Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 11

How do you eat an elephant?

You have only to look at the top of the Dinaric Alps, to see that the highest point in the far distance, the 1,762 metre Svete Jure has a covering of snow, to realise that although Dol has been basking in warm sunshine this week, much of Europe is still in winter.

Being mainly fine and warm has meant that I have been able to get on and finish the gates. Doing things properly takes time. Although the joints are simple lap joints, they have been glued with Cascamite, an incredibly strong resin adhesive. Once dry, they were then also screwed, with the Torx T20 head being countersunk and hidden behind the facia boards.

Wood has been treated with Sadolin before being painted, because I cannot get tanalised timber here. The wood for the frame was the best I could get, but was not of great quality. It came as 4 metre long softwood planks, which having been stored uncovered were completely wet. So I have been air drying and seasoning them for almost four months to make the wood usable. I expect there will be some changes as it is exposed to the heat of summer here. Already I can see that the first door I hung has bowed slightly.

Attaching the small gate to the foot gate was accomplished on the floor, and then hanging them on the hinges allowed me to do a dry run with the first board to make sure it lined up with the other gate. I then clamped it with "G" clamps to hold it firmly in place when I took the gates off the hinge pins again.

I have used Larch floor boards for the panels. This has been treated and the backs, tongues and grooves all painted before assembly. I have used a waterproof wood glue on the back of the panels and in the tongues and grooves, as well as blind nailing the panels to the frame. Any gaps or fissures have been filled with outdoor silicone and knots have been filled with Ronseal Plastic Wood filler. The first panels were attached to the gate while it was flat.

The gate was then hung again and the final boards were fitted into place.

Next job was to hang the foot gate and then start trying to match the diagonal boards across both gates.

All the strap hinges and fittings have been attached with coach bolts, which will also add to the structural strength. Metal parts have been primed with zinc rustproofer, then everything has had two coats of paint. So I am hoping that it will be a while before I need to undertake any serious maintenance work on them. What I am planning on doing is giving the gates another coat of paint in the autumn, after the wood has dried out completely, so everything is sealed for the winter. Here we are at the start of Spring, and already I am thing of the next winter! The final job of the week was to fit a traditional Suffolk Latch.

I had run out of 70 mm M6 bolts and surprise, surprise so had the builders merchant in Stari Grad! I finished up buying longer coach bolts and then having to use a die cutter to cut additional threads into the shafts of the bolts. All of which takes time....

I still have to make some drip strips, but essentially, the driveway gates are now finished.

Because the driveway slopes up, quite considerably on the inside, I had to cut a reveal on each side for the extended drop bolts.

My neighbours have been pruning some Cupressus Leylandii and olive trees, so having begged the offcuts, which were going to be burnt, I fired up my new wood chipper to see how it got on.
And the answer was, that it got on very well indeed.
It took just over an hour, running the motor slowly as it is "Running in" , to process all the branches into a very healthy mulch.

In the gardens and orchards, everything is growing, especially the weeds. This reminds me of the famous old question, how do you eat an elephant?

Answer; slowly, one bite at a time.... I used about half of the mulch as a weed suppressant matt around the young citrus trees.

There is so much to do at this time of year, just to keep on top of the weeds. At least the treatment of the weeds in the citrus orchard has worked. Everything now looks very dead. I will need to prepare the soil for sowing in the next week or so I think.

I have a particular problem with Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta, which seems to be everywhere. While I was working on the weeds in the Drupe orchard, several of the seed heads exploded, launching their tiny seeds heaven knows where.

Having an explosive temperament is a very good evolutionary plan. But this horrible little plant can complete its full life cycle, from germination to seed dispersal in just four weeks. I have been trying to pull the plants out while they are small, but one or two had hidden themselves amongst the raspberry canes. I am going to keep doing a little and often, with the intent of having the place weed free, one way or another.

Most of the other weeds, creeping buttercup, dandelion, meadow campion etc., can be dug out by the roots, before they go to seed, but there are some grasses which have a white corm that lurks some 8 to 10 centimetres underground. Pull the grass off, and you leave the bulb to grow again. This requires a bedding fork to remove it completely.

I had at first thought these grasses were some kind of flowering bulb, however I soon realised they were yet another of nature's adaptations to ensure longevity.

The Caliente Mustard which I planted last autumn has done a fantastic job of preventing weeds, but it is very close now to being in full flower, when it has to be cut down and dug in so that the decaying vegetable matter can give off the gas Isothiocyanate which acts as a biofumigant for the soil.

With a supply of mulch to put around plants and trees, and rolls of black plastic bin bags, I intend to try much harder this year to tame the land and orchards - but it still feels like eating an elephant.

The wildlife is starting to wake up now from the winter hibernation. I disturbed this large European Green Toad, Pseudepidalea viridis when I was moving some stones. Toads are a definite gardeners friend, as they eat a lot of the slugs and insects which wreak havoc.

I have yet to find whereabouts they bread though.