Update about the lawn, doors and more

August 23, 2019

Lawn today

The lawn
The lawn is improving steadily, although there are some issues. For instance the placement of the sprinklers is not 100% correct as there are a few spots which get very little water. So we need to install 1 or 2 more sprinklers in the middle of the lawn - right now all sprinklers are on the borders of the lawn. They need to overlap eachother, but more than I expected. We tested it when all tubes were still accessible and it looked like we covered the whole lawn, including the corners. The sprinklers do not water in the direct vicinity of the sprinkler, maybe the pressure in the whole system is too high so the water goes over the first meter or so.
Another issue is that the running grass variety seems to be a different one than we expected. It's much thinner. Now the reason for using Latin names for plants and trees is to avoid confusion. The Latin name of running grass or wiregrass is Cynodon Dactilon, so there should be no mistake it. Maybe we do have right grass, maybe they start of as spiny and tiny and the next year it will become thicker, although I doubt it. Some Googling did not give me any more information other that Bermuda Grass is the name for a mix of different types of grass seeds.

Door project
The doors for the 3 rooms below the cottage terrace are almost completed. Ans is right now varnishing the last door. I decided to make them sliding doors as it results in more usable indoor space. But this proved to be quite a challenge as there is no easy way to connect the rail - like a curtain rail but then much bigger. And I did not know how I should attach the rolling pieces on the top of the doors. For the first door I bolted a rectangular piece of 3 mm tube to the left and right side of the top of the door. Because of this the door does not hang vertical as the center of gravity is not in the middle of the thickness of the door. This is not really a problem as on the bottom side of the door I connect 2 wheels which roll over a rail like a train rolls on rails. But I don't like the way I constructed it at all and maybe I will replace it for a much better and more elegant way. There is a better way to do it, which did not pop up in my mind.
A Russian guest who stayed here with his family helped me fine tune the inverter of the solar panels which power the water pump in the mine. He is a clever and creative guy and so I asked him for advice, "How would you hang the doors?" Immediately he suggested so called cross dowel barrel nuts, which are cylindrical pieces of steel with a thread through it (see images). Of course, how stupid of me to not think of this myself. I quickly found out that these nuts are not easy to buy in a general hardware store, so I ordered it online through eBay. Within 2 days the envelope with 20 of these nuts arrived in Inca. The cylindrical diameter is 15 mm and the thread is M10. I had to buy a spiral wood drill of 15 mm as this is not a standard size.
This afternoon I will prepare hanging mechanisms and this weekend the doors will be finally placed, job done !

The grapes are doing well and I measured the sugar content of the grapes with my refractometer, the optical instrument where you put a drip of grape juice on it, cover it and look through the lens where you will see a scale indicator showing you what the sugar and alcohol percentage is when you ferment it (see image). My first test showed a possible alcohol percentage of around 10%, so it's not ready for harvesting yet - as it should be 13% to 15%. In my wine maker's logbook I read that last year we harvested the grapes in the first week of September.
The yield this year is fantastic. Finally we have the mildew under control. I guess we will have 500 to 750 kg of grapes which is enough to fill 1 stainless steel barrel of 500 liter. Now the next challenge is to not let it oxidize after the fermentation. I still do not understand why the wine of last year also has a bit of the typical flavor which oxidation causes. Somehow air/oxygen must have entered the wine. Maybe this happened when I tapped 1 bottle of wine, when air get's inside as the wine gets out. With just about 60 liter in the barrel a liter of air is quite a lot. When we have a full barrel this issue will probably not occur.

Hairs of the pine tree procession caterpillar
In many of the more northern European countries the oak procession caterpillar is a very itching annoyance. Here in Spain and on Mallorca it's the pine version. For you who don't what the problem is: the tiny little hairs of these caterpillars cause an allergic reaction on your skin, it swells like you have been bitten by a wasp or mosquito and it burns an itches like hell. In February / March the caterpillars crawl out of their nests from the pine trees down the trunk in a procession to a place where they decide to move to the cocoon stage and later become a butterfly. It is said that the caterpillars eject their hairs under stress / danger. But even without the stress the hairs will not decompose very rapidly like any hair, so the hundreds of nests we had on our land must have contained thousands of those caterpillars and many millions of hairs.
I needed some soil for transplanting a few Solandra Maximas plants near a Eucalyptus tree where I attached some fencing material around the trunk to support the Solandras to climb up the trunk. The hope is that this trunk will become a lush pole of big fresh green leaves with their large and beautiful trumpet shaped flowers. The soil around the Eucalyptus is very hard, so I decided to fill a full dumper with soil with the excavator from a place near the vineyard. The dumper with dry and dusty soil was brought as close as possible to the Eucalyptus tree and from their Ans filled buckets with the soil and I carried these 10 meter further to the tree. When finished we already felt a burning 'sensation' on our skin, which became worse and worse and it started itching. Everywhere on our bodies the skin was swollen and red. We took a cold shower which eased the pain a bit. The rest of the day was not pleasant. See the images attached to how our skin looked.

Doris update
Doris - the chick I adopted automatically when she saw me first when freed from the shells of egg - is doing very well and getting less and less attached to me. But she does recognize me and now flies from 10 meter away straight on my shoulder and starts making happy cuddling sounds.
Another chicken rarity: look at the photo of the strangest egg we have ever found. It's probably a very first egg of one of the younger chickens.

We used to have 5 frogs in the pond, but last week I counted 13 ! We are sure these additional 8 frogs have not been born in the pond, we would have noticed it and all 13 frogs are not super young. So they must have found the pond themselves, maybe out of necessity of ponds falling dry.

Lake project
On hold during the Summer, it's simply too hot for us being out there with a drill, but also for the high expanding slurry it's too hot so the chemical reaction is progressing too quickly which results in a so called blow out. We will continue with the lake project in Autumn, Winter and Spring.

Coal storage project
On hold as well, same story: too hot to work to regard the work as fun.

Royal Empress Trees / Paulownia Tomentosas
These trees are growing and growing and growing. The highest tree is now around 12 meter high. We need to thin out this mini forest this Winter after the leaves have dropped as the crown is now starting high enough on the trunk.

Carrob beans
This year the price per kilo for carob beans has further increased. In a few years time the price has tripled:
  • 2017: € 0.22
  • 2018: € 0.50
  • 2019: € 0.60
Trying to find an answer on the question what explain the increase I stumbled on a graph showing the prices since 1985. The price per kilo shows 2 peaks in the graph when the price was around € 0.50 per kilo: 1995 and 2004. The long term trend is also upward. A few years ago farmers left the beans on the trees or when it fell down, the sheep would eat it. But now you hear the found of aluminum sticks in trees everywhere. We are also going to collect our beans , although the best producing tree now has very skinny light weight beans.

Since 3 days the daily max temperature is not getting above 30 degrees Celsius, which is a blessing. And there is some rain predicted, finally... It has been dry for about 2 months.