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

Ambushed!

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

 

Black and White

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)

Adieu Provence

. . It’s A Duck!

The last post (blogging as opposed to bugle calls) had J and me diving out of the house for a breath of fresh air between the downpouring, monsoon-like rains. We decided to wander around to our beautiful Kocadere Valley and check the water flow situation and see what we could see along the way. Flowing water is only visible in the valley after heavy rain as it generally flows underground so it would be a chance to get a few photographic impressions.

Kocadere is, in my opinion, an impressively beautiful place and it’s hard not to feel a sense of deep satisfaction at having been instrumental, along with many others, in helping to preserve its uniqueness whenever I walk there. It is, after all, the home of many rare or beautiful species of flora and fauna.

Iurus dufoureius ssp asiaticus (4)_1

Iurus dufoureius – Europe’s largest scorpion and one of the rarest

Alkanna muhglae

Alkanna muhglae – in all its glory

Lyciasalamandra fazliae

Lyciasalamandra fazliae – Fire Salamander

kocadere0043_1

rushing water and towering cliffs

kocadere0044_1

Whilst we were poking around inside the valley we spotted these beautiful Horseshoe Orchids . .

Horseshoe Ophrys

Ophrys ferrum-equinum – Horseshoe Ophrys

Horseshoe Ophrys

. . amidst masses of Crown Anemones.

crown Anemone

We also gathered an audience who were very curious about what we were up to . .

kocadere sheep
The real highlight of the day happened on the way to the valley when we had to divert off the track and through an olive grove because of flooding. There, under a couple of the trees lay a group of Ophrys (a large family usually referred to as Bee Orchids) of a species that I had not seen before.

Orchids in general and Ophrys in particular can be notoriously difficult to pigeon-hole because of their ‘life-style’ which is best described as promiscuous! Here is a quote from the research unit at Reading University;

‘Orchids can often generate great taxonomic challenges due to interspecific and even intergeneric hybridization. However they are often eye-catching and something people want to be able to identify with confidence. With Ophrys, at least, the more specimens you see the more convinced you become that the plants are not following any rule book when it comes to behaving as species, and genes flow between one species and another to form recognizable hybrids and sometime these give rise to new species.’

In other words, they sleep around a bit and not just with their own! (if I may be permitted such a politically incorrect term) Anyway, when we got home out came my various reference books and for me it has to be Ophrys isrealitica so-called because it was first recorded and tagged in Israel in 1988. I sent photos to various (orchid) groups who did not dissent and also put it up on Facebook for those who are interested because, although not rare for the Eastern Mediterranean or several of the Aegean Islands, it has not been recorded this far west here in Turkey.

There was one person who questioned the ident, but as a non-academic enthusiast without access to sophisticated DNA analysis equipment – if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck!

Ophrys isrealitica

Ophrys isrealitica

Ophrys isrealitica

And it’s another new species for Okçular – I think that is 39 now!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps the stormy weather seems to have done many strange things including messing up my previous WP theme. I’m not that enamoured of this one, but it will have to do until I summon up the will to do something about it.

Image

Colours

The rain has been, and still is, incessant. We are pretty safe here as we are a little uphill from the village which lies on a flood plain. Even with the new drainage system, Karagöl (Black Lake), below our house, is as big as we’ve ever seen it. The occasional break in the weather is a prompt to rush out and bring another stack of logs, or, if it looks like it might last beyond half an hour, get our boots on and get out for a breath of fresh air.

Karagol Black Lake Okcular

a couple of views over Black Lake and the village

Karagol Black Lake Okcular2

When the sun shines there is no doubt that we made a fabulous choice to call this place ‘home’. That said, there have been days upon days lately when there was nothing else to do but huddle by the fire with a good book, or gaze out of the windows at a world turned grey and khaki and hope that this was not going to be another day of lightning strikes and problems for the electricity supply. Added to the oppressive weather we have had our shaky-at-best mobile internet link to the outside world reduced to a crawl for a couple of weeks. Today we have a signal again which claims to be 3G – it certainly isn’t, but at least it is working.

So, apart from building a few new nest boxes and constantly feeding the wild birds – which scoff everything we put out (a lot) in a few hours (and then stand around in the rain looking in the window in a most dejected way), what have we been doing?

sadsparrows

Walking and enjoying the beauty around us whenever we can is the answer to that. Despite the miserable weather, Mother Nature has bumbled on doing what she does so well and carpeted the area in flowers. In the absence of anything else of excitement or interest to report since I last was able to amaze and excite you with my scintillatingly witty and informative postings, here are some more boring old flower pictures taken during the odd moments when it was possible to walk without the need for flippers and a mask! The ‘Colours’ of . .

sand crocus

Sand Crocus

sunshine00031_1

sunshine00034_1

Gorse

Asphodel

Asphodel

mysterious water tunnels

J discovers mysterious water tunnel

Golden Drops

Golden Drops

sunshine00047_1

pure white Crown anemone

pure white Crown Anemone (Okçular exclusive?)

sunshine00065_1

Crown Anemone – three generations

Crown Anemone

Crown Anemone

Crown Anemones

deep purple Crown Anemonesuch depth of colour

OkcularOkçular

Daisy, Daisy

Daisy, Daisy give me . .

Cyclamen

Cyclamen

ophrys fusca

first Sombre Bee-orchid of the year

Giant Orchid

Giant Orchid

fritillaria carica

Fritillaria carica ssp carica

I’ve been at this since 7.30 this morning and it is now 12.30, the sun is sort-of shining, so you’ll be relieved to know that this is your lot! Apart, that is, from Donovan’s rendition of ‘Colours’ from way back when which J says I should apologise for!

 

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Colours

A Little Ray Of Sunshine

It’s been a wild and woolly few weeks with Lodos winds and storms of biblical proportions hammering much of western Turkey. It seems like only yesterday most of us were worrying about the lack of water in the country’s cracked and dried-up reservoirs. I say most because there is at least one person with a hot-line to the almighty – Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu. As Istanbul’s water reserves evaporated to crisis levels, Eroğlu is quoted as saying, ‘If the water is cut in İstanbul, then I’ll cut my mustache’. He obviously knows a thing or two because . .

veysel-eroglu

. . as you can see, the minister is still sporting a fine set of bristles

Anyway, back to the immediate weather situation. As I said, it’s been a bit disruptive – J and I had managed to pull together a nice little outing to Istanbul for a few days. With a bit of juggling and goodwill from friends we had well and truly got our ducks in a row. Our young friends from Tehran were flying over to attend a concert or three in the big city. We had agreed to meet up, spend some time together and attend one of the concerts with them. Meanwhile, dear friend Ahmet of designing amazing machines fame was inked in for a great evening of feasting, raki and raconteuring. Added to that, Mark and Jolee, the Senior Dogs in Istanbul were making a special trip from their island retreat of Burgazada to meet up with us for more great chat, eating and putting the world to rights. We had our plane tickets for what was promising to be a few days crammed with pleasurable stimulation and delight!

 First indication that all was not well with the world of aviation was a call from Turkish Airlines to tell us that our flight, along with a couple of hundred others, was cancelled due to bad weather – the ‘Lodos’ was on its way!

lodos Istanbul

Lodos weather Istanbul

Now, Turkish Airlines may have been grounded but the minister mentioned above is not the only one with celestial connections – those roughie-toughies from Iran Air know that the gods are on their side too, and our young friends breezed in from Tehran – no hassle! Their problems began when they went to get their tickets for the concerts they had flown from Tehran to attend. Sorry! Not just the odd concert cancelled, the whole bloody, week-long festival had been shelved, the organisers just hadn’t bothered to tell anybody who didn’t speak Turkish. Black mark there, then !

dogs pic

Meanwhile, out on Burgazada the Senior Dogs were kennel-bound because all the ferries had been cancelled. Even if we had made it to Istanbul there would have been nothing else for it than to hunker down against the belting rain and howling wind in some local meyhane and get stuck into a bottle or three!

meyhane

trust me, Turks really know how to enjoy themselves despite a few killjoys in Ankara

I’m pleased to say that stuck down here in Okçular we were able to exercise the healthy option and take advantage on Sunday of a few hours break in the weather when the sky cleared and the sun shone. Instead of downing some spirits we lifted our spirits with a wander around to our beautiful Kocadere Valley. As ‘Bones’ used to say, ‘It’s life Jim, just not as we’ve known it these past few weeks!’ Enjoy!

crown anemone red

Crown Anemone

giant orchid

rain drops on a Giant Orchid

crown anemones

Crown Anemones

wild cyclamen

Cyclamen

sunshine0011_2

Okçular’s crown jewel – Alkanna mughlae

Sea Aster

Sea Aster

Monk's cowel

Monk’s Cowel

Giant Orchid

a beautiful Giant Orchid

Alan Fenn, stuck indoors again with nothing better to do!

A Little Ray Of Sunshine

Fun Guys

It’s been a bit wild and woolly down here in Okçular these past few days – howling gales and torrential rain – fairly normal for the time of year! I can often be found, book cast aside, standing with my nose stuck to the window feeling glum.

stormy Okcular

the aftermath

Being shut in with J for a few days can lead to some interesting, usually suppressed, behaviour surfacing. Scrabble is a good example and is a sure indicator that life is not normal!

Okcular after the storm

the aftermath of the aftermath

Anyway, even stormy weather passes eventually, the sun comes out and we are able to venture out into the verdant, green, dripping forest that is our backyard. So, bank the fire, put your wellies on and join us, as it turns out we met some really fun guys . .

Fruity Brittlegillhere’s the first of the fun guys by the name of Fruity Brittlegill

Common Puff Ball

and his sidekick Common Puff Ball

Gilded Brittlegill

Gilded Brittlegill

the Gilded Brittlegill twins

fungi

any idea who this fun guy is?

Meanwhile the sun continued to shine . .

Okcular in the sun

fungi

some of the fun guys wear beautiful, frilly petticoats

slime fungiwhilst others are really slimy types

cup fungi

don’t know who this guy is

Crested Coralone of the nicest of the fun guys, Crested Coral

Hope you enjoyed meeting the guys. Whilst none of them are magic, they can have some really interesting effects on you if you join them in a meal – I wouldn’t take a chance on any of them.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Fun Guys

Judgement Day 2.0

rup winners

By way of an update on the previous post, here are the photos and names of the three winners of the ‘Okçular Village Guide’ book. These three entries were considered to be ‘most promising’ and I hope that the books will encourage the recipients to explore the beautiful countryside around my village where they will find lots of wonderful subjects to fill up the hard-drives or storage cards on their electronic devices!

For any of you reading this post who are curious about the book and the ‘Okçular Book Project’, you can click on the tab at the top of the page, or the ‘Okçular Book Bazaar’ tab where you will find information about our secure, worldwide order/delivery service.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

 

Judgement Day 2.0

Mists And Mellow Fruitfulness

J and I love this time of year – the temperature is perfect, it rains, the sun shines, the shades of green and brown are gorgeous as leaves fall and plants of every sort grow – thrusting their way through barren layers of summer and out into the sparkle of spring. The smells of leaf-mould and mushrooms and damp, rich soil – the twittering of ‘garden’ birds and the calls of buzzards and ravens. Everywhere you look and listen and sniff, stuff is happening. There is new energy – from Mother Nature and from us!

An old friend has returned after a summer spent gadding about the forest chasing food and the ladies – now he just craves a bit of peace and quiet and his place in the sun . .

Tawney Owl

. . Owl is home again for the ‘winter’.

J is composting furiously as the pruning mounts up ready for the macerating machine . .

macerating machine

compost bins

hot compost heaps

. . and ‘Yes, they really do get that hot!’ I’ve poached eggs in the compost heap before now, if you don’t believe me go here and check it out.

The colours of autumn are a delight to the eye and often it is the smallest of things that make the biggest impression – ‘suns’ glow . .

autumn colours

. . and ‘stars’ twinkle . .

autumn berries

Common Copper

. . and a Common Copper glows in the sun.

There was even time and energy for a bit of ‘reverse lens’ macro photography fun . .

Huntsman Spider macro

. . staring down a Huntsman Spider

Finally, this being our so-called autumn, here are a couple of aptly-named flowers from this time of year – both are so delicate and beautiful and so worth taking a few moments to pause and enjoy.

Scilla autumnalis Autumn Squill

Scilla autumnalis – Autumn Squill

Spiranthes spiralis - Autumn Lady's Tresses

Spiranthes spiralis – Autumn Lady’s Tresses

Spiranthes spiralis - Autumn Lady's Tresses

This orchid is such a tiny thing, so easy to miss and yet close up the flowers appear to be made of crystalised sugar . .

Spiranthes spiralis - Autumn Lady's Tresses

With the exception of the red berries, all the machines, creatures (human and non-human) and plants live in and around my garden!

Autumn. It surely is the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Mists And Mellow Fruitfulness

It Never Rains . .

‘Oh, shut up you boring old fart!’ said J not long ago in response to a very modest bit of pedantry from me. ‘£$<% off yourself my Little Nest of Vipers!’ retorted I. Such can be the level of discourse after a day shut indoors by torrential downpours. We get ‘stir-crazy’! Do not be distressed dear reader, there is usually a twinkle in the eye behind the venom. Plus, if Wikipedia is to be believed (and I do), ‘boring old fart’  is often used as a colloquial term of endearment and so I choose to give J the benefit of the doubt(s). Especially if she hasn’t been able to tend her compost heaps for a few hours!

john major

John Major – a Boffer of distinction

Anyway, with our area enjoying the second highest rainfall in Turkey after the Black Sea region, torrential rain is fairly normal here. Wikipedia, and others who copy and paste these things, give us an average of 48 and a half inches during the winter months. Four feet give or take half an inch. Let me tell you, it’s more like five to six feet – just go ask those who chose to build their houses down on Okçular’s flood plain!

So, first it rains . .

Okcular rain storm

Okcular rain

Okcular rainfall

. . and the fields look like this:

black lake3

. . and then the sun comes out and it looks like this:

black lake2

No wonder, regardless of the weather, our neighbours always smile and say ‘Okçular, çok güzel!’ (chok gewzel) – ‘Okçular is very beautiful!’

black lake5

Damn right! Have you seen my Fred Astaire impersonation? Or was it Gene Kelly?

gene kelly

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

It Never Rains . .