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I need Mr Spock

This week: I need Mr Spock; Cutting wood; Shopping trips; Painting the Konoba ceiling; The Northern Winter Solstice;

Sun-up on the Solstice
Sun-up on the Solstice

Writing this as dusk falls outside, with my wood stove burbling away in the dining room, as it heats the water for my central heating, it is nice to shut the curtains and withdraw into my study.

If you are celebrating Christmas, I wish you a very Merry Christmastide, whether that be in cold northern Europe, or on the warm, sun drenched beaches of the Antipodes.

The weather continues to play a significant part in out life here.

This week, the sun is mostly just below the tree line on the hill to the south of my home.

Mid-day in my courtyard
Mid-day in my courtyard

Only certain parts of my garden and orchards see the sun, and then only for a few short hours in the morning.

Where there is sunshine, it is warm. At least when there is no wind it is.

Once again this year, the warmth late into November followed by cold in December, and then warmth now, is upsetting the balance of nature.

Trees like my Myrobalan Plum have blossom on them.

Myrobalan plum blossom
Myrobalan plum blossom

Buds are beginning to swell on a number of my trees, and I even have some new leaves. This really is just not “normal”.

New leaves on the fruit trees
New leaves on the fruit trees

But then, what is “normal” anymore?

One sad bit of news this week, is that the Avon tyre factory has closed its doors for the last time.

Avon have been making tyres since before WWII, but they can no longer be competitive. So with an aging workforce, the business has closed.

Avon Road Runners have been keeping me safe for the last 50 years and I still have a set on one of my motorcycles.

Avon tyres
Avon tyres

The company was the last British motorcycle tyre manufacturer.

Fittingly, some of the very last tyres to be made were for British vintage motorcycles. Another industry which has been consigned to history.

This is my New Hudson, ED7575, a once proud British manufacturer….

I need Mr Spock

Some more wood for my stove was delivered on Monday. This was “builders waste”, old beams, floor boards and pieces of dry timber.

I realised I needed to cut it into stove size pieces, but not only that, I wanted to use a “log slave” to move the timber, but also to have some as moveable storage.

However when I brought my log slave out, it had two flat tyres.

Breaking out my electric tyre pump, I could see that one tyre wall had perished and threads were showing.

The perished tyre wall
The perished tyre wall

Even so, because the tyres have tubes, I was able to inflate the tyre to 32 psi and it retained the pressure.

When I tried to inflate the other tube, I could hear air leaking out.

I removed the tyre and tube from the hub and I could see that the problem was with the joint where the valve is vulcanised to the rest of the tube.

Removing the inner tube
Removing the inner tube

I have, of course, a couple of tyre repair kits, so they came out of the store. However because it looks like a failure of the vulcanising rather than a traditional puncture, I knew fixing it was not going to be straight forward.

Following the old fashioned process of cleaning and roughening the area around the leak, followed by an application of rubber cement and a patch. I then used a clamp to hold the patch in place.

Putting the tube back into the tyre and then the tyre back on the hub, I tried to inflate it. The tube immediately started leaking again.

Refitting the tyre to the hub on the log slave
Refitting the tyre to the hub on the log slave

I think I need Mr Spock to do a little bit of vulcanising. Shock, horror! A Vulcaniser is one machine I just don’t have!

All that work took most of the morning and into Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday I tried to get new tyres and tubes.

You will not be surprised to learn that my local builders merchants didn’t have them in stock. I think I will have to resort to AliExpress again…

Cutting wood

My plan ‘B’ was to use a sack barrow, so I started cutting the wood into usable pieces.

I used the sack barrow to move several loads around, to make them easily accessible for the fire.

Suitably loaded Sack Barrow
Fully loaded Sack Barrow

Sack barrows have their uses, but they are not ideal for this sort of task. My wheelbarrow was already full, so I persevered.

This load of wood will last me about four days, when combined with large logs as well.

The two complement each other, dry, processed woods burns hot but quickly. When combined with slower burning logs, I get the best of both worlds.

Shopping trips

In the run up to Christmas, I decided I had better get the household shopping in early.

Christmas Eve here being a Sunday, means that supermarkets are closed. All shops are closed on Christmas Day and also on Boxing Day, the 26th December, so that means that there will be three days where everything is shut.

So today Saturday, the last full shopping day, was going to be busy.

Because of that I have been to Jelsa and Stari Grad, not for anything special, but just to get the staples in, to last through to next week.

At the same time I have met people for coffee and a chat, been to the bank and post office and done other errands.

All of this takes time and diverts me away from other jobs around my home.

Painting the Konoba ceiling

One of my errands was to buy some masking tape to put over the beams of the Konoba.

It is a lot easier to protect the wood, than to later have to clean off any paint splashes.

I spent Friday morning applying masking tape to the beams and then did a trial run with the paint brush.

On Saturday, I gave the two sections a second coat of paint. However, I’m not happy with the coverage.

Unpainted left, painted right
Unpainted left, painted right

The plasterboard has a grey paper finish and in several places, even after two coats of paint, the grey is still showing through.

I think I need to buy some denser white emulsion paint before I continue further with painting between the beams.

Painting is my least favourite DiY job.

One coat of paint is OK, two coats a necessary evil, but three coats?!

The Northern Winter Solstice

Friday the 22nd December was the Northern Winter Solstice.

It is that day when large numbers of Druids (and others) turn up at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, the Neolithic monument built some 4,000 years ago to showcase both the winter and summer solstice events.

There are Megalithic monuments all along the Adriatic coast. The nearest one to me is on Brač, in the Megalithic Park west of Bol.

The park includes the Megalithic Circle, which symbolizes the Solar System moving towards 13 star constellations in the Milky Way, a stone ball, stone pyramid and a Dalmatian Cairn with Belvedere Megatlith.

Brač Megalithic Park
Brač Megalithic Park, in the distance is Otok Hvar

The location on the south side of the island means that it could only see the winter sunrise and sunset, so it was not built for the same purpose as Stonehenge.

Stone and wooden post circles can be found across Europe , but it is really only at Stonehenge that the biannual celebrations are held every Solstice.

I was up early on the Solstice and was accompanied by Bljsac on my walk through the Maquis up to St Michael’s Church.

Bljsac enjoys her walks
Bljsac enjoys her walks

The sun rising above the island’s limestone backbone illuminated the spire and bell tower of the Church first, before its warm rays reach the parts of the village which nestle around the walls of the natural amphitheatre where the village is located.

St. Michael's Church
St. Michael’s Church

Even on the shortest day of the year, the sun is still warm. It was 10ºC in the shade when I left home.

We saw no one else on our walk, although an 8 metre section of stone walling has been demolished by the Wild Boar, in their effort to find buried food.

Boar demolished wall
Boar demolished wall

Even through they are hunted, the Wild Boar are a problem on the island because of the damage they cause, and the crops they eat.

So with the passing of the Solstice, the days will lengthen as we head into spring and then in a few months, our summer. NCG