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Snake in the grass

Bearded iris in full bloom
Bearded iris in full bloom

This week: Bangs in the night; Weeds, weeds, weeds; Snake in the grass; Odd Jobs;


The week started with a bang. Actually lots of bangs, sounding rather like the ‘rat, tat, tat, tat’ of heavy machine gun fire.

I hadn’t seen this storm on the forecast and hadn’t “weather proofed” the workshop. My old Konoba is below ground level and depending upon the wind direction, rain can drive in under the door and down the steps.

Early on Monday morning I was awoken by the rumble of thunder, around 02:30 – I didn’t look at the clock! I have weather radar on my tablet, so had a quick look.

The lightning site Blitzortung showed a medium size storm out to the west and moving east. Just the direction where the rain blows under the door, so I got up and quickly put the storm door across the Konoba entrance. There was already a cool wind and the distant rumble of thunder was clear.

Back in bed I could see there were not a large number of lightning strikes, but the rainfall radar showed dense rainfall. I’d done as much as I needed to, so drifted off back to sleep. Around an hour later I was woken by several loud bangs. This wasn’t thunder but hail hitting the roof tiles and the poly-carbonate sheeting over the greenhouse and entrance porch. Since I’ve been here, I’ve never heard hail this this loud.

My two felines do not much like thunder storms, so I went out to grab Senior Cat Risha, who at this time of year likes to sleep outside on cushions under the patio. I struggled to open the porch door because the of amount of hard hail that had fallen was blocking it. There were some really big chunks, up to 25mm across I guess – I didn’t hang around to measure any.

My young feline Callie appeared and flew through the door in front of me, howling and literally shaking with fright. She is the ‘night owl’ and huntress and had obviously been caught in the open. Meanwhile there were a continuous stream of loud bangs. I realised I could do nothing to save any plants that were out in it, but the size of the hail made me concerned for my Velux roof lights.

Hail in the squares of Stari Grad before dawn - Photo: European Extreme weather
Hail in the main square of Stari Grad before dawn – Photo: European Extreme weather

The hail storm passed fairly quickly and then it was just rain. I went back to bed. What would be, would be…

When I got up on a cold and damp Monday, the hail had melted and a check outside confirmed no structural damage. Just one or two shoots from grape vines and a few leaves had been broken off, but the crop was OK. I thought that my citrus trees, which have just come into blossom would have been badly affected, but just one or two flowers had been knocked off. Some lettuce has a few holes in the leaves, but there was no real damage.

The 100 metre contour runs though my property and with hills to the south and a down slope to the north, I am in a thermal belt. This is where cold descending air, passes from the higher ground to the south, continuing past and down slope to pool on the Stari Grad Plain to the north. It means Dol is often several degrees warmer than the plain 90 meters below and three kilometres away.

The damage on the plain is substantial and even in Stari Grad, there were several centimetres of accumulated hail on the roads at breakfast time.

Hail on the road outside Volat - Photo: European Extreme weather
Hail on the road outside Volat – Photo: European Extreme weather

Because the plain is cooler, the hail was still visible in mid morning.

Stari Grad Agar – Photo: European Extreme weather

Because the hail stones were so large and violent, almost the entire wine crop has been wiped out. One of my neighbours told me this week that 100% of his vine shoots further down the hill had been destroyed.

Some of the early olives trees have been affected, but because most of the trees have yet to come into flower, there is less likely to be a long term effect. The Mayor has declared an agricultural disaster and has asked the federal government for support.

A storm of this intensity, at this stage of the growing season is almost unheard of and towards the eastern end of the Plain, there are fields where not a single shoot remains on the vines.

The vines will recover, growing new leaves, but they will not flower again, so the majority of this year’s crop has been lost.

In the photograph above, Dol is just to the right, out of shot and half way up the hills. Contrast the vines to mine, in this photograph taken on Friday afternoon. This is what all those vines looked like before the storm.

Healthy Vines and very young grapes
Healthy Vines and very young grapes on my Patio after the storm


Weeds, weeds, weeds

I have continued removing weeds from the orchards this week. In the top orchard, cutting down the grass with a strimmer and leaving it in place to rot down. In the citrus orchard, weeding by hand, moving steadily towards the south wall, where the end of weeding is in sight.

What I have decided to do is to leave the “pretty weeds” and just remove the obnoxious ones.

Pretty flowering weeds
Pretty flowering weeds

In the photograph foreground are pink Cranebills, Yellow Lucene, Medicago falcata L, and behind white Roman Pimpernell, Tordylium apulum. I have already removed the grass and a few thistles.

This patch of wild flowers actually looks nice, apart from it being beneficial to insects, so it’s staying. I have cleared round the citrus trees and will keep that area clear but will leave these, just removing any nasties as they appear.


Snake in the grass

As I filled the water bucket from the outside tap near the kitchen window, I looked down and stretched out in the sunshine an arms length away was a Montpellier’s snake, Malpolon monspessulanus.

Montpellier's Snake
Montpellier’s Snake

About 70cm long and shining, so probably freshly moulted, it just stayed completely motionless and appeared unfazed by me being there. I turned the water tap off and retraced my steps, then went to get the camera.

This is a gardeners friend, hunting rodents for food. I have found shed skins before and skeletal remains, even seen an odd snake slither away but never so close. It was almost as if it had no fear. As I came back with the camera, it turned and silently glided into the grass.

There are a couple of venomous species, the horned viper or Poškok being the most venomous. It is feared by locals who come across them in the fields. Local lore has it that it will jump out of vines and attack humans! According to a local herpetologist, they are so frightened of humans, because of persecution, that they will disappear at the first sound or scent of an approaching human. True there are one or two bites a year in the region, but they are far more frightened of us, than we of them.

Snakes have an evolutionary niche, and can grow quite large here on the island, but I will be keeping my eye out for this one. Once they find somewhere to sunbathe, they often return to the same spot.

Next time I fill a water bucket on a sunny morning, I’ll have my camera in hand as well!


Odd jobs

I’ve been in and out of my big Konoba a few times recently. When I built the new doors a couple of years back, I filled the gap at the bottom, where the old stone floor is uneven, with expanding foam.

PU Foam in large and small cans is the go-to material here for all purposes. One problem is that it breaks down very easily in the UV rays in sunlight. We get a lot of that in Dol and it’s usually very strong too.

So the gap at the bottom, filled to keep rodents out broke.

Door gap
Door gap

It didn’t help that I was filling the space between sand and stone. Being in the summer sun all day, the outer surface had broken down into a yellow powder and my size tens broke the connection between the PU and the stone and sand outside.

Gap at the bottom of the door
Gap at the bottom of the door

As rodents are active at this time of year I needed to fill the gap. Some clingfilm on the bottom of the wooden doors stops the PU foam sticking to the wood. Then a wooden batten at the back of the door was fixed in place with parcel tape, to prevent the foam spreading too far inside.

Next I used some new foam as an adhesive to bond the old, unbroken piece back to the stone floor. This was held in place with damp sand. Finally I used my spray can to fill the gap under the door.

Door repair complete
Door repair complete

Spray foam expands by 20 or more times once exposed to the air, then when completely cured, it can be cut. For good measure, I put more sand on the outside. The final job after 48 hours was to run a blade under the door to break any unwanted expansion behind and then remove the battens.

It should be vermin proof until I can get the building work done and this doorway has nice glass patio doors.

It seems as though my planned building work has once more been delayed. The local council have brought forward the summer building ban from the 21st June, to the 1st of May. It is a nice idea to stop work so visitors are not inconvenienced. I well remember in Spain how even in the middle of summer, there were cement mixers, piles of aggregate, pallets of blocks and all the detritus of building, all in the middle of nice promenades.

Tourists just had to walk round or over them. So I have no objection to an ‘intrusive building work’ ban for the summer, but when there are such sudden changes to rules, it takes everyone by surprise and wrecks plans.

I have continued clearing the area which will become my new workshop and this week I attempted to move all the big stones. I gave up. They are just too big to lift, so I continued building the dry stone wall instead.

I have no shortage of jobs to do, but I would really like the space the new building will give me, as I am fed up of tripping over all the materials I have assembled, ready for when the work does actually start. NRC

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