The end of the Teenage years – Part 2: 2015 – 2019
In Part 1, I looked back at 2010 to 2014. In this edition I will cover from 2015 to 2019.
Looking through the before and after photographs, even though I am still waiting for the extension to join my buildings together, there has been a lot of progress.
Just seeing some of the “before and after” shots, the difference is incredible. Changes which are incremental, are of course not necessary remarkable until you see the big picture.
The winter of 2014/2015 was quite mild and sunny. I started the year by building an Arbour. First job was to cement anchor points beside the path.
It required several trips to the mainland to get the timber which was not available on the island.
It looks a bit bare, but now has plants growing up and over the framework, which was what I had in mind.
I had protected the new orange, lemon and grapefruit saplings with bubblewrap and cardboard.
However a cold Bura killed of my mature lemon tree. This was my introduction to the different cooling requirements of the citrus family.
Inside I started to renovate the bathroom. A large breaking hammer was needed to remove the 30cm thick concrete floor, held up by old railway track underneath. Don’t you love the yellow tiles!
I used the dry spring to burn dead shrubbery.
Dismantle Biily’s home before it falls… The goat shed had developed a bit of a list. Good job the goats had gone!
This was the start of my architectural salvage pile.
With the goat shed gone, I laid a concrete base and then assembled the garden sheds which came from Abu Dhabi in the container.
The perceved wisdom is that when you move somewhere, wait for a year to see what grows. Here Iris burst into fdlower in the spring.
I also had to try and get to grips with all the different flours in the supermarket. I was used to just two, plain (all purpose) and self raising…
More building work started in late spring. Remove the decaying dining room floor and create a new one, then the ceiling, build a new roof and decorate.
Add the wood stove in the corner and then light it just before Christmas.
I bought a big rotorvator to till the soil in the orchards.
It looks a lot better without the weeds.
I needed to design, create and install a modern ring main system for the electrical supply to the buildings.
In the autumn I designed and built a lean too greenhouse – somewhere to propagate plants.
As boxes were opened and unpacked, I used the cardboard to suppress weeds.
As winter approached it was time to protect the trees again.
But I now had a finished bathroom and shower.
Early January was quite cold.
In February, I made my first visit to the Tree Fair, held in Split every year at the Dioclethian Palace.
I started to explore around my home more. I discovered there is a problem with Processionary Pine Moths.
The exploration led me to start looking at and identifying the local native trees.
I was experimenting in the orchards. Here with a Green Manure crop.
Everywhere there are small shrines, known as Kapelista. I began to photograph all the inscriptions I could find.
There were decisions to make about the existing trees. This very old white Mulberry, Morus Alba, had been badly pruned.
When I examined it closely, it was diseased, going rotten from the centre.
In the forest I could find Prickly Pear cactus and orchids in profusion.
A chance encounter in the village led me to being able to explore the cobweb festooned village still. A museum piece if ever there was one…
Mediterranean summers are hot and dry, so I installed an underground irrigation system to water the newly planted fruit trees.
I also tried my hand at artisan cheese making in my new kitchen.
I dismantled the old stables and outhouses, saving all the materials and making space for my new building.
The roof of the old cottage leaked. Not surprising really. At well over 100 years of age and with nothing more than stone slabs laid on tree trunks, rain was driven in through the not insubstantial cracks. It was added to the list of jobs to do.
The first week of 2017 was bitterly cold.
A strong Bura blew, resulting in a windchill of -15ºC being recorded on my weather station. Everything froze.
There were more than 1,000 burst water meters on the island, including mine.
I had 14 burst pipes, because the idiot local plumber had used indoor grade copper pipe and insulation, for outdoor pipe runs between the buildings. Then he claimed an “act of God” and refused to repair his shoddy workmanship. Another lesson for me about the level of local craftsman skills.
More than ten of my citrus trees were killed out right, including a mature Washington Orange.
The Mulberry tree was felled, ready for the long awaited building work.
The contractor arrived and started digging.
Then the local council stepped in and stopped all work. Despite employing an architect, the paperwork was not in order. It took two more years to sort that problem out!
Spring came late, but there was a profusion of blossom when it did arrive.
I started to see new species in the forest and orchards.
The summer was hot too…
I started renovating a room to turn it into my study. The ceiling was properly insulated first.
Then the walls were papered with lining paper and I laid a new, level hardwood floor.
We had a forest fire on the border between Dol and Vrbanj.
What could have grown into a major conflagration was stopped by the rapid intervention of the Canadair water bombers. But a large area of the forest was destroyed.
Throughout the year, I find evidence of garden visitations which I don’t see at the time.
In the autumn I got a contractor in to remove and replace the roof of the cottage. Plastic sheets was no substitute for a proper tile roof.
Thinking ahead, I installed underground services to the building, so in the future it will be connected to the central heating system.
The loft space which had existed under the stone slabs was made into useable storage.
I also had the opportunity to see the pressing of olives to make the oil which the island is famous for.
Finally it was time to winterise. I replaced all the sub-standard copper pipework with plastic. The loft header tank was fully protected.
The pipework on the solar water heater was double insulated. I was ready for winter!
People are starting to talk about climate change. In Stari Grad, the sea is starting to regularly come over the low walls and flood nearby properties.
In February we had a one in a 100 year event – snow.
Not a lot by northern European standards, but enough for people to enjoy.
It also showed where I was losing heat from my buildings.
While it was winter outside, I started another indoor job. I renovated the guest room, installed central heating, a new hardwood floor and re-decorated.
Bring forth May flowers. I had bought some Spider Lily bulbs, not as large as the ones I had in Abu Dhabi, but nice none the less.
For the first time I saw at close quarters the Mongoose who have colonised the island. Brought in the last century to control the venomous snake population, they are now year round residents.
Outside renovations included turning a wine vat into a container for strawberries.
I also planned where I would like to have a small ornamental pond in the top orchard.
In the summer I installed a rainwater harvest system, to take the rainfall from the courtyard, to where it is needed in the orchard.
This was followed by the realignment of a path and the removal and rebuilding of a dry stone wall.
With the realignment complete, I built a new wood shed.
November 2018 was the centenary of the end of World War I. In the churchyeard there are three war memorials listing the names of villagers who did not return from WWI, WW2 and the Balkan War. There was no memorial service to honour the fallen though.
The wood stove in the dining room puts out a lot of heat, but the flue filled with ash and cinders and needed emptying every two weeks during the burn season.
I invested in a chimney fan, but had to design a metal frame to support it’s weight. It has worked extremely well though. Once again I was ready for winter.
I have already written extensively about 2019. All the blogs are available, month by month using the tabs on the right of this page.
I started the year experimenting with hydroponics. I grew tomato plants, but they were the wrong variety and had very few fruit. Must try harder in 2020.
I started the year by building steps out of reclaimed stone, down into the orchard. When finished and with a gravel path, they look really nice.
The dry stone walls have been extended. There is much more to do in 2020.
I discovered that I had a damp problem in one of my stores.
So I built an outside store to take some of the boxes, but also all the materials I have had in store for the building work which I desperately want to be done.
I’ve continued to find new species throughout the year.
And plants which I have grown as bulbs have flowered for the first time.
Not everything that grows is welcome however. Ivy is a major problem. The birds eat the berries and seed new plants everywhere.
I have started experimenting with extreme closeup lenses. Watch for more examples in 2020.
When I was talking to one of my neighbours, I was invited into one of his store rooms. It is an “Ala-din’s Cave”. He no longer has any donkeys, but still has the saddles, bridles and carrying frames from when these were the only means of transport. I wonder what else is lying forgotten?
In October the family increased by one. Gizmo, a tiny frightened kitten, desperately calling for his Mum appeared outside my gate.
A little over an hour later when I returmed from town, he had invited himself in (or may be it was Risha?) and was making himself at home.
Now properly vaccinated he is a fully paid up member of the family.
So as the last teenage year comes to an end, I wish you all a very Happy, Prosperous and Healthy 2020, where ever in the world you may be.
See you next year! NRCG