Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: gardening

Video time

Again, it’s been a long wait between blog posts. I’m sorry about that. But honestly, it will probably happen again. We’ve been as busy as ever, with guests and with construction. It’s hard to make the time to post something that feels like more than a tiny incremental update. So here’s a random assortment of things instead!

The headline news is that with the help of some friends we finally made a video tour for the hotel. Huge thank you to Tim and Selda for all the time they put into it. At 2 minutes 16 seconds, I’ll let the video speak for itself…

We hope you liked it. If anyone is up for helping us add subtitles in different languages, drop me a line. (Currently have English, Turkish, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Japanese, with French, Italian, and Polish on the way. Cheers to all of our translators.)

If you’re still up for looking at mere photos after that, I’ve collected a few landscape shots taken from within a couple of hundred metres of the hotel. Putting us into the surrounding landscape, if you like. These were taken in late winter, and you can see from the green grass that we got a lot of rain this year.

Mountains in the distance.
Olive grove.
The Meander Valley, looking south-east.
Our place through the trees.

There’s a tourist attraction near Dilek National Park called the “Cave of Zeus”. For some reason I always assumed it would be disappointing and never bothered to have a look at it until this year, despite it being just off the main road. Turns out it’s pretty cool. Didn’t get to meet Zeus though, sadly.

Cave of Zeus.
Yet another sunset.

More recently, with the place all cleaned up in preparation for shooting the video, I took advantage by taking a couple of panoramas. Hopefully they show how the pool area has come along.

Panorama from the south end of the pool.
Panorama from the poolside seating.
Sun lounges by the pool.

I know I keep saying this, but as the gardens mature they change everything for the better. Here’s a little bit of supporting evidence.

Flowers outside room 2.
Newly planted palm trees. Should have planted them years ago!

One of the main construction jobs has been extending the paved driveway further up towards our new house, and also trying to sort out the entrances to rooms three and four. They needed gardens, of course, but also pathways and little bridges to connect them to the drive. Things were especially tricky with room four, because if we got it wrong the pathway would send rainwater flooding down onto the veranda. Thankfully things seem to be working OK.

Paving the driveway and building a garden for room 4. In the background you can see a short wall that will act as a screen between our place and the guest areas of the hotel.
Small garden between rooms 3 and 4.
Room 4 exterior looking better: apologies for all the construction stuff.

Sirem had the bright idea to use our vast collection of broken tiles to decorate the garden walls. Smashing them into fragments with a hammer is easy enough, but it’s a lot of work cementing them onto the wall and adding grout. I think it looks pretty cool though.

Garden wall detail.

The other big job is getting room four into a habitable state. We’re actually in a massive rush to get it done right now, having fallen into our usual trap of a self-imposed deadline. (Some regular guests are arriving soon and asked about staying in the new room; we foolishly said yes and are currently scrambling to get everything finished in time!)

Room 4 progresses… this shot is out of date even as we speak.

And after room four is done, of course the next big push will be to finish our house. Disappointed not to have more to show you on that front, but this summer should bring progress. And we’re looking on the bright side: the milestone of having all four guest rooms operational will be something worth celebrating.

And finally some cat photos. Dogs next time, I promise.

Suzie and Leyla on the prowl.
Sezar: “no more questions!”

Sunshine and how to escape it

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

Overview of the project.

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

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

Terrace and cafe by night.

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

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

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

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

Rose bush gone wild in the front right.

Gardens outside rooms one and two.

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

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

New sunshade.

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

Two layers of green shadecloth seems about right.

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

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

Cats enjoying the shade.

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

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

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

Zeytin: straw dog.

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

Building two progress.

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

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

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

Coastal drive with tree.

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

Cafe bathroom.


TV news for Australian readers

Hello, everyone.

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

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

And for everyone else, a few progress photos.

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

Railings on the terrace (still unpainted).

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

Kitchen looking more like a kitchen now.


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

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

Sirem making planter boxes for the terrace.

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

Garden still cheerful in October.

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,, 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.


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.

Opening day coming soon

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

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

Room in close-to-final form

Room two in close-to-final form.

Other view

Another view.

Mini-kitchen done

Room two kitchen area done.

Bathroom done

Bathroom now has a vanity mirror.

Towel hooks

More welding: towel hooks for the bathroom.

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

Sirem the day before the concrete went in

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

Lots of work went into this shot

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

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

Crushed gravel to support paving stones

Compacted river gravel to support the paving.

Paving stones

Paving stones going in, drainage canal taking shape.

Koray and Berrin

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

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

Bed being made

One of the beds being made.

Table, sofa

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

Finished bed

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

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


Breakfast on the veranda.

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

Spring morning in the olive grove

Spring morning in the neighbours’ olive grove.

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

Tito yawning

Tito yawning.

Zeliş goofing around

Zeliş goofing around.

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

Framing and planting

Apparently some readers worry that there won’t be any animal photos in a new blog entry. So this time I thought I would end the suspense and get the animal photo out of the way early. (Only one this week, sorry.) Here is Cezmi — our construction site manager in cat form — sampling the water of the swimming pool.

Cezmi by the pool

Cezmi by the pool

So we’re working pretty hard at the moment, doing long days six days a week. Rain is our only interruption, and it’s getting to the time of year when rain is a rare event. A couple of Sundays ago we gave ourselves the day off and went for a drive in the mountains. Here are Sirem’s parents posing at the side of the road. This spot is about twenty minutes up into the hills behind our house.

Sirem's mum and dad, Nadire and Dogan

Sirem’s mum and dad, Nadire and Doğan. We wouldn’t be making so much progress if they weren’t doing a lot of the cooking and shopping for us — thanks!

We had lunch in the beautiful village of Birgi, right next door to the ski resort at Ödemiş, about 80km northeast. And did a tour of the local garden centres, but more on that later.

View of Birgi

View of Birgi

Traditional Turkish architecture in Birgi

Traditional architecture in Birgi

The building work is progressing well. We’re roughly on schedule, but can’t afford to relax as there’s still a lot to do if we want to be ready for our first guests by the end of summer.

The first phase of the work was getting the bathroom walls up. (They’re made of brick so we don’t have to worry about water from the showers ever penetrating the straw bale walls.) We’ve learned to lay bricks pretty well, I think, although we are nowhere near as fast as Koray.

Bathroom brickwork

Bathroom brickwork and improvised sunshade

The next step was taking the 10cm x 10cm lengths of treated timber and bolting them down to the concrete slab to act as a secure base plate for the timber framing. This went a lot easier than I thought it would. Luckily we have a beast of a drill that makes holes in the concrete without any fuss at all. We then used a two-part epoxy to glue 14mm threaded rod into the holes. Incredible stuff and it’s all rock-solid now.

Putting down the treated timber base plates

Putting down the treated timber base plates: you can start to see the floor plan

After that it was time for the timber framing to begin in earnest. Of course it’s not something we’ve done before, but after watching some videos on YouTube how hard can it be?  :)



The walls have gone up fast, although there are still details to take care of, like completing the internal stud walls and finishing all the window sill and lintel boxes. We’ve currently moved on to the spine of the building and put up some columns and beams that will help hold up the roof. Lots of this timber will be exposed in the finished build, so we took a bit more time with it and sanded each piece before it went up.


View of the exposed column-and-beam arrangement in room 1, looking through to the kitchen and cafe beyond. Please disregard the blocks of scrap timber temporarily holding it together.


The spine of the building, looking the other way towards the pool. Note that the ridge of the roof will be about 1.6 metres higher again.


Detail of a wooden column with T-bar support for the beams


Our favourite local mountain shot through the framing

There has also been some progress on the landscaping front. The gardens still look a bit dry and sparse but hopefully as everything matures they will become beautiful.


The fruits of a trip to the garden centre


Trying to make the most of the slope by building lots of small gardens on different levels


Kumquat and some kind of grass thing


Bougainvillea that will one day be encouraged to wrap itself around a verandah post


Lily in the sun

The pool railings are finished and installed: welding by Koray, painting by Sirem. We like how the ferforje (curly bits) turned out. Ornate, but not too fiddly.


New railings in place


Terracotta pots seem to suit the pool area

Most of our photos are taken from the south side of the building site, perhaps because that’s where the driveway puts you as you come up the hill. Here are a couple of shots from the north side that give a different perspective. The first one is a panorama showing the current condition of the pool area. The seating on the left is going to be great once we render the brickwork and build a pavilion roof: it’s possibly a bit too sunny at the moment.


Pool panorama

This one is taken from across the road on the opposite hill. You can see the whole project from here. From left to right: slab for our house, slab for rooms 3 and 4, the pool area (behind the poplar), timber frame under construction, and the driveway.


Project overview shot

And finally, I know I take too many photos of this mountain, but forgive me.  It’s hard to resist, and I don’t get out much.


Mount Mycale and Mount Thorax in changeable morning light


Big day tomorrow

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

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

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

Washing tomatoes

Washing and coring tomatoes

Storing tomatoes for the winter

Storing tomatoes for the winter

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

The road to the beach

The road to the beach

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

Dilek National Park at sunset

Dilek National Park at sunset

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

Sun shower over next-door's house

Sun shower over next-door’s house

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

Jewellery and souvenirs

Jewellery and souvenirs



Olive oil

Olive oil

Silk scarves

Silk scarves

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

Bodrum by night

Bodrum by night

Shop in Bodrum

Shop in Bodrum

Genuine fake watches

Genuine fake watches

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

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

First welding project

First welding project

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

Another door

Another door, under construction

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

Bricks for raised bed and retaining wall

Bricks for raised bed and retaining wall

Thanks for reading.

More spring weather, more ruins, more plans

OK, this will be a quick one.  It’s a beautiful day and I’m supposed to be putting in irrigation pipes for the new trees, not sitting around at the computer.

Things are going well.  Spring continues to mean that plants are just erupting out of the ground: it’s amazing how quickly things grow here.  Here are a few shots of flowers and the garden to show what I mean.

lambs-4 lambs-5 lambs-6 lambs-7

The grape vines are definitely back.  We missed them!

The grape vines are definitely back. We missed them.

The season has also brought some new lambs to the farm of our friends at the other end of the village.  The lambs are very cute and Sirem could not resist having a cuddle.


Only 24 hours old.


Ready for her close-up now.

Sirem with her favourite.  The lamb also looks pleased.

Sirem with her favourite. The lamb also looks pleased.

And visitor season is also continuing.  Our recent guests Enrico and Bethany gave us an excuse to check out one more of the archaeological sites in the area.  We took them to see the ruins of Tralleis, up on a bluff above the provincial capital of Aydın.     It must have been a very imposing city in its heyday.  The biggest feature still standing is a distinctive triple arch that looks out over the valley.  All very Ozymandias.

The arch at Tralleis.  Some people for scale.

The arches at Tralleis. Some people for scale.

The arch from the other side.  Notice all the construction on the lower level: cellars or tunnels perhaps?

The arches from the other side. Notice all the construction on the lower level: cellars or tunnels perhaps?

Again we had the privilege of walking around a site like this without paying any admission fee, and seeing almost no other visitors.  I think those people in the first shot were our only company.  It’s not that Turks and tourists don’t care about these places; more that they are spoiled for choice about where to go.

Finally: we put in our revised plans for the hotel bungalows a couple of weeks ago, and we’re waiting to hear back from the council about whether the new version can be passed as just a minor revision of the old.   The differences weren’t huge, so we’re optimistic.

Probably the biggest change is that we’re now building a house for ourselves at the top of the orchard.  It’s quiet and peaceful there, and the view is fantastic, so  we can’t resist.  That means two fewer guest rooms up in the orchard, but in the long run we’ll make up the total of six by converting some rooms down here in the old farmhouse.

Another change is that we combined one of the guest bungalows with the cafe / kitchen, rather than having them as two separate buildings.  We think it makes the overall plan look less cluttered, and the thick straw bales mean the guests shouldn’t hear anything from the adjoining kitchen area.

An overview of the new plan.  You can see the existing farmhouse buildings on the far left.  Then, from left to right, it's the cafe plus two guest rooms, the pool, another two guest rooms, and then our new house at the end.

An overview of the new plan. You can see the existing farmhouse buildings on the far left. Then, from left to right, it’s the cafe plus two guest rooms, the pool, another two guest rooms, and then our new house at the end.

The cafe will have big french doors out onto the terrace area.  There's also a higher ceiling as the roof is common but the floor is lower. This seems to make the building blend into the slope a bit more.

The cafe will have big french doors out onto the terrace area. There’s also a higher ceiling as the roof is common but the floor is lower. This seems to make the building blend into the slope a bit more.

Plan view of the cafe, kitchen,and two guest rooms.

Plan view of the cafe, kitchen,and two guest rooms.

The double bungalow above the pool.

The double bungalow above the pool.

Interior of a typical guest room.

Interior of a typical guest room.

Interior view of our house.  Always wanted a mezzanine!

Interior view of our house. Always wanted a mezzanine!


Harvesting olives for Christmas

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

Winter sunset looking towards Mount Mycale.

Winter sunset looking towards Mount Mycale.

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

Olives on the tree.

Olives on the tree.

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

Freshly harvested olives.

Freshly harvested olives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A selection of trees and shrubs.

A selection of trees and shrubs.

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

Drawers! Actual working drawers!

Drawers! Actual working drawers!

Our long-awaited kitchen sink.

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

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

Christmas dinner cooking in a clay oven.

Christmas dinner cooking in a clay oven.



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