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But not here!

This week: That yellow flower; The hottest week ever recorded on Earth – But not here!; Another snake on the terrace; Winners and losers;

Summer sun on the Maquis
Summer sun on the Maquis

Today is the sunnyiest day of the year. No, really it is, at exactly 11:00 UTC, the time when I am writing this, 99% of the population of the world will be in sunlight.

You may think that this is an exaggeration, however it is scientifically correct.

At 11:00 UTC, the sun is setting over central Australia and east Asia, while it is rising over the Midwest of the USA and most of South America.

The majority of the world’s 8 billion population live around or above the equator, so after just two weeks beyond the June solstice, most of the populated world can be illuminated by sunlight.

Most maps are distorted, often using the Mercator Projection, so we see the round world as flat. Few people realise that almost half the world, the Pacific, is without large land masses.

The Pacific from space, if there was no cloud
The Pacific from space, if there was no cloud

So when the sun is above the centre of the other half, the statement actually makes sense and is scientifically accurate.

I have spent time this week removing weeds for the third time, from an area where I want to plant some winter vegetables. I just hope I can keep the weeds under control long enough to get my young plants into the soil.

Weeding completed

I just wish I was able to keep everywhere as clean and clear of weeds as I can with this small patch in the orchard.

That yellow flower

Last week I included some photographs of a new flower I had discovered on one of the paths near my home.

Unknown wild flower
Unknown yellow wild flower

It wasn’t long before I heard, via a friend, from Professor Toni Nikolić from the University of Zagreb.

The plant is known as Kingspear, Asphodeline lutea, and locally as pečak, zlatna glavica (golden little head), žuta zlatoglavica (yellow golden little head).

I went back this afternoon but was disappointed that someone else has been down the path.

Last week, no one else had walked the path. This week the grasses have been trodden flat.

None of the flowers from last week were still there, so no seeds have set, although the diminutive leaves and stems were still present.

Hunting around, I found just a single flower, which I have now tucked back into foliage, so it isn’t so obvious to anyone on the path.

One remaining Kingspear flower
One remaining Kingspear flower

I don’t think their disappearance is as a result of my blog, because I remove location EXIF data from photographs, and the path is little used.

Rather I think it is just chance that someone has been down the path, perhaps with a dog and fragile flowers have been knocked off their stems.

I will keep my eye on this patch and see if any seed sets.

My thanks to all concerned for the identification.

The hottest week ever recorded on Earth – But not here!

Regular readers know I have had an automatic weather station in operation since I moved here. It does give me an accurate picture of what is happening around my home.

However living on the sloping wall of a natural amphitheatre, with a north facing opening onto the Stari Grad plain, means that there are significant differences between my station and the next nearest.

There are two others close by, one in Stari Grad and the other in Vrboska. Both are 5 km laterally, in opposite directions and 100 metres vertically lower.

Wind is redirected by the hills behind my home and this being a thermal belt, with trees all around, it is warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

I chanced on a photo I took this week last year in the Top Orchard. It was in blog 2225.

The top Orchard in 2022
The top Orchard in 2022

The orchard is parched with little greenery, the soil as dry as dust and everything is wilting.

This week we have had some very welcome rain, a total of 25.9 mm. However all this spring and summer has been wet and I am only occasionally using my irrigation system.

OK, not quite the exact same view, because I have planted my Pistachio and Pecan nut trees in the foreground, but close.

Top orchard in 2023
Top orchard in 2023

But you get the idea. I have cut back the weeds three times, and still they are growing. I was out early this morning removing the heads of weeds so they do not set seed.

Much has been written in the news this week about the week being the hottest ever recorded on the planet.

But while the Antarctic (winter there now) is a massive 20ºC degrees above the average, here in Dol we are 3.5ºC below the average.

First week of July temperatures
First week of July temperatures

Climate change and the climate breakdown we are experiencing is extremely unequal, affecting different places and peoples in many different ways.

Another snake on the terrace

I know there are snakes about here. I have occasionally seen them in the orchards sunning themselves, or slithering away in the olive groves.

I’ve found a couple of complete skins that have been shed, and even some skeletal remains.

Skelitalised snake
Skelitalised snake

There are three native venomous snakes (to humans), all easily identifiable by their dark diamond markings. Altogether there are fifteen snake species endemic to the country, but not all are found on the island.

They are all absolutely protected. This doesn’t stop locals killing the Horned Viper, the only really dangerous snake though.

At tea time on Thursday, I chanced to see my youngest feline Živa (which means quicksilver) playing with a snake on the terrace.

I called her Živa because of her colour and the speed with which she moves!

Look what I've found!
Look what I’ve found!

She is a hunter, but apart from rats, nothing is killed. I’m not happy with the way that cats all play with prey, but that is the nature of the animal.

I recognised the snake straight away as a mature Balkan Whip Snake, Hierophis gemonensis, about 50cm long.

It is easy to identify because of the change in marking towards the tail, from mottled to completely plain.

Balkan Whip Snake
Balkan Whip Snake

These snakes have rear facing fangs in their throat, so unless you put your fingers in their mouth, you are unlikely to be bitten.

I picked the snake up and took it to an area of the orchard where there is plenty of cover, lots of food and rock walls. It quickly slithered away out of sight.

If you have never felt a snake, they are smooth, dry, slippery but not in the least bit slimy.

Snakes are a gardener’s friend, also hunting for rats and mice, and eating insects which devour our plants and trees. So with a place in the ecological order, I am happy to see them alive and free.

Orchard snake
Balkan Whip Snake in the Top Orchard

Winners and losers

There was torrential rain on Tuesday morning around breakfast time.

I recorded an hourly rate of more than 56 mm per hour. However the rain only lasted around ten minutes, so the total amount was just 9 mm.

But what the regular rainfall over the past two months has done, is to allow some plants to really thrive. In a normal summer, they survive, with my intervention, rather than thrive.

I have three different Buddleja and all of them are covered with flowers, clearly filled with nectar because they are also covered with butterflies.

Buddleja weyeriana "Honeycomb"
Buddleja weyeriana “Honeycomb”
Buddleja weyeriana "Honeycomb"
Buddleja weyeriana “Honeycomb”

In previous years they have flowered, kept alive by irrigation, but without many butterflies.

Buddleja davidii
Buddleja davidii
White Buddleja
White Buddleja

Perhaps the dry climate also affects the amount of nectar in the flowers.

Another winner is my Persimmon, which is covered with swelling fruit. Last year there were just five fruits in total. I have more than that number on every branch.

Persimmon fruits
Persimmon fruits

I have had limited plums, but lots of cherries and the citrus trees have a lot of blossom, so there will be fruits this winter.

So there are winners and losers, which of course included the weeds and grasses! NCG