Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Month: September 2014

Concrete is cool

Bear with me. I know concrete may not sound like the most exciting subject in the world. I also know that Portland cement is not exactly the most environmentally friendly building material around. But we’ve been blown away by how useful it is, and how easy it is to do small jobs around the house with it. I confess that for years I assumed concrete work was something you had to pay a professional to do, but that’s just not true.

A man and his wheelbarrow. (Thanks for the shirt, Paul.)

A man and his wheelbarrow. (Cheers for the shirt, Paul.)

Our first job was pretty modest: after the work on our new bathroom, the trench through the yard had messed up some of the garden borders. So we made a new one. It’s not going to win any awards for style, but it works.

Lime-washed concrete garden border. Our very first job!

Lime-washed concrete garden border. Our very first concrete job!

Then we really got started. In the courtyard, the stairs up to the garden had a strange first step that was twice as tall as it should have been, making the stairs very awkward. So we built a new step, out of formed concrete with wire mesh for reinforcement, and tiled it to look like the others.

That bottom step didn't use to be there. Much more comfortable to walk up now!

That bottom step is new. Much more comfortable to walk up the stairs now!

We also made a new curved concrete ramp for the door to the barn, and a new sill for the kitchen window (the previous one had crumbled when they took the old window out).

This used to be a sudden step down to the barn floor level. Curved ramp makes it easier to roll things in and out of the barn.

This used to be a sudden step down to the barn floor level. Curved ramp makes it easier to roll things in and out of the barn.

New window needed a new window sill. Further plasterwork needed around the edges...

New window needed a new concrete sill. Further plasterwork needed around the edges…

We’ve even started on some bricklaying, adding a few courses to a wall at the front of the house to help with privacy. No photos of that yet, though.

Concrete is of course a bit grey, so I thought I should add some photos of more colourful stuff. Here’s another insect visitor to our garden: a praying mantis that  helpfully sat right next to one of our outside lights one night and watched us as much as we were watching him.

Praying mantis wants in on the photography action.

Praying mantis wants in on the photography action.

And some shots of local places, thanks to our visitors Berkan and Sofie who dragged us out of the house for a bit.

Harbour at Güzelçamlı.

Harbour at Güzelçamlı.

Evening street scene in Eski Doğanbey, a conservation village nearby.

Evening street scene in Eski Doğanbey, a conservation village nearby.

 

Container day 2: the return

We had an exciting milestone when our shipping container finally arrived the other day. It certainly took the long way around: from Southampton to Hamburg, and then to Port Said in Egypt, where it changed ships before sailing to Istanbul and then back down to Izmir. I hope it had a good time…

I was off with Molly at the vet clinic when the truck arrived, so Sirem had the frantic job of telling the removal guys which box goes where. I think we had more than 100 items total, so it was tough to keep track of everything. Stuff that was urgent (kitchen things for example) sat in the courtyard, while boxes we’re not going to open for a while (books, blankets) went into the barn.

Boxes stacked in the courtyard.

Boxes stacked in the courtyard.

Not sure what we would do without the barn for storage.

Not sure what we would do for storage without the barn.

Clay pot was the only breakage so far: not bad.

Clay pot was the only breakage so far: not bad.

It’s a strange feeling getting to see all your belongings after seven weeks without them. After all this time sitting on plastic patio chairs, we were very happy to sit in some comfy reclining chairs again. And the dishwasher and washing machine were opened and connected up with great urgency and enthusiasm.

The boxes people open first say a lot about what they've missed most...

The boxes you open first say a lot about what you’ve missed most…

We have a dishwasher and a washing machine! It's starting to feel like a real kitchen. (The sink is still outside though.)

We have a dishwasher and a washing machine! It’s starting to feel like a real kitchen. (The sink is still outside though.)

Şurup was very impressed with how comfortable cushions on a sofa can be.

Şurup was very impressed with how comfortable cushions on a sofa can be.

So the place is starting to feel less like camping and more like a home. A few more jobs to go: the kitchen cabinets, tiling the bedrooms, etc. But we’re getting there. And we’re conscious of all the real work waiting for us up in the orchard.

What else can I tell you? It’s late September now and the weather is just starting to turn. The daily high temperature is about 30 rather than 35 or 40. Much nicer for getting work done.

Also, I don’t want to give the impression that it is always sunny here. Only about 95% of the time. 🙂 In fact we had our second thunderstorm a couple of days ago: a short, intense burst of rain and thankfully no leaking roofs. And here’s a shot of a beautiful cloud-streaked sky at sunset.

It's not all sunny days: very occasionally we have clouds.

It’s not all sunny days: very occasionally we have clouds.

 

What have we really been doing?

It’s been a while since our last post. Sorry about that: must do better!

We’ve been a bit distracted. We have lots of projects to work on, as usual. But more than that, one of the cats (Molly) has been ill: liver problems brought on by the stress of the move. Which makes us feel very guilty. And means a 50 km round trip every morning to get IV fluid treatment for her at the university vet clinic in Aydın. Thankfully, though, she seems to be getting better.

So: what have we really been doing? I looked back at our previous blog posts and it struck me that often I would write about something just because I had a decent photo of it. No big deal, except it doesn’t give you a representative view of what life is like here. Sometimes cool things happen and I am not quick enough to get the camera: two camels being led out of the neighbour’s front gate, or a dapper old man riding past our door on a donkey, coming down from the mountains carrying a rifle as old as he was. Sometimes you don’t get the camera because it doesn’t feel right. You don’t want to be rude and in-your-face with people you don’t yet know very well. And sometimes you’re just busy.

The point of this post is to talk about the stuff we don't have pictures of. Nevertheless, you will be needing some pictures, so here's our place from the street.

The point of this post is to talk about the stuff we don’t have pictures of. Nevertheless, you will be needing some pictures, so here’s our place from the street.

A typical un-photographed day for us starts early as we’re woken up by either the call to prayer or a tractor going past our bedroom window. Then we go back to sleep until about eight in the morning when we get up to reliably blue skies and the hope that someone else has already started making breakfast. Sirem and I take Molly to the vet clinic in Aydın: a flat, straight drive into the morning sun, with the mountains on our left. Treatment takes a couple of hours, but the staff are good people. On the way back, if Molly is in a reasonable mood, we try to do some shopping. A stop in the sanayi (industrial estate) to buy tools and building materials, or a stop in Germencik for fresh bread, cheese, and eggs.

Shopping in Germencik

Shopping in Germencik

 

By the time we get back, it’s lunch time. After lunch, if it’s a hot day (and all of them have been) a siesta is tempting. Then we get started on something that’s actually useful: tiling, plastering, painting, concreting, working in the garden — that sort of thing.

This is how the bathroom looks now. It might seem all that great but that's because I didn't give you a proper "before" photo showing how the walls and ceiling looked.

This is how the bathroom looks now. It might not seem all that great but that’s because I didn’t give you a proper “before” photo showing the crumbling walls and the dark and dirty ceiling.

The current state of the garden. The neatly dug beds are due to my dad's efforts while he was here.

The current state of the garden. The neatly dug beds are due to my dad’s efforts while he was here.

Early experiments in lime-washing the walls are inspected by Tarçın.

Early experiments in lime-washing the garden walls are inspected by Tarçın.

Around sunset on every alternate day it’s time to go and collect figs. We walk around all 65 trees, looking for figs that are already on the ground, and shaking the trees a bit to get the partially dried figs to fall. We’ve got other jobs too, like laying the figs out to dry, sorting them into different classes, and rinsing them in salty water to help preserve them for the winter. This last step gives them a fantastic shine though.

One of our better figs.

One of our better figs.

If lunch was big we don’t eat a lot in the evening. Or sometimes it’s the other way around. Dinner might be just bread, cheese, potato chips, and a beer. I say “beer” in the singular because the truth is we’re drinking a lot less than we did in the UK. I remain a fan of beer but after a day in the sun it only seems to take one to make me want to lay back in a chair and look at the stars.

As the evening goes on we referee a few fights between our cats and some of the local strays who wander in, and then eventually bed.

What else have we been up to? Just recently we found a good local welder in Germencik, and he put us onto his friend the window guy, and so we had new windows and security screens installed on some of the rooms. There’s not a lot of crime here, so hopefully we needn’t have bothered, but it gives us some peace of mind when nobody is home.

Security grille and fly screen for the kitchen.

Security grille and fly screen for the kitchen; new window in the background.

In earlier photos of the garden, you may have spotted a half-ruined shed at the back of the block. I was a bit worried about this because it looked like the roof might collapse, so last week I decided the time had come and I pulled most of it down. No cats were inside. Now we’ve got a source of roof tiles, timber, and cinder blocks to recycle elsewhere.

The shed after my amateur demolition.

The shed after my amateur demolition.

Zeytin, the dog, is still very pleased about her change in status from street dog to garden dog. It’s not really cold at night yet, but nevertheless we gave her a little house. Well, OK: a cardboard box with a blanket inside. She was incredibly happy about this development.

"Nobody ever gave me a house before!"

“Nobody ever gave me a house before!”

And finally, here’s a picture of a different sort of visitor. This guy sat on the back of one of our chairs and posed for photos for quite a while before he had to fly.

Grasshopper is ready for his close-up now.

Grasshopper is ready for his close-up now.

 

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