Honesty is finished
This week: Kitten update; Wild & not so wild flowers; Honesty is finished; The wind which blows…; It all starts with a drawing;
A walk through my local olive groves shows the effect that our dearth of rainfall is having on this year’s crop.
Some trees have almost no fruit, whilst on others the fruit are black and shrivelled looking like date stones. They should be pale green and plump.
Although the average temperatures this summer are under the five year trend, that still means they are around or above +30ºC.
The soils in my orchards and gardens are as dry as dust. Even some of the deeper rooted trees are struggling to find water between the rocks deep underground.
My early grapes are ready, but they are small and not as sweet this year. Even so, the local Blackbirds seem to enjoy feasting on them!
I have had the first figs from my old tree – a sure sign that autumn is approaching and I’ve been harvesting my Passion Fruits.
These orange variety are not as full of fruits or as juicy as the purple variety, Passiflora edulis, which has yellow seeds inside and a very wrinkled skin.
These Passiflora caerulea are none the less tasty on breakfast cereals.
Sadly one of the kittens died on Tuesday morning.
I have pretty much left things up to Mum, but with six tiny kittens, meal times were a little chaotic. Those with the sharpest elbows fared best.
Isabijela is happy for me to handle them and just looks on, so on Saturday when I was cleaning their box, I weighed them. They were all around the 100 gms to 110 gms mark and seemed healthy.
On Monday morning I was working in the study, when I saw Mum leave the box, as she has been doing several times a day. I decided that I would do another cleanup, but when I looked there were only five kittens, all curled up asleep in the bottom of the box.
Then I saw that Isabijela had removed one of the dark twins to her comfy cat basket and was feeding him there, but he didn’t want to suckle.
I weighed each of the five, and they had all added between 15% and 27% to their Saturday body weight. The heaviest was now 161 gms. However the little guy was only 107 gms having added just 6% to his body weight.
Then I saw he had stopped feeding and no amount of encouragement would make him start.
It was a quick trip to the vets in Stari Grad again and I came back with kitten milk, some vitamins and a pipette. This little one appeared to be taking the liquid food from Mum. However as his siblings were now considerably larger and more powerful than he, he was being elbowed out at every meal time.
After feeding him a couple of times overnight, he was clearly not very well at breakfast time on Tuesday. However I got him to take a little more food and then at 9.30 I found he had sadly died.
Taking advice from one of the many online veterinary sources, I’m now monitoring them every day.
The vet said that with such a large litter for a first time mum and a small cat to boot, it was perhaps not unexpected.
I have now read up extensively on kitten litters and have created a small spreadsheet to alert me to if/when one of the litter fails to meet a milestone.
I have lived with cats and kittens for years. But this is my first intimate experience with any litter let alone a large litter…
Wild & not so wild flowers
In my wanderings I am always looking for nice native flora that I can bring back home and plant.
It is fine to bring in some nice plants and trees from the nursery, but the native plants are important too, and they have been here a lot longer and have acclimatised.
At the edge of one of the Olive groves I’ve noticed a thistle which has been spreading over the path. On a recent morning walk I noticed the thistle has started to flower. Now it is covered in large, brilliant yellow flower heads.
This is at a time when everything else is dying back, turning brown and hiding from the relentless summer sun.
I’ve identified it as a Spanish Oyster Thistle, Scolymus hispanicus . As a short lived perennial it is common across the Mediterranean from Spain to Turkey.
With a profusion of canary yellow “dandelion” flowers, it makes quite a spectacular sight.
Once the autumn comes, it is on my list to dig up a root and bring it home. However with long and sharp spines, some strong gloves will be called for I think.
Honesty is finished
Trying to find just the right plant for just the right place is difficult.
Especially so when one has no idea what the weather will be like over future years. A look at how this years temperatures measure up against the average for the past six years shows the problem.
Six years is barely a twinkle in the eye when compared to the comprehensive records going back just over 100 years, held and analysed by modern super computer systems.
The first comprehensive weather logs began in the mid 18th century. But while Benjamin Franklin in the United States and Thomas Barker in Rutland, England were creating copious quantities of accurate weather observations, it was not until 1914 that the first UK wide weather network was established by the Met office.
An historical overview of weather forecasting is available as a .pdf download and makes an interesting read, explaining how we have got to where we are today.
My weather station will give a forecast with approaching 95% accuracy, for the next 10 days, but nothing beyond that.
So although I have a reasonable understanding now of my soils and the different micro climates in the different parts of my land, when I plant something it is still a “suck it and see” moment.
Of course I can look up a plant in my plentiful supply of books and online, to my hearts content. From that I can assess the temperature range, shading and winter cooling requirements, but my future soil moisture content is a complete unknown.
This means that there is little heating of the soil. Being a confined area too, it is easy to water and it has some very good soil.
The plants grew and this year flowered.
In May the plants were attacked by Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars, which left them as almost bare skeletons.
But as the heat of summer has dragged on, this week, they have been desiccated.
Unlike in the UK, where the leaves remain green until October, mine look as though they have experienced their first frost of winter. It’s ironic because this area is completely frost free!
Clearly these plants are finished for this year and will not green up, even in the autumn. So I have cut them down this week. The nicest stems and seed pods I have saved for winter dried flower decorations, while some of the seeds from the circular translucent seed pods, I have planted.
After raking the soil and planting in three drills, they were watered in. I hope they will germinate quickly and then flower next year.
My aim is to have this little isolated flower bed covered with Honesty. But as the plant is a biannual, that aim will take a couple of years to realise.
The wind which blows…
We don’t get the gale force winds here, which were a regular feature of my time in the UK. However in this part of the Mediterranean, we do not get the significant low pressure weather systems that the Atlantic delivered to the shores of the United Kingdom.
These low pressure system were generally accompanied with copious amounts of rain.
There is generally a breeze, which both in winter and summer takes the form of cooler air moving down slope from the high backbone of the island to the south of Dol, and onto the Stari Grad plain, 100 vertical meters below Dol to the north.
Winter and summer there are the occasional northern Bura winds, which in winter are cold and in summer bring fresh air to clear the stifling humidity.
This past week we have had gusts of up to 40 kph, but nothing that I noted as being exceptionally strong. These have been from a westerly direction – the direction to which my Top Orchard is open to.
On Saturday morning I saw that my tame Triffid, the Echium Blue Steeple, Echium pininana, had blown over during the night.
I can now measure the actual height. I had estimated it was between three and four metres tall. It was actually 3.6 metres in height.
I have been looking for seeds, so I can save some and plant another one, but although there have been a lot of flowers, and they have been pollinated, I can’t find a single seed.
It all starts with a drawing
In my efforts to make some kitten friendly spaces I’ve been doing some long overdue filing this week.
I’ve no excuse, I have the filing cabinet, the Triumph suspension files, the name tags and the papers. I just had to create a few more folders and I was good to go.
Each room has a docket and folder, so if I am looking for some information on work I have done somewhere, I just need to go to that folder.
In the new workshop I ended up with a small, high up window which faces east.
This is a result of my being unable to communicate with the Bosnian builder who was erecting the shell.
It doesn’t feature on the plans and I had thought of blocking it up. That was until I saw the morning sun flooding into the room through what seems to be a small window.
The main windows let light in, but they don’t get sun until the afternoon, whereas although a small aperture, it seems to flood the room with morning light.
There are some issues about fitting a window though. At the moment I have blocked it up with styrofoam, just to keep the rain out.
Again, because of the language barrier, the new wall ends exactly in line with the old wall. There is no overlap, so I can’t simply make a standard frame and slot it in between.
This small window calls for some strange woodwork, so I sketched a draft with just pen, pencil and paper.
This I got it out of the Workshop folder and went down to the workshop to check the measurements. The advice and teaching I have always had is that you “measure three times and cut once”.
I rechecked the dimensions – they hadn’t altered. Next I checked my wood store to see the dimensions of the timber I have on stock.
Finally I resorted to my CorelDraw programme, to do a scale and perspective drawing of what I need to make.
From this I cut the various pieces I need.
The Band Saw made short work of cutting the 45 angles, so that rain will quickly drain away from the top rail and sill.
Saturday is here, so another weekend is upon us. An early job for next week will be to set up the Router, so I can cut all the various rebates I need. Once cut and finished, I can assemble then paint the frame.
The last job will be to install the glass. NRC