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Midsummer

This week: Slowly, slowly; Big boxes; Midsummer;

Sunset today
Sunset today 27th July

Twenty six weeks down and 26 to go. The year is rushing past, even through the lockdown. But this past week has been strange for late June here in the Adriatic.

It’s been pleasantly warm and we have had a couple of rainy days. Not much in quantity, barely 5 mm, but with thick cloud cover we missed the lunar eclipse on Sunday. We have not seen the sunrise or sunset around the longest day which is unusual.

Downloading the weather data from my station, it shows we are still above the average high and low temperatures for the month, but not by as much as we were in May.

Jan Jun average temps
January to June average temperatures

The much needed rain we have had this month, just over 40 mm in total, has lifted the average for the year so far, but we are still well under what would be normal for this time of year.

January to June rainfall
January to June rainfall

Looking ahead, there is no rain likely in the next two weeks, so irrigation is going to be my morning and evening tasks.


Slowly, slowly

Every so often I have to come up with innovative ways to move things which are heavy, bulky or both. This week it was how to get my big wood milling machine out of the old workshop.

This is a heavy brute, which according to the data label weighs in at 230 kilograms. To this I have added a pair of timber baulks to make it more stable, together with casters so I can move it easily.

Moving it easily on flat and firm surfaces that is!

Getting it up three steps and across the sand into the new workshop was always going to be a challenge. I’ve been waiting for my friend Cvjetko to call, together with his nephew so we could lift it out.

But I need to get on with moving furniture into the old workshop, so I can start work on the big Konoba. The Konoba covers an area 70 square metres, the whole ground of the ground floor of the building. It is where most of the large items have been stored since the container arrived from Abu Dhabi.

I decided that with the equipment I already have, I could move it up a ramp made from one of the duck-boards, and then across the sand the same way.

The first job was to construct a strong anchor point before attaching my hand winch and a pair of chains. Then I laid the duck-board and clamped a wooden rail to each side, to keep the casters in line.

Ever so slowly, which can be done easily with a hand winch, I advanced the machine onto the incline and then edged it up the three steps.

Slowly slowly
Slowly, slowly

Once at the top, the duck-board flattened with the weight of the machine. I chocked the wheels, then changed the chains round so that it wouldn’t run away down the slight slope to the sand.

I had to move the duck-boards around to get the machine to the workshop door.

Moving on duck boards
Moving on duck boards

But once there and on the new concrete floor, it was easy to push it into place.

However it was still the best part of a day’s work from start to finish, including the clearing up afterwards.

The last job was to build a raised floor in the old workshop so that the furniture, when I move it in, will be off the ground.

Raised wooden floor
Raised wooden floor

Big boxes

With a clear space, I have set about clearing the big Konoba and moving everthing into my newly created space.

A Konoba corner
A Konoba corner

There are two new rooms still to be built, once I have the licence and there are three old rooms which need renovating. The two small ones are the pantry and utility room, but the big space is the Konoba.

In standard Croatian the word “Konoba” means “Tavern”. However on the island, it has the meaning of ‘winery’. All the old houses have at least one Konoba. In days gone by it was where the grape harvest was processed into wine, where olives were stored before being sent to the mill and where the olive oil was kept.

As well as the Konoba being an important working space, potatoes and vegetables were stored inside for the winter and on occasions, animals were moved inside as well. So the Konoba was a very important space, under the living quarters, of every home.

I have two, as my property was originally three separate family dwellings. When we were doing the work in the courtyard recently, we found the remains of possibly a third building of some sort. This was close to the old cottage, which lacks an integral Konoba.

They all have lashing points where the family donkey would have been tethered while it was unloaded and in the case of my big Konoba, when I bought the property, it was still fitted out for wine making.

It has taken me an inordinate amount of time to get to where I am now with building work, which is why a lot of the furniture which came in the container from Abu Dhabi is still packed.

I haven’t undone it as there is little point until I have somewhere to put it.

Being boxed up also means that it is easy to stack. I have been using the Konoba for storage for everything in the meantime. There is block Styrofoam for the floor insulation, electric cable and fittings and a lot of dry timber.

To get the room renovated and made into living space, I have to clear it and this is a job I would like to do this summer. With a pair of sack barrows and muscle power I have been shifting the big boxes, putting them into the store and marking where each can be found and what is inside.

Box transfer
Big box transfer

Some have my QR code labels on them, which instantly tell me what the contents are. Others were packed by the shippers and what is on the outside bears only passing relevance to the actual contents. But by the weekend, most things have now been moved.


Midsummer

Today (Saturday) I heard a Cicada, Cicada orni.

A Cicada calling on a tree trunk
A Cicada calling on a tree trunk

The sound of the unseen Cicada chiruping in a tree, is the sound of the Mediterranean summer. It is my last indicator species on my annual Springwatch calendar.

Cicada
Cicada

Horologically speaking, summer begins with the summer solstice, however in practice in the southern Mediterranean, it starts much earlier in mid May. By the end of June we are well into summer.

Looking back at my 2020 calendar recording, my first entries were in December 2019. This was the emergence of buds on the Paper whites, and the last entry, the Cicada today, 27th June.

Paper White flowers
Paper White flowers

Two thirds of my 2020 indicator species records are earlier than last year, a couple by a whopping 26 days. The ones which are later, are just by a few days, or up to a week.

I’m trying to decide whether my felines think they are human, or whether they think I’m just a big cat. Which ever it is, they like to go for walks in the forest with me.

Walkies
Walkies

This is not so much “herding cats” as keeping them generally going in the same direction. Senior cat Risha sometimes participates, but generally he waits by the gate for everyone’s return.

This evening, as the sun begins to set, the Maquis behind my home has started to go quiet.

Maquis at sunset
Maquis at sunset

The nocturnal birds, our Eagle Owl is calling some way off and the Skops owl has turned its “pips” call on.

Somewhere close by a Blackbird is still singing and overhead the Swifts are screaming as they fly to catch flies.

From St Michael’s Church cemetery esplanade, there is a commanding view across the Stari Grad Plain. For a few brief weeks either side of midsummer, you can watch the sun sink into the Adriatic sea.

The sun dips into the Adriatic
The sun dips into the Adriatic

I can feel the heat radiating up from the ground as I walk slowly home through the gathering dusk. Another summer day has ended. NRC


3 Responses

  1. Tony Griggs
    | Reply

    Whilst the summer solstice just passed by in yr hemisphere Norman, down here in Australia we just experienced the winter solstice! You had better open those boxes at Christmas! Keep up the good blogs & good work.

  2. Elizabeth Blackledge
    | Reply

    Hi Norman, lovely to read your blog as always.

    We have had some much needed rain here too. Thankfully it has mostly been relatively gentle, so it has soaked in rather than run off. Hopefully enough to cheer our farmers up! Having had a very wet winter, with flooding, we then went into two months of exceptionally dry and hot weather – some crops went in and hardly started to get going. It’s amazing how quickly plants respond – our ‘green’ roofs were all decidedly brown but the green is coming back now. Must climb up to find out what it coming back.
    Take care.

  3. Marcy
    | Reply

    Beautiful blog and pictures especially you sunset. Loved it all. Stay safe and thank you. Marcy

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