Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 21

Do you speak Human?

Do it once and do it right is the mantra that I try and follow. 

It does tend to mean that things I make are over engineered, or in the case of this week a few more wires have been installed than may be immediately necessary. But it is all in the name of "future proofing" my home. 

Installing the electrical ring main in the room I am turning into a study was easy. I worked out a plan for the whole building quite some time back, showing where I wanted wall sockets, based on what I am going to have in the various rooms in the way of furniture, electrical devices and appliances. 

All that was required was to mark the walls in this room with a pencil to show where I have to cut channels for the electrical conduit. There were a few calculations needed for the height of the sockets, so they are not hidden behind desks or bookcases, or in awkward places to reach.

Because a new floor is going in too, to counteract the uneven tree beams which form the ceiling of the Konoba below, I had to make allowances for the anticipated finished floor level. But that is not too hard to do. 

What has been much more difficult has been trying to anticipate what electronics​ and computers/internet will be like in 10 or 20 years from now and to plan the wiring loom to cater for these future needs.

I was recently asked to participate in an IKEA future research project, just filling in a online questionnaire, "Do you speak Human?". 

The questionnaire is still available here if you are interested in participating. It is all part of Space10, IKEA's innovation lab , based in Copenhagen. I would rather like to try building the IKEA/Space10 Growroom.

Unlike everything else from IKEA this does not come in a flat pack.  You make it yourself. I just need one more machine tool though to build it, a CNC Router cutter!

IKEA produces an annual "homes" report and is already suggesting what our homes will be like in 2025. You can buy IKEA intelligent furniture, that includes wireless charging and many other innovations are only just around the corner. Then of course there is Amazon Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Assistant, all of which are just developments on the way to having fully integrated, intelligent homes.

I have an HDMI TV, but it is not connected to anything at the moment. I have too much to do to sit and watch TV! But I thought I should at least ensure I have the capability to watch HDMI anywhere and the wiring is quite simple. 

Then there is the IoT - the Internet of Things - which will include home automation. So for good measure I installed a double CAT6 Ethernet cable in conduit. Finally there is the satellite cable. I have three dishes of various diameters, four if you include the Tooway internet system. So there are two coaxial cables as well. 

With the cables spread out on the floor in their conduit protective sheathing, itself a bit of future proofing, because the cables can be pulled through and changed if required, it reminded me of Birmingham's Spaghetti Junction, which is 45 years old this month. Not all will be connected in the near future, but at least I have the cables ready when I want to connect them up.

I completed the building of the framework to support the plasterboard ceiling on Friday, but not without incident. 

The quality of the timber here is poor and you just have to work with what you can get. Having spent time cutting and rebating all the pieces for the lap joints, as I was installing one of the cross pieces, it slipped and fell. It landed across my "Workmate" and immediately broke into two.

This piece was almost four metres long, but it just happened that one of the lap joints was where there was a large knot in the timber. Cutting a rebate can weaken timber, especially poor quality timber and this was the case here. The length fractured at the knot.

I used another length to make a new piece and relegated the broken piece to the scrap wood pile. With that cut and rebated, it was the last length to be installed. Everything is still level and has now been fixed in place with 60mm SPAX T-Star+ screws. Whilst I would not recommend swinging from the framework, I am confident that it will support the new ceiling. The next task is to fill the voids between the beams with rockwool insulation.

I have five bales of Rockwool stored in various places around my home

And will install 150mm - the depth of the beams - between each wooden beam, which should make the room much warmer this winter. There are lots of draughts coming through from the loft, but hardly surprising with a building of this age.

While waiting for the local building inspector to come and check the framework, before I install the insulation, I started on making the frames for the insect repellant window mesh for the room. 

I have had a couple of discussions with my builder friend Cvjetko about the merits of keeping and converting the current and sound windows to double glazing. His view is that I should just have new aluminium windows installed. 

I rather like the old wooden frames though, and because the wood is perfect, having been shielded by exterior shutters, which do need replacing, I am going to keep them. 

After running the timber through the Makita thicknesser, I cut the lap joints, then with my two 90º corner jigs, I glued and screwed two of the eight corners.

Once again, the number of knots in the wood has caused some difficulty and a lot of wastage. This work will continue next week.

Things are growing well in the gardens and the plums will be ready in just a couple of weeks and I think there will be a bumper crop of yellow plums. 

The branches are weighed down with fruit. I have started to harvest my salad crops this week.

I planted Rocket and early lettuce and the Rocket in particular is ready just 35 days from planting, with a couple of the larger lettuce heads too.

We have had a little rain overnight, just over 10 mm (10 liters per meter), which has made the weeds grow like crazy. But with wind and hot sun, it was not long before the soil surface was completely dry again. 

This strip of salad and vegetable crops is generally doing OK, albeit they do need a lot of irrigation, but then everything in the gardens and orchards does, except some very old and well established trees. 

What interests me though, is the principle of being able to grow some catch crops between the trees in this orchard.

I have planted trees here for the future. It's a bit like the planning for the future in the house. Trees take a long time to reach maturity (remember "plant plums for your sons and pears for your heirs"), so I have planted a number of saplings, knowing that once in the ground, they can do their own thing, more or less, until I have the building work finished. Then I can devote much more time to the horticulture, by which time (I hope) the trees are starting to produce fruit. 

One tree I bought when I first came to the island has fruit developing on it, for the first time, this year.

This is a Persimmon, Diospyros kaki, also known as a Kaki. The flowers are insignificant, small and greenish white, but what you can see is the remains of the flower, the brown calix, with the fruit developing behind. A couple of trees I have are looking rather sick though.

I bought two Askolano Olive trees this spring, but they really do not look very happy. The leaves are all curling and turning brown. Quite a few have dropped off. I have been giving them all the proper care but having asked local experts, they think I have perhaps been unlucky with them. 

They may pull through, time will tell. In the meantime I will keep up my routine of TLC.

I have been wondering if it is something with the soil in this orchard, because elsewhere everything I have planted just grows. This is an olive growing island and I have seen a small plot just down the lane where the owner stuck half a dozen olive trees in the ground and left them, occasionally clearing the weeds. They grew and thrived on neglect and this year they are covered in flowers. Maybe I am trying a little too hard? 

Of course the antipodal point to "something in the soil" is "nothing in the soil". By that I mean it is missing key trace elements and minerals. I have found a laboratory where I can send soil samples to for testing, but it is expensive and to do it properly I would need to take a lot of samples. As a first step, I think I will get a mineral test kit. I already know what the soil pH is, that is a simple test, but there are now accurate test kits to test for a number of the important elements required for healthy plants.

As this orchard was where the previous residents kept goats and chickens, I would have expected that the soil composition would have been good. Certainly when compared to the citrus orchard, the soil looks and feels very different. 

It is lighter and has more organic matter, but it may be that having had animals in for a number of years, the soil chemistry may be out of balance. More work in this area is required! 

Meanwhile the Seven Spot Ladybirds, Coccinella septempunctata are out in force, feasting on the aphids. May the Ladybird Force be with you and your plants!