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Don’t overthink things!

This week: Danger hiding in plain sight; Overthinking; The end justifies the mean; Sprouting seeds; One thing leads to another; Back to the moth; Doors and hinges; Looking back;

Autumn skies

This week

As the days shorten, so every living thing knows that winter is on its way.

The felines are beginning to grow their winter coat and they are also spending more time asleep in various inside corners.

So what did you wake me up for??
So what did you wake me up for??

I should say that there are enough cat beds for them to have one each, but clean washing and shoes are a MUCH better alternative!

Just for fun this week and when I had nothing else better to do, I set up a new group for weather watchers on the island of Hvar.

When you saw the devastating flooding in Spain after a rain storm and the flooding and deaths in New York, the more data that is available, the better the forecasts will become.

Flash flood in Al Canar, Spain after torrential rainfall
Hurricane Ida – Cranford, New Jersey

Weather data will never prevent severe weather, but it will help forecast and warn those in its path.


I despair at times with things I find here. I was at a friend’s home on Saturday morning because her door bell wasn’t working.

Just fit a new bell push me thinks….. nooo. It was a bit more complicated than that.

I needed to open the main Consumer Unit to access the micro circuit breakers (MCB’s). Perhaps I should say that the whole house was completely renovated in 2012, so everything was fairly new.

However what I found inside appalled me. I’ve seen rat’s nests which have been neater.

Wires were everywhere and there were no labels.

When you install a new Consumer Unit, they come with blank adhesive labels, so someone following on after the initial installer knows which wire goes to where.

There are also European standards for wiring which should be followed.

Important things like the green and yellow wire is always, ALWAYS the earth/ground cable.

International electrical wiring codes
International electrical wiring codes

Only I found green and yellow cable being used as the main power feed (line) from the RCBO to individual micro-circuit breakers.

6 amp MCB
6 amp MCB

Then there was black cable being used as an earth, more green and yellow cable, only this time being used instead of a blue neutral/return cable.

Then there was what the individual MCB’s were rated for. There is a formulae which electrical engineers use to work out what size MCB to connect a circuit to. It’s not difficult to memorise.

It is [the number of appliances, multiplied by the wattage multiplied by the demand factor] divided by the voltage.

The demand factor is 0.6 if the device is turned on and off. It is 1.25 if the appliance is left on continuously, like a refrigerator.

A “Watt” is a unit of power. So a light bulb could be 40, 60 or 120 watts. A fridge freezer could be rated at 1,000 watts. In Europe the voltage is 230v. In North America it is 110v.

So taking the circuit with the fridge, there is just 1 [1 x 1000 x 1.25] ÷ 230 = 5.4 amps. If you have a single feed cable to the plug for the fridge, a 6 amp MCB would be correct.

Some things can be on a circuit with several other devices, and a fridge is one. So the kitchen MCB would normally be 20 amp, to cater for a fridge, microwave, kettle and coffee maker with a few watts to spare.

Some appliances must always be on their own circuit, like an electric water heater, electric shower and the oven/hob.

Danger hiding in plain sight

MCB’s have replaced the old cartridge fuses. So finding that there was no chart inside the box to tell me which MCB is for what, and the MCB’s amperages being all mixed up, I turned every one of them off.

Then I individually turned everything on again, one switch at a time until I found the MCB for the door bell.

Outside at the bell push, it was live on both sides, so both the brown and the blue wires were live but they did not trip either the MCB or the RCBO..

That suggests a wiring fault somewhere out of sight.

But more importantly I found that the “Test” button on the RCBO (Residual Circuit Breaker Overcurrent) cut-out wasn’t working so it made the whole house electric’s dangerous.

Typical RCBO
Typical RCBO

RCBO’s protect against short circuits and also circuit overload.

RCBO’s have a button, often red or orange, marked “test”, which should be pressed every month to make sure that your primary electrical safety device is working.

How long this one had been inoperative I don’t know, however the owner had never tested it, so probably for some time.

It didn’t take long to install a new RCBO. After completely isolating the electric bell circuit, I saved that problem for another day.

I know it means going round and resetting all your digital clocks, but everyone should really use their “test” button every month.

It is there for your safety.


Overthinking hangin out
Overthinking hanging out – source unknown

There are lots of things that one can do on a Sunday morning here in Dol, providing they do not involve heavy work or loud noise.

This is especially so when there has been an all night rave just up the road.

At least they were only raving until 04:00!

The music had started around two on Saturday afternoon. There was lots of Italian opera, little of which did I understand, but it was none the less enjoyable to listen to.

I’m not sure what speakers and amps they were using, but inside my home, 100 metres away, the sound was quite loud.

As the evening progressed, the music veered away from the classics to Motown, rock and roll, Rege, and by bed time it was disco remixes. These were followed by Hip-hop and then heavy metal.

In the early hours the tempo had slowed but the volume was the same, and we had Croatian folk music with the audience doing clap-alongs.

Finally around three, the volume was reducing and the music and singing had become dreamy – just what I needed.

It did mean that I woke on Sunday morning a little later than usual.

Feeling slightly hungover, and that was without any Sangria, I was trying to think about statistics.

As the felines caught up on much needed R&R – they had been kept awake too, I was considering averages… or was I considering means?

The average of something and the mean of something to mathematicians are actually different. Similar, but different.

As autumn has arrived early this year, I was trying to look back at the data from my weather station to get an idea of what to expect over the coming three months, but I couldn’t.

As I looked at the average daily temperature for this week of the month, it seems we are 3ºC below the mean.

Then I started to play around with the data in my spreadsheet.

Microsoft Excel lets you do things like this. In fact you can play around until you can get any graph or chart to say what ever you want it to say, or until your brain hurts, which ever comes first.

With no weather data for this side of the island from before I set my station up, I can only go back seven years. This is such a short period that it has little validity statistically and is hardly more than a guide.

But how can I show that?

My daily maximum and minimum readings are added together then divided by two to get a mean for every day of the year.

Each month has four weather weeks, so you can compare year to year, even though there are then only 48 weeks in every year.

All this means that the days temperatures are added together then divided to produce an average and this is what is displayed.

The end justifies the mean!

When I separated the weekly averages out into single years, they are all pretty much the same.

2021 shown in deep red has been below the average earlier in the year and above in August. However what I hadn’t realised was the July 2015 was in the same bracket as August 2021.

2014 - 2017 average temperatures
2014 – 2017 average temperatures

From June when we had a series of heat domes over this part of the Mediterranean, I have been collecting six daily temperatures to produce an average.

The average tends to be one or two tenths of a degree higher than the daily mean, so for me it is statistically insignificant.

As a final check-sum I took the chart I have been using to track this summer’s abnormally high temperatures and added both the average of six daily readings and the mean readings of the highest and lowest figures, that I have recorded all along.

It is almost impossible to separate the two.

So on that basis, collecting manual figures daily, rather than the automatic data collection of just two is a lot of work for little gain.

As Horace Rumpole QC would say “I rest my case me Lud”.

So I’m going to stop thinking about how accurate my averages are and accept that the spreadsheet is adding everything up correctly and then displaying it.

2021 average weekly temperatures
2021 average weekly temperatures

Now my brain hurts…

Sprouting Seeds

Do I know what I am doing?

Well, some of the time, except when anyone is watching closely of course…

Multi tasking
Multi tasking

On Sunday afternoon I went to water the tomato seeds which I planted on Thursday. All of the seeds in the polystyrene block had germinated.

Tomato seeds - Sunday
Tomato seeds – Sunday

I knew when I planted them, that after 24 hours in luke warm water, some seeds were showing signs of germination with the emergence of a white Radicle or primary root.

However I wasn’t expecting any to have their cotyledon leaves. Three already have them and are 20mm above the soil.

None of the seeds in tubes had appeared above the soil and I put that down to the different containers that I planted them all in.

Polystyrene is a warm material which will warm the soil inside.

Cardboard absorbs the water in the tray, and even though the air temperature inside the propagator is around 27 ºC , the cardboard will still be a little cool to the touch because of evaporation.

By Tuesday, all but one of the card tube seeds has sprouted.

By today all the seeds have sprouted and have their Cotyledon, there are some with their first proper leaves also showing too.

Tomato seeds - Saturday
Tomato seeds – Saturday

Now I just want to make sure that they don’t get damping off disease.

One thing leads to another

Two weeks ago I reported on a moth that I had found dead in the Citrus Orchard.

Large Hawk Moth
Large Hawk Moth

On monday evening I saw Tigger catch a large moth that was feeding on my Nicotiana plant.

Nicotina is one of those pretty weeds, but there are a number of different sub species of the plant.

Gardeners may recognise it from the name as a ‘Tobacco Plant’, but I wanted to know which of the Nicotiana I actually have growing.

My first stop was the plant that I have growing in a pot outside the door. However that was where I stopped.

The moment I looked at the plant, I saw a sight that will put serious gardeners in fear and dread.

Along every stem were the dark brown darning needle eye size lumps of “Scale Insects”. They were all over the plant, from top to bottom and on every shoot..

Scale Insects everywhere
Scale Insects everywhere

I cut off a small stem and brought it in to put it under my USB Microscope.

The brown adults are 1 to 1.5 mm long, here one is enlarged significantly.

Adult Scale insect
Adult Scale insect

I dislodged one with the tip of a blade onto paper.

The underside was festooned with translucent eggs in various stages of development. More to the point where I had dislodged the beastie, eggs had scattered onto the paper.

Scale Insect underside
Scale Insect underside

They are completely invisible to the naked eye.

For an idea of scale, I didn’t have any pin heads to hand to work out how many would fit on one, but it would be a lot. Instead I used the end of a standard hypodermic needle for scale.

Needle for scale
Needle for scale

Immediately this lot, including the paper went straight into the wood stove. The ONLY safe thing to do with Scale Insects is to burn them.

Next I got some disposable gloves and cut the plant down at the base. Everything went into a plastic bag, including the gloves and then into the unlit stove.

By the time it comes to light the fire, the plant stems will be dry and the scale insects well and truly dead.

Nicotiana are invasive weeds here, but weeds with a purpose.

Their nectar rich flowers open at dusk and provide food for a number of large moths.

This was where Tigger had caught his, but more of the moth later.

Finally I soaked the blades of the secateurs with household bleach.

I have more than enough insect pests, without spreading more to the rest of the property.

Back to the moth

Readers with a long attention span may recall that all this started with a moth….

Sometimes I think
Sometimes I think

The software that analyses the length of what I write says my topic sections are toooo loooong for today’s average attention span!

Having followed Tigger out onto the terrace, where he let go of the moth, I then spent a minute trying to scoop it up in my hands.

Tigger joined in, clearly thinking that this was a great game.

I managed to retrieve it, put in in a glass jar and put it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Retrieving the moth, I put it outside for a photograph, then left it alone.

Cooled to reduce its activity
Cooled to reduce its activity

The following morning I found the moth had moved, and was continuing to move as it kept out of the way of the sun. So it was still alive and had survived any predators.

One of the regular readers of this blog is an expert in Lepidoptera , so I emailed the photos off to him.

He replied that it looks like a Pine Hawk Moth, Sphinx pinastri. I found a reference copy photo on the Leptiri net and it certainly looks very similar.

By the way, I did identify my Nicotiana. It is Tobacco Jasmine, Nicotiana alata.

Nicotina flowers
Nicotina flowers – sans aphids

The pink flowers open after sunset and have closed again by dawn. In between they give off the most powerful fragrance.

When I checked the moth again after sunset, it had flown off, so will live another day.

Doors and hinges

The builder called on Tuesday and said that he wanted to start work again in the Konoba next week.

This is the specialist in pointing with the old materials, who came down with COVID back in June.

So once again the building work will start, or perhaps more correctly, it will take up again where it finished off.

This means that I need to have some jobs to do so I am occupied while the workmen are mixing mortar and generally filling the place with equipment and supplies.

I have some logs to cut and decided now would be a good time to fix new hinges on the wood shed doors.

When I built the wood shed, I used the original door hinges, however last year one failed but I didn’t repair it.

So a little bit of work with a spirit level and new door hinges, and the old door swings probably better than it ever has done. This will make it easy to move logs in and out.

Woodshed door
Woodshed door

The logs are in a pile ready for cutting.

Orchard cut-down
Orchard cut-down

I also cut down weeds and brambles in the top orchard. I was able to collect a bowl full of brambles as a bonus.


Considering that I have tried several varieties of blackberry cultivar, without success, I marvel at the way that self (bird) seeded brambles grow in thickets all around my home.

Clearly they are adapted to the dry conditions.

My expensive cultivars have between them produced little in the way of fruit and if I wasn’t irrigating them every day, they would by now have died. NCG

Looking back – Week 35

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

2014/35 The square of the hypot – amuse

2015/35 The power of the sun

2016/35 One man went to mow…

2017/35 Inconsistent consistency

2018/35 Plant and forget

2019/35 Where eagles dare

Boats in Stari Grad harbour
Boats in Stari Grad harbour

2020/35 Puss in Boots

Early morning in the olive grove
Early morning in the olive grove

2 Responses

  1. Lynn

    Hi Norman,
    I’m now repatriated and 3orking as a coordinator for special education in local county. So.far, so good.

    I brought Honey home. She’s been able to put our rather docile dogs in line (in her mind) but the big surprise has been the reaction of our home cat Sassy. Sassy wants nothing to do with Honey and spent the first two days outside, refusing to come inside. Gary considered her a flight risk so Honey has been occupying a spare room. We’ve been moving their food and this weekend the door to Honey’s room will be opened and vardbiard will cover the screen. Hopefully the will be able to occupy different parts of the house in relative neutrality.

    I’ll attach some pictures later.

    All the best!

  2. Marcy

    Hi, What an interesting blog. The moth story was wonderful, and so glad it made it thru. I loved the pictures. Yes, the floods are so sad. US had their fair share in Louisiana and NYC.

    I hope the konoba repairs and rebuild go well. I’m getting ready to retile my bathroom and get that project out of the way.

    Thank you for another week of enjoyment. Marcy