Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: kitchen

Booking dot com, cafe, cupboard, and cats

We’ve known for a long time that only being listed on Airbnb was probably foolish on our part and meant we were not reaching some potential customers. So we have finally gotten our act together and listed our place on booking.com.  Let’s see whether or not they send us a flood of new guests: time will tell.

One side effect of putting up a listing on a second booking site was that we needed to take some fresh photos to make sure we’re showing the place at its best. Here’s a shot of the main building from the driveway: leaves are falling from the fig trees but at least it’s still sunny.

Main entrance.

And another photo we really liked, that shows the connection between the rooms and the garden.

View from room two looking out at the olive grove.

For the same reason, we have at last set the cafe area up to properly look like a cafe. It’s crying out for a few more decorations to brighten up the place (posters on the walls, that sort of thing) but in general we’re pleased with how it’s coming together. Turns out we can seat about 20 people quite comfortably.

Cafe.

Looking back at the bar and reception area.

Spot the Christmas lights!

The cafe kitchen is done; I think the only thing left to do is to bring up the fridge from the old farmhouse so we can maximize our fridge space up here. The skeletal food cupboard you saw last time now has walls and doors and shelves and holds a ridiculous amount of food. And the loft has a real staircase so we can take the aluminium ladder outside and use it for more appropriate things.

Loft stairs and new pantry cupboard.

Every home needs one of these.

Some of the usual suspects have asked for more photos of our menagerie of animals. I do try to take these shots, I really do, but my camera is slow at auto-focusing, so with our high-energy demonic cats you should know that most of the photos come out like this…

Picasso cat! (Can you guess which one it is?)

Still, occasionally you will get a more narcissistic cat that behaves him or her-self and sits still long enough for a good photo.

Panini. With bonus purple disinfectant from a small operation after a fight went badly for him.

On the outdoor work front, the bricklaying is progressing well and you can now see where the fireplace, chimney, stairs, etc., will be in our new house.

Complicated pile of bricks that will one day be fireplace, thermal mass blob, and stairs.

And in fact the timber framing on building two has started as well, but no photos yet unfortunately. The goal is to get rooms three and four online as soon as we possibly can.

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.

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.

Drawers!

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, 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.

Spring is here

Fantastic news: spring has arrived in south-west Turkey. We had some long cold nights through winter, but now there are wild flowers in the fields and new growth everywhere.  The first buds and leaves are out on our grapevines — soon we will have our green canopy again.

Our village by night.  (One day this will be the view from the restaurant terrace.)

The village on a cold winter night.

Spring flowers.

Spring flowers.

Cherry blossoms near Şirince.

Peach blossoms near Şirince.

And it’s not just plants coming out. One sunny morning a chameleon turned up in our back garden and I was lucky enough to get some pictures. At first we thought he was an escaped pet, but it turns out they’re native to Turkey and some other parts of the Mediterranean as well as Africa and India.  He was an impressive character, although he didn’t do a lot of colour-changing.

Chameleon suns himself on the roof of a dog house.

Chameleon suns himself on the roof of a dog house: both the dogs and the cats were not sure what to make of him.

The warmer weather has brought human visitors too.  My brother Sean and his family flew in from Vienna last week.  It was great to see them, and also great to have an excuse to put down our tools for a while and revisit places like Magnesia and Şirince.

The theatre at Magnesia — looking a little flooded with spring rain.  it was too dark for photos last time we were there.

The theatre at Magnesia — looking a little flooded with spring rain. It was too dark for photos last time we were there.

We also got to explore the Dilek National Park (Milli Park in Turkish) out on the Mycale peninsula.  (This had started to become a bit of an embarrassment for us: on two previous attempts last summer the authorities foiled our visit plans with the simple countermeasure of a 4pm closing time.)  So glad we finally got there.  The park is fantastic and we will be recommending it to all our future visitors.  It has beautiful, secluded beaches that look across to the Greek island of Samos.

Stone tower on a quiet beach in the national park.

Stone tower on a quiet beach in the national park.

A picnic table as close to the sea as anyone could want.  That is my brother being dynamic and sporty in the background.

A picnic table as close to the sea as anyone could want. That is my brother being dynamic and sporty in the background.

Much of the park isn’t accessible by car but only on foot.  We tried the first section of one of the many walking trails.  Doing the whole trail would have been quite a walk: it goes straight up and over the ridge of Mount Mycale (1237 metres).  But at least the first part, walking through deep canyons with little streams running through them, would be the perfect escape from summer heat.  And I really enjoyed getting an impression of what the landscape around here might have looked like before human settlement.

Walking path in the park.

Walking path in the park.

Stream coming down from the mountains.

Stream coming down from the mountains.

I’m sure we’ll be back soon.  As spring turns to summer we have lots more visiting friends and family lined up.  And that beach in proper swimming weather will be amazing. (We hear that it’s also an excellent spot for diving.)

On to construction and renovation topics: well, the kitchen is nearly there.  If I was a more disciplined person I would hold out and only show you the photos once it was 100% finished, but I can’t help myself.  I’m quite proud of what we’ve done with it, and the work definitely makes our life more comfortable.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a new worktop.

From this…

From Sketchup plan...

via a Sketchup plan…

to this!

to this!

We like the new splashback tiles a lot, and we were very happy when, having wrestled the corner wall cupboard section into position, it stayed up as the plans suggested it should.  Not much left now: there are a few cupboard doors still to build, and the worktops need to be tiled.  But then it will finally be done.

Wall units above the worktop, with a corner shelf for cookbooks.

Wall units above the worktop, with a corner shelf for cookbooks. The walls are made from clay bricks, so I didn’t want to drill into them: everything is supported from the floor upwards.

View from the doorway showing the sink, the dishwasher, and the new marble-tiled splashback.

View from the doorway showing the sink, the dishwasher, and the new marble-tiled splashback.

With the perfect weather for laying concrete nearly upon us, we’ve been talking to our favourite civil engineer and architect team, as well as surveying our block with a tape measure and a home-made water level.  We’re making a few revisions to our original plans, now that we’ve lived here for a while and know the land better.  We’re also happy to move our planned buildings around a bit if it will save some trees — will show the new layout in a future post.  The day we actually start pouring foundations up in the orchard will be our biggest milestone.

And I can’t let you go without at least one pet picture, can I?  Here’s Zeliş looking sad and dignified at the same time.

Our beautiful dog Zeliş.

Our beautiful dog Zeliş.

Harvesting olives for Christmas

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

Winter sunset looking towards Mount Mycale.

Winter sunset looking towards Mount Mycale.

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

Olives on the tree.

Olives on the tree.

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

Freshly harvested olives.

Freshly harvested olives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A selection of trees and shrubs.

A selection of trees and shrubs.

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

Drawers! Actual working drawers!

Drawers! Actual working drawers!

Our long-awaited kitchen sink.

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

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

Christmas dinner cooking in a clay oven.

Christmas dinner cooking in a clay oven.

Cheers!

Cheers!

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.

Kitchen progress

I’ve lost the last couple of days to flu — nothing serious, but Sirem has been very patient with the usual tragic man-flu whining. So this seems like a good moment to take stock with a progress report.

Currently, the kitchen is our big priority.  As usual we’ve sat down with Sketchup to figure out what we want to build. Because the room is not that big, and there’s only the one door, we’ve found it much easier than when we designed our kitchen in Southampton. Basically the strategy is to build as much worktop space as possible and then to cover every available bit of wall with cupboards. Nobody ever complained that their kitchen had too much storage space, right?

Planned kitchen layout in Sketchup.

Planned kitchen layout in Sketchup.

The door is at the back of the picture, and that slot on the front left wall is an old fireplace where we plan to keep the gas bottles for the stove. The window ends up traditionally placed over the sink, front right. The microwave and our small oven get stacked on top of each other, and there’s a chunk of bonus storage space above the fridge.

So far, we’ve started on some of the framing work, and found some 18mm plywood to serve as a base for the tiled worktops. We’ve been lining things up out in the courtyard to check that it’s all going to fit. Once we take the pieces into the actual kitchen, there will be a lot less room to move.

Kitchen cupboards and worktops starting to take shape.

Kitchen cupboards and worktops starting to take shape. None of the kitchen walls are at right angles to each other, so there’s some fiddly bits with the carpentry.

At the risk of appearing to have gone full red-neck, here’s a shot of the nail guns I mentioned last time. They may look excessive but they’ve been extremely handy in putting together framing projects like the kitchen. Of course sometimes you have to use screws, but when you can get away with nails, the power to get twenty of them into the work piece inside a minute is just amazing. The little one, the staple gun, has probably been the big surprise: you can use it to put together something like a mitre-cut picture frame very easily, and it’s great for pinning up wire mesh for plastering.

Stuff.

Nail guns: the one on the left fires nails up to 5cm long, and is moderately scary. The one in the middle fires staples deep into timber, and is not so scary but will still hurt you. The one on the right fires 9cm nails and is absolutely terrifying.

This is what a box of 5000 wire-coiled 90mm nails looks like.

This is what a box of 5000 wire-coiled 9cm nails looks like. I hope not to need to go back to the shop for a while.

Last week we put a solar hot water system in. Or, more correctly, we paid the professionals to put one in. Previously we’d been using an instant hot-water heater but that was going to lead to big electricity bills if we kept it up. Solar has been great so far, with plenty of hot water even on the cloudier days.

Our new solar hot water system, on the roof above the bathroom.

Our new solar hot water system, on the roof above the bathroom.

While we had the tools and timber out for the kitchen, we also thought we should put some kind of bed together for the cats that are sleeping outside. (Yes, I’m ashamed to say there is currently a terrible apartheid system in place where the pampered UK cats are sleeping indoors and the hard-grafting Turkish street cats are sleeping outdoors.)

Combined bench and cat box project. The cats were supposed to sleep underneath so people could sit on the top, but as you can see the cats had other ideas.

Combined bench and cat box project. The cats were supposed to sleep underneath so people could sit on the top, but as you can see they had other ideas.

The idea was to make a box to keep the cats out of the wind, and to put some cushions and blankets inside to make it comfortable. We’ve since put a panel of clear plastic over the middle section to help them keep more body heat in there. They seem to appreciate it.

This is Suzi, one of Sütlaç's kittens. How can you look at that face and not build some kind of shelter for her?

This is Suzi, one of Sütlaç’s kittens. How can you look at that face and not build some kind of shelter for her?

Dog dog.

Zeytin is shocked to learn that the cats now also have a house.

On our way back from a walk today, we climbed the hill across the street to get a new view on our place. I really like the shot below, because you can see all the different bits and pieces that make up our little compound. From the front left, anti-clockwise, that’s the disused chicken coop, then the old house, the new house, the barn, and, if you look carefully in the foliage at the back, you can see the slab of metal roofing that keeps the rain off our clay oven.

The farmhouse from a new angle. I like this shot because you can see all the different buildings.

Our farmhouse from a new angle.

And, in conclusion, a shot of a poplar tree to show the advance of the seasons…

Autumn colours in the village.

Autumn colours in the village.

PS: there is one more thing. We really appreciate all the comments on the blog, but we’ve been a bit surprised to find how prevalent spam commenting is in the blog world. (Probably many of you out there already knew this.) At first I was manually approving or deleting every comment, but when the spam count got into the thousands it became overwhelming. So we’re currently relying on some spam filters that work on keywords. It makes my life a lot easier, but the downside is there’s a small chance that every now and then we’ll block a legitimate comment. If a comment of yours seems to go missing, I apologize in advance, and please feel free to email me and I’ll sort it out.

Renovations

(Warning: this is going to be a long one with lots of photos. )

We bought the farmhouse because we needed somewhere to live while we were building the hotel project. And in the long run I think we will always live down here: it will be nice to have a bit of physical separation from our paying guests, for their sake and ours.

The farmhouse is great, but it’s pretty rustic, and it looks like our first month is going to be spent renovating it. It doesn’t have to be beautiful, but we want to make it comfortable enough for friends and family to come and stay.

Let’s start with the kitchen. It was in good-enough condition, but the tiled concrete worktop was only about 70 cm high. Much lower than the usual 90 cm, so it tended to give you a bit of a backache. It had to go, sadly.

The original kitchen

The original kitchen

The original kitchen with some improvised cooking arrangements, Notice how low the bench is.

The original kitchen with some improvised cooking arrangements. Notice how low the bench is.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a worktop.

The current state of the kitchen: ready for floor-levelling, tiling, and building a new worktop.

The main bedroom is next door to the kitchen, and it was also in good condition. Not too much to do here, although we will probably repaint the walls and tile the floor.

Bedroom 1: in pretty good condition

Bedroom 1: in pretty good condition

Bedrooms 2 and 3 make up a second building set further back on the block. There’s not much to do in bed 2, but bed 3 needs a bit of work, as you can see from the picture.

Bedroom 2.  This room is OK except there seems to be a dog in it.

Bedroom 2. This room is OK except there seems to be a dog in it.

Bedroom 3.  Need to seal those cracks and tile the floor.

Bedroom 3. Need to seal those cracks and tile the floor.

The bathroom situation was the big challenge, and also quite urgent (especially for people who believe a toilet should be something you sit on that flushes). The original bathroom was, again, in OK condition, but the trouble is there was very little in it. Only a bath, really.

The bathroom was OK, but there was only a bath. No sink or toilet or shower.

The bathroom was OK, but there was only a bath. No sink or toilet or shower.

The toilet was a short walk away, up some stairs from the courtyard and around the corner adjoining the chicken shed. I thought it was a fine toilet but let’s just say it was reminiscent of a camping experience.

Back to basics: the original toilet.

Back to basics: the original toilet.

We knew that not all visitors would be game for this squat-style toilet, so we re-did the bathroom to include a “normal” toilet, basin, shower, etc. There was plenty of room. The only catch was that we didn’t know where the sewer connection was, so we decided to bring in the professionals and get them to dig a new connection to the mains sewer line. This meant breaking up a lot of concrete, unfortunately.

New trench dug under the concrete to lay water and sewer pipes for the new bathroom

Trench dug under the concrete to lay water and sewer pipes for the new bathroom

All this rubble came out of the new sewer trench

All this rubble came out of the new sewer trench

But the result was worth it. Here’s the new bathroom (please excuse the sand on the floor tiles; we’re still cleaning up).

The renovated bathroom: no more outside toilet!

The renovated bathroom: no more outside toilet!

And finally, here’s a gratuitous cat photo.

Meet Tarçın.

Meet Tarçın.

To confirm the suspicions of people who know us: yes, our menagerie is expanding already. Marlowe, Molly, and Maya were delivered safely and are now settling in, but Sirem’s mum and dad brought a dog and a cat from Istanbul (they’ll be going back eventually, I am assured). There’s also Zeytin (“Olive”), the very friendly stray dog who lives out the front of the house and is fed by us and the neighbours. There are a couple of cats who visit from time to time but we’re trying hard not to formally adopt them. And finally there’s little Tarçın (“Cinnamon”) who proved impossible not to adopt (it was Sirem’s dad’s fault, honest).

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