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Sky watching

This week: Sky watching; Water, water, everywhere; Rainy days; Early springwatch;

On a clear day
On a clear day

Much as I anticipated in last week’s blog, we have had a very wet week.

Although I have had one or two forays into the orchards and have done some weeding, that is about all the outside work I have been able to accomplish.

Though it has meant that I have been getting on with inside tasks. With two editions of the PMCC magazine that I edit coming up, I have finished one and am well on with the second.

I have also been doing research into Fire Bobbies. This led me down an interesting internet wormhole of trying to find the last time someone was summonsed to Court in the UK for allowing their chimney to catch on fire.

Chimney fire
Fire in a domestic chimney

I also thought about the donkey rings that I have dotted around my buildings.

Hitching ring - Courtyard
Hitching ring – Courtyard

This is because under the the same Act of Parliament, the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847, it was and still is illegal to tie your beast of burden up, outside your property, for an excessive length of time.


Sky watching

The next two weeks are a peak of interest for sky watchers.

Not since the year 1226 have the two great gas planets of Jupiter and Saturn appeared so close together for earthbound watchers.

If you live in an area without too much light pollution, just after sunset look towards the south west on a clear night.

The two planets you can see are Saturn (on the left) and Jupiter (larger on the right). All year they have been moving closer together when seen from the earth. It is an alignment or conjunction of the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter around the sun.

Planetary conjunction
Planetary conjunction

Next week on the evening of the Winter Solstice, the 21st December, they will appear at their closest, looking like binary planets.

Binary planets
Binary planets

Also visible between 4th and 17th December are the Geminids Meteors. As the earth passes through the debris trail of the dead comet Phaethon every year at this time, large number of meteors burn up in the outer atmosphere of the earth.

The maximum numbers to be seen will be overnight this weekend, on the 13th and 14th December.

Because there is a New Moon, the sky will be darker – providing you can get away from earth light pollution and there is no cloud – so you will see more.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory produces a monthly video which tells you what you can expect to see during the upcoming month.

With clearing skies over the next few days, I might even get to see some of these celestial fireworks!


Water, water, everywhere

After a minor accident with a very rusty old nail, I had to go down to the doctors surgery in Stari Grad on Monday morning.

Even in these COVID times, they are a model of efficiency. I had to wait for just a very few socially distanced minutes to see the nursing Sister and I came away after a booster vaccination of Tetanus. It is more than 10 years since I last had one.

Driving into town, most of the roads were flooded with sea water, as once again the tide has come over the top of the low harbour wall.

Overtopping sea
Overtopping the harbour wall

A neighbour tells me that over the past fortnight, it has happened multiple times every day. There have been some quite deep floods too.

All restaurants, cafes and bars are closed because of the Pandemic and my favourite spot for a morning coffee, Café Marko’s, had flood boards across the doors.

Café Marcos
Café Marcos

Most houses also had the same flood protection boards in place.

As sea levels rise, so the flooding of towns like Stari Grad, all along the Adriatic coast will continue to get worse.

At the moment there seems to be no plan to build a barrier further up the fjord to protect the town. Instead home owners are doing as they have always done and are dropping the boards into place across their doors and then sealing them in place with silicone.

Whilst that sort of remedial action has been happening for a century or more, the threat now is because of rising sea levels, not just an occasional high tide. As the flooding happens at almost every high tide, it is difficult to see for how much longer it can be sustained.

There is only a small tidal variation here of less the 50 cm, so it takes very little in the way of a tidal surge, pushed by wind or the low atmospheric pressure we have been experiencing recently, together with sea level rise, to make the sea water flow over the harbour walls.

Little tidal variation
Little tidal variation

In the half hour that I was in town, the sea came over the low harbour wall three times.


Rainy days

It’s been a week of dodging the rain.

Exactly as forecast, we have had rain every day. Some times heavy, sometimes light, but all equally wetting. It is raining again as I write this sentence.

Saturday lunchtime
Saturday lunchtime

This has made any meaningful work outside almost impossible. The heavy soils are waterlogged and virtually unworkable. I don’t want to compress them further while they are in this state.

Waterlogged soils
Waterlogged soils

On Thursday a heavy storm passed from east to west, to the north of the village. This was without a single drop of rain falling in Dol.

Storm to the north
Storm to the north

It is these highly localised weather events which make comparison of my station data and the one down in Stari Grad, by the fire station, or the other station in Grad Hvar so difficult.

It looks as though we will have four or five days of fine weather this coming week. However looking ahead, more rain is possible next weekend.

This doesn’t mean I have been sitting twiddling my thumbs all week – far from it.

It has been an opportunity to catch up with some chores, for example oiling the kitchen work tops.

All the work surfaces in the kitchen are solid IKEA timber work tops. Every so often they need to be treated with oil to keep them looking nice.

Wooden work surface
Wooden work surface

So it seemed like a good idea this week to have a kitchen blitz and oil the work tops.

Over time things tend to clutter up the work surfaces. Part of it is because I have not refurbished the pantry in the cottage. This is because the other building work was going to take priority – only the building work hasn’t happened.

I’m now at the point where I think I’ll start the cottage refurbishment in the spring, which is not so far away!

So I moved some of the containers I have been saving out into the pantry, took used glass jars to the new glass recycling bin that has appeared in the village and then cleaned up the tops.

Once they were dry, I used the proprietary IKEA Skydd surface oil to treat the tops. After 24 hours they had a second treatment, then they were ready for use again.

Oiled worktop
Oiled worktop

The kitchen is now ready to receive more clutter!


Early springwatch

Although we are at the period of minimum light, the signs of spring are all around.

I saw flowers this week on some Narcissi.

December Narcissi
December Narcissi

These are not the group that I use as an indicator species for my Springwatch calendar, but another group which gets a little more winter sunlight. However, they are definitely in flower.

All around the base of my Mandarin, the Hyacinth are well on the way to producing flowers. This is one of the indicator species groups under a Šipac.

Spring Hyacinth
Spring Hyacinth

The Cana Lilies are still in flower.

Canna Lilly flower
Canna Lilly flower

These are the first tropical plants to get bitten by frost. There is no sign that they have been affected by the recent cold temperatures.

Canna Lilies
Canna Lilies

This group are starting to crowd out everything else which is growing nearby. I will need to dig them up and divide the tubers early next year, to give other plants some space.

The wind and rain earlier in the week has removed all but the most stubborn leaves from the deciduous trees that I have. I have been gathering the fallen leaves up and putting them on the compost heap, to make leaf mould.

Bare branches
Bare branches

There are just one or two, still hanging on, adding some lovely autumnal colour to damp, dark days.

Last leaves
Last leaves

Another bulb which is in flower at this time of year are the Alstroemeria. This deep red variety is much later flowering than the orange and maroon flowers that I have.

Alstroemeria
Alstroemeria flowers

Looking into the propagator in the greenhouse, the Christmas Wheat I planted a week ago is growing well. I think I will have a good crop by Christmas day. NCG

Week 1 winter wheat
Week 1 winter wheat

2 Responses

  1. John Bailey
    | Reply

    Once again Norman interesting read. You are well ahead of us although we haven’t really had any winter yet. Chrysanthemum still in flower in the garden. Like you we are going through a wet spell. It is raining as I write this. We have had one or two frosts but nothing serious.

  2. Marcy
    | Reply

    Norman, A lovely post and so informative. I love all of the pictures and I am learning much about the variety of flowers you have and their names. We have nothing blooming here in Colorado Springs, CO as the weather is dreary and very cold. But it has been a mild winter with little snow compared to other years.

    Hoping you are staying safe and well. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

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