Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 38

Watching the Mongoose ​

I've made a decision. 

But that's it for the week, one decision a week is more than enough to be going on with... 

It's around the dry stone wall and the area close to my garden sheds. 

I related a couple of weeks ago about how this area was once the home of Billy, and then after I dismantled his shed, it was where Bill and Ben and Little Weeed could be found. 

After clearing it, I could see there is a substantial amount of stone and aggregate that I will need to move, including the very large stones in the foreground, so went back to walling.

The walling has gone well this week.

I've finished the straight section that runs across the old access path into the orchard, which included moving some small boulders with the chains, and a block and tackle

I dismantled the lean-to wood shed and re erected it against the new wall, then moved all the dry firewood for the winter, under the shelter.

On the other side of the new access steps down into the orchard, is the temporary wood shed I built a couple of years ago. 

My plan was that once the building work has been completed, I would move this temporary structure and make it permanent, out of sight, to the north of the new building. 

In the foreground is the sandstone spoil I dug out when I was levelling the drive. 

This will be where the new workshop will be and above it a lounge with patio doors, looking out over the orchard, wall and steps. 

The temporary woodshed is the silver monstrosity, which has served a very useful purpose, keeping logs dry and drying logs in the summer.

The huge stones, which are all part of the old buildings I have dismantled, will all eventually be reused.  Nothing goes to waste!

However when I looked at the space created between the new wall and the garden sheds, coupled with the amount of work which would be needed to make this into a growing area, as well as the fact that it is completely under the big Myrobalan Plum tree, I've decided to make this site the permanent wood shed. 

Once the decision was made, I have had to revise my working plans. 

I would have needed to dismantle the existing shed to make the north side wall for the steps anyway, so it seems sensible to do it all now. 

The wall isn't going anywhere, so I've started creating a retaining wall for the working plaza in front of the sheds.  Then I can move the log saw horse into place and I will have a clear working area around the sheds.

I had already marked the rough line of the wall, so I added pegs to get the level of the top in line with the shed foundations.  Then I could start building.

When I was moving the stones away from the wall, I had sorted stones that I wanted to use in this low wall by size, so it has been a few days job to put in some foundation stones then create the low wall and back fill the gap behind the wall with the sandstone material I excavated from the courtyard. 

I can soon say all that, but in practice, getting things level takes time and fitting the stones so that they interlock all requires effort, but I'm getting there.

The fine, warm weather has continued unabated all week. 

Not as hot as the summer, but warm none the less and still without any rain. 

The total amount in millimetres for the past four years show that September 2018 has been the driest of the five, with two wet years and two dry years, but no clear pattern. 

Meanwhile I keep irrigating everything to keep my young trees and valuable plants alive.

Our local wildlife seems to be enjoying the warm autumn. 

I had an appointment in Stari Grad this week an on my way into town at 08:30 I was treated to a display by a pair of our exotic species.

There is much international discussion about accidental or deliberately introduced invasive exotic species and the effect that they have on the endemic wildlife. 

On a number of islands around the world, there has been and continues to be a programme to eradicate the population of rats, brought by ships over the past century and a half, which have decimated wildlife, especially birds. 

Here in Dol we are plagued by the Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus, an invasive species which arrived in a shipment of Bananas in 2004 and are continuing to spread around the Mediterranean and beyond. 

These black and white pests are voratious feeders, and unlike their local cousins, attack Mammals at any time of the day and night. 

However it was a pair of Herpestes auropunctatus that I was watching - the Small Asian Mangoose. 

When I first came to Dol, I was warned to watch out for snakes, especially the "Poscock" - the Horned Viper, Vipera ammodytes - which would jump out of trees to chase and attack humans. 

At least that is the folk-law. 

In my time here, around my home I have seen perhaps one live snake a year, have found some shed skins and a couple of skeletons, and occasionally seen one crossing a road. 

My little huntress, Callie, who will sit for hours to catch a lizard to bring for me as a present, hasn't brought in a single snake. 

She did come to tell me about a dead one that she had discovered in the citrus orchard and insisted I follow here to look and get rid of it. 

With my neighbours on all sides having cats, lots of un-neutered cats, I think the chances of a snake surviving the cat run are remote. 

However, back to the Mongoose. 

There is a European Mongoose, but it is only found in the Iberian peninsula on the north side of the Mediterranean sea. 

The Mongoose that lives in Dol is an import from the Indian sub-continent, brought in during the late 1960's to eradicate snakes from a number of islands. 

According to research by the University of Tennessee, this it has been quite successful at, especially on Korčula, where the Horned Viper has been eliminated, and here on Hvar, the researchers found most had been removed. 

But what is now of concern, and what was not understood in the 1960's is that the Mongoose eats what ever it can find. 

It isn't just a carnivore, but an opportunistic feeder. It's quite happy to take grapes from the vines, fruit like Pomegranate and figs from the tress, snakes as and when it can, frogs, toads and other amphibians, mice, rats and small mammals, in fact just about anything edible. 

As it has now moved across from the islands to the mainland, and seems to be establishing itself, it has now been declared an invasive species. 

Here on the island, the people like them, because they believe they keep the snake population down. 

Although shy, they will forage in winter around houses looking for food, when "wild" food is in short supply. Snakes, amphibians and the like all hibernate of course. 

But when you see a pair playing by the roadside, or in a field margins, they remind me of Meerkats

For me, they can stay! 

With the warmth, there are still a huge number of insects about. 

This is the time of year when you see the adult Preying Mantis, Sphodromantis viridis . 

One has taken up home in my young Apricot tree, and I see it feeding on insects.

Looking like a large green leaf, it just sits and waits for something to come into range.  At 80 millimetres long, they are amongst some of the largest insects in the garden.

 The way they turn their heads to watch you certainly gives the appearance of some thought processes taking place in their grey matter. 

Our Mantis will not survive the winter. 

By November their life cycle is over, and a new generation will emerge in the spring. 

I have tried rescuing ones that I find and putting them into my greenhouse in past years, but even though it is frost free and warm, none have survived. 

As the days shorten and we pass through the northern Autumn and move towards our short winter, leaves are turning and falling everywhere you look. 

It's a time to tidy up in the orchards, that is when one is not wall building, and then break out the books for winter reading on the lengthening evenings.