Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 39

Murphy's 3rd Law

Sunday was the northern Autumnal solstice, when the sun crosses the equator on it's way south to our Antipodean friends. 

Well OK, I know it is the earth's inclined axis coupled with the 365¼ day orbit around the sun which makes it appear that way, but you know what I mean. 

The "cold switch" was thrown this week when we had a Bura come through. The Bura is the name of a wind, much like the Sirocco and Mistral which are much more well known names. 

All the winds from the compass cardinal points have names in Croatian, Bura, Levanat, Šiloko, Jugo and not forgetting the Empress of winds, the Tramontana

When low pressure forms in the Ionian sea, this circulating air mass drags air down from central Europe and here in Dol we feel it as a warm, cooling, cold or freezing northerly wind, depending on what time of year it is when the Bura arrives. 

On Monday this week, it had dropped the temperature by ten degrees Celsius, to the point that I have closed the windows at night, something that has not been needed since May. 

I even had to break out the long winter work trousers, having been in shorts for a similar length of time. 

But when the temperature at 9am was just 14c, they were needed to remain comfortable. 

The point when it arrived is clearly visible on my weather station record. 

As the sun drops in the sky and because of the southern hills, I am losing six to eight minutes of sunlight a day. 

Because of this, I removed one of the panels that have covered my solar water heater tubes. 

During the summer I need two thirds of the pipes covered to stop the water constantly boiling, but in winter they are completely uncovered. 

Down in Stari Grad, the difference between locals and visitors is even more apparent. 

The locals are in trousers and a jacket or light sweater. 

The visitors in Tee shirts and shorts! 

The cafe awnings have gone and most seats at the outdoor tables are empty.

I laid in the first of the stone steps this week, before continuing with the retaining wall outside the garden sheds. 

Getting the first stones in place is always a test - can I get them level? 

Can I get them fixed? 

These are heavy stones, so they will not move far, but if the first course is completely level, then the chances of the other courses following is much greater. 

I marked the stones with wax chalk, so I know the depth they need to be at for a 17cm height and a 33cm tread. 

Then I excavated where the stones will go, so that they are a perfect fit, before manoeuvring them into place.

Working with old stones means that you cannot get things precisely square, as you can with modern bricks and blocks, but then that is part of the charm of stone. 

Even though these old stones have been "faced" so they have a flat surface, the grain in each stone, imperfections and chips all mean that they are completely individual and have to be fitted together as best as you can, knowing there will be gaps. 

But with the first three in place, it is easy to visualise how the steps and wall will eventually look.

I have continued walling along the front of the sheds, followed by back filling with hardcore and then a sand screen on top. 

When I was about to complete the electrics, I realised that I had bought the wrong size plastic fittings, so that necessitated a trip down to the shops again. 

It's my fault. I was in a rush and picked up 40mm fittings instead of 50mm. 

In my defence, the way the various components are displayed lacks, er, shall we say a "logical approach". 

The fittings are not in any order, whether by size or type of fitting. It's more about where there is a space, a box is placed. 

There was an interesting article on the BBC this week about the origin of the Metric system in France. 

There are only three countries in the world that have not adopted the metric system, and yet although it has been around for 200 years, brass and copper plumbing fittings are still sold here in imperial sizes, ½", ¾", 1¼" etc. 

Then there are conversion pieces to change ¾" into 18mm. 

Imperial standards were first enshrined in British law in 1824, so they are of a similar age to the Metric system. 

I have vivid memories at Primary School of trying to learn and remember what the units were: 1,760 yards in a mile. 22 chains in a Furlong. 22 yards in a chain. I don't remember the rest...

Then suddenly it all changed and we were the first year to be taught the Metric system. 

So I've grown up with Metric and find it easy to use and visualise. Even the change to decimal coinage took place in the UK when I was school.  I have only the vaguest memories of half pennies, half crown and threpenny bits.

I look at a piece of rebar and can tell you if it is 8mm, 10mm or 12mm. 

I couldn't visually tell you if it was ½" or ¼". The UK whilst officially adopting the Metric system, have not completely "gone Metric". So distances are still measured in miles. Vehicle speedometers have to have dual units, MPH and KPH and you buy sheets of plywood which are 8 foot x 4 foot, but 10mm thick! 

Gills, Pecks and Bushells I know refer to imperial units but I have to look them up to see what they actually are. 

When I saw the defined units in the Metric system, the metre, kilogram, second, ampere, kelvin, mole and candela, I also had to look up what a mole was. 

I thought it is a small black burrowing animal, whose pelts make warm winter trousers. 

The Metric units correspond to the seven base quantities of length, mass, time, electric current, thermodynamic temperature, chemical unit of substance and luminous intensity.

Because of the unknowns of climate change, I am making frames to cover my young citrus trees to prevent damage from the cold January winds. 

Established citrus can withstand cold, even some freezing temperatures, but the young trees, with think bark cannot, as I learned to my cost in the January 2017 big freeze. 

I ordered the steel from Volat and it was delivered on Wednesday, so on Friday I started to fit the frames to the remaining trees. 

The soil in the orchard is poor and filled with stones, to the extent that I need to use an electric drill on make the holes for the 8mm rebar to fit into. 

There are three underground irrigation pipes which I installed some years ago, and for which I have a plan, but it is not to a centimetre.  So with 50 square meters of orchard, I was disappointed when my third hole managed to hit one of the 10mm pipes!  

Bearing in mind that somewhere under the orchard, there is also a mains water pipe, the location of which I do not know, and I am using an 8mm drill, the chances of hitting something 10mm wide in 50 square meteres is small. 

It's all down to Murphy's 3rd Law - if things can go wrong, they will... 

So I left the hole to dry out and continued fitting the frames around other trees. 

I'll need to dig out and repair the pipe, which is not an insurmountable task, but just another job I could have done without.

With just 5.7 mm of total rainfall for the month, there is no moisture in the ground, and I am continuing to irrigate, something I have never had to do this later in the year before. 

But as the above chart shows, not only has September been much drier than previous years, the weekly and monthly temperatures have been higher as well. Considerably higher than 2017.

On Monday we will be into October, and although there is the chance of rain on Tuesday, there is still no sign of the arrival of the autumn rains. It's going to be a poor olive harvest this year! 

Now I need to go and start irrigating again...