Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: pool

And now for something completely different…

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

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

Visiting the competition! Hotel Su in Bodrum.

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

Lovely architectural details at Hotel Su.

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

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

More boats in the harbour.

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

Fire on the other side of the village.

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

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

Panini reclining.

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

Cezmi inspecting his pool.

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

Kuşadası International Golf Club.

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

View from the club house looking west towards Samos.

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

Room 3 has floor tiles now.

Bathroom tiles looking OK.

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

Rafters for the house being straightened.

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

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

Nina looking content.

Nina fighting a mop.

Nina looking cheeky.

Until next time!

Days of wine and plaster

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

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

Restaurant and ruined castle on the lake.

Lakeside houses dwarfed by the rocky mountainside.

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

Shady table at the restaurant.

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

Kitten under the table.

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

Selection of wines.

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

The tasting room.

So many glasses!

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

Terrace with a view.

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

Morning sun on the pool.

Lucy relaxing.

Rainy day by the pool.

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

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

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

Sleeping dogs.

Leyla at full speed.

Leyla looks concerned. She is probably thinking about biscuits.

Roses and figs.

I think that’s a daffodil? No? Maybe?

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

Room four is the sanding workstation right now.

Room three is getting there!

Lathe and plaster, rear view.

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

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

Home-made joist hangers, as seen in Sketchup!

Interior shot. This will be our bedroom one day.

Temporary floor boards so we can work upstairs.

View from upstairs looking south.

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

A roof and some walls

So, we had a coup. An attempted one, anyway. Thank you to the many friends and family members who checked in to see whether we were OK at the time. It was a scary and confusing 24 hours of news coverage. But for us that’s all it was: a day of watching TV and browsing the web, trying to figure out what was going on. At times like that it’s nice to live in a small town far from significant buildings and infrastructure.

It was a sad day for Turkey, with around 250 people killed. And in the aftermath a lot of young soldiers are potentially facing long jail sentences, while many people have lost their jobs for alleged links to the shadowy Gülenist movement. All of this comes on top of the ongoing troubles in the southeast of the country, a terrorist attack at Istanbul airport, and so on. Interesting times indeed.

Of course we hope that the situation will improve. But there’s not a great deal we can do about it on a personal level, and the truth is it hasn’t affected day-to-day life around here at all. So we have just been pushing on with construction work as usual.

A big recent milestone for us was getting the roof completely covered with wooden planks. (The planks are there to support the waterproof membrane and the roof tiles, both still to come.)  As you can see in some of the photos below, the planks shrink a little after being nailed down, so there are some gaps that let light through. But it still feels much more like a building now that it has a covered roof.

Koray working on the roof.

Koray sawing planks on the roof.

Verandah coming together.

Verandah coming together.

Roof planks completed.

Roof planks completed.

The pool has been a lifesaver, making working through the hot days of summer much more bearable. Which I guess is a good sign of its future popularity. One of our little pleasures is a drink by the pool in the evenings. The water is so warm that you don’t really want to get out.

Evening drinks by the pool.

Evening drinks by the pool.

The roof at night; lights of Germencik in the background.

The new roof at night; lights of Germencik in the background.

And now a photo of me looking grumpy in the heat.  (Sirem insisted that I include it.) It looks like I should probably go for a swim and cheer up.

Portrait in 40 degree heat.

Portrait at 40 degrees C.

In parallel with the roof work, we’ve been building up the straw bale walls. It’s a mixed bag of a job: sometimes it’s easy and fast, like when you have a long run where you can use whole bales. But then you get to a fiddly bit in the corner or between two windows, and there’s a lot of splitting and re-tying the bales, which can get tedious. And especially when you have to lift bales up above your head for the higher sections, you end up wearing and breathing a lot of straw which is not the nicest feeling in the world. On the plus side, you do get to play with the chainsaw, which is essential for carving the bales so they fit neatly around the building’s wooden frame.

Straw bale interior.

Straw bale interior.

Essential equipment for shaping bales.

Essential equipment for shaping bales.

Roof from inside, with ceiling test panel.

Roof from inside. The white part is a test for one of our ceiling ideas: going to need something to hide all the insulation between the rafters.

There was one final part of the structure that we’d been putting off for a while: an overhanging verandah for the cafe area at the west end of the building. It’s mostly done now. There were a few steps involved: concrete bases for big 15cm x 15cm columns, getting the support beam up on top of the columns, then getting the 5-metre rafters up. That’s where we are in the “after” photo below. And still to come are planks, guttering, waterproofing, and tiles, just like the rest of the roof.

Front of the cafe area.

Before photo: the front of the cafe area.

And now with added verandah rafters.

After photo: the verandah will add shade for plenty of outside tables.

It’s no surprise that summer has brought more visitors than winter did. Some weeks back we hosted Elisabeth and Max, some friends from Germany via Southampton. They got very involved in the construction work and we’re grateful for their help. Elisabeth and Max (and some co-conspirators; looking at you, Alex) also have a fine tradition of candid photography that truly captures the modern, relaxed German style. So who were we to refuse them?

German efficiency.

German efficiency.

The next batch of visitors were my mum and dad, Diane and Barry. They were last here exactly a year ago, when nothing had happened yet up in the orchard. (And previously they were our very first visitors, a year before that.)  So, once more, it was great to see our recent progress through their eyes. Dad especially got involved in the building work, and mum played an important pool-testing role. We really appreciate their help.

Mum and Dad visiting.

Mum and Dad visiting, checking out their soon-to-be-favourite area of the cafe.

Animal lovers, you thought I had forgotten you, didn’t you? Not a chance. Apologies that it always seems to be the same animals in these photos: it happens because some of them have pre-emptively adopted the building site as their new home, while others live down in the old farmhouse and thus keep away from the cameras.

Cat.

Sookie being sweet, in between psychotic episodes.

Dog.

Tito feeling a bit tired and sorry for himself on a hot day.

We were originally expecting our roof tiles several weeks ago, but there were delays from the supplier’s end. Apparently they needed to make a special batch just for us, because generally they don’t sell a lot of roof tiles in the middle of the summer. Apparently no-one but us is foolish enough to do roofing work in the heat. We are currently finding out just how sensible this accepted wisdom is: photos of the tiled roof to follow next time, I hope.

Roof tiles arrived at last.

Roof tiles arrived at last.

Roof with temporary plastic in case of rain (unlikely).

Roof ready for tiling. That’s a temporary plastic cover in case of rain.

Finally, we want to dedicate this post to our great friend Jesús Palomo Muñoz (1967-2016). He was a fantastic person who has left us all much too soon. We will miss him.

Roof started, bales arriving

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

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

Main beam going up

One section of the main beam in place

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

Rainbows on a cloudy day

Main beam complete, plus a rare summer storm with rainbows

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

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

Ready for rafters

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

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

Rafters delivered

Rafters delivered

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

First rafters up

Evening shot of the first few rafters installed

Coming together

The roof structure starting to take shape

Cezmi approves

Of course Cezmi went up on the roof to inspect it

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

Zeytin is always helpful

Zeytin is always helpful

Cezmi continues his supervisory role

Cezmi takes a break from his supervisory role

Tea break

Tea breaks are much more pleasant in the shade

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

Straw bales arriving

Straw bales arriving

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

Straw bales stored in the kitchen

Straw bales stored in the kitchen

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

The bar

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

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

Sookie returns

Sookie returns

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

Roof planks going on

Roof planks going on

View from the pool

Another view from the pool area

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

Deliveries

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

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

Bricks

Bricks

Steel

Steel

Timber

Timber

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

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

Some of the planned landscaping around the pool.

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

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

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

Poolside seating pavilion, under construction

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

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

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

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

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

Stone retaining wall on driveway nearly finished

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

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

Here's one I made earlier: drain cover

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

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

The first two guest bathrooms laid out with bricks

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

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

Pool terrace railings under construction

Pool terrace railings under construction

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

Sirem getting in on the welding action.

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

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

Plaster testing: three coats of mud plaster

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

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

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

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

What the pool looks like now

What the pool looks like now

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

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour's garden

Spring returns: almond blossoms in the neighbour’s garden

Zeliş relaxing

Zeliş relaxing

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

Zeytin is in a good mood, as usual.

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

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

Thanks for reading!

Cats, dogs, welding, and other delights

Greetings and salutations.

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

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

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

Lifeguard's tower at the beach.

Lifeguard’s tower at the beach.

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

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

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

Pool from above, showing the surrounding terrace.

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

The dogs check out the new tiles.

The dogs check out the new tiles.

Pool is done but needs a good clean.

Pool is done but needs a good clean.

Services all going into one big trench.

Services all going into one big trench.

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

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

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

34 tons of rocks to make a wall.

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

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

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

View looking out over the neighbouring olive groves.

View looking out over the neighbouring olive groves.

Our little menagerie keeps us as busy as ever.

Front to back: Coco, Panini, and Pablo.

Front to back: Coco, Panini, and Pablo.

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

Pablo convalescing.

Pablo convalescing.

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

Zeliş notices something alarming.

Zeliş notices something alarming.

 

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

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

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

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

Koray in action.

Koray in action, welding a steel door and frame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panini, please!

Panini, please!

You guys...

You guys…

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

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

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

I should really get a haircut...

I should really get a haircut…

Ground-breaking news

Since the last post a lot has happened. So many months of planning, waiting and worrying have finally started to bear fruit. Such a relief!

For some reason the council insists on the entire plan being printed on one long sheet.  This leads to much slapstick comedy when the wind is blowing.

The first job was heartbreaking but necessary: we had to cut down some fig trees.  🙁  We lost about fifteen of them and had to relocate three olive trees.  Olive trees, we were told, are very tough and will tolerate relocation as long as you prune them hard and give them lots of water afterwards.  Time will tell whether this advice is correct.

Looking up the block at some of the lost fig trees that had to go in order to make way for the foundation slabs.

The second job was improving the driveway.  With last winter’s rains we had some erosion and it had become more like a goat track than a road.

Our driveway: the “before” photo.

We needed to do something if we were going to get heavy machinery, cement mixers, and delivery trucks up there.

Starting to dig

Excavator starting on the driveway.  Jason really wanted a turn but was not seen as responsible enough.

Gravel to make a nice compacted base

One of twelve truckloads of gravel to make a nice compacted base for the drive.

The “after” photo: from goat-track to motorway.  We like it a lot and it’s so wide that it immediately solves some of our future parking problems.

A view from the top, showing how the drive curves around to allow access to the cafe.  This was about halfway through.  More truckloads of gravel were dumped on the right side of this picture.

Then the excavator moved up the hill to start digging out the soil for the three buildings’ foundations and the pool.

Digging out the base for the cafe and first two rooms.

We had mountains of soil that we didn’t know what to do with.  At first it just got pushed over the edge of our hillside, but there was so much of it we were in danger of causing an avalanche onto the road.  So we had about 20 lorry loads worth of soil taken away, and lots of neighbours turned up with tractors and helped themselves to a bit.  We did keep some, though, for the mud plaster.

“And you could have it all, my empire of dirt…”

Battling machines

Rise of the machines.

The guys worked incredibly fast and before we knew it they were putting formwork, steel reinforcement, and the first loads of concrete in.

Early layer of concrete.  This not the real slab, just a bottom layer to make a good surface for the concrete formwork.

Early layer of concrete. This not the real foundation slab, just a bottom layer to make a good surface for the concrete formwork.

Pool starting to take shape.

Pool starting to take shape.

Formwork for the second bungalow.  One day this will be rooms three and four.

Formwork for the second bungalow. One day this will be rooms three and four.

Underlay slab for our house, right at the top of the hill.

Underlay slab for our house, right at the top of the hill.

Solid reinforced concrete beams that will support the restaurant.  The step up in the slab is so that rooms one and two will sit a little higher and not cut too deeply into the hillside.

Reinforced concrete beams that will support the restaurant. The step up in the slab is so that rooms one and two will sit a little higher and not cut too deeply into the hillside.

Improvised tent so there's somewhere dry to store gear and make tea on rainy days.

Improvised tent so there’s somewhere dry to store gear and make tea on rainy days.  The workers were sceptical of Jason’s plan to build this out of scrap wood but so far it is holding up.

Panorama from the top of the orchard, looking west.  Click for full size.

Another big job that is now done was to lay 66 metres of concrete pipe in the ditch next to the main road and then cover it over.  The idea is to carry away the rain water that comes down the hill, and also to stop our new driveway from acting as a dam.  Each pipe section was 1.5 metres long and 80 cm in diameter.  I am so glad that this job is over now as it was the scariest and most dangerous of all the work done so far. Watching the excavator lift and swing a very heavy concrete pipe in the air, hanging from a chain,  44 times in succession while traffic was still passing on the road was very nerve-racking!  I don’t think we remembered to take a photo of this job because we were so busy watching it nervously.

“Before” photo, taken in March 2014.

After: you can’t see it, but there’s 66 metres of 80 cm concrete pipe buried on the right-hand side of the road there.  Smoothing it over afterwards makes more handy parking spaces.

During these exciting times we had my parents and Jason’s uncle John and aunt Marg staying with us.   In the evenings one or two drinks were had in order to celebrate the start of the building work.

John and Marg inspecting the site.

Jason tells me I have to add cat photos to a blog post or people will complain.  So, here they are.  The kittens are getting bigger every day.  They have names now, but we are still trying to adopt them out.

Panda.

Panda.

Pablo.

Pablo.

Panini.

Panini.

Coco.

Coco.

All together.

All together.

And finally, a big thanks to JP who sent us a wonderful 24mm lens that took most of the photos above.  Cheers, JP, we love it!

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