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Busy doing nothing

This week: What a difference; An overdue haircut; Underground services; Building work starts here…; Looking back;

Orchard sunshine
Orchard sunshine

It’s Saturday afternoon again, which means another week has flown past.

I decided a couple of weeks ago that I was fed up of carrying chairs up and down to the terrace to sit on, whenever I needed them, so I ordered a patio storage cupboard from Volat.

One advantage of not having comfy seating readily to hand is that I seldom actually sit down.

My new store arrived this week with a comprehensive set of instructions.

I am used to reading and understanding IKEA style instructions.

I am sure you know the sort, they are infographics with no words, so they work in every language. This is what my storage cupboard came with. Only they were much better than the IKEA variety.

As well as the statutory multi page manual, each of the component parts came with a number attached on an easy-peel label, including the little bags of different screws. With this added information there was no question of which part you needed at any given time.

Once built and installed, I brought all the various bits and pieces of furniture together.

Terrace storage cupboard
Terrace storage cupboard

The cushions for the swing seat; the sun lounger; a pair of folding chairs and my comfy modern deck chair with leg support. Everything fitted inside perfectly.

After all that hard work and effort and with the sun shining, I decided that I should at least test how easy it was to get things out of the cupboard.

At which point I found myself with an ear worm, humming that song from one of the old Walt Disney ‘Poo Bear’ films, Busy doing nothing…..

What a difference a tree makes

It’s one of those strange things in nature, that trees grow taller every year.

When trees are on your land, you have some control over them. When they are on someone else’s land, you do not.

I’m immediately thinking here of the pine trees on the hillside behind my home. In winter this wall of trees effectively blocks the low sun from reaching my solar water heater.

If the sun doesn’t reach the roof, It’s not going to reach anything on the ground.

Mid winter sun
Mid winter sun

Laying the cardboard weed suppressant in the orchard last week, I was aware of how warm the sun was – until it went behind an evergreen Bay tree at the very end of the orchard.

Suddenly is was cool and the wind made me shiver.

I have hunted through my photos but I can’t find a photograph that shows the tree in past years. After all, it is just a Bay tree so I’ve not taken any photos of it. I should have done.

The nearest photograph I can find which includes the Bay tree, is a wide angle shot of the orchard.

I took this during my third winter in Dol, and it shows the tree in the left background.

Top Orchard , 2017
Top Orchard , 2017

On Monday morning I was moving more cardboard into the orchard to slow the growth of weeds.

Talking to my German neighbour Ivan, he told me that he was going to cut down a diseased Walnut tree on his side of the boundary.

Supressing weeds
Supressing weeds

The Walnut tree has had flowers every year, but no fruits have appeared, more’s the pity. I offered to help and Ivan suggested Tuesday morning.

Knowing Tuesday would be wet, I suggested that perhaps we should plan to cut the tree down on Wednesday morning instead.

Half an hour later as I brought more cardboard down to the orchard, I heard the unmistakable sound of a chain saw.

Ivan was cutting the tree down with a new battery operated reach saw. So I stopped what I was doing to help.

When we cut the trunk of the Walnut, the black stain of disease was clear to see in the centre and the stain extended right up into the upper branches.

This was an eight metre or more tree, so it took a while to bring it down in stages, and then to cut the limbs up for winter firewood.

Even though the Walnut was only just coming into leaf, its removal has made a significant difference to the amount of light coming into both of our orchards.

An overdue haircut

I have thought several times about taking the top off the Bay tree, and there was a tree of a similar size in Ivan’s orchard.

It completely overshadowed a Quince tree in the orchard corner, against the wall.

It didn’t take long to to give Ivan’s tree a haircut, reducing its height by a third to a half.

Haircut time
Haircut time

One of my first jobs was to clear the overgrown hedges that surrounded the orchard. This is after my first efforts in early 2015.

The tree with the grey bark at centre left in this photograph, is the Walnut which we cut down on Monday.

Orchard's end
Orchard’s end

After lunch it was time to give my Bay tree a haircut as well.

Bay’s are evergreen, with leathery green leaves and they grow as multi trunked trees. Because of the density of the branches and leaves, they make effective wind breaks.

So I didn’t want to cut it down at the base, rather just bring it down to a manageable size. My intention was to reduce it’s height by one third, taking three metres off the top.

I used the long reach ladder and then the extension cutter to cut the top down, but to still leave a thick, wind resistant lower part. This will provide protection to the orchard but without restricting sunlight.

Preparing for the cut
Preparing for the cut

Nothing will go to waste though. I will leave all the cut branches to dry for a fortnight or so, and then put them through the shredding machine to make compost.

The thicker limbs, which are approaching five centimetres in diameter will be dried for burning on the wood stove for next winter. The rest will be reduced to mulch.

As the rain front approached on Monday afternoon, the difference was striking, even though the sky was darkening by the minute.

However it was not until the sun shone again on Wednesday that I really saw the difference. Just giving this tree a haircut, had made a huge difference to the amount of light reaching the orchard.

Haircut over
Haircut over

Underground services

I’m a planner.

Whether it is for my work during the week ahead, except of course when I’m busy doing nothing, or when planning what to have for lunch, it all requires some advance thought.

The same applies to the orchards. Why make things difficult, when you can make them easy?

So as I was planning the flowering border which will run completely around the Top Orchard, I began by installing underground irrigation.

This week, as I have been working on cutting trees and laying more cardboard weed suppressant, I’ve also extended the underground system. I am determined to have the orchard looking nice by the summer.

There are actually two separate irrigation systems, to cater for the differing needs of plants, shrubs and trees.

Under the soon-to-be completed Poly Tunnel, there is a system designed to irrigate seasonal plants. This is where I grow things like salad crops, peppers and tomatoes.

But for trees and shrubs which need to extend their roots deep into the soil to find moisture, the system is 30cm deep and is a leaky feeder pipe.

Leaky feeder pipe
Leaky feeder pipe

This is one of those pipes which when active, allows water to seep out all along its length, rather than just at the point where a plant need watering.

Whilst I had part of the pipe uncovered to add another element to the underground circuit, I also added a microbore feeder, so at any time in the future, should I need to, I can also easily add a dripper or a spray to the system.

With added microbore
With added microbore

The pipe system is mapped and having laid the underground services in place, I can now start covering them with top soil.

Once this is complete I can then begin planting some of the nice shrubs that I have been growing on in pots over the winter.

Building work starts here on …..

Now I can see the walls of the Konoba, I contacted a local contractor who specialises in cleaning old stone with a sand blaster machine. He replied quickly to my email asking for photographs of the walls, which I supplied.

Since which time there has been complete silence….. About par for the course here.

So during the week I had a chat with my friend Cvjetko, a master mason, to ask his advice. He called round on Friday and offered several suggestions about a way forward.

Then late on Friday he phoned. This was to tell me that a colleague in Vrbanj, the next village to Dol, had been delayed with a big project that was due to start next week.

This builder would be interested in quoting for my job, because he has several men who would otherwise be unemployed.

I’m waiting for them to come round to look at the Konoba as I write this.

As I uncovered the Konoba floor, it was quite damp. I already knew the floor was a mixture of concrete and very old stone flags, laid directly onto the underlying sandstone.

All the floor needs to be lifted, then levelled before concrete, DPM, insulation and the final screed is added.

After the floor has been replaced, two supporting walls must be built to support the ceiling beams before they are cut. This will create an opening for stairs.

Once the stairs have been built, it will mean that there is inside access to the Konoba.

You can soon say that, but there is I think, two to three weeks work. Once this renovation has been completed, I will be another step closer to having my buildings all joined up.

I have printed off the architects drawings and I am just waiting now to see how much it will cost and when they are going to start.

That may of course be on Monday, or any other day next week, but will probably be quite soon, or it may not be.

OK, is that timetable clear? Good!

Work starts here
Work starts here

Being a cash economy and society, often quite literally, there is neither the advance planning nor organisation that you would find in other countries. However this immediacy is typically Mediterranean and is part of the charm of living here.

So next week I may be able to tell you about all the progress that has been made. Or not, as the case may be. NCG

Delays expected soon

Looking back – Week 11

This is the start of a new weekly section, with links to past issues of the blog.

2015/15 One more step = One less step

Linden trees in leaf

2016/15 The view from the donkey track

Dol in the spring
Dol in the spring

2017/15 I’ve got Pygmies in the orchard

Split harbour
Split harbour

2018/15 Gardening according to the weather forecast

Blossom on the trees - Stari Grad
Blossom on the trees – Stari Grad

2019/15 Be careful what you wish for!

Empty roads
Empty roads – Evening sunshine

2020/15 Honesty

Kerria Japonoica
Kerria Japonoica – Japanese Marigold

2 Responses

  1. Michael

    clearly you have yet to discover the joys of the Henchman ladder, which allows you to go to all sorts of heights in total safety, including on side-slopes. I’ve found it utterly invaluable around the garden.
    By the way, I’m still awaiting an overall plan of your empire.
    Best wishes

  2. Marcy Fletchall

    Another educational and wonderful blog. I particularly like your progress and the lovely memory in “inshallah” 😂
    Thales care and thank you again. Marcy