🎁 Life in a Dol house πŸŽ„
2016 - Week 51

Seasons Greetings, wherever you might be... πŸŽ‰

Fifty one down and one to go! The winter solstice passed here in Dol on Wednesday, a rather cool but sunny day and there is just one more week of 2016 left.

I'm note sure where the year went, but gone it definately has.

I picked the last of my lettuce this week, and also a bag of Broccoli from the top orchard. When I planted the lettuce back in September, I was not sure how it would fare, but my notes for 2017 are to "plant more". It has grown well, and apart from half the plants being eaten by snails when they were small, I have had no problems. It should be possible to grow winter greens well into the New Year.

Whether my observation skills are becoming more finely attuned to the land here, or whether there are differences I'm not sure. 

But what I am noticing is that this winter I am having more visible frosts than the same period in 2015.

I have seen a couple of frost pockets most mornings, but they are not where I expected them to be. One is in the south east corner of the Citrus orchard around a chunk of limestone bedrock which protrudes from the soil.

I have planted two grapefruit trees and some Buddleja here and every morning the mulch around the base of the trees has been white with a slight hoar frost. In the Drupe orchard, there are Nasturtiums planted between the rows of apples and pear trees.

The pears haven been covered with a green horticultural screen to stop the intense summer heat, and I have left it on for the winter. Close to this, the Nasturtiums are fine, but move just a foot away and they too have been burnt by frost when the cold air has caused ice crystals to form inside the leaves and stems causing them to burst and die.

Frost is water vapour which has cooled and condensed as fine white crystals of ice onto a surface which has a temperature that is lower than the dew point of the surrounding air. 

The formation of frost is well understood - but not by me in my orchards!

Wouldn't it be great to have unlimited resources, multiple digital temperature probes and recording systems to track the changes in temperature and air flow, to accurately map air movement and the formation of frost? 

With seven recording devices, I probably have six more than most gardeners and seven more than the average person, but I still have to rely on my Mk.1 eyeball and a detailed map of the land to see where the frost forms and then try to prevent it. 

Warm air rises and cold air flows down hill. At this time of year, it is easy to see the smoke from my wood stove's chimney sinking and drifting north west, following the katabatic air flow from the hills to the south down towards the Stari Grad plain.

Last week when I visited my dentist, the opening conversation was about the weather - the zima (winter cold), but then she said that it had not been as cold as usual. I thought it had been colder than the first two Christmases that I have lived in Dol, so I asked "What do you mean by normal?" There was silence as Dr Tadić thought, then said, "yes, you're right. What is normal anymore?"

An analysis of my weather station records for December for the last three years shows that 2016 has been the coolest of the past three years. Looking at the high temperatures, 2014 was markedly warmer at the start of the month and in the middle.

The lowest temperatures have been in 2016. In the first two years I was here, I did not record a minimum temperature below zero celsius at all. So my thoughts that there seemed to be more radiation frosts this year is borne out by the statistics.

When you look at the averages for December 2015 and 2016 are very similar, but the warmth in 2014 has lifted the averages for December that year.

However what is most marked is the rainfall. There has been no measurable rain so far in December 2016. In 2015, I recorded .08mm, but in December 2014, I recorded 107.7mm.

So basically, all I have is a mild case of radiation frost, so not the hugely more damaging air frosts. But it would still be nice to be able to grow some barriers to present the frost forming.

With warm sunshine in the morning, until it sinks below the tree line to the south shortly after mid-day, I have been working on my secret project outside in the morning, cutting plywood and timber, and in the workshop in the afternoon.

Then in the evening, moving painted and varnished surfaces into my temporary study, where the wood stove is, so everything is dry by morning.

Accuracy is important and I have been cutting sheets of plywood for this and some Fremo modules I am building, to an accuracy of +/- 1mm. Using a modular German SKIL system, the circular saw is held firmly on a track, and providing the track is well secured to the timber being cut, then achieving this level of accuracy is not difficult. It means that when the time comes to later fix joints, everything matches perfectly, with no gaps.

I miss having a large work bench where I can lay things out in the workshop, but like everything at the moment, until the building work is complete, things are cramped and I have to compromise.

I spent one afternoon cutting firewood with my chainsaw

I have enough cut wood now to last well into the New Year, and my uncut firwood is probably a two year supply.

In the garden the Rosemary is in flower, showing the delicate blue bell shaped flowers.

I also have flowers coming on my Canna indica lilly, a tropical plant which will not withstand cold.

Together with colourful leaves on my blueberry plants, so even at this austere time of year, there is still colour in the garden.

This being Christmas Eve, I am writing this as the last rays of the sun illuminate the hills of BraΔ‡, to the north whilst listening to the service of nine lessons and carols from Kings College, Cambridge. 

If you are celebrating, I wish you Seasons Greetings. May your Christmas be peaceful and happy.


PS I'm off now to meet one of Santa's helpers, with my secret project loaded onto the car, for delivery by Santa later tonight, when little people are fast asleep ...zzzz