Stuff

Cereal Killer

quintus_horatius_flaccus‘Ille salubris aestates peraget, qui nigris prandia moris finiet.’ so says Quintus Horatius Flaccus, better known to us non-grammar school oiks, as Horace in his 35 BCE piece called Satires. It roughly translates (so I’m told) as ‘A man will pass his summers in health, who will finish his luncheon with black mulberries.’ Those Romans knew a thing or two about mulberries, I can tell you!

J and I scatter dried mulberries over our morning muesli, we love the chewy texture. This time of year we are able to gather the ripe berries of Morus nigra, the Black Mulberry, from the young tree right by our gate and add them to the dish. Not only are they finger-stainingly good they are delicious!

black mulberry

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Move on to around 1649 and a chap by the name of Nicholas Culpeper produced his The Complete Herbal. Based on a combination of local lore, science and astrology and published in plain English the book has remained in use ever since.

culpeper

Here, according to my copy of Culpeper’s, are the medicinal virtues of mulberry: The ripe berries open the body. Unripe and dried they stay the fluxes, laxes and women’s courses. The bark of the root kills broad (tape) worms in the belly. The juice from the berries made into a syrup helps inflammations and sores of the mouth and throat. A decoction of the bark and leaves is good to wash the teeth when they ache. The leaves, bound in place, stay bleeding of the mouth or nose or the bleeding piles. Quite how one would bind stuff in place in the case of piles is not explained!

In modern times the bark is still used as a laxative and intestinal de-wormer and a syrup of fruit helps overcome fever. They are rich in ‘grape sugar’ which is easily assimilated and provides energy. The leaves contain compounds that help suppress high blood sugar and have long been used in the treatment of diabetes. Compounds in the leaves of Morus alba White Mulberry have proved to be effective in suppressing the progression of atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque in our arteries. It does this by inhibiting the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, the so-called bad cholesterol), which is a major factor in the development of atherosclerotic plaque.

round the mulberryChances are, like me, the only thing you knew about mulberries before today was the nursery rhyme from Mother Goose. But why go around a mulberry bush? Wouldn’t a myrtle be as good, or a honeysuckle? Not according to the ancient Celts, who believed that dancing around a mulberry bush at the time of the summer solstice would help protect them from fairies. (Not all fairies are nice, most are malicious, and they reach the height of their magic powers at the solstice.) History does not record how successful this strategy was for the Celts and the fact that there aren’t too many of them around begs the question!

Who would have thought it? No wonder Silkworms are so healthy and full of life! Old Horace, the Celts and Nick Culpeper knew a good thing when they found it. The crazy thing is that, around here at this time of year, mulberries are to be had in bucket loads for free and nearly all the townies we see enjoying ‘the nature’ turn their noses up at the thought of eating them and getting ‘dirty’ fingers.

As for the ‘Cereal Killer’ on the title – well, I put mulberries on my cereal and they kill off any intestinal worms that may be lurking – I know it’s a bit ‘loose’ but then they cure that as well!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Holy Ground

old graveNot many days ago J and I were meeting some new friends and taking them up into the mountains in the hopes that we’d find that nature had been punctilious and there would be the astounding sight of three different species of tulip in bloom at the same time.

Being awfully English we were ready to roll much too early and so decided to stop off at various village cemeteries along the way to the rendezvous. Graveyards are fascinating places if you are not a spiritualist on their day off! They are seldom disturbed and flora and fauna flourish in the nutrient-rich environment – I love them and look forward to making my own ‘drop-in-the-bucket’ to Mother Nature in due course.

Here are some examples of the contributions people have made without even thinking about it – sort of bio-degradable legacy, if you will.

Viper's Bugloss

Viper’s Bugloss

Lupin

Lupinus micranthus – Hairy Lupin

Chinese Mallow

Chinese Mallow

Salsify

Salsify – Tragapogon hybridum

Orobanche alba

Orobanche alba

Serapias orientalis

Serapias orientalis – species of Tongue Orchid

Field Gladioli

Field Gladioli

Serapias politisii

Serapias politisii – species of Tongue Orchid

Serapias politisii - double tougued

and a most unusual double headed/tongued specimen

Iris pseudacorus

Iris pseudacorus – endemic

iris environment

and its environment

Tulipa armena ssp lycica

Tulipa armena ssp lycica – Armenian Tulip

Fritillaria sibthorpiana

Fritillaria sibthorpiana – endemic

Finally, a ‘holy grave’ connection:

Holy Orchid - Orchis sancta

Orchis sancta – Holy Orchid

Phlomis fruticosa – Jerusalem Sage

I was tempted to call this post ‘Holy Ground’ instead of ‘A Grave Matter’ or something similar. The idea being to plug in to the popularity of the drinking song of that name by the Dubliners and get a boost to the number of views from ‘Googlers’. I’m sure it would have been an effective but really cheap trick and I’m glad I didn’t do it in the end. So, to cheer me up for being so honest, I’ve included a clip of the lads giving it one to help the ‘Liffy Water’ go down!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Stuff

Silly Season

Silly Season – (noun)

  1. (British) a period, usually during the hot summer months, when journalists fill space reporting on frivolous events and activities

Alright, so it’s not really summer yet, but I’m busy (really) re-roofing the back balcony and covered area, and I’m worried that you’ll be thinking again that I’ve popped my clogs if I don’t stick something up. There’s been rainwater problems for some time and I kept promising to get around to the job one day. ‘One day’ arrived about a week ago and so it’s been days of steady toil with the odd one off to go market shopping – no scope for dossing about doing this sort of stuff!

Anyway, I’ve quite reasonably assumed that more posts about the exploits of Bob the Builder would be yawn inducing and so I’ve settled for a Picture Post edition (the link is to a brilliant Picture Post exhibition). The subject is J and her Yorkshire passion for cricket – on second thoughts, you may want to go and view the PP exhibition instead!

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J was quietly noshing her apple, when . .

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this fellow turned up demanding a little nibble

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he, for it is indeed a ‘he’, was quite demanding

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. . with impressive mandibles

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. . and fastidious manners

‘He’ is Saga pedo, a Predatory Bush Cricket and for those of you with little going on in your lives just now here’s a link where you can become better acquainted.

Alan Fenn, Fiddling On The Roof

ps I did think this was better than nothing, but on re-reading I’m not so sure – oh, well!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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. . 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.

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  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.

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the sun shines through the wings of the slightly battered male

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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.

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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

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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:

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Okcular school4

Okcular school5

 

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Okcular school7

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

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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