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Dicing With Death

Quite a lot of people, whole families, die unnecessarily in Turkey every year. The killer is silent. Usually strikes at night when folks are asleep. And it is mostly poorer families who are the victims. The killer is well known with plenty of information and warnings distributed about how to stay safe. Still people die!

The killer is carbon monoxide and the weapon of choice is usually poorly maintained domestic solid fuel heaters.

Here in Turkey they are know as a ‘soba’. They come in all shapes, sizes and shades of brown, They are very cheap to buy and when properly maintained, incredibly efficient! Despite there being a safe, optimum length for the flue pipes they often span great distances across rooms because the hot pipe is a source of considerable heat distribution.

Until we built our cabin J and I had never owned or operated a soba. That we needed one, given the sub-zero winter temperatures, was a given. Our choice was one of those cute little jobbies with an oven built in that you can see above. Mindful of the dangers from lack of care/maintenance we have kept an eye on carbon build-up and carried out regular cleaning.

All had been well until we arrived for this stop-over. The days are a delight but night time temperatures are regularly quite a few degrees below zero. The cabin was cold so we got the soba going right away – except it didn’t! Smoke billowed out into the room and there was nothing for it but to open all the doors and windows and allow the fire to die down.

When it was cool enough I removed the fire bucket and pried open a couple of the easily reached flue pipes – they were clear. There was nothing else for it (by now it was evening and dark) but to put double quilts on the bed, have an early night, cuddle up and hope we didn’t get hypothermia. I can tell you one thing, it was so cold I went the whole night without getting up for a pee once let alone the usual three! Mind over matter or what!

pretty clean – no problem there

This morning, after reviving coffee, it was down to the job of a total strip down. What we found was horrifying and a lesson in not getting complacent! The speed of this build-up was staggering.

Common sense kept us freezing cold last night – by not chancing our arm and trying to keep a small fire in it also kept us alive! That said, I leave you with the following:

and

Tonight we sleep cozy, just one quilt and I bloody well know my bladder is not going to hold out!

Alan Fenn, up here!

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Do What You Do Do Well, Boy!

Well, here we are. Déjà vu all over again! We were feeling deprived and it was something J and I just couldn’t put up with. (and before you pendants begin to stir) No, being away from our mountain retreat any longer was something up with which we could not put!

I mean, look at the view – who wouldn’t want to be here?

It feels great to be here. Within minutes of arriving everything was checked out and working fine. The fire was lit, the solar systems were providing hot water and electric power and all was well with the world. One hour in and we were out in the garden doing what we do so well, picking over the veg plot, planting onions along with the odd, lonely little petunia and moving piles of rocks about!

this is ‘Happy’. ‘Grumpy’ is on the shovel!

Oak logs were sorted to keep the fire in overnight – temperatures will drop to minus or just below. The wheel barrow has a newish wheel. The pond looks great. The wild pigs have had a root about but have done no damage so all is well with the world.

Alan Fenn, up here.

ps ‘do what you do do’ got me thinking. How many times can ‘and’ be followed by ‘and’ in a sentence and still make perfect sense? Answers on a postcard (or in a comment).

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Necessity Is The Mother Of Adventure

. . or words to that effect!

When J and I wandered back down here to Okçular we never dreamed that weeks later we would still be here feeling locked in by the bitterly cold weather that has hit the country. I mean, this time last year we were having a whale of a time playing the backwoods man (and woman) and building stone walls and then more stone walls! We were working outside in shirtsleeves and waking up at the crack of each beautiful dawn.

About the middle of January we made a run for it as a minor blizzard set in but we were soon back enjoying every moment of life in the mountains.

This year the polar north winds set in a couple of months ago and are showing no signs yet of moving on. We huddled around the fire in our centrally heated house and worried about how things would be up at the cabin – then we worried some more. With temperatures regularly in minus double figures up there we worried about what temperature wine, beer and home-made marmalade freezes at and the after-effects. Well, you would, wouldn’t you!

Photos appeared from friends who live up there in the mountains – photos that caused us to admire their toughness and fortitude but did nothing to stop us worrying about the wine and marmalade! Here are a few from friends Emine and Armağan . .

The days passed with little change and we remained huddled around our fire devoid of any spirit of adventure but well reinforced with spirits of a different kind! You could say that the spirits were willing but the flesh was weak!

More days passed until suddenly an ashen-faced J stood in the doorway, shoulders slumped. She had just been to the wine store only to find that ‘There are only a few bottles left!’ It was crunch time. The thought of running out of wine and having to pay retail was altogether too much. An emergency run to our favourite winery up in the mountains was a must. When push comes to shove (and it very well might do up there) there is only one thing an intrepid mountain man (and woman) can do – go for it!

With absolute faith in Turkey’s ability to keep its roads open we set off the next day just before 7am. Now Turkey, for some obscure reason decided to stay on summer time this winter so it was pitch-black and even down here we were seeing temperatures below -3C! Sensible and cautious driving was called for.

As usual, the roads were amazingly clear and despite a -7C at one point we made good time to our supplier in the back of beyond. By then the sun was shining in a clear blue sky and once loaded we decided to stick with the main roads and head to the cabin for a quick recce and damage control.

As we climbed over the last ridge that brings the lake in to view we were astonished – it had disappeared behind a grim layer of grey cloud and everywhere looked bleak.

Not the usual view we, or you, are used to seeing from the cabin

even the pine-needles are frozen solid

Sami’s pide (pizza) place on the beach

Now, as it turned out, everything was fine with the cabin and so feeling much relieved we set off back to Okçular with its central heating and un-chilled wine. The roads were clear, the sun was shining and all was well with the world! Until we got within a few miles of the climb up to the pass at Karabel on the Antalya-Fethiye road and it started to snow.

Karabel was a nightmare of stalled cars and trucks parked at all angles. Instinct took over, all I knew was that I needed to keep the bloody thing moving – if there was a gap then go for it – ‘Vorwärts Kameraden! Vorwärts!’ ‘Onwards and upwards!’ It felt like inches at a time but we made it to the top, the only car that did, due in no small part to the weight of a boot overloaded with boxes of wine and a wonderful truck driver on his way down who stopped and let me scrape by. As we drove sedately down towards Fethiye I vowed never to forget the snow-chains again!

What is amazing is that two days later a dear friend Türker decided to go for a driving adventure of his own up to the lake. These are his photos – Odin, you bastard!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü for the time being

ps thanks again to Türker, Emine and Armağan for the photos – a picture is worth a thousand words!

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Shall We Retire To The Lounge

We had a splendid lunch today – Spicy Rabbit Casserole, of course! We were joined by two dear friends and their children who are all part of our family really together with two of their friends. Now, I don’t do photos of food as I’m usually far too engrossed in eating and enjoying it. Suffice to say it was magnificent!

rabbit

so as not to disappoint the ‘foodies’ amongst you, here is one from earlier

Later, in the very best English tradition, we retired to the lounge to take tea, chat, admire the etchings, and ‘Sing-along-a-Bach (and Beatles)’.

sing-along-a-Bach

musical duo

thanks to our musical duo – if only we’d had a piano as well – or even a Casio!

Today the world felt a better place for a while, unless you were a rabbit, of course!

Alan Fenn.

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Afterthoughts

In a few days time J and I will be returning back to Okçular. My abla (older sister) will arrive soon enough for a month-long stay and whilst she is here Number 1 Daughter will join us for about ten days. They are more like mother and daughter and having them around is going to be a joy.

We’ve hardly shown our faces at the ‘other house’ these past many months and there will be much dusting, mopping and ‘cobwebbing’ to be done. No doubt there will be the odd corpse . .

cobwebs

. . metaphorically speaking!

It will probably be at least a couple of weeks before we are back up here with both of our ‘guests’ in tow. The weather is on the turn – Autumn is arriving up here where night and day-time temperatures are at least ten degrees Celsius lower than Okçular. When we return it will be soba-time in the evenings!

With that in mind one of the jobs was to ensure that the supply of winter wood was stacked and covered.

winter wood pile

job jobbed!

It’s been fun and very satisfying these past months with so much more achieved than we thought was possible. We’ve feasted on fruit and vegetables from our own efforts and the generosity of our neighbouring smallholders.

melon

garden fruit

We have no idea what these fruits are, the locals call them ‘golden strawberries’ and they are delicious.

golden strawberry 2

golden strawberry1

A dragonfly pool has been created and established – it can only get better with new creatures discovering it regularly. Enough well-aged goat manure to last a few years has been delivered and J has started preparing the veggie garden for winter sowing. The weather now is blue skies and distant horizons – it is beautiful and very comfortable to be around and about.

If Mother Nature is kind the rains will begin soon and our neighbours will breathe a sigh of relief and no doubt pray for more and a lot of snow. The village reservoir has been bone-dry these past two weeks for the first time that anyone can remember. We have been fortunate because we are tapped into a source that is fed from a huge marsh area way up the mountain.

Doganbaba baraj 2016

Okçular is much more bio-diverse than here but cannot compete with the dawns and moon-rises over the lake . .

moon over salda lake

or weird spiders . .

strange spider2

strange spider1

Finally, we have been enjoying one of nature’s glories – Bee Eaters in their thousands are passing through on their way south. Unlike Okçular here almost everyone keeps bees and again, unlike Okçular, there is very little shooting of these beautiful birds. The locals prefer to clap their hands and shout out ‘Defol! at them in the hopes that they understand Turkish!

Bee eater

Please excuse the ‘softness’ of these images, they are taken at extreme range with an ancient, totally manual 500mm reflex lens.

Bee eaters1

Alan Fenn, at the turning of the season!