A bitsa week
This week: A bitsa week; Roof walking again; In the cottage;
Since the start of the year we have been under the influence of an air mass moving down from Siberia and across eastern Europe.
By the time it reaches the Adriatic it is cold and there is insufficient water between the Island of Hvar and the mainland to substantially warm the air before it reaches Dol.
So whilst the days have been bright and sunny and the sun is noticeably higher in the sky, after sunset, any daytime heat soon leaches away.
We had our first night where the temperature dropped below zero on Friday. The temperature only fell to -0.6ºC, and then just for a few minutes around 02:00.
However this was enough to make ice form on the water tubs where I have some pond plants.
The hours of daylight are lengthening by more than 2 minutes a day now and the sun is really warm. But as soon as it goes behind the hills to the south, you can feel the chill of the wind.
Spring is not far away though. My Winter Flowering Jasmine, Jasminium nudiflorum, is in flower for the first time. This came as a tiny cutting from my parents home in the UK and has taken a while to establish.
Now that the plant seems happy in its new home, it is covered in delicate lemon yellow flowers.
A bitsa week
Considering it is the third week of January, I’ve really not done a great deal this week.
This week has been a ‘bitsa’ week: a week when you do “bits a’ this and bits of that…”
The jobs I have done have been in relation to the cottage, together with some general maintenance around my home.
The weather has not been conducive to a lot of outside work and inside I have been fighting to keep everywhere warm.
The problem has been a bitterly cold northerly wind. What it has done is made me realise that I need to insulate all the outside walls.
With solid walls of anywhere between 60 and 110 centimetres thick, they have a reasonable degree of insulation. However when there is a constant north-easterly wind blowing, against the longest sides of the buildings, the walls cool quickly.
I am going to have to talk to Cvjetko about insulating the north facing walls. The prevailing winds are from an easterly direction, and winds from this direction don’t directly hit any of my outside walls.
However this three week run of northerly winds has exposed the largest uninsulated area of walls that I have.
I have no recollection of sustained winds from this general direction over such a lengthy period of time.
Roof walking again
I’ve had a shower this week. The first one I have had since late November…
Let me clarify that statement. Of course I have taken regular showers, but the water has been heated by the immersion heater. My shower this week has been the first one heated solely by solar energy.
When the sun has been low and with almost constant rain in December, there was little thermal energy to heat the water, so I used electricity instead. With almost unbroken sunshine recently and with close to 45 minutes more sun each day than in December, the solar system is once again earning its keep.
I noticed some ice on the roof near the solar water heater on Saturday morning.
I’ve been aware that there was a very slight drip from a pressure relief valve, but have not done much more than look at the cause.
The pressure valve is on the rising main, so the water inside is extremely “hard”. Our mains water has considerable dissolved calcium carbonate in it.
What the pressure release valve doesn’t have is a shutoff valve to make removal for cleaning easy.
From my spares box I assembled a shutoff valve, and then turned the rising main off to isolate the tank. I let water out of a hot tap to reduce pressure in the tank to 1 BAR and then quickly removed the pressure valve before installing the shutoff valve equally quickly.
Up on the roof I wrapped pipe insulation around the valve, then examined the pressure release valve.
You have only to look at the white calk caking the fitting to see the problem.
I have left the pressure valve soaking in a commercial calcium descaler fluid, to completely remove all the calk, before I refit it.
There is a considerable amount of pipework and fittings around the tank, all of which needs maintenance from time to time.
I thought that solar water heaters were almost maintenance free, but what I find in practice is that there is a significant amount of maintenance and cost involved in keeping it working smoothly.
In the cottage
The builders have worked hard this week to finish laying the ceramic floor tiles.
At times there have been three men here working on cutting and fitting the tiles.
But what a great job they have done.
If it has taken two men a week to do the floor, it would have taken me three weeks working on my own.
On Friday I was able to paint round the skirting again, to cover odd places where mortar had splashed up onto the white walls.
Remembering that this was two rooms, the removal of the centre dividing wall has completely changed the inside of the building.
I had debated fitting a concrete plinth for the washing machine to sit on. My washer is a front loader, so lifting it off the floor makes it easier to work with.
But after a discussion with Cvjetko, we decided to go with a wooden plinth, so that it can be moved or later removed easily.
This week I prepared the timber and built it up into a substantial plinth for my machine.
The plinth has had two coats of clear varnish, however a set of sandy pawprints have marked the top. I wonder who that could be?
So I have sanded the top down and will give the plinth another coat before I move the washer back into the cottage.
There is one last piece of preparation I need to complete. At one end, the ceiling beam was not butted up to the wall. The gap is too big to fill with render, so I have made a plank to match the beam and extend across the hole.
However because the end wall is not completely flat, I will have to cut the plank to make a neat joint with the wall. The gap varies between nothing and 15 mm.
I made a marking stylus and have run a pencil along the beam to mark where it needs cutting. But I ran out of time on Saturday morning to finish the job.
So I have the first task planned for next week, to cut the profile to fit.
Some day I will start a week with nothing on my “to do” list. NCG