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Tree Melons for next year?

This week: A tree melon for next year; Winterisation finished; Long range forecasting; A new station; Odds and ends;

Autumn leaves
Autumn sun and Fig leaves

It’s ten o’clock on Saturday morning and I have two damp felines on my knee. I also have the lights on inside.

Sheets of rain
Sheets of rain on Saturday morning

The rain is coming down in sheets, or as the old local saying goes, it’s “raining old women”. That is better than “raining cats and dogs”, at least if you are a cat or dog.

Very unpleasant weather, Painting by George Cruikshank, 1808, National Library of Art

I am unsure about how the local old women feel about being so maligned!

Time flies, because it is exactly a year ago, in blog 21/47 that I wrote about the origins of these sayings.

With a lick and a purr, my Dalmatian feline Pongo and his stripy brother Tigger are making themselves at home, but there is not much room. They have outgrown my lap!

Meanwhile the others are in their beds, dotted around my home, avoiding getting wet! Felines are eminently sensible…

Argent in bed
Argent in his lambs wool bed

We have had a lot of rain this week, with more to come.

The correct meteorological term for anything wet falling from the sky is precipitation. This includes snow and graupel. But here we just receive rain.

In the past week I was asked by friends if the new weather pattern, ten months of drought and two months of flood is what we can expect in the future?

Well OK not real floods like Ischia last weekend, and Crete, both nearby Mediterranean islands.

Ischia, Italy – 26th November, 2022

The answer is, I have honestly no idea. The climate is changing so quickly in some regions, like the Mediterranean, that it is difficult to establish any pattern.

A tree melon for next year

Have you ever tasted a Tree Melon? No, neither have I…

Tree Melon fruit
Tree Melon fruit

I was talking to a neighbour this week and he asked if I would like a Pepino tree. I had to look up what it is.

Pepino” is Italian for small and for Cucumber. In Spanish “pequeño” means ‘small’ and from that you can see that Spanish and Italian share many similarities.

The full name in Italian is Pepino dulce, or sweet cucumber and the botanical name is Solanum muricatum.

However it is not a cucumber but is from the ‘Nightshade’ family, the same family where tomatoes and egg plants also sit.

I did a trade with one of my Myrobalan plums, because in the village trading rather than just an acceptance of gifts is the way of life.

This plant originates from the Andes in South America although only as a cultivated plant.

Despite extensive jungle searches by botanists, none have ever been found growing in the wild.

The Pepino dulce or Tree Melon is a short lived perenial shrub with a dimunitive growth habit. When fully grown the plant only has a height and spread of around meter. The flowers look similar to a potato.

Tree Melon flowers
Tree Melon flowers

This is another plant I can look forward to next year.

Winterisation finished

We had the coldest night of the winter so far with just +4ºC around 06:00 on Monday morning.

Three things I have looked at this week have been my weather statistics for the past month, the short term and also the long range forecast for the winter 2022/23.

In a paragraph, we are now exactly on the average temperature for this week of the year. The next two weeks look as though they will be very wet with thick cloud coming up from the south. Mid to late December may be colder than average, but the New Year may we warmer.

So with two fine days forecast, it was a good time to wrap all the citrus trees against cold winter winds and to finish laying the bed of mulch across the orchard.

The large load of mulch which was delivered in October has gone down in size over the weeks as I have spread it, but this week I finished and spread the last wheelbarrow load.

Gone – The truck unloading mulch
Nothing now left
Nothing now left

The load has covered 50 or more square metres of open soil, between all the citrus trees, to a depth of 10 cm. I really hope this thick layer will have a dramatic effect on annual weed growth next year.

Mulch between the citrus trees
Mulch between the citrus trees

Every tree is protected with weed suppressing matting all around the trunk, covered with chipped bark and mulched tree pruning’s. Each tree has its own steel protection cage which I use to hang the wind protection on.

Most of the trees are still small, so the protection has a flat top, which unfortunately the felines like to sunbathe on. I discovered that several of the horizontal hoops had sunk so the first job was to re-fix the hoops with some stronger wire.

There were two which I had made with 4mm steel and these had deformed, so I replaced them completely with 6mm steel hoops instead.

With that job out of the way, I started hanging the green wind netting.

Winter protection going up
Winter protection going up

Every spring when I remove the netting, I carefully fold it and dry store it ready for its next use. The trees are numbered because some are smaller than others, so have smaller sets of netting.

With twelve citrus trees in the orchard, I can soon say that I have covered them all. In practice, it has taken me two days to do everything.

However, the task is now all finished and the orchard is winterised, ready for what ever the winter may throw our way.

Long range forecasting

One of my favourite go-to web sites is Severe Weather Europe . Don’t be misled by the name though, because SWE produce forecasts for all of Europe, North America and Australasia.

They take the various major global weather super computer forecasts, NOAA, Met Office, Copernicus etc., then aggregate the results and look back at how accurate these super computers have been in the past.

However rather than produce dust-dry scientific reports, laced with meteorological terms which make reading them tedious at the very least, what SWE produce is for the ordinary person in the street.

There is a lot of focus at the moment on the Polar Vortex.

This is the annual circumpolar winds which circle the northern hemisphere in winter and are responsible for our weather.

There is a similar circulation around the southern polar region too.

At the moment the polar vortex has broken into two loops, one which is bringing intense cold and lots of snow to North America and the other delivering the same to Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile here in the Mediterranean, the sea is still relatively warm and we are getting warm, rain and weather from the south and central Mediterranean.

Northern winter weather is highly dependent on the Polar Vortex. The wind system re-emerges every autumn as temperatures drop, and plays a key role in daily to weekly weather development in late autumn and winter.

Its influence extends even into spring across the whole of the northern hemisphere.

The Polar Vortex extends from surface level up to the top of the Stratosphere, reaching over 50km high.

A strong Polar Vortex usually means strong polar circulation.

This tends to lock the colder air into the Polar regions, resulting in mild seasonal conditions for most of southern North America and Europe.

However a weak Polar Vortex can create a disrupted jet stream pattern.

When a breakdown occurs it means that normal winds have a harder time containing the cold Arctic air, which now has an easier way of escaping south from the polar regions into the United States or Europe.

This is what is happening this week, with three fingers of cold moving south, one over eastern Europe, a second over Scandinavia and the third over Canada and the Great Plains.

Below is a 3-dimensional model of the Polar Vortex from Severe Weather Europe, extending from the lower levels upwards into the Stratosphere.

The Polar Vortex - December 2022 SWE
The Polar Vortex – December 2022 SWE

The vertical axis is enhanced for better visual purposes. You can see in the image below what the actual structure of the Polar Vortex looks like in mid-Winter.

In the graphic the USA is to the left and Europe in the centre under the white text.

So what does SWE say about this winter?

Europe is expected to have mostly above-average temperatures over most of the continent. Late December is likely to be colder than usual and from January, potentially warmer than normal.

So that is what I am using as my guide.

A brand new station

I have been thinking about upgrading my weather station for some time, but when I spotted a Black Friday sale in Germany, with 20% off I decided now was the time to buy.

My new station was delivered on Friday afternoon.

New Froggit weather station
New Froggit weather station

My interest in weather started when I was at school and I purchased my first station, a Davis Instruments system when I was in Seattle around 1986.

So I have had a weather station at home for 38 years.

My first weather station
My first weather station

I bought my second station, a Swiss made IROX PRO-X in 2008, and it has been working every day for the past 14 years. These systems are pretty long lived.

IROX sensors in Abu Dhabi
IROX solar sensors in Abu Dhabi

My new system is, like most electronics these days, made in China by Echowitt and then badged according to the seller. Mine has come from Froggit in Köln and is the latest in its design.

The system’s capabilities have been greatly expanded. I can add up to 30 different kinds of weather sensor in addition to the 8 basic sensors. My IROX system has 6 basic sensors and can take 8 additional sensors.

The Davis system has six basic sensors and has no extra capability.

So I am moving from a level three “Amateur” station, to a level 2 semi-professional setup.

All I have done so far is open the box!

With several days of rainy weather being forecast, you can probably guess that I will be taking my time to read the manuals. Then I’ll set everything up before locating the various sensors and checking them for operation.

Weather next week
Weather next week – Blue is rain!

I plan to go live on-line before 1st January.

I suppose it could be an early Christmas present to me…

Odds and ends

Despite my spending hours on-line looking for the correct aluminium fastenings for the polytunnel roof, I have failed.

What you can take for granted as being available in the UK, Germany, Canada and the US, is completely absent from the Croatian market.

But things are changing, albeit ever so slowly. The Christmas lights have gone up in Stari Grad, and the seasonal displays have been in the shops for a couple of weeks.

I have found Christmas card for sale here for the first time. There is no tradition of giving or sending Christmas cards.

Outside, the seeds of the Chinese Lanterns have become skeletons. I will collect the seeds very soon and then replant them.

Chinese lantern flower
Chinese lantern flower
Chinese Lantern seed
Chinese Lantern seed

The Lantana Camara flowers are still putting on a lovely display and attracting butterflies and bees. Not much else is in flower at the moment.

Lanatana Canara flowers
Lanatana Canara flowers

When the sun shines, it is still warm enough to enjoy a coffee on the terrace. Although I have worn my NATO sweater for the first time this week.

Cappuccino on the terrace
Cappuccino on the terrace

With just four weeks to the end of the year, I need to really think about my plans for Christmas. Perhaps I’ll even break out some coloured lights! NCG

One Response

  1. Marcy

    Hi Norman, I love the pictures of the Chinese lantern and its seed. So interesting. I’ll plant those and the Lantana Canara flower when I get to CA. It’s too cold here to plant anything at the moment. We are without snow (thank goodness), but the nights are in the low teens or single digits, and the days are in the 30s or 40s F. I took the house off of the market until January, then back on the market, intending to be moved by March or April.

    Thank you for sharing your lovely home with me. As always, I appreciate our friendship.
    Have a great week, stay warm, and I look forward to your next blog.