Life in a Dol house
2015 - Week 43

Feeling a bit fargon this week

The weather has finally turned to more seasonably cooler day and night time temperatures. Night time lows this week have been in single digits, whilst the day time highs have reached the low twenties celsius.

The leaves on the deciduous plum and mulberry trees in the top orchard are starting to fall and I noticed on Saturday that the vine leaves are now quickly becoming brown, dry and shrivelled.

I picked the first ripe Mandarin oranges this week

They had fallen from the tree after a strong Bura  wind this week. They were still a little tart, but still quite edible and very nice.

I have also noticed how rapidly the sun is now lowering in it's daily orbit and how it is illuminating less and less of the kitchen garden and citrus orchard. The smell of wood smoke from people's home heating fires is now also readily apparent in the late afternoon, together with the strident sounds of the chain saws in the woods behind my Dol house.

I am not short of work around the property, but one thing (a room) which is in dire need of updating is the bathroom.

The décor is horrible beyond words. A dark chocolate brown bathroom suite, shoehorned into a small room created especially for the purpose, then decorated with sickly orange and white 'wet look' wall tiles and burgundy coloured floor tiles. 

It is one room that has been the same since it was created, probably some 30 years ago. Neighbours tell me that before, there used to be an outside WC and washing water was drawn from a communal well in the courtyard. A date of manufacture of 15 9 82, that I found on the bath would tend to confirm this.

The two old ladies who lived here then, had their rain water cisterns connected to a pump and filter system, and had internal sanitation installed. Mierco, a neighbour further up the lane told me he had installed the system for them.

Talking to my neighbour's on the other side of the road this week, Frano told me that at the time - it was in the days of the Yugoslav Republic - these were about the only sort of ceramic tiles that could be obtained. They have some similar ones in their home still. I am keeping a sample of each of the tiles. I think I might have them framed!

Well, my next project will be a simple change of the 1980's monstrosity, into something more fitting for a 21st century home and I started this week.

I spent most of Monday measuring and planning to see exactly what I can get into the available space. And after drawing detailed plans using Google Sketchup I think I can get pretty much everything I want. 

I am also learning very quickly about fitting PP-R polypropylene pipes. Vargon  are a local company who make the green PP-R 80 pipes . I first came across these when I was in Spain, and in Abu Dhabi pretty much everything is welded PP-R. The pipes and fittings are welded together at 260°C and have a design life of 50 years.

It will be a "wet room" with walk into shower, and with modern bathroom fittings, for example a toilet built into the wall and a wide, square profile wash hand basin to maximise space in the room.

On Tuesday I went over to Bauhaus on the mainland and came back with a lot of what I need for the project, but with some notable exceptions. Whilst there I made a decision not to make a decision, about the new wall and floor tiles.

There were two designs in particular that I liked, but although I had the measurements of the room, I thought I would bring samples and photos back and see which fitted best. Apart from which, I have a lot of work to do before I get anywhere near needing tiles. I want to use the tiling pattern to make the room appear larger than it is. In constructing the bathroom, the builder laid a slab of 20 cm concrete onto the wooden floor (after building a substantial support pillar in the Konoba underneath). So that is the first thing that will go.

On Wednesday morning I made a start.

There are a number of limiting factors. I still need to keep the bathroom operational as long as possible, as it is the only one. I also need to keep the dust and mess to a minimum (not easy). There are no plans of where the services run too and from, so it is a bit of a guessing game trying to find water and electric wires. 

Starting with a 4 kg lump hammer and a bolster chisel, I easily levered off the tiles on the step up.

I found the floor tiles had been laid on a 3 cm soft mortar base, so they lifted away quite easily and the main concrete slab is hard, but not too hard. I still need by biggest breaking hammer to smash it into pieces small enough to be removed in a builders bucket.

Progress on the first day was not too bad but on Thursday I saw more progress. 

At least that was until I severed the drain pipe from the basin. The old lead pipe had been laid just under the tiles, and in an area where I was not expecting it to be. Also being made of lead rather than a ferrous metal, when I did a sweep of the floor with a pipe detector, it didn't show up. 

That necessitated a trip to the builders merchant in Stari Grad for replacement pipework then a quick fix to keep the basin functioning, for the time being.

Friday saw the removal of most of the wall tiles, together with the bath surround.

The bath may look small, but it is a heavy brute. Made of thick cast iron, it was very well made and is still in quite good condition. Not that I have any intention of keeping it. 

I came back from Bauhaus with a very nice German made power shower with massage heads. I thought that the only way I could remove the bath was on my sack barrow, but there was not enough space to get it vertical in the bathroom and on to wheels, so on Saturday, after managing to get it onto its side, I got wooden rollers underneath and rolled it out.

Even that took time and not inconsiderable effort, but it means I now have a clear run next week to remove the remaining concrete slab, then start preparing the walls and installing new plumbing. 

Looking at the building techniques, the installation has been well done. The walls have had new plaster to the height of the top of the tiles and are nice and level. The concrete floor was sound and everywhere was completely dry. But I have to say that I am not sorry to see the back of the dreadful colours. 

I now have some detailed plans and once I have moved the last bit of concrete floor, I can start to make the holes for the new services. It will still be a 4 to 5 week project, but I can't wait to have the heated towel rail, amongst other things, working.

On Thursday we had a festival in the village. When I enquired what was being celebrated, I was told it was the end of the 'Bubonic Plague' in the village, "But that happened centuries ago?" I said.       "Yes, but we don't need much of a reason to celebrate things here." replied my informant. 

The outbreak of plague began in the Banat  region of present day Serbia in 1738 and over the next three years spread through present day Romania, Hungary, Austria and Croatia, coming as far south as Brač  and Hvar. 

An unknown number of people died, stretching into the hundreds of thousands. But it is nice to know we no longer have any Plague victims in the village!

In the kitchen garden, the area that I planted with Green Manure Mustard is growing well, unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Red Clover.

Although the red clover germinated well, we had a very hot spell the following week and although I irrigated the orchard, looking on Saturday there seems to be large patches where no leaves are showing, only weeds. 

One of the problems here is the longevity of seeds in the soil, and having turned the orchard soil with the rotavator, then raked the surface before planting the clover, I think I will have uncovered huge numbers of dormant weed seeds. Time will tell if the clover recovers. 

Some of my winter brassicas have been infested with caterpillars as well.

They seem to be only on one or two of the plants at the moment, but I will have to watch them. I am loathe to remove them and think I will just tolerate a little less produce on a few plants.

The sun is still very warm during the day, and the antics of lizards and grasshoppers provides endless entertainment for Risha and Callie.

I would much rather they bring a lizard in than a snake or a rat any day!

For those readers who are/were in Abu Dhabi, the review of the annual GITEX  conference and exhibition in Dubai this week brought back memories of attending, walking miles and enjoying the hospitality of the MoI stand. 

Our friend Colonel Faisal is still organising the stand and was featured in The National,  showing Sheikh Mansour bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum round the police stand, in front of one of the newer traffic patrol cars.

It's nice to see old friends..... there are probably a few faces that you may recognise.

So until next week, think of me while I am having a smashing time, demolishing concrete and tiles in the bathroom.