Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 29

Thriving on neglect

I think I have solved the problem of my wallpaper, which has been lifting and pulling away swatches of paint with it, from the walls of my new study. 

At the end of last week I had posted several requests for help on various internet forums, explaining the problem. 

It was my English neighbour who suggested that I paint PVA glue on the walls to seal them, then try papering. 

Bearing in mind these walls are well over 100 years old, made of stone which has been covered in lime mortar, then an indeterminate number of coats of paint of unknown provenance. 

In between, they were subject to an ordeal by fire, when the building was burnt on the morning of January 3rd, 1943, after which the wooden floors and roof were reconstructed. 

So knowing this, I gave them two coats of size to seal them, and started pasting. It all went down hill from there as the edges of every strip lifted. 

Not being able to get PVA on the island, I was fortunate to have a supply in the workshop. There are several postings on-line which variously sing the praises of diluted PVA, or denigrate it as "poor man's wall sealant". 

But as I can't get sealant recommended by professionals, Zinsser Bullseye 123, here either, it's a case of needs must. I couldn't find a recommended dilution rate, so mixed one liter of PVA to two of tap water, and it made a watery mix which was easily brushed onto the walls. I did a test hang of one length on Monday and left it for 48 hours to see if it held.

The shiny wall surface shows where the PVA has been applied. ​ 

As well as pasting the back of the paper and then letting it soak in for the recommended time, I also slapped a coat of past onto the walls - just in case. 

Although the PVA was supposed to seal the walls, it did concern me that I could see the paint changing colour and becoming darker where moisture from the wallpaper paste was being absorbed, so clearly the PVA did not completely seal the wall.

However, I should not have worried, as the paper held firm, no lifting on any joints, or anywhere else. 

So I went ahead and finished the papering. The wall is perfect. The joints are tight and there is no lifting, anywhere. On Friday another box of supplies arrives from the UK, including the extra strong Solvite edge glue, so I am going to have a go at fixing the errant joints next week. 

I have a plan, involving glue, decorators tape and wood lats. wait for next week's installment to see how I get on..... I should add that I have had some help this week with the papering.

The result is that there are not so little footprints on some of the walls. 

I am sure they will be covered when the walls are painted, but if not, I will explain they were practicing "Dancing on the ceiling". 

Dancing on the ceiling

Well I did have Croatian Drugi Program on the radio while I was papering. That's the problem with felines - they just take things so literally!

Besides several trips to local towns, for various reasons this week, much of the week has been taken up in the gardens and orchards. 

In the northern hemisphere it is mid summer and here in the Mediterranean we are approaching the peak maximum temperature. There is always a lag between the actual longest (and shortest) day of the year and the peak maximum (and minimum) temperatures. 

When I checked my soil thermometer it was showing +44ºC (112º Fahrenheit). The thermocouple is buried at the international standard depth of 5 centimeters, in open, sunny ground, with no plants around it. 

In fact I am keeping my orchards weed free, so the weeds don't compete with the trees for moisture and nutrients in the ground. 

There are arguments for and against leaving the soil uncovered, particularly where erosion by wind and water is a problem. We don't have the rainfall here - much as I would like more - and with little wind coupled with a soil made up of heavy particles, they do not blow away. 

I'm not going to suffer from dust bowl conditions, at least at the moment. 

Each tree has a moisture retaining mat covered with mulch around its base. With soil temperatures like this, there is little wonder that I am struggling to keep plants and trees alive. 

It is only because of a judicious irrigation regime that I can. The fold yard where the old stable and animal pens were, before I dismantled them, is slowly being colonised by weeds.

But what I did notice several weeks back, was that there are three tomato plants that have self seeded. 

My friend Cvjetko thinks they were probably brought in by birds, because this areas was cleared by the mini JCB in February, and since then I have dug out the sandstone from the courtyard to level it and put the spoil here.

The one this this areas definitely does not get is any irrigation water. I had been thinking of using grey water from the shower room, but could not get the pipework to fit, so it is just pure sand.

As the spring wore on into the summer, these tomatoes have flowered and now there are a number of ripe fruits that I will have for tea tonight. ​ 

Contrast that with my carefully planted seeds , several varieties of tomatoes from packets, which have all succumbed to "Blossom end Rot".

These plants have had care lavished on them. They have been fed with Levington Tomorite, watered night and morning and the reward for my efforts has been a row of plants suffering from psychosis! 

This condition only affects the packets of plant seed. My heirloom tomatoes are grown from seeds I saved from last year. So having perfected a system of saving my own tomato seeds, I will be collecting seeds from these three wayward orphans. 

Clearly if they can exist in an inhospitable area like the old fold yard, without soil, water or TLC, being baked by the sun and abused by passing felines, they will do for me. Clearly they thrive on neglect. 

Whilst the tomatoes are not the large beef kind, or of the juicy plum variety, the one I tried this week was sweet, with firm flesh and full of flavour. This is the kind of happenchance I like.

Another little plant which seems to get on with flowering, regardless of it's surroundings is this Hibiscus with a delicate pink and burgundy flower.

I found it looking very forlorn in an end of season sale at Bauhaus. It was dry and wilting and was on offer for pennies, so I brought it home, nursed it a bit and last year planted it out in a shady corner near one of my Šipac trees. 

This summer it has rewarded me with a daily display of nice flowers. Each bloom only lasts one day and they are not large and showy, as are some in the Hibiscus family. But if it can survive and thrive in this corner, I am happy to let it. 

As climate change continues, with the Mediterranean continuing to become drier and hotter, I know that some of the nice plants I have put into the gardens are not going to survive. 

I was given some seeds of the Chinese Lantern Plant, Physalis alkekengi, which when I grew them in the UK had to be constrained because their tuberous roots spread like mint.

Here, they survived the winter and spread in a border near the kitchen, but in the last couple of weeks, all the flowers have dropped and they are clearly suffering from a lack of rainfall.

Even some local plants, like my Jerusalem artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, which is considered to be a weed around Dol, is being seriously stressed by the lack of moisture in the ground and their roots are protected from the scorching heat of the mid-day sun by a high wall.

What I will do here, is create my very own SSSI - Small, Simple, Sustainable, Interesting!