Time is relative
This week: New Year’s Day; January Expedition; A little bit of frost; Neighbours; Going Electric;
What did you do for New Year?
Here in Dol we had some fireworks, drinks with neighbours, a little food – we had already over eaten at Christmas – and then sleep. I wish you the best for the next decade of the 21st Century…
As the days pass in 2020, I am reminded of the quotation by Albert Einstein…
New Year’s Day
For places which use the Gregorian calendar, January 1st is New Year’s Day. In many countries it is a holiday, but not all.
There are other “New Years” celebrated by Islamic countries, the Chinese and Japanese New Years of Asia, the Jewish New Year and in India, New Year is not celebrated at all.
There is a good Wikipedia article which covers the various dates and variation in great detail.
Almost two weeks after the Winter Solstice, it is noticeable that the sun is already a little higher in the sky. Roll on the summer!
Already I have spring bulbs in flower.
Because it has been so mild in the run up to Christmas, the Narcissi I have in the citrus orchard, which are usually in flower around New Year, were in bloom almost two weeks early.
The Hyacinth are well into growth and I noticed this week a pair of Blackbirds starting their courtship ritchuals. They know that Spring is close.
I have already started my Springwatch 2020 database. Following the first four entries for 2020, things are 11 days earlier than 2019.
One of the trees I bought at the tree fair in Split in 2016 has flower buds on it for the first time.
This is a Nispero,also known as a Loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, which is now over two meters tall, but these are its first flower buds.
Originating from temperate China, they have naturalised around the Mediterranean. They are evergreen’ multi trunked trees and if allowed, will grow to eight to ten metres tall. That is too tall to easily pick the fruit, so I have trained them into a 2 metre umbrella shape.
The orange fruit will ripen in April and has a flavour of peach and mango. They make nice pies and are easily preserved in Kilner jars.
Being the first crop, there will not be many fruits this year, but I look forward to large crops in the future.
January 1st Expedition
With a clear sky and warm sunshine I went for a wander through the Maquis forest after lunch. I didn’t do a lot of walking last year. I’m not sure why, but I always seemed to have something else to do.
In an hour and a half ramble, I never saw a single other person. The only noises were natural sounds: A pheasant calling; Birdsong; The rustle of leaves in a light breeze.
I disturbed a Kestrel Hawk which flew off from in front of me, along the dry stream bed, to alight on a tree that I had just passed. I had the place completely to myself.
There really wasn’t a plan. After the rain, I thought I would look at the dams. When I got to the valley, the reservoirs were dry and the bottoms have been completely cleared out.
The two substantial dams were built by Austro-Hungarian engineers some 130 years ago.
I was able to walk up the dry bed all the way to the top of the valley.
All the way up, the engineers laid dressed stone steps to prevent running water eroding the steep stream bed.
Among the cameras I took with me was my Ricoh 360º Panoramic. I have posted the images onto my Kuula panoramic photo page.
You should be able to click on a thumbnail and then move around, zoom in and out, look up and down etc. However I had some problems when I tried and I have had no reply from Kuula Technical Support so the link may not work.
An alternative is to use FaceBook to view them.
For a small camera, the Ricoh does a really good job.
The photographs give you an idea of the Maquis which surrounds my home. Although well defined as a part of the Mediterranean biome, I look at the walls and marvel – not the dam walls built by Austro-Hungarian engineers – but the hand built retaining walls which would have channelled the water and prevented erosion.
The grandfather of one of my neighbours was involved in planting the trees on what were bare hillsides more than a century ago. They have now spread and are taking over the abandoned terraces.
Sadly I have been unable to unearth any photographs of either the building of the dams, their holding water back, or bare hills. The lack of water suggests that the forestation now prevents rapid runoff and hence the need for the dams.
Just once since I have been here has there been water flowing out of the carefully built dams.
That was after 175mm of rain fell between the 23rd and 25th February, 2015. It was the first time in more than 40 years that there had been water in the dams and stream.
A little bit of frost
I know that the fortnight after every Christmas will be cold. The sun is at it’s lowest in the sky and the hills to the south shade my land for all but 5 hours per day.
However, being a Thermal Belt, the cold air keeps moving down hill, with just a couple of frost pockets where cold air sinks..
The air temperature has not dropped below freezing in Dol this week, but there has been a little ground frost. One morning there was a very thin layer of ice on the water plants tub.
Although we have had several sunny days, I noticed the greenhouse was quite cool. When I went outside, I realised why. Half the building is in shadow so my water bottles are not seeing any sun and hence the greenhouse is not getting any heat.
Why I never noticed it last year I do not know.
I was especially interested in the new shrubbery and flower beds I have put into the top orchard. There has been some frost visible.
In the lowest part, there was no frost visible. So I now know where to put the most tender plants.
On New Years Eve, one of my neighbours asked me to look at his Opel Astra car, because it wouldn’t start and he thought it was the battery.
I secured a loose battery contact and proved the battery was OK, but still couldn’t get the car to start. I suspected that the fuel pump had failed. On New Year’s Day he came over to say he had found the cause.
He has a lovely Labrador which is 9 months old, so just beyond puppy stage. He had found him playing with a piece of wire and looking under the car, Gama (his dog’s name) had chewed and pulled the wiring to the fuel tank and pump.
I’ve seen damage caused by rodents once they get inside machinery, but is is my first experience of a dog taking a fancy to electrical wiring.
Out came my tools. Rather than get a tow truck, I said we could at least make it driveable, to get the car to an auto electrician. Fortunately he has a field car too, so they were not without a means of transport.
Motorcycle electrics I understand. Car electrics less so, but I can follow wiring diagrams. So with my wiring tools, I crawled under the car on Thursday and effected repairs. At least enough to get the car started anyway.
Gama had seriously chewed the wiring and a snap connector.
I didn’t have any of the connectors, so just joined the wires and covered them with insulating tape until they take the car to an auto electrician.
As for Gama, he’s going to the vets to see why he has suddenly taken a liking to chewing wires and plastic…
I’ve struggled with cutting the logs in my wood shed this year. After sending my Stihl petrol chain saw for service, I have been unable to get it to run long enough to cut any timber for the fire. After following the instructings from the service station, it was if anything, worse so it’s going back.
That left me with a problem. I don’t have enough cut logs for the winter burn season. So do I order a load of cut timber or buy a replacement saw?
I went with the latter choice, but after evaluating what I could get locally, quickly, over New Year, I have decided to go electric.
On any day of the week, bar Sundays, you can hear chain saws in use around the village. Often several being used in different places.
Petrol chain saws are noisy and their exhaust pollutes. On Thursday morning, I ordered a LiPo battery model from Volat in Stari Grad. At tea time they called to say it had arrived – with good reason they are my favourite builders merchants.
As I’ve said before, where customer service here is good, it is as good as you will find anywhere!
With a little ingenuity, a new solar battery charger and a small inverter, I can charge the batteries from the ample sunshine we have in Dol.
So not using fossil fuels to power the saw – it does need oil for the chain – and using solar power for recharging, I think I am as close as I can get with a tool of this kind, to being environmentally friendly.
The electric saw is not as powerful as my petrol engined chainsaw, but it still took less than 30 minutes to cut a barrow load of wood for the fire.
Now I just need to see how long the batteries will last, actually cutting the logs that I have. NRC