Wanderings

Operation Market Garden 2.0

Well, we are home in Okçular after a couple of weeks up at our mountain retreat. One thing has to be said (after ‘it’s great to be here’), efficient central heating and a glowing open fire in a concrete house at sea level isn’t a patch on a soba in a well insulated wooden cabin at 1200mts! That is a fact!

soba

not ours, but you get the picture!

So, what have we been up to these past two weeks? Getting utterly knackered slaving away on the plantation – up at sunrise and collapsing, exhausted in to our pit by eight thirty in the evening, that’s what! Certainly too knackered to write some silly blog post! I tell you, this village small-holding lifestyle is no walk in the park!

salda sunrise

I know, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!

The prime objective this trip has been to clear the land of scrub, brambles and the most evil, thorny stuff you’ve ever met plus, to get a terrace retaining wall built from local stone. Our secondary target was to get the land prepared and planted with fruit and nut trees. Did we succeed? Let’s find out . .

The first wall building crew to put themselves forward were nothing if not everybody else’s brother who was an expert on sweet f-a! They disappeared back down the track a bloody sight faster than they arrived with much ‘Allah allah’ing! (Good God/My God!).

After taking more advice we were introduced to Hussain from a neighbouring village who proved to be not just a hard-grafting, stonewall making  usta (craftsman) but a true gentleman to boot. Next day he and his equally hard-working side-kick got started,

Hussain usta

Hussain usta – a gentle giant

Hussain usta2

The first day was spent collecting trailer-loads of large stones

Hussai usta3

and the next on getting started

Then, as happens with the best laid plans – the weather took a hand, site work paused for two days and we were left to gaze out of the window as the rain poured down followed by a healthy dusting of snow.

cabin rain1

cabin rain2

familiar views as you’ve never seen them before

cabin snow1

cabin snow2

another day, another sunrise

By this time, and remembering that this was only day five of our little sojourn . ,

frazzled

I was feeling a little bit glum and a lot frazzled – J has warned me that if I dare to put up the photo of her, taken a few minutes earlier, she will kill me or, worse than that, haunt me for all eternity. I am a bit silly sometimes but I am not a total idiot!

So, back to our narrative – whilst all this stuff was going on J and I were attending to a few things of our own like building fences, grubbing out nasty, brutal thorny stuff, layering hedges and building shoe racks and towel rails.

fence making

shoe rack

gulay's Gallery

Gülay Çolak’s beautiful nick-nack box

Week two and the workers are back on the job and progress is a joy for us to behold – what is appearing is exactly what we wanted.

stone wall5

It’s also been an interesting period for us as we have learned a little about managing our supply of solar electricity when the weather is overcast. In the summer we can clearly see that there will not be a problem with long sunny days and short nights. This started as a project for Summer time but we love it so much here that we want to spend time in the Winter too. There is always the option to up the number of solar panel and batteries if needs must.

As an aside I want to show you some of J’s beautiful needlework together with some felt-work we picked up in Mongolia  that are quite at home up here in the cabin . .

needlework

Mongolian feltwork

In the middle of all this we had a surprise visit from our very dear ‘son’ who had somehow engineered it to bring a great friend of ours and fellow eco-warrior, Süleyman, a man who is perhaps better described as a ‘blood brother’ after some of our exploits together. They came for breakfast and had the good sense and manners to bring everything needed to feed a family of six plus the workers!

friends

old friends and new – the best breakfast surprise (our ‘son’ 2nd r (suitably masked), Süleyman r with two of his colleagues)

tea making turkish style

everybody has an opinion about making tea

9th SS Panzer Div

9th SS Panzer Division – Mark IV Tiger tank

Now, in the midst of all this jollity we had momentarily forgotten that we had come to a financial arrangement with the muhtar (village headman) of our next-door village to hire their digger machine. They used to be a town until the recent reshuffling took place and so they happen to ‘own’ a number of useful toys one of which is the above pictured.

The Panzer man’s job, as carefully described to him, was to level and smooth off the areas above and below our new stone wall. Simple enough, you might think, but you would be taking too narrow a view! In this monster’s driving seat sat an individual trained by the devil and crazy enough to fight the Battle for Stalingrad single-handed! The man was a Berserker! Between our chatting and a few sips of tea and a bit of bread and cheese he had pretty much undermined our wall. People screaming and throwing rocks at his cab did little to stop him until the red mist lifted for a moment and we were able to get him to put most of the soil back where it came from!

digger frenzy

It was the same on the top section, he had to be watched like a hawk or he’d be digging holes, apparently at random, all over the place. Eventually we got what we wanted, sort of, the top was level and the bottom bit was gently sloping albeit with a great mass of bloody great rocks we didn’t know we had until Atilla the Hun dug them out!

digger frenzy2

that’s pretty good, considering!

In the end, we didn’t get on as far as we had hoped. The mad SS Panzer Grenadier had unearthed so much rock that we have to get a tractor with a ‘hook’ plough in to drag it all up and the wall builders will come back and do the heavy lifting to get it out of the way.  The ground is too wet after the rains to use the tractor so we have to wait for a few drying days before the job can be finished. In the grand scheme of things I don’t suppose it will make very much difference but it would have been nice to get those young trees in and settled.

There is also a nice little ‘top terrace’ that will be perfect for lounging, brewing tea, cooking with my wok and tin chicken roaster and taking in the view with a glass or two!

top terrace

Not to mention this character whose owner, we heard, is very ill – the dog seems to have adopted us while we are around and he has proved to be a very well-mannered and gentle creature. He is welcome!

Dog

A number of you have commented that you would like to see a ‘full-frontal’ view of the cabin so here you are . .

cabin shot

Alan Fenn, back from the Eastern Front

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

I Resemble That Remark!

In my last posting certain individuals, who shall remain nameless, like Jack Scott and Lesley Mason made some disparaging comments that implied that J did all the heavy work around here whilst yours truly sat around taking snapshots and offering advice.

To pinch a line from the Marx Brothers, ‘I resemble that remark!’ I felt deeply hurt and cut to the quick because, actually, the reality here in our mountain retreat is quite the reverse – 100% the other way round and I have accumulated the evidence over the past two days to prove my point. But first I need to set the scene . .

lakeside sunrise

sunrise yesterday

We were up early so as to make a start at clearing the undergrowth down the side of the plot. We needed to expose the tons of rocks that we want used up to construct the stone terrace across the area for cultivation. Those of you wondering about the gang due to start the other day – it’s a long story for another time!

plot clearing1

this gives you a bit of an idea of the task

plot clearing2

Exhibit A – first clear evidence of who does the graft in the thicket!

plot clearing3

Exhibit B – drags all the stuff out and burns it

plot clearing4

Exhibit C – whilst J stands around looking decorative and posing for photos

Meanwhile, we were never too busy or whacked out that we forgot to enjoy what lies on our doorstep . .

almond in blossom1

our neighbour’s beautiful almond tree in blossom

almond blossom2

mistletoe

complete with mistletoe in bloom (zoom in to see it)

Any road up, as they say in Yorkshire (in deference to a certain lady of my acquaintance), time to get back to the truth, the nitty-gritty of who does the heavy lifting around here . .

plot clearing5

very neat and tidy

hedging tools

tools of the hedger – and if J says those are her gloves, she’s lying!

plot clearing6

another view

blisters

Exhibit D – so, whilst I was working my fingers to the bone . .

a hot shower

Exhibit E – J was pampering herself – I rest my case

Alan Fenn, recovering with a couple of rakıs.

ps knowing that at some point J is going to read this stuff I want state for the record that a) this post is a pack of lies and a total misrepresentation of the truth. b) I’m pleading the 5th, and c) I’ve applied for the witness protection programme!

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

We Plough The Fields

With commitments to honour we’d been away from our mountain hidey-hole for three long weeks – we were craving a fix and there was stuff to be done!

There was a great pile of firewood to be set about so first things first it was off to town for a felling axe, a sledgehammer and a couple of wedges. Suffice to say we have made a start on splitting and stacking about ten years worth of tree trunks!

a lumberjill

That was followed up with a neat log box to replace the tatty cardboard boxes that have been littering the area behind the cabin door. J prepared a great soup for later and then we joined forces for barbied fish and a salad to die for! Life is good!

Yesterday, of course, there was the mandatory spicy rabbit casserole with our dear ‘son’ at our local watering hole. Will we ever get tired of this dish? Hard to imagine such a thing, especially when it is preceded by an amazingly spiced-up Tarhana soup!

spicy rabbit casserole

Meal done and dusted we were joined by the local forestry manager. Apart from being a really nice guy he turns bits of what he so carefully husbands into splendid toys for his son.

wooden toy truck

wooden toy aeroplane

toy truck

Meanwhile, we were in negotiation with locals to get sorted with dry-stone walled terraces so that the plot can be ploughed, manured and readied for fruit and nut trees. Already, even up here at 1200 mts., life is stirring with almond trees and crocus blooming. We needed to get our fingers out in order to get everything prepared. We were promised the digging machine for next morning – in the event, at five o’clock this evening, there was much roaring of engines and work started.

digging machine1

An hour later the first trench was cut and the walling will begin tomorrow – now that feels like progress!

digger2

halfway there

Meanwhile, the neighbours were keeping an eye on things . .

neighbours

The lake was as blue as ever . .

blue on blue

The mornings are misty and moisty . .

misty moisty morning

And the nights are mysterious . .

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Alan Fenn, Archers – an everyday story of country folk.

Wanderings

Is There Life On Mars?

The lake that lies just below our mountain hide-away is almost unique. ‘Almost’ because there is one other like it on Earth in Canada. These lakes have one other attribute that adds to their uniqueness – they are believed to have many similarities with the surface of the planet Mars!

mars

NASA image

Really, I kid you not! You can read the reports online from such organisations as Glasgow University. Looking out from our cabin I can’t see what they see, but they are the scientists after all!

Anyway, J and I will grab any window of opportunity to take ourselves off to our hidey-hole. The air feels fresh and clean and the peace and quiet is so good for the inner and outer being. This time around we agreed to take a couple of friends and lodge them at the new hotel on the other side of the lake. They could join us during the day as we did our thing and then, in the evening, we could relax and enjoy the quiet we love and they could relax in centrally heated luxury instead of dossing on the cabin floor!

Our time together was spent gazing, spellbound, at the amazing views, eating spicy rabbit casserole and non-stop talking.

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view from the top

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view turned around 180*

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It was a short stay and on the way back to Okçular we stopped off in the village of Yazı Köy which has one of the most beautiful small mosques to be found anywhere. S,  J’s long-time friend who is on a longish visit from the UK, had never been inside a mosque. What better introduction than this:

Yazir mosque1

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yazir mosque2

part of the beautiful, hand-painted ceiling

yazir mosque3

from the women’s gallery

yazir mosque4

J in ‘conversation’ with the delightful imam – he remembered us from our visit three years earlier. The other guy is a local who insisted on translating from Turkish to ‘Dutchlish’ – hard to know who was the most confused!

yazir mosque5

Three years ago many of these beautiful alabaster window frames were damaged. What a delight to see that they had been restored to perfection. The mosque is in everyday use, it is cherished and really cared for. You can read about this and other amazing village mosques by following the link to earlier posts. There are also a lot more photos. You will also read about J and me being deep inside some local caves when the lights went out! Having been thwarted back then we took our friends off for another go – this time the force was with us!

keloglu cave1

keloglu cave2

Not the greatest photos for an attraction well worth a visit. The Keloğlu Caves are close to Acıpayam in Denizli Province. Legend has it that entering the caves is a cure for baldness – didn’t do anything for me, and the guardian is a bald as a coot!

Finally, is there life on Mars? Yes, and here’s the evidence!

Crocus chrysanthus

Crocus chrysanthus

Colchicum burttii

Colchicum burttii

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü