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Here comes the rain again

This week: Courtyard musings; Ceiling storage; Balkan beauty; Birdsong; COVID-19;

Retreating storm clouds
Retreating storm clouds

I’ve not been as productive as I would have liked to have been this week, but I can’t really put my finger on why.

We have had a couple of days with some much needed rain, a total of almost 20 mm. That has removed the need for regular irrigation, so in theory I should have had much more time.

Afterwards the sun shone again.

In practice, I don’t seem to have had much if any more time to do the things I wanted to do.

Perhaps it is the summer when warm, light nights draw you to a glass of something red, to be enjoyed with olives and cheese, instead of the serious task of doing work.

There has been cerebral activity though, trying to get some CSS (cascading style sheets) code to work as it should for a website.

I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night thinking about coding – and yes I keep a pen and notebook by my bed just in case I come up with that revolutionary idea which will make me a million…

 


Courtyard musings

Cvjetko took away all the building debris on Monday morning. This is a good sign, meaning that this phase of work has now finished.

I raked the courtyard sand and then went over the whole area once again with the Kojak light magnet to pick up small pieces of steel and the odd nail.

Magnet and recovered steel
Magnet and recovered metal

This a prerequisite to my bringing the car back inside. I don’t want to get any punctures, either in a car or bike tyre, but there wasn’t much debris on the magnet when I finished.

I have been through my digital photo albums and found some photos looking through the courtyard after I built the gates, but before any work was done. This shows the old concrete floor, the steps and the strange pillar at the end of the cottage wall.

Old courtyard looking east
Old courtyard looking east

I’ve taken an equivalent photo again this week and then combined them in the before and after slider below.

Courtyard before work startedCourtyard today

There is now room to turn a (Smart) car round in the courtyard. I can’t wait for the stone sets to be laid, then it will be finished.

The dismantled wooden storage shed I built last year is still under cover at the end of the yard.

I don’t want to dismember the wooden sections until I am sure I no longer need it, so I’ve put it under cover, even if it takes up quite a bit of space.

 


Ceiling storage

Loading the car with a windsurfer or sea kayak for a trip to the Adriatic can be daunting. The boards had to be manoeuvred down the old steps, then lifted bodily onto the special roof-rack.

When I got back home, the reverse applied, so I’ve thought for a while about how I can make the operation a little easier.

I found a really useful hoist in Bauhaus, designed for bicycles, but capable of safely lifting 20 kilograms. I bought one for my bike and after seeing how easy it was, I bought a couple more intending to adapt them to take the marine toys.

With all the debris moved I have painted under the bridge which links two of my buildings together. This is old concrete from the 1950’s but seems to be sound.

Just giving the grey a couple of coats of bright white paint has increased the reflected light in the courtyard.

It took a bit of working out exactly where I needed to drill to fix the brackets with the pulleys that suspend the board, but they slotted into place without difficulty.

The idea is that the marine toys will be stored above the car and just have to be lowered onto the roof rack when needed, to save all the manual handling.

I wasn’t happy with the nylon cord that the lift was supplied with though. As the surfboard is approaching the 20 kg weight limit, I decided I would invest in some marine rope that yachtsmen use. I also needed to alter the connection between the lift and the surfboard.

Twin armed bike lift
Twin armed bike lift

The lift come with a pair of arms on pulleys, which are designed to fit under bicycle handlebars and seats.

I designed a connection using sprung snap hooks, but the board hung too low, so while I was at Volat, I bought some marine shackles which can be used instead. In the event, I didn’t need them.

Redesigned connection
Redesigned connection

The snap hooks worked well and the board is now secured well above car and head height.

Board hoist in use
Board hoist in use

The kayak is going to be a little more difficult. It is heavier so I will have to use two sets of brackets to spread the load evenly.

Nothing is impossible, you just have to think outside the box!

 


Balkan beauty

I have one of my more unusual plants in flower at the moment. This is the Dragon Arum, Dracunculus vulgaris.

Dragon Arum
Dragon Arum

Whilst the whole thing looks like a flower, it is technically called an “inflorescence”. The almost black 70 cm spike is a spadix which is surrounded by the folds of the maroon spathe.

It has flowers, but they are minuscule and are at the base of the spadix. I had to pull the spadix away from the spathe to photograph them because they are so well hidden

Dragon arum spathe
Dragon arum spathe protecting the flowers
Dragon Arum male flowers
Dragon Arum male flowers

The Dragon Arum is pollinated by flies, attracted by its smell – a smell of rotting flesh. Just the thing for a hungry fly!

The Dragon Arum has a rain forest cousin, the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum. However whereas mine flowers annually, the Titan Arum takes seven years to flower just once.

I found an interesting infographic about the life cycle of the Titan Arum.

Titan Arum life cycle
Titan Arum life cycle

It looks as though there will be a good crop of Šipac (Pomegranate) this year. My trees are covered in these pillar box red flowers which are unscented.

Šipac flowers
Šipac flowers

Another flower visible in the orchards at the moment is the Allium sphaerocephalon, known as the Round Headed Leek.

Round headed leek flower
Round headed leek flower

They seem to seed prolifically. As I find them, and they die back in mid summer, I lift them to plant the tiny tubers in a single stand.

But because they have several hundred 3 mm bulblets at the base of the parent, it is almost impossible to remove every single one from the soil along with the parent. So inevitably some are left behind to grow again.

 


Birdsong

The lockdown has meant that there have been few transcontinental aircraft on the flyway above the island. There have been almost no cars on the road and no tourists visiting the village.

This quiet has amplified the natural sounds, especially the birdsong, which is a joy to hear even though I don’t always know what it is that is calling.

Another of my regular orchard migrants are the noisy Red Backed Shrikes, Lanius collurio. Their call is a series of staccato chirps.

This week I have watched a pair making a nest deep in a blackberry thicket in my absentee neighbours garden.

The male has been flying back and forth with beakfuls of dry grass and moss, often watched by the female from an adjacent electric wire.

Female Red Backed Shrike
Female Red Backed Shrike

The male has a distinct black “lone ranger” style mask and a chestnut coloured back, the female has less distinct markings. They sing their hearts out from favourite perches darting off to catch and insect and returning to the same perch to devour it.

This species of shrike, one of a number found around the Mediterranean. It is also known by the common name of the “butcher bird”. This is because of its habit of keeping a larder of its favourite insect food, stored impaled on thorns.


COVID-19

I am still keeping my ‘social distancing’. This is especially now as some of the Balkan borders have been lifted, albeit with restrictions.

The land border between Germany and Austria is likely to be opened this next week, along with France opening its borders with adjacent countries.

Croatia has opened some border crossings between adjacent countries. However authorities require anyone crossing to complete an online police form, notifying where and when you are crossing, the purpose and where you will be staying.

Social distancing is still in force and this week when I went to Stari Grad a couple of cafes were open, although they were sparsely populated with customers.

Around town, there are now more vehicles, but still plenty of parking. At this time of year, the free car parks are usually full to capacity and the paid car parks not far behind.

I spotted out of country vehicles with BiH number plates (Bosnia & Herzegovina) and from Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Bosnia & Herzegovina plate
Bosnia & Herzegovina plate
Ljubljana registration plate
Ljubljana, Slovenia registration plate

There are a few people wearing masks. But what was disappointing was that although shops have hand sanitiser stations at every entrance, I saw customers walk right past them.

This is the time we have to be most careful. As the lockdown and border controls ease and visitors start to arrive, so the chance of the inadvertent importation of the virus increases.

I am still delaying going to Split on the ferry, although my list of ‘needs’ from Bauhaus keeps growing.

This is because of the complete inability to have any sort of social distancing on our ferries. They have a completely open saloon, where everyone sits cheek by jowl, all 300, 500 or 800 or so passengers.

Perhaps next month, when the nights are warmer and I can sit on the open top deck for both the outward and return journeys I may consider risking going. NRC


One Response

  1. Marcy
    | Reply

    Hi, Glad you are well. The work is amazing. The flowers are breathtaking.
    Social distancing and masks are up for grabs in the states. Seems no one really cares. I wear a
    face shield and when people get in my space (that’s the new thing is unmasked try to stare you down and make you feel bad), I tell them that they have a right to choose to live or die, but they aren’t taking me with them. Lots of unrest here and things going south. But I’m traveling in my travel trailer, and doing my thing away from the hot spots. Had to close my business and sell my house due to COVID. It all dried up.

    Love the blog as always. Stay safe and don’t worry about pressing on for work. It’s still there, and what will you do when it’s all done? Take care, Marcy

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