Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 32

Feel the heat!

I have made quite some progress on the refurbishment of my study this week. 

A little while back I had decided that whilst it was technically possible for me to rout out the old single pane window glass, deepen the rebate and then obtain sealed double glazed units, there were some issues to be considered. 

The windows were at least as old as the building and made of wood. They were well made, showed no signs of wet or dry rot, having been protected by shutters which are showing those signs after being exposed to the elements, and the windows having been recessed half way into the 800mm thick walls, have been protected from the full gambit of Mediterranean weather over the years. 

But being old, there was insufficient thickness of the wooden stiles and rails -

they are casement windows - to fit a modern 22mm or 24mm depth double glazed unit, the best I could do would be to fit fifteen to eighteen millimetre units, which are no longer considered acceptable in most of Europe. 

Indeed, in northern climates triple glazing is now the recommended minimum. But triple glazed units start at a thickness of 50mm and have a stile and rail thickness of 120mm, and we don't have the cold of northern climates to contend with.

A secondary issue is the space needed to do the work. Time I have, yes, but at the moment space is at a premium. I have so much material filling every available piece of indoor space, because of the building work delays, that I don't have the room in the workshop, to, er, actually do work! I am even using the back of my estate car as flat storage because I have nowhere else. So after discussing all this with my friend Cvjetko, I went ahead and received a quotation for modern uPVC windows. They were delivered and installed this week.

I have to say that the quality is superb. 

24mm argon filled sealed units, extremely well made, probably over engineered for a domestic setting. 

When you open and close them, they have the "click" of a Mercedes door, rather than the "clunk" of a Ford Escort, and they completely seal the room from the outside world......but.....

I am a little disappointed with them and I blame myself for this. 

The old windows each had around a half square meter of glass, but because of the substantial glazed units, the stiles and rails now are much thicker in width and I have lost almost 25% of the total glazed area. 

The surveyor did ask if I wanted a single opening pane or two. I said two because all the restoration work I am doing is, as far as is possible, being done in sympathy with the original building. What I failed to realise, and I failed to ask about was how wide the new window stiles were going to be.

It is something I can learn to live with, and one of the features of Mediterranean houses is small, shuttered windows and very thick walls, to cut down on the heat transmission in summer, and to a lesser extend, the bitterly cold Bura wind of mid winter. 

But lesson learned. I just never thought about it. I would definitely have more more windows from the company, based on quality and a very reasonable price, but I would ask more questions before deciding upon the design. As they say, "Hindsight is the most precise science known to humankind".

We are just a few days past six weeks beyond the Summer Solstice, that day in the year when in the northern hemisphere, the sun is at it's maximum elevation. 

But it is always a few weeks after that the maximum temperatures of the year are usually felt. This year is no different, but it has been and is hotter than the previous years I have lived in my Dol house. A look at the pressure gradient chart shows that we have medium to high pressure, of 1012hPa forecast, my weather station recorded 1020hPa actual (corrected for altitude). But then look at the temperature chart. The temperature has been rising all week, yesterday it reached a peak of +38.6ºC, and today (Saturday) it has been 37.4ºC. In Split, the recorded temperature was over +40ºC, but we have at least had a little cooling air off the Adriatic sea.

Pressure is going to drop in the early part of next week, before rising again towards next weekend. 

However, I think it is unlikely that we will get much more extreme heat because cooler air will be drawn in from the central European plains instead of the hot air mass which has moved up from north Africa.

This means that I have had to increase the amount of irrigation water I am putting onto my young plants and trees. There are of course some things which are just not able to survive, no matter how much water you give them, for example Runner Beans

My established Fig tree is covered with fruit this year and much of the crop is ripening before my eyes. And it was this tree that in February had a third to a half of its peripheral roots cut, when I had the mini JCB to dig the footings for the building work. Clearly it has not caused it too much stress.

But everything (and every one) is suffering. Number 1 cat, Risha has found the coolest place to go to sleep.

- In the shower, whilst his companion Callie, who being an Arab Mau only has a single coat of fur, finds some cold concrete to sleep on outside.

She has a comfy bed, in fact several comfy beds, but is happy to just doze anywhere where it is cool.  I think I should follow their example - but I still have work to do... 

But currently the temperature inside is over +34ºC with 40% humidity. Counting the number of air conditioning units you can see on the outside of houses, I estimate that less than 5% of homes here have A/C. 

If this heat is permanent climate change, I think I might have to invest!

All over my orchards, the insect life is thriving, despite the heat. From before dawn, there is the constant sound of the Cicadas, chirping in the trees.

As they quieten at sunset, the crickets take over, including House Crickets. But as they devour the mosquitoes and other pests, I leave them alone.

When I was irrigating my young Avocado trees, a movement caught my eye and immediately I saw the long antennae, I realised the insect was either cricket or a Katydid. 

I know I have both in the orchards, but I have been unable to identify this specimen. It should be easy because of it's long wings, but the colouring does not match anything in my books.

To get a positive identification requires an expert to count the number of toes, and see if it has ears in it's knees - no, really! 

It is an Ensifera, because of the very long antennae. Grasshoppers and crickets are colour polymorphic with many different colour variations in any given area. 

I have since found several of these Ensifera, all living on Wild Carrots in the orchard, and all sand coloured, merging perfectly with their surroundings.

Close by I found this young grasshopper nymph, missing one hind leg.
And while I was watering in the Drupe orchard, I disturbed this larger grasshopper nymph.

The colour and pattern on insects outer surfaces is believed to be fixed genetically, so they are not changing colour like a chameleon, to suit their surroundings. 

Grasshoppers go through five complete skin moults, between emerging and adulthood. 

This one has just emerged from its third moult, denoted by the appearance of its small wings. It is probably an Egyptian Grasshopper, Anacridium aegyptium.

A favourite flowering plant of mine is the Buddleja

Better known as the Butterfly Bush. I have two, this purple flowered variety and one with a white flower, and true to their name, they are continually populated by butterflies and other insects. 

At any moment you can find small bees, like this black and white Anthophora urbana,

big black carpenter bees and an endless variety of butterflies, like this Scarce Swallowtail, Iphiclides podalirius, identifiable by its zebra wing patterns and small dark blue wing eyes.

In the UK, Buddleja is a weed, growing everywhere, tolerant of almost every condition and found in abundance along the many railway embankments, but here I am just only just managing to keep it alive with a lot of grey water from the kitchen. 

At which point, it reminds me that as the sun is lowering in the sky, although there is little noticeable cooling, I need to turn on the irrigation and hand water those plants which are not yet part of the automatic system.