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A degree makes all the difference

This week: A degree makes all the difference; A quick installation; Best one yet!; Getting ready for winter;

Passing storm
A passing storm moves away to the north east

The passing of the northern Autumnal Equinox on Tuesday marked the point where we really notice the seasonal changes.

I was surprised by how far the setting sun has moved south when on Tuesday I happened to come out on the to terrace and glance at the sun as it disappeared behind hills to the south.

The “sun moving south” is of course an illusion, but that is what it appears to do as it is lower in the sky. It is the angle of the rotational axis of the earth relative to the position of the earth in it’s 365¼ day orbit around the sun which makes the sun lower in the sky in the winter and higher in the summer.

The “sun moving south” is a much easier description!

I’ve noticed the quickening of the nights drawing in. It is dark now in Dol by 19:30. Official sunrise is at 06:48 and sunset is 18:44, but living on the north facing hillside of a natural amphitheatre, we wait for the sun to rise above hills to the east and it soon seems to set below the hills to the south and west.

Bright and early on Monday I loaded Isabjela and the kittens into the car and took everyone to the vets.

Isabjela was having her surgery, so we don’t have any more little “accidents” and the kittens were having their first vaccination.

Loaded and ready to go
Loaded and ready to go

Everyone survived and Isabjela was back to normal by Tuesday morning. Felines are definitely resilient!

Resilient felines
Resilient felines

All week I have had Hummingbird Hawk Moths buzzing around my workshop and Konobas, looking for somewhere to hibernate.

These are noisy moths, with a wing beat similar in tone to that of a small helicopter.

The first of the winter migrants has arrived. My garden Robin was chirpings its alarm call from the apple tree in the Top Orchard as I was working there.

We have had the first of the seasonal rains too. A much needed 28.5 mm.

A degree makes all the difference

The weather has cooled markedly this week.

We are still above the average temperature for the past five years, but both mornings and evenings are noticeably cooler. Today I have closed the study windows. I’m still in a Tee shirt, but there was a cool draught and I didn’t want to put a sweater on.

I’ve also changed from shorts to trousers. It was only +16ºC this morning, so I broke out the winter clothing!

These lower temperatures have meant that the Tiger Mosquitoes are not about and biting when I start work.

Being an invasive species from the tropics, they need heat and so only when the temperature climbs to 22ºC or 23ºC do the perishers appear outside.

I finished building the small wooden window for the workshop.

Windows and doors
Windows and doors with the small window, top right

It has been on my workbench in pieces for a few weeks, but as the autumn rains approach I need to make the window void completely weatherproof.

Although the frame only consists of five pieces of wood, because of the building design, the construction of the frame has been fiendishly difficult.

Scale window drawing
Scale window drawing

Pieces have had to have five or six cuts with the router to create the shape and no two pieces are the same.

This week I have glued and screwed the joints and they are all completely true. I think that although it is only a very small window, building this frame has been the most difficult wood fabrication project I have ever undertaken.

When I did a trial fit, the frame slid perfectly into place. There are gaps, because it is being fitted against the natural stone walls, but I knew about them and they can be filled with silicone.

The next job was painting the bare wood.

On Wednesday I got the first coat of primer on early and left the frame and the top sill in the courtyard to dry. When I checked at mid morning, the paint was not completely dry.

Last week when I was treating lengths of wood that will be the louvres on the Stevenson Screen, it was warmer and I was able to get three coats of paint on in a day. That is the difference that a mere couple of degrees in temperature make.

After lunch I checked and the the pieces were ready for a second coat.

I painted the top sill and rested it on the saw horse in the yard, while I was painting the frame. That was when disaster struck.

As I was holding the frame, I caught the saw horse with my foot and the sill tumbled onto the courtyard floor. It landed in amongst sand and wood shavings.

Shavings on wet paint
Shavings on wet paint

Recovering it, there were several patches where the sand and shavings had attached themselves to the newly painted surfaces. I left it to dry, then rubbed it down again with sand paper before re-painting it.

A quick installation

Looking ahead at the forecast for Dol there were thunderstorms forecast for today (Saturday), tomorrow Sunday and Monday, then more next weekend.

So I decided on Friday that after painting the wooden frame I would install it on Saturday morning.

The easy bit was giving the wood a final coat of gloss paint, the hard bit was finding some glass to fit into the frame.

There is little wonder that people here, especially foreigners, order materials from their home country or the internet.

There is nowhere on the island to buy glass. In the past I’ve been to Split and bought glass which was cut to my measurements while I waited.

I’ve also brought some small double glazed sealed units back from the UK, because it was far easier to order and pay on-line, and then collect them than to try and get them made here.

There is an aluminium window maker in Stari Grad, but he orders sealed units from the mainland and refused to just order the small 27 cm x 27 cm window that I needed. He is one of the very few people that I have met here who is decidedly unhelpful.

I’ve made the window frame of a depth that will take a double glazed unit, but for now, I’ve just installed a piece of single glass.

Not being able to buy sheet glass on the island, I had to remove a pane from one of the old windows that I have removed during the renovations.

This is where another of those really useful tools that I have comes in.

I bought an oscillating cutter/multi tool a couple of years ago. This machine has a wide variety of different cutting heads, for different materials, all of which can be positioned in endless configurations to get into confined spaces.

Gone are the days of skinned knuckles because you were trying to use a hacksaw in a ridiculously small space.

But it isn’t just for small spaces. With a narrow blade, I cut away all the old putty which was holding the glass in place.

Removing old putty
Removing old putty

In years gone by, I have had to use wood chisels and a mallet or a fine screwdriver to remove old putty. With the oscillating cutter it took me less than an hour to complete the job and remove the sheet of glass.

I find cutting glass to be difficult at the best of times, and old glass is prone to cracking. But I managed to cut this sheet, first time and fitted it into the frame. It is held in place with four wooden beads.

I used a silicone mastic to bed the completed frame in place, before fixing it into position with stainless steel screws.

New window in place
New window in place

When I went out to put silicone round the outside of the frame, black clouds were bubbling up from the south, there were the first spots of rain and an ominous deep rumble of thunder.

Little to see on the outside
Little to see on the outside

I just managed to get the frame in place, with the top sill secured and a bead of silicone all round, as the rain started. Within minutes there was a torrential downpour.

That was a close run thing. But the window is now in place and it looks very nice too.

The best one yet

The last Friday of the month is when the online magazine that I edit is published.

It means that in the run up to the day, there is a lot of proof reading, and emailing back and forth. This month is no exception.

One of the best courses (after the Advanced Car and Motorcycle courses) I attended was at JARIC – the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre. This was for my role in the police helicopter support unit. If you are interested in this specialised area, the DIFC Wikipedia page is worth a read.

It was at one of those places that you will not find on any map of the UK. There were none of the usual red bordered direction signs to indicate its location.

UK Military base sign
Standard UK Military base direction sign – RAF Woodhall in Lincolnshire

There was just a lane running through a pine forest, then suddenly you were out in the open, approaching watch towers where guards manned machine guns. On either side of the gates, there were Humvees with their top mounted guns manned. This was serious stuff!

Once on the inside, much of the base was off limits, but I did get a “one to one” guided tour of the museum from the curator, which is in its self worth a separate article. However I digress.

This course was to teach students from many services and organisation (in our case police officers) about how to get latent information from photographs. It was my introduction to 3D photography, detailed target analysis and photogrammetry, but overall it was about how to examine rather than look at a photograph.

Then this photograph appeared on a FaceBook web page recently, with scant information about the officers shown, I was intrigued.

West Riding Constabulary Wakefield
Training police officers in Wakefield c.1936 – Photo Hulton Library

I couldn’t identify which forces they were from, and so I used both my skills and my 3D Geoscope to see what I could glean.

The result is an article in PMCC Magazine 308, published on Friday.

On Saturday I received an email from one reader who said that he had thoroughly enjoyed the magazine and it was the “Best issue yet”. That comment made my day – you can live off a good compliment for a week!

Getting ready for winter

As the year advances, with frightening speed, I started on my winterisation.

Bearing in mind the term is relative, as the afternoon temperature on Saturday was only 17ºC when I went to get a coffee while I was writing this week’s blog. I realised that in more northern latitudes there has already been snow.

But as the wind was whipping through the screen door on the storm porch, I had better change it to the winter triple wall polycarbonate door.

I have two doors, a summer and a winter door. The summer door keeps the mosquitoes and other insects out, but lets the air in, the winter door keeps everything out and the heat in.

It wasn’t a long job with the electric screwdriver to remove one set of hinges, and attach another to the frame.

This week I removed half the covers on the solar water tubes. I had covered three quarters of the tube area on 24th March, when the safety valve on the top of the tank had lifted for the first time, because the water was over 100ºC inside. The tubes are extremely efficient.

At the time I had debated whether to take both the covers off, but decided to leave one because the sun is still strong. looking at the next ten days forecast. I think I will take it off this week too.

There are still a number of plants in flower. These Ice Plants, Delosperma cooperi, were very much an experimental planting last year, but they are now spreading across the path down into the orchard.

Ice Plants
Ice Plants spreading over the path

In the bright autumn sun, they seem to almost fluoress.

Ice pant in closeup
Ice plant in closeup

The first Pomegranates are ready for picking too.

First 2020 Pomegranates
First 2020 Pomegranates

But as the days shorten and the temperature drops, I still have more jobs to do.

This next week, I think I will reconnect the central heating that was disconnected when the building work took place in the spring.

One thing is for sure, I’m never short of a job or three. NRC

One Response

  1. Terry H.

    Hi Norman. Interesting that you have mentioned RAF Woodall. Technically, after the 67 amalgamation, the camp was just over our Traffic Zone boundary, but when has that ever stopped Traffic Officers?. It was a “tea spot” on nights and a sight of a number of nefarious activities, typical of many of the camps in that area at that time.