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How to commit adultery

This week: Caveat emptor; How to commit adultery; The village festival; If you go down to the woods today…; I don’t do “easy”;

Dol dozes in the mid day sun
Dol dozes in the mid day summer sun

I was just minding my own business at lunch time on Saturday when I was jumped on.

OK, actually I was taking the washing off the line ready for folding.

It’s great living in places that are warm all year and hot in summer. but it’s not a holiday for permanent residents.

All the normal chores, like washing, cleaning, dusting etc still have to be done. But I digress…

As I turned my back, I felt something land on my neck and then scamper down the back of my Tee shirt. I shook the shirt and a young Preying Mantis fell out onto the floor.

Scooping it up before Pongo pounced on it (he tried but I was faster) it then ran across my hand and up my arm.

Often the image of a Preying Mantis is one of sloth. Its body swaying gently, mimicking a twig or leaf, waiting for lunch to pass. However they can move extremely fast when they want to.

I put him/her (difficult to tell) onto one of the shrubs outside the kitchen window and went to get my camera.

Mantis hunting
Mantis hunting

It is a vivid green so may well have just moulted. Anyway, I hope he soon finds his lunch.

Caveat emptor

There are more mundane problems caused by climate breakdown than the obvious and high profile adverse and severe weather events, melting ice and wild land fires.

I have had my own this past weekend.

When I purchased my roof mounted solar water heater, I really thought it was a “fire-up and forget” system. Since installation, I have found that it is anything but.

The solar tubes are highly efficient. Too efficient for the amount of water I use in summer.

They are heating the 300 litres in the inner pressure vessel to near boiling point, causing the pressure release valve to lift.

Hot water expands in its volume and very hot water expands a lot.

Because of the evaporation in the hot summer sun, I get a build up of calcium carbonate – lime scale – around the valve which must be cleaned and maintained. This can only be done from on top of the roof of course.

Calcium removal
Calcium removal

To stop the system from overheating I cover the first of the vacuum tubes in March followed by at the start of May. The tubes remain covered until September.

All this requires work to fit and remove the covers, and of course somewhere to store them safely over the winter.

The heating liquid in the tubes contains Glycol as an antifreeze and is made by a German company called Vaillant. It is a fluorescent pink colour and it costs around €400 to fill the tubes each time.

Vaillant Solar Liquid
Vaillant Solar Liquid

On Sunday I noticed that the tubes were leaking from the newly installed gaskets (installed in December) and the vibrant pink Vaillant was now an oily black colour.

Leaking solar tube seals
Leaking solar tube seals

My first job was to cover even more of the tubes. I now have around 80% covered and this turned the trickle into just a few drips. I still have enough hot water though.

Solar tubes 80% covered
Solar tubes 80% covered

I then emailed the makers of the solar system, and Vaillant to ask what has gone wrong with the liquid.

Vaillant solar liquid failed
Vaillant solar liquid failed

My immediate thought was that the heat we have experienced has “cooked” the liquid and caused it to fail. I was prepared and offered to send Vaillant a sample to analyse.

I am still waiting for the manufacturer to reply to me about the seals, but I had an answer from the Vaillant local sales office in Zagreb. However I was not prepared for what they told me.

Apparently the Vaillant liquid is “Only” for use in Vaillant manufactured flat panel solar collectors and is not suitable for any other make, including mine.

The problem is that the label on the 20 litre drums does not say that. This is a stock item in BEPO, the local plumbers merchants and it is the only solar antifreeze liquid they sell.

I wonder how many other people on the island are putting the wrong liquid in their roof top solar system?

I’ve now written to the CEO of the company in Germany to explain what has happened and to suggest that if something is not suitable for general use, then shouldn’t it be labelled like that?

Meanwhile Vaillant 302498 is still for sale at BEPO in Jelsa and on line at Amazon etc., with no mention of its restricted use.

Once again, it is like everything here, Caveat emptor – Let the buyer beware!

How to commit adultery and have a good nights sleep

One of the joys of living in foreign countries is discovering local customs, traditions, food and drink.

Living in Spain, I enjoyed the ‘Sangria de Toro’, not the version bought in a bottle from the supermarket, but the locally made drink, using local wine, citrus fruits and perhaps spices.

Sangia is another Roman invention. Because water wasn’t always safe to drink, wine was added so the alcohol would kill bacteria and to make the drink taste better.

Over time fruits and spices were added as well.

This year will be a good year for grapes, but the olive harvest is likely to be small.

My grapes ready for picking
My grapes ready for picking

I always seem to have a surfeit of red wine, sometimes a veritable wine lake, so I tend to do different things with it.

A glass of red wine with a meal is great, but sometimes on its own, it is just “another glass of wine”!

At this time of year, I always have two or three litres of home made Sangria in the fridge.

I use whatever fruit I have in the orchard at the time, so oranges, lemons, a grapefruit perhaps, a green apple, together with a stick of cinnamon and a couple of cloves.

I don’t add any sugar, though it can be added if you prefer a sweeter tasting drink.

Then I cover the fruits with wine, seal the jars and leave for three or more weeks at the back of the fridge for the fruit to steep in the wine.

Roll foreword to the hot summer nights we are experiencing at the moment, and a tall tumbler filled with Sangria and topped up with mineral water is a lovely evening drink.

I should say that adulterating local wine in this way is often viewed as heresy by my neighbours, that is until they taste the end product.

It is the same as in winter when I make Gluhwein. Several friends had never heard of “Cooking wine” until I introduced them to the German practice.

Whether in the middle of winter, or in the middle of summer, a glass of adulterated local wine makes me sleep very, very well…..

The village festival

Every town and village on the Island has its Patron Saint and with the Church often named in honour of the Patron.

On the top of the promontory that separates the two halves of Dol is the large Church of St. Michael, however in the two halves there are small churches and ours is dedicated to St. Anne, hence the name of this part of the village “Dol Sv. Anna”.

I was only vaguely aware of ‘Saint Anne’ before moving here, but with no real knowledge of who she was.

Many streets and locations in English speaking countries are called St. Anne’s “something”.

St Anne Street in Liverpool
St Anne Street in Liverpool
St Anne's Street in New Orleans
St Anne’s street in New Orleans

There are many St. Anne’s Churches and I find that in the Anglican Communion, the day is listed on the calendar. But overwhelmingly it is a day celebrated in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

The 26th July is the date in the western calendars when St. Anne is celebrated, so it is the date of our village festival.

The Church down at the busy cross roads had been especially decorated and the row of potted, flowering plants outside made it look beautiful. It would be nice if they stayed all year, but they would need lots of watering.

St Anne's Church, Dol
St Anne’s Church, Dol

Apart from the 26th July and in August for the Puhijada festival when it becomes an art gallery, people drive past the church every day and barely notice it.

There isn’t a large village party, rather certain households gather friends and relatives in the evening for a dinner.

My neighbours across the road always invite me over to their party and it is always a nice occasion

These functions are a bit of a free for all. You invite people but you also expect others to just turn up, so the numbers for catering is guessing game.

Table for how many?
Table for how many?

I always make a point of taking something, using fruits and vegetables from the garden and orchard.

This year, my red plums are late ripening, but at the same time the Passion fruit are ready.

Passion Fruit ready for picking
Passion Fruit ready for picking

So on Tuesday morning I was picking plums and then passion fruit, stewing them gently with some sugar, because the plums are also tart this year, another result of the lack of rainfall.

Finally I made a crumble topping and they went in the oven for 45 minutes.

I also hadf a few “new” potatoes so made curried whole potatoes, with some spices, onions, garlic and a little Kashmiri Chili.

Kashmir chili potatoes
Kashmir chili potatoes and plum passion fruit crumble

The evening was a success, the seats were all filled and the plates were all emptied!

I arrived home just before Midnight after a really nice celebration.

If you go down to the woods today…

After walking down to the recycling bins with a large bag of paper, I cut through the woods and back up to the area I am monitoring for wild flowers.

There are one or two examples of really old Black Pine trees that provide ample shade on even the hottest of days. There are precious few old growth trees to be found on the island.

A pair of mature Pine trees
A pair of mature Pine trees

Further along the path, everything is brown, dry and dusty.

The dry landscape
The dry landscape

A hot summer wind was rustling through the leaves and branches of the deep rooted evergreen shrubs which line parts of the path.

Once the path starts to descend, you are in the shade of the surrounding trees. However with the temperature well above 30ºC, it was hardly cool even in the shade.

Descending into a del
Descending into a del

I saw quite a number of butterflies but little else beside some Wall Lizards basking in the sun.

Back at home, I am reminded of the drought we are experiencing by the state of some of my citrus trees. Leaves are shrivelling as the plants come under more and more stress.

Shrivelling leaves on an orange tree
Shrivelling leaves on an orange tree

I spent part of one morning this week on my hands and knees in the citrus orchard, adjusting the underground irrigation emitters. This was so that the trees receive more water. It hasn’t done much good so far!

Washington Orange bush
Washington Orange bush

I will have to start giving additional water direct to the roots of the trees under the most stress.

One thing I did spot this week was a very well camouflaged moth.

Catocala nupta
Catocala nupta

It was only when it flew that I saw the bright patches of red on its under wings, that enabled me to identify it.

Red underwing Catocala nupta
Red underwing Catocala nupta

This is the European Catocala nupta, known simply as the Red underwing. It is a large moth with an 8 cm wingspan, but only usually flies at night.

Reading up about it, the larvae feed on Poplar and Willow trees, neither of which have I seen in the Maquis here. The moth likes sugar hits, which is probably why it was on the Passiflora flowers.

I don’t do “easy”…

My Bananas aren’t happy in this heat, so I have increased the humidity and the watering and protected the new leaves from the strong sun.

In the orchard border I planted some Eremurus stenophyllus in 2016, which have the common name in English of “Fox tail lily”.

This plant is a clump forming herbaceous perennial which grows from a central crown with a radial root resembling an octopus.

They originate from the dry steppe and foothills of the Himalayas in Central Asia, requiring a free draining soil and minimal winter cold to thrive.

Known as Fox Tail Lilies, they are notoriously difficult to grow. Well I’ve never done easy!

For a couple of years they had some short lived flower spikes, but in the past two or three years, there have been lots of leaves, but no flowers.

Fox tail lilly
Fox Tail Lily in the orchard

This year I have been watching the leaves all die back and decided that I would dig up the crowns in preparation for replanting later in the year.

These plants go dormant in the summer, but because of their fleshy, delicate roots, they are difficult to handle.

Fox Tail Lily leaves dying back
Fox Tail Lily leaves dying back

I put my digging fork into the soil and easily lifted the clump out of the bone dry, powdery soil. And this is despite occasional watering until very recently.

Lifting the clump of crowns
Lifting the clump of crowns

When I looked at the clump, I could immediately see the problem.

They have grown way, way too close together, so that all the roots have inter-mingled and it is hard to see where the crowns are.

It took some time and very careful work to separate the crowns without damaging many of the roots. I will leave them for a day to allow the broken roots to callous over before planting them.

Altogether I separated seven, mostly large, crowns. They resemble brittle starfish

Crowns separated
Crowns separated

Another of the foibles of this species is that they deeply resent root disturbance. This makes lifting and separating difficult at the best of times.

Well sorry guys, but this needs to be done so you can grow undisturbed in the autumn and perhaps flower next summer! NCG

3 Responses

  1. Tony Griggs

    Looks like you are really into the swing of life there Norman! Good for you! Just arrived back into ( cold) Australia after a wonderful 6 weeks predominantly in the UK, two in Shetlands, 10 walking the West Highlands Way, Islay, Zurich, Paris & London (Teddington). One of these next trips to Europe might have to pop down yr way for a visit! That party is typical of a small community…great to be in a little community where you are made to feel part of it! Enjoy the rest of summer 😊

  2. Marcy

    Loved the pictures of the Fox Lily and the moth. So interesting with all your news this week. The neighbor’s table and your food looked so inviting. Glad you had a great time. A small community is so nice to be a part of because they see you and can be more inclusive. So sorry to hear about the water stuff. However, isn’t it what you have used all these years, and haven’t had any issues except a leak? I hope you find the right product going forward.

    We have had a lot of rain in the past two weeks. Much needed and appreciated. It has greened the grass and made things fresher. And it cooled down a great deal. Hoping you get some moisture soon. Take care and stay safe.

  3. Michael Charlton-Weedy

    Once you Fox Tail lilies have flowered it’s advisable to feed them a couple of times with a liquid general purpose fertiliser. This is because in the height of summer in very dry soil, the nutrients the bulbs need to develop aren’t readily accessible. We now have a very good display on the very warm (well, it is Yorkshire) south side of the house in relatively poor soil. However, they seem completely untroubled by crowding.