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Hurricane Apollo

This week: Catch-up week; Shore leave; Up on the roof; Decayed fibreglass; Stop Press!; Looking back;

St Michaels's Church
An unusual view of Dol and St Michael’s Church from Stari Grad Plain

Almost on cue for the COP26 conference in Glasgow starting tomorrow, Europe is going to see some severe weather.

Mediterranean Hurricane Apollo has been named by the Italian Meteorological Service this week.

Earlier in the week more than 300mm of rain fell in a 24 hour period in Sicily. This is half the usual annual total, all caused by a tropical cyclone developing in the Mediterranean between Italy and North Africa.

Tropical Cyclone flooding in Sicily

Some super computer weather models have been variously suggesting that the storm would push east across the Ionian sea, gaining strength as it did so. It would then affect Greece.

Then on Friday the latest modelling predictions suggest that just days after a first strike, the storm has reversed course and would now strike Sicily again.

The Italian states of Calabria and Sicily were placed on “Red alert” for life threatening weather, with warnings for all of eastern Italy and Sardinia.

By Saturday afternoon, the suggestion is the cyclone has reversed track and is now heading towards North Africa. This kind of behaviour, like the storm itself, is extremely unusual.

Meanwhile here in Dol, the rain which was forecast for this week never materialised. I have been watering plants again because they are so dry and the days have been sunny and warm.

As I seem to have said so many times this year, this kind of weather is just not normal. At least, it’s not the “old normal”.

Catch-up week

I’ve been really good, been sensible, taken my Benylin tablets and have got rid of the flu-type cold I started with last week. It really didn’t cause me more than a couple of days irritation. I was much more concerned about not passing it to anyone else.

My Grandmother always used to say “When you have something good you should share it.” However, even though the advice is excellent, it does not apply in all circumstances!

I have a plan for the week! I might not follow it completely and it might not work, but at least I have a plan.

The daily temperatures are dropping and in the sky, the sun is noticeably rising later in the day as we race towards the northern winter solstice.

What I find strange is that I am still having to irrigate quite a few of my plants. In previous years I have never been watering so late in the year.

Plants which flower in winter, like this Loquat have all developed their “candlestick” flower spikes.

Loquat flowers
Loquat flowers with a Red Admiral butterfly

There are many Red Admiral butterflies flying, by their bright wings and lack of damage, probably the third brood of the year. These are our all-year-round butterflies, found flying on sunny days in the middle of January.

Loquat flower candle
Loquat flower candle

Meanwhile those deciduous plants and trees that I have around my home are rapidly taking on their autumn hues.

Virginia creeper
Virginia creeper

There are things which I noticed this week, for example the sheer number of Preying Mantis. Having seen none all summer, they seem to be all over now.

I rescued a young one from the middle of the concrete terrace. He/she objected violently to being picked up, but I persisted and put it in the greenhouse.

The adults don’t seem to “over-winter” but perhaps a young one will?

Another autumn flowering plant which has naturalised is the Morning Glory, which as the name suggests, only flower early in the day.

Morning Glory
Morning Glory

Shore leave

I finally bit the bullet and went to the mainland this week.

Initially during COVID you couldn’t travel to the mainland at all. Then last summer as the country began to open up for tourism, I didn’t consider my need to go to be worth the risk.

Last winter I really didn’t have the need and this summer again, the number of people on the ferry put me off. I’ve had my vaccinations but am still risk averse.

There were several reasons to travel. I needed an eyesight test and also really needed things for projects which are on hold, waiting for parts.

I caught the very early 05:30 ferry and there were few people on board. In the saloon, with seating for around 150 people, there were just three of us.

There were a lot more trucks than cars on the vehicle deck, but even so I was soon off the ferry. The ophthalmist gave me a clean bill of health, no need for new glasses, no cataracts or other problems. Just go back again in 12 months or so….

Then it was off shopping, with a fairly long list for Bauhausand also at the electrical wholesaler.

I came back with most of the materials that I had had on my list. At least all the major items, the roof loaded with fencing and roofing panels and all the smaller things inside.

I also treated myself to a couple of plants.

Impulse purchase
Impulse purchase of Michaelmas flowers

You know as you get to a Supermarket checkout and there are the stands with all the chocolates and treats? Well I can quite happily walk past and ignore them completely.

But I do have difficulty where there are some nice plants on show, especially when there is just one left, like this rather unusual Tiger Stripe pansy.

Tiger stripe Pansy
Tiger stripe Pansy

Up on the roof

The first job of the year was to fix some plastic sheeting on the roof between my two main buildings. This was later punctured in almost every pane, multiple times, while the felines played with the puddles which the rain created.

I bought two sheets of ribbed Perspex, but because of the shape of the roof, there was a small area where I had left the plastic because I had only bought two sheets.

What has happened this summer is that the intense sunlight beating down on the horizontal plastic sheeting has made it perish and fray.

The rain we had a week ago finished the plastic because the weight of pooling water was too much for a degraded material.

Strands of frayed plastic sheeting
Strands of frayed plastic sheeting

I also have a much older fibreglass roof which has also perished for the same reason.

So I spent the best part of Thursday up and down a ladder, like the proverbial “frog on a pump handle” fixing pieces of sheeting in place.

Each piece had to be cut with the oscillating saw, before I fixed it to new battens and interlaced it with the existing Perspex sheet.

Cutting Perspex sheeting
Cutting Perspex sheeting

Because of the dihedral angle of the buildings, there is quite a large run-off. But rather than waste plastic, I have cut it with square corners, so that later, once I have the new building and everything is finally joined up, I can make use of the pieces elsewhere.

Fitting in progress
Perspex fitting in progress

Triangular pieces of used plastic are really of very little use.

Decayed fibreglass

Repairing the degraded fibreglass sheeting was more problematic.

Degraded fibreglass sheeting
Degraded fibreglass sheeting

I have never seen a sheet of fibreglass roofing fail in this way. Yes it is out in all weathers, but especially here it is the strength of the summer sun and the very high UV values.

The UV affects all plastics and even blisters paint on old car roofs. You see car tyres covered in summer, to stop the rubber perishing.

One of the three sheets seems to have been especially badly affected. I bought a full sheet of Perspex to lay over the top. This was an easier option than trying to removed well rusted nails!

I pre-drilled holes to take the special fixing plugs, moved the sheet into position and got ready to screw into the fibreglass.

As I pushed the first screw into the material, it went straight through. Out of six fixings, just two screws have bitten into the fibreglass.

Of the remainder, the sheet is so badly decayed that you can easily poke a finger through so nothing will grip.

Being tucked under the eaves at one end secures the new sheet quite nicely. At the other I have laid a wooden batten, wedged and weighted at both ends to prevent strong winds from lifting the sheet.

New Perspex in place
New Perspex in place

We don’t often get high winds and I hope this, together with it being in the lea of the roof and some old roof tiles, will prevent wind damage.

Wiring issues

This is the old roof, made of concrete tiles which were donated as War reparations after the buildings were burnt in 1943.

The tiles are simply laid on woods lats, which are in turn fixed to tree trunks. No nails are used, the tiles being held in place by gravity alone.

This makes them easy to lift as and when required. The whole roof will have to be replaced soon too.

When I am working on the roof, I find it much easier to lift the tiles above the 80 cm thick walls and in this gap is where I have run several electrical conduits.

As usual, I lifted a row to fix the Perspex over the fibreglass sheet. This is close to one of the electrical Consumer Units.

Opening a line of tiles
Opening a line of tiles

However what I wasn’t prepared for was to see that one of the conduits had been chewed through, and bare copper wire was showing where the wire insulation had been chewed away.

Chewed cable
Chewed cable

The teeth marks have been left by a rat. This is the cable to the outside light, so it is only energised when the light is switched on. Otherwise there would probably have been a dead rat there as well.

I don’t want to run a new cable until the building work is done, hopefully next year. So I have effected a repair.

First I put new insulation around the cable.

New insulation
New insulation over the exposed copper

Then I taped this into place with electrical tape. Finally I covered the repair with more conduit.

Joint taped
Joint taped and made safe

Luckily (for the rat!) the cable is seldom energised and had not been completely chewed through, so this will work as a temporary fix until next year.

What I have also done is to spray all around the area with a diluted Mint spray.

After I mentioned in a blog a couple of weeks ago about keeping rodents out, a reader contacted me to say that mint essence in water, when sprayed will stop them because rodents can’t abide a strong smell of mint.

Thanks for the advice. A very useful tip!

Stop Press!

I’ve been out this afternoon (Saturday) with my friend Cvjetko from Stari Grad.

It has been another lovely, warm autumn day and we went down onto the Stari Grad Plain to help another friend with a job.

Imagine living completely “off grid”, in amongst the pines and olives on the southern edge of the Plain.

Pick nick table in the olive grove
Pick nick table in the olive grove

The owner has done a superb job of clearing stones and levelling terraces, then building outstanding features using the reclaimed stone.

Young olives and lavender have been planted and will soon be of an age when they will produce their first crops.

What I really noticed was the superb quality of the soil. Whereas mine is completely filled with small stones, is devoid of organic material and is little more than crushed limestone and clay, on the plain the soil is a deep, dark red.

You could plant a stick there and it would grow I think!

But the really good news is that Cvjetko and his workmen will, if things go to plan, be in Dol towards the end of the week, to start work on the inside of my old cottage.

I hadn’t expected this to happen until next year, so this is a real bonus.

How do you eat an elephant

Watch this space….

On the way back just before sunset, we passed a solitary Common Crane at the Dračevica pond. This stately bird was busy hunting for his supper. NCG

A grey Heron at Dračevica
A Common Crane, Grus grus, at Dračevica

Looking back – Week 43

This is the start of the weekly section, with links to past issues of the blog.

2014/43 Spaghetti Junction

2015/43 It’s been a smashing week!

Dol from the air

2016/43 Wet and windy weather

2017/43 Watching concrete dry

2018/43 Some progress every day

2019/43 Foggy bottoms

Foggy bottoms
Foggy bottoms

2020/43 Broken tines stop play

Clear sky's
Clear sky’s and autumn sunshine

2 Responses

  1. Michael Southall

    Hi Norman,
    Just spotted your bird is a Crane, Grus Grus, not a Grey Heron.
    Best Regards
    ps. Steve’s pal

  2. John Bailey

    Good morning Norman,We have a gale blowing at the moment accompanied by heavy rain. Surprised to read you rarely get strong winds on Dol. Interesting read this week.