Life in a Dol House
2015 Week 40

Dig every thing up and what grows back is a weed

This week has been all about laying tiles in the dining room. I have made progress, quite good progress considering the difficulties, but at least I have something concrete to show for my work, even though there is still a lot of concrete showing.

The concrete sub floor has created its own problems for me. Bone dry, it absorbs moisture better than a sponge, so I have watered the floor with a watering can, and left the water to soak in before laying down the tile cement. Here you can see the line where under the tiles, the concrete was pre-soaked, but the tile cement ran over into an area that had not been pre treated. 24 hours after laying the tiles, there is a clear mark where there was no water (light colour) and where the water had been given a chance to soak in first (dark colour).

I have mentioned before that the floor tiles are "Rustic". There are no straight edges and the tile surface is slightly uneven, but they are 'double fired' so are very strong, which also makes them difficult to cut with a sliding cutter. Because of this, I have been using a water cooled diamond circular saw. It is messy because water goes everywhere, but the cuts are nice and clean. 

With more than 40 tiles to cut to fit around the walls, I still have a lot of cutting to do and accurate measuring before I can even mark up a tile for cutting.

Getting them all level is challenging, but I found that the only way to do so is to lay a small one square metre, 3 x 3 tile area at a time, then let the tile cement dry before laying the next block.

Starting in the middle of the room is not quite how the text books say tiling should normally be carried out, but then this is far from a normal room, without square corners and with the doorway through to the kitchen, where the tiles must all join up. But so far, so good. They are close enough to level in all planes for me not to worry.

It would be much easier to lay square edge tiles, but then these tiles which I chose have a character which matches the building - old and out of shape.

The wood stove I ordered is on it's way from Zagreb, so I made a footprint out of card and then went to find a hearth stone of the right size, to go in the corner of the room. 

I have put several large flat stones to one side, anticipating the need for fireplace hearths, and one was the right dimensions. 

It is a heavy piece, weighing more than 30 kilos. I think at some time it has been used in a traditional roof, as there are traces of lime mortar on its surfaces. First job was to clean the years of accumulated grime from the top surface and edges with a circular wire brush, attached to an electric drill. ​ 

With the ensuing dust brushed away, I could see there were some nice marks in the surface and it appears to be a types of shale. Washing it brought out the colours of the stone, illuminated by the autumn sunshine, as it dried.

Next steps will be to put it in the corner where the wood stove will go, then decide where to cut it to fit, and finally to cement it in place.

In the garden I have some bright yellow flowers in a corner near to my Grandmother's Sundial.

I set about trying g to identify what they were and succeeded. I recognised them to be from the helianthus or sunflower family, but it was the peculiar leaf arrangement on the tall stems which identified them, because low down on the stems the leaves are opposite each other, but at the top, the are arranged alternately. ​ 

They are Helianthus tuberosus , better known as Jerusalem Artichoke. I transplanted them last year, so know they have small tubers that they grow from, but I didn't recognise the tubers at the time. Now I have seen the whole plant, it is easy. I don't think there will be enough to gather any tubers for food because it has been so dry, but maybe next year.

In the orchard, the Red Clover I planted 2 weeks ago are getting bigger, but it is the Calliente Mustard which has really surprised me. The germination was very quick, just 4 days and their growth rate has overtaken the clover. The soil where they have been sowed is already taking on a greenish hue, even though the leaves are still tiny. I hope they will really keep the weeds at bay.

Isn't it strange how you can walk past something and not see it time after time? Every time I come through the main gate, I walk past the gable end wall of the old cottage, but it was only when I came out of the Konoba with my hearth stone, and looked at the wall face on, that I saw that I have a Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, growing and almost a metre long, up the wall. ​

Back in June I told you how I had discovered a problem neighbour had spread through a rock wall and into the foundations of the cottage. I cut the roots, but could not remove the piece from the foundations and it is from this piece of root that the new shoot has sprung.

I didn't think to paint the root end with a poison to kill it. I thought that as it was some five or six metres from the main plant, just cutting it would do the trick. Obviously not. I am reminded of the old gardeners saying, that if you dig everything up, what grows again is a weed. The corollary to that is of course that every plant is a weed where it originates! 

The wall of the cottage is not very nice to look at. The stone is irregular, more coursed rubble than dressed stone, but the lime mortar is in good shape. I do like Virginia creeper, especially in the Autumn when the leaves turn to gold and bronze, so together with it's ability to quickly cover a wall and because it uses small suction pads to grip, rather than tendrils which dig into the fabric, I think I may just leave it.

The grapes are pretty much all gathered in. Soon It will be the olives

However talk in the town is that there will not be much oil this year because it has been so dry. Although the numbers look good and there has not been the problem with the maggot fly that they had last year, the weather this season has not been conducive to produce olives with a high oil content. 

Despite the dry weather, I have Goji berries on the bushes I planted this year. ​ 

Not many, but they are there and they have ripened. The berries are small and eaten from the tree, they are quite tart. In the shops here there are packets of the small dried berries, and reading about what to do with them, it seems you add them to dishes to improve flavour rather than eating them on their own. Although nice to have, I think I will stick with those that I have, rather than add more.

A quick look at the weather we have had in September shows ups and downs. Weeks one and three were really warm, with average daily temperatures into the low 30's, but weeks two, four and this week, week 5 there have been more seasonal normal temperatures. ​ 

Whilst a look at the four month averages, gives a picture of how hot the summer has been.

I have been studying this week. I have joined a MOOC being run by the University of Birmingham on FutureLearn. MOOC is an acronym for 'massive open online course', and the course Is about Digital Storytelling, really what I am doing here. The first week has been interesting, there has been quite a lot of reading, and also a lot of videos to watch. These are all what they call "shorts", of anywhere between 3 and 8 minutes. There are some really superb videographers out there and on the course, but one in particular I like is Nicholas Chadderton, an Australian. I would like to make these weekly blogs more interesting by adding immersive content, which is why I have been trying Shorthand. 

I have wanted to do something constructive with my GoPro for a while as well, and this course is giving me ideas. I just need a little more time though, to be able to fit film making into my daily schedule.

So as the nights lengthen and hobbies once again come out of the cupboard, spare a thought for me while I plan my next short film. 

Until next week then