Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 19

Boxing clever

With more much needed rain this week, the requirement for irrigation has been reduced for the time being. 

That said, I am still using the grey water from the kitchen to supplement moisture around some of the plants and trees. It has been a strange week for mid May, with warm days, cool nights and rain showers. 

I was expecting the delivery from Screwfix, but the transport company GLS failed. The box stalled in Slovakia, then when it finally was out for delivery, the driver apparently "didn't have time" to come to Dol to make the delivery. Well we are 5KM from the ferry after all! 

When it finally did turn up, the box had been crushed and the tub of elastic wall filler had been split open and the contents squeezed out onto the bottom of the box.

It had happened early in the journey, because it had congealed, still flexible, but unusable. Fortunately nothing else was damaged and Screwfix immediately replaced it and paid for postage. That's what happens when you deal with a good company.

So whilst waiting for the parcel, I have been doing a few other jobs, like making the last wiring connection in my big building. 

At long last I was able to disconnect the last of the old and unsafe wires, which had been powering some lights. It has taken me two and a bit years to move from this relic of an earlier electrical era (which should have been in a museum)

Through this
To my current Consumer Unit.

It is not as neat as I would like behind the cover (some say that is what covers are for), but all the wires are to the latest standard, the micro circuit breakers are the right amperage for the circuit they protect, and it has the correct switching to prevent electric shocks. 

Also, every wire is coded with tags, so that it is easy to track and trace what they are for. 

Looking back I wonder how anything worked. The cartridge fuses were just fixed through the wooden cover. Behind, there was a rats nest of different coloured wires and of course there was no plan.

It took a little while to work out where the wires went to and to start to label them with numbers, referenced to a master index.

Then I constructed a "breadboard" with modern MCB's and with all power off, attempted to untangle the mess. There had been an on/off switch for the live feed, but all the neutral wires were just coiled together and wrapped in insulating tape. There was every coloured wire in the bundle, including green/yellow earth cables!

A similar bundle existed for the earth wires. When I got the local electrician to come and put new cables in for the kitchen, he was using the same technique, albeit with modern cables.

I condemned his work, stripped it all out and started again. Along the way I found evidence of faults, like these burn marks in the hall light fitting.

Every room had little round steel junction boxes sunk into the walls.

Every one a fire waiting to happen. It was the same in the loft spaces.

Where old cables were slowly disintegrating, held together with browning Selotape. It has taken time to get everything into new conduit and when I kept lifting the roof tiles to get at the back of the consumer unit, it didn't look very neat, with the mixture of old and new.

But with a labelling and marking ​system, I at least knew what went where. Finally this week, I turned the power off one last time, removed the last of the old wires, pulled out the old conduit and connected the final new cable. Even this task required going up onto the old roof and removing a few tiles to get at the conduit runs in the wall behind the consumer unit, which is just below the tiles. 

No insulation in this roof at the moment, or underfelt, or anything else. But it made the removal of the old wires easy. The whole project has taken longer than I would have wished, but at least I now know that everything is to the current wiring regulations specification.

Once the building work gets under way again, I will do some more work to completely tidy the wiring inside the consumer unit, once I know the final locations of the conduit. But on the outside at least, it looks the part. 

Come the moment to turn the power back on and everything worked as planned. I still have some filling in to do around pattress boxes in the hall, but that can be done another day. 

But now the UPS is powering my weather station with a direct link, rather than with an extension cord draped around the hallway. I still need to print the labels for the outside of the consumer unit, but as some of the circuits may change, I am not going to do that just yet. I can now at least close the chapter on rewiring!

The rain has softened the soil, so I have let it dry a little before hoeing over between the trees in the orchard. 

I don't want to compact the soil through walking on it straight after rainfall. I needed to hoe though because I could see the little green shoots of the annual weeds appearing and I am determined this year to keep on top of them. 

Elsewhere, I found that I have had an attack of the Gastropods. Although there were no snails actually present, when I inspected, they have neatly chewed through every young chili pepper plants I have put into my vegetable plot. I hope their mouths were burning afterwards. 

With the wall of the guest room painted with size to seal them, I started to move boxes and furniture around. 

I had a list of everything which I had put into the larger room next door and with some judicial packing and decision making around what I might need to access, I was able to spend a couple of days clearing the room. 

I managed to fit almost everything into the guest room. The exception being two settees. How the removal men got them into the room I just do not know. One in particular was not going to go out through the door in any way that I could fathom. 

It was just too big!

I knew the settees had come from my Majlis room in Abu Dhabi and I wondered if they had been packed with cushions, so I carefully slit open one side and had a look. 

There were four big cushions inside all the protective wrapping and plastic. I carefully removed them and with the width reduced and the use of a little Size 44 boot power, I eased the settee out into the hall. 

I put the cushions back and resealed the packing. I used the same trick with the second box and cleared the last major items from the room. Probably what could be described as boxing clever! 

I now have a plan, showing where the various boxes are, just in case I need to access one. The room is clear, ready to start removing the ceiling next week. Let the next project begin!

There are some interesting old water marks in the middle of the room, of all places, which I need to investigate, but otherwise, it should be reasonably straightforward.

As the summer progresses, I have seen the first White Admiral, Limenitis camilla, this week.

This is a newly hatched male, who was flying back and forth along his beat, defending it against all comers​. 

Males are very territorial, but after the fighting and squabbling, their wings soon get torn and their life span is little more than a month. They like to feed on blackberries. I have a couple of plants, but there are a number of bramble briars in the forest nearby. The female lays eggs only on honeysuckle, a plant I don't have, but there must be some growing wild in the Maquis.

The flowers have opened on my grape vines. 

There are a huge number again this year, so I will have to thin them out soon.

And some trees which seems to have enjoyed the winter cold, are the pears.

Shoots are appearing everywhere along the row in the Drupe orchard. 

It is normal to prune Cordon trees in the summer, but I am uncertain whether if i do it now, it is too early. I am a regular listener to GQT every Friday afternoon on BBC Radio 4, so I have asked the experts there a question. 

I will let you know what their answer is. 

Norman ​