Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: animals

Deliveries

Let me warn you up front: this blog post, and probably future posts for a while, are going to be variations on the theme of “look at this thing we made!”

With that said… I am learning, too late in life, that a huge part of construction is just moving stuff around.  Here are three of our most recent deliveries, more or less neatly stacked.

Bricks

Bricks

Steel

Steel

Timber

Timber

That last one is not just a gratuitous night-time shot: the timber really did arrive late in the evening.  In fact it was delayed for a week or so longer than we were expecting.  The 10cm x 10cm pieces on the right are chemically treated to resist moisture, and those took a while to get hold of.

It wasn’t really a problem though.  We have so much to do if we’re going to hit our target of real guests by late summer, so we just worked on some landscaping instead of timber framing.  This next shot is yet another Sketchup model showing our plans for around the pool.  A steel railing to stop people falling off the terrace after one Tuborg too many, and on the other side a little pavilion surrounded by gardens and incorporating two built-in seating areas.  In summer we’ll hang some canvas or cotton at the front of the seating area to keep people in the shade during the hot afternoons.

Some of the planned landscaping around the pool.

Some of the planned landscaping around the pool.  The shadows are as they would be on the summer solstice at around 4pm.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that we haven’t really decided what’s happening at the back of the pool: probably a wooden fence with a lattice to grow climbing plants on.  It would be nice to have a rendered and limewashed brick wall but we’re thinking it’s a bit too close to the edge of the hillside for a heavy wall to be 100% safe.  Anyway, here’s the progress we’ve made in the last week on the seating area.

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

Koray, the guy you saw welding a door in the previous post, is now working with us full-time.  We really needed some more people power if we’re serious about opening the first two rooms this summer.   One of the first things he did for us was to install that door.

The door Koray was welding in the last post, now safely installed.

The machine room door, now safely installed.  (I did the twirly bits, honest.)

Koray has also done great work on building a stone retaining wall up the left side of the driveway, as well as a dozen other things.

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

Which reminds me, a big thank-you to my cousin Stephanie and her partner Mick.  They visited a couple of weeks back and helped carry a lot of the stones into position.  (We are officially becoming terrible hosts: “Had enough breakfast?  All done?  OK, great, now carry this 40 kilo rock.”)

At the foot of the stone wall there’s a concrete gutter.  Previously this ran into a large hole that connected to the storm-water drain.  Health and safety concerns suggest we shouldn’t leave a large hole lying around long-term, so I got to improve my bricklaying and rendering skills by building a drain cover.   We tried using powdered dyes to colour the rendering coat: two scoops of red, four scoops of yellow, and one scoop of black.  Not too bad a result if you like the Santa Fe adobe look.

Here's one I made earlier: drain cover

Here’s one I made earlier: drain cover.  Note modernist grille made by welding scrap rebar pieces together.

Here are a couple of photos of things we’re making with all those deliveries.  The bricks are for parts of the guest bathroom walls.  We’re still committed to straw bale, but we lost our nerve at the thought of the waterproofing needed to be sure that a straw bale in the wall behind a shower would never get wet.  So the external walls of the bathroom, and the wall between the two bathrooms, will be brick.  Still, they’re big 30 x 20 cm bricks with some air holes in them, there’ll be a double wall, and the 10cm gap between the inner and outer wall will be filled with polystyrene insulation.  It won’t quite be as good as straw, but should still be reasonably well insulated.

The first two guest bathrooms laid out with bricks

The first two guest bathrooms laid out with bricks.   Each bathroom is about 3 metres by 2 metres: big enough for everyone?

The steel is for pool terrace railings as shown in the Sketchup picture above.  They’re nearly done; they just need some twisty decorative bits (“ferforje” in Turkish) and a coat of black paint and they’re ready to go in.

Pool terrace railings under construction

Pool terrace railings under construction

And all this welding seems to be catching:  Sirem has now joined the party.  It looks like she’s been doing it for years, doesn’t it?

Sirem getting in on the welding action.

Sirem getting in on the welding action.  (Thanks to Stephanie for the photo.)

We’re still some distance away from the straw bale and plastering stage, but we’ve done some more testing recently to decide between clay plaster (which has the benefit of basically being free) and lime plaster, which stands up to moisture a lot better.  I think we’ve decided on the lime plaster solution, but it’s a shame to have to say no to the clay as the texture is really nice.

Plaster testing: three coats of mud plaster

Plaster testing: three coats of clay plaster on a straw bale (second coat still showing at the top there)

Plaster testing: two coats of lime plaster on a straw bale

Plaster testing: two coats of lime plaster on a straw bale

The pool has been properly filled and we are pleased to report that it didn’t fall over or spring a leak.  There was even a warm day in late February when I was stupid enough to try a first swim.  The pool was very nice but the water needs a bit more sun on it, I think.

What the pool looks like now

What the pool looks like now

And finally, a few shots of plants and animals to show that it is not quite all-construction, all-the-time.

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour's garden

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour’s garden

Zeliş relaxing

Zeliş relaxing

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

Cezmi, Sirem's sister's cat, maybe now our  cat, who believes he is the construction site manager

Cezmi, Sirem’s sister’s cat, maybe now our cat, who believes he is the construction site manager

Thanks for reading!

Planning permission is go

Big news: the council has finally granted planning permission for our revised four-hotel-rooms-plus-a-house idea.  Like every bureaucratic process it took longer than we expected or wanted, although we did get some reassuring feedback on the structural soundness of our designs.  Anyway, we’re really glad it’s all sorted, and now we can move on to getting quotes for the concrete-slab foundation work and the pool.

Now we can build all this!

Now we can build all this!

A while ago we passed our one-year anniversary of being here.  It would be great if more had happened up in the orchard by now — at the moment it’s just the fig trees, dry grass, marker pegs, and one steel telegraph pole with a light and a power connection box.  But we’re optimistic that with all of the red tape out of the way, some earth should start getting moved around very soon.

One thing that we did manage to finish before the one-year mark was the kitchen.  I know it has been drawn out over many blog posts, but it is now finally, properly finished.  Here are some shots showing the tiled worktop and the finishing touches on the woodwork.

High-angle view of the kitchen.

High-angle view of the kitchen.  Hope everyone likes the tiles.

The kitchen sink view looks out into the street at tractor-wheel height.

The kitchen sink window looks out into the street at tractor-wheel height.

Free-standing cabinet between the fridge and the door.  Plus added cat (Maya).

Free-standing cabinet between the fridge and the door. Plus added cat (Maya).

My mum and dad came to stay with us for the first half of August — we are trying to talk them into coming at a less outrageously hot time of year for their next visit.  But it was good seeing our progress through their eyes, as they were last here almost exactly a year ago.  Dad was extremely helpful in the garden, as he was the first time around.  And they talked us into taking a seaside break for a few days: the first nights we had spent away from this place since we arrived.  (A huge thank you to Sirem’s sister Çisem for holding the fort and feeding all the animals while we were away.)

We spent three nights at the Panion Park Hotel in the coastal town of Guzelçamlı, close to the entrance to the Dilek National Park.  It was a really pleasant, quiet hotel and we can recommend it.  They have a lovely pool and an equally lovely bar by the pool.  They’ve only been open for six years and we were impressed with how well their landscaped garden had come along.  Lots of ideas to file away for future reference.

The view from our room in the Panion Park Hotel.  Great garden.

The view from our room in the Panion Park Hotel. Great garden.

What else have we been up to?  A recent carpentry project was the door to the second bedroom.  The old door was a bit of a mess and we had to lock it with a very amateurish chain and padlock around the handle.  More importantly, the doorway was much lower than it needed to be, with a small window over the door for no good reason.  More than one taller visitor had smacked their head on the low lintel (sorry, Mark). So we came up with a plan for a full-height door that included a central window with shutters for extra ventilation in summer.  Sketchup again, of course.  We think it all turned out OK.

New door from the outside, shutters closed.

New door from the outside, shutters closed.

From the inside: going for a medieval look with all the black iron hardware.

From the inside: going for a medieval look with all the black iron hardware.

And with the shutters open to let in a breeze.

And with the shutters open to let in a breeze.

The weather has been really hot, of course, but never humid.  We found that the sun was tracking so far north that we weren’t getting enough shade on the sedir in the middle of the day.  So we’ve rigged up some sheets to make it feel more pleasant.

Dealing with the heat: sheets as shadecloth.

Dealing with the heat: sheets as shadecloth.

The grape vines do well in all that sun.

The grape vines do well in all that sun.

Summer also brings the insect population to life.  (Which is mostly fine, honest: even the wasps have their role in pollinating the figs.)  One day we found some ants struggling to lift something up the wall and into the garden.  Turns out they had stolen a cat biscuit, and were cooperating admirably to get it back to the nest.

The ant helpfully standing on the biscuit must be the one in charge, surely.

The ant helpfully standing on the biscuit must be the one in charge, surely?

And to conclude: some readers will be unsurprised to learn that our four kittens have not found new homes yet.  We still haven’t named them, because we are clinging to the (perhaps foolish) belief that we’re going to successfully give most of them away.  In an effort to show potential adopters how cute they are, here are some photos at 2 weeks and at 5 weeks.  Incredible how much the ears grow over that time.

The tabby one.

The tabby one.

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The black one.

The black one.

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The white one.

The white one.

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The grey one (who Sirem refuses to give away).

The grey one (who Sirem refuses to give away).

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More spring weather, more ruins, more plans

OK, this will be a quick one.  It’s a beautiful day and I’m supposed to be putting in irrigation pipes for the new trees, not sitting around at the computer.

Things are going well.  Spring continues to mean that plants are just erupting out of the ground: it’s amazing how quickly things grow here.  Here are a few shots of flowers and the garden to show what I mean.

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The grape vines are definitely back.  We missed them!

The grape vines are definitely back. We missed them.

The season has also brought some new lambs to the farm of our friends at the other end of the village.  The lambs are very cute and Sirem could not resist having a cuddle.

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Only 24 hours old.

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Ready for her close-up now.

Sirem with her favourite.  The lamb also looks pleased.

Sirem with her favourite. The lamb also looks pleased.

And visitor season is also continuing.  Our recent guests Enrico and Bethany gave us an excuse to check out one more of the archaeological sites in the area.  We took them to see the ruins of Tralleis, up on a bluff above the provincial capital of Aydın.     It must have been a very imposing city in its heyday.  The biggest feature still standing is a distinctive triple arch that looks out over the valley.  All very Ozymandias.

The arch at Tralleis.  Some people for scale.

The arches at Tralleis. Some people for scale.

The arch from the other side.  Notice all the construction on the lower level: cellars or tunnels perhaps?

The arches from the other side. Notice all the construction on the lower level: cellars or tunnels perhaps?

Again we had the privilege of walking around a site like this without paying any admission fee, and seeing almost no other visitors.  I think those people in the first shot were our only company.  It’s not that Turks and tourists don’t care about these places; more that they are spoiled for choice about where to go.

Finally: we put in our revised plans for the hotel bungalows a couple of weeks ago, and we’re waiting to hear back from the council about whether the new version can be passed as just a minor revision of the old.   The differences weren’t huge, so we’re optimistic.

Probably the biggest change is that we’re now building a house for ourselves at the top of the orchard.  It’s quiet and peaceful there, and the view is fantastic, so  we can’t resist.  That means two fewer guest rooms up in the orchard, but in the long run we’ll make up the total of six by converting some rooms down here in the old farmhouse.

Another change is that we combined one of the guest bungalows with the cafe / kitchen, rather than having them as two separate buildings.  We think it makes the overall plan look less cluttered, and the thick straw bales mean the guests shouldn’t hear anything from the adjoining kitchen area.

An overview of the new plan.  You can see the existing farmhouse buildings on the far left.  Then, from left to right, it's the cafe plus two guest rooms, the pool, another two guest rooms, and then our new house at the end.

An overview of the new plan. You can see the existing farmhouse buildings on the far left. Then, from left to right, it’s the cafe plus two guest rooms, the pool, another two guest rooms, and then our new house at the end.

The cafe will have big french doors out onto the terrace area.  There's also a higher ceiling as the roof is common but the floor is lower. This seems to make the building blend into the slope a bit more.

The cafe will have big french doors out onto the terrace area. There’s also a higher ceiling as the roof is common but the floor is lower. This seems to make the building blend into the slope a bit more.

Plan view of the cafe, kitchen,and two guest rooms.

Plan view of the cafe, kitchen,and two guest rooms.

The double bungalow above the pool.

The double bungalow above the pool.

Interior of a typical guest room.

Interior of a typical guest room.

Interior view of our house.  Always wanted a mezzanine!

Interior view of our house. Always wanted a mezzanine!

 

Winter brings more animals

It’s February already. How did that happen?

I have to confess that January wasn’t our most productive month. We’re not too worried though. More than half of our rainfall comes between December and February, and on rainy days there’s nothing for it but to sit inside and drink coffee and watch movies. That should change in the future: as we empty out the last of the moving boxes in the barn, there’ll be more space to do carpentry in there. But for now the courtyard is our workspace and so if it’s wet, we have a quiet day.

The bigger confession, and maybe another reason for low productivity, is that our animal population has grown again. I know, I know: that’s not what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be building a hotel / fig-farming empire, not playing pet rescue with all the local strays. The problem is it’s very hard to say no when the animal in question is cold and wet and hungry and outside your front gate.

Meet Zeliş, our new dog.

Meet Zeliş, our new dog.

This is Zeliş. We found her out in the street, looking dangerously thin. We tried feeding her by the roadside for a while, but during the January cold snap we were worried she might freeze. She didn’t have a protective layer of fat, and she seemed to have  had a tough time in general: just a very skinny, submissive, and sad-looking dog. So she went from being a street dog to a yard dog, like Zeytin before her.

Zeytin and Zeliş at play.

Zeytin and Zeliş at play.

Luckily the two of them get on very well. Zeliş is a kangal which means she’s been bred for guarding sheep and fighting off wolves (!).  She’s already big and she’s going to be huge once she puts some weight back on. But, luckily for us, she is extremely sweet-tempered. She barks if there’s a noise in the night, which is good for security I suppose, but I think an actual intruder would probably get licked to death.

Sirem with Zeliş. Dogs love hugs.

Sirem with Zeliş. Dogs love hugs.

Unfortunately for Zeliş, her previous owners chopped off her ears. There’s a misguided belief around here that says you have to do that so the dog will hear better and won’t have floppy ears for another dog or a wolf to latch onto in a fight. It’s a real shame, but we try not to make her feel self-conscious about it.

Sookie the kitten.

Sookie the kitten. Could you reject this animal?

We also have a new kitten, Sookie. We did try really hard not to have a new kitten. We told the neighbour who brought her to us (as a crying wet little bundle in the middle of a thunderstorm) that this was not on, and never to do it again. We even found a new owner via the internet, and drove Sookie to Izmir to meet her new adoptive family. She lasted about four days. Bothering the other cats in the apartment, constantly growling, and crapping everywhere. She seemed to be of the firm opinion that our place was her real home. So we drove to Izmir again and brought her back.

Sookie yawning.

Sookie yawning.

Sookie stretching.

Sookie stretching.

Sookie is named for one of the characters from the show True Blood (if you’re a fan of that show, note that I am increasingly thinking we should have called her Jessica because of how much she enjoys biting people). She has almost exactly the same calico colouring as one of our other cats, Sutlaç, who is also from the village. So we’re thinking they’re probably sisters, and somewhere around here is a mother cat who really needs to be snipped.

Sam looking all grown-up and handsome.

Sookie’s nephew (?) Sam looking all grown-up and handsome. Don’t tell the other cats but I think he may be the best-looking one.

All the other cats are doing well, although some of them think Sookie is a bit of a pain.  There’s still a bit of an apartheid system with the Turkish cats living outside in a heated cat-box and the English ones tending to come inside, but the boundaries are blurring now that we have installed some cat flaps in two of the bedroom doors. We will see how long the outside cats take to figure out that they can potentially be inside cats now.

Sookie's other nephew Sezar looking intrepid.

Sookie’s other nephew Sezar looking intrepid.

Donkey is feeling a bit morose.

Donkey is feeling a bit morose.

We’ve also adopted a donkey!

No, I’m kidding. We are not quite that crazy. This is a picture of our neighbour’s donkey grazing on the side of the road. She doesn’t look too happy but I guess donkeys usually don’t.

In other more practical news, we have made some progress in the kitchen. But I’m determined to stop showing you embarrassingly incremental photos of that and just get to the end of the process as soon as we can. In the garden we’ve started building a big hügelkultur bed: basically a raised bed with lots of old, rotting wood underneath the soil to act as a water reservoir in the drier months.  We’ve fixed some leaks in the barn roof by taking sections of the old Roman tiles down, cleaning them, and replacing the cracked ones. And we are only one more tiling and grouting session away from having all three bedrooms renovated.

Finally, after being told off by our postman for not having a letterbox, we built this one.

Our new letterbox.

Our new letterbox.

Although we’ve had a run of rain over the last week or so, I don’t want to give the impression that there are no sunny days. In late January Sirem’s sister Çisem was visiting so we took her over to Kuşadası to see what the beachfront promenade looked like in winter. Some of the cafes were still open and we had a really nice lunch.

Winter sun at the beach with Çisem.

Winter sun at the beach with Çisem.

Taken from the same spot: a view of the Greek island of Samos.

Taken from the same spot: a view of the Greek island of Samos.

Sunset in Kuşadası.

Sunset in Kuşadası.

A few days later we had a chance to see one more of the amazing ancient Greek sites in the area. We were in Didim, a seaside town about an hour down the coast, and stopped off at the Temple of Apollo, which was the religious centrepiece of the ancient city of Didyma.  Most of the other ruins we’ve seen are in splendid isolation out in the countryside, but the Temple of Apollo just rears up from its surroundings in suburban Didim.  Incredible stuff.

The Temple of Apollo.

The Temple of Apollo.

It must have been spectacular in its day...

It must have been spectacular in its day…

A sofa at last

The courtyard here is our living room: we have three rooms and a kitchen, but the place to sit, relax, and eat is usually outside. (At least while the good weather lasts!) We got a lot of use out of our plastic camping chairs, but eventually we wanted something more comfortable. So we decided to build a sedir: a kind of low, long, wooden Turkish sofa.  We put our ideas into Sketchup and then bought some wood.

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The original plan in Sketchup.

Construction took a few days and lots of cups of tea. Jason worked very hard and luckily my mum was around to help. I was responsible for photography but that means you can’t see how much I was helping too.  🙂

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Jason testing the strength of the wooden beams. No middle support yet.

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The second part of the “L” taking shape.

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Working into the night: Jason was determined to finish it before dawn. Luckily we have tolerant neighbours.

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That is me with the important job of putting some weight on the corner.

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Woodwork finished at last.

After a late night finishing the construction, we sanded everything down and used our new compressed-air spray gun to stain the sofa. I bought some blue and white fabric, and found a local tailor who specializes in cotton-filled cushions and duvets. He put together some very nice fat stuffed cushions within a few days.

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Spray gun time. Jason says everyone should own an air compressor. I am not sure whether I agree with him.

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Done!

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Cushions arrived. It is as comfy as it looks.

The whole thing cost us 200 lira for timber and screws, 30 lira for a tin of wood stain, 75 lira for fabric, and 500 lira for the tailor to make the cushions. That’s a total of 805 lira or £226. Not bad! (Jason wants me to add that these calculations assume he works for free.)

We also felt bad that our dog Zeytin was still living in a cardboard box as winter approaches. So we knocked together a little dog house for her. She is again pleased with her new accommodation.

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Another house! For me?!

Finally, you are never very far from animal-related drama in a small village in Turkey. The other day we came home to find four beautiful puppies had been abandoned on the road near our house. We had to do something for them: I think the pictures show how impossible it would have been to leave them out in the street. It was a long night of feeding them milk and cleaning up their pee and cuddling them.

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So much cuteness in one box.

Unfortunately we just couldn’t keep them because we already have five cats and a dog. So we made some phone calls to animal charities in the area, and luckily we found there’s an excellent dog shelter in Aydın run by the local council. They assured us that all four puppies would have no problem finding a new  home, so that made us feel a bit better about the sad moment of having to part with them.

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OK, where are we going? Is there food there?

 

Cats and dogs living together

A few people have asked how our cats are doing, so I thought I should post on the animal situation here. (I know that not everyone reading this feels the same way about cats as we do, but don’t worry: once the hotel is built, the animals will be safely confined down here in the farmhouse, honest.)

So: Marlowe, Molly, and Maya were safely delivered by the nice people at Paws Bulgaria the day after we got here.  I think the heat was probably a bit of a shock to them, but they’ve adjusted very well. The first week they were confined to a bedroom and a chicken-wire covered verandah. After that we let them outside, and they now sleep in the shade during the day, and run around hunting cicadas and grasshoppers at night.

Marlowe looking statesmanlike as ever.

Marlowe looking statesmanlike as ever.

Molly on the roof, looking wistfully through the vines

Molly on the roof, looking wistfully through the vines.

Maya: blurry and hard to pin down.

Maya: blurry and hard to pin down. But happy, we hope.

We also have some other cats, because that’s just how it works in Turkey. Regular readers will already have met Tarçın (“Cinnamon”), who was a very small and very hungry stray adopted by Sirem’s dad before we got here. There’s also Şurup (“Syrup”), who was fed by the previous owners we think. He is a very sweet-natured cat and Tarçın’s chief playmate. The English cats are still deciding what to think about Tarçın, although Marlowe seems to be mentoring him in serious cat business.

Tarçın: does he know how cute he is, do you think?

Tarçın: does he know how cute he is, do you think?

Şurup, who has endless patience with Tarçın's attacks.

Şurup, who has endless patience with Tarçın’s attacks.

There’s also Oğlum (“My son”), one of Sirem’s family’s cats, who is just visiting from Istanbul. He was one or two problems, including epilepsy, so he needs some extra attention. He also likes to complain loudly if he thinks his food is a bit late.

Oğlum managing our power supply.

Oğlum managing our power supply.

And last but definitely not least, there’s Zeytin (“Olive”) the dog. She used to live in the street outside the house, and was fed by the previous people and some of the neighbours. We felt bad for her out there and thought we should get her spayed to avoid having to adopt litters of puppies. Since we let her in to recuperate after the operation she doesn’t really want to leave. But that’s OK, we needed a watchdog anyway.

Zeytin looking pleased.

Zeytin looking pleased.

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