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The Open’s closed

This week: The Open’s closed; Nothing lasts for ever; Bottling figs; Summer bulbs; Adding shelves;

After the storm
After the storm

I’m behind my own curve this week.

I’ve just woken from a refreshing siesta, its hot again and so I was tempted by some chocolate ice cream, direct from the freezer.

2½ of my felines were lines up outside wanting to know why their dishes were empty. So I felt obliged to provide them with food too. Now they will be off back to continue their siestas.

Isabijela has moved the kittens again this week. It is the natural instinct of feline queens to move their litter, so in the wild predators do not find them.

She has been looking all week and found a spot in amongst the empty plant pots in the green house. After finding the kittens had fallen out and were crying, I put them back in their basket and closed the door.

As she was exploring the bedroom, I realised the bottom clothes drawer was almost empty, so I removed my winter sweaters, put a cat blanket in and waited. She has taken the hint.

Drawer re-purposing
Drawer re-purposing

Meanwhile, when I opened my notes for this week’s blog, I was surprised that there were only a couple of paragraphs. I thought I had already drafted more….

So now it’s four thirty and the village is starting to wake up again. It won’t take me long, using the time honoured phrase of the print industry, “to put this to bed“.


The Open’s closed

The Puh are wearing face masks. I’ve seen them, they really are

Puh facemask
Puh facemask

This was the event that wasn’t, the Dol Open was closed. OK, you can really have fun with the English language, but I’m not sure how that will translate into Croatian.

Dol open poster
Dol open poster

Early in August each year there is the Puhijada (pronouned Poo – e – yada), the festival involving both villages of Dol, St. Anna and St. Maria. But like everything else this year, COVID-19 has taken its toll.

Government restrictions on the number of people who can meet, without the requirement for a register of names and contact details has meant the 2020 Puhijada has been a very subdued event.

The Dol open is similar to the US Open only smaller. But the Dol Open has a no less illustrious cast of participants. In 2020 it is taking place without any onlookers or supporters.

Taking place on the village Balotta pitch, next to St Anne’s Church, teams from across the island vie for the title of the Dol Open Champions. In case you have forgotten my previous descriptions, Balotta is rather like English Bowls but without the starched white uniforms and soft green grass.

Balota in Dol
Balota in Dol

Played on a scrupulously flattened pitch, individuals try to get their large bowling ball close to the small jack, whilst knocking opponents out of the way like skittles.

There is no Saturday Night party this year. Instead some local groups played on Friday to those who assembled outside the Church until the wee small hours. I heard them (from 500 metres away) until I drifted back to sleep around 02:00, to the background of the patter of rain drops.

Meanwhile our furry Puh’s have had a reprieve this year. None have been caught this summer, to be spit roasted at the final party and sold to curious visitors. This makes makes me happy. I would much rather see these furry, grey rodents leaping around between trees and in September, feeding on my Pomegranates.

I think we will all still be wearing face masks then…


Nothing lasts for ever

With thunder storms forecast for Tuesday, I changed the batteries in my weath station’s rain gauge. I think that I noticed on Saturday that the base station dial had gone blank.

Base station display
Base station display

The station is an IROX wireless system and all the outside recording devices take standard AA size, 1.5 volt batteries.

When I checked the voltage of the two that I removed, they were just under 1 volt. I always check removed batteries, to see if they are worth keeping for torch batteries.

A lot of electrical devices need more than 0.8 v to function, whereas a pen torch with two AA’s will still give out light at 0.4 v.

Replacing them with two new batteries, each giving 1.6 volts, I tried to connect the rain gauge. The screen remained stubbornly blank. I left the gauge, close to the antenna, to see if it was just a temporary glitch. It wasn’t.

Opening the electronics requires some dedicated tools. While normal “Phillips” screws secure the battery compartment, the rest of the electronics are protected with tiny double square 2BA machine bolts. Fortunately I have a kit with all the right drivers.

Opening the electronics box didn’t revel anything. I checked the incoming power and I had a steady 3.2V. None of the components appeared damaged and lacking a circuit diagram, I had nothing else I could check.

Rain gauge insides
Rain gauge insides

I wish my degree was in micro electronics. Instead I have a MSc from the University of Life… Without detailed knowledge and some sophisticated diagnostic equipment, I think it is time to consign the rain gauge to the electronics recycle bin.

Looking through my weather file, I don’t have a date for when I bought the weather station, but I certainly had it in operation in Abu Dhabi in 2008.

I bought my first station from Costco in 1986, a Davis Instruments unit which I still have. The Davis system is a wired device rather than the modern UHF radio devices, so it is somewhat limited.

My IROX Pro-X weather station is no longer made or available. Being over 12 years of age and having spent several years baking in the Abu Dhabi heat, followed by more years gently sizzling in the Mediterranean sun I think it is time to find a replacement.

The other sensors are still working, but it means I will have to rely on a system in Stari Grad to get rainfall data for my records.

I need to start looking for a replacement, of which there are many. It is just a question of how much i am willing to spend…


Approaching storm

After lunch on Tuesday I watched the thunderstorm cell approaching on the weather radar from the south west.

Storm approaching
Storm approaching

All my sensitive electrics were turned off because there seemed to be a lot of lightning activity as the storm got close. I put all the plants out so they would get some of the life giving rain.

Storm overhead
Storm overhead

However, we only caught the corner. The worst passed to the east and there was no disruption to the power supply. Even so there was some intense rainfall for a few minutes.

Intense rain pulses
Intense rain pulses

Then the clouds cleared and the sun came out again. There were some lingering showers which obscured the horizon and Brač.

Lingering showers
Lingering showers

Bottling figs

The figs on my big tree have started to split, so I have been gathering them this week.

I have an old and well used Tower Pressure Cooker which is the ideal pan for making things like jams and preserves. I had to find it at the back of the pantry store.

It did not take me long to pick four kilos from the tree.

Freshly picked figs
Freshly picked figs

I have a favourite recipe for spiced, preserved figs:

1 cup water
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 Vanilla pod, split
1 litre of red wine

The sugar and water is warmed and melted, then the wine and spices are added and the temperature is raised to a simmering boil.

Figs ready for dipping
Figs ready for dipping

The figs are dipped whole into the poaching liquid until they have turned colour, between ten and fifteen minutes, depending how many are in the tray.

Ten minutes simmering
Ten minutes simmering

They are removed and placed in scalded preserving jars, quickly covering them with the poaching liquid and the screw tops are fitted.

I have dedicated Kilner preserving jars, but I also use honey jars that I have saved.

More wine is added to the pan, together with local honey, then brought up to a gentle simmer, ready for the next batch.

Fig preserve
Fig preserve

As more figs come ready this week, as well as eating them fresh, I will be doing some more preserving for the winter.


Summer bulbs

It has been a strange week for weather this week.

We had rain on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, then early on Saturday morning. Not a huge amount of rain has fallen. Just 13.5 mm has been recorded at the Stari Grad weather station. But this is enough to be able to suspend my daily irrigation ritual.

One flower which I especially look forward to seeing is the Spider Lily, Hymenocallis. This year their display has not been disappointing.

Spider lily
Spider lily

They are one of the few summer flowering bulbs in the garden and I saw this year that the bulbs are starting to reproduce. I will wait until they are a thick clump before I split them up.

Spider lily closeup
Spider lily closeup

I also have some Alstromeria, sometimes call Lily of the Incas because they originate from South America. These are another tropical bulb in different colours of red, maroon and orange.

Alstromeria flowers
Alstromeria flowers

Their bulbs seem to be multiplying too, so they are obviously happy. My aim is to have something in flower all year round, whether as shrubs or bulbs.

I have three different varieties of Buddleja. This woody perennial shrub is known as the “Butterfly Bush” in Northern Europe. While I am keeping them alive with copious amounts of water, they do not attract the number of butterflies that they do in more temperate climates.

Purple Buddleja
Purple Buddleja

Being a long flowering variety, there are slightly fragrant blooms from May until October. A job for next week is to dead-head the old flowers to encourage more to come.

I planted a tropical variety last year. It is growing but has yet to flower. I am looking forward to its first blooms.


Adding shelves

This has been one of those jobs I have been going to do for a few weeks. The trouble has been that there has always been something else which has got in the way.

The main shelving units are all repurposed shop fittings, which came from the family shop in York. They are extremely strong, a meter long between the uprights and 50 cm wide.

After fitting most of the shelves a couple of months ago, I had seven left over, however somehow an upright was missing. I have searched everywhere and cannot find it. I suspect that it may have been left in Spain when I moved to Abu Dhabi.

So this week, as I was fed up of still having some boxes on the workshop floor, I decided to move things round slightly.

I decided to move one of the steel uprights that was next to the window, across the aisle. This was only supporting three shelves.

Shelves by the window
Shelves by the window

The upright needed fixing to the ring beam which runs the width of the building. I made up a short bracket and it was a quick job then to drop the seven shelves into place.

New shelves added
New shelves added

By the windows I have made a wooden end frame, which will take the weight of the three shelves. The wooden frame actually looks much nicer than the iron one.

This has given me the extra storage capacity I need and had planned for in the workshop.

The next job is to print labels for the IKEA Samla storage boxes. With everything labelled I will move them around a bit so the most used items are at the front.

Slowly but surely I am getting there…. NRC

3 Responses

  1. Brian Homans
    | Reply

    Interesting as always, Norman, although I don’t think Balotta is anything like English Bowels. (Unless you are somehow confusing this with the story of bottling figs!)

  2. John Bailey
    | Reply

    Good read Norman. Excellent photographs under the very dark skies. We could do with some of your rain in East Anglia. I have never known the Butterfly Bush to suffer with drought. In fact two of ours have died this year . They are mature shrubs. John

  3. Richard Ellis
    | Reply

    LED burnout?

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