Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: renovation

Why everyone needs an air compressor

It’s a busy period at the moment. There’s just the two of us here, and we’re trying to get the rest of the renovation done on the farmhouse so we can switch focus to the straw-bale construction up in the orchard.

Of all the tools we either brought with us or bought here in Turkey, I think the most useful is the air compressor. I used to wonder what these were really for: why would anyone want a big supply of compressed air?

Compressor in action.

Compressor in action.

It turns out that the reason you want compressed air is because  you can use it to do almost anything. Instead of buying lots of small tools like drills or sanders with individual electric motors, the idea is to have one big electric motor that fills a tank with compressed air, and then use the air to power lighter, simpler, hopefully cheaper tools.

Gauges, valves, copper pipes... it's got everything!

Gauges, valves, copper pipes… it’s got everything!

In truth, we haven’t thrown away all our electric saws and drills. But the compressor lets us run tools that don’t always have an electric equivalent. The most dramatic are probably the two nail guns we own: scary! We also have an air-powered staple gun which is incredibly handy for things like upholstery.

For instance: we like our Toyota Hilux, and it will carry a lot of cargo. But one of its few weak points is that you don’t really have a boot. There’s nowhere to lock up your bags or shopping out of sight. So we built a removable tray cover out of basic timber and board, but made it look more professional by covering it in black vinyl. We wouldn’t have been able to do such a nice job of stretching the vinyl without the power of the staple gun.

Truck tray cover: timber and oriented-strand board covered in black vinyl.

Truck tray cover: timber and oriented-strand board covered in black vinyl.

We hope it looks professional.

We hope it looks professional.

Another air tool that’s going to get a lot of use in the future is a mortar-and-plaster sprayer we had to order from the US. This is going to be a life saver when it comes to the hard work of getting all those straw bale walls covered in three coats of clay plaster.

We tried the sprayer out for the first time on a smaller job: covering a brick wall at the front of the house with cement render.

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It’s a clever tool. You dip the bucket into the wet mortar mix…

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… and then the compressed air blasts the mortar out onto the wall.

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Rendered in no time; will look much nicer once limewashed.

If we hadn’t had to stop and manually mix up additional mortar a few times, the job would have been done in ten minutes. It’s a really smart and simple tool.

Speaking of plastering, we’ve also started to experiment with using the clay-rich soil from our orchard as a plaster base. The oven at the back of the garden was looking a bit worse for wear, so giving it a new coat seemed like good practice.

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Fresh coat of earth plaster (just dirt mixed with a bit of ash) on the clay oven.

In that photo, you might spot some cracks forming in our plaster coat as it dries. That was both frustrating and encouraging: it means that the plaster mix we get from simply digging up our soil is actually too rich in clay. We need to add some sand and maybe some straw and lime to perfect it. Further work needed, as the scientists say.

What else have we done lately? We worried that Zeytin (the dog) would not be warm enough as the nights got colder, so we gave her a clear plastic curtain to help keep her body heat inside the doghouse.

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A curtain to keep Zeytin warm. Yes, we are soft-hearted people, I know.

And here is a shot of Zeytin looking like a fugitive in a wanted poster.

And here is a shot of Zeytin looking like a fugitive in an old “wanted” poster.

The next big project is definitely finishing the kitchen. It’s embarrassing how long I’ve put that one off. It’s not that we don’t have a kitchen; it’s just that it’s  mostly made out of bookshelves and it doesn’t have a sink in it yet.

Thanks for reading. As usual I will close with a random selection of pictures.

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Sirem wanted me to post this shot of some marigolds just to show that they are still in bloom.

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More bounty from our neighbour’s garden: we fried most of these peppers and froze them to use over the winter.

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A moody-looking sunset over our village.

Concrete is cool

Bear with me. I know concrete may not sound like the most exciting subject in the world. I also know that Portland cement is not exactly the most environmentally friendly building material around. But we’ve been blown away by how useful it is, and how easy it is to do small jobs around the house with it. I confess that for years I assumed concrete work was something you had to pay a professional to do, but that’s just not true.

A man and his wheelbarrow. (Thanks for the shirt, Paul.)

A man and his wheelbarrow. (Cheers for the shirt, Paul.)

Our first job was pretty modest: after the work on our new bathroom, the trench through the yard had messed up some of the garden borders. So we made a new one. It’s not going to win any awards for style, but it works.

Lime-washed concrete garden border. Our very first job!

Lime-washed concrete garden border. Our very first concrete job!

Then we really got started. In the courtyard, the stairs up to the garden had a strange first step that was twice as tall as it should have been, making the stairs very awkward. So we built a new step, out of formed concrete with wire mesh for reinforcement, and tiled it to look like the others.

That bottom step didn't use to be there. Much more comfortable to walk up now!

That bottom step is new. Much more comfortable to walk up the stairs now!

We also made a new curved concrete ramp for the door to the barn, and a new sill for the kitchen window (the previous one had crumbled when they took the old window out).

This used to be a sudden step down to the barn floor level. Curved ramp makes it easier to roll things in and out of the barn.

This used to be a sudden step down to the barn floor level. Curved ramp makes it easier to roll things in and out of the barn.

New window needed a new window sill. Further plasterwork needed around the edges...

New window needed a new concrete sill. Further plasterwork needed around the edges…

We’ve even started on some bricklaying, adding a few courses to a wall at the front of the house to help with privacy. No photos of that yet, though.

Concrete is of course a bit grey, so I thought I should add some photos of more colourful stuff. Here’s another insect visitor to our garden: a praying mantis that  helpfully sat right next to one of our outside lights one night and watched us as much as we were watching him.

Praying mantis wants in on the photography action.

Praying mantis wants in on the photography action.

And some shots of local places, thanks to our visitors Berkan and Sofie who dragged us out of the house for a bit.

Harbour at Güzelçamlı.

Harbour at Güzelçamlı.

Evening street scene in Eski Doğanbey, a conservation village nearby.

Evening street scene in Eski Doğanbey, a conservation village nearby.

 

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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