was much reduced, but there were still a few lightning strikes. There are several web sites which show in real time the progress of storms, anywhere in the world, tracked by sensors detecting the electrical discharge of the lightning. I use Blitzortung.

​As the time approached for me to go to Stari Grad it was starting to rain, Stari Grad and Rudina were hidden in the rain, the gust front ahead of the storm had shaken the trees and then we had a few loud claps of thunder and just two local lightning strikes, but without causing any damage. 

Old habits die hard and I had unplugged all my sensitive electrical equipment, but on this occasion there were no power surges or outages. 

By 08:00 it had ceased to be a thunder storm and was just a cloud bank, raining gently onto the parched fields around Dol, as it headed south east towards Korčula.

When I left home at 9am, the sun was just starting to break through and by the time I got into town, had been to pay the electric bill, buy varnish for the new hardwood floor and do a couple of other errands, it was back to shorts and tee-shirt weather.

In total we had almost 6 litres per meter or 6 mm of rain. But it was a short duration, gentle downpour, which will have done some good. 

Early on Saturday morning, rainfall onto my Velux roof windows woke me. Another 5 litres of constant, gentle rain was delivered before 10am. 

Now we just need some more.

Our local wines this year will, I am told, be excellent. 

However, if you use olive oil, buy some now and put it into store. This year will be a bad year for oil. 

The fruits are small and because of the summer-long drought they have not swelled to anything near the size they should be in September.

​This applies across all of the eastern Mediterranean olive growing areas, from eastern Iberia to Anatolia.

The two Ascalona olive trees I planted in the spring have barely survived, even with copious amounts of water, so I will not even have a thimble full.

I do wonder how and why some plants seem to thrive on neglect, and others suffer, even when being nurtured and pampered?

On the road down to Stari Grad, there is a new olive orchard that was planted in the spring, and as far as I can see it has had very little care an maintenance beyond keeping the weeds down, and no irrigation, yet all the trees are still growing, whereas mine have died off at the top and are just hanging on by their root tips. Maybe it is all in the soil?!

​It has taken far longer than I would have wished, and with many setbacks, but I can at last say that the decorating of the study has been finished. 

Well almost finished. I need some gloss paint for the window sills, but neither of the builders merchants in Stari Grad had any - not a single tin of any size of white, gloss oil based paint in stock. You really could not make this up! 

There were lots of other colours, but no white. 

But that apart, the major jobs have been finished.

This week I have given the walls and ceiling three coats of undercoat. Then the ceiling had two coats of silk emulsion, applied by brush because it was a little too thick for the air line sprayer. 

Or put another way, I would have had to have watered it down so much that it would have needed so many coats to get a nice coverage, it was easier just to brush it on.

​Then I started to paint the walls with the finished Magnolia. With everything painted white, the room was starting to look like a hospital operating theatre - minus equipment. 

Magnolia is a sensible colour, warm but not too dark, and still able to reflect light.

My first spray started well, then degenerated as the sprayer clogged. The paint I am using is manufactured by Jotun, a Scandinavian company, although it came with me from Abu Dhabi. 

It is a really good paint, but in mixing it for the sprayer, I disturbed some sediment which clogged the sprayer.

The covering power is excellent, with just a single coat needed, although some of that is because of the three coats of undercoat I have applied. But even so, this final coat has not been without its problems. 

There is clearly some chemical reaction taking place with water, wallpaper adhesive and the paint on the walls, because even after sealing the walls before papering with lining paper, in a couple of places when I was painting over the paper seams, the paper edges have lifted again.

I have decorated many rooms over the years, but have NEVER experienced problems like this. It would probably need a gas chromatograph spectrum analysis of the layers of old paint to determine the cause, but there is something going on. 

Right at the start I decided not to try and sand the walls down to the lime plaster, because I was concerned about the lead content of the old paints. But before attempting to decorate any more of the rooms with the old plaster, I will use a different method to completely seal the walls before trying to do anything.

So with the walls all finished, on Saturday I could remove the masking tape from around the windows and then let the clean up of the room begin, ready for cutting and laying the hardwood planks to level the floor next week.

With the room cleared, and cleaned, I brought in the laser level, to mark where the paper border will go, around the room. Because there are several high level plug sockets, placed strategically around where the furniture will be, so I am not struggling with sockets behind desks - see, it's all down to planning again - I want the border to intersect with the sockets, so everything appears "joined up".

​With a floor that is less than level and walls that are less than even, although I have done the best I can to solve both problems, it really only is a laser and long spirit level that will ensure that the border is as level as I can get it.

While the working temperature is just right at this time of year, I am determined to press on and get the room into use, as soon as possible.

In the gardens and orchards, other than irrigation, I have not done very much this week. 

The days are still hot and sunny, the nights are drawing in, the Tiger mosquitoes are still biting and apart from planting out some Broccoli plants, I have been doing other things.

The Figs are almost at an end for this year and it is time to pick the wild brambles - my cultivated blackberries have not enjoyed the summer heat.

​I am still finding very young Preying Mantis, which really does seem late in the year for nymphs. 

This photograph of one, shown with a No 8 wall plug for size, shows just how small they are.

​With the advent of darker evenings, I have developed my work plan for the next three months, which will take me up to the start of the winter weather in December and have lots to be getting on with, so watch this space.