Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 45

Waiting for the gutter man

Everywhere is starting to look very autumnal now.
The sky is "gin clear" and the sun, when it shines is still warm, but the night time lows are now into single figures. This is changing the colours of leaves on deciduous plants and trees, cloaking them in autumn's fiery finery.

Weeds are still growing, but most of my garden and orchard plants ​​are dying back.

I still have some fruits though, like these late season raspberries.

Together with peppers and tomatoes - enough for healthy salads

But I need to start thinking about protecting some of my most tender young plants.

Have you ever tried to remove a Land Rover engine from its mountings? 

Well on Thursday I helped achieve the near impossible (with considerable help and not a few tools).

Regular readers know I am the custodian of an ancient Land Rover 109" Station Wagon, believed to have been a Yugoslav Militica (police) vehicle.

Back in August, it stopped running, or to be precise, the engine would not start running. But it had been suffering from a loss of power since July. 

But these vehicles are "Soldier proof", which is one level stronger than "policemen proof" so they will run on two and a half cylinders - no problem!

The old lady is 49 years old, or there abouts, because the Croatian vehicle registration document and the chassis number manufacture date do not match, I cannot tell for sure. 

Then it has had a number of alterations and additions over time, so a new front bulkhead, shows a VIN number from a much later vehicle. VIN's were not around in 1968.

It is what is affectionately known as a "Bitza" vehicle - because it has bits of this one and bits of that one; a 1986 engine and gearbox, Range Rover windscreen washers for a Series 2 split, folding windscreen, etc!

​Of course I have the maintenance and service manuals, engine and parts lists - several volumes of printed and electronic documents, running to thousands of pages. 

But "engine removal" is covered in just 24 easy steps, in 12 column inches on a single page of a 150 page Haynes manual... 

There are no instructions about engine re-installation?!

I was designated as the project manager, with Olly and Carsten doing most of the bolt removal, supported by Carsten's wonderful family who provided coffee and food throughout the day. Here I am doing the managing!

​We had all the right tools, a hydraulic engine hoist, a mechanics skateboard, metric and imperial size sockets and spanners, and a "Royal Engineers adjustable wrench". 

The adjustment is in how hard you hit something.

Remember these vehicles were designed to be serviced and repaired in the field, whether that field happens to be in the Canadian high Arctic or Mount Kilimanjaro base camp.

First up was radiator removal, but the oil cooler needed removing first. And just a few rusted steel bolts in hard to access places was all that prevented it being accomplished quickly.

​Then when you thought they were all removed, some bright spark would point out another two, or three, that had been hidden from view.

There were lots of fluids to drain, tubes and pipes to disconnect and a length of chain to wrap around the 19J engine to take the weight. 

The engine hoist was a superb investment. And I can see it will have a lot of practical use in the future, for example lifting and moving stones when not required for engine duty!

​After a quick lunch break, work continued apace because the days are now much shorter after the clocks changed last weekend. 

It was also some of the most difficult work. Whoever has done conversion work, things like adding aluminium diamond tread plate on the cockpit floor was obviously not thinking of the maintenance implications when they riveted the plates over the top of the hex bolts which give access to the transmission tunnel.

A lot of drilling, a lot of time and some use of a pry-bar later, and the transmission tunnel covers are removed, which give access to three illusive bolts, which hold the engine onto the rest of the dynamic components. 

With these removed, the engine is gently lifted clear of the engine bay and is loaded onto a pallet, ready to go for overhaul.

I suspect that a piston has a hole in it. Using that descriptive Yorkshire turn of phrase "piston broke".

On the building side, another impressive week for progress, even given that Wednesday the 1st of November, was All Saint's Day, a national holiday here in Croatia. 

The builders finished the roof in preparation for the tiling.

Here, the rainwater guttering is installed before the tiles, so the roof has been covered with the waterproof membrane and the horizontal lats that the tiles will fix to are all in place.

But now we are waiting for the "gutter man" to come back after he measured up on a wet Friday afternoon. 

I have more than enough lengths of new guttering, but the builders want the 'expert' to install it. Everything is in the courtyard, waiting for collection.

The builders have started taking away equipment that is no longer needed - always a good sign when stuff is being taken away.

The absence of contractors at the end of the week has allowed me to use the time productively to a) do some much needed cleaning up and b) to install the central heating, lighting and mains power supplies to the building.

Earlier in the year when I was levelling the courtyard, I dug the services trench, then filled it with pure sand. 

When I dug the sand out, it was not a pure as I remember when I put it in. Perhaps rain has washed stones into it. However, there was not much work needed to excavate it to the required depth.

​A more difficult task was to lift some of the large flagstones on the floor of the Konoba, so I could bring the service pipes into the building. I had to resort to using the big breaking hammer to enable me to lift the first stone. 

Then it was easy digging into the soft sandstone beneath to connect to the trench. No foundations of DPM to worry about! just dig until you see the daylight...

​At the other end, where the services enter the Cottage, I had to cut into the stone wall and then through the wall to get the hot and cold water pipes and the wiring into the building.

​I had already prepared the wiring loom and the pipework, double insulated and protected in a continuous length of plastic water pipe, so once all the holes had been created, the actual installation took just minutes to complete.

The water pipes are all HEP20, push fit connectors, which again took just minutes to connect and test.

​​Then the trench was back filled and I mixed a small batch of concrete by hand to fill and waterproof the entrance to the Konoba. 

With heavy rain forecast here for next week, I will see how good my waterproofing efforts have been.

As the rain started on Friday lunch time, I was reminded that I need to put some polish on the rain gauge collector for the weather station.

As the collector has been out all year, the once shiny plastic collector has become dull. To get an accurate reading, I need the water droplets to slide quickly into the collector to register on the control unit. A job for Saturday I think.

We desperately need rain and a wet afternoon has allowed me to get ahead for this week's blog, catch up on some admin and enjoy some quality time with my two felines. 

Although the latter is a little fraught when they both want prime position on my knee, at the same time, and when I am trying to use the computer as well...

​​Saturday dawned bright and sunny. 

I am continuing to record the amount of sunlight which falls onto the roof where in the future PV panels will go. But over the past week, there has been a significant loss of morning minutes. 

The problem is the trees to the south east along a rising ridge line which have reduced the time that the sun arrives on the roof by six minutes each morning. To the west, much of this part of Dol is in shadow.

​Whilst to the east, the sun appears from behind the ridge, some 35 to 40 minutes after sunrise.

As the sunrise takes place further to the south for the next seven weeks until the Winter Solstice, combined with the rising ridge line, so I will lose sunlight both in the morning and the afternoon.

But there is someone who always enjoys the warmth of he rays as they finally arrive on the roof...