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I’ve lost my Galanthus

This week: Start the week; Monday, Monday; What a difference a day makes; Having the right tool for the job; Visual spatial learners; I’ve lost my Galanthus; Looking back;

First snow
First snow on the Dinaric Alps, 70 km to the east

We are now into December and very soon it will be New Year and the start of 2022.

Once again the past year seems to have flown past but the concerning thing for me is the continuing climate breakdown.

November has been the second wettest that I have recorded since I moved to Dol, with 312 mm recorded and 20 rainy days. November 2019 was the wettest with 337 mm and 23 rainy days.

The computer forecasting models are all over the place, so all I am prepared to say is that for the first two weeks of December, it look as though there will be more rain and little cold.

I have started lighting the fire every afternoon around 4pm, mainly because the felines were asking for their winter coats…

Feline winter coats
Feline winter coats
Everyone is in on the act!
Everyone is in on the act!

or they threatened NOT to go out! Only two of the adolescents came with me for a walk through the olives one morning this week and the sun was shining too…

I have spent a lot of time in the Cottage again this week, fixing the wiring, the water and waste pipes.

However when I looked at the orchards, I realised how much there is to do before spring. But I also realised that with only 9 hours of daylight a day and with so many jobs to do, upon which others depend, I just have to accept the weeds.

The first heralds of spring are already here, earlier than in previous years, but an indication that under the surface of the soil, life is already starting anew.

Start the week

Along with the rain, with more on Sunday and Monday, the weather has turned colder. There is a raw feel to the air outside first thing in the morning.

The original windows in my buildings are all small. This is because with walls that are between 60 cm and a metre thick, they help to maintain a stable inside temperature.

Inside rooms are cool in summer and warm in winter. Small windows allow light in, but not much summer heat or winter cold.

With double or tripple glazing now being available, new windows and doors are larger, significantly larger, than at any time in history. This meant that on Monday morning, when the outside temperature was struggling to reach +8ºC, I was warm inside, as I wrote up my “to do” list for the week.

With my coffee finished, I donned gloves and a ‘beanie hat’ to start work again inside the cottage.

I now have a double wall at the back, with damp proof membrane. I have lost half a square metre of floor space, but gained the same area in shelf space.

Bearing in mind that this is the utility room, and at this end of the building there will be the large refrigerator and freezer, I am not too worried about the loss of a little floor area.

Was it Isac Newton’s seventh Law which said “People always expand to fill the available space” ? I will have no trouble expanding, I’m sure. And of course the felines will have gained somewhere else to snooze in the sun.

Monday, Monday

After coffee I was out knocking some more channels into the old walls of the cottage to take water pipes for the washer and sink, and a power supply for the instant hot water heater.

I have found a very neat German made instant water heater which I ordered on Monday and it was delivered on Friday.

While I was online, I also ordered an additional networked smoke detector for the cottage.

Then more heavy rain and a thunderstorm curtailed work, because of very poor light.

The electric supply to the building is not connected yet, so I am working with a portable LED floodlight. However that means there are deep shadows and as the sky darkened, I gave up and came in for another hot drink!

Water pipes welded
Water pipes welded and electrics installed

I welded all the water pipes, so that is another job done, and also ran the electrical conduit.

This just leaves the waste pipes for the washer and the sink. Once they are done, my work is complete until Cvjetko and his team have finished turning a bare shell into something that I can paint and then tile the floor.

With a fair wind (and preferably no wind) I am on target for having it all finished for Christmas, as planned.

What a difference a day makes

I made an early start on Tuesday morning. My first job was to gently turn on the water at the stoptap. There was a fizzing sound as the water began to flow through the pipes.

With a bucket in hand, I opened the tap at the furthest end of the new pipe work. There were three drips of water, then nothing!

I tried one of the blanking plugs. Again just a few drops. I closed the stoptap and opened it again. Nothing! At this point Cvjetko arrived to do more concrete work.

Unbolting the stoptap there was a fine spray of water, so I tightened it again. This means that the problem is down stream from the tap and the new pipe is blocked.

It took a little while to discover that the pipe was blocked at the weld just above the stoptap.

I always buy and use Vargon pipes. They are good quality, even if a little more expensive than other brands, but I had some short lengths of green pipe from another manufacturer which I had used. It was this which had closed completely when I welded the joint.

Being on the inside I couldn’t see the blockage. Carefully drilling out the obstruction got everything working.

It just took until the middle of the afternoon to get back to where I thought I was the day before.

On this occasion “Bad light” very definitely “stopped play”.

Having the right tool for the job

Anyone who has ever struggled to undo a screw will know the frustration of not having the right tool for the job, or the right size tool for a particular job.

Last week I mentioned using the Stillson wrench to undo steel pipes. A correspondent remarked that it was another tool they had never heard of. A Stillson is one of those things you may not use often, but when you need one, it is worth its weight in brass.

I have a few other oddities in my tool box, or hanging up because they won’t fit in the tool box. Some I use from time to time, some I keep because they were my Grandfathers’, some I have aquired “just in case” I ever need them.

Take my Leaf Spring Greaser.

Terry Leaf Spring Greaser
Terry Leaf Spring Greaser

Few vehicles these days have leaf springs, but it is so useful, I’m not going to give it away to anyone.

Then there are the dog leg reamer and lockwire pliars, both tools used on aircraft.

Dog leg reamer
Dog leg reamer
Lockwire pliars
Lockwire pliars

Lockwire pliars can be used in the orchard when you want to make a really neat job of wiring trees to wooden stakes.

I have a number of netting shuttles, old and new, of different sizes and made of different materials.

Netting shuttle
Netting shuttle

Then there is the Keech tool, beloved by everyone in the business of rescue. It’s basically a large, hardened steel tin opener.

Keech tool
Keech tool

In amongst my chissels are a couple of “Tooth chissels”. Not not dental tools, although the small one could perhaps be. They are used to cleanly and easily split stone.

Tooth chisel
Tooth chisel

I have a Patty Keach tool. From the name you might expect it to be used for keaching patties. It’s actually used for bending metal.

Patty keach tool
Patty keach tool

There is the Lenker rod hanging up alongside the long levels.

Lenker rod
Lenker rod

Somewhere at the bottom of the tool box are the broaches and stud extractors, but my favourite is the Plastoe Extractor. Something every DIY person should have…

Plastow extractor
Plastoe extractor

You just never know when you might need to extract a stuck Plastoe.

Visual spatial learners

The acronym CFI stands for Certified Flying Instructor.

Some years ago when I was telling a colleague that I was studying to become a flying instructor, his response was that I need certifying!

I qualified to teach flight theory and pilot’s ground school but never went on to do the actual practical flight training, although I did some practical cockpit instruction, on the ground, engines off…

I’m also a qualified as a police trainer. The common denominator here is having to learn about the different learning styles that individuals have, and how to tailor your teaching to the student’s learning style.

I found that aspect of the course very interesting because it is about psychology. I discovered in my mid-career following psychometric tests that I am a visual-kinaesthetic learner.

This explains why I was so miserable at school and why I couldn’t leave school and escape from the classroom quickly enough, so I could learn practical, real world skills.

Various psychologist educators have provided different systems to describe peoples “learning styles” .

Being a visual learner is part of the VARK model of learning, described in 1987 by Fleming and Mills. I absolutely recognise myself in this cartoon.

This was exactly how I built Airfix kits!

Visual learner at work
Visual learner at work

So this week when I opened my box of parts for making drain pipes, I immediately felt at home. I started by laying the various joints and pipes out on the floor of the cottage, to sort them into the order they would go together.

Laying out the various parts
Laying out the various parts

I could immediately visualise which bits I wanted, and what went where.

With just a few measurements, some silicone spray to help ease the joints together and a saw to cut the pipes to the correct length, I soon had the pipes assembled and ready for fitting.

The most difficult job was fitting the new pipe into the old waste pipe in the floor. I didn’t want to have to dig all the concrete up and to lay a full new pipe, so needed to mate the new outlet into the old pipe.

New into old
New into old

This was really just an exercise in problem solving, but being a visual-spatial person, I just knew which bit needed to go where.

Even when I was putting my kit together, I realised that I didn’t need two outlets in the wall (for the sink and the washing machine) with all the attendant mess, if I used a ‘Y’ junction, which the long waste water tube from the washer just plugs into.

It was barely a couple of hours work to have everything in place and sand back filled around the new pipes. This will be covered with a layer of new concrete before being tiled.

On Thursday morning Cvjetko was back covering the walls with an undercoat of runny cement. This sticks very firmly to the old stones and lime mortar and provides the key onto which the concrete render will be attached, once everything is dry.

But that is going to be a next week job…

I’ve lost my Galanthus

There is a minor technical distinction between having lost something, and just not being able to find it….

My work inside the Cottage is at an end now until the walls and floor are finished. So during an occasional fine spell this week, I’ve been out in the orchards to try and catch up on outstanding work.

After the end of the summer heat and the arrival of rain, all the weeds have been growing.

Because this is an area where there are seldom any really low temperatures, weeds grow all year round. While I have been occupied with the Konoba and the Cottage, rather like Topsy, they have just “growed and growed“,

My plan was to get the cold wind protection around the citrus trees, but decided to weed around them first. I also pulled a few weedlings out of the flower bed just outside the kitchen.

Removing some greenery, I was amazed to find that the ‘Leopard spot’ spiked shoots of the Dragon Arum lily are already several centimetres tall. In the background are the new Hyacinth leaves.

Dragon Arum shoots
Dragon Arum shoots

This was the flower in June.

Dragon Arum flower
Dragon Arum flower

This is one of my “Springwatch” indicator species and the first shoot generally appear towards the end of January. I spent one wet afternoon this week updating my Springwatch spreadsheet, ready for 2022.

When I checked, these shoots are an incredible 55 days earlier than in 2021. What is the cause? I just do not know, but clearly climate breakdown is in there somewhere.

Springwatch spreadsheet
Springwatch spreadsheet

For three years the first shoots have appeared around middle of January. Then suddenly I see them this week on 1st December, purely by chance because I wasn’t looking.

Elsewhere two other indicators, Hyacinth which are in the lea of a Pomegranate tree are already showing, 21 days earlier than 2020 and on my walk down to the bins, I spied Paperwhite Narcissi in flower in the corner of a neighbours garden.

Paper White Narcissi flowers
Paper White Narcissi flowers

I’ve never noticed them before. I also saw that a Lilac has flowers again, for the second time this year.

Late lilac flowers
Late Lilac flowers

My Narcissi are growing well, but the first flower buds are yet to appear. They usually flower between Christmas and New Year.

I started weeding around one of my lemon trees.

Lemons are the least hardy of all the Citrus varieties, so I wanted to get the netting on this tree first. But on one side there were a number of Galanthus – Snowdrops.

Weeding round a lemon tree
Weeding round a lemon tree

However they have never done very well because of being behind the shade netting all winter and into the spring.

I carefully lifted the weeds with a fork and then probed to try and find the bulbs. I couldn’t find any. Not a single one.

Rather than dig, perhaps in the wrong place, I am going to wait until the spring when they flower, and then lift them and move them into a better position.

The Lemon tree is covered with tiny fruit, some flowers, some immature fruit and I picked the last lemon from last winter’s crop.

Lemon blossom in December
Lemon blossom in December
Immature lemon fruit
Immature lemon fruit
Ripe and ripening lemons
Ripe and ripening lemons
Wind protection now in place
Wind protection now in place

Citrus are one of those strange trees which can have blossom, immature , mature and ripe fruit all at the same time.

I had a look online at a bulb supplier in Zagreb, and was surprised to see that they have Pecan trees for sale, but no Galanthus.

I think I might just have to buy one! NCG

Looking back – Week 4*

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

2014/48 Faces at the window

2015/48 Calling all hunters!

2016/48 Curse of the Yugoslav electricians

2017/48 Winterisation

2018/48 Winter timetable implemented

2019/48 Fully winterised

Winter sun in Dol
Winter sun in Dol

2020/48 Smelling of Rosemary

First sun of the day
First sun of the day

One Response

  1. Alan Wheeler

    Interesting tools. I’m very familiar with the “Keech tool” from my time in the fire service with Sunnyvale DPS. Here in the States it’s called a “Halagan tool” and, at least one, can be found somewhere on most fire apparatus. That along with a “Fire Axe” are standard entry tools.
    Liked the feline jackets but doubt our cats would agree.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year