Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: cats (page 1 of 3)

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!

Spring is coming

Winter is just about over. It’s been very wet but, thankfully for the animals of the village, not especially cold. And now there are definite signs of spring in the air — here are a couple of shots to prove it.

Misty morning landscape.

White flowers under the olive trees.

(These were taken only about a hundred metres from our new house: a short walk through the neighbour’s olives and you reach the crest of the ridge, opening up a lovely view to the east.)

We were surprised and happy to get more guests than we thought we would during the coldest part of the year. So a big thank you to all of our recent visitors. One couple was especially patient and helped us get some much-needed photos of breakfast in the cafe.

Breakfast from above.

And from the side!

A new friendlier look for the cafe: some posters and a blue-grey feature wall.

We have also managed to get some work done. The goal is still to get rooms three and four open as soon as we possibly can, hopefully in time for this summer. The roof structure is done, the waterproof membrane is on, and we’ve had some guys out to install the gutters. Tiles are being hauled up onto the roof as we speak and soon it will be time to get on with the straw-bale walls and the interior.

Roof ready for tiles.

Tile laying proceeding.

We’re really pleased with how well the pool pavilion is going to fit in with building two, as you can see in the next photo. That green mesh sunshade (on the back of the pavilion) is quite handy at the moment for making the pool area feel like less of a building site. But at some not-too-distant point in the future it will come down so we can plaster the wall behind.

Pool pavilion will end up looking like part of building two.

The new roof on building two makes it a great work space when it rains. So on days when it would have been too dangerous to go up on the slippery roof membrane, we knocked together two more picnic tables for the terrace. They just need to be painted and they’re ready for guests. The terrace is going to look a lot more hospitable having three tables instead of one.

Another picnic table getting painted.

Between guests and construction work we didn’t get a ton of time for animal photos this month, but I did manage one nice one of Lara in her new role as masked vigilante.

“Who are you?”
“I’m Batcat.”

See you next time!

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).

 

Booking dot com, cafe, cupboard, and cats

We’ve known for a long time that only being listed on Airbnb was probably foolish on our part and meant we were not reaching some potential customers. So we have finally gotten our act together and listed our place on booking.com.  Let’s see whether or not they send us a flood of new guests: time will tell.

One side effect of putting up a listing on a second booking site was that we needed to take some fresh photos to make sure we’re showing the place at its best. Here’s a shot of the main building from the driveway: leaves are falling from the fig trees but at least it’s still sunny.

Main entrance.

And another photo we really liked, that shows the connection between the rooms and the garden.

View from room two looking out at the olive grove.

For the same reason, we have at last set the cafe area up to properly look like a cafe. It’s crying out for a few more decorations to brighten up the place (posters on the walls, that sort of thing) but in general we’re pleased with how it’s coming together. Turns out we can seat about 20 people quite comfortably.

Cafe.

Looking back at the bar and reception area.

Spot the Christmas lights!

The cafe kitchen is done; I think the only thing left to do is to bring up the fridge from the old farmhouse so we can maximize our fridge space up here. The skeletal food cupboard you saw last time now has walls and doors and shelves and holds a ridiculous amount of food. And the loft has a real staircase so we can take the aluminium ladder outside and use it for more appropriate things.

Loft stairs and new pantry cupboard.

Every home needs one of these.

Some of the usual suspects have asked for more photos of our menagerie of animals. I do try to take these shots, I really do, but my camera is slow at auto-focusing, so with our high-energy demonic cats you should know that most of the photos come out like this…

Picasso cat! (Can you guess which one it is?)

Still, occasionally you will get a more narcissistic cat that behaves him or her-self and sits still long enough for a good photo.

Panini. With bonus purple disinfectant from a small operation after a fight went badly for him.

On the outdoor work front, the bricklaying is progressing well and you can now see where the fireplace, chimney, stairs, etc., will be in our new house.

Complicated pile of bricks that will one day be fireplace, thermal mass blob, and stairs.

And in fact the timber framing on building two has started as well, but no photos yet unfortunately. The goal is to get rooms three and four online as soon as we possibly can.

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.

The slow transition from construction site to actual working hotel…

We’ve been quiet for too long; our apologies. These days we are busy with building stuff, as ever, but sometimes also with guests. Which is new and welcome territory for us. So first, a big thank-you to all the friends and family who have been bold enough to take a chance on us. We hope, obviously, that you all went home and told your friends what a fabulous time you had, and that we will see you again soon.

We’ve tried to keep everyone happy, and I hope we’re succeeding. For example, here’s our attempt at a breakfast for some vegan guests. Once you rule out eggs and cheese, we were worried we’d have nothing to feed them, but in fact Turkish food gives you a lot of options with salads, vegetables, pastries, and fruit.

The vegan breakfast option.

Sadly we have nothing new to tell you about when our episode of “Our Dream Hotel” is going to screen. Channel 5 moves in mysterious ways, it seems. I suppose it’s been a sobering reminder: we’ve probably put too much stock in the TV show as our one big “we’re here!” message to the outside world. There are many other things we can and should be doing to publicize ourselves (Google Maps, Trip Advisor, booking.com, etc.) so we need to be getting on with those. Channel 5 will show the episode eventually and it will be a nice bonus when it happens, but we’ve given up trying to predict when. Of course when it finally does air, we will be sure to let everyone know.

The big new structural addition is that we finally finished our pavilion by the pool. This was sorely needed as a way to provide some shade. The pool is great, but in the middle of a summer day the poolside terrace was very exposed. Now there’s somewhere cool and breezy to sit. And it’s so nice to see the end of those red bricks in favour of limewashed, rendered walls.

New pavilion by the pool. Building #2 will sit directly behind.

Cozy spot for summer evenings; lights of the village in the background.

There is a downside though. As it gets to late afternoon, the sun streams in from the west and the shade is lost. So we’ve tried to buy a few more hours with some white curtains on the front of the structure. We also like the look of them even when they’re open: they make it feel like a good spot for some decadent lounging around while being fed individual grapes.

Both sets of curtains in place.

The last remaining work to do on the main building is the cafe’s kitchen. On the left of this first shot you can see the bar, and beyond that there’ll be ladder-stairs to the loft, a big pantry, and a couple of fridges. On the right there’s a worktop extending pretty much the length of the room. We managed to get hold of a reasonably priced restaurant-style double sink that’s perfect for big pots and pans.

Kitchen worktops and cupboards under construction.

We did consider using a shop-bought worktop, laminated particle-board or whatever, but we couldn’t find one wide enough in a style we liked. (Our cupboards are a full 60cm deep and we like a bit of overlap at the front, and thus we needed something about 63cm wide.) So we’re doing the same thing we did in the old farmhouse kitchen and going with a tiled solution. It’s built up in layers: first 18mm plywood, then cement board, and finally tile adhesive and tiles. Nice advantage of this method is you can put hot things on it directly without any worries, but it does take a bit longer to install.

Sirem and Çisem putting up splashback tiles.

The terrace outside the cafe is nearly there. For now the surface is raked gravel: we were thinking of installing the same type of paving stones as on the driveway, but we thought it might feel like too big a paved area. So it’s gravel plus as many planter boxes as possible (still to come) to make it all feel a bit greener and more welcoming.

Terrace overview shot; disabled access ramp just visible on the far left.

We’ll have normal tables and chairs inside the cafe but the terrace will be picnic tables — to start with, at least. Think of it like a pub beer garden.  We’ve made a single prototype picnic table so far, just to get those critical seat-to-table distances right. Need to churn out a few more though.

First picnic table.

The cafe bathrooms are tucked around the side of the veranda so nobody ever has to sit at that terrible table near the loo. We’ve shown off the doors in previous posts; here they are mounted properly at last.

Cafe bathrooms ready for use.

And finally the main entrance to the cafe. We’ve had to prune that fig tree a little to keep it away from the roof, but we hope that in the years to come it fills out again and provides some nice shade over the steps.

Entrance to the cafe.

The gardens are doing well. For a long time we were watering them by hand, which took up a lot of time in the evenings. But now the drip-feed irrigation system is in and the plants are much happier.

Gardens looking healthy after a hot, dry summer.

Garden close-up #1

Garden close-up #2

Speaking of water, another bit of construction we did recently was getting two 10,000-litre water tanks in. They’re sitting right at the top corner of the block, in a spot that will one day be outside our bedroom window. One tank is mains water, equipped with a pump so we can keep good pressure in our system when multiple guests have showers at once. The other tank is grey water for irrigating the garden. Ultimately we’ll send water from the roof of our house into this second tank.

New water tanks.

And finally we can’t forget the animal photos now can we? Here’s a shot of Tito looking serious and dignified in his role as cafe watchdog.

Tito.

New kittens are the last thing we needed, but for better or for worse we have them. We found both of them on the street within a couple of days of each other so we think they might be sisters from the same litter. Lucy was hiding out in the local olive factory but crying a lot and took three days of convincing (i.e., milk and biscuits left at the gate) before she decided I was a trustworthy parental substitute. Lara on the other hand appeared at our kitchen window one night and took about three minutes to get herself adopted.

Lucy. Highly-strung but getting more relaxed every day.

Lara. Could you say no to this face?

I’m glad there are two of them because new kittens never seem to be very popular with the older cats (all generations of cats are the “me” generation) and this way they at least have each other to wrestle with.

Fight training begins.

TV show delay

This isn’t a proper update; it’s really just a quick word of apology to our readers in the UK to let them know that our episode of “Our Dream Hotel” won’t be going out on Tuesday 27th June after all. We’re really sorry about that.

The series is three episodes in at the moment, and we were due to be next week’s episode. However, Channel 5 have decided to juggle their schedule around a bit and it looks like they’re going to be inserting a new six-week series of “The Hotel Inspector with Alex Polizzi” at the Tuesday 9pm time-slot. We’re not quite sure of the reasoning but it’s their schedule to adjust of course. We think it’s likely that our episode will therefore be delayed by six weeks, which would move it to the 8th of August. However that date is just a guess on our part and we’ll certainly let you all know when we know more.

To anyone who was looking forward to watching it, apologies. But please don’t worry: we’re sure it will screen eventually. Apparently the ratings are quite good and the three hotels already featured had a rush of bookings after each of their episodes went out — music to our increasingly broke ears!

In the meantime we’re rushing to finish the cafe, the kitchen, and the terrace area. Here are some progress photos to tide you over, plus a couple of cat pics to stop certain people from complaining. And we hope to bring you more specific news about a date soon.

Small retaining walls define different areas on the terrace. (Really wanted to respect the existing slope rather than impose one big flat area.)

Cafe area is now tiled, so the doors can go up shortly.

Kitchen is ready for benches, ovens, fridges, etc.

Coco in his boudoir.

Pablo showing his excellent table manners.

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.

 

A roof and some walls

So, we had a coup. An attempted one, anyway. Thank you to the many friends and family members who checked in to see whether we were OK at the time. It was a scary and confusing 24 hours of news coverage. But for us that’s all it was: a day of watching TV and browsing the web, trying to figure out what was going on. At times like that it’s nice to live in a small town far from significant buildings and infrastructure.

It was a sad day for Turkey, with around 250 people killed. And in the aftermath a lot of young soldiers are potentially facing long jail sentences, while many people have lost their jobs for alleged links to the shadowy Gülenist movement. All of this comes on top of the ongoing troubles in the southeast of the country, a terrorist attack at Istanbul airport, and so on. Interesting times indeed.

Of course we hope that the situation will improve. But there’s not a great deal we can do about it on a personal level, and the truth is it hasn’t affected day-to-day life around here at all. So we have just been pushing on with construction work as usual.

A big recent milestone for us was getting the roof completely covered with wooden planks. (The planks are there to support the waterproof membrane and the roof tiles, both still to come.)  As you can see in some of the photos below, the planks shrink a little after being nailed down, so there are some gaps that let light through. But it still feels much more like a building now that it has a covered roof.

Koray working on the roof.

Koray sawing planks on the roof.

Verandah coming together.

Verandah coming together.

Roof planks completed.

Roof planks completed.

The pool has been a lifesaver, making working through the hot days of summer much more bearable. Which I guess is a good sign of its future popularity. One of our little pleasures is a drink by the pool in the evenings. The water is so warm that you don’t really want to get out.

Evening drinks by the pool.

Evening drinks by the pool.

The roof at night; lights of Germencik in the background.

The new roof at night; lights of Germencik in the background.

And now a photo of me looking grumpy in the heat.  (Sirem insisted that I include it.) It looks like I should probably go for a swim and cheer up.

Portrait in 40 degree heat.

Portrait at 40 degrees C.

In parallel with the roof work, we’ve been building up the straw bale walls. It’s a mixed bag of a job: sometimes it’s easy and fast, like when you have a long run where you can use whole bales. But then you get to a fiddly bit in the corner or between two windows, and there’s a lot of splitting and re-tying the bales, which can get tedious. And especially when you have to lift bales up above your head for the higher sections, you end up wearing and breathing a lot of straw which is not the nicest feeling in the world. On the plus side, you do get to play with the chainsaw, which is essential for carving the bales so they fit neatly around the building’s wooden frame.

Straw bale interior.

Straw bale interior.

Essential equipment for shaping bales.

Essential equipment for shaping bales.

Roof from inside, with ceiling test panel.

Roof from inside. The white part is a test for one of our ceiling ideas: going to need something to hide all the insulation between the rafters.

There was one final part of the structure that we’d been putting off for a while: an overhanging verandah for the cafe area at the west end of the building. It’s mostly done now. There were a few steps involved: concrete bases for big 15cm x 15cm columns, getting the support beam up on top of the columns, then getting the 5-metre rafters up. That’s where we are in the “after” photo below. And still to come are planks, guttering, waterproofing, and tiles, just like the rest of the roof.

Front of the cafe area.

Before photo: the front of the cafe area.

And now with added verandah rafters.

After photo: the verandah will add shade for plenty of outside tables.

It’s no surprise that summer has brought more visitors than winter did. Some weeks back we hosted Elisabeth and Max, some friends from Germany via Southampton. They got very involved in the construction work and we’re grateful for their help. Elisabeth and Max (and some co-conspirators; looking at you, Alex) also have a fine tradition of candid photography that truly captures the modern, relaxed German style. So who were we to refuse them?

German efficiency.

German efficiency.

The next batch of visitors were my mum and dad, Diane and Barry. They were last here exactly a year ago, when nothing had happened yet up in the orchard. (And previously they were our very first visitors, a year before that.)  So, once more, it was great to see our recent progress through their eyes. Dad especially got involved in the building work, and mum played an important pool-testing role. We really appreciate their help.

Mum and Dad visiting.

Mum and Dad visiting, checking out their soon-to-be-favourite area of the cafe.

Animal lovers, you thought I had forgotten you, didn’t you? Not a chance. Apologies that it always seems to be the same animals in these photos: it happens because some of them have pre-emptively adopted the building site as their new home, while others live down in the old farmhouse and thus keep away from the cameras.

Cat.

Sookie being sweet, in between psychotic episodes.

Dog.

Tito feeling a bit tired and sorry for himself on a hot day.

We were originally expecting our roof tiles several weeks ago, but there were delays from the supplier’s end. Apparently they needed to make a special batch just for us, because generally they don’t sell a lot of roof tiles in the middle of the summer. Apparently no-one but us is foolish enough to do roofing work in the heat. We are currently finding out just how sensible this accepted wisdom is: photos of the tiled roof to follow next time, I hope.

Roof tiles arrived at last.

Roof tiles arrived at last.

Roof with temporary plastic in case of rain (unlikely).

Roof ready for tiling. That’s a temporary plastic cover in case of rain.

Finally, we want to dedicate this post to our great friend Jesús Palomo Muñoz (1967-2016). He was a fantastic person who has left us all much too soon. We will miss him.

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