This week: Indian summer; Planting bulbs; I’m struggling; Different expectations;
On Sunday, another beautiful warm and sunny autumn day, I was fixing one of the wooden roof supports for the poly tunnel.
After gluing and screwing the joint in the timber, I clamped it tightly, until the glue had set. The weight of the two clamps made the steel hoop and timber sag slightly.
Not surprising because the cast metal clamps weigh around 2 kilograms each. However it got me thinking.
Earlier in the day I had been in correspondence with a reader in a cold area of the United States, where snow is expected imminently.
My first thought was that it is a good job that we do not get snow in this part of the world. Except once in a hundred years we do.
My second thought was about the village school records from 150 years ago, which over a number of years record when the school was closed because thick snow was blocking the tracks and paths, to such a depth that kids couldn’t get up the hill.
The third thought was that although at the moment we are suffering from extremes of heat and a dearth of precipitation, the weather is dynamic and it could change.
Perhaps I should fabricate a couple of supports for the centre of my 10 metre long structure, just in case the felines decide to throw a party on the roof, or we suddenly get snow forecast….
I remember “Indian summers” happening occasionally when I was at school. It was when September days were warm, sunny and dry.
Here in the old Slavic lands is it called the “Old women’s summer” or “Miholjsko leto” -Michaelmas summer.
Whatever term you use, this is what we have at the moment.
I had to check the report date because we are past the middle of October, and they are forecasting a Mediterranean heatwave?!
I’ve stopped working in the middle of the day this week because it had been just too hot to be pleasant, working in full sun at the top of a ladder.
Even when you think that climate breakdown, as the northern hemisphere heads rapidly towards winter, can’t throw any more surprises, a warning of a Mediterranean heatwave, at this time of year beggars belief.
As I reported last week, our daily temperatures are above average. However when a respected organisation like SWE, who draw on and analyse multiple worldwide computer models, say the temperature could be 12ºC above normal, we really need to sit up and take notice.
I do like the concept of “Plant and forget”.
Bulbs definitely fall into that category, except that when bulbs have been planted somewhere other than where you want them, they need to be dug up and moved.
When I moved here, there were large numbers of Madonna lilies, Lilium candium, spread liberally all over.
Quite why I know not, so over time I have dug them up and moved them into an area in the citrus orchard between a grapefruit and an orange tree.
They are a Balkan native, however as they do not appear anywhere but in my gardens and orchards, I suspect that they have been planted by former owners.
Unlike Hyacinth which are often grown in pots, then transferred to the garden, Madonna lilies are not. So why they were growing all over the place, but not in the Maquis beyond my walls, is a mystery.
After summer dormancy, they start to grow in September, with the rosette of leaves appearing, then continue throughout the winter and pushing up a flower stalk in the spring, to flower around the start of May.
I had a couple of small clumps which I had intended moving, but had not got round to. This week with a halt to other projects, and as the first leaves were showing, it seemed like a good time to move them.
The soil in the citrus orchard is a poor, stony, clay based loam which bakes hard in summer and becomes a sticky morass after rain.
I managed to break into the earth on the edge of the existing lily patch and planted the large bulbs.
With no real rain since April, there is just no moisture, so after planting, watered in the bulbs, before covering with soil and adding more water.
It may take a year for the bulbs to settle in, however I think that I have now moved all the errant patches of bulbs into one place.
I spent the whole of Monday adjusting the first row of the plastic roof of the polytunnel.
Yet again, one of the issues I am dealing with is the lack of level surfaces.
The orchard where I am installing the frame slopes from east to west. At the same time, the stone wall which is my boundary, has been built with a slope but the opposite way, from west to east.
So I am dealing with dihedral planes.
This makes getting anything to line up difficult. So with that understood, I have trimmed the bottoms of the first row of panels, because if the first row is (more or less) level, the rest should follow.
I often use a profile comb to cut precise outlines, and because a couple of the stones in the wall stick up, I had to make cut-outs in the panels so they fit.
There is still a small gap at the bottom of each panel, and using the go-to substance here, expanding foam, I filled them, while I could easily access the panels.
That in itself took time because I’ve not used the foam gun for a while and had to diss-assemble it to unblock a stuck valve. But having the right tools, including cleaning solvent made the job straight forward.
After leaving the foam overnight to dry, I then trimmed it back flush with the plastic panels so it looks neat.
How the finished product will look is important for me, so using the stainless steel fittings, I am making sure that all the bolts and washers are neatly fitted and unobtrusive too.
So with the roof trusses completed and the small boards in place, I started on Tuesday to try and fit the “H” profile edge strip to the first full size roof panel.
Each panel is 1.05 x 2 meters so I reasoned it would be better to fit the strips on the ground, rather than try and work at height fitting them.
I was prepared with polish, silicone spray and a broad blade screwdriver to ease the edging strip on. However nothing I did would coax a three metre long strip onto the edge of the sheet.
After two hours and sore fingers, with not a single strip in place I came in for coffee and to consult the internet. I bought all these at Bauhaus in Split, so they have a Bauhaus label, but not the makers name.
There are a lot of Polycarbonate sheet makers, but the only video I could fine was one showing a couple of small squares being joined with ease.
After my stress break, I tried again, but only for an hour this time. The “H” strip was simply too tight.
I telephone the Bauhaus helpline, however my poor German and a similar lack of English at the Help Centre collided head on with the detailed problem I was having. So they asked me to email photographs and a description of the issue I faced.
All I had asked was if there was a special tool to help slide the edge profile on. I had thought about making my own with some aluminium.
I duly sent photographs and the technical problems I was having.
The reply came at tea time, “Please telephone the Bauhaus store in Split where you bought the materials for help.”
I should add here that it was the staff at Split who told me which edging strip I needed, when I was in the store buying the roofing panels.
After more than 30 minutes talking to a very helpful chap in Split on Wednesday morning, he admitted that this wasn’t his specialist area, but gave me a different email address and asked me to send an email with photographs and a description of the issues…..
I’ve been here before, I thought.
The email was easy, I just forwarded the one I had already sent to the Help Centre. I could see from email tracking that it had been opened and read, but I didn’t get an answer until Thursday, and then basically one line. “You have bought the wrong edge strip.”
The answer was easy, “Perhaps I did, but it was because YOUR staff told me that was what I needed! So what DO I need?”
This was followed by silence. After a further email and a statement from me that this was a Customer Service Failure (German companies pride themselves on their customer service), I received a reply, “You need H6”.
Once again I repeated that I lived on Hvar and that visiting Split takes a full day because of the ferries and costs €50, so before coming over do they have H6 in stock, in which case reserve 10 strips for me.
I suspect that whoever it is in Split Bauhaus who answers emails (they don’t give their name) is getting more than a little fed up with foreigners, because their answers are getting ever shorter, replied, “Your strips are reserved”.
So all work on the polytunnel has ground to a halt and I will go to Split next week to return the edge strips I bought and to collect the replacements.
Talking to my neighbours over coffee they laughed, not at me, but at the (lack of) systems.
I wondered whether ex-pats are viewed by locals as overly demanding in this laid back Mediterranean culture?
The answer was that locals wouldn’t have bought strips in the first place and would have used sticky tape! And if they had, they would have given up long before I did.
Our expectaions are certainly different. I expect everything to be difficult and plan accordingly.
Locals do not expect any quality of service, and also plan accordingly. But it does make life in a Dol house interesting…. NCG