Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: carpentry (page 1 of 3)

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!

Moon shot

The last hours of July are ebbing away and I have a few photos to share but to tell the truth it’s been a bit of an incremental month — no huge surprises to report. Lots of small forms of progress though.

One big thing that happened: we had a tourist coach full of people come to the cafe for a Sunday morning breakfast. We learned the day before that they would arrive at 8am and we had to have them fed and out the door by 9 so they could travel on to Bodrum. It was about fifty people in total and we don’t even have that many chairs so we were frantically borrowing from the neighbours the evening before.

Borrowing every chair we could get.

We also had couples staying in both rooms that night but thankfully they were super-agreeable guests who were OK with having their breakfast a bit later. Anyway, it was a very stressful morning but turned out fine in the end. Nobody went away hungry and we got lots of nice comments about the cafe and the food and even the clean bathrooms. So that was good.

Breakfast is ready. Bring on the crowds.

Cafe has never been so full!

I know that one day a bus load of people might feel normal, and obviously there are loads of busy cafes where it would just be another morning. But for us it was a trial by fire that was hopefully worth it because now fifty more people know we exist.

What else? Last Friday was the lunar eclipse. We were really lucky to have clear skies and good viewing conditions; peak darkness of the moon was at around 11:30pm local time. Seemed only right to try to take a few photos. Wasn’t sure how well they would turn out as I don’t really have a long-enough lens for astronomical stuff. Happy with the results though.

Moon with earth’s shadow encroaching.

Blood moon! #nofilter #onlykiddingloadsoffilters

The moon and Mars.

And then it was after midnight and I still had all the gear out so I figured why not take more photos? I really like night-time landscape shots but I don’t take them often enough due to being terribly lazy. Here’s two of the better ones.

Driveway and gardens, looking west to Mount Mycale, late at night.

Pool in a reflective mood.

As usual we continue to build stuff. Finally got around to putting together our prototype sun-lounge. With wheels! It’s proving popular with both humans and cats so now it’s time to make five more.

Sun-lounge prototype. Cushions on order.

Building two is coming along. We’re again at the stage of building windows and door frames which feels like deja vu but it also feels good because it means we’re that much closer to habitability.

Window frames again.

We did some more concreting work up in our house, so now there’s a complete flight of stairs up to the mezzanine floor, a fireplace area for a solid fuel stove, and a big bricked-in box of about 1500kg of clay soil that’s meant to act as our thermal-mass heat storage. All of that is the brick structure on the centre right of the photo.

Fireplace and thermal-mass-box developments. Billowing sunshade for that post-apocalyptic settlement feel.

And that’s where we are right now. In one sense the place is still a construction site, but in another sense it’s not. Guests in the cafe or in the first two rooms can relax and enjoy themselves on the veranda or by the pool and the stuff we’re working on is no longer out there in the open but increasingly hidden away at the other end of the block. Which feels like progress.

Tropical outlook from room one’s veranda.

Gratuitous pool shot.

Couldn’t forget some animal representation, of course. The cats have been lazy in the heat this month and haven’t done anything supremely photogenic. But the dogs are always around and always being themselves.

Zeliş and Zeytin summing up their respective personalities in one photo.

See you next month.

 

 

Sunshine and how to escape it

One day, not too far in the future, the feel of this blog is going to change. It will be great, one day, to make a post called “Hotel and house finally finished!”, or something similar. Then I guess we might switch the focus to food photos and landscapes and shots of undiscovered local oddities. But for now, we are still in the realm of incremental construction progress. So I hope you are all OK with another post that feels like a small step forward from the one before.

Overview of the project.

One bit of news is that the cafe is now open for business — at least it is on Sundays! And some local people have come by for long, leisurely Turkish breakfasts. We’d love to open more than just one day a week (and we do if someone books especially) but at the moment it’s hard to justify too much time away from the building work. Sadly we just can’t afford to have one or two of us sitting in the cafe all day waiting for potential customers.

Terrace looking welcoming, we hope, with a few more tables and the dog houses moved to a more suitable location at the other end of the property.

Terrace and cafe by night.

We’re still experimenting with exactly what goes into our breakfasts, but there are some staples that are always there: eggs in some form, fried vegetables, fruit, cheese, olives, lots of different jams, and of course bread.

Front to back: boiled eggs, tahini pekmez (sesame paste mixed with grape molasses), olives, butter & honey.

Front to back: apple, kiwi fruit & banana; peppers and aubergines in a tomato sauce; various jams; sigara börek (fried pastry rolls stuffed with cheese).

Spring seems to be rapidly turning into summer: today’s high will be 32 °C. And once again the warm weather has been great for the gardens. The wet winter has made it an especially good year for green things to launch themselves out of the ground.

Rose bush gone wild in the front right.

Gardens outside rooms one and two.

Garden with a view at the north end of the pool. Note the fast-growing mulberry tree just behind the trellis.

All this sunshine reminded us, though, that the pool was always going to need more shade before summer comes in earnest. The pavilion we built earlier is great, but it’s at its best in the morning. The late afternoon sun shines straight in and makes it much less hospitable. For a long time we considered going with big umbrellas (and you’ve probably seen the green umbrellas that the nice people at TwoFour Productions bought for us).  Still, the trouble with umbrellas is that a strong wind coming up the valley will often as not send them into the pool. So we sat down with Sketchup and designed a more permanent solution.

New sunshade.

One nice feature of the new sunshade is that from about 2pm in the afternoon it starts to shade one corner of the pool, making it possible for easily sunburned people (e.g., me) to get out of those UV rays.

Two layers of green shadecloth seems about right.

Middle of the day sees lots of shade around the pool now.

It’s not only the human population that have been enjoying the new and shadier pool environment. Cezmi and Sasha claimed two of the deck chairs for themselves. (Which reminds me, I need to build some nice wooden sun lounges as these chairs have seen better days.)

Cats enjoying the shade.

The cats, being cats, have been trying to claim territory all over the place. We had some guests who were far too nice and let Lucy sit on their laptop for a bit. I had a word with her afterwards though and she assures me it won’t happen again.

Cat enjoying laptop of tolerant guest. “Don’t look at gmail, look at me!”

The dogs are much more helpful and reliable, as ever. They’re not very keen on where we put their dog houses when we moved them up from the cafe terrace, so instead they have installed themselves as watchdogs in rooms three and four. They seem very happy there but I will have to break it to them eventually that rooms are for people.

Zeytin: straw dog.

And we have of course done some actual construction work. The second building has really taken shape now, with all the straw bales in. Just the fabric and mesh work to go before plastering begins.

Building two progress.

Interior progress, room four. Strips of wood define the bathroom walls, ready for old-fashioned lathe-and-plaster work.

The good weather has also given us more excuses to get out and about. Here are a couple of shots from Dilek National Park, 50 minutes south-west of us.

National park view. Greek island of Samos in the background.

Coastal drive with tree.

Finally, something we’ve never thought to include before. Opening the cafe meant we had to make sure the cafe bathrooms were finished and ready for business. You get to them by going outside, onto the veranda, and then around the corner. Thus nobody’s table is too close to the loo, which is good, but there’s a side effect of giving the bathrooms quite a nice northerly view. Here’s a photo of one of the bathrooms with an attempt to catch the view in the mirror.

Cafe bathroom.

 

Straw bales, bar stools, and a trip to the lake

So, I have to be quick with this post — early start tomorrow. For once I’m going to try to let the photos speak for themselves and not talk so much.

Roof complete, straw bales going in.

As you can see, the roof on building two is now complete. We had 250 straw bales delivered a couple of weeks ago, and they’re rapidly being stacked into walls.

Interior with windows and straw.

Beams, columns, and bales.

The weather has still been a bit mixed-up, but hopefully now we’re in the final stretch towards the long, dry summer. All the rain should hopefully mean a good year for local farmers anyway.

Rain clouds looming to the east. Temporary plastic sheeting helps protect the straw-bale walls.

There were lots of 5 x 25 cm timber pieces left over from trimming the ends of the rafters, so we thought we might be able to make them into bar stools for the cafe. Here are the two prototypes. The legs are angled for stability, which seems to make them more comfortable as the rail for your feet is further forward than usual.

Home-made bar stools.

One size fits all, we hope.

You can’t build stuff all the time though, so one Sunday we took time out for a trip to Lake Bafa (Bafa Gölü). It’s about 40km south of us on the road to Bodrum. Normally we just take the main road along the southern shore and admire the views, but this time we went exploring a bit and found the lovely village of Kapıkırı at the eastern end. The village is built on the ruins of ancient Heracleia and is really worth the drive. Lots of strange rock formations and a very laid-back restaurant on the sandy lake shore.

View of Lake Bafa with some of the ruins of Heracleia in the foreground.

Village of Kapıkırı.

Lunch on the beach.

Fishing boat on the lake.

Sirem’s sister Çisem enjoying the view.

Some readers have asked for more dog photos: here’s one of Zeytin in a rare contemplative moment. And of course there is never a shortage of cats to photograph.

Zeytin having another lazy afternoon.

Sasha has made a new home on the straw bale stockpile.

Leila on the rug.

And finally, a big thank-you to Cees, Anne, and Rene: you must have had the worst holiday ever but we appreciate the help!

It’s framing again

At the risk of never talking about anything except construction… it’s good to be doing timber framing again. Compared to detail work like making windows or furniture, it all goes very fast as most of the time you don’t need to sand or stain the wood. Just cut it to size, get it up there, and fire some nails into it. (OK, with some of the bigger beams it’s a bit more involved, but the basic story is the same.)

Framing the walls for rooms three and four.

And at the end of each day you’ve got something different to what you started with: it’s a great morale boost to see the skeleton of a building emerge from the concrete slab.

We’ve alternated our work on the two buildings (i.e., the bungalow that will be rooms three and four, versus our new house-to-be). First the brickwork, then the treated timber base plate, then on top of that the wall framing, followed by the central beams. Currently we’ve reached the stage of putting up rafters for building two. So a real roof is not far off. It’s going to make the straw bale work a lot easier this time to have the roof up first, the way it’s supposed to happen. We won’t have to panic and drag out the tarpaulins every time it rains.

Roof tiles will get used soon after a year of waiting around.

Treated timber bolted down to the slab for our new house.

Hopefully the pool pavilion will look a bit less lonely once building two is done. You can see in the shot below how close it is to the west wall of room three. Close enough to be partially tucked in under the eaves. And the solid wall of the new building will help make the pavilion a shady spot for a few more hours each day.

Rooms three and four main beam up.

The wall timbers are up for the new house, and now we’re just waiting on some of the larger beams and joists to arrive for the next push upwards. The house has a significantly taller roofline than the other two buildings, to make room for that mezzanine first-floor bedroom. So there’s a minor worry that it could look a bit overly imposing. On the other hand, it should help that it will be the one right at the back. We’ll see how it works out. Too late to change the plans now!

New house starts to take shape.

Sketchup diagram of the new house shows what we’re working towards.

View through the house from front door to back.

One day these will be the kitchen windows looking out onto olive trees.

Winter brings a huge proportion of the annual rainfall around here, so that means we get days where it really buckets down. Not much you can do while that’s happening except take the day off, or maybe do some metalwork in our little workshop under the pool deck. The day afterwards is tricky, too, as you don’t want to be climbing up on woodwork that is still slippery from the rain.

Rainy day construction.

Rainy day metalwork: cutting some angle iron for corner bracing.

Luckily it is never too long until the sun comes out again. Here’s a nice sunny day shot looking up the driveway. You can see all the new work happening in the centre distance there.

View up the driveway from the cafe area. Gate coming one day soon.

It struck me the other day that I probably haven’t taken a photo that wasn’t cats, dogs, or construction in more than a year. Which is a bit sad, but it’s hard to get away and take pictures when there’s still so much to do. So this week I did try to do something a little bit different. But more on that below. First let’s get the required animal photos out of the way.

Coco, pretending not to be interested in the camera.

Lucy is growing up to be a lovely half-cat, half-giraffe cross.

Suzie, who you don’t get to see much of because she is shy.

Fluffy — not really our dog, but an admirer of Zeliş’s who visits a lot. He’s very sweet.

So I did get away, just slightly, to take some different photos to the usual. I confess I didn’t get very far though, and really they ended up being construction photos after all, so I will need to do more to break out of this rut. Anyway, here’s a trail winding up into the hills on the other side of the valley from our place. (Not the big Meander Valley; I mean the little valley our village sits in.)

Trail in the hills.

I went up there because it’s a hillside we look at every day, and I figured if we can see it there must be a good view from there looking back at us. Very happy with the resulting shots, as apart from the aerial shots on Google Maps we’ve never had such a nice overview of the project in one photo before. From left to right, you can see the water tanks, the new house, building two, the pavilion and the pool, the original building, and then the driveway winding down and to the left, leading down to the old farmhouse. It’s also nice to see how much we’re surrounded by olive trees.

View back towards our place giving an overview of the project.

Wider shot for context.

In the wide shot we’re that cluster of buildings about a third of the way in from the right-hand side. I really like this one as it properly shows we’re in the foothills of those mountains in the background.

And one final bit of news: we were pleasantly surprised to find some people had made bookings for February. Weren’t really expecting guests until things warm up in April or May. But we’re grateful, and I hope the weather repays their optimism!

Edit: by special request, some more Sketchup views of the house. There’s a fair bit of detail so you can click on these four images for a larger view.

View from the south.

View from the north-west showing rear veranda roof. Might make it into a covered porch one day.

Structure of the mezzanine area and stairs.

Interior view showing kitchen / lounge area and catwalk leading to south window (view from up there will be too good not to build a catwalk).

 

Buildings two and three underway

A small confession: the photos in this post are about a week out of date, so of course it’s very tempting to run outside with the camera and show you the latest developments. But, knowing me, there’s a danger that if I do that I’ll get stuck in an infinite loop of “just one more shot, just a little bit more processing” and then nobody would get to see anything. So I’m going to run with these, and hope that you will forgive me.

Zeytin enjoying the warm stones of the driveway.

The big news is in the title: we have, at last, started work on the second and third buildings. That’s going to be rooms three and four, and our new house respectively. This time around we’ve decided there are advantages to working on the two structures in parallel. Right now it’s small sections of brickwork for some of the bathroom walls to make sure there won’t be any straw bales right next to wet areas like showers. Then it’s on to the timber framing and getting a roof on both buildings as soon as we can, so that straw and everything else can be stored under shelter while we work.

This probably looks familiar: another T-shaped wall defining the bathrooms for rooms three and four. The junk on top is to keep rain out of the hollow brickwork.

One day this will be our en-suite bathroom (window on the left there, above the toilet; shower behind the wheelbarrow).

Timber deliveries bring a sense of deja vu.

It’s good to be making progress on this stuff while the weather is still pleasant. At this rate we’re going to be doing the framing as winter comes on, so I guess we will find out whether it’s more fun to lay roof tiles in the freezing cold or in the hottest days of summer (like last time).

West wall of room three will be right up against the back of the pool pavilion.

I wish I could say everything in the first building was 100% complete, but that isn’t quite true. Several little jobs remain — some details in the kitchen, a cupboard interior and a mirror in room one, etc. But we are getting there. And they will be good jobs for rainy days in December I suppose.

One thing that did get finished was the stone wall running up the side of the driveway. (All Koray’s work, not ours, I should admit.) There’s now a nice welcoming feel as you come up from the street. All we need now is a sign!

Stone retaining wall on the driveway is done.

The kitchen is, we hope, looking more professional now. Very pleased with how the steel-and-timber shelves worked out. We had to suspend them from the ceiling joists because the one big disadvantage of straw-bale walls is that you can’t really sink load-bearing screws into them after the fact.

Kitchen approaches completion.

Suspended shelving.

Microwave gets a spot on the shelf, freeing up lots of worktop space, and new ventilation hood also gets a bit of steel to hold it in place.

I won’t bore you with all the little details, but we were proud of this one: the laptop and the printer have been perched at one end of the bar counter for a while now. But the printer (like the microwave) was a bit of a space hog. So we put together a miniature table to sit down under the counter and keep the printer tidied away.

Mini table for the printer.

And not to neglect the many normal-sized tables we’ve been making. Two for each guest room (one inside and one out) plus about eight for the cafe, picnic tables on the terrace, and some chunky low tables for drinks by the pool.

This must be table number 10 or 11. Or 12. I lose count!

The two big things still needed in the kitchen are the pantry cupboard and a staircase to the loft. The cupboard, at least, is well on the way. You might be able to spot that the shelves are set back a bit, so we can put little spice-rack-type shelves on the insides of the doors for easy access.

Big food cupboard for the kitchen.

The terrace is looking friendlier now, with the railings painted and some potted plants bringing a bit of colour. We’re getting used to the idea of just sticking with the white gravel as a low-maintenance surface rather than doing paving stones or bricks.

Plants on the terrace.

View of the village looking autumnal; our old house in the foreground.

And finally we wanted to say thank you to all the guests who’ve spent their holiday time with us. Especially those who weren’t worried about autumn weather and turned up long after we thought the tourist season was over. We hope you had fun and that you will come back one day!

Gratuitous shot of Lara pretending to be a panther.

TV news for Australian readers

Hello, everyone.

Not a full post, just a quick announcement really. Much to our surprise, it looks like our episode of Our Dream Hotel has turned up on Australian television before it has made it to UK television. I know: very strange, but beyond our control.

So for any Australian friends who are interested: it’s on the Foxtel network, on the “Lifestyle and Documentaries” channel. We are season 1 episode 5 and I hear they’ve changed the title to Alex Polizzi’s Dream Hotel. It should be screening at 9:05am this coming Sunday, 8 October. (Not sure what time zone that is, presumably east coast.) Apologies for the Sunday morning time-slot: I don’t know whether Foxtel do on-demand streaming or anything like that so if anyone knows more about it please feel free to comment.

And for everyone else, a few progress photos.

If you squint you can see the new railings at the back of the pool area.

Railings on the terrace (still unpainted).

Recently Koray has been doing a ton of welding work as we put up a few more iron railings near the pool and on the cafe terrace. We’ve done this partly to help visually define the different areas of the site, but mainly it’s for safety.  Clearly we’d prefer to stop kids or drunk people ever taking a tumble down the steep hill that leads down to the road.

Kitchen looking more like a kitchen now.

Drawers!

The kitchen is looking much more like a place you could actually cook food in. Sirem and Çisem’s tiling work turned out wonderfully. The tiled worktops are very practical, we have a half-door to close off the kitchen from the cafe when we need to, and we also have actual working drawers. (Much better than keeping all the cutlery in a large basket.)

Only a few finishing touches needed now: grabbing the other fridge from the old farmhouse kitchen, installing a ventilator fan for the stove, building a big pantry cupboard, and building some stairs to the loft.

Sirem making planter boxes for the terrace.

As you can see the cafe is currently being used as a woodworking studio, but that’s all going to change soon. Later today we’re cleaning it out so we can set up all the new tables we’ve built. Looks like the remaining picnic tables are going to have to be built outside, but at least the weather is not so hot any more.

Garden still cheerful in October.

Opening day coming soon

Right now I am supposed to be making either a garden trellis for the honeysuckle vines behind the pool, or a wooden worktop for room one’s kitchen area. Too busy to write much, but I thought I should post some photos to keep everyone up to date.

Our big news is that we have our first guests coming in early May so it’s really important that everything works and that the place is looking presentable. Room two (the one we show you all the photos of) is now 99% finished, while room one needs a bit of work but things are progressing fast.

Room in close-to-final form

Room two in close-to-final form.

Other view

Another view.

Mini-kitchen done

Room two kitchen area done.

Bathroom done

Bathroom now has a vanity mirror.

Towel hooks

More welding: towel hooks for the bathroom.

With actual guests coming, we need to make sure the place is accessible. On a rainy day you would struggle to get a typical rental car up the hill, so we knew that the time had come to concrete the driveway. The preparation work takes the longest: compacting gravel in the problematic low-lying sections, building borders and formwork to hold the concrete in, laying and wiring up lots of steel reinforcement, etc. Then two very tough days of actual concrete pouring and it was done. (I am currently trying to block out the memories.)

Sirem the day before the concrete went in

Sirem checking out the reinforcement the day before the first concrete went in.

Lots of work went into this shot

Lots of work went into this shot. (And yes, the hillside is a mess: one more thing on the to-do list.)

The really urgent priority is getting room one into shape, but we also have to do some landscaping work so the place doesn’t look so much like the building site it still is. That means more garden beds and lots of plants, but we also need a path to get to the rooms, the pool, and beyond. Concrete was a good solution for the steep driveway, but obviously we didn’t want to lay it everywhere. So the path is going to be built with paving stones.

Crushed gravel to support paving stones

Compacted river gravel to support the paving.

Paving stones

Paving stones going in, drainage canal taking shape.

Koray and Berrin

Koray and Berrin working on a garden wall. Those steel structures will become concrete posts to support the entrance gate, giving the accommodation area  a bit of privacy.

For two guest rooms and the cafe, we need a lot of furniture. Tables, beds, sofas, chairs, wardrobes, and all the rest. Given that we already have a lot of woodworking tools, and that the budget is running low, it was an easy decision to make most of the stuff ourselves. (The one exception: we’re buying chairs for the cafe. Chairs are fiddly and take too long.) There’s some work in it, but it’s great to be able to build pieces in the exact size and style you want.

Bed being made

One of the beds being made.

Table, sofa

Front to back: an angle grinder used as a brutally efficient sander, a very hardworking router, a table, and a sofa.

Finished bed

A finished bed with two little bedside tables: we definitely have a chunky country aesthetic going.

A new friend came to visit a few weeks back, and we used that as an excuse to do a practice run of the breakfasts we want to serve to our guests. Hopefully the photo below helps to convince someone out there to make a booking. Speaking of which: we’re going to start by listing the place on Airbnb, but we’re just holding off on one or two little details first, like our final inspection from the council. We’ll definitely make a post when that happens though.

Breakfast

Breakfast on the veranda.

Very soon we will have to get out of the way and move back down to the old farmhouse. We’re going to miss the new room, of course. But the weather is much warmer now and the leaves are back on the fig trees and the grape vines, so the old house is a much more cheerful prospect than it was in mid-winter.

Spring morning in the olive grove

Spring morning in the neighbours’ olive grove.

The dogs and cats are being their usual helpful, dirty, lazy, beautiful selves, and they’re clearly as happy as we are to see the return of warmer weather. Here are some dog photos to fulfill our prescribed animal content quota.

Tito yawning

Tito yawning.

Zeliş goofing around

Zeliş goofing around.

Thanks for reading. I hope that next time we post it will be to announce that bookings are properly open. Now I have to get back to it — bye!

So much to do

Winter has come. When we get a north wind in January, it gets colder here than you might imagine. (Certainly colder than I was imagining in 2014.) And again we had some snow this year.

Winter weather

A dusting of snow.

But this winter has been much easier than the last, as we have temporarily moved into room two. It’s been great. We’re pleased to report that straw bale walls insulate just as well as advertised. To give you an idea: in the evenings we use the reverse-cycle air conditioning to get the temperature up to about 21 degrees, then switch it off when we go to bed. Even on the coldest nights, the room is still at about 18 degrees in the morning.

I’m almost reluctant to share the next two shots, as the room doesn’t look as pretty as it did in the previous post. In fact it’s quite cluttered now, as we’ve crammed a lot of furniture in. There’s a bed, a kitchen table with chairs, two sofas, two computer tables, etc. We’re really happy that you can comfortably fit all that in, but of course we’re going to return it to the originally intended minimalist/rustic splendour before the paying guests arrive.

View from the door

Room 2 with all our domestic junk in it.

View from the bed

View when you wake up in the morning.

Also the floor is no longer bare concrete. We went with 30 x 30 cm tiles in a red clay colour with wide grout lines — blatantly stealing a look we’ve seen in old houses in Spain and Italy. Hopefully we’ll get away with it.

Panini with floor tiles

Panini welcoming us home: note the tiles!

The cats are very pleased with the new room, not least because of the aforementioned reverse-cycle air conditioning. Some of them spend the whole day lying on the bed or one of the sofas. I have tried to explain to them that this luxury is only temporary, and by April we will all be back down in the farmhouse, but I am not sure they are listening.

Çezmi

Cezmi takes a break from his building inspector role.

Coco

Coco pretends to be surprised by his own cuteness.

Life is harder for our loyal dogs, who spend their days warning us about approaching tractors or motorbikes on the road below.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

The building is structurally complete now, so we’re moving on to interior fixtures and fittings. We’ve put the countertop and sink into room two’s little kitchen, but we still need to install a fridge and some cupboards under the counter, and to tile the backsplash.

Sink

Sink going in.

There will be furniture to make, too. After all the carpentry we’ve done on the building itself, making a bed or a coffee table feels very approachable. Here’s something we put together as a base for the bathroom sink.

Bathroom vanity

Chunky bathroom vanity unit.

Speaking of bathrooms, it has been life-changing to be back in a situation where you don’t have to go outside to get to the toilet. That’s not too bad in summer, but it gets old pretty quickly when the temperature is below zero. The en-suite bathroom in room two is not fancy, but it feels big and well-lit and most importantly it’s warm.

Bathroom working

Bathroom: still need to do a mirror, a shelf, some towel racks, etc.

Shower

Shower needs some finishing touches but is fully functional.

The ongoing saga of making all the windows and doors is reaching its conclusion. There is only one doorway left that still needs a frame, and about four or five more doors to do — in the cafe mostly — and then we’re finally done.

Kitchen window

Kitchen window showing the run straight through to the other side. Should lead to a nice breeze when cooking in summer.

Here’s one to file under “you can never have too much storage.” We completed the small attic above the kitchen the other day: the wooden floorboards also form the kitchen ceiling. Taller people may bump their heads on the occasional rafter, but there’s a huge amount of storage space up there. And two internal windows into the cafe area to let some natural light in.

Attic

New attic.

With the prospect of actually having two rentable rooms and a working cafe kitchen soon, it’s pushed us to get back to all the outside stuff: landscaping, drainage, paving the driveway, thinking about where to put cars, etc. We had a backhoe loader in last week and got the guy to smooth out some of our bigger piles of left-over dirt. And also to dig a long drainage trench all the way down from the top of the block to the driveway. Planning to hand-pour a lot of concrete and incorporate a few rocks to try to make the functional ditch into something a bit more attractive. Maybe even make a water feature out of it by pumping water back up to the top. Could be naff, could be wonderful. We will see.

House with drainage ditch

The so-nearly-completed building with a freshly dug drainage ditch in the foreground.

We’ve also started landscaping work at the back of the building, where there’s about four metres of space before the steep slope down to the road. The photo below is very messy, but there’s a few details that may be of interest. You can see our new fusebox on the left, and some short brick retaining walls that will define the garden (don’t worry, we’re going to render and limewash them). That’s our solar hot water system up on a steel tower which makes sure it gets lots of sun but is also hidden away on the north side of the structure. It’s a little ugly right now but when the leaves come back to the fig trees they’ll help hide it.

Landscaping at the back

Landscaping at the back

And finally: we had a couple of days of heavy rain a few weeks back, and all that water led to a little bit of shifting soil on the edge of the driveway. This made us nervous because the nightmare scenario has always been something like a cement truck going too close to the edge and ending up on its side in the farmhouse garden. So just to be safe, we ordered 180 tons of local stone dumped over the edge, to shore things up a bit like you would with a railway track. We lose a little bit of garden at the base, but it was a dark soggy area anyway. Personally I quite like the new look. (I also like ordering 180 tons of something — never gets old.)

Driveway reinforcement

Driveway reinforcement.

 

The furniture update

Quick disclaimer: we are not as close to being finished as some of these photos make it look. But we are getting closer!

Shortly we’ll have to decide which online booking sites we’re going to use. And we’ll need to make our listings look as good as possible. We could take bookings right now for, say, April 2017, but one problem is all our photos (for obvious reasons) make the place look like a building site. With this in mind, some friends had a great idea: why not borrow some furniture and take a few photos that show how things are going to look in a few months time when we’re actually ready for guests?

 

Sun lounges by the pool

Sun lounges by the pool

So we did. The furniture came from a few different places. We concentrated mostly on getting the pool area and the interior of room two to look good. Big thanks to Sirem’s mum Nadire, her sister Çisem, and her cousin Mevlüde for all the work on the beautiful quilt for the bed.

Interior with bed

Interior with bed. (That’s the bathroom door on the left, but sadly the bathroom was in no state to be photographed yet.)

Interior with door

Interior with column and front door.

Interior with sofa

Interior with sofa.

You’ve probably spotted the lack of floor tiles by now but hopefully we got away with it. The raw concrete slab doesn’t look great but I’d like to think it doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the decor.

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

It was good to put some real tables and chairs into the cafe: very reassuring to see that seating sixteen or twenty people in the dining area is completely realistic. Although we expect most people will want to sit outside on the terrace in the summer, it’s good to have seating space for cold or rainy days.

Cafe dining area

Cafe dining area

Originally it was just going to be a door and a sort-of serving hatch connecting the kitchen with the cafe, but that looked like a missed opportunity to have a proper bar. Years of visiting British pubs must have unconsciously left a mark as we seem to have reproduced one.

We have accidentally built a pub.

We have accidentally built a pub.

That thing just to the right of the bar, on the wall near the light switches, is our straw bale “truth window”. The idea is to leave a window opening in the interior plaster so people can see that there really are straw bales inside the wall. I didn’t quite get this convention at first, but now that we have seen the bales disappear from view, I understand why everyone does it.

Straw bale "truth window".

Straw bale “truth window”.

Garden doing OK.

Garden doing OK.

We were happy with the furnished photos but of course the furniture all had to be given back to the people we borrowed it from and building work had to go on. One big job recently has been putting insulation into the ceiling, between rafters, and then concealing it with interlocking wooden planks. I had been a bit worried that an all-timber ceiling might make the room look a bit like the inside of a sauna, but I’m happy with the result. See what you think.

Insulation and timber paneling going on the ceiling.

Looking straight up at insulation and timber paneling going between the rafters.

Night-time shot of the new ceiling.

A shot of the new ceiling.

No point having windows unless you eventually put some glass in them, and thus we contacted a local glass factory with good prices on double glazing. The only downside was they don’t deliver, so we had to lay all that glass in the back of the truck, wrapped in blankets and bubble wrap, and drive home very carefully. Nothing broke — yay!

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Right, and in conclusion: I would write more but the truth is I need to sleep so I can get up in the morning and build more things. Here’s your animal photo as required by popular demand (something a bit different today).

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

And I am going to keep posting photos of that mountain until I feel I have got the definitive one. Quite happy with this shot though as it makes it look like we live a few kilometres from Mount Doom.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block. (Zoomable full-size version here.)

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