Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: Hıdırbeyli

Olive oil update

Just some quick details on the process of turning our recent olive harvest into olive oil…

It turns out we picked over 400 kg of olives.  We kept about 50 kg of the biggest and best for eating, and those are in the process of being repeatedly washed and salted and weighted down. There were seven sacks (323 kg) of normal-quality olives to be pressed into oil. And finally a small sack (38 kg) of poor-quality olives that we took from the ground beneath the trees.

Our local olive-oil factory.

Our local olive-oil factory.

We took our eight sacks just around the corner to the Yıldırım olive processing factory. We sold the one bag of lower-quality olives to the factory, and the money we got for that was enough to pay for processing all the rest. This seemed like a good deal.

Sacks of olives in the factory yard, waiting their turn to be pressed.

Sacks of olives in the factory yard, waiting their turn to be pressed.

The olives are washed and the leaves are filtered out.

The olives are washed and any remaining leaves are filtered out before pressing.

A line of machines for crushing the olives and filtering the oil.

Machines for crushing the olives and filtering the oil.

The guys at the factory are incredibly busy right now, as everyone brings in their olives around the same time. So we had to come back the next day to see the results.

A tough and slippery job. (Our batch was a little over one of these containers.)

A tough and slippery job. (Our batch was a little over one of these containers.)

The juice, the precious juice, was hidden in the vehicles.

The juice, the precious juice, was hidden in the vehicles.

Our 323 kg turned into 67 litres of beautiful cloudy green oil. We’re told it has good, low acidity levels. I would try to describe the taste but I don’t have the adjectives. I can tell you that it is very, very good for dipping fresh bread into.

Testing began immediately.

Testing began immediately.

 

Must get faster at carpentry

This will just be a quick post. I wish there was more to add: we’re pushing on with the kitchen, but the date of the previous post is evidence that progress hasn’t been all that dramatic. On the positive side, we’re learning lots of woodwork tricks that should make us faster in the future.

Here’s a shot of one of the kitchen cabinets, almost done. From left to right that’s going to be four drawers, an open slot for storing wine (above) and trays (below), and a large corner cupboard that will sit up against the washing machine. As you can see, we’re going for the rustic look.

Cabinet for the left side of the kitchen

Cabinet for the left side of the kitchen.

We’ve picked out the tiles we’re going to use for the worktops. Very Turkish! There will be some interesting cutting to get those hexagons to work, but we think it will be worth it.

The tiles we've chosen for the worktops.

Tiles for the kitchen worktops.

As of yesterday the cabinets actually got dragged into the kitchen itself, which was a bit of a milestone for us. No doors on the cupboards yet, and the worktops still need to be trimmed and screwed into place, but you can start to see what it’s going to look like.

Cabinets in place.

Cabinets in place.

Real drawers will work better than a wicker basket.

Real drawers will work better than a wicker basket.

Lots of room in those corner cupboards.

Lots of room in those corner cupboards.

A couple of weeks ago I finally found the bag that had my camera gear in it, so I now have a tripod again which means night-time photos are possible. I know I should get out and capture the atmosphere of some of the local towns after dark, but for starters here are a few shots of home.

View of our garden by night: the winter rains have made everything green.

View of our garden by night: the winter rains have made everything green.

Looking back into the village from outside our gate.

Looking back into the village from outside our gate.

What have we really been doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping in Germencik

Shopping in Germencik

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of our better figs.

One of our better figs.

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

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

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

Security grille and fly screen for the kitchen.

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

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

The shed after my amateur demolition.

The shed after my amateur demolition.

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

"Nobody ever gave me a house before!"

“Nobody ever gave me a house before!”

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

Grasshopper is ready for his close-up now.

Grasshopper is ready for his close-up now.

 

It’s a new car!

Well, not new exactly. More like 2007.

We were feeling increasingly guilty about borrowing Sirem’s mum and dad’s car. And we needed something capable of carrying a load of timber or tiles or plants home, but also able to pick up four people and luggage from the airport. So we bought a double-cab Toyota Hilux. We heard they were tough and reliable: you do tend to see them on the news being driven around conflict zones, for example. Very happy with it so far.

The new truck. Our transformation into proper rednecks is now complete.

The new truck. Our transformation into proper rednecks is now complete.

Better have a road trip to test it out, right? We had to go to Izmir anyway, to sort out some paperwork for our here-any-day-now container. So on the way back we got off the highway and drove to the town of Tire, in the next valley north of ours. Then home via some narrow, winding roads across the mountains.

It was a bit of a gamble, as we weren’t 100% sure there was a proper road going all the way across. But we’re so happy we took the chance: the scenery was breathtaking. We knew that our place sat in the foothills of a decent-sized mountain range, but we didn’t realize how beautiful and secluded it was up there.

Looking north, with Tire in the distance.

Looking north, with Tire in the distance.

The view across to the other side of the Kuçuk Menderes valley.

The view across to the other side of the Küçük  Menderes valley.

The first part of the drive we were climbing with views of the farmland around Tire. Then we got over the ridge and we were up into a different world. Steep hillsides covered with figs even at that altitude, and deep ravines sheltering villages of old stone houses. It was so quiet up there, and at least 5 degrees cooler than down on the plain.

Range after range of hills, looking east.

Range after range of hills, looking east.

You get the feeling they don't really need the fence. There was nobody around.

You get the feeling they don’t really need the fence. There was nobody around.

We have to go back soon…

We’re here!

We landed safely in Izmir and reached our new house just before dawn on Saturday 19th July. That was a week ago now. Sorry for the silence: it’s taken us this long to sort out an internet connection.

It’s been a hot and hectic week and we have lots to talk about. But for now just a few quick shots of how things looked the morning we got here.

The main house in the pre-dawn light

The main house in the pre-dawn light

The grapes are nearly ready

The grapes are nearly ready

Shade from the vines; front gate in the background

Shade from the vines; front gate in the background

More to follow!

First shots of the farmhouse

Grape vines growing over the courtyard

Under the vines

Back in March we bought the orchard and the farmhouse. The previous owners moved out in April, and so the house has been empty for a while. We can’t wait to get out there ourselves, but in the meantime my mum and dad have very kindly travelled down from Istanbul to check things out for us. The garden has grown like crazy and there were a lot of leaves to sweep up, plus a bird seems to have made a nest in the kitchen, but apart from that no problems! There’s fruit growing all over the place: limes, pomegranates, pears, plums, and of course figs.

drive

Dad hosing down the driveway

Here are a couple of photos my parents sent us. We love the way the grape vines have grown to shade the courtyard: they were just bare vines when we saw them in March.

Geothermal power

Hıdırbeyli sits on top of a big source of geothermal energy. There are several geothermal power stations in the area, taking advantage of hot-water aquifers deep below the surface. And in some places the steam comes right up through the ground.

About 1.5km from our place, as you drive up into the hills, there’s a lake.  Or maybe I should call it a reservoir, really: it was formed by damming a stream that comes down from the mountains. It makes a good place for picnic, anyway.

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Lake in the hills behind us

Beyond the lake you can find several hot springs on the side of the road, or even just places where hot steam seeps up through mud or sand. It’s not quite as spectacular as Rotorua or Yellowstone, but still pretty amazing.

Hot springs: the water in there is close to boiling

Hot springs: the water in there is close to boiling

Steam coming up through the ground

Steam coming up through soft, sandy ground

We don’t know whether we’ll be able to use any of this geothermal power ourselves, but there’s talk in the village that the hot water runoff from a new power station will be available for local heating. It would be fantastic to have our winter heating needs taken care of by the rocks under our feet, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Latitude and climate

We’ve lived in the UK (and briefly in Germany) for almost twenty years now. We both grew up in hotter places, so we’re really looking forward to the climate of the Aegean coast. Hıdırbeyli is at 37.9 degrees north, and, like much of south-west Turkey, is in the Köppen climate zone “Csa”, i.e., dry-summer sub-tropical, or Mediterranean. Sounds good!

I was curious to see what cities 37.9 degrees puts us level with. Around the Mediterranean, it’s great to see that we’re on the same latitude line as places like Athens, Palermo, and Cordoba. Further afield, the results are a bit more surprising. In the US, we’re about level with Richmond (Virginia) and San Francisco.  In east Asia, we’re lined up with Seoul and Fukushima.

World map showing 37.9 degrees north and south.

World map showing 37.9 degrees north and south.  Map borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.

What if you flip things around to the southern hemisphere?  Strange to note that in Africa there’s no land that far south. We’d be in the sea off Cape Town. In South America we’re level with the Argentinian beach resort of Mar del Plata; in Australia we line up with Melbourne; and in New Zealand we’d be midway between Auckland and Wellington.

Moving to Turkey

Photo of us Hi, and welcome to our blog. Some of you will already know us, and will have heard about our crazy project in great detail.  For those who haven’t met us before, we’re Jason and Sirem.  We’ve had enough of our jobs in the UK and are about to move to rural Turkey to build a hotel.

Semi-detached Southampton house This is the house in Southampton we’ll be leaving behind. We’ve been here for seven years and it’s been a great place to live, but it’s time to go.

And here are some photos of where we’re going.  We bought a small farmhouse and about an acre of fig orchard on a hillside near the village of Hıdırbeyli.  Which is near the town of Germencik, just inland from Turkey’s Aegean coast.

The orchard as it looked in March 2014.

Sunset from the orchard, looking towards Mount Mycale.

Looking out across the olive groves.

We’ll be about half an hour from ruins of Ephesus, with many other archaeological sites only a short drive away (e.g., Priene, Magnesia, Miletus, Didyma, and Aphrodisia). We’re also about half an hour from the beach.

All that archaeology gave us the idea for what to call the hotel.  We’re right in the middle of what was once Ionia, one of the colonies of ancient Greece.  So our place will be the Ionia Guest House.

The plan is to build a small hotel with about six rooms around a central garden courtyard and pool.  We want it to work as a base for visiting the attractions of the Aegean coast, and at the same time give people a taste of the Turkish countryside. We plan to grow our own fruit and vegetables, to use great local food, and to raise chickens for eggs.  We want to build the place in a sustainable way (timber-frame straw bale construction, covered in local clay plaster). It’s going to take us a couple of years to get it all up and running, so the blog is for keeping people up to date on our progress.

Thanks for stopping by.

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