Last blast of winter
This week: Last blast of winter; Blossom time; Seeing flowers; Buckets of fruit; Cold it is;
I think writing this blog is getting to me !
As I often do, I had started writing the first words for this week’s blog on Sunday. This is only the day after last week’s issue was posted on-line.
It looks as though we are going to experience some cold weather this weekend, so I had written a section heading as “Weather alert”.
Then early one morning this week, I woke after a dream about writing the blog and the heading “last blast of winter” was in my mind.
I sleep exceedingly well and am not bothered by dreams, but that seemed like a really good title for the piece about the cold weather.
I’m not sure if it is the thought of cold destroying blossom on my trees or something else that had caused the dream. But this phrase seemed like a really good headline too….
I’ve been having problems with Windows 10 for a couple of months now.
For the past three years I have been part of the Microsoft Windows Insider Programme group. As an Insider programme member you essentially test piloting new versions of the operating system software, before they are released on the unsuspecting public.
There is no pay, just regular updates and the fun of finding problems. Well I found one.
I’ll not bore you with the details, but my last conversation with a senior tec adviser in Redmond resulted in the advice that I need to do a clean install of Windows, for which he provided me with a link.
Well I’ve procrastinated.
The computer works OK most of the time and I now know exactly what to do when it doesn’t, but I really need to fix the problem.
So with four more days of rain this week, I’ve taken the easy option and spent the time inside. Now everything is backed up and I am as ready as I can be to start again from scratch.
Last blast of winter
Five weeks ago in the first blog of 2021, I wrote about the breakdown of the Polar Vortex. Well this week across much of the northern hemisphere you have been feeling the result.
So while last week in the Mediterranean, we were bathed in warm sunshine and it was tee-shirt time, tonight, tomorrow and into next week it will be our turn for a cold snap.
Sunday’s here are quiet days. No noisy power tools, no hard manual work – at least not until after lunch and the bells of St. Michaels have called the faithful to the Sunday morning services.
Not wishing to buck the system, I have a Sunday routine.
Generally my Sundays are quiet, contemplative days which includes looking at what the weather has in store, so I can plan the work for the week ahead.
This Sunday, there was the clear threat of some severe cold ahead.
This is the windy.com website, with the forecast for Tuesday the 16th February.
A quick look at the Severe Weather Europe website confirmed that there will be a short sharp shock.
But forewarned is forearmed… at least as much as you can be. To be fair, the last effective frost date for Dol is the 14th February and from my weather station records there is always a dip in temperatures during this week of the year.
So although a cold snap is unwelcome, it isn’t unexpected. Then by next weekend, we will be back into double figures and probably tee-shirts again!
All the tender trees and plants that I have are already protected, and this is not the week to remove any of that protection.
My concern is the blossom which is just starting to appear in my largest plum tree.
Too much warmth this week, followed by some frost will kill the blossom. It’s happened before, in 2018, with just exactly the same pattern of weather.
I’ve also made plans to make sure that I have enough of the right kind of firewood.
My wood store is approaching empty. I will have burnt about two cubic meters of wood over the winter, but as I said last week, we are at the end of the burn season.
The wood that is left are the trunks of the old and diseased Mulberry tree. This yellow wood is as hard as iron, and burns without giving off very much heat.
So dodging the rain I’ve cut some more pieces up, along with some pine, which I discovered if you burn together with Mulberry, the combination will give off a good amount of heat.
Throughout I have been ably assisted by the felines of course…
This week has been the start of the blossom season in Dol.
My orchards are unusual, verging on unique, because I have the very old plum trees. I’m told that no one else in the village has them, although quite why I do not understand.
But at this time of year there are two trees that are showing their true colours.
Many people have almond trees, both large, medium and a few small.
On the warm south facing hillside of the village, they are looking magnificent with their pink and white flowers.
The one next to my Citrus orchard has got its first blossom open, but because it is on a north facing slope, so receives less sunshine, it is always a bit later into bloom.
As I already mentioned, the approaching cold may well put paid to a lot of the early blossom that is on the trees at the moment.
The other trees in flower this early in the spring are the Mimosa, Acacia dealbata. The one I planted three years ago looks absolutely magnificent.
When the suns rays catch the lemon yellow flowers, they seem to radiate the colour all around.
Up close, each individual flower is a tiny puff-ball of yellow, which when combined with all its neighbours really makes the tree stand out.
Much less visible but in flower none the less are some of the orange trees. This is a Sevilla bitter orange, just the thing for making marmalade.
One of the unusual characteristics of most citrus trees is that on any tree, at any time of the year, there will be blossom, immature and ripe fruit. These ripening oranges are on the same tree, one branch away from the blossom and they need some (but not too much) cold winter weather to help them ripen.
I was working in the citrus orchard on Monday morning when I heard voices on the Donkey Track.
Standing at the gate, admiring my Mimosa tree was a gentleman, two ladies and their beautiful Belgian Shepherd dog. Getting talking to them, they had come from Hvar and were walking to Svirče, admiring all the spring flowers as they went.
I took a ‘time-out’ to take the felines down into the olive groves on Monday as well.
We were last on the same path back in November. Ever since it has been too wet and the sun has been too low, so the orchard has been in shade.
But this week there were a lot of the dainty pink Hedge Cranesbill, Geranium pyrenaecium, in flower. They are not yet present in the numbers that will carpet the orchards in a few weeks time, but they are another indicator that spring has arrived.
In this old orchard there is also a very tall almond, showing off its white flowers against the azure blue sky.
This belongs to my neighbours immediately opposite and talking with them this week, we were discussing the cold and what it is likely to do to the fruiting trees that are already in blossom.
Buckets of fruit
February is the end of the season for the Mandarins on my old tree. I have a couple of small bushes in the citrus orchard which fruit earlier, but this variety’s fruit starts to ripen in late November.
It is my supply of daily vitamin C. I walk past, pick a fruit, peel it and eat it. So by the time February rolls around, most of the large fruit have gone – at least the ones easily reached – and those that remain are the smallest, highest and the ones which are last to ripen.
With the threat of cold weather I picked and filled a large bucket of fruit. The only ones left are either tiny, or too high to reach even using a step ladder.
This is another reason that I have the rest of the citrus fruit in frames, so I can prune them to shape and keep their size down. This makes them easy to pick and to cover to protect them against the cold winter winds.
One of my kitchen machines is a Green Power juicer. I probably only bring it out of the cupboard three times a year, when there is enough fruit of one kind or another to make it worth while.
Setting it up takes just moments. By far the longest job is peeling batches of mandarins to get them ready to go into the juicer funnel.
The result of an hour or so’s work is three litres of pure juice and about a litre of pulp in the stainless steel bowl.
Nothing gets wasted. all the peelings go in the compost bin, some juice goes in the freezer with the rest in the fridge for immediate use and the pulp will be made into pulp sponge buns and a Pulp Cake.
Cold it is
The weather forecast for today (Saturday) said that there was a chance of snow showers. However with a bitter east wind and a temperature barely above 0ºC what we did get was a smattering of wind blown ice crystals.
With the wind, the air temperature feels like -3ºC, so it is a little “fresh”, but nothing too much to worry about. Consider the air temperature in Braemar, Ayrshire on Wednesday night when it dropped to -22.9ºC.
This was the coldest night recorded in the UK since 1995. Which is strange because I don’t recall that winter being especially cold.
Using the combination of two different wood types, my central heating stove has been heating the houses nicely. After putting a large log on the fire last thing at night, it has still been alight the following morning, so nothing has really become too cold.
I learned my lesson in 2017 when fourteen pipes froze because I hadn’t kept the fire going and the plumber had used the wrong thickness of pipes and insulation – or no insulation at all.
Now, having just put another log into the stove, the radiator water temperature is 60ºC. The felines are very quick to tell me when the temperature starts to drop.
But at the moment, the clear message is “Wake us when it’s tea time please”.
In my Dol house, it is definitely a cats life. NCG