This week: DIY Air Conditioning; Parachutes; Getting ready to move; Just a little survey; A long term project;
We have jumped from a couple of degrees below the average temperature to six degrees above the average this week.
Although we have had nothing like the severe weather that other parts of Europe have had. Whether that has been the Tornado in Germany, or the over 40ºC temperatures in Spain, each local event is still excessive.
This week I have the best display that I have ever had from my Bottle Brush shrub, even though it is in a pot rather than the ground.
The plant seems to like the heat and summer sunshine.
It is the time of year when I like to be in my study early, so I see the first rays of the sun come through the north facing window, shortly after 05:30. This only happens between early May and early August.
All the windows are open now 24/7, but with insect screens across to prevent unwelcome guests from dropping in. Early in the morning, there are only the natural sounds of birdsong, a donkey braying and an occasional dog barking
One morning this week I heard a Cuckoo calling from somewhere down towards the plain. It is the first and only time I’ve heard the call this year.
Meanwhile other summer visitors have arrived, like our Red Backed Shrikes.
DIY Air Conditioning
Sometimes some VERY old school Physics lessons, combined with less distant flight school studying comes back to me. It’s all about the properties of an air mass.
We are on the very eastern edge of the anticyclone that is sitting over the Iberian Peninsula.
This means that we are feeling the heat, not the +43ºC in southern Spain, but still just over +30ºC here in Dol and warmer down on the Stari Grad Plain.
I bought a ten meter roll of mosquito netting from Volat when I was in Stari Grad and then spent an afternoon fitting it to the frame I built last week for the Velux windows.
Although I hunted through my workshop, I couldn’t find my Rexel staple gun. I know I was having problems getting the right size staples, and must have put it somewhere safe!
So I resorted to carpet tacks instead of staples. A much slower fixing process, but it still worked.
I had a tray of different size tacks, which must have been in my inventory for at least 30 years. There was not a spot of corrosion to be seen on any of them.
With some pieces cut to size, I fitted the netting, stretching it slightly, but not too much, and then tacked it into place.
It was then up onto the roof to fit it over the window in the roof. Afterwards I opened the window to the maximum and the frame is a perfect fit.
I left the window open overnight, safe in the knowledge that no bugs, or anything else bar perhaps the odd Tarantola would be able to get in.
The following morning, the dining room was wonderfully cool as the temperature outside was passing 25ºC.
There is natural convection taking place. As the hot air rises and is exhausted through the Velux, it draws in cooler air through the open, but also suitably protected windows and door.
Seed dispersal is the critical way that plants propagate.
A wide variety of different dispersal techniques have been developed in the natural world, but many plants use parachutes attached to their seeds.
Many are very specialised and some involve insects, birds and mammals.
I was looking this week at trimming weeds again in the orchards, when I saw this lovely specimen.
This is the seed head of the Wild Salsify, Tragopogon porrifolius.
The flowers are equally impressive and only last a morning in the sunshine, before closing, to unfold later as a beautiful feathery array of seeds, some 18 cm in diameter across.
The miniature parachutes are ready to be dispersed by wind.
However, I’m not giving them the chance. I will collect them, so I can sow them where I would like the plants to grow next year.
At the other end of the scale are these seeds heads of the Pink Hawksbill, Crepis rubra, which also use the same dispersal method.
These are growing from a crack in the garden path, but I have flowers dotted all over the orchards.
Indeed at the moment, you can see these small pink flowers everywhere.
They are clearly one of natures survivors, growing and flowering everywhere from the desert-dry, stony, calciferous soils in the middle of our rural roads, to the understory of olive groves.
And of course in my dry and stony orchards.
They are another seed head that I will be collecting ready for sowing next spring.
Getting ready to move
Diving into cool, deep water on a hot afternoon may sound like an ideal pastime.
However add to that some mud, a lot of Duckweed, Lemna minor, and masses of small, black gastropods, and it might not sound much fun.
I want to have a small ornamental pond in the garden. This is to encourage dragonflies amphibians and just to be a little different.
At the moment, I have the butyl rubber liner, the shape marked out with stones but little other signs of progress.
I’ve dug ponds before and it is not necessarily the easiest of jobs, especially when you have a soil like mine – made up of at least ⅓ rock by volume!
It was another reason that I bought the mini digger earlier in the year.
However because of so many other jobs on my list, I haven’t used the digger on my land.
It has had some use when I helped a neighbour to dig a system of trenches for fencing to make a run for his dog. The digger made a difficult job very easy, however then it went back under cover.
It’s time to get ready to move it down into the orchard where the pond will go.
In the way though are the large water tubs containing water lilies, Yellow flag, Marsh Marigold and various sedges. These all need to be moved so the digger can get past.
I have been growing the water plants on the steps down into the orchard for three years – I know, I should have already dug the pond, but work got in the way.
On Thursday I decanted the water from the first tub through a net to sieve out the duckweed, then moved it down to the plaza where the garden sheds reside.
Successively moving the plants and tubs meant that the only one left, and now safely out of the way, is the largest with a big water lily in it.
There are also some of the smaller stones which I will need to move as well. I brought the digger out from it’s covered parking and fitted the grapple tool for lifting stone.
I just have a couple more things to move and then to arrange the ramp, and I’ll be ready to bring my Velika mačka down to where it is needed for some digging.
Just a little survey
This is the time of year when I go for lots of walks.
Early morning walks when the sun has just crested the hill called Hum to the east of my home; Middle of the day walks when in the maquis it is cool under the shade of the trees; Afternoon walks once the heat has subsided.
Next month I will be doing some walks at dusk looking for glow worms and fire flies too.
There is always a lot to see during my perambulations and I usually find something that I have not seen before and cannot immediately identify.
On Friday afternoon I came across a pair of courting Southern White Admiral butterflies, Limenitis reducta, on the path up to St. Michael’s Church.
They are a species which live in woodland, or on the very edge and have territories that often include paths and forest glades.
When the sun catches their upper wings, they shine with an iridescent blue hue.
The larvae feed on Honeysuckle and there are several patches of the plant along this particular path.
I have been keeping an eye on the orchids I discovered a couple of weeks back. The flowers have all died now and the seeds are setting.
Near the orchids are another two Honeysuckle plants and I discovered another unusual climber there too.
This has quite large arrowhead shaped leaves. There were no flowers, or evidence of them but what was unusual was that the thin stems have very sharp, red thorns all the way up.
I haven’t been able to find it in my books yet, but I am still looking.
What I am doing though now is recording what I am seeing, where and when along my regular walks.
I have used open source online resources to create six maps of the closest walk around my home. Each map is of a small section of the path overlaid with the parcel map from the Kadaster.
Everywhere in the country is divided into mostly small numbered parcels.
What helps is that the land parcels on the ground are generally delineated by stone walls. So the parcels combined with the contour map and the actual walls on the ground help to exactly fix points where I find things.
A long term project
This is going to be a long term project though.
Writing on the rough overlay, I came home and converted it to a high definition digital map.
I will add photographs and perhaps use one of the drones for some aerial photography too.
I’ve been unable to find any definitive list of wild flowers, shrubs and trees that can be found on the island. So I rely on my books and on internet resources.
Of course there are books-a-plenty of Mediterranean flora, but whereas you can get definitive written guides to large islands like Cyprus, Sicilly, Malta and Sardinia, there is nothing for Hvar
So we don’t know what we once had and what we may have lost.
I spotted another new wild flower on Friday afternoon.
Once again I’m trying to identify what it is.
I’ve realised that I need to walk these paths at least weekly, if not more frequently and throughout the year, to properly survey the plants. NCG
Postscript: Hardly was the digital ink dry on Saturday night than I had a reply from one reader suggesting that the blue flower is probably a Campanula, Campanula rapunculus.
It certainly looks like the right one. I’ll go back today and look at the leaves. Thanks Brian!