Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 09

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

It's been cold this week. 

The coldest week of the winter, and we are already into March. 

The cause has been the so called "Beast from the East", which as I talked about last week, is the result of the breakdown of the Polar Vortex, which is normally a continuous circular belt of very high level wind rotating as a single mass around the Arctic Circle.

Snow is not unknown here on Hvar, but it is an unusual event, which closes the schools and makes travel difficult.

The two most recent previous events in Dol were the 4th February, 2012 and the 18th February 2009, but the village primary school log refers to a number of times over the past 180 years when the school has been closed because of snow.

The snow started on Sunday morning, flurries of light snow which reduced visibility, with fine small balls of snow, known as Graupel begining to fall.

This type of snow forms when the temperature aloft is too cold for large, regular snowflake crystals to grow. 

A limited amount laid, but not enough to cause any real problems.

There are several different scientifically recognised types of snow, but it is a complete myth that the Inuit language used by the native Canadians of the far north, has more than 50 different words for snow. 

But as the week wore on, beginning on Monday, more and more of this hard dry powdery Graupel snow fell, until I had around three centimetres (just over an inch) on flat surfaces.

The BBC's Terrific Scientific has a really interesting photo sequence of snowflake crystals forming.

The air temperature was cold and visibility was reduced in the snow flurries, but as you can see from the photograph, taken from the Maquis above my home, it is not a dense blanketing snow storm, which renders driving dangerous and restricts visibility to just a few meters.

Wandering through the forest just before sunset, I was hoping to see some animal tracks.

​Other than the evidence of the Wild Boar, who root for food in the old walls and seriously damage them, I have never seen a wild mammal on any of my regular wanderings through the Maquis. 

I was curious to see what if anything was also using the paths, byways and Green Lanes.

​The only footsteps were mine. Not even a bird had left tracks in the virgin snow. The wild flowers which had looked so nice just a few days before,

​were now mostly buried in the snow.

​As the temperature dropped, the snowfall stopped and I returned home to my log fire.

Tuesday dawned much brighter, and by 10am the sun had broken through the clouds and shone intermittently for the rest of the day.

I did a couple of flights from my helipad with my drone to film the snowscape

​- that is until the batteries packed up. After three years of use, they have both failed and now need replacing.

​As soon as the sun shone, the snow began to melt, but not before I had photographed my roof, looking for leaking heat. 

I had four leaks, shown by the snow melting on the tiles above the leak. 

Three I knew about, over the loft trap door, a notoriously difficult place to properly insulate, above where the main consumer unit and the satellite router is in the hall, again both places which are not fully insulated, but I was surprised that in the new roof above the dining room, I also had a significant heat leak.

​It was then time for another hike though the Maquis, up to St Michael's Church and then back on my regular circular route.

​I took several 360 Panoramic photographs which I have uploaded to my Kuula site, which can be viewed at this link.

The snow was melting fast. At the end of February, there is a lot of heat in the sun and it was only in the shady places that snow remained. I did find the first evidence of animal life though, - some Hare tracks in the snow, which together with small bird claw prints, probably from Blackbirds, was all there was to see.

I have had only minor problems with water freezing. 

Two nights in a row, when the air temperature at 1.4 metres had fallen to -4.5ºC, I had a water pipe freeze around the solar water system. I need to add more protection to the exposed pipework. But as the pipe rapidly thawed in the sunshine, there were no bursts, unlike last year.

All my new pipework for the central heating has worked perfectly, and I have kept the log fire in for around 20 hours a day which has heated the buildings nicely.

Wednesday was another cold but bright day and more of the snowfall melted.

The Daffodils which last week looked lovely, were I suspect not impressed by the sudden cold snap.

​​The weather has given me time to do some more indoor jobs.

There was a slight rise in the temperature graph for the last day of February, but this last week of the winter has certainly dropped the average for the month and it has been lower than the previous years I have recorded data for.

I woke to power cuts on the first day of March. Not caused by the weather, but the utility company again cutting the power without warning then restoring it some minutes later. 

As the temperature had warmed slightly overnight, it was snowing and laying again, this time the large, regular and soft flakes on snow, which told me the upper atmosphere was now warming as well.

The weather system that had been named "The beast from the East" that brought the cold had gone and was being replaced by warmer winds from the south.

As the day wore on, a thaw set in, combined with foggy, murky conditions, so once again I kept the wood stove well topped up with logs and the house warm. 

At lunch time the delivery company brought a box of Screwfix supplies, including work shorts. 

It is perhaps just a little too cool to try them at the moment, but they will be useful come the summer weather.

On a grey, cold and wet Thursday afternoon, with the snowfall turning to slush and water dripping from every roof and tree branch as the thaw set in, it was nice to close the shutters, turn on the lights and shut out the day. 

The three felines have the right idea - Get up, have breakfast, go back to bed. Get up, have lunch and find a comfortable corner, somewhere warm to nap.

​Get up, go out, but stay the minimum number of minutes to take care of any call of nature, come back in and go to bed. Don't move again until:

A) it's supper time or

B) it's morning.

Whilst on the subject of felines, I spotted a snow cat in the village. No, not the fabled snow cat from the former Northern Constabulary:

​Rather something slightly less esoteric:

​It looks as though the wet but warm weather is going to continue for the next seven days, so there will not be much work done outside, apart from cutting the odd log for the fire.

Compared to the rest of Europe and even Croatia, we have had very little snow, and no real inconvenience.

​It did remind me of times past, when I was in the UK and villages in the Yorkshire Wolds, especially Fridaythorpe, would be cut off.

​And here we are at the end of another week. The sun is out, the birds are all singing again, it is pleasantly warm outside -

​with no need for a fire until the late afternoon when I started writing. 

I did manage to change a couple of door locks in the sun, gradually moving to a full key suite system for my home. 

But its been quite a contrast in a week.