Life in a Dol house
2017 - Week 49


Oh goodee.... four weeks to New Years Day!
​With more rain this week, I have been busy inside the loft - that is once I had installed the doors I have made. 

The storm which passed through on Wednesday morning also left the first snows on the top of Svete Jure, at 1,722m/5,780ft, the highest point in the southern Dinaric Alps and some 50 km distant in the Biokovo national park. The peak is clearly visible once you leave the natural amphitheatre where Dol has been built.

It didn't taker too long on Sunday to fill the gaps between the frame and the walls with expanding foam.

This is a product I have never used until I came to Dol. Here it seems to be the "go-to" solution for every problem. 

The foam comes in a number of different types, for different purposes, but what they all have in common are their gap filling, and their adhesive properties. 

This stuff seems to bond with everything except certain plastics, so when you inject it into a gap between stones, or between stones and wood, it expands and as it hardens, it bonds with both surfaces, forming a very strong bond.

It can be cut easily with a Stanley knife or similar tool and can be cleaned away with a wire brush, but used to hold things in place, or to fill gaps, it is superb. I can see why it is so popular. 

Filling in around the wall plug, where it had fractured the lime plaster was easy, and once trimmed, no one will ever know, but also it has made a very strong bond around the plug, with the wall and wood.

On Monday it was blowing a gale and I needed a woolly hat for working outside - the first time this winter. 

After cutting away the excess foam, I then cut rebaits into the door frame uprights, for pairs of butt hinges.

​I want the doors to be flush with the frame, so cut away sufficient to ensure that the screws would not foul the hinge when the doors are closed.

By lunchtime I had all the hinges in place and one door fitted. After lunch I finished hanging the second door and then fitted a Yale rim latch with a KABA Gemini secure cylinder.

I did have to remove the second door to cut a little bit off one edge as it was not closing properly. 

When I say "cut a little bit" I mean 2 mm off one edge. Fortunately I have a SKIL circular saw with a guide track, so I can set up the track, up to 2 metres long, and trim the smallest amount off the edge. Once rehung, it was a perfect fit.

The last job in the afternoon was making a wooden trim to cover the slight gap between the two doors. 

I was rushing, as the light was fading and having cut the timber, sanded it, created a cutout so it fits neatly round the rim latch cylinder, I marked everything up for drilling the holes for the securing screws. 

Moving inside, out of the wind, I drilled the holes then did a trial fit. The holes were on the wrong side of the line I had drawn. More haste, less speed, as the old adage goes!

I drilled another set of holes and fixed the strip. 

This is a temporary structure until the double glazing arrives, so I am not too worried about a few extra holes showing, even though it niggles me that I made such a simple error... 

With the light fading quickly, I locked the doors, put the tools away, and called it a day.

​The next morning was spent in giving the doors a coat of undercoat, especially the edges I had cut, exposing bare wood.

​Then it was fixing the Plexiglas into the bottom frame. 

This window, under the step up to the loft, lets light into the old ground floor of the cottage, now the utility room. Again, this a 'cheap and cheerful' adaption. 

I have never really mastered the art of glass cutting and my attempts tend to have less than optimal result, so using Plexiglas, it is easy to cut and easy to fit with some wooden beading to hold it in place, and makes it easy to remove at the appropriate time. 

I cut the material with a Tenon saw, drilled the beading and used copper pins to hold it in place.The result is a completely windproof and watertight structure.

Being windproof was a necessity on Wednesday as we had a south easterly gale.

 With an outside air temperature of +12.3ºC and a sustained wind speed of 23 k/ph the actual feel temperature was just +5ºC. 

As the day length drops with the approach of the northern winter solstice , so does the temperature. The sun now dips behind the trees on the hill to the south at 12:45, so the mornings are lovely, the afternoons, a trifle cool and sunless.

​Based on my past three winter's experience, the coldest weeks of the year are from the last week of December to the second week of January. 

According to the statistics, the last date for frost is around the 14th February, but my experience is that there have been less than 7 nights each winter when there has been a frost, and these have always been in the three week period over mid-winter. 

By the end of January, the sun is climbing in the sky, the days are longer and the first signs of spring are appearing.

In truth, the first signs of spring are already here. Whilst the last leaves have fallen in the wind this week, from my big, old Fig tree, there are the first Breba fruits showing and the tip buds which will turn into leaves next year are already present.

It's a lovely thought as I write this first draft of the blog in mid week, with the wind howling around outside and rain being blown horizontally, while a nice warming fire is in the corner, that Spring is not far away...

Meanwhile, I am still harvesting tomatoes, despite the cold.

I spent one morning wrapping up tender trees in the top orchard.
​My experience over the 2016/17 winter, when we had a cold spell combined with fierce Bura winds, was that a lot of Mediterranean trees and shrubs were killed by the cold. 

The top of the Avocado trees I planted out in 2016 despite being protected with bubble wrap were killed back to ground level, and it is only now, 18 months after first being planted, that they are the height of the trees when I planted them. 

I also have a Jabuticaba, Plinia cauliflora, and a Guava, Psidium cattleyanum, that I have planted in the orchard, which until they are well established need to be protected from the cold, so were similarly wrapped up warm for the winter.

The problem I face is that every winter so far has been different. 

Last winter was said by locals to have been colder than any in living memory, with most of the established lemon and orange trees being killed, along with all my neighbours Norfolk Island Pines, Araucaria hererophillia, and his huge European Fan Palm, Chamaerops humilis, killed outright. 

Even the Bougainvillea, that showy flowering symbol of the Mediterranean, was cut back to ground level. But whether this was a once in 50 year event, or the new normal, only time will tell.

So I am protecting everything, in case it is the "new normal". 

I start by wrapping a double layer of bubble wrap around the tender trees. 

Then I put a double layer of corrugated cardboard, tied with string. And finally they have a wrap of green horticultural mesh to reduce wind damage.

​Any big gaps are filled with bubble wrap and a thick layer of mulch is laid around the base of the tree.

This orchard is quite protected and is the warmest of the three around my home, but even so, trying to wrap bubble wrap and cardboard around young trees when there is a gale blowing is not fun. 

So I gave up after lunch. I need to protect the young Citrus that survived last winter's chill too, but that will have to wait until there is less wind, as they are much more exposed. 

Fortunately there is nothing in the Drupe orchard which needs protection. 

In fact some of the trees, especially the Pears actually need a certain number of chilling hours, to ensure they will fruit next year. 

A chilling hour is defined as an hour when the temperature is between +7º C and +1ºC. 

We have had one morning this week when the OAT was +0.8ºC, so just a fraction above freezing, but that does not mean frost.

It is not only the more tender trees which have been winterised. 

After the freeze in January this year, when I had 14 burst pipes, due to an utterly incompetent local plumber, I have been checking outdoor pipes this week.

My solar water heater is especially exposed. Close to the ridge tiles on the patio roof, there were four bursts up there alone. So after I had had the pipes replaced, and the correct thickness of insulation, I was up on the roof, adding additional "gaffer tape" and insulation around some of the joints. 

What I saw this week was that the Mediterranean summer sun and high UV levels has completely decayed the tape.

Climbing up onto the roof, on a beautiful warm morning, I found the silver surface of the tape has rotted into white fragments.

​The glue has all gone and just the fibreglass reinforcing web remained.

I bought a different product, German made, which allegedly is resistant to sunlight and weather extremes. So a fun morning was had, wrapping day-glow orange tape around all the exposed joints - of which there are many - in an effort to ensure that no matter what happens this winter, there will not be a repeat of the bursts.

​Elsewhere pipes have been variously replaced with plastic, encased in concrete, covered with additional foam, and in the case of the water meter, which also fractured, along with more than 1,000 others on the island, it has been surrounded with sawdust and covered in bubble wrap.

I had an interesting and instructive visit to Brusje on Thursday. 

One of my neighbours was having his olive crop pressed at the mill in the village.

Home to one of the newer associations, Kriva Maslina (The crooked olive tree) this village sits astride the spine of the island, close to the town of Hvar, on the old road between Hvar and Stari Grad. Kriva Maslina are trying to revive the ancient traditions of the village, whose prosperity was and is built around olive oil and lavender oil production, with a bit of modern day tourism thrown in for good measure.

Housed in a communal building, which includes the village post office, there is the latest high tech computer controlled, stainless steel machinery used to produce the highest quality of Extra Virgin olive oil, and just next door, can be found 100 year old cast iron machines, 600 kg stones once powered by donkeys, which using the hot process, produces olive oil from the fruits.

For each load of 70 Kg of Drupes that are tipped in at the top, it takes around two and a half hours for the last drops of oil to slip down the funnel into the waiting plastic containers.

​Tasting the warm oil as it came out of the separator centrifuge was certainly a treat and was well worth the morning away from home.

What did it taste of? Well..... a little sweet, a distinctive fruity aroma, and nothing like the oil which comes from your supermarket bottle.

And lastly, just for fun. Did you see Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye when he free fell into a descending plane? If not, the clip is below...

Well now it has been done, by none other that the Red Bull team.... But don't try this at home.