Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: dogs (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

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.

Roof started, bales arriving

There will be no food photos, look-at-this-sunset photos, or archaeology photos in this post. (Apologies if any of those are your thing.) Around here lately it’s all construction, all the time.

There will of course be some cat and dog photos. I am not a monster.

Main beam going up

One section of the main beam in place

Previously we showed you the central spine of the building: a series of beams, sitting up on columns, that help to hold up the roof. These beams and posts were only half the story though. Another series of even bigger beams has to go up on top of the first one in order to form the ridge of the roof.  The longest section is about 5.5 metres long, and getting all that wood up there was probably the toughest and scariest job we’ve done so far.

Rainbows on a cloudy day

Main beam complete, plus a rare summer storm with rainbows

In the second photo you can see how the ridge beam looked once it was secured in place. You can also see that we get the occasional dramatic summer storm.

And from another angle it’s clear how close the building is to the pool. We’re hoping that will turn out to be a good thing as the roof itself, with its wide eaves, will provide some much-needed shade on the pool terrace in the late afternoons.

Ready for rafters

Sirem and Koray taking a break by the pool; ridge beam in the background

With the ridge beam up we were ready to start work on the roof, which meant a final big timber delivery. Here’s a stack of six-metre planks ready to be used as rafters.

Rafters delivered

Rafters delivered

The rafters need diagonal cuts on each end to get them to the right length, plus a “bird’s mouth” cut to make sure they sit nicely on the top rail of the wall framing. We’ve also been sanding the bits that are going to remain visible once the insulation and the ceiling panels go in — it would be a shame to hide all that nice wood behind a plain white ceiling.

First rafters up

Evening shot of the first few rafters installed

Coming together

The roof structure starting to take shape

Cezmi approves

Of course Cezmi went up on the roof to inspect it

The roof isn’t finished yet, but it’s already made a big difference to the site.  Even a partial roof provides a lot of shade and the rising summer temperatures are easier to bear now we can get out of the sun.  The cats and dogs have noticed this too and are hanging around even more than usual.

Zeytin is always helpful

Zeytin is always helpful

Cezmi continues his supervisory role

Cezmi takes a break from his supervisory role

Tea break

Tea breaks are much more pleasant in the shade

It’s harvest time for wheat farmers in the area, so we’ve been buying straw bales while they’re cheap.  So far we’re paying 9 lira, or about £2.15 per bale, delivered. (Apparently if you leave it too late in the year, the price goes up quite a lot.)  The first batch was 80 bales that came up on the back of a tractor trailer, but we’re going to need about 500 in total for the building.  And another 500 later for buildings two and three, but that’s a future problem.

Straw bales arriving

Straw bales arriving

For now we’re storing the bales in what will one day be the cafe kitchen.  You can see some ceiling joists in the top of the shot, as the kitchen will have a little storage loft above it.

Straw bales stored in the kitchen

Straw bales stored in the kitchen

Here’s a view from inside the cafe area, looking over at the doorway to the kitchen. Those two interior window structures on the right will eventually become the bar (a very important feature).

The bar

Looking across at the bales via the kitchen door and the bar

Sookie, mother of kittens, has taken to disappearing on mysterious multi-day journeys now that the weather is warm. She decided that sleeping on straw bales was a good enough reason to come home though. It’s always a relief to see her back safely.

Sookie returns

Sookie returns

We decided on old-school wooden planks over OSB or plywood for the roof.  One reason is that real wood will hold up better if there is ever a leak. Another is that sections like the verandah roof and under the eaves (where there won’t be any insulation or ceiling panels) will look a lot nicer in real wood. And the cost worked out about the same as OSB anyway.

Roof planks going on

Roof planks going on

View from the pool

Another view from the pool area

After all the rafters and planks are up, the next steps are gutters, waterproof membrane, and ceramic tiles, in that order. Then we can get to the fun part of stacking those straw bale walls.

Deliveries

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

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

Bricks

Bricks

Steel

Steel

Timber

Timber

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

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

Some of the planned landscaping around the pool.

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

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

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

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

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

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

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

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

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

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

Here's one I made earlier: drain cover

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

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

The first two guest bathrooms laid out with bricks

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

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

Pool terrace railings under construction

Pool terrace railings under construction

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

Sirem getting in on the welding action.

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

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

Plaster testing: three coats of mud plaster

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

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

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

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

What the pool looks like now

What the pool looks like now

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

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour's garden

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour’s garden

Zeliş relaxing

Zeliş relaxing

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Cats, dogs, welding, and other delights

Greetings and salutations.

So, construction continues, but slowed down a bit by the winter rains.  And we’ve had some cold, grey days just recently, so here are a couple of photos from late last summer to warm things up.

Dilek national park, just opposite the Greek island of Samos.

Dilek national park, just opposite the Greek island of Samos.

Lifeguard's tower at the beach.

Lifeguard’s tower at the beach.

The foundations are done, and the pool is done except for being cleaned out and filled up.  It’s really the final few things now before timber framing starts in earnest (yes, I know I said that last time).  We’re just sorting out some drainage issues (e.g., where should all the rainwater go when there’s a big downpour?) and getting power and phone connections up to the slabs.

Sirem talks to the builder.  That blank wall is the edge of the pool's sun terrace, and the dark doorway on the left is how you get to the filter room.

Sirem talks to the builder. That blank wall supports a big terrace area next to the pool, and the dark doorway on the left is the way into the machine room where the pool filter and pump live.

Pool from above, showing the surrounding terrace.

Pool on a much greyer day, showing the surrounding terrace and the view.  Right now it’s an infinity pool, but we will partly spoil that by putting a building in the way.

The dogs check out the new tiles.

The dogs check out the new tiles.

Pool is done but needs a good clean.

Pool is done but needs a good clean.

Services all going into one big trench.

Services all going into one big trench.

Another in-progress job is sorting out a retaining wall for the bank of earth on the left side of the driveway.

Concrete laid on the side of the driveway, forming fa base for the stone retaining wall and a storm-water drain channel.

Concrete laid on the side of the driveway, forming both a base for a stone retaining wall and a storm-water drain channel.

34 tons of rocks to make a wall.

34 tons of rocks to make a wall.  We have to do it now, too, or we can’t get up the driveway.

What else?  We’ve had a re-think about the order in which to build everything: the new plan is to start at the bottom of the hill and work up.  So the first building will be the biggest one: the cafeteria and kitchen along with rooms one and two.  We figure this will make it possible to open for business before all three buildings are finished.  We can do the landscaping as we work our way up the hill, and use some kind of screen to hide the active construction from our first guests.   With luck, we could have people staying for real by late summer.

With that in mind, this is the view you would get if you walked out onto the verandah of room one.

View looking out over the neighbouring olive groves.

View looking out over the neighbouring olive groves.

Our little menagerie keeps us as busy as ever.

Front to back: Coco, Panini, and Pablo.

Front to back: Coco, Panini, and Pablo.

We had a big scare recently when Pablo, the black-and-white kitten, tried to poison himself by eating an especially dodgy mouse, but thankfully he pulled through.  Lost a bit of weight though.  This is him milking his illness for all it was worth.

Pablo convalescing.

Pablo convalescing.

And in our animals’ defence, they do try to be helpful when we’re working on the site.  Zeliş and Zeytin in particular are very sociable and like to park themselves in a comfortable patch of dirt and watch people work.

Zeliş notices something alarming.

Zeliş notices something alarming.

 

I’ve been pushing my welding skills a bit further.  The power to join two arbitrary bits of steel together has opened up lots of possibilities for future interior and exterior decor.  Here’s a simple little practice project I did last week…

Over-sized coat hook set (welded steel attached to wooden board).

Over-sized coat hook set (welded steel attached to wooden board).

I also started work on a metal security door for the pool’s machine room, but our plumber, Koray, took pity on my amateur skill level and offered to help out.  I say “offered to help out” but really it was more along the lines of “what are you doing?! you’re ruining it!  give me that!”  Great guy though, and helping him build the door has been very educational.

Koray in action.

Koray in action, welding a steel door and frame.

The barn has been cleaned up a bit and features a new home-made workbench.  The size and weight of the thing are probably overkill but I needed something heavy and solid to attach a vice to.

The barn looking as neat as it's ever likely to.

The barn looking as neat as it’s ever likely to.

Seeing as I am about to become a very busy carpenter, I also put together a handy little drill storage board, as suggested by a friend (thanks, John).  Getting a photo of it proved to be a bit trickier than expected though.

Panini, do you mind?  I was trying to take a picture of that thing behind you.

Panini, do you mind? I was trying to take a picture of that thing behind you.

Panini, please!

Panini, please!

You guys...

You guys…

Finally: drills.  It's not rocket science, but it's very convenient.

Finally: drill bit storage. It’s not rocket science, but it’s very convenient.

And last but not least, something we don’t do very often: a photo of the two of us.

I should really get a haircut...

I should really get a haircut…

Construction update

And now a quick set of long-overdue photos of the ongoing construction work.  I know I should have posted something weeks ago, but every time I was about to put some pictures up, I was tempted to wait for just one more development!

Our builders have done a great job.  They’re nearly finished, and soon it will be up to us to get some timber frames happening.

The concrete foundation slabs went down in four stages: first a rough layer of concrete directly onto the ground.  That makes a base for reinforced concrete beams that will go under the load-bearing walls .

Formwork for the concrete beams that will end up under the heavily loaded parts of the slab.

Formwork for the beams that will end up under the heavily loaded parts of the slab.

Lots of steel reinforcement going in.

Lots of steel reinforcement going in.

The slabs were big enough that it wasn’t possible just to dump concrete directly from the truck, so the pumping truck was called in as well for most of the pours.

Fortunately, concrete trucks get up our new driveway without too much trouble.

Luckily, concrete trucks can get up our new driveway without too much trouble.

Pump for pouring the concrete into the formwork.

Giant pumping truck for getting the concrete into the formwork.

The third stage was to dump heavy railway gravel into the gaps between the concrete support beams: this sets up a good base for the finished slab .  The gravel truck deliveries were dramatic, and the driver did well to get the truck into every corner where stone was needed.

About 30 tons of gravel arriving.

About 30 tons of railway-grade gravel arriving.

Gravel used as fill for under the slabs.

Gravel used as fill for under the slabs, and plumbing laid in.  Ready for the final pour.

Meanwhile our animal comrades have become very interested in the building process.

Zeytin approves of the work.

Zeytin approves of the work.

A range of different animals have been up to check things out.

Inspectors both large and small have been up to check things out during the night.

Sirem in particular has been really busy acting as site foreman, but we’ve also made time for a few other jobs.  Some neighbours invited us to harvest their pomegranate tree (long story).  It took longer than we thought — lots of standing up a ladder and getting scratched.  But the pomegranates are fantastic and make a disturbingly healthy-looking juice.

Pomegranates stored for winter.

Pomegranates stored for winter: if you hang them up with string so they’re not touching each other, they last much longer.

Ridiculously good for you.

Look at that vitamin C.  You could reach out and touch it.

We also put the finishing touches on our hügelkultur raised bed, which should make for lots of good vegetable options next spring.

Raised bed in the farmhouse garden is finally done.

Raised bed finally done.

And with colder nights coming in, I thought I had better build one more dog house for Tito (the dog who is not really our dog but just a stray who lives outside our gate and gets fed by us a lot).

Tito (who is not really our dog, he just lives on the street outside our place) get his own house.

Tito (who is not really our dog) gets his own house.  He is moving his head to make his face blurry which is part of his anti-paparazzi strategy.

The final part of the concrete work was pouring the 15cm-thick top slabs that will become the floor of each building.  The plumbing all seems to be in the right place so far.

Slabs all complete now.

Slabs all complete now (view from the top of the block).

And the swimming pool.  We know that in summer, life will centre around the pool for our guests, so we’re keen to do it right.  And the builders have been  fantastic.  (We’re happy to recommend them, if any Turkish readers are thinking about getting a pool built.)

Pool looking good.

Pool concrete looking good and being waterproofed.

Rounded steps in the south-east corner.

Rounded steps under construction in the south-east corner.

Tiles going in, and part of the deck area taking shape.

Tiles going in, and part of the pool terrace area taking shape.

Finally a couple of sunset photos so you can see what the winter light is looking like now.

Sunset with boots.

Sunset with work boots.

Winter sunset view from what will one day be the cafe terrace.

Winter sunset view (from what will one day be the cafe terrace).

 

 

Winter brings more animals

It’s February already. How did that happen?

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

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

Meet Zeliş, our new dog.

Meet Zeliş, our new dog.

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

Zeytin and Zeliş at play.

Zeytin and Zeliş at play.

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

Sirem with Zeliş. Dogs love hugs.

Sirem with Zeliş. Dogs love hugs.

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

Sookie the kitten.

Sookie the kitten. Could you reject this animal?

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

Sookie yawning.

Sookie yawning.

Sookie stretching.

Sookie stretching.

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

Sam looking all grown-up and handsome.

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

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

Sookie's other nephew Sezar looking intrepid.

Sookie’s other nephew Sezar looking intrepid.

Donkey is feeling a bit morose.

Donkey is feeling a bit morose.

We’ve also adopted a donkey!

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

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

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

Our new letterbox.

Our new letterbox.

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

Winter sun at the beach with Çisem.

Winter sun at the beach with Çisem.

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

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

Sunset in Kuşadası.

Sunset in Kuşadası.

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

The Temple of Apollo.

The Temple of Apollo.

It must have been spectacular in its day...

It must have been spectacular in its day…

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