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What happens when the wheel comes off

Dol vineyards
Dol vineyards

This week: In Flower; Going digital; Hindsight; What happens when the wheel comes off; Way back when time machine;

Another interesting week. I generally start the weekly blog by writing up notes as the week progresses. This spreads the average 1,750 worded blog into manageable chunks.

Sometimes writing early in the morning, sometimes in the evening, and in summer when the heat of the day makes it uncomfortable outside, at midday.

This week I had a plan and everything was going swimmingly until Friday morning when the wheel came off…

In flower

I’ve got Foxtail Lillies, Eremurus stenophyllus, in flower at the moment.

Foxtail lily
Foxtail lily

I planted them a couple of years ago, but all they did was produce leaves, so this year, I moved them into the new flower bed I built in the top orchard. I must be doing something right because they are now in flower.

The RHS class them as a difficult species to cultivate in a garden because of their demanding growing conditions.

These are dwarf varieties that originate from the Steppe of central Asia. Other varieties of Eremurus have flower spikes of three meters or more tall.

With a flower spike that is one and a half meters tall, mine are still an impressive plant to put at the rear of a flower bed. The flowers open starting at the bottom, then working up the spike, as the seed pods develop in the lower flowers. I hope to collect some seed and try to propagate them myself.

There is a variety Eremurus × isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’, with deep copper flowers that I would like to try and find.

The Madonna lilies, Lilium candidum, are at their best at the moment. I have been collecting the isolated specimens which were all round the orchards, and have centralised them in front of the eyesore that is my neighbours untended plot. I found another that is growing under the Mandarin tree this spring. I will move it in the autumn…

Madonna lily
Deep drift of Madonna lily

A couple more of my wild flowers are growing strongly at the moment. I identified the Greater Celandine, Chelidonium majus, as a plant which seem to like the Top orchard.

Greater celandine
Greater celandine

A neighbour told me some time ago that it was a plant that was used in local herbal remedies, but only knew the name in dialect.

Greater celandine seed pods
Greater celandine seed pods

This week when I broke a leaf and saw bright orange sap exude from the damaged axil, together with the large trifoliate leaves and long vertical seed pods helped me to positively identify it.

In the citrus orchard I had left some very large leaved “plants” over the winter. I suspected they were a pretty weed of some sort and because of their crowding habit, they were preventing other weeds growing.

Verbascum nigrum
Verbascum nigrum

Now they are in flower, I can identify them as Dark Mullein, Verbascum nigrum. Mulleins are beneficial to wildlife as a pollen and nectar source when in flower, seeds are a food source for birds and in winter their hollow stems act as a refuge for insects, so together with their weed suppressing properties, they are worth keeping.

Verbascum nigrum
Verbascum nigrum

Going digital

I take a lot of photographs every month. Some I take specifically for this blog, for example as the headline photo. Others are taken during projects and then I use them to illustrate articles in the blog, but quite a few I take as points of reference for the future.

I am conscious that I will not always live here and that when at some point in the future someone follows me, then they need to have good information about where the services run, the wiring loom and why I have done certain things in a certain way.

Underground pipe run
Underground pipe run

Photographs also help me, as over time I forget exactly where (to a centimetre) I have dug a trench for a pipe or channelled wiring into a wall or run it under the floor boards. Equally in the gardens and orchards, as the seasons change, plants, shrubs and trees get planted and grow, so my plans develop, perhaps changing, or at the very least I need to know where I put things.

In the early spring of 2018, I was laying out the top orchard, including where I wanted a small ornamental pond. I needed to lay it out, so I could order the correct size of special butyl rubber for the liner. One way to do design is with hosepipe or rope to visualise the end product.

First draft - pond outline
First draft – pond outline

Having laid a weed suppressant mat of cardboard in 2017, weighed down by stones, I did the design, measured it, photographed it and then marked the cardboard with waterproof chalk. However, other more important jobs stopped me actually developing this area last year.

So this past winter when I started again, the cardboard had done its work, but a year of weathering has washed the chalk marks away. Being summer, the weeds have grown and the trees are in full leaf.

Pond area
Pond area

As the surrounding flower beds are now developed and planted and I have a little uncommitted time, I have started this week to look at the pond area again.

First job was to upload last year’s photos to the digital camera, so I could take some photographs from the same place, showing how the area looks at the moment. In a word, overgrown!.

Then I got my reel of orange electric cable out and using last year’s photographs as a guide, recreated the shape of what will become the ornamental pond.

Pond plan - second draft
Pond plan – second draft

Finally I used stones, of which I have an abundance, to mark the shape, develop some nice flowing curves to make it look a little more natural, and then remove the cable. I have of course documented this with photographs as I have gone along.


Hindsight is the most precise science known to mankind – fact! I must learn how to properly apply it….

When the building work was starting in February 2017, before the local municipality stopped the work, there was a baby JCB on site.

Baby digger
Baby digger

I got the contractor to spend 20 minutes in the top orchard, before I changed the entrance to steps, to level a mound of stones and soil.

First level of the mound
First level of the mound

In my master plan, this is where the pond was and is going. But the unnatural heap was the result of my immediate neighbour, years ago digging out a cesspit and just piling the spoil in the old orchard. This is something which was quite normal even just 30 years ago.

The digger made short work of levelling the mound and creating the flattish platform where I am working now.

Dig pond here
Dig pond here

What I should have done at the time was ask him to dig out a rough outline of the pond while the machine was there. However, I laid thick cardboard sheets across the earth to kill off the weeds.

This week, having marked out the shape of the pond I started to try and dig around the outline. After two attempts to penetrate the ground with the spade I gave up. There are stones everywhere and I couldn’t get more than 5cm down with the blade.

Spade and pickaxe
Spade and pickaxe

I reverted to the pickaxe and immediately came across 20cm chunks of limestone. Immediately I thought back to the digger and realised my mistake. A powerful hydraulic bucket would have done the job in five minutes.

It is going to take me many hours of hard labour to achieve the same result!

Ah…. hindsight….

What happens when the wheel comes off

Living in Europe has been relatively simple – BREXIT apart – but having applied for and been granted a temporary residence card by the Croatian police, it is now time to make it permanent.

You are made to jump through a few hoops, but nothing insurmountable. I was given forms at the only police station on the island in Hvar town, then had to collect various papers and certificates, have copies of some authenticated by the island Notary, and then wait until the temporary card actually expired before making my application for a permanent residents card. This I did on Friday.

Coast road to Hvar
Views from the coast road to Hvar

On a lovely bright summer morning, I took the coast road to Hvar, parked the car and waited for my turn to hand everything over to the really helpful lady at the police station who deals with foreigners.

Then it was up the hill to HZZA, the health authority, to hand more documents over, including copies I had just been given at the police station.

When I am in Grad Hvar I call at the open market because there is a seller of home made cheese there. I duly sampled several of his new cheeses, decided on a sweet sheep’s milk cheese and came away with 250gms, together with a chunk of soft cheese to eat on the way back to the car.

Artisan cheese and plums
Artisan cheese and home grown plums

Then it was back to Dol, following the coast road, then through the tunnel bored through the high limestone ridge that runs the length of the island and down the hill to the ferry terminal and shopping centre.

As I turned in to the supermarket car park entrance off the main road, an acute 80º slow speed turn, there was a loud bang from the front left and the car came to a juddering halt. I thought it was perhaps a tyre blowout, but when I got out, the wheel had come off, literally, complete with the half shaft and was against the bodywork.

The wheel comes off
The wheel comes off

This was the wheel which had been fitted with a new bearing in February, since which time I have travelled just 597 kilometers (370 miles) in 14 weeks, so hardly a huge distance.

My friend Cvjetko arrived soon after I called, followed by the vehicle fitter who had changed the bearing. It’s fair to say he blanched when he saw the wheel with the drive shaft completely wrenched out of the front transmission. With 8 litres of hot oil running out from the sump, my friends in the Vatrogasci turned out and after soaking the oil with sand, then using a solvent, washed it away.

Vatrogasci Stari Grad
Vatrogasci Stari Grad

The recovery truck took the car back to garage for repair and I came home.

On the tow truck
On the tow truck

As everyone has said, I am lucky it happened at less than walking speed rather than the normal highway speed on the island of 80kph. I suspect because I had turned the wheel to it’s maximum to negotiate the turn, that also contributed to the failure.

What has actually failed I am unsure of but it is in the area of the bottom ball joint. Then there is the reason why whatever it is has failed..

So now I am looking for a replacement means of transport. When I got the bike out of the U-room, it’s got a puncture, but I have the repair kit, and a couple of new tubes too.

Exercise is good for you… even in summer.

Way back when time machine

The WABAC machine, pronounced ‘Way Back’, was the invention of a brilliant cartoon beagle called Mr Peabody, in a 1960’s cartoon series. Rather like Dr Who’s Tardis, it enables time travel, but with a bit more control.

There are a number of useful sites on the internet which can take you back in time though. Over the short period of the Internet as we know it, the Internet Archive has crawled and downloaded millions of web pages. These can sill be viewed, even though the original pages have long since gone.

What I came across this week is a google product called Time-lapse Google Earth. Using the Google Earthengine, you can run a timelapse showing developments of anywhere on earth over the last 35 years.

Some of the early satellite photos are a little grainy, but using the scroll and zoom buttons you can go to anywhere on the globe, then slow the time-lapse down to .25 and run it to see how developments have happened.

In the first time-lapse you can see the major changes to the road infrastructure, especially the opening of the tunnel through to the south side of the island and the port development.  It may work better in landscape format.

In the second time-lapse of Abu Dhabi, we lived through ten years of these changes, seeing my home in Khalifa City change from being surrounded by sand to being built up. NRC

Abu Dhabi past and present

4 Responses

  1. Elizabeth

    Hi Norman – interesting read, as always. Sorry to hear about the transport problems but very glad that you were not injured. I don’t know whether it is my iPad being difficult but I can’t see the links you refer to.

    • NRC

      Hi Elizabeth – Thank you for the update. You should now see the videos on the iPad (and everything else!) Just a problem with some code…

  2. Michael

    Bad news about the trusty Suzuki: let’s hope it’s better soon and back on the road.

    Those mini-diggers are the bees knees for all manner of jobs. I hired one in February because my back no longer allows me to turn over my 2 ton compost heap, so what used to be a laborious and tiring task became great fun with a marvellous boy’s toy. What you’d get up to in a couple of days is anyone’s guess – apart from the hindsight effects!

    26 degrees indeed: it’s about 6 here in North Yorkshire today, but at last we’re getting some rain so I can’t complain too much.

    I finally retired on 10th May after more than 50 years’ public service. However, my own private sector consultancy company opened for business on the 13th. It remains to be seen whether I get any more work in Abu Dhabi.


    Yes Norman – Always a great read – Hope all is well, anything mechanical can break, we know this so well during our Helicopter times. Glad you are safe