Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 36
Well here we are in September, the month that heralds the start of Autumn in the higher northern latitudes, the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" according to the poet Keats.
Called Rujan in Croatian, the 9th month of the year. It's all a headlong rush downhill now to Christmas.
But here in the southern Adriatic sea, the seasonal changes on the island are perceptible to locals, but less well marked for the casual observer.
It looked as though the summer drought here had broken. With falling pressure, we have had some rain on Saturday afternoon but what I was expecting to be up to 35 litres per meter (35mm) actually turned out to be just 4, or 1/6th of an inch.
However these is some more forecast for tomorrow.
Contrast that with August where there has been no measurable rainfall during the month. True, there was one morning when there were some spots of rain on the concrete, but not enough to wet the bottom of my rain gauge.
If you look at the long term average, you can see there is both a temperature and rainfall discrepancy.
The thirty year average for August is for 5 wet days and 45mm of rain during the month, not zero and zero!
But the question everyone asks is whether this is just a weather aberration or the new normal. In twenty or thirty years time, I will give you the answer.
But whatever the answer, this summer is a result of the changes to the polar jet stream, which are being influenced by global climate change.
The major storm system on Saturday passed way north, close to the city of Zadar.
At least for a day I will not have to irrigate everything.
After losing my Windows operating system last Saturday, it has taken me over two days to get back up and running.
However because I maintain good backups and have a separate disk for the operating system and for data, it has been time consuming, but I have not lost anything.
I needed to do a little open heart surgery to remove a failed case fan, but that was not the cause of the software malfunction. You only find out how much you use something when you do not have it available.
In June it was all about slowing down for the heat of the summer.
Now it is about picking up the pace again, to make progress before the dark nights and cool weather of winter arrive, in around 10 weeks time.
When the outside temperature is approaching +40º degrees C (110ºF) a siesta is "de rigeur", but now although it is still rather nice and refreshing to take a short afternoon nap, and many locals still do, there is not the need or justification.
I have finished the renovation of my air compressor. I bought it second hand when I lived in Spain, but never really fully serviced it, or understood the various parts and it didn't come with a manual.
Dismantling the various external valves, I found that everything had seized up and had been in that state for many years, but being made of brass and copper, the various joints were not too difficult to open.
There was the strange metal cylinder, which I discovered when I fully dismantled it, is an in line water and dirt trap. It just does not resemble the modern equivalents.
There was a considerable amount of calcium build up, but after an hour in a bath of lemon juice and some scraping with a bradawl, all the alloy was once again clean and shining and the water drain valve worked! You can even see the makers stamp now.
Then there was the strange machined brass hexagonal device, which once subjected to the same lemon juice, proved to be an adjustable piston pressure release valve.
A couple of worn threads had to be re-worked with taps and dies.
All the threads on this Italian made compressor are Imperial, but fortunately I was recently sent a set of Imperial taps and dies (thanks Den) so I had the right tools for the job. It does seem strange that on a continent which saw metric units introduced in 1799, plumbing fittings are still in imperial sizes, so obtaining a new 3/8" "T" piece was not difficult.
Most of my tools are Metric, with only one or two specialist automotive tools being to imperial unit standards.
After being lubricated, all the various valves were re assembled although some of the perspex transparency has gone for good with age.
PTFE tape was applied to the threads then the pressure cylinder was cleaned and treated with WD40 and new quick release "push-fit" connectors fitted, it was good to go.
I have invested in new 10BAR air lines and when I plugged it in again everything worked as expected.
I have been working on the study.
Not that I have not done any work during the summer, but my pace had s l o w e d .
This week I finished casting a replacement window sill in concrete, for above the wall niche.
The wooden door frame was held on by gravity and a nail and the inside walls needed some serious renovation before lining paper was added.
Then I filled and smoothed all the gaps around the double glazed windows, that the window fitters had left. Finally I cleared away all the tools and masked everything off ready for painting.
It really is quite a large and airy room, and as well as a study area, there will be some comfy corner seating.
I have been waiting for the hard wood flooring to be delivered - it was only ordered in late May. The ever helpful lady at Volat-Faros has been on the case for me and when I called in at the builders merchants early on Saturday for a progress report, Rosa told me it was ready for delivery.
Within the hour, the owner of the company was following me up the hill with 35 square meters of grade "A" hardwood flooring in his truck.
Anticipating the inclement weather this weekend, I got the 12 packs of boards safely stored in the Konoba.
Having had all summer to keep it dry, I was not taking the chance of it getting wet this weekend!
I will have to pull it out, cut it to size, individually to fit the shape of the walls, treat it with varnish and fit it, but at least I now have the flooring for the room.
I just need to finish the painting whilst the room is completely empty.
Early on Thursday I moved 15 liters of undercoat, plus the air line piping and the spray can into place.
I diluted the emulsion paint and filled the siphon can of the sprayer.
I had dismantled it and cleaned it earlier in the summer, on one of those many balmy, hot days when only minimal exertion was called for.
With the air compressor working, I tried to spray, starting on a piece of plaster board to adjust the spray pattern and then in a dark corner where if there was a problem it would not matter too much.
The whole reason I am using a sprayer is the size of the room to be painted, the fact it is completely empty and my poor technique with a brush and roller. But the result from a couple of passes with the spray gun was an orange peel, dimpled finish.
I tried the various adjustments, air and suction pressure, mixing more water into the paint to make it more viscous, but all that I did was to change the size of the orange peel effect!
Time to pack up and think. Then I noticed that where I had over sprayed the blue specialist decorators masking tape that I have used to hide the gaps in the lining paper, although I had sealed the tape with PVA glue, they now resembled the soles of your feet after you have spent too long soaking in a hot bath.
Cleaning up a paint sprayer is the most important thing you can do, so I spent some time getting rid of the paint, then with just plain water tried and found that I was getting the same result.
After letting everything dry in the sun, I dissembled the spray gun completely, cleaned everything, oiled the parts that needed oiling and used needle files and fine broaches to clear paint from drillings and passages.
I also discovered a date of manufacture - 1978 - so I suppose everything is almost 40 years old. This is probably the best service it has had in 40 years too!
All the metal work was polished with Autosol. It is not cheap for a tube, but it is the best you can get for restoring polished surfaces.
Once reassembled, I tried it again with water. This time, a perfect spray pattern. Although some of the jets needed less than 0.5mm removing, that seems to have been enough.
But the tape I had so carefully applied to the walls of the room, had dried with the ridges and valleys in place.
Having treated the surface of the tape with PVA, I thought it should have been waterproof. The whole idea of using the decorators masking tape, is that you can paint over it. But for some reason in this case it hadn't worked. Good job I was only spraying in a small test area.
I whetted the two strips of tape, carefully removed them, applied two new lengths and then painted over all the lengths of tape with oil based primer to permanently seal it.
On Friday morning it was time to try the painting again. I stirred the big paint pot and used my home made ladle to fill the spray tank, then started on the ceiling.
Success, a fairly even spray issued forth, at least there was no spluttering this time.
The ceiling, which would have taken me three to four hours to complete with a brush, was given a first coat in just over one hour. But what I did discover was that painting white paint, onto white lining paper, at an angle makes it difficult to see where you have been.
You cannot point the airline sprayer vertically, or even at too sharp an angle, but that means you are working on a platform with your hands close to the ceiling, holding a heavy sprayer, while trying to judge coverage and spray pattern. Well nothing in life is easy!
By trial and error I found that I needed to use natural light to show me where I was painting - the paint is shiny before it dries, but it is also difficult to ensure you don't spray too much paint onto any one area.
Painting with an air brush is an art, but is still easier than using a brush or a paint roller.
After lunch I moved onto the walls. At least because of the blue tapes, it is easy to paint a vertical panel, using the light again, and then move onto the next one. But the coverage does vary.
At least it is easy to now see where there has been a first coat and where not and the coverage is good.
The paint I am using is a water based emulsion. I added 1½ litres of water right at the start and mixed it well with an electric mixer, but I have found that I need to add more water to the spray can to get the consistency right for spraying.
It should be as viscous as pouring cream. But what I don't seem able to do is to get a consistent consistency of the mix each time I fill the tank.
Although the accepted wisdom is that you only dilute emulsion paint by 10%, I think I probably need a 20% dilution rate for my spray kit.
Rather than keep trying to get the mix right in the tank, on Saturday I added more water to the paint drum until it is about right, then every time I fill the tank, it will be with the same mix.
Once again, following instructions to the letter does not always give you the result you are looking for. I often find that flexibility is called for.
I am reminded of a pearl of wisdom I was given in a management training course many moons ago, "Rules are for fools, and for guiding wise men".
This room is still a "work in progress", as I will need two coats of primer before I paint the finished surfaces and being the weekend, and summer, when noisy tools are still banned, for the sake of the visitors, it will be Monday before I finish the painting.
As I write this, it is dark outside and I can hear the striations of crickets, and the deep, resonating "Boo" call of a Eurasian Eagle Owl, Bubo bubo.
These are, like me and the beetles, permanent residents.
Most of our summer visitors have left. The Swallows that have been a feature of the skies around my home, as they raised their brood, left more than a month ago.
On Saturday the 5th August they were zooming in between my buildings, calling as they collected insects, and the next morning it was quiet. They had left.
There are still swallows down on the plain, and large groups are feeding on flies, wheeling and calling in the skies above Dol, but these are migrants, grabbing a meal as they head south.
There have also been flocks of Bee Eaters feeding as they migrate south for the winter.
We have had a migrant Scops owl entertaining us all summer. This summer visitor has a highly distinctive call, but also is a day time hunter and is not too worried about being watched.
Although it is easy to record the first time you hear or see something, it is more difficult to record the last time. In parallel to my Springwatch Croatia, I am trying this year to create an Autumnwatch, but already it is proving to be difficult.
The Golden Orioles can still occasionally be heard, but they are few and far between and I have not heard or had a Hoopoe in the orchard for some time. But as the summer visitors leave, so the winter migrants will start to arrive.
I look forward to the Robins returning from mainland Europe, to brighten the darker winter days.
But there is still some time before long trousers and a sweater will be required before venturing outside....