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Clothespegs and broomsticks

This week: Trapezoidal maniac; Clothespegs and broomsticks; The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men; Springing into life; Broken Vortex;

Winter rainbow
Winter double rainbow

It feels a little cool this Saturday morning. The outside temperature is just +8ºC, so while the batteries charge on my chain saw, I have retreated inside to get ahead with the blog.

The wood stove is simmering away in the corner, but with cold weather forecast for the next week, I want to have a good supply of logs cut and ready to put onto the fire.

I’ve been dodging raindrops all this past week. Starting with rain on Sunday, we have had rain every day. The forecast was about right, all the way through!

Week 1 forecast
Week 1 forecast

Despite the difficulties, I have managed to build the cover over the first floor walkway that connects my buildings together.

It has taken an aggregate of eight half days to complete, with one trip to get more wood, screws and plastic sheeting. I calculate the cost of materials to be €40, so it has not been especially expensive.

In total I have used 88 linier meters of 5 x 3 cm Kantanela timber for the frame and seven meters of thick, 150 micron polythene sheeting


Trapezoidal maniac

Building the roof has taken quite a lot of work because of the trapezoidal shape of the bridge that I am covering.

Only my new workshop has square corners and vertical walls. Every other building I own has unequal angles and have walls which are anything but square and vertical.

So I started with constructing the two centre longitudinal roof supports, which are as close to parallel as I can get them.

The first task was to strengthen the wall supports to hold the roof frame (what happens when we get 10cm of wet snow?). I then constructed a frame to support the longitudinal timber, without making holes in the roof beams that hold up the patio roof.

The basic frame
The basic frame

I also had to add a fall into the roof, in the hope than rainfall will run off to the gutter.

With this as the starting base, I then built a frame around them, extending to the width of the walkway. Next I constructed a frame for the open west facing wall, followed by a smaller frame for the east wall.

West facing frame
West facing frame

The whole construction has been complicated because there is a grape vine which runs around the top of the frame.

All of this construction has been accomplished between the frequent rain showers and longer periods of rain. Neither the felines, nor I enjoy getting wet any more!

There was enough room under the new roof to fabricate the east side wall and then to simply lift it into place.

Pencil thieves at work
Pencil thieves at work

I have kept a note of the materials I have used. The bill of quantities runs to twenty two 4 metre lengths of 5 x 3 cm wooden battens (88 linier metres), 150 of 4.5 x 60 screws and some other smaller hardware items which came from my supplies cabinet.


Clothespegs and Broomsticks

Who remembers Bedknobs and Broomsticks? Well just sometimes a book of spells would be useful!

With the frame construction out of the way, my thoughts turned to how to mount the plastic sheeting.

This is a temporary construction, until I can get the building approval/planning permission to physically join the buildings together, but don’t ask me to put a timescale on “temporary”.

So rather than spend a lot of money on polycarbonate sheeting, I decided to use heavy gauge polythene sheeting.

The unknown quantity is how it will stand up to the fierce summer sun and all the UV we get here.

UV light destroys most plastics but the builders merchant couldn’t tell me if the polythene sheeting they had was UV resistant to some or any degree.

So only time will tell. But if I need to replace a sheet, it is not too expensive when compared to the amount of polycarbonate I would need to cover the frame.

The difficulty has been in tensioning the sheet before fixing it in place with the wooden battens.

I found it relatively easy to unfold the polythene and then using a long broom handle as the core, to roll it into a tight roll. This made applying the polythene onto the roof and getting it straight quite easy.

I used clothespegs when I was cutting the large sheets to the right size, rolling as I went, to hold the rolled portion in check.

Cutting plastic to size
Cutting plastic to size

Then I used them again up on the roofing frame.

Clothespeg in use
Clothespeg in use

I also took the opportunity to mark the cut-outs for the guttering while the roll was flat on the table.

Guttering mask
Guttering mask

With the additional volume of rainwater going into the guttering, I changed the water’s direction of flow with a new pipe. This is so I can harvest the rain and it will now run into and irrigate the Top Orchard

New fall pipe
New fall pipe

Once I was up on the roof, I could unroll a section and then lock the roll with clothespegs. This meant that the whole roll didn’t unravel.

Unrolling on the roof
Unrolling on the roof

With one securing batten in place, I then tensioned the sheet as much as I could and held it in place with screw clamps. Moving slowly I progressively secured more of the wooden battens on top. The plastic sheet is held in place sandwiched between the frame and the securing battens.

There is still some give in the plastic though. Bearing in mind that the area I have covered is over nine square meters, every millimetre of rain which falls on a square meter equals one litter.

One litter of water weighs one kilogramme (I do like the metric system of weights and measures!), so 10mm of rain means 10 kg per square meter.

Pooling water
Pooling water

I built a fall into the roof, so rain water will run off. However, because of the ‘give’ in the polythene, some water will always pool in between the wooden supports, because I simply can’t get the plastic tight enough.


The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley

According to Robert Burns “To a mouse” poem, the plans of both mice and men usually fail. And whilst the poem mentions plans going awry it is really just about human culpability.

After working all day on Wednesday, on a nice dry piece of concrete under the newly covered area, including during some heavy showers, I was beginning to appreciate the added benefits that the cover will bring.

I hadn’t actually thought of a covered, relatively weatherproof workspace, but that is what I have gained.

At bed time on Wednesday, with a thunderstorm in progress, I was able to move between the buildings, keeping dry. I could have been wearing bedroom slippers without getting wet (I wasn’t!).

So on Thursday morning, I was more than a little surprised to find that the concrete was completely soaked again.

There was considerably more water on the surface than could be accounted for just by condensation. At this time of year and with high humidity, it forms on the inner surface of the polythene sheet.

Then I noticed that the previous night’s rain had pooled on the plastic between the support bars. But in a number of places, there were numerous drips. These were where there were small punctures in the new plastic surface.

Drips in progress
Drips in progress

This was plastic sheet was from a brand new, unopened roll at Volat, and there certainly were no drips the previous day. So whatever had happened, had happened recently.

It was at that point that I became aware of shadows moving across the support structure above me. Ujko Gizmo and one of the kittens!

A close inspection showed that the punctures were in groups of four. Then I watched as Gizmo swatted something in the water pooling above me.

Gizmo swatting
Gizmo swatting

My plans for the roof structure covered in the polythene sheet had not taken into account that my domestic felines, like climbing, like the roof and unlike most of their domestic brethren, do not mind getting their feet wet.

Pools of water are just something else to play in and explore, with claws extended “just in case”.

I now need to find a way of patching up the holes. Once we have a few dry days that is!

Robert Burns clearly didn’t have felines to contend with when he penned his verses in 1785.


Springing into life

I was delighted to see this week that I have a group of Crocus in flower.

This is in the bed beside the Top Orchard path.

Crocus flowers

These are a variety I planted last year and they seem to have taken to their new home.

Another winter plant that I always like to see is the Winter Flowering Jasmin, Jasminum nudiflorum.

Winter flowering Jasmin
Winter flowering Jasmin

The plant is still small and is one I have grown from a cutting.

It is in a sheltered spot, but the area also gets very dry during the summer. So I have to keep it well irrigated.

The brilliant yellow trumpet flowers make their appearance on completely bare stems and are always a herald of the approaching spring.


A broken Vortex

The Polar Vortex has split again this week. Every northern winter a low pressure air system develops over the North Pole, called the Polar Vortex.

This air mass rotates anti-clockwise and can be weak or strong and it also moves around, shifting its centre. When it moves, weather on the ground changes.

The vortex can also break into two and this happened earlier this week. In the animation below, the Mediterranean is at 4 o’clock in the image, the UK at 5 o’clock and North America at 8 o’clock.

The vortex nudges the jet stream, that large scale eastwards moving pattern of air, off course and in so doing, the jet stream sends masses of cold air spilling further south than normal.

The European Severe Weather Centre forecast for January and Early February indicates that it is going to be colder than normal across much of Europe and North America because of this split.

Looking at the data from my weather station, the winter so far has been warmer than the average, but not by a huge amount.

Winter 2021 temps
Winter 2021 temps

We are also above the average precipitation for winter too. However much of the amount has been received in the past two weeks.

Winter 2021 Precip
Winter 2021 Precipitation

The good thing is that with lengthening days, and the sun higher in the sky – when we can see it that is – we are in the start of the warming phase.

It just depends how much cold air is dragged in by the shifting high level weather systems and how far south it comes as to how cold it gets in Dol.

I’d better crack on with cutting more wood! NCG


2 Responses

  1. Marcy Fletchall
    | Reply

    Hi. This was so interesting and your felines are always entertaining. Thank you.

  2. Tony Griggs
    | Reply

    After 140mm of rain last Sunday we are finally experiencing summer here in Flinders Island Norman! Catching Lobsters and enjoying being out on the water 😊. 27 forecast for today. Because we are surrounded by ocean, the temperature rarely gets above 30.

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