Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 04

A JCB would have been useful!

It has been cold most nights this week, with radiation frosts visible every morning in the orchards.

My young citrus saplings do not look very happy and I have been party to discussions about what effect the cold will have on this year's citrus crop. Cold like this is NOT normal for this part of the Mediterranean. I had to leave my car out on Friday night and it looked like this on Saturday morning.

With my much anticipated building work due to start shortly, I have been making the final preparations this week, so that the initial work can go as smoothly as these things do. 

I started the week with 11 items on my "to do" list, and by Saturday afternoon, the list had grown to 23, but I had completed 17. So I think I can say I am ahead of the game. 

Way back in August last year, I started to dismantle the old pig sty and began cleaning and saving all the stones.

Looking back, working in the heat of the summer is not conducive to making significant progress. It has only been as the autumn turned to winter that I really was able to dismantle quickly.

Progressively I have carefully dismantled all the old animal shelters and outbuildings, cleaning the stones, sorting them into different piles, separating stones which were used as door lintels and the result is several large mounds of stones and some equally large mounds of rubble.

The traditional way of building here was to use local stones on either side of a 600mm to 800mm wide wall, with the middle filled with rubble, soil and sand. Occasionally lime mortar was used to hold stones in place, but only occasionally, and over time this has softened and disintegrated, the walls being held up by gravity alone.

I am left with, in terms of quantity ⅔ useful stone to ⅓ scrap rubble. 

One of these rubble piles was near to the garden equipment sheds, an area I now need for outdoor storage for things like the saw horse.

So I have spent three days this week moving a couple of cubic metres of rubble, separating useful soil (not much) and piling the rest up ready to be cleared as the very first job in the building project. 

Digging into rubble is actually quite difficult. My trusty old British Bulldog Size 0 shovel would not really dig in because of all the stones. The Croatian shovel, which is a different shape and has a long handle, had similar problems.

I found that the best way was with an English garden rake and using the shovel in the manner of a face loader to pick up and then dump the rubble into the wheel barrow and move it closer to where the truck will collect it and take it all away. 

The area by the sheds is now cleared of debris and I have moved the last bits I needed to clear out of the builders way, into place. But what sounds like quite a simple task, "moving rubble" has actually been energy intensive and quite time consuming.

I am left wondering what to do with this area in the future. It is quite a sheltered corner, so I could probably plant some tender plants there. I have been thinking about relocating the path away too, which would make it even more secluded. I definitely need to give this area more thought.

On Friday Cvjetko and his team arrived after lunch and removed three truck loads - 7½ cubic metres of rubble. 

They returned on Saturday morning and cleared the last load, so now there is a relatively blank canvas for the start of work. In total, ten cubic metres of rubble and debris came out of the walls of all the old buildings. A mini JCB would have been useful....

These before and after spherical photographs give an idea of the Fold Yard, and the vacant space which will shortly morph into a nice workshop, with a lounge above. Use your mouse to move around the images and zoom in and out to see more detail.

The last job on Saturday afternoon was to use a Laser sighting level, poles and fluorescent paint to mark in the building lines. The spherical camera is also in the photograph on the right hand tripod.
It did highlight some minor discrepancies between the plans and the site now it is cleared of buildings.
In one of my meetings with the architect, he said it was almost impossible to get accurate wall thickness measurements of old buildings, when the walls are not square and vary in thickness. 

I have gone back to him to ask for advice on what to do about the 30cm difference. It doesn't cause me a problem, if it doesn't cause anyone else a problem!

Another job this week has been to lay the Citrus orchard irrigation pipe into the path. All last year I had the pipe draped across the path, which was annoying and a trip hazard. 

I was able to open up where the water pipe was and there was sufficient depth to get two pipes in, under some new concrete. Each of these little jobs, which often take quite a bit of time, moves me another step closer to the whole project being finished. 

Whilst the days have been getting nicely longer, I have at last started to plan what seeds I want to sow for this summer. There is a convention that you start seeds six to eight weeks before the average last frost date for your area. That seems to be around the 14th of February in this part of Dol, so I should have been planting at the start of January.

However with the very cold start to the month, I have lost several trays of seeds which had sprouted before Christmas, due to the cold. Although the greenhouse is warming nicely during the day, the nighttime low is still only +6ºC, so I am holding back a bit before I plant more. I have been through my seed box though, to sort out the seeds I want to plant first.

In planning the plantings, I sorted the seeds into those which are sown direct into the soil, once it has warmed up, and those which are started in the greenhouse first. Today the soil temperature was just +2.5ºC. It was then just a case putting tomato, pepper, zucchini and some herbs on one side, until it is just a little bit warmer, then I will start the seeds off in the heated propagator.

Longer days means more sunshine, but with clear blue skies during the day, the lack of cloud means that the nights are still cold with some frost. With the current weather patterns, it is really difficult to try and work out when the last frost will be, especially as the soil has got very cold, but I still think the middle of February is a good spot to aim for.