Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 21

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

I've just been invited to a birthday party tonight! The guy turns 4 today, so it should be a great party, with cake and ice cream and fizzy drinks - and that is just for the adults....... So I am sending this week's 'Dol House' saga a few hours early. I mean, I don't know how long the party will go on for.......... 

After some much needed rain at the start of the week, the heat of the summer has arrived. As the thermometer climbed above 26ºc, a blue haze has been hanging over the Stari Grad plain and the normally clear view of the nearest island, Brać, has shimmered in the midday sun. As I look out of my study window, the deep fire scarred Dolina Blaca is turning turn from Shadow Blue where the sun illuminates the headlands, to Cadet Grey where the deep shadows obliterate all detail.

The attack of the Tiger Mosquitoes has continued, but I have almost completed my defences this week. 

The patio will eventually be tiled, once building work has been completed, but I took the opportunity to cut out a mat well with my Stihl saw , before attaching anything to the wall.

After fixing the new wooden frame to the ancient stone wall - suffice to say it "fits where it touches" with some gaps, due to uneven walls, of more than 25mm to be filled - I spent time following the somewhat sparse and completely wordless instructions for assembly of the screen door.

I am well used to the generally excellent although quite idiosyncratic wordless IKEA furniture instructions, but the double sided A4 sheet of paper that came in the box (it's not from IKEA) left out more than was included. Although there was a handy drawing of all the tools required, the Centre Punch, needed to accurately drill 2.5mm holes for the door hinge attachments in the coated aluminium extrusion, a notoriously slippery material to try and drill, was one which was absent. Also there was no mention of a mitre block to ensure 90º angles.

After checking with a spirit level to ensure the frame was true, I fixed the actual mosquito netting. This required that plastic wedges were forced into a channel in the extrusions with a mallet. No matter how carefully I did this, I still ended up with the door being out of true. After several attempts and with no help from the instructions, I eventually used the bottom kick plate and some extra self tapping screws to bring the door back to as close as true as I could get it.

The new screen door works! It keep the insects out, but much to the chagrin of Risha, it keeps my felines out too. I have yet to work out a way of installing a cat flap into the material, so in the meantime he just sits by the screen and wails to be let in or out......

​ With the summer here, I also completed a swing task this week. 

When I was in Abu Dhabi, I bought a really nice swing seat from Ace Hardware on Yas Island. For three years it lived outside by my pool, absorbing all the UV that a tropical climate produces.

Reassembling the seat last year, on my now roofed and airy patio should have allowed hours of enjoyment under the shade of the new roof. However sitting down one August day, there was a tearing sound as the fabric, weakened by exposure to the sun, tore and deposited me on the floor. Unhurt, I examined the seat and decided that I needed a new cover.

But as is completely usual here, knowing what you need and being able to find it are at the two extreme opposite ends of a very long pole. You would think that with the number of yachts which visit every day during the summer, there would be a ships chandlers, or at least someone who repaired sails. I could find the man who repairs fishing nets, but of sail makers, there are none. 

Not being deterred by this, I ordered a roll of 50mm wide Jute burlap upholsterers webbing, strong linen thread and some serious needles. 

Everything arrived earlier in the year, but with summer here, now seemed like a good time to carry out the repairs. I am the first to admit that I have only the most basic skills when it comes to needle and thread. Reattaching button? Yes. Repairing a broken zip? Yes. Fixing an occasional broken hanging loop - but don't look at the non-matching thread? Yes. But this is my first attempt at upholstery. However, after some practice at doing Back Stitch, I set about making the seat usable and reasonably safe (for this year at least), while I continue to try and find a sail maker.

I think I should probably have ordered a "Sail Makers Palm" as well as the needles as it would have speeded up the work, but even after two days of work, attaching seven lateral and two longitudinal lengths of tape, I only punctured my skin twice. I would not ask anyone who embroiders to mark my workmanship, but for a first attempt, I am satisfied and I can enjoy the seat once more. The downside is that the plasticised material which is was made from has just not stood up to long days of hot sun and high UV and it will need replacing - sooner rather than later.

Although Risha has taken over the seat as his own, he is going to have to share it with me as the work tempo slows and the thermostat is turned up for the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer!

The rain at the start of the week was most welcome for me and my orchards. But for the Olives, a staple of the businesses on the island, it could not have come at a worse time. 
On Tuesday morning, there were ominous rolls of thunder and soon after it sounded as though the Massed Bands of the Highland Regiments
were Beating the Retreat on my greenhouse roof

One look outside confirmed that those tiny super cooled water droplets which whiz up and down inside a cumulonimbus storm cloud, gathering layers of ice, until too heavy to be moved on the wind shear elevator any longer, they fall as hail, were responsible. Not only did they punch neat little holes in the aluminium foil I have used to prevent my solar water heater from over heating, but they have done serious damage to the flowers on the olive trees, destroying many of them.

The storm has not damaged any of my citrus, drupes or soft fruits, but as the overwhelming majority of orchards here are olives, I think the crop this year might be a little sparse.

I would like to invent a new scientific formulæ to express the result of heat + light + moisture + fertile soil. (I was thinking about E = mc2 but someone seems to have already invented it.) 

The result of my equation would equal weedlings by the thousand.

Nature abhors a vacuum, however that is what in effect I am trying to maintain by keeping the earth bare in the orchards. The rain, which is good for the fruit trees, is also good for the germination of seedlings. I have planted Dwarf Nasturtium, Tropaeolum, and Aubrieta Purple Cascade, Aubrieta deltoidea, both originally native to the mediterranean climate region, in attempt to produce dense ground cover which will smother weeds, but in the time that it takes for these beneficial plants to establish, I have to carefully weed around them by hand and use a Dutch Hoe elsewhere to cut the weedlings down.

This necessitates being up early, before the heat of the sun makes work in the orchards unpleasant. So several mornings I have been out shortly before sunrise (05:20 this week) removing the offending greenery before the heat of the day makes work unpleasant. 

The raspberry canes I planted in the spring have begun to produce fruit. This being the first year, not much, but enough to savour and enjoy, in the knowledge that in a few years time I will have an abundant crop.

This week the stunning Dragon Arum Lily, Dracunculus vulgaris, has flowered.

This species, which is native to the eastern mediterranean, from the Balkans to Turkey, is reputed to have an unpleasant smell. Mine do not seem to smell of anything, but with a flower spike that is more than 500mm (over 2 feet) long, they do look incredible outside the kitchen window.

And that brings me to the end of another week. 

I have plans for next week, weeding of course, irrigating and some small frames to build for window mosquito nets. So until next weekend, enjoy the weather where ever you are. 


This is the story behind the ceremony of Beating the Retreat, with the band of the Royal Marines