Life in a Dol house
2016 - Week 03

Vorsprung technik

Much as I forecast a week ago, this week has been cold. Whilst the sun is climbing steadily in the sky and the days have been warm in the sunshine, in cold corners around the garden a few small pots of frozen water have been in evidence all day. In addition, where the pressure regulator on the solar water heater is dripping, icicles have formed and have lasted for three days.

On the 21st December, at the time when the sun was at its zenith on the winter solstice, I drew a mark along the sun's shadow line on a wall. One month later on the 21st of January, I drew a second line, which amply illustrates how much higher in the sky the sun is, in the northern hemisphere.

Despite the cold, I found the flower buds on these two blue hyacinth bulbs, in the spring bed outside the kitchen window, have emerged from their underground hiding place and are about to burst.

I had wondered how I was going to fill the holes in the shower seat I built last week, then I had a brainwave. I used expanding foam injected into every void.

Once dry, I cut off the excess with a Stanley knife and then painted the resulting flat surface with the latex water sealant I am using.

I have had some difficulty with getting the latex waterproofing in the bathroom to set. The process of making a "wet room" is, on paper, quite simple. I am using a range of Ceresit products. These are available worldwide and have a very good reputation. There are online resources for them, for example Product Data Sheets (which I do read) and also instructional videos to help professionals and DIY'ers alike to get the best from the different materials.

The room should be free from loose materials, dust and debris - not so easy when you are refurbishing a 130+ year old building, but I am close. Then rubber waterproof corners, internal and external, are fixed in place by painting the walls, floor and seat with the latex material, pressing the rubber membranes into the latex and then painting over it with more of the sticky, grey material.

The data sheet and the video says that the latex will be ready for a second coat in three to four hours. But the reality I have found is that it is taking 36 hours for the stuff to dry. I am within the temperature range, but it is just not drying. Perhaps the humidity is to blame, but while I can control internal temperatures to a degree, I can't control the outside atmospheric humidity.

The result is that the roll of tape which is embedded into the latex, on top of the corners, to ensure that the whole room remains watertight, has kept peeling away. I paint the latex on, press the pre-cut, 12 centimeter wide blue tape into the sticky material and then as I reach one end of the tape, I watch as the other ends starts to peel away.

Eventually I found that by painting the wall or floor, and then the back of the tape as well, made it stick a little better, but certainly it is not as easy as the man on the video seems to make it. In addition, I also used weights or props to hold the tape in place until the latex dries. This means that what should have been a one, or two day job at the most, has in fact taken 7 days so far and I still have another day's work to finish it.

The Ceresit company, being German based, is originally from Datteln near Dortmund . What comes to mind is that immortal phrase from the German Blaupunkt TV advert, Vorsprung technik!

Saturday was when I finally cut down the damaged plum tree in the top orchard. My next door neighbour had told me I needed to cut it down around the 22nd of January, because that is when it is full moon. Another near neighbour told me last year that the best time to cut firewood is around the full moon too. There is a lot of local lore around what and when to do things in the gardens and orchards, but a quick Google search of "moon phase wood cutting" threw up an Austrian reference to firewood being best cut at the full moon. Not wishing to provoke Treebeard, or anyone else for that matter, I took their advice and cut down the two large limbs which had split away from the main trunk.

What I found was that they were going rotten from the centre. As I cut into the length of the trunks and to the furthest tip of the limbs, there were the tell tale dark marks in the centre of each branch where the canker has spread.

In one especially badly affected piece of timber, after I made the cut, movement caught my eye.

On closer inspection a small yellow caterpillar was actually emerging from a hole that was now exposed to the air.

With such a spread of disease, I suspect that the remaining trunk will also be affected too. I am not going to remove it at the moment, as it seemed very healthy last year, but I will make sure that the grafts I have taken are growing, so that I will have a replacement tree for when it eventually has to come down. In one sense it is a shame because the tree has been dripping with delicious yellow plums for the past two Springs that I have lived here. But on the other hand, the tree has been al;lowed to grow and do exactly what it has wanted to do, with no sign of pruning or control. There are water shoots that now have a circumference of 8 centimetres and the crown of the tree is a mass of crossed and interlocking branches. But it also provides a good deal of shelter to the orchard, and of course shade as well in summer.

There are a mass of branches that I now have to cut up. Any that are larger than two to three centimetres in diameter, I will be storing for firewood. The smaller branches and twigs will go on the bonfire.

Having downloaded the data from my weather station, this is a year on year line chart for January, showing the minimum temperatures:

It amply illustrates how cold it has been this week. 

At which point, I need to go an put some more wood on the fire!