Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: dogs (page 1 of 2)

Strange days

It’s been a year since we last spoke. Apparently you’re supposed to write a post at least once a month, otherwise your blog is a ghost town… but let’s not dwell on that.

On the bright side, a lot has happened and I have plenty of photos to share. By the way, if you’re interested in far more timely updates on what we’re doing, please do have a look at Sirem’s Instagram account.

Obviously COVID-19, lockdowns, and quarantine have profoundly affected millions of people’s lives over the last few months. We hope everyone is getting through this difficult period as best they can. It must be particularly tough for those of you living in apartments with not much access to outside space. The embarrassing truth for us is that the pandemic has hardly changed our lives at all. Of course Turkey had a strict lockdown period, and we now wear a mask to go to the shops. But most of the things we do continue as before. Turns out we were already pretty socially distanced!

Swallow using our pool as a drinking bowl.

Let’s start back at last summer. Every year as it gets warmer swallows start to appear in our skies. Presumably they’ve flown up from Africa. They particularly like drinking from our pool. This year I was ready for them and lay in wait with the zoom lens. They move so fast that it’s really hard to get a good photo: for every decent shot there were dozens that were out-of-focus. This was the best one I managed.

Last summer was our busiest so far in terms of guests. (Ah, the “before times”.) Most days were spent cooking, cleaning, and looking after people, and thus construction slowed right down. Not to complain though: it was great to have some money coming in, and it’s always very satisfying to see people enjoying the place.

Dean and Nala were two guests we won’t forget in a hurry. One fine morning Dean pushed his bicycle up our steep driveway. (I knew we would get on as we were both wearing Crocs.) He then revealed Nala, his lovely cat, sitting in a basket on the handlebars. Dean is on a mission to cycle around the world, and he had found Nala as a lost roadside kitten in Bosnia that he couldn’t bear to leave behind. They’d had a tough couple of days on the road from Izmir and a couple of flat tyres in a row and I think our place was a nice break for them both.

Visit from intrepid cyclist Dean and his cat Nala.

They had a really close bond, unsurprisingly. Nala was amazingly good at travelling and sitting in the bike basket for hours on end. There was much discussion about how none of our cats would tolerate it for more than ten seconds.

Their travels have been interrupted a bit by COVID-19 and border closures, but they’re still on the road and you can see their further adventures here. I should add that Dean is a great guy and is raising a lot of money for animal charities.

Street kitten living in our old barn.

Speaking of cats, as we often do: this is a shot of a beautiful grey and white kitten who we first noticed in late summer, when we realized her mum was raising her in our old barn. We still have roughly the same number of official pets, but a lot of the local strays, especially cats, have a kind of satellite status. They know that they can always drop in for some food, basically. The little one in the photo is now fully grown and a bit wild, but definitely still around. I regret that we missed our window to catch her and take her to the vet for vaccinations and spaying.

One thing that surprised us last year was the number of times we got requests from families to set up the room for mum, dad, and two kids. We thought that maybe we should have seen that request coming and promptly built a couple of single beds on wheels. Combined with the existing sofa in each room this gives us a lot more flexibility. Also, when they’re not in use, and with some appropriate cushions added, the single beds can double as flat sun-lounges by the pool.

Room set up with an extra bed for families. Back to front: original double bed, new roll-in single bed, and sofa-that-doubles-as-a-single-bed.

Summer turned to autumn, as it tends to do. We decided to pick our olives earlier this year, so that we could try for extra-virgin olive oil, using the cold-press machinery that our local pressing plant has had installed. You get a lower yield (maybe 20% less oil?) but it does taste amazing.

Olive harvest comes around again.

And then suddenly it was winter. The weather can still be nice here all the way through November, but there’s always a day in December when it’s properly cold and you realize you have eight or ten weeks of chilly weather and frequent rain to look forward to. The cats of course respond by spending more time inside and more time lying around (if that’s possible).

Coco and Suzie on the sofa.
Cezmi in the cafe.
Our little village in winter.
Zorro looking handsome, during a break in the rain.

With guest numbers naturally tailing off as the weather got colder, it was time for us to re-assess where we stood on building the house. Here’s how it looked on the 5th of December 2019.

State of the house, 5 Dec 2019.

We had managed to get some of the rafters up, but in truth it didn’t look all that different from the way it had a year earlier. (In our defence, there’d been a lot of work to do on finishing rooms three and four in the intervening months.)

Comparison shot: state of the house, 6 Dec 2018.

One of the reasons progress was so slow was that with just Sirem, Çisem, and myself doing the work, we had to do all the heavy lifting of rafters using ropes and pulleys. That’s all fine, it works well and is safe, but it takes ages to set up the rigging in a new position. And so we would typically manage only a couple of rafters a day.

Sirem and I raising a rafter with rope and pulleys. (Thanks, JP, for the photo.)
Roof from the inside, late Dec 2019. Slow going.

So we decided we needed some help. We thought that the timber frame of the house had been exposed to the elements for long enough and it was time to get the roof on as soon as possible. We hired a couple of local guys and that worked out well. Progress was much faster.

State of the house, 2 Feb 2020. Main rafters complete, flying rafters still to go.

We also rented some proper scaffolding, as you can see in the shot above. That helped a lot in making it safer to do work at height. It’s 5.4 metres from the main roof beam down to the concrete slab, so you really don’t want to come down the hard way.

By the 24th of February it was starting to look like a proper roof. The flying rafters were up (that’s the pair that seem to “float” at the front there). All the planks were on except that we’d left a nicely framed hole for the chimney flue to go through. We’d also started building the posts for the south veranda.

State of the house, 24 Feb. This is the south end of the house and that will be the front door, to the left of the central column.

Around this time I took the camera up on the roof and got a full panorama of the view. With the extra elevation up there you can see down to Germencik and the Meander Valley beyond. I really like this shot because it’s the best way I can think of to place the house into the surrounding landscape. (The centre of the photo is north if you’re curious.)

Rooftop 360 degree panorama. Try right-clicking and opening in a new window or tab as it’s quite a large image.

Then it was time to lug rolls and rolls of bitumen membrane plus a couple of thousand tiles up onto the roof and actually do the part that keeps the rain off. Laying the tiles isn’t so bad; it’s getting them up there that’s hard.

Roof tiles are on at last: 25 Mar 2020.
From this angle you can see the veranda structure and the framing for six upstairs windows.
One day soon this will be the open-plan kitchen and lounge room.
Detail of some of the south-facing windows upstairs.
Chimney successfully installed. Got to be careful to make sure everything close to it is heat-resistant.
Google maps helping out by updating their aerial imagery to show all three buildings with a roof on.

And then at the end of March, people finally realized how serious coronavirus was and the country closed down, basically. Regrettably we had to let our two new guys go: we had hoped to give them at least a month or two of additional work. (Apologies, Recep and Murat. You worked really hard and we appreciate it.)

So the early months of 2020 were mostly about getting a roof on the house, but that doesn’t mean we did absolutely nothing else. There is always time to take photos of the dogs, for example.

Zelis being shy and adorable.
Zeytin with baskets.

I never get tired of the rich colours of winter sunsets around here. (I know, I know, I have posted similar photos before, but bear with me.)

January sunset.
Sunset with minaret.

I had a very unusual day out when I was invited to the Germencik camel wrestling festival. I’ve known about this one for a while but hadn’t seen it before. (I confess to being disappointed when I learned that the wrestling was camel vs. camel and not man-against-camel.)

So, a surprising number of local families keep camels. I think that many decades ago they were used as a proper pack animal and now they’re more of a prestige thing. You don’t see much of the camels throughout the year but in January everyone dresses their camel up in a fancy harness and takes it down to the local showground for the main event.

Two camels wrestling. Each is using its neck and shoulders to try to force the other one to the ground.

I’m not 100% sure how I feel about this one. Clearly it’s a big thing on the local calendar, and it was nice to see some of our neighbours getting a rare opportunity to socialize and drink rakı and watch some wrestling. It’s not quite clear how the camels feel about it. They seem to lead a very quiet life for the rest of the year so perhaps they’re up for a bit of aggro. And to be fair, they’re seen as much too valuable to allow them to seriously hurt each other: if two camels really get stuck into it they’re quickly dragged apart with ropes.

Camel wrangling.

Definitely something different. Come in January if you’d like to see it.

Just before the lockdown hit we had a visit from an old friend and that gave us an excuse to take him to Miletus, one of the ancient Greek cities in the area, and one we hadn’t seen much of. Miletus was the home of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, so you can make a case for it being the birthplace of philosophy, apparently.

Philosophy aside, they certainly knew how to make monumental things out of stone. It’s yet another really impressive site in our valley.

Stone arches at Miletus.
Conversation in the temple, pre social distancing.

We’ve been slowly teaching ourselves how to make videos, and we used the emergence of spring colour in the garden as a theme for our first effort. You can choose between Sirem’s version that uses only ambient sound and has a calm, Zen-like atmosphere…

…or my version, with an entirely inappropriate blues-funk soundtrack and some jarring “I just learned how to edit!” cuts.

And of course we can’t go a whole year without adopting any new animals. So here is a quick look at Leo, who was found wet and miserable and angry and hungry on a cold day in January. He had grown up a bit by the time this video was filmed, and he’s now a very happy and extremely annoying cat. But we love him.

That’s almost everything. Thank you to everybody who came to visit last year, and a shout-out to all the people who had bookings for this year and have understandably had to cancel. We hope to see you all again one day when the world has gone back to normal.

In the meantime we’re back to working on our own and we’re pushing on with the house. On the north side there’s going to be a raised porch with insect screens, and we finished the framework for that a couple of weeks ago.

North porch taking shape.

One of the current jobs is putting in a floor for the upstairs bedroom area. Careful work as you have to get the nails in at 45 degrees inside the groove of the tongue-and-groove floorboards. That way they don’t show later on.

Starting to put in the upstairs floorboards.

And things move fast enough that my photos are already out of date. In fact the straw for the walls was delivered two days ago, and is now stacked neatly in what’s going to be the kitchen. But I don’t have any photos of that yet (Sirem does though!).

Thanks for reading.

And now for something completely different…

Perhaps we didn’t get as much done this month as we would have liked. But we had the best possible excuse: we’ve been really busy with guests. Which is great.

Two of those guests were my mum and dad, and they felt for us in that we’ve been working on our construction site almost without interruption for a couple of years now. They invited us on a short trip down to Bodrum to stay in a charming centre-of-town hotel they know from previous visits. We allowed our arms to be twisted and went along: call it a research trip, we thought.

Visiting the competition! Hotel Su in Bodrum.

Hotel Su was fantastic. They’re a bit bigger than we’re ever planning to be, and they have about a 20-year head start on us, but it was interesting to see how other people do things and to note down ideas for later shameless copying. Particularly great work by them on the garden (and bar) arranged around the central courtyard. The staff and the owners were extremely nice and we can happily recommend the place if anyone is heading to Bodrum before or after staying with us.

Lovely architectural details at Hotel Su.

Bodrum (formerly Halicarnassus) is always fun. It’s very much centred around the harbour, with lots of good restaurants along the shore. If you were thinking of chartering a boat for an Aegean cruise it’s definitely the place to go.

Gülets (Turkish yachts) moored on the quayside in Bodrum.

More boats in the harbour.

Back in Hıdırbeyli we had some drama. We were out by the pool one night when we saw flames on the opposite hillside: there was a fire in somebody’s olive grove. I think we were the first to call the emergency services as we had a clear view of what was happening. The fire looked really bad for a while, and we thought it was going to spread along the hillside and possibly threaten some houses. Very impressed though when the fire brigade arrived in seven minutes and had the fire under control shortly afterwards.

Fire on the other side of the village.

Fire now under control: that’s the fire brigade, top left. Remains of the fire smouldering on the left edge of the frame.

Surprise, surprise: the cats were completely unimpressed by the fire. Here are a few shots of them relaxing on the pool terrace that same evening.

Panini reclining.

Pablo, who we don’t see enough of because he is shy.

Cezmi inspecting his pool.

So, golf has never really been my cup of tea, but I realize it’s a big deal for some people. We’ve known for a while there was a serious golf course over in the hills near Kuşadası but hadn’t found an excuse to visit. More than one guest has mentioned that we should list the place on our  “Local attractions” page, and I really should.

Kuşadası International Golf Club.

Anyway, we drove over there as my dad wanted to see their accommodation options in the event that a future trip with some Australian friends turns into too many people for our place. I can’t tell you whether it’s a great golf course, but the views were very nice.

View from the club house looking west towards Samos.

We did do some construction work this month, of course. Room three is getting really close to habitability now: all the window frames are in and the tiles are down in the main room and in the bathroom. Only some grouting to go.

Room 3 has floor tiles now.

Bathroom tiles looking OK.

Thanks to Sirem’s sister Çisem, all 48  six-metre rafters for our new house have been sanded and are ready for mounting. But four of them were a bit of a mess: they had twisted when drying and looked more like bananas than nice straight pieces of wood. So we tried an old carpentry trick and put them in the pool for a week. (Don’t tell any guests, eh?) Unbelievably it actually worked, and we have nailed and strapped them together so that this time they should dry straight.

Rafters for the house being straightened.

And the last piece of news: we know we really don’t need any more animals, but we found a very beautiful and sweet puppy abandoned on the side of the road below our place. We normally try to do the sensible thing and take animals to the local shelter (where they’re vaccinated and spayed and eventually released if no-one adopts them). But this time we looked into the eyes of little Nina and we just couldn’t do it. Maybe the photos will explain why.

Meet Nina. (She was going to be Misha but then we realized he was a she.)

Nina looking content.

Nina fighting a mop.

Nina looking cheeky.

Until next time!

Moon shot

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

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

Borrowing every chair we could get.

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

Breakfast is ready. Bring on the crowds.

Cafe has never been so full!

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

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

Moon with earth’s shadow encroaching.

Blood moon! #nofilter #onlykiddingloadsoffilters

The moon and Mars.

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

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

Pool in a reflective mood.

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

Sun-lounge prototype. Cushions on order.

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

Window frames again.

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

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

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

Tropical outlook from room one’s veranda.

Gratuitous pool shot.

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

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

See you next month.

 

 

Days of wine and plaster

Summer is here, guests are slowly starting to find us, and we keep working on construction as usual. That’s the short version.

The long version? OK. My mum and dad were here for a few weeks recently. It was great to see them and they were a huge help. And, as often happens, visitors gave us a reason to take a few days off to enjoy the local area. First stop was the village of Kapıkırı, by Lake Bafa — we mentioned it on the blog a couple of months ago. It’s such a tranquil and beautiful spot that we thought my parents needed to see it too.

Restaurant and ruined castle on the lake.

Lakeside houses dwarfed by the rocky mountainside.

We went back to the same restaurant, where the menu is fantastically simple: it’s basically either fish or köfte (meatballs). This time we were up on the terrace instead of down on the beach though.

Shady table at the restaurant.

We had a small team of professional restaurant cats lurking under the table hoping to get some scraps. (Yes, of course we gave them some scraps.) Here’s a shot of the smallest and cutest one. We didn’t actually take this little guy home, but we made sure he got the most fish. If you look at his face you can hopefully see why we have trouble with adopting too many cats in Turkey.

Kitten under the table.

Our second tourist stop was a hidden gem we’d learned about from one of our guests: Ayda Vineyards & Winery. They’re about 20km west of Izmir airport, way up in the hills. Their wine is really impressive, but we were also blown away by how good their restaurant was. And they have a few hotel rooms in case you drink a little too much for the drive home. Overall a fabulous place, and I’m sure we’ll be recommending it to future guests.

Selection of wines.

I should add that they took wine-tasting really seriously, too. Everyone gets eight glasses and a water glass!

The tasting room.

So many glasses!

I didn’t get a perfect photo of the setting so this shot of their lawn terrace will have to do. But it’s a glorious spot with views in all directions.

Terrace with a view.

Meanwhile back at our place, it was great to have the pool and the gardens so much further along since my mum and dad’s previous visit. The poolside area really feels like a comfortable place to spend time now.

Morning sun on the pool.

Lucy relaxing.

Rainy day by the pool.

Not sure if it’s clear from the photo above, but it was raining that day. It has been a strange wet summer so far, with afternoon thunderstorms a lot more common than usual. Good for the garden though.

And yes, that is a piece of wood floating in the pool. Don’t ask. (Well, since you asked: it’s the best way to straighten them out when they warp from uneven drying in the sun.)

Now for your regularly scheduled dog, cat, and flower photos.

Sleeping dogs.

Leyla at full speed.

Leyla looks concerned. She is probably thinking about biscuits.

Roses and figs.

I think that’s a daffodil? No? Maybe?

On to the serious stuff: with my dad on mixing duty and Koray on plastering duty, lots of progress has been made on the second building. The outside plastering is pretty much done. Currently the interior of room four still looks a bit rough, but room three is getting close to complete. Almost ready for guests — we just need to do the tiling, the bathroom, and the mini-kitchen area. Oh, and I have to make all the windows. Details, details.

Room four is the sanding workstation right now.

Room three is getting there!

Lathe and plaster, rear view.

In parallel with all the plastering work, we’ve made some progress on our new house. The floor joists for the second, mezzanine floor are now in, and I’ve tossed up some temporary floor boards so we can walk around up there. I sort of wish I’d planned for more upstairs windows as the views from the top floor are going to be great.

Our new house: view from the lounge/kitchen looking through to the bedroom. Upstairs floor joists now installed.

Home-made joist hangers, as seen in Sketchup!

Interior shot. This will be our bedroom one day.

Temporary floor boards so we can work upstairs.

View from upstairs looking south.

Next step is to get the big beams and columns in that will make up the spine of the house. Then to finally get a roof on it!

When too much breakfast is barely enough

A quick one this time.

Last time around I thought that problematic levels of food photography were still far in our future, but it turns out that the future arrives sooner than you think. With the cafe being open on Sundays now, we thought we should take a few more shots of our breakfast offerings. Mostly so we could include them on the cover of the menu or in printed flyers or something like that. So please enjoy the selection. And if any of the photos succeed in making you hungry, we are most certainly sorry-not-sorry.

Breakfast I.

Breakfast II.

Breakfast: overhead view.

Olives.

Breakfast in the shade, morning sun warming the landscape.

What can I say about the dogs that has not been said already? They continue to be loyal, selfless, deeply lazy animals. The most recent arrival is still looking for a definite name, by the way. Suggestions welcome.

Fluffy (AKA Fluffer, AKA Honey, AKA Honeybunny, AKA Lucky, AKA Lion) in  the garden. Note the  look that says “Am I allowed to be lying here? Is he going to yell at me?”

Zeliş being beautiful. “This is my pile of sand, how dare you make plaster out of it?”

In between breakfast photos we have actually done some work. Plaster is going onto the walls of rooms three and four, inside and out. Most importantly, the west wall of room three, the one facing the pool, has had its final coat of plaster so the pool area is looking much less like a construction site.

Plaster progress.

Pool pavilion tiled.

Pool area progress.

The gardens are looking great, and as usual there’s almost nothing to do except to add water sometimes.

Sunflower.

Garden gone wilder.

And we’ve had a few more guests. Thanks, people — you know who you are. Guests are doubly welcome as they provide an excuse for us to do something other than the usual construction work. So here’s one photo of further explorations at Magnesia (not sure what this building is, possibly warehouses down by the ancient harbour). Plus a gratuitous kitchen photo showing that sometimes we branch out beyond Turkish food.

Cloudy Magnesia afternoon.

Making pasta.

Ciao!

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

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

Roof complete, straw bales going in.

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

Interior with windows and straw.

Beams, columns, and bales.

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

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

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

Home-made bar stools.

One size fits all, we hope.

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

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

Village of Kapıkırı.

Lunch on the beach.

Fishing boat on the lake.

Sirem’s sister Çisem enjoying the view.

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

Zeytin having another lazy afternoon.

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

Leila on the rug.

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

It’s framing again

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

Framing the walls for rooms three and four.

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

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

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

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

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

Rooms three and four main beam up.

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

New house starts to take shape.

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

View through the house from front door to back.

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

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

Rainy day construction.

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

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

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

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

Coco, pretending not to be interested in the camera.

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

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

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

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

Trail in the hills.

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

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

Wider shot for context.

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

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

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

View from the south.

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

Structure of the mezzanine area and stairs.

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

 

Buildings two and three underway

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

Zeytin enjoying the warm stones of the driveway.

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

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

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

Timber deliveries bring a sense of deja vu.

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

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

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

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

Stone retaining wall on the driveway is done.

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

Kitchen approaches completion.

Suspended shelving.

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

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

Mini table for the printer.

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

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

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

Big food cupboard for the kitchen.

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

Plants on the terrace.

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

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

Gratuitous shot of Lara pretending to be a panther.

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.

 

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