This week: Making soup while the sun shines; Just four charts; Construction kit; Making the roof; One man’s waste;
The autumn sun is still warm, hot even when you are working.
The wretched black and white striped Tiger Mosquitoes are still biting, although they are waking later in the day, so there is some relief first thing in the morning.
Cold night have usually killed them off by October, but we haven’t had any this autumn.
It is a time though of mists and mellow fruitfulness.
I am making progress, albeit not at the rate I would like, but it is measurable day by day and week by week.
Which entitles me to go “off piste” so I have been along some of my usual paths and byways after lunch.
There are almost no wild flowers because we have had no autumn rainfall, however the smells of autumn are very pleasant and all around.
Making soup while the sun shines
Our autumn fruits are all ripening, pretty much all at the same time! The autumn flowering Ipomea’s look lovely in the morning sunshine.
My old Mandarin which has been so productive has sucumbed, although to what I am not quite sure.
However I planted three small bush varieties and they have a few fruit on them.
There are nothing like the number which were on the old tree, but then the old tree was three meters tall and with a branch diameter of six meters.
Down in the orchard the leaves on my Persimmon are turning and the some of the fruit are ready for picking. I only have six fruit on the tree in total, due to the very dry spring.
So when a neighbour came round with a bowl of ripe Persimmon, I gratefully accepted them.
Persimmons are one of those fruits which people either like or loathe. Perhaps because there are two very distinct types.
The Hachiya variety are astringent, being hard before they are fully ripe and having a papery taste in the mouth. Their fruits are heart shaped.
A rounded or squat fruit variety is called Fuyu and tends to be more yellow in colour because of the reduced levels on tannins in the fruit.
I have several recipes for Persimmons, but one in particular is Persimmon and Winter Squash soup.
So when I called at the supermarket and saw they had Butternut Squash, I bought one to make soup with.
On a cold winter’s day, a warming lunchtime soup is great. It’s not winter yet, however there is nothing like being prepared.
Once made, soup can be frozen or preserved in Kilner bottling jars, to be opened at some point over the winter.
Just four charts
Here we are at the end of the second week of October and looking forward there is absolutely no sign on the horizon of any rain.
Pongo bounced onto my bed about 3.30 on Tuesday, mieuing to tell me it was raining. I could hear the patter of rain drops on the roof and he was ever-so-slightly damp.
However when I got up, there had been less than 0.5 of a millimetre, the threshold for my rain gauge to activate. It was showing zero and although the hard surfaces were damp, by 9am they were dry again.
And that was it. Enough moisture to put some rain drops on leaves but it did nothing for the soil and plant roots.
True, it is autumn, the heat has gone from the day although we are still seeing maximum temperatures of +23º or +24ºC, so plants do not need as much water.
However when there has been no rain for months, then they simply wilt, or like the citrus, curl their leaves.
I keep several Excel charts based on my weather station’s recorded data. I have an annual chart running from January to December.
However it is rather depressing and I didn’t feel it portrayed the reality of a Mediterranean winter-wet and summer-dry climate.
So earlier in the year, I tried a different presentation, using the same data, but showing precipitation from September when the autumn rains should start to arrive, to August. It painted a different picture, but one which still showed that for 2021 to 2022 there was a deficit of 150 litres compared to the average.
Just looking at the autumn averages for the current period, again using the same data, the picture shows that as at today, we are down 100mm on the average.
We are barely 8 weeks into the recording period, so no wonder everything is so dry.
That is 100 litres per square metre of ground. The top orchard is over 800 square metres in size so that is 80,000 litres or two fuel tankers worth of rain.
Looking at the summer, we are `100mm down on the average, so that makes a deficit of 200mm.
Finally there are the above average temperatures .
It is nice to be able to work outside in a tee-shirt, when I would normally expect to be wearing a light sweater, but this warmth affects every living thing.
Insects still abound, but birds which feed on them have gone. I have been picking my third crop of Figs. In a normal year, fig trees produce just two crops and deciduous trees are sprouting new leaves.
We tend to think that the failure of rains or monsoons affect global south countries and cause famines, but they can affect anywhere. Climate breakdown will have untold and unknown consequences in the years to come.
I finished cutting the last sections for the end wall of the polytunnel at the weekend and then gave all the timber coats of Sadolin wood preservative.
On Thursday everything was dry, so I started construction of the pieces of the kit.
Measure three times and cut once is my mantra and it has worked. All the pieces slotted together as expected and I fixed each joint with 4 x 60 mm enox screws.
The next stage was to lift the frame upright and slide it gently into position. It fitted just as I expected and I used long screws to anchor the frame to the stone wall.
The final task was to wedge it completely upright until the roof panels are in place to hold everything together.
Making the roof
I know what the plan is because I have drawn and re-drawn it several times. However converting a concept into a plan and then turning the plan into a 1:1 scale building involves making adjustments.
As this week ends, I have got on well with the roof of the polytunnel, even though I keep having to make adjustments, so it is a perfect fit.
I have added a couple of extra supports to the end frames, so that the steel roof supports do not sag under the weight of the wooden trusses.
Something else I realised was that because the top of the wall is very uneven, I needed to fit all four small panels, to line them up perfectly, before starting to fix the large main roof panels.
I had planned to fit one of the middle section and then add panels around the section, but that was not going to work.
More wood was cut and the joints created with the router for the roof trusses.
These were then fixed to the steel hoops with stainless steel fittings. I am using stainless steel on everything for this project.
My joints are glued and screwed for maximum strength. However this means that I have to clamp things in place for 24 hours until the wood glue is fully set.
After several long weeks of work, the polytunnel is really starting to take shape now.
One man’s waste is another man’s treasure
My phone rang early on Friday morning. It was Cvjetko to say that he had some free time and did I want to go and collect a truck load of waste……now!
I said yes, then had a mad rush round for 30 minutes but was ready when he arrived.
We set off up the road towards Sućuraj and some 30 minutes later arrived at the Bauernhof Hvar where the owner Nikola was waiting for us.
A friend had put me in touch with Nikola because he distils rare oils from plants like Immotella / smilje (Helichrysum italicum) and lavender, and has a stack of the left over plant residue.
After an exchange of gold, we started loading the truck.
After perhaps 30 minutes, the truck was full of the plant residue and we started back down the hill towards home.
I had already prepared an area where the load could be tipped.
One advantage of these ancient TAM trucks is that they can tip in all three directions, left, right and rear, so side tipping over my wall from the old donkey track was easy.
I am going to use the plant residue, which smells very nice, as a mulch on the citrus orchard and as a means to try and start improving the soil.
Now I just need to finish some of the other jobs before I start on this one! NCG