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Plant a tree for twenty-three

This week: I promise ; Defeated by the weather; Plant a tree for twenty-three; Thanksgiving lunch;

The burn scar on Hum
The August burn scar on Hum in low autumn sun

After months of above and well above average temperatures, at long last we are about on a temperature which is normal for the end of November.

This week there has been almost 100 mm of rainfall as well. So after months of drought we are approaching a normal point for the end of the year.

When the sun shines, it is warm and pleasant outside, even tee-shirt weather working in the sun.

However with just three weeks to the northern Winter Solstice, the sun is only above the hills to the south of my Dol house until 13:20.

Low winter sun
Low winter sun barely above the southern hill at mid-day

When it is cloudy, it is still warm because the cloud layer acts as a blanket, trapping warm air underneath.

But we need some cold, because even here there are trees and plants which need a few hours of winter chilling to produce fruit next year.

The long range forecasts for winter 22/23 are still unable to agree on what the winter will be like. Although there is a degree of agreement that December will be colder than average (whatever that means!) and January may be warmer.

Every fine day we have in November is a bonus because it means I can get more jobs done outside.

Chrysanthemum downed by the wind

The wind at the start of the week has put paid to my Chrysanthemum though. Next year I will have to stake them I think!

Meanwhile in the southern hemisphere, it is time for the annual display of Jacaranda blossom.

Jacaranda trees in full bloom
Jacaranda trees in full bloom

I have my seeds ready for planting, early in the New Year!

I promise…

Let me make a promise that I will not bore you for very much longer with the tales of my Polytunnel.

After two beautiful days at the start of the week, I finished the roof sections on the first day and then moved on to the end walls.

Finished roof sections
Finished Polytunnel roof sections

The end sections were much easier to fit than the roof and went together easily.

End walls
End walls

That is until I ran out of large diameter washers!

The polycarbonate sheeting is strong and to hold it in place I am using SPAX screws through a pre-drilled hole with a large washer on the outside.

I took a quick trip into town on Monday however there were no washers to be found of the size that I needed.

There were larger washers, but they had larger diameter screw holes.

There were smaller washers, but only half the diameter that I needed. So I gave up and and came home.

The polytunnel isn’t finished, so with several more small jobs to do, so I cut more timber, ready for installing the polythene sheeting. This will cover the bottom of the frame and be removable.

This section is designed to alternate between shade netting in summer and polythene in winter, with probably nothing in spring and autumn.

Once again, with the light fading, I packed up and put my tools away at tea time on Monday.

Defeated by the weather

Knowing I will have to go to Split again to get the materials I need to finish the project, I had thought about a trip over to the mainland on Tuesday.

However one look at the weather forecast told me that that was not going to be a sensible option.

Severe weather warning
Severe weather warning

There was a “Red” severe weather warning in force for all of coastal Croatia for very strong winds and heavy rain from the south.

Southern winds are warm winds as they blow across the Mediterranean sea before reaching us, and the sea is still warm. However very strong winds usually curtail or stop the ferries.

I had looked at my new roof and decided that it was well protected from southerly winds by trees.

Additionally the end walls were not finished, allowing wind to pass both under and over the roof panels, or so I thought, so I didn’t need to do anything.

It was one of my other polycarbonate roofs which caused me a lot more concern because it is completely exposed to southerly winds.

The wind woke me around 05:30 on Tuesday morning, together with the sound of rain beating on the roof.

It was only when the rain subsided and I looked at my new roof that I discovered it had not withstood the wind.

We have had gusts of 65kph, and sustained winds of 30kph and it had got under the roof, lifting the sections out of the supporting ‘H’ strip.

Tuesday's wind
Tuesday’s wind

This is the same strip that I have had all the problems fitting!

The polycarbonate roof has an area of 25 Square metres and I designed and stressed it for downwards pressure.

I have even had two felines skipping the ‘Light Fandango’ across the ridge line and it just gave gently then returned to shape.

H Profile joint strip
H Profile joint strip

Watching what was happening, I saw was the roof lifting as wind got underneath. This was because the side walls were not finished.

The ‘H’ strip is only ⅔ as wide on the underside, so sections just came loose as the panels lifted.

I solved the problem by using nylon lines above the panels, strung diagonally hold them down. I wish I had thought of that on Monday!

Fortunately only one panel seems to have been damaged by the wind. I have a spare but I now need to think about how to fix the joint strips.

Only one damaged panel
Only one damaged panel

Because I am using stainless steel fastenings throughout, none of them gave, it is just the weakest part, the push-fit ‘H’ strips, which failed the wind test!

Before starting construction I looked for the proper the aluminium extrusion joints I wanted, but I couldn’t find them here. So I had to make do with the plastic strips that Bauhaus had in stock!

I am now searching for the correct fittings, but I’m not holding my breath…

Aluminium extrusion fittings
Aluminium extrusion fittings

Plant a tree for twenty-three

After the recent rain, I decided that now would probably a good time to do some planting.

When you have a mini JCB there is little point in wielding a spade yourself. This is except for finishing off the dug holes.

I have a lot of bulbs to plant, probably around 250, some of which, like the Crocus are already sprouting. So I needed to get a move on.

It had always been my plan had been to put the bulbs into a border along the front of the polytunnel. But only once the polytunnel was finished. This was so I wasn’t treading on them all the time I was building.

Because finishing the polytunnel has now been delayed I have been planting my bulbs this week.

Bulbs and Corms come in different sizes, the Crocus being the smallest and the Daffodils being the largest common bulbs. Throw in a few Tulip and some Narcissi as well and there are a lot to put into the soil.

I pulled the waterproof cover off my mini digger and after checking all the fluids, turned the engine over. It started second turn, so I let it warm up for a few minutes while I checked the hydraulic hoses and greased the joints.

Mechanical digging assistance
Mechanical digging assistance

With everything working perfectly, I moved it and began to scrape away the top 10cm of the soil along the front of the polytunnel.

In several places there were brambles, which the digger easily uprooted. There were also some roots of the old, diseased plum that I dug out in the summer. These had started to grow new shoots.

Diseased branch core
Diseased plum branch core

Plums and trees from the Prunus genus in general are some of the badly behaved tree specimens which will always try and grow again from severed roots. I thought I had got most of the roots out, but it seems not!

Prunus roots and new shoots
Prunus roots and new shoots

With a 50 cm wide open strip, I raked it clear of small stones and then commenced planting bulbs.

At the front I laid a double row of Hyacinth and then behind them I put in three or four rows of the mixed Daffodil and Narcissi.

Bulb planting in progress
Bulb planting in progress

I spread the bulbs out well, so that in time they will naturalise and have space to expand into. It should be a few years before I will need to dig them up and split them again.

After laying a 4 metre long border strip, I started back filling with the the spade. This was so I could gently put earth back around the bulbs, in a more controlled way than I could with the digger.

Next up was a little bit of tree planting.

I always make a practice of planting two trees for any tree I have to remove. With the digger I carefully excavated two 40 cm deep holes to take the trees.

These have been in large pots since the spring so have already grown a nice root ball.

I teased out roots along the outer edge of the soil where they had been in the plastic pots before putting them onto a bed of rich soil in the holes.

The last job of the day was backfilling and watering them into their new homes.

Both my new trees are of columnar varieties, so I have been able to plant them only 2 meters apart.

Trees planted and bulbs covered
Trees planted and bulbs covered

One is an Imperial plum, which is a late fruiting, large plum , the other is a an Aprikya which is a Prunus hybrid, a cross between an Apricot and a Cherry . Both came from a garden centre in Istria.

Now I am looking forward to the spring!

Thanksgiving lunch

There is a huge mix of expat nationalities here on the island, and whilst some annual celebrations cross almost all cultures, for example Christmas and Easter.

However there are also celebrations which are specific to certain countries, like Yorkshire Day (1st August) and Australia Day (January 26th).

One celebration which is especially well known is “Thanksgiving” which in the United States is on the fourth Thursday in November.

There are other countries which also celebrate a Thanksgiving day, but on different dates; places like Canada, Brazil, St. Lucia etc.

In many countries around the world Harvest Festivals are held every autumn. However not on a set day and without there being a public holiday.

We have a really nice restaurant in Stari Grad called “Nook” . In winter they are one of few which remain open and they cater to the expat community.

Secluded garden at Nook
The secluded garden at Nook

Every year they do a Thanksgiving lunch and evening dinner, with both traditional and vegetarian fare.

Nook Thanksgiving menu
Nook Thanksgiving menu
Fabulous dessert
Fabulous dessertPhoto by Trevor

From our FaceBook group, we had a table for six and enjoyed a delicious meal with friends from four countries.

Table for six
Table for six – Photo by Kristina

Once we get past Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year follow very close behind… NCG

2 Responses

  1. Tony Griggs

    Good to see you digging fruit trees in Norman. Been a wet spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. Supposed to be a wet summer too in southern Australia. I’ve planted quite a few native shrubs, plants & ground covers. Normally I wouldn’t plant this time if the year as it can get dry but this year is an exception. Good to see you enjoying some much needed time off with friends out!

  2. Marcy

    Hi Norman. What lovely pics especially the Jacaranda trees. Stunning. I really enjoy watching your progress for all you do on your property including the poly house. The Thanksgiving dinner looked wonderful as did your friends. And Happy Belated. My Thanksgiving day was spent watching the HVAC repairman fix my furnace. Timing was noted. Lol. It’s snowed here a bit but doesn’t last. Have a glorious week. Marcy