Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Hello again

Well that was quite a gap between updates. Sorry! Not that it’s any excuse, but I was ill with a mystery bug and didn’t feel like making blog posts or doing anything much else for a while. Feeling better now though, cheers for asking.

We were also busy with guests, which is a good problem to have. Thanks especially to the growing group of people who’ve stayed with us more than once. It’s a fantastic vote of confidence when people want to come back.

Pool still looking inviting in November.

Or sit, have a drink, and watch the sun set.

Latest news on the construction front is that, by mutual agreement, Koray is no longer working with us. He was on the job for over two years, he did a huge amount of work, and we’ll always be grateful for his contribution. We wish him all the best in his new worm-compost business.

Of course there’s still a lot to do before rooms three and four are guest-ready and before we have a new house. And now it’s all on us (with some help from family and friends). Exciting but also a little scary. For example, lifting the big beams into place on previous buildings was always a job for Koray and me. With half of that team gone, it pushed us to think about how on earth we were going to get the beams and rafters into place on the new house.

So we went out and bought rope and pulleys in order to set up a block-and-tackle system. Probably should have done it years ago actually. Three pulley wheels at the top and three at the bottom makes for a six-times mechanical advantage, not counting friction on the rope. And they work really well. I know this is not exactly new technology but it does feel very cool to be able to lift a 180kg beam a couple of metres into the air with one hand.

Lifting one of our largest beams with the new block and tackle.

In fact it was Sirem and Çisem who did the actual lifting when it came time to put up the heaviest two beams in the whole project. I had the easy job of shepherding each end into place and getting some safety screws in to hold them there.

Here’s a shot of both beams in place. The one on the left is down the spine of the house and has the important job of holding up a column that will support the ridge beam for the roof. The one on the right is to make a pair of them so we can build a catwalk upstairs, heading out over the double-height space of the main room. All just so people can appreciate the view from the south window up there. Anyway, I’m sure the cats will enjoy it one day.

Support for the roof beams and a catwalk.

Catwalk completed!

The catwalk is not the safest place to be right now, particularly after it’s been raining, as there are no railings yet. The view is worth it though. And it provides some much-needed scaffolding for the roof work that’s coming soon. Currently we’ve put up the upstairs columns, so the next step is to get the ridge beam up. After that it’s the 48 rafters, then planks, membrane, tiles, and voilà, we’ll have a roof.

Upper-level columns going up with plenty of temporary diagonal bracing.

You can just about see what the roof line will be like.

We’re rushing to get the roof onto our house right now because it would be great to get the timber frame protected (parts of it have been up for about a year) and a covered space would be very handy for storing equipment and straw bales. Before that, though, we did get room three to a habitable condition: here’s the bathroom looking a lot more civilized than the last time you saw it.

Bathroom looking better now.

Room three front door. Changed the design a little.

Room three feels so habitable now that we are in fact inhabiting it. Such is life. It’s good to no longer be competing with our own guests for winter accommodation in rooms one and two. And getting back to work on room four (which is currently plastered but doesn’t have windows) is the next big part of the project once the house has a roof. We’ll get there.

We took time out from house-building the other day for a minor safety improvement to building one: we have this loft space above the kitchen (which will be even more useful once we put some better shelving in). It’s been dangerous to be up there as there was nothing to stop you from falling down the ladder back into the kitchen. So, some angle iron, a bit of welding, a bit of painting, and we have a safety railing. Backing down the ladder doesn’t feel nearly so weird now.

New safety railing for the kitchen loft; should stop us breaking our necks.

It hasn’t all been work. My old friend Richard came to visit, and to celebrate we all went to the beach in Dilek National Park. I’ve known Richard since 1995 and have missed a few important developments in his life since moving here, so it was great to be able to catch up.

Richard came to visit. Wow, I really need a haircut.

Candid shot of Sirem and me. (Thanks, Krista, for both of these photos.)

And the national park is always a relaxing place to be. Plenty of things to point a camera at certainly.

Still good beach weather in late September. Well, maybe not for actual swimming.

Finally got a good shot of the wild pigs that live in the park.

What else has happened?

Because we are such publicity hounds, we said “yes” last summer when CNN Türk asked if they could come and film the crazy straw-bale people. Their program aired a few weeks ago and they did a fantastic job with only a couple of hours of raw footage to work with. In particular they took some great drone shots that showed our work from an angle we’d never seen before. The program is available on YouTube if anyone is curious. Obviously you’ll get more out of it if you speak Turkish, but the drone shots go beyond language. :)

Also in the publicity department: a week ago I finally made a “hey, we built a straw-bale hotel!” post to reddit/diy. And then sat at the computer for 11 hours answering people’s questions and comments. It’s nice to get feedback though and the feedback was almost entirely nice.

And, déjà vu, the olive harvesting season has come around again, a little early this time as it was a dry summer. I admit I did absolutely no work on this important job, because I was building the catwalk. Or something. The hard-working olive pickers were Sirem, Çisem, their mum Nadire, and local farmer Mustafa who was our hired expert.

Gently shaking the olives from one of our trees onto a sheet.

Sirem and Çisem doing it old-school: picking up fallen olives from the hillside.

Shaking the trees and gathering the olives is the hard part. It gets a lot easier and more rewarding when you take your crop to the local factory to be pressed into olive oil.

Rainy day at the olive oil factory. Each pile of bags is from someone’s olive farm. Our pile was very small compared to these!

Our olives going into the system.

Leaves and branches blown away, only the olives remain.

Recently the factory has brought in fancy new pressing equipment from Italy to make cold-pressed olive oil possible. This gives nicer oil but a lower yield than the standard warm-pressed method. Decided to give it a try and we couldn’t be happier; the oil is really magnificent.

Where the (cold-pressed) magic happens.

You might remember from last time that we adopted a little white puppy called Nina. She has turned out to be all-labrador, or we’re pretty sure she is anyway. She is wonderful and beautiful and extremely naughty and likes to chew on things that she shouldn’t. And she grew so quickly! I should never have given her all those eggs and all that milk…

Nina a few months ago.

Nina now: huge!

And just for some dog-cat balance, here is a photo of Suzie. She’s been with us for ages but you don’t get to see pictures of her very often as sometimes she decides she is shy, and disappears for a week or two.

Suzie looking soulfully into the distance.

And finally a couple of photos to try to show you how nice the light gets around here as the days get shorter and the air hazier.

I know, I know, like the world needs another sunset photo. But look at those rays!

View of distant hills.

Will try not to go quiet for so long this time!


  1. Hi Jason and Sirem
    Great to see the further progress. Jason: I thought with your expertise you would have rigged up a pulley system much earlier. Anyway glad to hear that it is making things easier. Your home is really taking shape and I am sure that you look forward to getting the roof on and then subsequently finishing it. I guess the approach of winter will slow things down but hopefully you will achieve completion during your next summer.
    Jason: we had heard about your mystery bug from Barry and Diane. Hope that you are now fully recovered.
    We do pla n to get back over there before too much longer but cannot give you an indication of when yet. It will certainly be great to see you both and the development when we do.
    Cheers for now and keep well.
    John and Marg

    • Jason

      12 December, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Yes, you would think thousands of years of pulley development would have been enough for me to get the idea. :) I think the issue was that the beam sections we were placing on the earlier buildings were big but not quite so big that two guys couldn’t handle it (with lots of grunting and swearing). But those two main beams for the catwalk / bridge were in a different league and were always going to need a smarter approach.

      Good guess on the timing of the house-building work; finishing next summer sounds about right.

      Definitely feeling much better now thanks. Due one more trip to the doctor just to make sure all the blood test numbers look good but no serious concerns there.

      Would be great to see you both again — whenever you can get here is fine with us.

  2. Hope you’re fully better! It’s all looking great and well done on the pulley system. It’ll be pyramids next! Will check ou the YouTube when I have a mo.
    All good here with me, rural Ireland in various places till March then back to the UK for a year.

    All the best for Christmad

    • Jason

      12 December, 2018 at 12:03 pm


      Pyramids, now there’s an idea. I was just going to do an observation tower, but a pyramid, hmm… with perhaps a plaque that says “look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”

      Enjoy Ireland. I get the impression from FB that you are having a nice time so that’s good. Have some Guinness for me and merry Christmad to you too! ;)

  3. Hi You Two,
    Hope the bug has been permanently vanquished and health is now good. With all the tasks before you you’ll need it.
    Congratulations on progress, which is hugely commendable. Well done!
    One further thing – the title of your You Tube extravaganza. Looked at about 100 straw bale sites without success.
    Best wishes for Xmas and 2019.

    • Jason

      12 December, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks, Cliff! Feeling much better, thanks. Agreed that I am going to need the energy given that we have to finish all this on our own now.

      The YouTube video can be found by clicking on the blue text above where it says “available on YouTube”. That’s a link, although the blog’s formatting may not make it obvious, sorry. Alternatively here’s the URL directly:

      Hope all is well in Wilton Crescent. Best wishes to you and Diana for Xmas and New Year’s as well.

  4. Found utube programme! Looks great! Couldn’t understand a word but didn’t matter. Love reading your blogs hope you are much better.
    Love and congratulations on a job being well done! xxx

    • Jason

      14 December, 2018 at 1:38 am

      Thanks very much! Good to know the pictures got the message across. :) Really glad you liked it. And feeling fine now, thanks.

  5. Hi Jason and Sirem
    I have just watched the CNN Turk on YouTube and it is amazing. I imagine it has really put you on the map and will bring a lot of business. Jason I had not heard that you have been unwell but hopefully you have fully recovered with no further problems. So good to hear that you are getting repeat business and the build is progressing steadily. Well done with the pulley system.

    With Christmas just around the corner I hope you have a “good one” and find some time for relaxing as well. Is the tourist business quieter now that the cold weather has arrived? May 2019 be a great year for you all.

    Anne xx

    • Jason

      14 December, 2018 at 1:43 am

      Cheers! CNN program has got to have helped get our name out there, certainly. We’ve had a few people come and have a look around, and the guy in the wine shop the other night was enthusiastically telling me that he’d seen us on the telly.

      Will see if it translates into bookings. Hope so!

      You’d think the cold weather would mean the end of visitors but we’ve been pleasantly surprised this year. Six different bookings so far in December, which is a lot better than last December.

  6. Wow!! I love Nina! And the work you are doing looks amazing as usual!

    • Jason

      14 December, 2018 at 1:45 am

      Nina would love you too. She is the kind of dog that would be thrilled to hear about her internet fame if only we could explain it to her. :)

      And cheers for the compliment!

  7. Nina is a really beautiful dog (not that the other dogs aren’t too, they just have more character).

    Does she get on with the cats?

    Will you use the cold press method of olive oil again next year? Better, but enough better to warrant less oil?

    How was the fig harvest this year?

    • Jason

      16 December, 2018 at 11:27 am

      Nina is lovely but it will be good when she gets just a little bit older and wiser and the energy level tails off a bit. :)

      She does get on surprisingly well with the cats. She kind of likes to chew on Lucy a bit but Lucy is weird and seems to encourage this. (It’s very light chewing.) Definitely not mean to the cats in general and puts up with repeated nose-punching from cats like Cezmi that seem to want to constantly teach her important lessons.

      Yes, I think we would go with cold-pressed oil every time now, the taste is absolutely worth about a 20% sacrifice in yield. Fig harvest was pretty bad actually. Some rains and humidity came at exactly the wrong time. We were too busy to do it ourselves so we made a deal with Mustafa: he picks them and we split the crop 50/50. Didn’t really get any A-grade figs, suitable for eating straight-up, but we still have lots of B-class ones to make nice cakes and desserts and stuff.

  8. Hi Jason and Surem
    The place looks fabulous and I loved the you tube programme. I’d love to come over next autumn and see you both and all your hard work.

    • Jason

      18 December, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Hi, Carol!

      Thanks very much. We’d love to see you. Much has changed since your last visit obviously. :)

  9. Dear Jason & Sirem, we are just coming out of busy Christmas followed by lazy holiday mode, (still at lake Conjola) hence our delayed response to your latest and greatest report.
    Wonderful pics which say so much – lovely lifestyle with sheer hard work, however the most satisfying results must make it all so worthwhile. I always love seeing the animals, but against the odds the photo of you and Serem won the award.
    You guys never cease to impress us with your achievements.
    We wish you safe and steady progress in the year ahead.
    Love Dot & Dick

    • Jason

      9 January, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Hi to you both.

      Lovely to hear from you: I keep meaning to get around to replying to your Christmas email. Sorry for the delay! I hope you’re having a relaxing break at Lake Conjola; it sounds like you’ve earned it.

      Really glad you liked the photos. There are not many photos of the two of us because it’s usually one of us behind the camera, I suppose. But that one was nice, we agree.

      Please give our best wishes to Annette and Lloyd. Here’s to 2019 being better than 2018.

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