Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Month: July 2014

Renovations

(Warning: this is going to be a long one with lots of photos. )

We bought the farmhouse because we needed somewhere to live while we were building the hotel project. And in the long run I think we will always live down here: it will be nice to have a bit of physical separation from our paying guests, for their sake and ours.

The farmhouse is great, but it’s pretty rustic, and it looks like our first month is going to be spent renovating it. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but we want to make it comfortable enough for friends and family to come and stay.

Let’s start with the kitchen. It was in good-enough condition, but the tiled concrete worktop was only about 70 cm high. Much lower than the usual 90 cm, so it tended to give you a bit of a backache. It had to go, sadly.

The original kitchen

The original kitchen

The original kitchen with some improvised cooking arrangements, Notice how low the bench is.

The original kitchen with some improvised cooking arrangements. Notice how low the bench is.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a worktop.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a new worktop.

The main bedroom is next door to the kitchen, and it was also in good condition. Not too much to do here, although we will probably repaint the walls and tile the floor.

Bedroom 1: in pretty good condition

Bedroom 1: in pretty good condition

Bedrooms 2 and 3 make up a second building set further back on the block. There’s not much to do in bed 2, but bed 3 needs a bit of work, as you can see from the picture.

Bedroom 2.  This room is OK except there seems to be a dog in it.

Bedroom 2. This room is OK except there seems to be a dog in it.

Bedroom 3.  Need to seal those cracks and tile the floor.

Bedroom 3. Need to seal those cracks and tile the floor.

The bathroom situation was the big challenge, and also quite urgent (especially for people who believe a toilet should be something you sit on that flushes). The original bathroom was, again, in OK condition, but the trouble is there was very little in it. Only a bath, really.

The bathroom was OK, but there was only a bath. No sink or toilet or shower.

The bathroom was OK, but there was only a bath. No sink or toilet or shower.

The toilet was a short walk away, up some stairs from the courtyard and around the corner adjoining the chicken shed. I thought it was a fine toilet but let’s just say it was reminiscent of a camping experience.

Back to basics: the original toilet.

Back to basics: the original toilet.

We knew that not all visitors would be game for this squat-style toilet, so we re-did the bathroom to include a “normal” toilet, basin, shower, etc. There was plenty of room. The only catch was that we didn’t know where the sewer connection was, so we decided to bring in the professionals and get them to dig a new connection to the mains sewer line. This meant breaking up a lot of concrete, unfortunately.

New trench dug under the concrete to lay water and sewer pipes for the new bathroom

Trench dug under the concrete to lay water and sewer pipes for the new bathroom

All this rubble came out of the new sewer trench

All this rubble came out of the new sewer trench

But the result was worth it. Here’s the new bathroom (please excuse the sand on the floor tiles; we’re still cleaning up).

The renovated bathroom: no more outside toilet!

The renovated bathroom: no more outside toilet!

And finally, here’s a gratuitous cat photo.

Meet Tarçın.

Meet Tarçın.

To confirm the suspicions of people who know us: yes, our menagerie is expanding already. Marlowe, Molly, and Maya were delivered safely and are now settling in, but Sirem’s mum and dad brought a dog and a cat from Istanbul (they’ll be going back eventually, I am assured). There’s also Zeytin (“Olive”), the very friendly stray dog who lives out the front of the house and is fed by us and the neighbours. There are a couple of cats who visit from time to time but we’re trying hard not to formally adopt them. And finally there’s little Tarçın (“Cinnamon”) who proved impossible not to adopt (it was Sirem’s dad’s fault, honest).

Fig farming

So, on the orchard block above and behind the house, we are the proud owners of 65 fig trees. (Sirem’s mum counted them.) Not surprisingly, the trees look a lot more productive now than they did in January or March when we last saw them.

Rows in the orchard

Rows in the orchard

Fig branch with village of Hıdırbeyli in the background

Fig branch with village of Hıdırbeyli in the background

We thought the fig harvest happened in late August, but it’s not that simple. Some of the fruit is still green, but some of it is ripe now and almost ready to fall off the tree. Look at the sweet nectar leaking out of this one, for example.

Ripe fig with the sweet juice leaking out of it

Ripe fig with the sweet juice leaking out of it

So one of our next jobs is to figure out who to sell the figs to as they ripen. We think there’s a co-op in the area that will come around and weigh our fruit and take it off our hands for a decent price. Time to ask Çetin, the previous owner of the orchard, what he used to do.

Sirem with the early harvest

Sirem with the early harvest

In the meantime, we’re eating the ripest ones and they taste fantastic. We’re also making fig jam from the small green ones. Here’s a shot of some jars, ready for storage. Come and visit and you could have this on fresh bread for breakfast.

Jam made from small, unripe figs: very tasty!

Jam made from small, unripe figs, sugar, and water: very tasty!

We’re here!

We landed safely in Izmir and reached our new house just before dawn on Saturday 19th July. That was a week ago now. Sorry for the silence: it’s taken us this long to sort out an internet connection.

It’s been a hot and hectic week and we have lots to talk about. But for now just a few quick shots of how things looked the morning we got here.

The main house in the pre-dawn light

The main house in the pre-dawn light

The grapes are nearly ready

The grapes are nearly ready

Shade from the vines; front gate in the background

Shade from the vines; front gate in the background

More to follow!

Container day

You know you’re really going when three men turn up to put everything you own into boxes or bubble-wrap, and then a huge truck parks outside your house. The guys from Robinsons were extremely professional, though, and packed every last plate and glass a lot better and a lot faster than we could have.

Boxes in the spare bedroom

Boxes in the spare bedroom

We had been told that our stuff would just about fit into a 20-foot (6.1 metres) container but we didn’t realize how close it would be. It’s lucky that we took so many loads to the recycling centre, as in the end we had to leave out an exercise bike, some flower pots, and an old office chair. The container was that full. Still, at least this means there’s no room for anything to slide around during transit!

Loading the container

Loading the container

So now it’s all gone and we are (briefly) living in a very empty and echoing house. Just some cleaning up to do today, and then we’re ready to fly on Friday.

If the ships sinks, this is the last we will see of it...

If the ship sinks, this is the last we will see of our belongings…

Straw bale fire testing

A few posts ago, we saw that straw bale construction holds up well to earthquakes. What about fire?

Turkey is dry enough in summer that you can get fires in the pine forests up in the hills, so you never know. And a lot of people’s first reaction to the idea of a straw bale wall is that it would surely be a bit flammable. Are we in danger of losing our hotel bungalows to a fire that comes sweeping down from the mountains?

Loose straw obviously burns very easily, and so cleaning up on the job site is important. Straw in a bale doesn’t burn as well as you would think, because it’s hard to get oxygen in there. And once you get 40mm of clay plaster on them, straw bale walls turn out to be surprisingly fire-resistant.

Here are a couple of videos. The first one is from Australia and shows a really dramatic simulated bushfire with temperatures of over 1000 °C pitted against a pre-fab straw bale wall. Temperatures on the other side of the wall stay at a comfortable 35 °C. The second video shows more of a backyard test but it gives a good impression of how the thick coating of plaster helps stop the bale from burning.

A farewell to Hampshire

Time flies.  There’s now less than a week to go before the removal company comes to take all our worldly goods away. So we’re frantically preparing by making an inventory for the insurance: how much does it cost to replace an ageing CD collection or a drawer full of mismatched socks? We’re recycling junk from the attic, based on the theory that a box you haven’t opened in seven years probably doesn’t have anything in it that you really needed.  And working our way down that long, tedious to-do list that all movers have to deal with: banks, phone, internet, gas, electricity, driving licence, etc.

We found out today that our shipping container will be travelling on the 366-metre-long Hamburg Express, direct from Southampton to İzmir.  Here’s hoping our box doesn’t fall off the side.

The ship that will take our furniture to Turkey.

The ship that will take our furniture to Turkey (credit to Herbert Sommer and MarineTraffic).

Before we go, we want to thank all of our friends, neighbours, and colleagues for the warm send-offs we’ve been given. You have all been incredibly thoughtful. We’re determined to get out to Turkey and to start this new chapter in our lives, but that doesn’t mean we won’t miss you.

And some days it seems as though even the British weather is trying to convince us to stay. I took this shot of a double rainbow from our back garden a few days ago. If Southampton always looked like this after rain, we might have had a tougher decision on our hands.

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Double rainbow from our garden in Southampton.

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