with 1 Comment


This week: Weather & Climate; Hindsight; I love work; Oh ‘Ek;

A garden Triffid
A garden Triffid

We’re moving quickly towards mid summer. The sun is now hot from early morning until early evening and very hot in the middle of the day.

May is the time of year when I have sunlight coming through my due north facing windows. In both the early morning and late evening it liughts up the room.

As the earth swings through its orbit of the sun, in the northern hemisphere the sun rises further north of east and sets further north of west every day.

The fleeting two and a half months that this happens for is a reminder though, of just how quickly the year is passing.

I’ve been appointed as the editor of an online magazine too. I did point out the the owner that I am already busy working, writing this blog, and trying to manage the orchards in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way.

Perhaps in his mind the old adage applies, “If you want a job doing well, give it to a busy man”.

I have been busy again this week too. But I am pleased to say that the workshop doors are now finished, hung and in operation. I am still looking for an old lock, to supplement the modern Yale.

Workshop doors outside
Workshop doors outside

However at the prices being asked for 19th century locks on eBay and similar sale sites, at €800 or more, it might be a while before I find one…

Workshop doors inside
Workshop doors inside


Weather and climate

I’ve downloaded the weather statistics for my station this week. It’s been at the back of my mind for a while, that I haven’t recently examined the data in any detail.

If you watch the weather, then you will have a feel for how things are, but I was a little surprised by what I saw.

I knew that we were in a rain deficit simply because I have been irrigating certain plants for over a month now. But what the graph show is just how much we are down, some 300 mm less than the average for this time of year.

Cumulative precipitation to May 2020
Cumulative precipitation to May

We are at the start of the Mediterranean summer hot and dry season, with only sporadic rainfall expected from now until autumn in September.

Visualising the way rainfall is discussed here is quite easy. One milometer of rain is equal to 1 litre of rain per square metre. That means that in my largest orchard, which in area is just over 800 square meters, I am down by 240,000 litres of rain.

To put that figure in context, here is a typical milk tanker, which holds in a single compartment some 35,000 litres.

35,000 Lt tanker
35,000 Lt tanker trailer

So my orchard would have had 6½ of these in an average year up to May. But I have had just 65 mm, or a total of 52,000 litres, so under 1⅓ tankers. No wonder everything is so dry.

Whilst the rainfall has been much less than normal, so the temperatures have been consistently above average. That is apart from a cool blip for a few days at the end of March.

Simple average temperature up to May 2020
Simple average temperature up to mid May

The average high temperature this week of 25ºC and the average low of 15ºC, is not normally seen for another month until the middle and end of June.

Average high and low temperatures to May
Average high and low temperatures to mid May

While the world has been focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been watching aircraft. My Dol house is under a flyway, a regular route used by commercial aircraft on their journeys.

There have been none. Instead of being able to see the white contrails cris-crossing the sky, it is unbroken blue. The next four pictures show you why.

Flights on 16th March
Flights on 16th March before “Lockdown”
Flights on 4th April
Flights on 4th April
Aircraft on 2nd May
Aircraft on 2nd May
Flights 23rd May
Flights 23rd May

All images are courtesy of Flight Radar 24.

The lack of aircraft, and lack of white contrails means more sunlight reaching the earth, which increases the heating. This may be one reason among many for the increase in average temperatures observed at my station this year.

Of course it is together with fewer vehicles on the road, so fewer particulates and less CO² and other gasses.

In the future, when atmospheric scientists look back at 2020, they will identify if this has been another cause of climate change.



Hindsight is defined as the most precise science known to humankind. I’ve had a good example of it this week.

I hate trailing wires, extension leads and plug adaptors. So with a large floor area in the workshop, I ordered a floor socket.

This is somewhere that is connected to the electrical ring main, but with the sockets concealed under a cover in the floor.

I ordered a unit from Schneider Electric, a very large manufacturer of electrical equipment and it duly arrived.

When I opened the box I was a little surprised that there were no instructions. It was just a bare carcass with a lid. I’ve bought one in the past and it came with all the interior fittings that you need.

When the builder was laying the concrete floor of the workshop, I carefully measured where I wanted it to go and the box was duly installed.

But what I thought I should do was to remove the plastic cover and lid, just leaving the steel box in the floor. This was so the plastic didn’t get damaged.

Cement, building blocks, heavy timber and workmen’s size EU45 hob nailed boots on plastic don’t mix well!

The steel box was at the correct depth and I thought I would just drop the cover in later.

After the concrete had set I tried to fit the plastic cover. But I discovered that the cover sits outside the steel box, so I would need to cut away around the box.

In addition and as an added complication, the hydraulic pressure of the concrete has slightly distorted the steel. Well this week I have been trying to make everything fit as it should.

I’ve actually spent a couple of days trying. I should add here that while the building was just an empty shell, I used a Stihl saw to cut into the concrete, when making lots of dust was not a problem.

Cutting concrete with a Stihl saw makes LOTS of dust, believe me.

After gently chipping away pieces of concrete with various hand chisels, then drilling fine holes to make it easier to chip away concrete, I was getting nowhere fast.

I decided that with hindsight, I should have put the plastic on when the floor was being poured and then removed it when the building work was being done.

As the definition says, hindsight is the most precise of sciences.

After a couple of fruitless days work, I was only a little closer to getting the top to fit. So in the interests of expediency, I used a small electric grinder with a diamond blade to do the cutting job.

I also used two vacuum cleaners. Working on full suction, with the nozzles on either side of the blade I removed as much dust as I could.

It worked. The suction removed 95% of the dust as it came off the blade. I fitted the top and there was only a small amount of dust that wasn’t collected by the vacuums that needed sweeping up.

Floor electrical box
Floor electrical box

Thank you Mr Dyson!


I love work

I love work. I can stand and watch it for hours….

My New old wall has been finished this week. Lots of concrete, some huge stones, some not so huge stones, some steel reinforcing and the skill of a master mason.

Master Stone Mason at work
Master Stone Mason at work

From how it looked before, to how it looks now cannot be compared. Well OK, using photography, it can be compared.

There is still work to be done though. Once everything is set, it will be pointed and the Old old wall to which it joins will get the same treatment, so everything matches.

It’s another step closer to my regaining possession of the courtyard.

I’ve had several conversations with Cvjetko this week about the courtyard and I now have a quotation for the stone sets that will complete this part of the work. They are available in Split with a two day lead time.

I have chosen a Greko-Roman design called Cicero, manufactured by an Austrian company called Frühwald.

Using a bit of geometry (area of 90º triangle = 1/2 of base x height) after I measured the courtyard, I calculated I need 48 m², plus 10% so call it 56 m² in total.

It’s not going to happen straight away. This is good, because I already have a lot of work to do, but there is a good chance it will happen before September.

So watch this space…

Oh ‘Ek

“Oh ‘Ek” (a traditional Yorkshire dialect exclamation) my Triffid is in flower at the moment.

It is now just over three metres tall and still growing. This was a gift seedling from my neighbour Steve.

Echium "Blue Steeple", Echium pininana
Echium “Blue Steeple”, Echium pininana

The seed packet said that it is an Echium “Blue Steeple”, Echium pininana. Although it seems to be a bit like spire on St. Mary and All Saints Church, Chesterfield, which is known for being somewhat twisted.

The top is flattened instead of pointed and resembles more of a tower than a spire, but the concept is definitely there.

Echium is a relative of the herb Borrage and it is native to the Mediterranean basin, being found from North Africa to southern Europe.

The variety “Blue steeple” is endemic to the Canary Islands, where it was found in the laurel rain forests of La Palma .

As with many of the plants which grow in a Mediterranean climate, it is now found across the world. There are Echium varieties which are tolerant of cooler temperatures, which mean that Echium can be grown in many parts of the world.

If you want a spectacular plant to try, this is the one. You could perhaps even grow it as an annual rather than a biannual.

Another option for those living in colder areas would be to grow it in a pot the first year, then plant it out in the spring of the second year, when hopefully it would flower.

I’m not sure how much taller it will grow, and whether it will produce more spire shaped spikes from the top, but it certainly seems to enjoy being where I planted it.

The plant sets seed easily, and will grow wherever the seeds fall, so I will be on the lookout for seedlings.

It will be nice to have this as a regular garden plant, but I don’t have room for too many. I might try and save some seed though. NRC

One Response

  1. Marcy Fletchall

    Wonderful to see those blue doors. You have been working at that for a very long time. Hope you get some rain soon. Thank you, as always, for a very interesting read. Congrats on the new blog gig.