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Gates and fences

This week: Gates and Fences; Tee shirt weather; The end of another week;

Christmas Eve view from the terrace
Christmas Eve view from the terrace

It is Christmas Eve and the end of a strange week.

I say strange because the weather has been Spring like, with warm sunshine, even so people have been slowing down, getting ready for the big day tomorrow.

On Tuesday morning I went to the biggest supermarket on the island. They were just getting the store’s Christmas tree out of its box and assembling it.

This does confirm everything I said last week about things being very low key here.

The shops were almosty empty and there was little traffic as I stocked up with some more lengths of timber, enough to see me into the New Year.

More rough timber!
More rough timber!

Stari Grad was much quieter than on a normal Tuesday.

I had tried to get Gismo into the transit box to take him for his Flu vaccination. I got him into the box, but before I could shut the gate he forced his way past and fled.

Oh well. I’ll leave it until next year I think…

Considering that the Christmas season just does not have the “buzz” that it does in other countries, it just seems that someone hit the “pause” button on Monday, and will press play again on the second of January.

So because it is Christmas Eve, I thought a short video of some Christmas Carols would be appropriate.

Traditional Christmas Bells….

Gates and fences

I have been working all week on the polytunnel roof.

The days are at their shortest and the Northern Winter Solstice was on Wednesday. This of course means that there is just the bare minimum number of daylight hours to do work outside.

What I did discover was that I had only half prepared the additional timbers for the roof. Having said that, the timber is just awful quality. It is warped, twisted and barely usable.

warped lengths of timber
Warped lengths of timber

The whole problem of not being able to get the correct aluminium extrusion to fix the roof panels, so allowing the wind to lift the panels out of the plastic “H” strip has had so many “knock on” effects.

I think I probably got frustrated with the whole project and it was only when I took the additional 3 x 5 cm lats down to the orchard, that I found I had only cut one half of each pair.

Rather than trust my pencil marks from a month ago, I re-measured and marked everything.

The major task was to cut six lap joints, to join the three pairs of timber together.

With nice weather, I brought my table saw out of the workshop and set it up in the courtyard.

I had decided that if I carefully set the saw up, I could cut the joints far more quickly than by using any other tool in my arsenal.

The table saw has a safety gate, which restricts the height of the cut. However I needed the maximum available height for these pieces of timber, so removed it.

The machine has one adjustable fence to help guide timber through the blade, but I have found that if I add a second fence on the other side, I can make far more accurate cuts.

So I added a second fence, held in place with clamps.

Fences in place
Fences in place

Everything was set up to run and it took less than an hour to cut all the lap joints, to precise tolerances and then do the final cutting with a hand saw.

Accurate and clean cuts
Accurate and clean cuts

Tee shirt weather

The sun appears over the hills to the south around 09.30 at this time of year and then bathes the polytunnel in warmth until 12:30, when it sinks behind the trees again.

This was one reason for siting the polytunnel in this location.

Morning sunshine
Morning sunshine

While I was beavering away in the sunshine, I found myself getting hotter and hotter.

I have been wearing a NATO sweater and a woolly hat for outside work since the middle of November There have only been just one or two days when there has been a cold wind requiring a jacket on top.

Discarding the hat first, I soon had to take my sweater off too. With the top layers removed, I was extremely comfortable in the sunshine.

This is the first time ever, since I came to Dol, that at the end of December it has been warm enough to work in a tee shirt.

Meanwhile across central North America the warning has gone out that because of the extreme cold, even as far south as Florida, as little as ten minutes exposure of bare skin to the cold will lead to frostbite.

Severe Weather Europe published a chart this week showing the above average temperatures across the Mediterranean Basin and into the southern European mainland.

SWE Mediterranean temperatures
SWE Mediterranean temperatures

Every day of warm weather means a day less of winter, but when I see Tarantellas and grasshoppers foraging, moths like the Humming Bird Hawk Moth, which should be hibernating and many other insects, if we do get a sudden cold snap, it may set everything back.

Th end of another week

With double the amount of timber in the roof, I decided that I had better add a metal central support to hold up what was to have been a free standing, 8 meter long roof.

I always have materials in the architectural salvage area, so I recovered a three meter length of square steel box, just the right length for the purpose.

After a little trimming to make the cut ends square and a rebate cut for the steel hoops, I filled the central void with expanding foam, drilled a hold for the fixing bolt and sprayed it with Rust-Oleum.

Preparing the steel support
Preparing the steel support

With the support bolted in place, I removed some more roofing panels and then spent some time to very accurately set up the wooden base for the plastic “H” strip.

Steel support bolted in place
Steel support bolted in place

If I can’t get the materials I want, I will fabricate my own!

With the first wooden strip in place I bolted the plastic strip in place on top, using ENOX fastenings, making sure everything was square.

Fabricating my own fixings
Fabricating my own fixings
'H' joint  profile fixed in place
‘H’ joint profile fixed in place

On Saturday morning I slid the first roofing panel back into place.

I couldn’t believe how different it was when compared to the first installation. Although it took a little bit of time, the roofing panel went into the “H” strip easily.

Then I bolted it in place. Even though the first time I did this, the panels were fixed, they were a little floppy. Not this time, they are held firmly.

Stopping work at lunch time – well it is Christmas Eve – I am happy I now have the system in place to relatively easily finish the roof next week.

At the end of a mild week, there are still a lot of leaves on the fruit trees and the sunshine has been nice.

Sunlight on autumn leaves
Sunlight on autumn leaves

I have been joined by Tigger on my knee, for some “cuddle time”, so all that remains is to wish you, where ever you are in the world and whether you are celebrating or not, a very Merry Christmas. NCG


8 Responses

  1. Terry Hubbard

    Have a good Christmas and a great new year Norman. T.

  2. John Bailey

    Norman, Wishing you a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. Look forward to following your blog in 2023. John.

  3. Brenda & Jim Fairfull

    Wishing you a Happy Christmas

  4. Dave

    Hi Norman

    First may I wish you and the kittens a safe and warm Christmas.

    Yes it is cold in North America. But on the other hand, this is the first year in seven that we are having a white Christmas. That global warming sure changed things, When I was a child in the 40’s and 50’s we usually had snow early in November, and it snowed a lot. The weather goes to extremes so rapidly now days. Friday our high temperature was -8 F ( -22 C ) with 30 mph winds gusting to 50 mph that put wind chills down to -35 F. That said, come next Friday we are expecting to reach +40 degrees F ( 4.4 C ). Those fluctuations cause havoc to agriculture and animals.

    It is nice to read of your progress (and failures) as you work to update buildings and expand your gardening areas.

    So snuggle up with the kittens and enjoy the holidays

    Wisconsin USA

  5. Marcy Fletchall


    It was -15 here 2 days at night and 2 during the day. Today it’s 50. They tried to salt and sand the streets but the salt only went to -7f so it didn’t do much good at all. It was like driving on a sheet of ice.

    Weather is crazy. My son was to come from Portland to see me but had to cancel at the last minute because the airport has been closed for 2 days. The have a 2-4 day backlog of passengers so he had to cancel to go back to work.

    I’m excited to see the finished product of your hothouse. Soon it will be spring and the flowers, fruit, and vegetables will all be sprouting

    Wishing you a delightful Christmas.


  6. Alan Wheeler


    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


  7. Mike Thrapp

    Good day Norman,
    Always enjoy seeing how you solve your challenges.
    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
    Mike n Linda

  8. Elizabeth Blackledge

    Belated Happy Christmas to you and your furry family, Norman.

    We have had some extremely cold weather here at the start of the month which made walking the dog a much cleaner affair! We are now back to cold wet weather and back to muddy walks!

    Love from all the family.