Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: daily life

Big day tomorrow

Tomorrow is a big milestone for us.  At 8am the excavator will arrive and ground will finally — finally! — be broken up in the orchard.  The first job is improving the driveway so that future cement trucks can make it up there without getting stuck.  And then it’s on to digging out the slab foundations and the swimming pool.  Exciting times.

So the next few blog posts will undoubtedly be full of construction stuff.  This post is the calm before the storm, if you like.  In the meantime I thought I should fill you in on what we’ve been doing as summer has turned into autumn.

We’re getting used to the seasonal cycle now.  As the hot weather starts to cool down, it’s time to dry and pickle and preserve things for winter.  Here’s a couple of photos showing how that works for tomatoes: boiled up with olive oil and salt and sealed into jars.  Great for making pasta sauce in January when there are no tomatoes in the shops.

Washing tomatoes

Washing and coring tomatoes

Storing tomatoes for the winter

Storing tomatoes for the winter

It also seemed like a good idea to get some last trips to the beach in, before the water gets too cold for swimming.  This shot was taken on the road to the national park, just coming up on Guzelçamlı with Mount Mycale in the background.

The road to the beach

The road to the beach

And this one is a few hours later, on the way home, looking back at the sunset.  Those hills on the right are actually the Greek island of Samos.

Dilek National Park at sunset

Dilek National Park at sunset

We’re still getting warm days with high temperatures between 25 and 30, but the summer drought has broken and the rain is starting to come a few millimetres at a time.  Here’s a sun shower we had one afternoon — the photo is looking out to the west, across our neighbour’s back garden.

Sun shower over next-door's house

Sun shower over next-door’s house

Our friend Carol came to stay for a week at the end of September, and this was of course an excuse to visit our favourite tourist spots again.  Şirince is always good for a lazy lunch and a walk around town.  I feel as though I have photographed the place to death on previous trips, so this time I tried to get a sense of the colours and textures in the souvenir shops and market stalls.

Jewellery and souvenirs

Jewellery and souvenirs

Lamps

Lamps

Olive oil

Olive oil

Silk scarves

Silk scarves

Carol flew out of Bodrum/Milas airport on a late-night flight, so we all drove down to Bodrum in the early evening to look around and have dinner beforehand.  I’m not sure that my pictures do it justice, but Bodrum (Halicarnassus in classical times) is lovely.  Development has been kept reasonable with a no-buildings-over-three-storeys rule.  Fantastic harbour.

Bodrum by night

Bodrum by night

Shop in Bodrum

Shop in Bodrum

Genuine fake watches

Genuine fake watches

Anyone who has been reading the news will not be surprised to hear that we saw quite a few Syrian refugees sleeping rough on the Bodrum waterfront.  Presumably they were looking for a boat to one of the Greek islands.  (No pictures as it seemed like the last thing they needed was a camera in their faces.)  A very sad situation that looks as though it may go on for a long time.

While we’ve been waiting for the work to start up in the orchard, it hasn’t all been swanning around the countryside and taking photos, honest.  We’ve also been doing the last of the jobs down here in the farmhouse.  With the help of our neighbour John, I learned to weld (read: “John decided that I was going to learn to weld whether I liked it or not.”)  Here’s my first welding project: a little stand to stop an old amphora from rolling across the courtyard.

First welding project

First welding project

We built another new door, this time for our bedroom.  (Note the inevitable cat flap.)

Another door

Another door, under construction

And we carried in a pallet and a half of bricks that will be used to build a raised bed and a retaining wall in the garden.

Bricks for raised bed and retaining wall

Bricks for raised bed and retaining wall

Thanks for reading.

Harvesting olives for Christmas

Winter is really here now, and with it has come the rain. Christmas has come and gone. We hope you are all having a relaxing break, wherever you are. We plan to give ourselves the next few days off, but right up until Christmas Eve we’ve been busy with the olive harvest, and also painting and tiling one more bedroom in time for a visit from Sirem’s dad.

Winter sunset looking towards Mount Mycale.

Winter sunset looking towards Mount Mycale.

Every month I learn something new about Mediterranean agriculture. Previously, I had no idea olives were harvested so late in the year. Apparently it’s all about leaving them on the tree for long enough to produce a lot of oil, but not leaving them so long that they start to fall off. From early December onwards, all the hillsides around the village are dotted with the white nylon sheets used to catch the olives when the trees are beaten with sticks.

Olives on the tree.

Olives on the tree.

We have about 15 trees, which is not many by local standards. But being non-experts, we decided to get some professional help in anyway. Thanks to Mustafa and Leyla we got our olives down from the trees in a single (long, tiring, back-breaking) day. And then another day to sort them and get them all into sacks.

Freshly harvested olives.

Freshly harvested olives.

Sirem choosing the biggest and best olives for eating: the rest become olive oil.

Sirem choosing the biggest and best olives for eating: the rest become olive oil.

I couldn’t believe that only 15 trees produced about 350 kg of olives. We can’t possibly eat that many, so most of them are going to be pressed into olive oil at one of the local processing plants. It takes about 5 kg of olives to make one litre of oil, which means we should be set up for olive oil for the foreseeable future.

Most of our olive harvest (a few more sacks added later).

Most of our olive harvest (a few more sacks added later).

The biggest and juiciest olives are put aside for eating, but you have to pick them out manually and that takes some time. Right now our best olives have been washed and salted and are sitting in sacks under the weight of some bricks: it will take a month or more before they’re ready to eat. We know they’re going to taste good though, because we’ve already tried some early-harvest olives we picked a few weeks back.

Here's some we made earlier: pressed, salted olives in oil and oregano.

Here’s some we made earlier: pressed, salted olives in oil and oregano.

We also made time for a trip to the nursery. We love our orchard, but we don’t want to grow only figs and olives up there. We bought all sorts of things: a cherry tree, some oleander bushes and trees, different kinds of cypresses, a bay tree, rosemary, lavender, and more. Currently they’re all sitting in pots in the courtyard, but we need to get them into the ground and start the long job of landscaping what we hope will be a wonderful garden some day.

A selection of trees and shrubs.

A selection of trees and shrubs.

I’m in two minds about mentioning our progress on the kitchen, because I’m a bit embarrassed about how long it’s all taking. But things are progressing and we will get there eventually. We’re very proud of having made our own drawers, and people who’ve visited us already will know how much of a big deal it was to finally have a sink in the kitchen.

Drawers! Actual working drawers!

Drawers! Actual working drawers!

Our long-awaited kitchen sink.

Our long-awaited kitchen sink. (Ignore the worktop: that’s just plywood and will get tiled soon.)

Christmas Eve was exhausting, because we had to grout the new tiles in the oldest bedroom before Sirem’s dad arrived on the 25th. This came after a day of olive harvesting, of course. It was worth it, because now we have another warm and welcoming bedroom — but we don’t want to do it again in a hurry. It was nice to relax by the fire on Christmas Day, watching our dinner cook in the coals, and enjoying a few glasses of distinctively named Turkish wine.

Christmas dinner cooking in a clay oven.

Christmas dinner cooking in a clay oven.

Cheers!

Cheers!

What have we really been doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping in Germencik

Shopping in Germencik

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of our better figs.

One of our better figs.

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

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

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

Security grille and fly screen for the kitchen.

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

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

The shed after my amateur demolition.

The shed after my amateur demolition.

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

"Nobody ever gave me a house before!"

“Nobody ever gave me a house before!”

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

Grasshopper is ready for his close-up now.

Grasshopper is ready for his close-up now.

 

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