This week: BREXIT; Side trips; Failing to plan; Climate change;
The continuing BREXIT debacle means that there are just 20 days to the 29th March. On this date the UK might or might not leave the EU, may or may not crash out, will or will not have accepted the deal offered by the EU. Which, if any of these scenarios take place is anyone’s guess!
I can’t wait any longer before getting a last parcel, free of customs duties, taxes and everything else. So this week I submitted my last orders.
I ordered some Fuchsia magellanica and Ophiopogon planiscapus Nigrescens, a set of lifting eye bolts and the piano hinges that I couldn’t get on the mainland last week. It’s often the simple bits and pieces, like a piano hinge for my heated propagator, which seem impossible to obtain here!?
At the moment there is no need for phytosanitary certificates and documents when ordering plants, because we are in the same EU and the plant company is part of the EU Plant Passport scheme.
But the second that the UK leaves, not withstanding that the shrubs and saplings which have been growing for two or three years don’t need a certificate at 22:59 on the 29th. At 23:00 they do. So I’ve ordered some other plants as well. Everything will be boxed up and set off next week to be sure it arrives before the 29th of the month.
For expats living in Europe, this is a time of great uncertainty.
I have no idea if I my reciprocal medical coverage will exist after the 29th of March. I need to renew my residency permit, but can only apply in June, just over two and a half months after the 29th. When I ask, no one here in government can tell me what the process will be, because they, like the expats, are waiting to see what happens.
The British Embassy are useless and say they can’t help and refer you to a UK Government website. The website tries to cover every base, and because no one knows what is going to happen, there is no clear information.
This uncertainty affects everyone involved. There are more than 3 million EU citizens in the UK and it’s thought – because no one really knows – there are 1.3 million UK citizens living in Europe. But life in my Dol house goes on, as it has for the past four plus years…
It’s been another busy week. My younger cat Callie has been off colour so I was at the Vets with her on Monday and came home with a bottle of liquid medicine to give her – an 0.8ml teaspoon – twice a day.
My instruction “OK, open wide” has been ignored after the first attempt, so I’ve had to develop an alternative delivery method. She really, really likes Tuna. Not your “Felix” or Kitty-Kat variety, but human Tuna food in brine.
Once laced with 0.8ml of Klavocin, it is easily administered and the dish is licked clean. After five days on the course she is showing signs of improvement.
Then there was the trip to the wheel alignment centre and all the usual work in the orchards.
I took my car over to Makarska on Tuesday. On a grey but mild day, there were few people on the road. The coast highway runs parallel to the Dinaric Alps and the scenery is spectacular.
This is a specialist company who use the latest laser technology to check the alignment of the steering.
The engineer found that I had a few problems with the car’s geometry. It was out by more than 10 degrees and one wheel had to be removed to enable the King Pin hole to be reamed and the KPI adjusted.
If it all sounds like a foreign language, watch the video or just move to the next section! After the toe and caster angles were corrected, it certainly felt better driving it home.
I recall a long time ago going to night school to study vehicle mechanics and I even passed the City & Guilds examination. Some of the old knowledge came back, but this studying was at a time when pieces of steel and accurate measuring were used to check the geometry.
It’s exactly 60 kilometres from home to catch the ferry in Sućuraj. On the drive down the spine of the island, everywhere the almond trees were in full blossom, with in places whole hillsides covered in pink and white trees. On overcast sky does not show them off well.
Here in the village, the blossom trees are at their peak too. But unlike Japan where there is even a word for viewing the fantastic blossom season – Hanami – here I suspect few people notice and even fewer come to enjoy the scene.
My plum trees have also had their blossom peak this week. The bees have been busy pollinating the flowers and with little likelihood of any cold, I think I will have a good crop this year. Last year because of early blossom and late cold there were almost none.
The Myrobalan plum blossom looks incredible, but there is only the slightest of scent, just enough to attract the pollinators.
My Apricot trees are also covered in blossom, so much that I think if all the fruit sets, I will have to thin it out as the weight will be too much for the thin branches.
All the blue Hyacinth are in flower too and it is their scent, which some people find overpowering, that fills the garden at the moment. I’ve harvested the first crop of the year this week too. The wild Asparagus shoots are now appearing and very tasty they are too.
Failing to plan
With the countdown to building work having started, I drafted up my “to do” list, of all the things which need to happen by the time the builders arrive. In around 4 weeks I need to complete everything, so I should be OK I think.
I added another row of steps into the gap in the Top Orchard wall, but I’m really at the point where I need to build the other side wall, before I can do much more. This has been put off because it is going to be a difficult and hard job to remove undergrowth and dig out years of accumulated stones, to even just expose the old wall’s foundations.
Everything to the left will have to be cleared to get at the foundations of the wall.
This was the first row of stone steps that I put in place in November last year.
This is where I am today.
Creating the list has helped me put the tasks in the right order. There is the old saying, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”, and the ‘to do’ list is as good as any plan…
As the shrubs that have been over wintering in the greenhouse are all now in full growth, I want to get them into the permanent positions. However I need to clear the area where the small pond will go, move large stones that I put round the edge, because it was out of the way, and dig out perennial weeds.
This area is going to have a stone retaining wall round it to retain moisture. The orchard slopes and the area was where the owner of the next door property deposited the spoil from his cess pit, many years ago.
The deep sub soil, now on the surface, will never be much good for growing things, so that is where the pond will go.
First job was to cut back the bramble briars and ivy, then position the base layer of stones. The retaining wall needs only to be two stones high, so the dry walling is nothing like the undertaking around my steps down into the orchard. The stones are large though, but I just needed to make some progress with their relocation this week, so I could start cultivating the ground round the edge of the old spoil heap. This I have done.
Around the pond area, I am going to use the small stones which are currently piled up round the base of the big wall at the entrance to the orchard as an all weather walkway, so everything is reliant on something else.
Once I start digging out the base of the wall, I need somewhere to put the stuff I remove. Part of the idea of the “to do” list is that once you see everything on (digital) paper, it is easy to then re-order the jobs into the correct sequence.
Last year I covered the pond area with old cardboard and this has prevented a lot of weed growth. Just a few persistent perennial weeds have pushed their way through. On Wednesday My neighbour decided that he would Pollard one of the Walnut trees that is on the boundary.
I helped him and whilst the tree gave a lot of shade in the summer, it was yet to burst into bud. Even so, there is so much more sunlight now in this area. I don’t need to rethink my plans, as my design is all about shrubs which are drought tolerant, enjoy full sun and will generally thrive in the prevailing soil conditions. But some trees, for example my table olive saplings, will do so much better in dawn to dusk summer sunshine instead of partial shade.
By the end of the week I’ve moved all the stones away from the boundary, cleared the small stones off the cardboard, dug out the deep rooted and perennial weeds and even done a couple of plantings. I saw there was a likelihood of rain on Friday night so took the opportunity to plant , knowing they will get some natural irrigation.
We had just under 3mm, or three litres per meter², so not really enough to do more than wet the surface. But I’ve started the planting process. At least once you reach the point of putting plants into prepared soil, you feel as though you are almost there.
Actually working on the first planting area, I found there is a much greater slope than I had anticipated, so I’ll have to build a small retaining wall. It sort of fits in though, because I was going to run the path there in any case! I need to draw another plan…
There was an article this week in the Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper with the headline “Unwanted Drought”. Much as I have recorded on my weather station, so far this year, there has been much less rain than would normally be expected.
The Metorological Institute says that there is no appreciable amount of rain foreseeable in the coming weeks, which will make crop cultivation difficult.
The problem is that the island is on porous bedrock, so any rain which is not captured and held, will just soak away. There is no aquifer , it just disappears. I created a different chart from my weather station statistics. This is the five month winter rainy season.
It shows above average precipitation in December and January, then almost a complete absence of rain after the first week of February. A neighbour who has a large Olive grove was telling me that the trees are covered in salt, following the Bura winds of a couple of weeks back and that we need heavy rain to was it all off.
Using the same figures this is an annual cumulative total for precipitation. It paints a very different picture, showing that we have had around half the rainfall we would normally have expected from the start of the year.
With spring growth starting in late January, this is the crucial time for precipitation. The high rainfall we received in December will have gone too deep for the trees to access it when they need it at the start of the growing season.
This is yet another of those climate change effects that we cannot afford to ignore, but at the same time have no control over. Whether it is rain in Greenland, record high temperatures in the UK, tornadoes in the USA or floods in Australia, we are all affected. But we are all affected differently. NCR