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Gazillians of Gazanias

This week: Shore leave; PMCC History magazine; Structural strength; Drip strip; Gazillions of Gazalias;

Blue skies and warm autumnal sunshine
Blue skies and warm autumnal sunshine

Today is the 1st October, the month of Listopad in Croatian which means “falling leaves”.

On the lane up to my Dol house there are two mature Linden trees and boy are the leaves falling at the moment.

The trees have not yet turned their usual vibrant golden autumnal hue, but the change of leaf colour is starting.

In the orchard borders I have scented Pink Agapanthus bulbs, Tulbaghia violacea, in flower.

Pink agapanthus
Pink agapanthus

Also there are the bare stems of Autumn Crocus, Colchicum autumnale. Although they look like Crocus, they are actually members of the Iris family. The flowers appear and die before the leaves.

Autumn crocus
Autumn crocus

Shore leave

Looking at the weather, as I do regularly, I decided I would go over to the mainland on Wednesday. I needed a day without wind and rain because I was bringing ‘big stuff’ back on the roof of the car and didn’t want it to get wet.

I was in Stari Grad on Tuesday morning and bought my tickets to save time on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday night I slept badly, I think because I was “clock watching” waiting for the alarm to go off at 4am.

The alarm duly sounded. Even a gentle and soothing wake up alarm sounds loud at 4am!

I was out of the house before 5am and was at the front of the que and onto the ferry.

Our island ferry
Our island ferry

Once in Split I did a tour of various shops. The last time I was granted “shore leave” was six months ago, back in March, so I had a list of things I needed to get.

In once sense, nothing much has changed, but in another Split is very different.

The City of Split has been around for millennia, being founded by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC. There was already an Illyrian settlement at the location.

The Roman Emperor Diocletian built a palace fortress in the town in the 4th century AD. Diocletian is famous as the only Roman Emperor to retire from the job and live happily ever after.

The towers and walls of the palace still dominate the old town of Split and being a UNESCO heritage site, are unlikely to change.

Diocletian palace overlooks the port
The Diocletian palace overlooks the port

There were a huge number of tourists, including a giant cruise liner from the Tui group, together with hundreds of “one day” visitors being led around by guides with their little flags on sticks.

The area around the ferry port has been completely re-developed over the past 18 months. All the old kiosks selling tourist merchandise, the Tisak newsagents and left luggage stores have all gone.

The fast food joints have been redeveloped and I spotted one new one, a south Asian/Thai curry take away.

I had brought my own sandwiches and picnic, otherwise I would have been tempted to try something as it looked and smelled very good.

The green market has shrunk considerably. There were only about ⅓ of the number of sellers that there were before Covid and the amount of produce was restricted, although what was there looked very fresh.

The Green Market
The Green Market

Prices have also doubled. I always would to buy a couple of punnets of fresh raspberries however the lady I used to buy from has gone, and the raspberries on sale were now £4/€4 a punnet. I didn’t buy any…

The plant and flower sellers have reduced to probably ¼ of their former number.

Clearly those still there are feeling the financial pinch because one seller asked me to pay her for taking a photograph of the flowers on her stand. I didn’t because I wasn’t planning on taking the photograph anyway.

Fewer flower sellers
Fewer flower sellers

The plants section which used to be six or eight sellers, is down to just two, but I did buy some nice vegetable plants for the garden.

What was really telling was that on the main promenade, called The Riva, coffee shops were doing a good trade, but I noticed that four or five of the home made ice cream shops have closed and have been replaced by ATM machines.

Getting close to Otok Hvar, the sun came out so I sat outside and read. There were a lot of very expensive yachts out too.

Expensive yachts
Expensive yachts

I did come back with everything I went to get, so that was a success, albeit on a long away-day.

Wake watching
Wake watching

PMCC History magazine

The new issue of the PMCC Magazine was published on Friday.

I’ve spent almost every evening for the last ten days, up until Monday, writing and checking the magazine, wrestling with some seriously old software and writing in HTML to get everything ready, which I did.

Then on Monday night it was announced that King Charles has chosen his new Cypher, so on Tuesday morning I decided against a complete re-write and just added in a new section instead.

It has meant that I haven’t done a great deal else but write code, or so it seems.

I now have a couple of months before I need to think about the next one, which will be published on Friday December 30th.

That is only three months away!

What I am doing in the meantime is looking for some better software so I can spend more time writing (which I enjoy) and less time deep in HTML code, making what I have written look nice!

Structural strength

As I already mentioned, I brought 10 sheets of Polycarbonate twin-wall back with me from Split, five each for the two ends of the poly tunnel.

I have described already how I am using six meter lengths of reinforced steel for the roof hoops, because it is what I can easily get here on the island.

Earlier in the year I made an end frame for one end and using the dimensions I had worked out how many sheets I need.

First job on Thursday morning, I took one of the sheets down to try against the wooden frame. I realised two things straight away.

Poly tunnel end wall
Poly tunnel end wall

The first is that I am going to have to have all the roof sections fixed in place before I add the end walls, or more particularly the west end wall.

This is because the west end receives the full force of any westerly winds and is without shelter. So unless there is a reinforced structure in place (the roof sections), then on its own it has little structural strength.

The second thing is that if I cut the panels to fit the wooden cross members, there will be a lot of wastage.

The answer is to use some more wood to build a second cross piece above the first, which will attach to the top of the vertical sections to hold them in place.

Given that this poly tunnel is my own design, making use of readily available materials, it is to be expected that there will have to be some design alterations as paper meets practice.

There are still a couple of months before it starts to get cold, so I have time to make these alterations!

Drip strip

One of the design elements is to harvest precipitation which falls on the fixed plastic panel roof.

As climate breakdown continues and annual precipitation reduces, I need to save every drop of moisture I can for the plants in the orchard and those inside the poly tunnel.

With a parabolic curve to the roof, half the rain will run one way and half the other onto the supporting wall. So I am leaving a small gap some 10 cm away from the wall to capture this moisture.

But what I don’t want is for the rain drips to then run along the inside of the plastic panels onto the wall.

To prevent this, I have designed a “drip strip” to fit snugly against the roof panels.

Made of 4 metre lengths of 5 x 3 cm rough timber – rough cut timber is all you can get here – I carefully measured and marked where the plastic coated hoops will go and then got my woodworking tools out.

I used a wood bit to cut the holes for the roof supports and then cut rebates for the metal fixing bars with my router.

Wooden drip strip under construction
Wooden drip strip under construction

In the old days, a craftsman would have used a wood chisel to cut the rebait. Each would have been a labour of love and would have taken time.

Today with modern tools like routers, it was not a long job for me to set the machine up and then cut a precise rebait on either side of the hole for the metal support.

Woking with four metre lengths of timber in the courtyard is not difficult, but I also have to join them together. They will be glued with waterproof glue and fixed with wood screws for good measure.

However that needs both space and time. Space out in the open to join long wooden sections together and time to allow the glue to dry.

So once again as I looked at the weather forecast on Friday, with rain being forecast for Saturday, I decided I would leave it until next week, when we have more sunny and warm days.

I always seem to be “leaving things for next week”, but I suppose that it is because work continues every day of the week for me.

Gazillions of Gazalias

Knowing that I had a couple of hours to wait for the ferry back home, after doing a food shop at Müller (for the felines, not for me, I eat anything!), I called at the Jadro Garden Centre in Split.

This is a huge operation with everything from massive olive trees (in both the size and price) to tiny succulents.

It is always an interesting place to wander round, just to see what they have growing.

You are left alone to wander through the greenhouses and potting sheds and amongst the outdoor sales areas.

I saw several shrubs which I would like, but decided that I should wait until I have constructed the herbaceous borders around the edge of the orchard.

Things like the Firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis.

Firecracker plant

However in one of the open greenhouses there were dozens, even gazillions of Gazanias. I couldn’t resist buying two pots, each with three plants.

Flowering Gazanias
Flowering Gazanias

I know of the Gazania because it is one of the plants which thrives in the area of South Africa which has a Mediterranean climate. So that means it should like living here too.

Although they have beautiful flowers, they are considered to be an invasive species in Australia and California. I have never seen any seeds for sale here though.

White Gazania
White Gazania

I could tolerate an invasive ground cover which has flowers like this! In the right conditions, they even self seed too.

Orange Gazania
Orange Gazania

Sometimes incorrectly called an African Daisy, because of the shape of the flower, they are part of the Aster family. Their home habitat is poor soils, rocky cliffs, in full sun. They are drought tolerant and spread to form a ground cover.

They seem to be just the sort of flowering plant I need for my plot in Dol. NCG

4 Responses

  1. Denis Williams

    Great that you over came the software issue Norm .Interesting article too .
    Keep believing

    • Elizabeth

      Lovely to read your news as always. Water is going to become a very precious commodity…not only do we need to slow the flow to stop flooding but also to help plants when there isn’t much around…so much to think about when planning planting schemes. We watch your experiments with great interest. Take care.

  2. Tony Griggs

    Interesting that even in a tourist city like Split it’s been hit hard by Covid. Shame. I often wonder about the people who have had to close a shop and the loss they must incur with all the shop fittings generally going for nothing. A lot of empty shops here in Victoria & Melbourne too. The cost of Covid lockdowns has been immense, hence why I suspect a world recession is imminent. Any Russians escaping as far as where you are Norman? Keep enjoying the autumnal weather. Trust you’ve got the “cutter” screws for the polycarbonate? It’s the first day of daylight saving here in Vic & I was up at what would have been 0400 but it’s now 0500 so that’s how ‘normal” arise time for me Norman 😉😊

  3. Marcy

    Lovely blog and thank you. Always enjoy watching you build things. I did not know that CA finds the Gazania invasive. The other flowers were beautiful. We are having some rain this week in CO and it’s getting chilly now. I suspect winter will be upon us before we know it. Trees are now turning and flowers withering. I love autumn, but I’m afraid the snow will come before we’ve had a chance to enjoy the cooler weather. I hope you find the software you seek. It can be tricky these days with so much out there. Take care of yourself and have a good week.