This week: Clock change; They’re finished; Rooting around; Defeated by the dusk; Preparing for some rain;
I’m writing this at 15:30 on Saturday, with the lights on. The rain is beating a tattoo on the roof outside and we are enjoying our first real rain since April.
OK, “we” aren’t! I am but the felines are definitely less than impressed.
It has been the right kind of rain as well. Yesterday, light rain, totalling just 3.5 mm wet the ground nicely and soaked in.
This morning the rain woke me at 3 am, and since then we have had 80 mm, mostly fine rain but with some heavy downpours.
During the occasional breaks, I have been checking the guttering and drains, and everything is flowing just as it should.
But I digress…. After two and a half days of slow, painstaking work, I have dug out a large tree root. There was then a two and a half hour shopping trip to town to get supplies, by which time the sun was setting.
Yet I am still in tee-shirts for the whole day.
At the supermarket there were quite a few people still wearing shorts, clearly visitors and I dare say a few are still swimming in the sea as well.
All week I have been watching the progress of an Atlantic weather front, which has been making its way southeast across France and Italy to bring us some much needed rain.
Almost all my work has been in preparation for this, in one way or another.
It is still unseasonably warm, even at night, to the point that bush crickets are still calling. This is the latest in the year that I have ever heard them.
There are Preying Mantis everywhere and I have even found some young second instar Mantic nymphs. The adults do not survive over the winter.
Europe changed times from Summer to Winter on Sunday, so we had an extra hour in bed.
I’ve been preparing for the clock change for almost a month. Each morning I have been feeding the felines at little later time, moving them away from a 7 am breakfast, to an 8 am breakfast time.
This means that after the clock changed, we are all eating at 7am again. This is much less stressful than being woken at 6 am by a hungry monster wanting to be fed!
In 2019 the European Parliament passed a law requiring countries to cease the biennial change after more than 80% of the population said it was no longer necessary.
There was a two year timescale to enable countries to comply, however COVID 19 got in the way, so implementation was delayed. This year it is the war in Ukraine and a recent report in Euro News says that it will still happen, but probably not until 2025
I decided I would at least try and finish one job this week, so I was out in the citrus orchard bright and early on Monday.
It would be nice to get the replacement citrus tree in the ground, so I began by marking where the steel hoops will go, to support the winter wind protection.
The next job was to dig a hole in the centre for the tree. Digging down almost half a metre, there was just no moisture, so I laid another irrigation pipe.
Below 20 cm the clay loam soil is completely compacted, to the point that I needed the pickaxe to break the hard pan, before I could dig any earth out.
For the tree to thrive, I drilled some half meter deep drainage holes in the bottom and also used soil mixed with compost and sand in the hole and all around the tree. Otherwise its roots will never expand properly.
Next job was drilling the holes for the 10 mm rebar steel into the compacted ground.
If anyone had walked past, they would legitimately wonder why someone would use a 1.25 metre wall drill to make holes in the earth. I actually had a problem drilling.
The soil is so dry, so deep that as I drilled, then pulled the drill bit out, the hole was filling with fine clay particles. This made it impossible to push the steel into the holes.
I solved the problem by pouring water into the dry hole and letting it soak in, then re-drilling the hole.
The water moistened everything just enough to make the void for the steel bar.
On Friday morning after I watched the first rain band approaching the island on the weather radar, I was out before 8am mixing soil and compost, then planting the citrus tree in the hole.
I filled in around the new Citrus tree with the soil mix and raked everything flat.
The tree is a Tanđelo / Tangelo, a hybrid of a Tangerine and Pomelo grapefruit and I’m looking forward to it beginning to fruit.
At the end of the week, it is always nice to see something finished.
Moving on to my “problem child”, the Šipac against the cottage wall, I excavated around the base of the tree to try and expose an area where I could cut into the bowl with the chain saw.
Cutting back some of the tree’s trunks, once again I found several had large dead areas in their cores, which were invisible from the outside.
There are some substantial roots too, which go very deep. This is a very old tree!
The job then became a process of excavate, cut exposed section, excavate deeper, cut and sharpen chain saw blades.
NOTHING dulls a chainsaw blade faster than soil and stones. This tree trunk had plenty of both in and around the trunk.
It took me two and a half days to remove the stump and cut back the roots as far as I can.
The larger roots were 10 cm across and I cannot get them out of the ground. Goodness knows how deep they go.
After cutting I have painted on some neat SBK brushwood killer on the exposed faces, in the hope of preventing any regrowth next year. I have also cut down to well beyond where I can see any buds.
It has been a difficult task, but I hope that by cutting the roots and then exposing them to the sun we have had this week, they will die back and rot.
On Friday I planted my replacement sapling, further from the cottage wall, also a tree which produces fruit, a red date, Ziziphus jujuba, with the common name Jujube.
Defeated by the dusk
With the Šipac out of the way, I needed to connect up the rainwater recovery system from the cottage roof.
This drains an area of 36 square meters, so every millimetre of rain which falls is equivalent to 36 litres of water.
There was a temporary system in place, however I removed it to give me access to the tree. With the impediment cleared, I needed a couple of extra parts, but could then fit all the pipework together.
I needed the pickaxe to break up the baked hard soil, so that I could bury the pipe underground. There were a couple of the paving slaps in the orchard which needed moving slightly too.
I’m using 75mm diameter plastic pipe, with parts of the pipe which are underground having drainage slits cut along their length on the bottom.
This is so that the rain will percolate out into the soil, close to my citrus trees, but away from the cottage wall.
The ground floor of the cottage is more than 1.5 meters underground, backing onto the orchard.
That small window is the one you can see at ground level on the outside of the cottage, two pictures above.
I do have a little concern that the Šipac, which is a thirsty tree – now removed, until the new Jujube becomes established, I may have a damp wall in the cottage.
The inside wall of the cottage has been treated with damp proofing, however I will be watching for any evidence of moisture penetration.
Preparing for some rain
All the roots I dug out this week have been left in the sun to dry, together with the cut lengths of the tree trunk. It is surprising how quickly the heart shakes have appeared.
Even in November, the sun is hot, although in my slope facing orchard, it is not shining on the land for anywhere near as long as it is in the summer.
As I mentioned at the start of this week’s blog, I have been watching the expected rain front develop all week, and anticipating its arrival.
Last thing on Thursday, I moved the now dry timber under cover ready for use in the wood stove. There was just time for a tidy up and check around to make sure no tools had been left out and everything had been put under cover.
In the courtyard, I moved the car as far under cover as I could and checked the drain in the centre to make sure it was free running.
As the leaves fall from the courtyard trees, I cut a piece of chicken wire and crumpled it up, into the mouth of the drain, so if we have a lot of rain, floating leaves won’t block the underground drainage system.
Then with dusk heralding the end of another working day, I sat back ready for the rain to arrive. It goes from daylight to dark very quickly at this time of year. NCG