Happy New Year!
This week: Solar system refilled; A bit more painting; New Year’s Day; Looking back;
Happy New Year!
Did you stay up to see the New Year in?
I didn’t. I stayed up to make sure 2021 left and then I firmly shut the door to prevent any return…
We’ve made it through to 2022 without catching COVID, but only by being very, very careful. I hope you have avoided the virus too.
This is the first time that the First of January has fallen on a Saturday since I moved to Dol. So make the best of it because it will not happen again until 1st January 2028…
No too early this morning, I was out in the Olive Groves. We have had some heavy dews so everything was rather wet, but we wanted to see the sun rise over the southern hills.
Sunrise for this latitude is 07:26, however it was more than an hour and a quarter later that the first rays of the sun lit up my part of Dol.
However like much of southern and western Europe it has been unseasonably warm this past week and as soon as the sun rose, I could feel the heat in its rays.
Rain this week has again prevented very much progress outside, but I’ve still been able to do odd things even so.
Solar system refilled
It has taken me several hours over four days this week, but after lunch on Thursday I was able to fill the solar tank with Valliant fluid. The good news is that there were no immediately visible leaks either.
Because of overnight rain, and wet mornings the roof tiles were wet, so I’ve waited until the tiles have dried to make it safe to work at height.
Carrying 80 litres of fluid, so weighing 80 kilos, up a wet roof really did not appeal to me.
I installed a new brass valve to replace the one with the plastic components which had broken. During the week I’ve also completely flushed the tank several times, until clear water was draining from the new valve every time.
I did all the checks on the solar tubes. None had failed which is a bonus.
When I removed the old silicon gaskets, they showed signs of corrosion.
Visually I could see inside there was some minor corrosion evident. However when I felt each of the positioning rings, I could feel a couple of rough spots.
I cleaned and smoothed them to make sure there would be nothing to damage the new gaskets before installing them. Then I gingerly filled the first of the tubes with new fluid.
Although not included in the guidance, I sprayed a small amount silicone lubricant on the seals before gently sliding the tube in.
The tubes are a very tight fit. It took me a couple of days to get all 18 tubes, cleaned, polished, flushed and then refilled and reinstalled. This was because of the rain and the wet roof tiles.
Finally it was all done. Filling the tank was a slow progress. I was waiting to make sure that there were no leaking seals and then finally filled the outer tank.
The very last job was to reinstall a pressure release valve and an air release valve.
With warm sunshine on Friday and Saturday I was very disappointed to find there is a weeping leak from around one of the tubes.
After all the care I have taken on the reinstall, I am at a loss to know what to do next. But I suppose I need something to keep me occupied in 2022!
A bit more painting
With rain falling outside, I have finished giving all the walls in the cottage their first coast of paint.
There is a problem of damp in the walls in a couple of places. This was diagnosed ny Cvjetko as a guttering problem.
Certainly when I got the ladder out, a couple of gutters were fairly full of leaves. I should have realised and cleaned them sooner.
I put chicken wire, rolled into a ball, into each of the down pipe exits, so leaves would not block the fall pipes, but had thought dry leaves would just blow out. They haven’t.
I used a Fiskars tool to remove all the detritus, which will make good compost. The gutters are now flowing freely, but it will take a while for the damp walls to properly dry out.
I have some filling of gaps to do before I give everything the top coat, and then I’ll start on the floor tiles.
New Year’s Day
I’ve been watching the weather, as I always do, so I can plan my work for the week ahead.
It was clear the the weather over New Year was going to be exceptionally nice, so I thought you might like to have a walk through the Maquis with me.
Over time, I have mapped all the walkable paths around the village. They are marked on old maps, but many are overgrown and no longer usable. The paths in Magenta are ones which I use regularly.
I have drawn around the circular walk, using the outer path which I used today, in green.
I had to sneak out of the gate using a little bribery so none of the felines decided to tag along. A little treat of Chew sticks – known as McDonald’s for cats – worked.
They like exploring the Maquis as much as I do, but there are dangers for them, especially the hunters dogs.
Every path is bounded by high stone walls. On the flood plain below my home, these double as a route for the stream, although I have only seen water running between the walls once in seven years.
There are patches of these bright yellow Taraxacum, a member of the dandelion family, in flower alongside most open paths at the moment.
The soils are all alkaline limestone, so plants which thrive are those which like an alkaline soil.
Once you get into the Maquis, where there have been dense stands of pine, the soil becomes acid, with quite a depth of pine needles and cones underfoot.
Everywhere that sunlight penetrates you can find large patches of moss. The record winter rainfall we have had since October, together with no frost has kept it all a verdant green.
Every so often the path emerges from the trees and you are rewarded with views. This one is to the east and the distant peak of Svete Jure.
Sometimes you can see the majestic outline of St. Michael’s Church, glowing in the bright sunshine.
Look the other way and you can see the part of Dol where my home lies, tucked under the southern hills.
Climbing up the zig-zag path between the trees, most visitors never realise that this is the route that the Pall Bearers took, when bringing a Coffin up to the church.
As you walk around St. Michael’s, there are several places where big patches of Capers are sprouting from the walls. They are all still in leaf and green because there has been no significant cold weather.
A little further along there is a small garden at the back of the village school. There are some wooden seats and it is here that you can find locals in summer passing the time of day.
In the flower bed around the edge of the garden there is a Lantana shrub. This variety is low growing, instead of the two meter tall varieties that I have at home.
A little further along is a patch of Rosemary. This is still a crop in places around the island, where the oil is extracted and sold. Today there were several bumble bees feeding on the nectar in the pale blue flowers.
Just inside the garden area there were several Narcissi which are in flower at the moment. This is a sunny area. In my garden, they are in the shade and the flower bugs have yet to appear.
A little further along, the path plunges away into the Maquis again. This area is in shade at this time of year.
During my walk, I didn’t see a single other person. I did see one local with his don walking the path just after breakfast, but you can tell from the undisturbed moss that few people venture along this route in winter.
As we head up hill again for a few hundred metres, what is noticeable is the change in the flora. You start to see a lot more lichen growing in thick stands by the side of the path and in the leas of the walls. At this time of year, these areas receive no sunshine.
The hill to the south is quite steep in places and old, now abandoned paths cut through the stone walls. These lead to a few olive trees, still owned and managed by locals.
This is where one of the trees I always look at as i pass is growing. It is the Turpentine Tree which I wrote about in an October blog, that has malformed flowers and small “pitcher” galls, caused by an insect attack.
Against the clear blue sky, the twisted and gnarled branches remind me of the “corkscrew hazel” that I have growing in my garden.
As the path begins to descend, shafts of sunlight break through to illuminate the old dry stone walls and the stone set path. These large sets have been worn smooth by the passage of a million donkey hooves over the millennia since they were laid.
There are more views now, looking across the village flood plane to the homes which line the opposite, south facing hill side.
Meanwhile look in the opposite direction and all you can see are the self seeded pine trees and scrub of the Maquis.
Pines are not the only trees growing in the Maquis. There are a whole variety, including several types of evergreen Oak. By the side of the path this young Kermes Oak growing out at the base of the wall. Probably a seedling from a 2020 acorn.
Here in the shade of the trees, the walls which line the side of the path are covered in moss and ferns. Clearly a damp, cool spot where they can thrive.
As I was examining the ferns and looking for some of the less common varieties, I heard one of my felines make their contact call. I whistled in reply and I heard the contact call again from somewhere up the hill.
Then out of the Maquis, down an old path I saw Argen approaching from out of the depth of the Maquis. Coming at a trot, tail held high in greeting, he bounded the last few meters over the grass until he was on the top of the wall next to me.
We were more than a hundred meters from home, in an area that I have never seen any of the felines in before, so I was surprised to see him. Had he heard me and then seen me from within the thicket? I don’t know, but he then led me all the way home.
I do sometimes which I knew more about the secret lives of my felines. Where they go and what they get up to when I am not around.
It’s teatime now. The wood stove is heating the central heating water and I have just closed the curtains in preparation for another long evening.
At least we are now past the shortest day and whilst days are only lengthening by a minute a day at the moment , it will not be long before we notice a little more daylight at either end of the day.
Where ever you are in the world when you read this, I wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2022. So until we meet again…. NCG
Looking back – Week 52
This is the start of the weekly section, with links to past issues of the blog.
2014/52 2014 Retrospective
2015/52 2015, That was the Year that was
2018/52 Pruning with a chain saw
2019/52 The end of the teenage years
2020/52 Cloudy skies