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Brain aerobics

This week: Stevenson’s screen; Brain aerobics; Workshop shelving – Part 2; COVID-19; Autumn is almost here;

Autumnal colours
Autumnal colours

We’re on the uphill run again.

It’s that time of year when I begin to notice the changes in the colours of leaves which are the herald of autumn. Every year autumn is always followed inexorably by winter.

Given that because of our generally mild winters, the first evidence of spring appears in the first days of January, we are a couple of months ahead of northern temperate zones.

The days are still hot, the sea is warm but the overnight temperatures are now a pleasant 18º to 22ºC. The evenings are pleasant but it is especially nice to work in the mornings.

We have lost more than an hour of sunshine in the morning, with the sun rising over the eastern hills around 07:50. It is now parallel to my main building so I no longer get early sun in the north facing windows, which in June sees the sun appear at 05:45.

The same is true of the evenings, where the sun now disapears below the hills to the west around 19:45 rather than the mid summer maximum of 20:30. All these subtle cues are picked up by all living things, which are now starting to prepare for their dormant season.

The sun going
The sun going, going, gone

Stevenson’s screen

What’s in your deep freeze? Are you one of those people who have a freezer log and meticulously record what goes in, when and where abouts it can be found?

Maybe when the house and orchards are all finished, I’ll start one, using a computer though rather than pen and paper.

In the meantime, when I see a BOGOF at Tommy or Konzum, one (or sometimes both) will go straight in the freezer. They generally get put on the top, but I have a reasonable idea of what is where. Mine is only a small chest freezer though.

What I did remove this week was the electrical circuit boards for my weather station rain gauge.

Freezer contents
Freezer contents

When the rain gauge device failed, I had presumed it was heat related. Although I tested the circuits as far as my testing equipment allows, it still didn’t work.

Rain gauge insides
Rain gauge insides

So just in case it was something that cooler temperatures would solve, I popped the unit – minus the batteries – in the freezer and left it overnight.

When I took it out and replaced the batteries, the device still didn’t link straight away with the WiFi system. Then within a couple of minutes it had registered.

I have to accept that there is fault caused by solar heating but even though for the time being it is working. I’ve started looking a for a replacement system.

The search for and analysis of available systems is another story in itself.

What I do need to do is to actually construct a Stevenson Screen to house the new equipment, once it arrives. With the rain gauge back in operation, I have bought myself a little time.

Weather stations are divided up into different classes. Class 1 is the highest and most sophisticated.

These are the government meteorological service stations, like the one we had at Leconfield . They cost hundreds of thousands of your local currency and do an exceedingly good job, 24/7.

Leconfield Met station
Leconfield Met station

Level 2 stations are professional stations, but generally managed by hobby meteorologists. These can also cost as much as you want to pay.

They will have a Stevenson Screen, designed in the mid 19th century by Thomas Stevenson, Scottish civil engineer, designer of Lighthouses (like the one at Muckle Flugga) and a meteorologist, .

Muckle Fluga lighthouse
Muckle Fluga lighthouse Photo: Wikipedia

A Stevenson Screen protects meteorological instruments from direct weather, radiated heat and precipitation. But whilst affording protection against the elements, the screen also allows air to circulate around the instruments inside.

Stevenson Screens should be built to the international WMO standards. This is so that inside there is a standardised environment where weather readings can be taken and compared with stations across the world.

Class three stations are like my current system. They supply data to weather networks, but the location of the measuring instruments does not meet international standards.

Brain aerobics

In the citrus orchard, I installed a concrete base for a screen three years ago, building the four uprights and the double floor and roof, but I have never actually installed it.

I did use a single upright for measuring the orchard temperature, humidity and dewpoint, and also the soil temperature at 5 cm deep.

Two sensor post
Two sensor post

This has been one of those “nice to have” projects, but not on my list of priorities. I think it may have once been on the list, but just fell off the bottom and never climbed back up!

One of the issues was the construction of the double louvre screen walls. I had thought about routing the upright posts and installing the louvres directly into them, but I decided that a) it would be difficult to construct and install the louvres and
b) I need an insect screen between them.

I hesitate to say I have a “problem” with insects. They are an integral part of the biome of my home.

However I need to keep them out of the screen and the sensitive instruments that it will contain. If there is no barrier, the screen would soon be filled with spiders and every other creepy-crawly that looks for a summer, or winter resting place.

This week, on a hot morning, while my brain aerobics were being fuelled by my morning cup of coffee, I decided to sketch some ideas for constructing the louvres.

Louvre sketch
Louvre sketch

What I have come up with is a way to create a louvre screen that will fit inside the uprights, is easy to construct and install and can be removed for maintenance.

So that’s it, job done. With one small caveat…. I now need to construct the screen.

The advantage is that I now have a nice workshop environment where it can be done. I also feel better for my daily brain aerobics class.

Brain aerobics class
Brain aerobics class

Workshop shelving – Part 2

Last week I reported that I have constructed my shelving in the workshop. This week I have been moving “things” from different storage areas, so I have everything I need, all in one place.

I brought in my tins of paint, glues, adhesives and solvents. All the paint brushes went into a Samla box, appropriately marked, “paint brushes”. Having labels helps no end!

Next were the motorcycle parts.

Full Dexian
Full Dexian

Things like motorcycle fuel tanks take up quite a bit of space.

It didn’t take me very long to realise that I actually need to install the two Dexian shelves I have left over. I had thought that I had enough space, but I now realise that I need a bit more.

With no more uprights, I need to source some, but that will mean a trip to Bauhaus on the mainland. There is nothing available here on the island.

In the meantime I have most things now in one place. Every time I move a box from a store and empty the contents onto a shelf in the workshop, it frees up some space.


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge across Europe, borders with Croatia are being closed to travellers.

The country has been added to the “red” list of unsafe places by several countries. While the UK and Germany has made everyone returning from Croatia subject to the 14 days quarantine rule.

Slovenia and Austria have closed their borders again to people trying to cross from Croatia. This is in an attempt to stop their citizens bringing the virus back with them after a holiday here.

The infection rate now is over 43/100,000 population. Worryingly, the county with the highest infection rate is where I am, in Split-Dalmatia. The so called “R” number of reinfections is not published by the government.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases per day

Almost everywhere, I see face masks are being worn in shops and enclosed spaces. However there has been a problem with night clubs and bars. These are places where social distancing is impossible and no one was wearing masks.

The government has now closed them again.

Recent figures suggest that there is between 70% and 80% of the normal August level of tourists here. But as I have observed before from the vehicle number plates, there are none of the northern Europeans here. It is mainly vehicles from the Balkans with just a few from Austria and Germany.

I still think that come September, when the traditional summer holiday makers depart and schools go back, we will see a return to some form of lockdown to control the number of infections.

Autumn is here

Although the days are still hot – it is still over 32ºC as I write this at 16:00 – subtle changes in leaf colours are starting to take place around the orchards.

Temperature graph
Temperature graph

I have some Blueberry plants in large clay pots. This week their leaves have started to take on the colours of fire.

Autumn Blueberry Bush leaves
Autumn Blueberry Bush leaves

Blueberries need ericaceous soil conditions to grow in which are completely absent on my land. So by growing them in pots, I can control their growing conditions and can even enjoy some fruits.

The leaves on my grape vines are also starting to turn to yellow and gold. As they dry in the warm sun, one or two are dropping. Each a sign that the plant is preparing to shut down until next spring.

Autumn vine leaves
Autumn vine leaves

I have been growing an orange flowered Buddleja, Buddleja madagascariensis. This is a sub-tropical species which originates in Madagascar. It has its first flowers this week.

Orange Buddlea
Orange Buddlea

I want to plant it in a permanent location this autumn.

Also in flower at the moment are these pretty Nerines.

Nerine flowers
Nerine flowers

So as the year moves on and the season advances past summer to early autumn, my thoughts are turning to preparing for the coming winter. NRC

4 Responses

  1. John Bailey

    The weeks seem to pass very quickly Norman. Autumn is fast approaching. The increase in Covid 19 figures is worrying. The North West and Birmingham area are seeing a spike in infections and have had a tightening of restrictions but not total lockdown. Once again enjoyed reading your blog. Keep safe. John.

  2. Tony Griggs

    Good blog Norman. Early signs of spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. We are experiencing a (back to normal) cold & wet end to winter here though.

    You seem to have accumulated a lot of wonderful items through yr career.

    Seems like you are in a good spot to handle Covid. It’s an economic train smash to many countries locking down their economies. Suicides, drug & alcohol abuse, obesity & diabetes to name a few will eventually take out multiple times Covid victims!

    Anyhow, enjoy the last days of summer. I eat blueberries daily to keep up my natural antioxidant levels.



  3. Marcy

    Hi. It is still a horrible summer here. Temps are in the upper 90s to 100s, and rain is far and few between. It clouds but nothing happens. Due to COVID I had to close my HR business and sell my home, so I’ve been living and traveling in my 25′ travel trailer. I’m pretty done so I went to New Mexico where it is less expensive and bought a small house. I have to get to REAL a/c.
    Love the blog, pics and your projects. I will say I thought I had a lot of tools and stuff…you put me in the shade! COVID is as awful as the politics are here. I haven’t seen my grandkids in months and now school is starting. It’s a whole new ballgame. I wear my mask, social distance, and basically stay to myself. It’s because so many don’t wear masks. Take care of yourself, stay safe and hope the kitties are ok. Marcy

  4. Andy Robinson

    Have you not learnt by now Norman that the more space you have the quicker you fill it?….. You’ll never have enough room for your treasures… You need to downsize, and anyway you are always so busy that you’ve no time to enjoy your bikes. By the time you’ve finished all your projects you’ll be too old to ride them!…. Keep safe matey…