Incredible Okçular!

Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends . .

Henry V

Henry V, Act III Scene 1
(with apologies to the Bard from Stratford-upon-Avon)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English  village dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man or woman
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of environmental war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood!

Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat recently. What with the sudden, unannounced arrival  of a huge drilling rig in our midst just over two weeks ago and the MotoGP from Assen yesterday (Saturday) I’ve been a bit preoccupied with other things and other thoughts.

Okcular drilling rig

It all began three years ago when, without any consultation or proper notice, a company that is said to have connections within the former ruling political party was granted a license to drill for geothermal hot water in Okçular – anywhere in Okçular including private land! There were rumours going around, but nothing concrete.

Then, just over two weeks ago, J and I woke up to a strange grinding sound somewhere near the village cemetery. We wandered up to investigate and found what you see in the photo above. We must have been out when they arrived because we saw nothing go past our house.

Besides the crew there was a guy who, by his attitude and manner, appeared to be a ‘patron’. J began to question him and he certainly acted as if being questioned by a mere woman was beneath him. He learned otherwise! What he told us was that they were drilling for hot water to be used for a spa/fitness hotel somewhere between Okçular and Ortaca and that they would also be selling the water to other hotels who wanted it in Dalyan and Ortaca.

Armed with this information we went to our muhtar (village headman). He informed us that he knew about the project but not when it was starting. He claimed to have called a meeting of the villagers but we have yet to meet anyone who knew of it. We asked if he realised how dangerous this sort of thing would be to the environment and the livelihoods of our farming neighbours. He didn’t, but claimed they had a license so what could be done about it.

We suggested he call a village meeting. ‘OK’, he said ‘Next week.’ ‘No, tomorrow!’ said we – and so it began. News of what is planned is now spreading via the media.

guneyege002

With the help of friends in other places we have learned a lot in just a few days. There has been no environmental impact report/ÇED rapor, for example. With this information and knowledge of what is planned the village has begun the fight back. Trust me, there are a lot of very angry people here! We have been fortunate to have the dedicated support of the fantastic team of environmentalists who successfully defended Yuvarlakçay and İztuzu Beach. With their guidance we will be effective instead of floundering about in the dark.

OMR_0010

Geothermal is not all that it is cracked up to be. For example, in Aydin Province there are a number of ‘closed’ geothermal installations where the hot water is extracted, the heat used and then the water is returned to where it came from. These projects are held up around the world as models of excellence! Yet still the farmers in these areas are having their trees and land poisoned and their livelihoods destroyed.

poison-gas-danger-sign-s-0582poison1

Here, in Okçular, the system will be ‘open’. The water, which is full of such substances as arsenic, boron, selenium, iron, cadmium, fluoride, hydrogen, sulfur, mercury, ammonia, radon, carbon dioxide and methane, in some instances the water is radio-active, will be pumped through pipes laid alongside the village water supply. We know from experience how often pipes under/alongside the road get damaged by heavy vehicles. When the water eventually arrives at spa hotels in Dalyan (and we already know which some of them are), or wherever, it will be pumped through the pools and then discharged – where? Into the canals or directly into the ground!

When this stuff is being extracted the borehole has to be constructed using welded steel pipes that are then lined with concrete to minimise the risks from cross-contamination with drinking and surface water. There is a very, very good reason for that when you look at the contaminants listed above! What are the controls that should be in place when this toxic water is being piped around and eventually discharged?

Part of the actions being taken by the village and our supporters is to start a court case and seek an injunction. This will force those behind the project and the government to open up the licenses and permissions to public examination. Apart from anything else, the drilling is being carried out illegally because it is well inside the boundary of exclusion for the village cemetery. There is an online petition where those of you who want to support us can do so, just click the link. It is complimentary to the paper petition that is being mounted locally and will only be up for a short time as it will go to the judge of the special court in about a week. We have more than one iron in the fire and I am truly optimistic that the village will prevail in the end. That said, there is no place for complacency and the battle continues on several fronts.

To quote a hero of mine, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos;

Marcos

‘¡Ya Basta!’ Enough!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps Valentino Rossi won the Assen TT in a glorious, unforgiving battle – there’s a moral in there somewhere!

Incredible Okçular!

The Emperor’s New Clothes

emperors-new-clothesSometimes, being in the right place at the right time can have humiliating or even catastrophic consequences. The story by Hans Christian Andersen comes to mind about the two tailoring conmen who promised the vain-glorious emperor a new suit of clothes that is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his new clothes, no one dares to say that he doesn’t see any suit of clothes until an innocent child cries out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!

And sometimes, being in the right place at the right time can leave one open-mouthed in wonder or delight! A couple of evenings ago, J and I arrived home from a delightful day hunting out orchids and tulips in village graveyards and mountain meadows with new friends and wound up with a very nice meal at one of our favourite riverside restaurants in the mountains. As I parked the car in the garage I spotted this:

giant viennese emperor moth1

giant viennese emperor moth2

A female Saturnia pyri the Giant or Viennese Emperor Moth aka Giant Peacock Moth. She had only just emerged from the pupae that had been fixed inside a nearby nest box and was in the process of ‘pumping-up’ her wings.

By next morning that part of the process was over. The female seldom flies at this pre-mating stage and so she hung there, under the overhang of the garage , conserving her energy and waiting for the night and the trysting hours. As twilight drew on she began emitting pheromones, a sort-of ‘Chanel No5′ on steroids and a real turn-on for any male Emperor Moth within a mile or so of this gorgeous creature.

giant viennese emperor moth3

The Saturniidae family are an interesting lot – adult females emerge with a complete set of mature ova and “call” males by emitting pheromones. Males can detect these chemical signals up to a mile away with help from sensitive receptors located on the tips of their feather-like antennae. The males fly several miles in one night to locate a female and mate with her; females generally will not fly until after they have mated.

The mouth-parts of adult saturniids are very small and basically useless and they lack digestive tracts so adults subsist on stored lipids acquired during the laval stage. Adult behaviour is devoted almost entirely to reproduction – life without food is short and sweet with a lifespan of a week or less after emergence.

Their distribution is across southern Europe and parts of Africa and Asia. In the UK you have the Lesser Emperor Saturnia pavonia which is smaller but a little more colourful.

So, from the egg there emerges a tiny, brownish caterpillar that then goes through a series of moults that transforms it from this:

Saturnia pyri hatchling

to this:

saturnia pyri caterpillar

After about five moults it then pupates inside a tough ‘box’ that it spins for protection. The connection with its close relative the silkworm is apparent.

Saturnia pyri5

S pyri pupae

. . from this the adult emerges and it starts all over again!

Anyway, back to our own story of romance and seduction! At some point during the hours of darkness, a knight in shining scales flew in, surfing the pheromonical airwaves that make Coco Chanel look a total amateur. There was, I’m sure a exchange of pleasantries before an exchange of a more compelling nature was mutually agreed upon. Come the morning light our amorous couple were oblivious to anything but each other.

giant viennese emperor moth4

giant viennese emperor moth5

. . let no man put asunder!

After the passion comes that suffused, floating feeling that every Emperor and Empress will only know once – unless they have genetic memory! Here they are, resting in the warm glow of a Westering sun.

giant viennese emperor moth7

  As I write this they have flown up into the lower branches of our Oriental Plane tree and will no doubt be about the business of depositing the eggs of another generation of these beautiful creatures.

giant viennese emperor moth8

the sun shines through the wings of the slightly battered male

giant viennese emperor moth9

the female – great with eggs

These beautiful moths are very amenable to gentle, cautious handling – just putting my finger close to the female had her stepping across for a photo-shoot.

giant viennese emperor moth10

Saturnia pyri to handa head-on with those amazing antennae (Wikimedia)giant viennese emperor moth11

some wing detailgiant viennese emperor moth12profile

So, there you have it – a new suit of clothes for the Emperors that, in just a few days, will be just a story tale . . until next year.

Alan Fenn, in Incredible Okçular

Incredible Okçular!

Ambushed!

Okçular-Village-Guide_1This coming year will see the gradual winding down of the Okçular Book Project. It was started by way of giving something back to our village for all the love and support we have been given since we were fortunate enough to land in the lap of this farming community.

Originally conceived as a small booklet that would tell a few stories, that could be sold to raise a few lira that could be used for the benefit of the community, the project mushroomed into two guides that over the years has raised thousands upon thousands of lira. To say that our expectations were exceeded would be a gross understatement!

With the exception of two items, a playground in the village centre and a village photo archive, all other projects funded from the books have centred around the school. The creation of the beautiful murals and gardens with Gülay Çolak and Fiona MacRae that so transformed the formerly drab, utilitarian seat of learning came first.

gulay fiona

Fiona and Gülay

the old geezer

the Old Geezer bending his back . . again!

mural crewthe murals crew

This was followed by wi-fi for the whole school; bicycle racks; a library in every classroom; the restoration of a beautiful old wooden outdoor chess set and making a tiled board; the funding of a complete science cupboard.

chess

Ok school watering sys

Okcular school10

Recently the book money provided an agricultural-grade watering system that will keep the garden plants and young trees alive throughout the long, hot summer holidays. This was followed by steel railings to protect the the system and the plants from over exuberant ball games. And there is still plenty of cash in the kitty to do more as needs arise!

So, you may well ask why we feel it is time to wind the Book Project down – it’s a good question. The answer has everything to do with need for complete rewrites and re-vamping of both guides which would entail a huge amount of time and work and the fact that neither of us is getting any younger and there are many other things/projects we want and need to find time for.

Anyway, moving on – 23rd of April is National Sovereignty and Children’s Day here in Turkey and each year we go down to our village school to show our support for the efforts of the children and teachers in their celebration. Here are a few photos to give you a taste:

Okcular school3

Okcular school4

Okcular school5

 

Okcular school6

Okcular school7

the pre-school class getting their ducks in a row – sort of!

Okcular school8

okcular school9

Part way through the proceedings J and I were startled to hear our names and a summoning over the audio system. Mystified and a tadge embarrassed in front of all the children and parents, we gathered at the rostrum where there followed a fulsome thank you from the head teacher for the support given by us through the Book Project over the years. As I shuffled my feet, J was presented with a wonderful armful of flowers and promptly burst into tears!

Okcular school1

Okcular school2

. . in the national colours of Turkey, too!

Alan Fenn, ‘Ambushed’ but very happy to be part of Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

Black and White

We had a treat here in Okçular today – a rather uncommon visitor dropped in on Black Lake for a quick bite before moving on. Ciconia nigra, Black Storks stopped by on their way from equatorial regions of Africa to their nesting grounds in northern Turkey and Europe

Ciconia nigra distribution

yellow – breeding range; blue – wintering range; green – year round

Relying, as they do, on thermals to assist their long passage-making, they tend to use three overland corridors – in the West they follow the coast and cross into Europe via Gibraltar; in the central Med they cross from Tunisia and then island-hop through Malta and Sicily into Italy. In the East they use the Red Sea, Sinai, Syrian shoreline before swinging a left along the Turkish coast and then north through the Bosphorus and then spreading out to their breeding grounds across Europe and Russia.

Most of us living here in Turkey are familiar with the Black Stork’s close cousin, the White Stork. The Whites are much more tolerant of us humans. Blacks, on the other hand are shy and wary creatures choosing to live away from human disturbances and so getting a chance to see them is a rare treat. In the past, on odd occasions, we have seen single Blacks and couple of  times there have been two of them feeding up on the lake before disappearing as quickly as they arrived. Today, J set off in the car only to rush back to let me know that there were black birds on the lake. The lens I had available is a 300mm and the birds were a long way off – this is the best I could do . .

Black and White Storks1a White arrives to keep the blacks company

Black and White Storks2

. . here are some pics from serious photographers . .

Black Stork1a couple of adults

Black Stork2

Black Stork juvanile

a juvenile

Such beautiful creatures . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

 

Incredible Okçular!

Adieu Provence

. . with apologies to author Peter Mayle – not that I think he ever wrote a book of that title, but just in case!

‘Adieu’ is not really appropriate; ‘RIP Provence’ would be a title more to the point. J and I have lost a friend, a Provençal Lady of great, if delicate, beauty who lived her life very close to the edge. We would visit her every year without fail at about this time – an assignation that we kept secret from everyone else for fear that her uniqueness (certainly around here) might lead to her violation.

Now it is over and she is gone – swept away in a terrible landslide that carried off her and her home, leaving nothing behind but loose scree and the tracks of a bulldozer. We were there today to fulfil our promise made several years back to visit each year, pay our respects and compliment her on her new Spring outfit. It was not to be. So sad!

landslip1

the new track above her home . .

landslip2

. . and the devastating consequences!

Her demise could have been avoided had some petty bureaucrat paid attention to her situation before sending a bulldozer to drive a new road into the mountain above her home. The machine dislodged great amounts of rock and soil which crashed down the mountainside carrying everything before it.

We are devastated! Here are a few photos – ‘In Memoriam’, if you will. Try as we might, we never found another like her and that valley where she lived will never be the same. She is gone but will never be forgotten!

Orchis provincialis 03_1

Orchis provencalis – Provence Orchid  It was never possible to get really close, living where she did on the edge of a near-vertical cliff – these shots were taken with a long lens and a lot of knee-trembling!

Orchis provincialis 06_1

her trademark green and brown polka-dot skirt is visible

. . one of her distant relatives was there to shed a few tears, too

RIP0006_1

Alan Fenn, (in mourning)