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A planting we will go

This week: When the east wind doth blow; Failing to plan; Across to Split; Ready, steady, tile…; A planting we will go;

Spring sunshine on Plum blossom
Spring sunshine on Plum blossom

First of all, an apology…

Last week we had thunderstorms for most of Saturday afternoon and this affected my internet connection. This is the reason I want a UPS in my network cabinet.

Thunderstorms cause power outages on the island because all the major electrical lines are run overhead between towers and the towers get hit by lightning.

Then my internet connection reduced to less than 1MPS. I spoke on the phone to my ISP and after several phone calls, they said there was a problem at one of their sites and they were sending the enginers.

Finally I managed to get the Blog finished and uploaded, however when I sent the link as an email to the regular subscribers, I didn’t notice that it had defaulted to the “drafts” folder. I thought it had been sent!

It was only on Tuesday when I was contacted by a regular reader to say they hadn’t seen the blog, that I checked and saw it had never left the drafts folder. This is why those who receive the link by email didn’t receive it until tea time.

We have had several really warm and sunny days, but also some more rain. In this part of the world, March showers bring April flowers.

First Bearded Iris of the year
First Bearded Iris of the year

When the East wind doth blow…

As well as thunderstorms, we had strong winds throughout Sunday and early on Monday. Strong being a steady 40 kph, coming from the east.

When I went out on Monday morning to check for damage, I found that one set of shutters on the east end of the building had been blown off their hinges.

Almost all old windows here have external wooden shutters, to protect the buildings from winter cold and summer heat. I knew that these were in desperate need of repair.

The final straw was the strong wind coupled with the wind direction. They have definitely seen better days!

Broken window shutters
Broken window shutter

I will be able to salvage the hardware, however the wood is fit only for burning, once it has been allowed to dry out.

They protect the ground floor bathroom in building I purchased last year, so I decided I had better have a look inside.

Ground floor entrance
Ground floor entrance

I need to do a lot of work on this building, and had only seen inside on a dark day in winter. Like the rest of the purchase, it is just as it was left, some 40 years ago.

With bright sunshine flooding in, together with open windows, it can be made into something really nice.

Inside the bathroom
Inside the bathroom

There is little which is worth salvaging, save except the top of an old wooden table, whose dimensions match those of the shutters that have broken.

For now I have closed the window, but have not started to make a new set of shutters.

Little worth salvaging in the Konoba
Little worth salvaging in the Konoba

Failing to plan

There is an old saying that “Failing to plan, is planning to fail“. I think that this basic premise is correct and I do my best to plan exhaustively.

In one area though, I seem to have failed.

This week I have been getting ready to tile the floor of the Konoba. I realised that in the room next door, which I purchased at the end of last year, I had made no provision to extend the central heating into the room.

In my defence, when I was installing the central heating infrastructure into the Konoba, my next door neighbour did not want to sell. So I didn’t see any point, or even consider the possible future need to extend the heating circuits.

Fortunately very close to the internal dividing wall, I have 15mm hot and cold water copper feed pipes.

It will be a simple matter of a “T” piece and some pipe to extend the circuit. My heating system has sufficient additional capacity to allow for an extension.

However – isn’t there always a caveat?! – There needs to be a path through the old stone party wall.

I used various diameter and length masonry drills, plus my large hammer drill to create a path for the hot pipe through the 70cm of wall.

Making a path for the cold was less successful. On the Konoba side, I made the hole quite cleanly. However on the other side there is a piece of stone which I have struggled to drill.

The bits keep getting stuck and progress has been disappointingly slow.

Because I want to make progress on the Konoba side, and it will be some time before I am ready to make the connections, I decided not to waste a lot of time on finishing this hole.

I think that one issue may be that I have worn my long wall drills down, because of all the holes I have already made through the walls of my home.

I need to see if I can get some replacements. But if the worst comes to the worst, I will just break and remove the 20cm of stone on the other side to force the path through.

Because the pipes should be insulated when going through a wall, breaking the stone and making a bigger hole may in fact be the answer anyway…

Across to Split

I needed to go over to Split this week, so went across on the 05:30 ferry on Wednesday.

My car was due for a service and following some dismal experiences with car mechanics on the island, I have always taken it to the main Škoda dealership.

As well as the car, I had a new pair of glasses to collect and some shopping to do.

Most prices on the mainland are cheaper than the island and some things you cannot get.

I usually call at the Pet Centar store. They have bulk bags of the dry food my felines like, so I came back with 15 kg sacks of Whiskas and Felix.

Bulk buying cat food
Bulk buying cat food

The biggest ad I can buy on the island is 1.5 kg, which they go through in a week! So being able to buy in bulk is a saving.

Whilst in Split I called at the Bauhaus DiY warehouse. I was looking for a spray bottle for misting plants, amongst other things (they were out of stock).

What I did see in the gardening section were packs of 75 mixed onion sets. I use a lot of onions in cooking, so came back with some.

Mixed onion sets
Mixed onion sets

This did remind me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip by Bill Watterson. His cartoon do always make me laugh…

Peeling onions
Peeling onions

Ready, steady, tile…

Finally the Italian company who manufactured my new floor tiles replied this week to my emails, about the box instructions that there should be a gap of 4mm between tiles.

The reason is that the 4 mm of grout between tiles is included in the calculation of the area that the box of tiles will cover.

They suggest that 3 mm or 4 mm spacers would be appropriate, so with that knowledge and an ample supply of 3mm spacing clips, I have started tiling.

I have tiled small areas before, but never a 40 m² room, so this is a new one for me.

After marking a chalk line from a corner to the opposite wall, I laid out 11 tiles, with spacers, just to make sure my calculation of 11 full tiles between walls was correct. It was.

Laying out a test run of tiles
Laying out a test run of tiles

I also used a tiling laser to make sure that the lines were completely straight, and they were.

New technology - a tiling laser
New technology – a tiling laser

Once I was happy that I had my measurement correct, I mixed a small batch of tile adhesive so I could fix two reference tiles. These became the benchmark for the rest of the floor.

These two will be used to make sure every other tile is level and straight, so I took time and effort to get them perfectly level in all planes.

After leaving them overnight, I moved on to laying a full row of 11 tiles completely across the room.

First row of tiles
First row of tiles

Once again, I was in no hurry to lay the tiles, preferring instead to make sure that they were perfectly symmetrical.

In this way, as I spread out from this line, all the other tiles will follow suit.

This first complete row were left overnight to allow the tile adhesive to properly dry.

The following day I started adding more rows. As at Saturday lunch time, I have laid four square metres.

Adding more row of tiles
Adding more row of tiles

So it has been a little bit of a slow start to the project. However because tiled floors are something you live with for ever, I am taking time to get everything right.

A planting we will go

One of my favourite plant suppliers is a company called Drijen, who are based in Lučko, in the north of the country.

The company has an extensive on-line catalogue of seeds, plants, shrubs and trees. They often have tropical plants which are suitable for the Mediterranean climate, as well as native Mediterranean stock.

Browsing the catalogue on Tuesday, I saw that they had Passion Fruit, Passiflora edulis available.

Passion flowers like the conditions around my home and self seed everywhere, so I decided to buy a couple.

Most Passion Flowers produce edible fruit, but they are often small and fairly bland tasting.

These plants produce the Passion Fruit which are used to make juice or are eaten as a dessert.

Passion fruit
Passion fruit

I also ordered some Yacon to try. These are a little bit like a perennial Sweet Potato

Yacon are a South American relative of the sunflower and grow in the Andes. I also noticed that Drijen had some new Hibiscus varieties too.

I bought a half dead Hibiscus some years ago, which was on offer in the supermarket.

It lasted a couple of years and even flowered, but never really survived being left without water while it was on sale.

The variety I ordered is a Hibisus syriacus, from Asia.

Hibiscus syriacus "Lava"
Hibiscus syriacus “Lava”

Everything was delivered on Thursday morning. There are good companies here, which provide excellent customer service. Sadly there are not enough of them though.

Everything was planted on Friday, just in time for some light rain on Saturday morning.

I am not wishing the spring away, however I am looking forward to summer. NCG