Life in a Dol House
2016 - Week 18

The 100th edition

One of my regular parcels from the UK arrived this week, with some of things that I cannot get here. As always there were a few extra surprises, for example some of the new dark chocolate mint flavour Kit-Kat bars. From the moment it was delivered Risha took possession of it and I had to banish him to the garden so I could open it.

But one major item inside was my new pocket digital camera. You may remember me reporting back in early February (week 6) that my Canon IXUS had, after 10 years, stopped working.

I received many recommendations from readers about what you are using and what you find to be good pocket cameras.

I have spent a long time researching what is available, what is new and all the various features. I almost never print a photograph on paper, so having a camera which takes 20 megapixel photographs, which most of the new ones seem to do, was not on my list, but a good optical zoom was a requirement, as was a small form factor.

The photographs I take for this blog are all reduced to a standard size of 640 x 480, so that they load quickly and do not take up muck space in an email, so having 6016 x 4000 (24 megapixel) or 4256 x 2832 (12 megapixel) , when they will be reduced really does not matter. If I hadn't told you, could you have worked out that the pictures you see (and so may readers comment on) were reduced to the most basic size?

Early on I found that the Canon Powershot SX280HS, was close to what I had on my list as ideal requirements, but is is a discontinued line and no longer available. The more recent models do not have some of the features of the earlier camera.

As each week passed, I have been looking at the new cameras that have been released, their specifications and the ever increasing cost.. But linking to the internet so that you can upload pictures directly to social media is not one of my aims, and that technology is both costly and is clearly desired by a lot of purchasers.

One regular reader and correspondent suggested looking for a second hand model. He has had significant success with an SX280 that he had bought. I have bought so called "second user" items - it does sound better than 'second hand' - but these have mainly been books. You of course pay a lot more for a new item, but you know it's history. Buying second user electronic items, where you don't know the history have worried me.

However, I kept coming back to the Canon SX280. Doing a search online in mid April, I chanced on one that had just been put up for sale on E-Bay, almost new, seldom used with a number of extras, like A spare battery, case, memory card etc, and still in it's original box. At £100 less than the new price of the camera, I bought it, using the Buy-it-Now option rather than bidding and waiting and it came this week.

It is a considerable upgrade on the IXUS, a little larger, but still pocket size, but with things like GPS geo-tagging, WiFi and the sort of manual operations I have on my digital SLR, I think it will suit my purposes. There isn't a mark on it and the photo register shows less than 30 photographs were taken. I'll let you be the judge - but I am still reducing photo size for the newsletter to a size of 640 x 480. I hope this camera will last me another ten years.

On the subject of camera, I have a GoPro as well, and this week a brilliant video has been released of a GoPro attached to the outside of a rocket, and being launched into the Stratosphere. It is worth clicking the video below to watch.

We had further rain on Sunday and Monday, another 25mm making more than 100 mm, over four inches last weekend, so the early part of the week was spent doing jobs inside. 

By Wednesday the sun had come out again and on Friday, cracks have appeared in the clay soil due to the rapid drying effect of the sun.

I often experiment with seeds of different things. This week I have planted some Jicama seeds, Pachyrhizus erosus. It is described on as "Probably the most exciting vegetable you're not eating". With a flavour of apple or pear, the looks of a turnip and a lot of health benefits, it will be something I will watch quite closely. It requires 150 days of warm temperatures and a sunny spot to ripen and grow, so I planted it in the Top Orchard.

I only had seven seeds and they were soaked for 24 hours in lukewarm water before being planted under black plastic in the orchard.

This orchard with an area of 800 square metres has been left for the two years I have been here. 

When I moved in on the 8th May, 2014, it had been grazed by goats, chickens and ducks. Between them, they had kept the weeds down. Last year, I made a conscious decision to leave it, and apart from removing wire netting, barbed wire, tank tracks and stock proof hedging, and going over it once with the strimmer when the weeds grew too large, I really did nothing to it apart from harvesting plums and apples.

I have already cut briars down once this year and have cut the weeds with the strimmer, then had a big bonfire to burn the waste, but keeping on top of the other orchards, until they become low maintenance (hopefully be the end of this summer) means I have limited time to properly assault this orchard. Having cut the weeds once, they are growing again now, so I will spray them with a glyphosate weed killer in the next week or so, then once they have died back will cover the bare ground with cardboard.

But in the meantime, having dug the bed for the Jicama and found that apart from briars, the grasses and other weeds came out very easily, I think I will cultivate a couple of small parts as a kitchen garden, with lettuce and greens, some yams and other vegetables. What is noticeable is the quality of the soil. The animals have clearly left their mark as there is some bulky humous in the dark brown top soil, and very few stones. Nothing like the heavy clay of the Drupe and Citrus orchards.

I raked away the grass and briars from the strimming and then brought in the rotavator to turn an area in the far north western corner of the orchard, where it gets sun from morning to tea time.

With half the area turned, it was already starting to look more like agricultural land rather than rough pasture.

With the area finished (as much as I am going to do at the moment), the next job will be to cover some of it in black plastic for cultivation and some with weed suppressant cardboard. I just need to go shopping to get another couple of rolls of plastic bin liner bags.

Testing the soil in the Citrus and Drupe orchards on Friday, I decided that as the surface was drying so quickly, now would be the right time to try and collect the stones that were washed to the surface in last weekend's rains.

I have an adjustable spring tine rake, so with the tines closed up (the gap in the tines of a regular rake was too wide) I started to rake the top centimetre of the soil. This soon produced several long ridge lines of stones.

There were shoveled into a garden riddle and then moved to where I am putting paths between rows of raspberry canes. With the stones gone, I gave the surface a quick going over with a Dutch hoe, to kill the weedlings.

By Saturday afternoon, I had almost finished the citrus orchard and had cleaned two rows in the Drupe orchard, laying flat stepping stones, as I went.
I have been walking the footpaths around Dol over the past few weeks, recording the wild flowers, which are out in profusion at the moment.

After finishing for the day on Friday, I had a wander up the valley to the two large (and now derelict) dams which were built by the Austro Hungarian authorities in the late 19th century. 

There was a carpet of wild garlic, but I also spotted a number of these wild Orchids.

These are called Heart Flowered Serapias, Serapias cordigera, and are part of the group called tongue orchids, because of the long Labellum, in this case in the shape of a red heart . They are found throughout the west and central Mediterranean region and inhabit damp, grassy areas, Maquis and even sandy areas.

It is exactly two years ago that I arrived on Hvar to live in my Dol house, and at the same time began writing about my adventures here with Risha and Callie, together with the alterations and additions I am making to my home. 

This is the 100th newsletter in the series and there is still so much to write about, so there will be a few more to come.......

Another of the items from the box, was an antique bell which once graced the door of an old farm in deepest, rural Ryedale. It is interesting, being cast in brass and having two dragons, a bell with a Latin inscription, a partial coat of arms and the figure of a man.

I have mounted it above the yard gates, with a cord down to the handle. The bell also has a pleasing, deep tonal sound. There is nothing tinny about this bell.

There was also a special gift from my Mum, a small book with the title "The more I see of men, the more I love my cat", (ISBN: 978-1840244212). 

Written by Daisy Hay, it is a series of observations and truisms about living with cats.

So as Number 1 cat Risha is sitting next to me, paw out, demanding to know why the sun has gone and he hasn't had his supper yet, I had better adjourn without further ado and get the tin opener. So until next week, same time, same place.