Ionia Guest House

Luxury accommodation in the Aegean countryside

Tag: straw bale construction (page 1 of 2)

When too much breakfast is barely enough

A quick one this time.

Last time around I thought that problematic levels of food photography were still far in our future, but it turns out that the future arrives sooner than you think. With the cafe being open on Sundays now, we thought we should take a few more shots of our breakfast offerings. Mostly so we could include them on the cover of the menu or in printed flyers or something like that. So please enjoy the selection. And if any of the photos succeed in making you hungry, we are most certainly sorry-not-sorry.

Breakfast I.

Breakfast II.

Breakfast: overhead view.

Olives.

Breakfast in the shade, morning sun warming the landscape.

What can I say about the dogs that has not been said already? They continue to be loyal, selfless, deeply lazy animals. The most recent arrival is still looking for a definite name, by the way. Suggestions welcome.

Fluffy (AKA Fluffer, AKA Honey, AKA Honeybunny, AKA Lucky, AKA Lion) in  the garden. Note the  look that says “Am I allowed to be lying here? Is he going to yell at me?”

Zeliş being beautiful. “This is my pile of sand, how dare you make plaster out of it?”

In between breakfast photos we have actually done some work. Plaster is going onto the walls of rooms three and four, inside and out. Most importantly, the west wall of room three, the one facing the pool, has had its final coat of plaster so the pool area is looking much less like a construction site.

Plaster progress.

Pool pavilion tiled.

Pool area progress.

The gardens are looking great, and as usual there’s almost nothing to do except to add water sometimes.

Sunflower.

Garden gone wilder.

And we’ve had a few more guests. Thanks, people — you know who you are. Guests are doubly welcome as they provide an excuse for us to do something other than the usual construction work. So here’s one photo of further explorations at Magnesia (not sure what this building is, possibly warehouses down by the ancient harbour). Plus a gratuitous kitchen photo showing that sometimes we branch out beyond Turkish food.

Cloudy Magnesia afternoon.

Making pasta.

Ciao!

Sunshine and how to escape it

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

Overview of the project.

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

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

Terrace and cafe by night.

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

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

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

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

Rose bush gone wild in the front right.

Gardens outside rooms one and two.

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

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

New sunshade.

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

Two layers of green shadecloth seems about right.

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

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

Cats enjoying the shade.

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

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

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

Zeytin: straw dog.

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

Building two progress.

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

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

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

Coastal drive with tree.

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

Cafe bathroom.

 

Straw bales, bar stools, and a trip to the lake

So, I have to be quick with this post — early start tomorrow. For once I’m going to try to let the photos speak for themselves and not talk so much.

Roof complete, straw bales going in.

As you can see, the roof on building two is now complete. We had 250 straw bales delivered a couple of weeks ago, and they’re rapidly being stacked into walls.

Interior with windows and straw.

Beams, columns, and bales.

The weather has still been a bit mixed-up, but hopefully now we’re in the final stretch towards the long, dry summer. All the rain should hopefully mean a good year for local farmers anyway.

Rain clouds looming to the east. Temporary plastic sheeting helps protect the straw-bale walls.

There were lots of 5 x 25 cm timber pieces left over from trimming the ends of the rafters, so we thought we might be able to make them into bar stools for the cafe. Here are the two prototypes. The legs are angled for stability, which seems to make them more comfortable as the rail for your feet is further forward than usual.

Home-made bar stools.

One size fits all, we hope.

You can’t build stuff all the time though, so one Sunday we took time out for a trip to Lake Bafa (Bafa Gölü). It’s about 40km south of us on the road to Bodrum. Normally we just take the main road along the southern shore and admire the views, but this time we went exploring a bit and found the lovely village of Kapıkırı at the eastern end. The village is built on the ruins of ancient Heracleia and is really worth the drive. Lots of strange rock formations and a very laid-back restaurant on the sandy lake shore.

View of Lake Bafa with some of the ruins of Heracleia in the foreground.

Village of Kapıkırı.

Lunch on the beach.

Fishing boat on the lake.

Sirem’s sister Çisem enjoying the view.

Some readers have asked for more dog photos: here’s one of Zeytin in a rare contemplative moment. And of course there is never a shortage of cats to photograph.

Zeytin having another lazy afternoon.

Sasha has made a new home on the straw bale stockpile.

Leila on the rug.

And finally, a big thank-you to Cees, Anne, and Rene: you must have had the worst holiday ever but we appreciate the help!

Open for business

Two big announcements this time around.

The first one: we’re now officially open and taking bookings via Airbnb! Rooms one and two are ready for guests, and the cafe will be close behind.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to book from June 30th onward.

Ready for guests at last

Our site has been rearranged a little, too — www.ioniaguesthouse.com is now a front page for the hotel. The blog has been pushed down to become one of the main menu items. We’ve added Airbnb links and a photo collection, as well as updating our “how to get here” and “local attractions” pages. If you have the time to browse around, please do. We’d really appreciate feedback on how the site flows, whether it looks OK on different devices, how easy it is to find important information, etc.

Room 1: like room 2, only mirrored!

There’s been a big rush to put the finishing touches on the room interiors, as you might imagine. We’ve shown off our handmade beds previously, and now we have more furniture in a similar rustic style.

Sofa and coffee table.

Everyone needs a wardrobe.

And the second big announcement? After being sworn to secrecy for months, we can finally tell you that we’ve been visited by a British TV crew multiple times over the past year. Our project is going to feature as part of the Channel 5 series “Our Dream Hotel”. Think “Grand Designs” but with hotels and B&Bs instead of houses. Our episode goes out at 9pm on Tuesday the 27th of June. If you’re in the UK, we hope you’ll watch it. It definitely covers both the highs and the lows, and does a fantastic job of condensing our adventure down to 40 minutes or so.

Huge thanks to Vikki, Tim, and Jonnel of TwoFour Productions for being such consummate professionals.

All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.

In fact we were surprised to find we’ve already been broadcast on the Dutch version of the show (“Ons Droomhotel” on RTL4). For those of you not in the Netherlands or the UK, we’re waiting to hear about whether there will be other ways to watch it. We’ll certainly let you know.

Pool weather approaching — why not book now?

So much to do

Winter has come. When we get a north wind in January, it gets colder here than you might imagine. (Certainly colder than I was imagining in 2014.) And again we had some snow this year.

Winter weather

A dusting of snow.

But this winter has been much easier than the last, as we have temporarily moved into room two. It’s been great. We’re pleased to report that straw bale walls insulate just as well as advertised. To give you an idea: in the evenings we use the reverse-cycle air conditioning to get the temperature up to about 21 degrees, then switch it off when we go to bed. Even on the coldest nights, the room is still at about 18 degrees in the morning.

I’m almost reluctant to share the next two shots, as the room doesn’t look as pretty as it did in the previous post. In fact it’s quite cluttered now, as we’ve crammed a lot of furniture in. There’s a bed, a kitchen table with chairs, two sofas, two computer tables, etc. We’re really happy that you can comfortably fit all that in, but of course we’re going to return it to the originally intended minimalist/rustic splendour before the paying guests arrive.

View from the door

Room 2 with all our domestic junk in it.

View from the bed

View when you wake up in the morning.

Also the floor is no longer bare concrete. We went with 30 x 30 cm tiles in a red clay colour with wide grout lines — blatantly stealing a look we’ve seen in old houses in Spain and Italy. Hopefully we’ll get away with it.

Panini with floor tiles

Panini welcoming us home: note the tiles!

The cats are very pleased with the new room, not least because of the aforementioned reverse-cycle air conditioning. Some of them spend the whole day lying on the bed or one of the sofas. I have tried to explain to them that this luxury is only temporary, and by April we will all be back down in the farmhouse, but I am not sure they are listening.

Çezmi

Cezmi takes a break from his building inspector role.

Coco

Coco pretends to be surprised by his own cuteness.

Life is harder for our loyal dogs, who spend their days warning us about approaching tractors or motorbikes on the road below.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

Zeytin and Zeliş on duty.

The building is structurally complete now, so we’re moving on to interior fixtures and fittings. We’ve put the countertop and sink into room two’s little kitchen, but we still need to install a fridge and some cupboards under the counter, and to tile the backsplash.

Sink

Sink going in.

There will be furniture to make, too. After all the carpentry we’ve done on the building itself, making a bed or a coffee table feels very approachable. Here’s something we put together as a base for the bathroom sink.

Bathroom vanity

Chunky bathroom vanity unit.

Speaking of bathrooms, it has been life-changing to be back in a situation where you don’t have to go outside to get to the toilet. That’s not too bad in summer, but it gets old pretty quickly when the temperature is below zero. The en-suite bathroom in room two is not fancy, but it feels big and well-lit and most importantly it’s warm.

Bathroom working

Bathroom: still need to do a mirror, a shelf, some towel racks, etc.

Shower

Shower needs some finishing touches but is fully functional.

The ongoing saga of making all the windows and doors is reaching its conclusion. There is only one doorway left that still needs a frame, and about four or five more doors to do — in the cafe mostly — and then we’re finally done.

Kitchen window

Kitchen window showing the run straight through to the other side. Should lead to a nice breeze when cooking in summer.

Here’s one to file under “you can never have too much storage.” We completed the small attic above the kitchen the other day: the wooden floorboards also form the kitchen ceiling. Taller people may bump their heads on the occasional rafter, but there’s a huge amount of storage space up there. And two internal windows into the cafe area to let some natural light in.

Attic

New attic.

With the prospect of actually having two rentable rooms and a working cafe kitchen soon, it’s pushed us to get back to all the outside stuff: landscaping, drainage, paving the driveway, thinking about where to put cars, etc. We had a backhoe loader in last week and got the guy to smooth out some of our bigger piles of left-over dirt. And also to dig a long drainage trench all the way down from the top of the block to the driveway. Planning to hand-pour a lot of concrete and incorporate a few rocks to try to make the functional ditch into something a bit more attractive. Maybe even make a water feature out of it by pumping water back up to the top. Could be naff, could be wonderful. We will see.

House with drainage ditch

The so-nearly-completed building with a freshly dug drainage ditch in the foreground.

We’ve also started landscaping work at the back of the building, where there’s about four metres of space before the steep slope down to the road. The photo below is very messy, but there’s a few details that may be of interest. You can see our new fusebox on the left, and some short brick retaining walls that will define the garden (don’t worry, we’re going to render and limewash them). That’s our solar hot water system up on a steel tower which makes sure it gets lots of sun but is also hidden away on the north side of the structure. It’s a little ugly right now but when the leaves come back to the fig trees they’ll help hide it.

Landscaping at the back

Landscaping at the back

And finally: we had a couple of days of heavy rain a few weeks back, and all that water led to a little bit of shifting soil on the edge of the driveway. This made us nervous because the nightmare scenario has always been something like a cement truck going too close to the edge and ending up on its side in the farmhouse garden. So just to be safe, we ordered 180 tons of local stone dumped over the edge, to shore things up a bit like you would with a railway track. We lose a little bit of garden at the base, but it was a dark soggy area anyway. Personally I quite like the new look. (I also like ordering 180 tons of something — never gets old.)

Driveway reinforcement

Driveway reinforcement.

 

The furniture update

Quick disclaimer: we are not as close to being finished as some of these photos make it look. But we are getting closer!

Shortly we’ll have to decide which online booking sites we’re going to use. And we’ll need to make our listings look as good as possible. We could take bookings right now for, say, April 2017, but one problem is all our photos (for obvious reasons) make the place look like a building site. With this in mind, some friends had a great idea: why not borrow some furniture and take a few photos that show how things are going to look in a few months time when we’re actually ready for guests?

 

Sun lounges by the pool

Sun lounges by the pool

So we did. The furniture came from a few different places. We concentrated mostly on getting the pool area and the interior of room two to look good. Big thanks to Sirem’s mum Nadire, her sister Çisem, and her cousin Mevlüde for all the work on the beautiful quilt for the bed.

Interior with bed

Interior with bed. (That’s the bathroom door on the left, but sadly the bathroom was in no state to be photographed yet.)

Interior with door

Interior with column and front door.

Interior with sofa

Interior with sofa.

You’ve probably spotted the lack of floor tiles by now but hopefully we got away with it. The raw concrete slab doesn’t look great but I’d like to think it doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the decor.

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

Breakfast on the verandah perhaps?

It was good to put some real tables and chairs into the cafe: very reassuring to see that seating sixteen or twenty people in the dining area is completely realistic. Although we expect most people will want to sit outside on the terrace in the summer, it’s good to have seating space for cold or rainy days.

Cafe dining area

Cafe dining area

Originally it was just going to be a door and a sort-of serving hatch connecting the kitchen with the cafe, but that looked like a missed opportunity to have a proper bar. Years of visiting British pubs must have unconsciously left a mark as we seem to have reproduced one.

We have accidentally built a pub.

We have accidentally built a pub.

That thing just to the right of the bar, on the wall near the light switches, is our straw bale “truth window”. The idea is to leave a window opening in the interior plaster so people can see that there really are straw bales inside the wall. I didn’t quite get this convention at first, but now that we have seen the bales disappear from view, I understand why everyone does it.

Straw bale "truth window".

Straw bale “truth window”.

Garden doing OK.

Garden doing OK.

We were happy with the furnished photos but of course the furniture all had to be given back to the people we borrowed it from and building work had to go on. One big job recently has been putting insulation into the ceiling, between rafters, and then concealing it with interlocking wooden planks. I had been a bit worried that an all-timber ceiling might make the room look a bit like the inside of a sauna, but I’m happy with the result. See what you think.

Insulation and timber paneling going on the ceiling.

Looking straight up at insulation and timber paneling going between the rafters.

Night-time shot of the new ceiling.

A shot of the new ceiling.

No point having windows unless you eventually put some glass in them, and thus we contacted a local glass factory with good prices on double glazing. The only downside was they don’t deliver, so we had to lay all that glass in the back of the truck, wrapped in blankets and bubble wrap, and drive home very carefully. Nothing broke — yay!

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Glass for windows and mirrors has arrived.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Build your own windows for fun and profit.

Right, and in conclusion: I would write more but the truth is I need to sleep so I can get up in the morning and build more things. Here’s your animal photo as required by popular demand (something a bit different today).

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

Sorry, no cat or dog photos. Will you accept a tortoise?

And I am going to keep posting photos of that mountain until I feel I have got the definitive one. Quite happy with this shot though as it makes it look like we live a few kilometres from Mount Doom.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block.

Sunset panorama from the highest point on our block. (Zoomable full-size version here.)

Plastering and windows

We’ve been working hard lately, trying to get the first two rooms and the cafe habitable before the end of the year. Long days and six-day weeks are taking their toll. And now I sit here trying to think of good ways to describe what we’ve done but I’m conscious that I have to get up at 7am and do it all again, and anyway my brain is crammed only with window frame dimensions and sand vs. lime ratios. So it’s really tempting to just let the photos speak for themselves…

Tiles went on

Tiles went on OK.

Tiling the roof in summer heat was a tough job. Koray had the worst of it; he was placing the tiles while the rest of us only carried them up onto the roof. The results are great though.

Summer visitors enjoying the pool.

Summer visitors enjoying the pool.

Some old friends from Spain came to see us (from left to right, that’s Mar, Julia, Diego, and Manuel). It was great to see them and to take a few days off to socialize. But I fear we’re not the best hosts at the moment.  We are always thinking about the project!

As you’ll see further down, plaster is going on the walls now and so the visible-straw-bale stage is almost entirely behind us. I will miss it though: for a while the interior looked like a warm and inviting barn.

The straw bale stage

The straw bale stage comes to a close.

Mesh attached to the walls, gaps stuffed with fabric.

Plaster preparation: mesh attached to the walls, electrical cables installed, gaps in the straw stuffed with fabric.

Preparing for old-school lathe and plaster in the cafe.

Taking the old-school lathe-and-plaster approach in the cafe.

Plastering was a learning experience, like everything else. The air-powered plaster sprayer we imported from the US worked well at first, but tended to get blocked within about 30 minutes of use. You had to pull it apart to clean it, so it wasn’t a time-efficient approach. In the end we did the first coat of plaster the traditional way: by flicking it on with a trowel.

Early stage plastering: first coat is flicked on with a trowel.

Early stage lime plastering: first coat is flicked on with a trowel. (Note the privacy barrier separating the verandahs for rooms one and two.)

Interior plastering: working up to the desired thickness.

Interior plastering: working up to the desired thickness.

Roughly speaking, the plaster is about three parts sand to one part hydrated lime. Although Berrin has been doing most of the mixing, and she’s not following an exact recipe but instead judges the plaster consistency by eye. The ear is helpful too: you get used to the sound a good mix makes as it sloshes around the mixer.

The second coat is about filling up gaps and bringing the surface out to approximately where you want it. The final coat is made with finer sand and more lime, and gives a beautifully smooth finish. As the final coat dries, there’s much more of a sense of what the completed building will look like.

Smooth final coat of plaster on the south side.

Smooth final coat of plaster on the south side.

Berrin mixing five barrow loads of plaster for Koray.

Berrin mixing five barrow loads of lime plaster for Koray.

Late-stage interior plastering: one more coat to come.

Late-stage interior plastering.

We got some professional carpenters in to give us quotes on doing all the doors and windows. Unfortunately some of the quoted numbers were a bit eye-watering, so we’ve decided to do it ourselves. It will take longer, but we’ll save a lot of money and we know we’ll get the look we want. Right now the workload is split, with Koray and Berrin on plastering while Sirem, her sister Çisem, and I do windows and doors.

Time to build some windows and frames.

Time to build some windows and frames (glass comes later).

My office.

Back in the office.

Çisem after a day of sanding windows and doors.

Çisem after a day of sanding windows and doors.

Window frames going in, with bags of lime in the foreground.

Windows going in, with bags of lime in the foreground.

Another view of the windows; you can see what the finished product will look like now.

Another view of the windows; you can see what the finished product will look like now.

Lathe and plaster success!

Lathe and plaster success!

So that’s where we are now. There are still a lot of jobs left to do: floor tiles, bathrooms, kitchen fitting, etc. But the end is in sight. We hope to be finished and open for our first guests early in 2017. (At which point we can start on the second building, of course.)

Zeliş gazing wistfully into the distance.

Zeliş gazing wistfully into the distance.

Weather still good but turning colder: the autumn sunsets begin.

Weather still good but turning colder: autumn sunsets begin.

 

 

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!

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