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The wonder of nature

This week: Computer woes; COVID-19; Strimming along; Birdboxing; The wonder of nature; Midwifery refresher;

Early in the forest
Early in the forest

There has been a marked drop in temperatures this week. We have been hovering around the 24ºC mark during the day and a very pleasant 18ºC over night.

This is around ten degrees lower than could be expected at this time of year. From now until the second week of August it is usually the hottest part of the year.

We had a little bit of rain at lunchtime on Saturday. I recorded only 3 mm (three litres per metre² ) but it is better than nothing.


Computer woes

I doubted I was going to get the blog out on time this week because I’ve had a complete computer breakdown.

Turning my desktop system on on Friday, Windows 10 wouldn’t boot. I got an error message telling me that a file deep in the protected system files area of the main hard drive was missing.

After several attempts (and failures) to resolve the problem, even with an original Windows DVD, I decided it might be dust, so I opened the computer case.

It was dusty inside, but at least there were no mice or cobwebs. With the courtyard still being sand, even with three door mats between the outside and the computer desk, it doesn’t stop the dust.

I started by washing the nylon fan filters – that is why they have them – under the tap, then left them to dry.

Dusty fan filter
Dusty fan filter

I stripped the hard drives out and with a vacuum and fine nozzle, I cleaned the inside of the case.

Finally I removed the M2 solid state hard drive from the motherboard, cleaned around the mount and replaced it. It’s only like open heart surgery – on a computer – not difficult when you know what you’re doing.

With everything replaced I started the system and was able to repair the damaged sector from the windows disc. This isn’t supposed to happen with solid state drives, but somehow it did.

So after a worrying 36 hours, I’m now back in business, running a full virus scan but with no data loss and here to prove it is this week’s blog.


COVID-19

I’ve been to the supermarket a couple of times this week to stock up. I actually blame my senior cat Risha for this!

He has had toothache again, so after a trip to the vet for antibiotic and a pain killer, we needed comfort food.

He really, really likes Felix, the assorted flavours please, especially tuna, but is none too fussed about rabbit. If I give him a different brand, he looks at his dish, looks at me, looks back at his dish again and starts to cry.

He has been training Isabijela, the pretty, young, pregnant female who really belongs to my neighbours, but who has decided she will move in with us.

Izabijela and Gizmo
Izabijela and Gizmo

She has started to do the same. I suppose it could be worse, she might have wanted ice cream with mayonnaise instead of Felix for her craving….

Like many countries around the Mediterranean, the service industries of travel and tourism generate between 24% and 33% of the national GDP (depending which web site you look at!).

The lockdown which started in March was swift, comprehensive and effective. The number of COVID-19 cases was stabilised and because of police enforced quarantine, police road blocks to prevent travel outside your own district and an excellent health system, the number of cases stabilised and reduced.

Since the borders reopened, and the infamous tennis incident at Zadar, cases have been on the rise.

Last week the daily total of new cases rose above the highest number recorded at the height of the epidemic.

Last Friday the Government introduced new regulations, effective immediately, to reduce the incidence of COVID cases.

Masks are compulsory for everyone entering a shop or other premises where the public are. My impression this week is that almost everyone is wearing masks when out and about in shops and public spaces.

Borders have been closed to non EU citizens and the WHO has changed the designation of the Balkans from green to red in terms of COVID infections.

Clear, consistent and standard publicity in English and Croatian has been circulated, so people are in no doubt what is required.

But at the same time, EU tourists are still being allowed in, and there is a government initiative of Cro-Cards for citizens.

This gives the holder a range of discounts at resorts and hotels, paid for by the government, to encourage staycations.

So while there is major concern about the rise in COVID cases, there is still a desire to liberate holiday makers from their cash, whilst there still remains a few more weeks of summer. Certainly town was the busiest I have seen Stari Grad since before lockdown.

I suspect that come the end of August, the time of year when schools should reopen, if the upward trajectory of new cases continues, we will be put back into lockdown.

By September, it is the end of the main tourist season and some money will have been made from those prepared to venture to this part of the world from the rest of Europe.

This time I’m going to be ready for lockdown, so I am stocking up on essentials, things like Felix….


Strimming along

I assembled my new strimming machine on Sunday, mixed some 2T fuel, filled the tank and primed the carburettor. The engine burst into life on the second pull of the starter cord.

I then attacked the brambles and other assorted woody plants in the top orchard.

After an hours work on Monday morning, I had cleared more than half of the overgrown orchard. How on earth did I let it get like this?!!

Overgrown orchard
Overgrown orchard

I can actually answer that question. I’ve been too busy with other things and as I wasn’t growing anything in the orchard, besides the fruit trees, I was happy to live and let live.

The strimmer cord didn’t last long, so I changed the head to a brushwood blade. The machine came with a brand new blade, but I looked at the one on my broken machine and saw it would fit.

The reason being is that there are quite a lot of stones hidden under the greenery, so rather than blunt or damage a brand new blade, I’ll use the old one for the hard work. It already has the marks and scars where it has come into contact with stone before.

I’m not going too close to the trees with the machine, so I don’t damage the bark or trunk. What I will have to do is some hand cutting with a pair of shears, to get close to the fruit trees.

After leaving the cuttings to dry for a few days, I raked everything up into a pile. I will leave it to compost though, because unseen on the twigs and leaves will be the eggs and larvae of all kinds of beneficial insects.


Birdboxing

The Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, that I am training up a couple of rather blank walls seems to like where I planted it.

It has reached the gable and tendrils have started to grow and hang down from the barge boards. Virginia Creeper, unlike Ivy, is a non invasive climber. At the end of the finger like tendrils there are tiny round suction pads which attach themselves to the surface without damaging it.

New Virginia Creeper shoots
New Virginia Creeper shoots

In the wind they are flapping about, so I decided to fix them to the wall, so that their adhesive tendril pads can get a foothold on the wall.

Virginia Creeper
Virginia Creeper

While I was up the ladder, I took the opportunity to have a look in the bird box which has been hanging on the wall for some time.

Although I have seen some Great Tits having a look at the box, I knew that there was nothing in residence. When I lifted the lid, the inside is all but empty. Just one or two leaves were on the inside.

Vacant bird box
Vacant bird box available for rent

Perhaps when the creeper has surrounded it, the box may be more attractive as a nesting site. It is north facing, receiving just morning and evening sun in the summer.

We are late in the 2020 nesting season now.

This week the first brood of Swallows have fledged and the youngsters with their parents have been wheeling around my home, catching flies and building up their wing strength, ready for the long migration south. It is only about 6 weeks before they will leave .

Young Swallow resting
Young Swallow resting

Although I had Swallows investigating my new building, none have built a nest, so maybe next year.

I’ve wondered about making a Bat Box too. We have bats and very recently I’ve seen what I think was a Pipistrelle, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, flying at dusk around the plum trees.

I can’t be sure because I don’t have a bat echo location decoder, but its flight pattern and small size suggests that was what it was.

There are some plug-in devices (only €203.00) for android devices, but it is an awful lot to pay for just a very occasional use.

There are 12 species of bat found in the Mediterranean, most are found throughout the basin. Some are absent from islands and several hunt in or over olive groves, roost in open buildings and hibernate in cellars. Sadly all the bat species are declining in numbers.

It’s too late for this year, but I will keep some of the untreated timber boards I have, and rather than putting them in the woodstove, I think this winter I’ll construct a bat box.

The big difference between a bat box and a bird box is that bat boxes are sealed so you can’t look inside.

Once constructed and installed, it is illegal to move, alter or open a bat box, in case you disturb the mammals inside.


The wonder of nature

I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by nature. That was part of the allure of my Dol house. It is surrounded by land a plenty and which ever window I look out of, I see trees, shrubs and plants.

At the moment I am listening to my male Blackbird giving his alarm call “Cat, cat, cat, cat, cat“, perched on the electric wire, tail up, wings down.

Blackbird alarm call
Blackbird alarm call

All the while one of this years fledglings is taking semi ripe grapes from the vine that runs round the edge of the courtyard, at gutter level.

They then proceed to leave deposits on my nice clean car!

The Cicadas are in full voice but otherwise all is quiet outside. The swallows which were wheeling and shrieking early in the day have retreated, rather like me, in the midday heat.

There is a saying that “you’ll never own a cat”, meaning that they are independent creatures, capable of thought but unlike dogs, they choose their companionship. They are not afraid to move either.

In Abu Dhabi Dr Katrin Jahn, the senior vet at the German Veterinary Clinic who looked after Risha and Callie told me that from choice she would only have felines as clients. She said this is because they are by far the most interesting and intelligent of all the animals that she came into contact with.

So too when Isabijela moved across the road from my neighbours a couple of months ago and took up residence, both my neighbours and I realised that we had little choice. They are independent minded, resourceful and know when they are onto a good thing! (And that’s just the neighbours…-)

It has been clear for a month or so that Isabijela was expecting.

Heavily pregnant Isabijela
Heavily pregnant Isabijela

She is about 9 months old – the same age as Gizmo. Over the past couple of weeks, judging by her extending girth I went from expecting twins to triplets. Right up until Tuesday she would accompany me on morning and evening walks in the olive groves.

This past week she has become more lethargic, not being too keen to go for very long walks and has been looking for a nesting site. I had only to open a cupboard door and she was there, scouting out the inside.

Rather than give in, I placed various cardboard boxes around the house with the idea that she might find one tempting enough. She likes the study where she can lie on a windowsill and let cool air waft over her, or just come and sit in front of me while I am working on the computer.

I was gently rising through the levels of consciousness around 05:30 on Thursday, when I heard her cry out. The others felines were already queuing for breakfast (always served around 06:00) and I suspected it might be a dispute over bowls.

When I went into the study, Isabijela was in a large comfortable box, with three new born kittens.

First three newborn kittens
First three newborn kittens

She wasn’t at all worried by my presence, in fact she greeted me with a nuzzle.

I then had the immense privilege of being present for two more births.

And 2 makes five
And 2 makes five

A midwifery refresher

I’ve been on many First Aid, BLS (Basic Life Support) and pre-hospital casualty care courses over the years.

Our helicopter used to take casualties from the road side to hospital, so everyone had their first aid training brought up to much higher than normal level for the police service.

I know of colleagues who have had to help deliver a new born in the back of a patrol car, but the closest I’ve ever got was when I was parked and a clearly panicked man rushed up and said, “My wif’e’s in the car, she’s expecting and the baby’s coming, we need to get to hospital NOW!”

No time to summon an ambulance, so I duly provided a ‘blue light’ escort to A&E and the baby was delivered a few minutes after we arrived. That was just a bit too close for comfort!

I’ve done some reading up this week on cats though. In my past experience, they seem to like to go somewhere quiet, do their own thing, then bring the offspring back home one at a time.

There is of course a huge amount of information available online, but I was specifically looking to find out about problems, especially with a first time mum. I needn’t have worried, her instinct told her exactly what she needed to do.

Mum knows best
Mum knows best

She followed the veterinary practice I had read, to the letter.

At five brand new, shiny offspring, I told here it was enough, and she had done a good job and went across to tell my neighbours, who have said they will help find homes for them.

When I came back, no 6 had arrived into the world.

In the space of 12 months, I’ve gone from 2½ cats, Senior Cat Risha and Callie who both came with me from Abu Dhabi (Roger the lodger comes and goes at his pleasure). This increased to 3½ when Gizmo arrived last September, then to 4½ with Isabijela.

I really wasn’t expecting another 6.

That is where the books and websites got it wrong, saying first time mums generally have just two or three kittens.

This last week, with her expanding waist line, I did wonder, but just expected big kittens.

I’ve been making the place more kitten friendly, so when in ten to fourteen days they open their eyes and start exploring, there will be toys and safe spaces for them.

Most of the time the kittens have known exactly where to go for food. Once or twice one has got lost in the box and mum has been quite happy for me to gently pick up the tiny bundle of fur and place it against her tummy.

Yesterday while I was having my coffee on the settee next to the box, Isabiejela came out for her snack, looked at me, gave a little miew and diapeared into the orchard.

I’m certain she meant, “OK, I’ll leave them with you for a few minutes. I won’t be long.” She wasn’t.

Six contented kittens
Six contented kittens

Two are black with grey stripes. Two are like mum, white with a dark head, one is a Dalmatian and the last is half and half.

I am amazed almost every day by the things in nature that I see around me. But this week has been very special. NRC

One Response

  1. Brian
    | Reply

    Well done, cat man!

    I as just wondering about your bird box. What direction does it face ? Apparently, they don’t like it if it faces south because it gets too hot in the glare of the sun. We have had one facing more or less north on the back wall of our house and it has had a family of blue tits every year. It has a camera inside its roof, linked to our TV so we can monitor developments at will. Have a good week. Regards, Brian

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