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Jaffa Cakes in the freezer

This week: Summer solstice; Making things stick; Getting ready for winter; Jaffa cakes in the freezer;

Summer Solstice sunrise
Summer Solstice sunrise on Wednesday 21st June

I don’t have much to say this week, so it will be another short blog.

The temperture is currently +31ºC and I am sneezing – but that is because of a different reason!

We have the first days this year where the daily maximum temperature has been over +30ºC and I am not yet used to it.

Last year we had had three days in May over 30 and 19 days in June by this point in the month. So this year is a lot cooler.

None the less, when the heat finally hits each summer it takes time for the human body to get used to it.

Tigger! What ARE You doing?!

Tigger learning to fly
I’m learning to fly and my friends are helping me”

Summer solstice

Summer is the time of year when I am up early. I usually wake around 04:30 as the light starts flooding through the bedroom window.

The nightingales have been singing all night and they are joined by the blackbirds before dawn.

Our resident metronome owls, the Scops are still rhythmically calling every eight seconds and the cicadas have begun to chirp.

On Wednesday I was out of the house before 5am and walked up the hill towards the church, to watch the sun rise over Svt. Jure and the Biokovo National Park in the Dinaric Alps on the mainland.


I have not been up there, in amongst the olive groves at dawn for a couple of years. But it was a disappointing display this year.

In summer a high pressure weather system sits over North Africa and the southern Mediterranean sea.

The winds circulating around the system lift sand and dust high into the atmosphere and this is then blown over Italy and the Balkans.

This week it has been especially thick and it has reduced the strength of the sun. There was an orange hue in the sky as the airborne sand diffused the light.

So whereas in previous years there has been a beautiful clear sunrise, on Wednesday there was a thin layer of Cirustratus which made the sun rise more of a damp squib.

I have not even attempted to watch the sun set into the Adriatic, which is only visible from home in summer for around ten days, because there has been such poor visibility.

Making things stick

I like creepers, that is apart from Ivy which wreaks havoc with the old mortar in my buildings.

Over the past few years I have been encouraging Virgina Creeper to cover one of my old buildings.

Virginia Creeper on the cottage
Virginia Creeper on the cottage

Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, is a self clinging, flowering vine which is part of the grape family, Vitacae.

Grapes grow wild here when they escape from cultivation and when they self seed.

Similarly the Virginia Creeper is found extensively and readily propagates from bird sown seed. They are also easy to grow from cuttings.

The Virginia Creeper has bright green five lobed leaves which change colour in the autumn to hues of scarlet, crimson and burnished gold, before they drop.

Virginia Creeper in autumn
Virginia Creeper in autumn

What is useful though, is that the aerial branches adhere to surfaces with ten tiny suckers. These grow from tendrils on every branch, about 5cm apart.

Virginia Creeper adhesive pads
Virginia Creeper adhesive pads

As the plant grows the tiny suckers find a surface and then excrete a glue which attaches them firmly to the surface.

Over a period of several years, the strength of the glue begins to fail and the pads fall off. However by this time, the plant is 10 or more metres above ground, held there by new shoots.

The plant will also grow along the ground and I have a couple of these “runners” extending away from the base of the plant.

To get them to start growing vertically along a bare piece of wall, I have resorted to using my Hot Glue Gun.

I needed to hold the stems in place, just until the plant becomes “self clinging”.

I dabbed a couple of small spots of glue onto the wall and then pressed the stems into the spots just until the glue had set.

Hot glue on the stem
Hot glue around the stem

Given the encouragement to clumb, It should only be a couple of weeks before nature takes over.

Getting ready for winter

It has taken me three afternoon’s to cut up half the wood pile which was delivered last week.

Dry timber for the wood stove
Dry timber for the wood stove

Rather than use my chain saw, becauwse most of the pile were wine barrel staves, I used my electric table saw.

This was both quick and easy. However the down side was the amount of dust and saw dust it produces.

I had full PPE, face mask, eye protection, easr defenders and thick gloves, but by the end of each session, I was absolutely filthy, soaked in persperation and in desperate need of a shower!

Even with the face mask I still had dust up may nose which made me sneeze.

At the start I was using my wheelbarrow to move the cut pieces to my “ready” wood store, under the car port.

Table saw and cut timber
Table saw and cut timber

After six barrow loads, the rack was completely full, so I started on another storage area I have in the old summer kitchen.

"Immediate access" wood store
“Immediate access” wood store

Because this store is up steps, I filled a weed handling basket because it was easier to manoeuvre than the wheel barrow. That area is now full too.

I have only cut about half of the delivered supply, but it means I can get the car in and out of the gate again.

Half the timber pile cut
Half the timber pile cut

I think I will just cover the other pile with plastic to keep the rain out (when we get any) and then cut it as I need it during the winter.

At least I now have a substantial amount of wood cut and ready for the winter.

There are always jobs to do.

Jaffa cakes in the freezer

As I started to write this week’s blog, I thought a cold drink would be nice. Recovering some sparkling water from the fridge, I remembered I had put some Jaffa Cakes in the freezer compartment.

Jaffa Cakes
Jaffa Cakes

At this time of year, I put chocolate in the fridge because if left in the kitchen, even in a cupboard, it goes decidedly runny!.

You will probably know Jaffa Cakes, because the British McVitie biscuit company failed to register the name when they produced them in 1927. Hence many companies around the world now make them.

Mine are made by the Swiss Milka company and were on offer at the supermarket when I went this week.

Milka Jaffa Cakes
Milka Jaffa Cakes

The McVitie company won a court case in the UK in the 1990’s, when the VAT Inspectors tried to prove they were biscuits and not cakes.

The reason is that cakes have a low VAT rate in England and Ireland, but biscuits are considered luxuries and attract the full rate of sales tax.

The McVitie company won. So cakes they remain. Not so here, where they attract a VAT rate of 25%!

I think I’ll just go and get another Jaffa Cake….. NCG