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Rib tickling NOT

This week: Tree Planting; Rib tickling NOT; Cold and clear; Firelighter;

Svete Jure
Friday night storm leaves first winter snow on the Dinaric Alps

We have had a cold Bura wind this week, together with rain, lots of rain and just a couple of sunny days.

As we approach the northern winter solstice, the sun is at its minimum although there is warmth when it shines, by 13:00 it has dipped below the hill to the south of my Dol house.

There hasn’t been a frost (yet) but we are heading in that direction.

Tree planting

The postman delivered some trees I ordered from the UK this week.

Until Brexit happens, there is a plant passport scheme which allows the free movement of plants between the 28 countries of the EU. So while it is still possible, I took advantage of the relaxed export system and ordered a Shropshire Damson and a Fillbert. Both are adaptable varieties.

I want to put the Damson in the Courtyard, to provide shade in summer and edible autumn fruit long after all the other drupes here have finished.

I’ve looked at a number of different nut trees to complete the planting in the Top Orchard.

This orchard is in the climate range of USDA 9B to 10A. Fortunately with the internet you can search in any number of ways, including for varieties by climatic zone. But what I was looking for were some trees native to the Mediterranean.

Pistachio nuts are nice, but you need a male and female tree for reliable fruit cropping. They are grown extensively in modern Turkey and need hot dry summers and some winter cooling. Exactly what I have here in Dol.

Cashew trees are self fertile, but originate in the USA along the banks of the Mississippi river. They like high humidity, which is missing (thankfully) in Dol summers. They have impressive fruit if you have never seen one.

Then I chanced on Filberts. These are also Mediterranean trees, self fertile with various growth habits. The Filbert is in the hazelnut family. If you ever eat Nutella or a similar spread, the chances are the nuts used to make it will have come from Turkey, where 70% of world production is centred.

Kentish Cobnuts
Kentish Cobnuts

I chose a Cosford Cobnut because of its growth as a large bush rather than a tree and it being pollinated by other hazel trees, of which thee are several in the hedgerows here. The Cosford is a Kentish type.

The first job was to put the bare rooted trees in a bucket of rain water and leave overnight. I made a mistake last year when I bought a Damson tree, of planting it straight in a prepared hole in the courtyard. I couldn’t keep it in water in the sandy soil and it curled up and died.

Potted & ready for spring
Potted & ready for spring

In previous years when I have bought bare rooted trees, planted them in large pots for one or two years, so they develop a strong root structure. Then these get planted out into their final position. It is a lot easier to water a series of plant-pots in the plant nursery area than have an irrigation system for every tree in the orchard.

Rib tickling NOT

I’ve had to slow down a bit this week and you will notice there are not many photos in this week’s blog.

On Tuesday morning I was doing an awkward lift out of the car boot. Not heavy, just reach/lean across and lift a box. It was chilly and I suspect I hadn’t warmed up.

By Tuesday afternoon, I could feel a muscle ache in my side and could trace the pain exactly to an intercostal muscle between ribs 9 and 10. By bed time it hurt whenever I moved so used the under-blanket all night.

Warmth and rest is supposed to help soft tissue injuries. Supposed to…… Every time I moved, I woke up and whatever position I lay in, I could not get comfortable.

By Wednesday morning there was little improvement, so I did something very unusual for me. I took an Ibuprofen tablet. That in combination with my weight support belt allowed me to do some light jobs around the garden.

Later, a second Ibuprofen helped me sleep.

Considering the weights I usually lift, the box weighed nothing. I suspect lifting and stretching at the same time was the cause. But being sensible, I’ve kept the support belt on all week, and taken things a little easy.

One of my plans for the week was to make a start on digging the pond, so the winter rains will fill it. Our water is so hard, I don’t want to use tap water.

But between showers and feeling decidedly under the weather, that job has not been done. But there’s always next week…

By Friday I was feeling even more under the weather with aching joints and swollen glands. So I suspect I have a touch of flu just for good measure! I’ve had my flu jab, so I hope it is short lived.

Shame really because we had another unusual rainfall event overnight on Friday when a storm delivered 52.5 mm, or 52½ litters per square meter. That would have filled the pond nicely!

Cold and clear

The cold north-east Bura wind persuaded me to finish wrapping the citrus trees in their green winter covers. I put the side panels on three weeks ago, but left the tops open so pollinators could get to the blossom. With the blossom fully open, it was time to put the tops on to protect the forming fruit.

Gizmo was helping, climbing up the shade netting. then doing a “high wire” act around the top. He’s learning from Grandpa Risha and Aunty Callie. Trying to fix the tops in place was difficult with a growing kitten bouncing on the netting. as though it was a trampoline.

The Gizmo tramp
The Gizmo tramp

In the end it was finished but I suspected there would be some failures of the snail clips, caused by a felines bounce! On Saturday when I checked, there were. A next week job is to tie in corners with line rather than just using clips.

Gizmo follows me around every where I go, exploring every blade of grass, twig and stalk. He’ll be a horticulturalist when he grows up, I’m sure!

Gizmo in the grasses


As the nights cool to around a low of 8ºC, I’ve lit the woodstove for the first time this winter. I had already laid the fire in the Spring, so it only took a match and the application of the flue extractor fan to get the fire going.

The automatic pump for the heating cut in exactly as it should and within minutes the radiators were feeling warm. There is something very cosy about a log fire although it does symbolise mid-winter to me.

I worry about the carbon emissions though. Logs from the forested slopes that surround Dol are the only means of heating that my neighbours and I have.

A roaring log fire
A roaring log fire

The wood shed is full of 2 meter long logs, so I am going to have to cut them into manageable chunks. I have a few that are ready to go, but only enough for a couple of days.

When I tried to start my Chainsaw, which has only just come back from service, it wouldn’t fire. Then the rain started, so I gave up and decided to try again on a fine day. A day later and with some carb priming it started and ran OK, so I cut enough logs for a couple more days.

I have forgotten the technique for getting a really hot fire though. I have larger logs than last year and they are not burning as hot.

Last winter I was using up a large pile of 10 to 15 cm diameter logs. They burn quickly, but burn hot, however I used them all up.

This year my supply is 20 – 25 cm in diameter, all dry and seasoned. But even with the chimney extractor fan on they are burning cooler, which is not god for emissions, flue deposits or heating the water.

I need to see how I can get them to burn hotter and give off more heat. NRC

4 Responses

  1. Tony Griggs

    If it’s any consolation, we are experiencing a cool start to summer here in the Southern Hemisphere Norman interspersed with scorching hot days!

    Have you ever thought of getting an electric chainsaw? We’ve got 3 ( two of them polesaws at different locations) and they work great. No having to try to start! No mixing fuel!

    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a relaxing & peaceful 2020

    Tony & Linda

  2. Denis W

    Morning Norman.
    We used to have a base of coal cobbles ,may be 4 or 5 then logs for the remainder of the evening.
    Now we do the same only use wood ,round brickets called Hot Max.
    A bag of coal 56kg is £24 .00 Hot Max if £6.40p for a 28kg bag .
    Once its going I shut the top vent and slightly open the bottom .At this point the 2 x fana kick in and it burns hot .
    Have a great Xmas .

  3. Elizabeth

    Are your logs split? We aren’t nearly as scientific here but I think I have noticed that split logs seem to burn hotter. Don’t worry too much about your carbon – you are using surface generated carbon not digging up ancient fossil carbon, which is the real problem. Plant more trees…but you are… so no worries there. The woodland needs to be managed to allow younger trees to develop and other trees to mature. Trees really start to do their work when they are around 30 years old.
    Sorry to hear about your ailments – hope you are feeling better now/soon. Not a fan of the ‘flu jab – always had it when I was at school and always got ‘flu. Once I gave up on the jab, sometimes I went down and sometimes I didn’t. Now I have learnt to listen to my body – when I feel the first tiny signs that something is going wrong, I increase my intake of Vitamin C. I have found that high doses of Vitamin C (2g then 1g every hour until symptoms recede) in combination with good multi vitamins and minerals seems to help me fight off bugs.
    For the muscle injury – Homoeopathic remedies might have helped: Arnica 30c tablets, Arnica cream rubbed on the sore muscles, for bruised feeling, Rhus tox 30c tablets for if you loosen up with movement and then stiffen back up, or Rita grav 30c for deeper injury (tendons/ligaments). Bit late now but worth thinking about having in stock for future – might save the recourse to the drugs! Arnica is a good shock remedy anything from injury to bad news, so is a very useful remedy.
    Bill says he wants to email you about rain gauges… If you have read Village Link you will know that we suffered from water ingress in the garage in the storms of 14th November – minor repeat of 2007 across the village but worse for us. We will be working to get a catchment wide solution for the future.
    Good to see Gizmo settling in so well. Take care xx

  4. Marcy

    Hi. Hoping you are all healed and having warmer weather. Your baby Gizmo is adorable. My Jackie passed and I have a new Pekingese, Corkie. She’s so sweet. I do miss my other girls Princess and Jackie.
    Enjoyed the lesson planting. I listen every morning to Empressofdirt.net podcast. You might enjoy it.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a blessed new year.