Life in a Dol house
2018 - Week 14

Sun + warmth + rain = WEEDS!

Our summer resident Swallows have arrived back this week. 

The Swallow, or more correctly the Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica, is that chirpy small, fast flying and high flying bird which spends most of its life in a migration between the northern and southern hemispheres, with just a few small populations which are year round residents in south west Europe and Egypt.

​In Europe the arrival of the Swallows is welcomed as a sign that summer is almost here. 

There have been birds passing through the island on their migration north for some weeks, but it was only on Tuesday that I saw the first of our summer residents in the sky above Dol, with their chirping, happy calls. 

They are engaging in their mating rituals and will start to repair old nests or build new ones next month.

​Amongst other places, they use a neighbours open machine storage area for nesting every year, but also build anywhere that they can find three sides which they can bridge with a fourth made of mud. 

Although they make a mess with their droppings, I would be pleased if they would find a corner in one of my buildings in which to raise one or two broods of young, before departing again in September for South Africa.

On Saturday a raptor was being mobbed by a number of swallows as he wheeled and turned, riding the rising air currents, above the village.

​Not to be confused with the Swift, Apus apus, a similarly agile flyer, that scream around the buildings in small groups shrieking at the top of their small voices. The Swallow is blue with a white front, the Swift black or charcoal grey. 

Both hunt insects on the wing and both are just some of our summer migrants.

My ornithologist near-neighbour Steve, who runs a blog site about the birds seen around my home, has already seen a Hoopoe on the Stari Grad Agar. I get them round my home too, but not until next month.

While these summer visitors are arriving, our winter residents, like the Robin and the diminutive Wren have already left for the cooler mainland for the summer.

It has been Easter this week, and on Monday I had neighbours and friends round for lunch.

​A social occasion is always a nice opportunity to mingle and chat. 

Whilst the Easter Cross processions draw huge numbers of visitors to the island, some of the other Easter traditions leave questions unanswered. 

Boxes of week old chicks are for sale, and people can be seen going home from the market, carrying a small cardboard box from which emanates a stream of loud chirps.

​I do wonder what happens to all these little birds after the celebration is over?

I also have some sad news too. My third feline, Snagglepuss has died this week.

​He was fine at the weekend, then one morning he had had a little "accident" on the floor, something that has never happened before and as I followed him outside, he seemed a little unsteady and hesitant. 

He curled up in his usual spot in the sun and I checked him over without him registering any pain anywhere. I checked him a couple of times and he was sleepy, but purred his usual greeting, but by afternoon I just had a suspicion that all was not well. 

He didn't want any food although he had had a drink of water.

The veterinary surgery here is only open until 2pm, so I decided to take him the next morning if he was no better. 

Then the next time I looked, he had gone. 

Although I searched all the usual places, he had disappeared and I haven't seen him since. 

He hasn't been for food and I presume that in the way of cats, he's gone somewhere to die quietly on his own.

He was such a quiet and friendly little cat too, never fighting with either of my older felines, just waiting patiently and being grateful for anything he was given, or helping himself, given the opportunity.

He was never more content than when he was having a tummy rub, purring loudly with pleasure.

​Although he was only about a year and a half old, he had some health issues. 

With a cataract in one eye​ and three broken canine teeth, he was happy to just follow me around and play. I never saw him catch anything and with restricted vision, I think he had decided that he would never be a fighter. 

He could always be found, lying on his back, soaking up the warmth of the sun.

The sun is climbing higher in the sky by the day, warming the soils and making things grow. 

Leaves have burst this week on the Fig trees, and I have a new fig to plant. 

I brought a couple of plants back with me from the UK, things which will grow here but cannot easily be obtained.

While the UK is still in the European Union, it is relatively simple to order plants and import them. There are stringent rules about disease control and to ensure that plants can cross borders, they need to come from a company which holds a Plant Passport and is part of the passporting scheme. 

These companies only supply trees which are allowed to be exported, are marked with the passport number and meet the relevant import criteria.

​The small tree I brought with me is a Prunus Japonica Amanogawa, a flowering cherry, with a columnar growth pattern that I have put into the courtyard.

This is a favourite of mine and was one of the first trees I planted when I first bought a home in he UK.

Because its growth habit is vertical rather than spreading, like normal trees, it is ideal for tight spaces.

As well as beautiful cherry blossom in the spring, the leaves turn to bronze in the Autumn.

​After almost 20 years of growth in the UK, my Amanoagawa was 10 metres tall when I left. It was also a useful tree to hang lights on at Christmas time.

But looking on Google Streetview, I see that it had been removed together with all the other shrubs I had planted, by someone who owned the cottage, sometime between 2007 and 2009, after I sold it . 

I only ever remove a tree as a very last resort when it is diseased or dying, and plant two for any that are removed.

I still have a number of plants and trees to find permanent homes for following my trip last month to Bauhaus on the mainland, but the soil has not really been workable this week.

We have had some more rain, with Thursday being an especially wet day and although the warm sun is drying the ground, walking on the soils just compresses them into a hardpan, so the plants and shrubs I bought in Split earlier in the year can stay in their pots for now. 

There was a nice double rainbow as the rain cleared to the south.

As I have been checking the orchards, I've been pulling up Hairy Bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta, one of my more obnoxious weeds.

Seeds from last year have germinated, flowered and produced seeds all in a week and have formed the long, thin high explosive seed pods, which once ripe, fling their seeds great distances with ballistic force.

Every time I see one, I pull it out. 

Other flowering weeds I am leaving for the bees and butterflies, which abound at the moment.

​On the pear, apple and cherry blossom, the pale yellow Brimstone butterflies, Gonepteryx rhamni, are constant visitors.

I really need to get on top of the orchards, in my annual battle with the weeds, but as I mentioned, because of the unsuitable ground conditions, I am leaving the job for a few more days.

I painted on the sealant over some of the walls of the loft I had converted last year. 

Because the walls have been covered with render, before I can paint them, I need to seal the new cement work. 

Up by the donkey track, on the top of the tiny gate, my old Kapelista, which was one of the first things I renovated when I moved in, back in 2014, was showing signs of disrepair.

​I hadn't realised that I needed to coat the bare concrete - it had been cast rather than carved - before painting, and after three years of being weathered by the elements, paint was flaking off on all sides. 

After removing all the loose paint with a scraper, I then cleaned up the casting with a wire brush, before coating it with the sealant. It didn't take long to dry in the warm sun, and I was able to give it a coat of undercoat.

​Kapelista - loosely translates as a shrine - are a very common sight throughout Croatia. 

My example bears the inscription:


                                       Blaženadjevo Marija 

                                             Moli Zanas


                                      Luka Roić - Postolor

Religious greeting

Blessed Virgin Mary, 

Pray for us

15th March in the year of 1933

Luka Roić - Shoemaker

Putting more paint on the walls is on my "to do" list for the month.

​This week has also been about doing the small jobs I have been waiting for parts from the UK for. 

Things like replacing an on/off switch for the immersion heater, with a digital timer, so I can take advantage of cheap overnight electricity to heat the water when there has been insufficient sun for the solar system.

​There are a host of small items like this, that I brought back from my "Dutch dash" last week, and slowly but surely I am working my way through them.

As the weather warms, this week has been the first "tee shirt" week, when it has been possible from getting up to going to bed, to not need a sweater. 

It will soon be time to break out the shorts and put away the trousers, until the autumn!!