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I need a bigger horse!

This week: Katabatic wind; I need a bigger horse; Winter plums; Merry Christmas!

Bare branches
Bare branches and blue skies

It’s the northern Winter Solstice on Monday.

The days are short, but in a few weeks we will see more daylight. Soon the sun will once again climb above the hills to the south of Dol.

We have had a little more rain this week, but mostly the days have been fine and dry with almost cloudless skies.

That has made the nights cold, but no so cold for frost. At least not yet, but there is another six weeks of winter to go, so there is still time….

Katabatic wind

From around mid-day every day, there is an almost constant but light Katabatic wind. This flows down from the limestone backbone of the island and onto the Stari Grad Plain.

I watch smoke from my woodstove and from my neighbour’s, gently sinking towards the Agar as it exits the flues horizontally.

Horizontal smoke
Horizontal smoke

This movement of cold air benefits my home because I am in a thermal belt. Being much warmer than the plain, it means that there are few winter frosts.

Air is a fluid mass and as it cools, it sinks until it can’t go any further. So the constant downhill movement doesn’t allow the cold air to pool around my home in frost pockets. Dol is always several degrees warmer in winter than Stari Grad and the Plain.

When I took Gizmo to the Vets on Thursday for his annual vaccinations, there was thick fog along the whole length of the Stari Grad Plain.

Fog on the plain
Fog on the plain

This is a temperature inversion, where warm air above, holds the cool air below, without the two mixing. The inversion was almost exactly on the 50 metre contour line

Half in fog
Stari Grad half in fog

Gizmo was the only client when the Lota veterinary practice opened at 8am. As I drove through the town to get there, people were using de-icer and scrapers to clean their frozen windscreens.

All I had had to do when I left home, was to wipe some slight condensation off the door mirrors.

The outside air temperature in Dol when I left was 6.6ºC, according to the car’s on-board thermometer. When I got down to Stari Grad, a distance of five kilometres by road and a vertical difference of 90 meters, it was just 3.2ºC.

There is a reason why one of the streets and an area of the town is called Siberia!


I need a bigger horse

The soils around my home are still sodden after the recent rain. I have been doing jobs this week which don’t involve walking on or working on the earth.

The woodstove has been earning its keep as we approach the coldest fortnight of the year. The week after Christmas and the first week of the new year always seem to be the coldest.

It’s not surprising really because the sun is at its lowest in the sky. The day length at the moment is 8 hours and 55 minutes, but it is still reducing by one minute every three days. This is until the 21st December. However I only see three and a half hours of sunlight.

I’m getting no heat from the solar water heater because there is almost no sun reaching it. I can sit on the terrace and have coffee in the sunshine at 11am, but by 12:15 the sun has sunk behind the hills to the south.

My wood shed is quite well stocked. Most of the timber is in 1.75 meter lengths or in rounds cut from the trunks of large trees. So this week I have been doing some cutting with the chain saw every day.

Timber in the round

I now have a reasonable supply up near the house. Certainly there is enough to last until New Year, without having to cut any more.

Timber storage
Timber storage

The big slices are Mulberry. It is a very dense, hard wood that only burns slowly and gives off little heat. It is an ideal log to put on the fire just before bed, so it will still be alight the following morning.

Cutting into quarters
Cutting into quarters

Every day I am joined by the kittens, who seem to enjoy being where ever I am.

Even on a trip up into the woods behind my home, looking at the old walls and buildings whilst they are visible because the annual grasses and underbrush has died back, I turned round to find that Gizmo and two kittens had followed me up the hill.

They are not bothered by noise and turning round when I was using the chain saw, the three boys, Pongo, Tigger and Argen were perched on the top of the wooden saw horse, watching me.

Three boys
Three boys

There was not a great deal of space even for just the three of them, and certainly no room for their sister. So as they grow, if they continue to perch on the back of the horse, I think I will need to make a bigger one, just to accommodate them!

I’ve not been able to find homes for them because of COVID. No one on the island wants to take on any extra responsibilities.

Winter plums

I have several varieties of plums, a red Myrobalan cherry plum, a yellow Mirabelle and another variety I cannot identify which is similar to a Victoria.

Because of the strange weather we have had this year, I had a number of trees coming into blossom in October.

Autumn blossom
Autumn blossom – Myrobalan plum

With all the leaves now having gone, I can see that some of this blossom has actually set and there are small plums on the trees.

Winter plum
Winter plum

This really is just not normal.

On my biggest fig tree, there are a number of small fruits, which are the third crop of the year. There were brieba fruit in the early spring, the main crop in late July and August and then this third crop.

December figs
December figs

There is a large apple tree in the orchard, which always has very sweet fruit on it. The buds are already starting to swell and I’ve not even thought about pruning it yet.

Apple tree buds
Apple tree buds

I don’t expect that any of the fruit will be harvestable, or even edible, but the changes we are experiencing in climate are affecting the plants, trees, insects and animals.

As climate change continues, goodness only knows how the natural world will adapt to the changes.

Over the aeons there has of course been climate change, but the plant and animal kingdom has adapted because the changes have been almost imperceptible.

What we are seeing at the moment, where change is taking place over a decade or less, there is only so much adaptability that the living world can make.

Merry Christmas everybody!

My pot of Božićna pšenica – Christmas Wheat is growing well, with just under a week to go.

I have mentioned in previous years that things are very laid back here when it comes to Christmas arrangements.

When I was at the biggest supermarket on Monday, they were just unboxing the Christmas decorations and putting them onto the shelves.

In Stari Grad, the Christmas Tree in the main square had not appeared when I passed on Thursday with Gizmo. The solitary decoration in the village has been strung between two lamp standards for about a fortnight, but I’ve not been out after dark to see if it is lit yet.

There is no tradition here of giving or sending Christmas Cards. I have not seen any for sale anywhere, so it is unsurprising that I have not received any cards.

I did make up a special card for one of the on-line groups that I belong to though. It’s a Stollen BMW being followed by a Jam Sandwich.

Stollen BMW
Stollen BMW

Both of them tasted very good!

So many of the traditions in the English speaking world are of Germanic origin. They were brought to the UK by Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, when he married the young Queen Victoria in 1839.

Traditions which continue in Germany, Austria and other German speaking countries to this day seem just to have never been adopted here in Croatia.

This does seem strange, because until 1919, this area was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire – places where many of those same traditions exist today.

We do have some nice traditions. This morning one of my neighbours came past my Dol house with his young daughter, going up the old donkey track to gather moss and lichen to decorate the nativity scene which every home has.

They came back with a big basket of greenery.

Every Christmas Eve I deliver a small gift and a card to my nearest neighbours, just as a small “Thank you” for all their help during the year. I have wrapped them today and they are ready for delivery this week.

I have two dozen Mince Pies in the kitchen and a small Christmas Cake, so I am not giving up on the traditions that I grew up with in the UK.

Where ever you are reading my blog this Christmastide, I wish you a very Merry and COVID free Christmas. NCG

6 Responses

  1. John Bailey

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy new year Norman. Let’s hope things will improve in 2021. Covid vaccination is being rolled out. I understand I am in the third group to receive it. The over 75 . I know of several neighbours in their 80 who have already had the first of two vaccinations needed. As you say we are heading in the right direction. Nights will start drawing out soon. A good read. I liked the flashing lights in time with the tune. Very Christmassy.

  2. Tony Griggs

    Merry Christmas Norman. Linda too likes to give small presents to neighbours and friends. On Christmas Eve we are having the work orphans over for dinner ( those from interstate without their family). Wishing you a relaxing Xmas and that 2021 brings you good things 😊

  3. Rob Kennett

    A merry Christmas to you and our best wishes for the New Year- Belinda Abby and Rob

  4. Andy Robinson

    A very Happy Christmas to you Norman…how fortunate you are to not live in Britain, where it is promising to be a miserable time for very many people, brought about Im afraid by the selfishness of others by their pig headed attitudes to the Covid rules. Brits really are stupid in that respect as Im sure you remember! As for the re homing of your cats…I suspect you didnt try terribly hard!!…..All the best Matey…

  5. Stev Golding

    Merry Xmas. Hope you have a great 2021.
    All the best. Victoria and Steve

  6. Nikola Radic

    Hello Norman, thank you for sending me the link to your blog!
    Merry Xmas and greetings to your nearest neighbours.