Stuff

Amazingly Chuffed!

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J reckons I use ‘Amazing!’, complete with exclamation mark, a lot. Maybe so! I see it as a positive because if I can still be amazed by the relatively normal at my age then that has got to be good – right?

So, what amazed me recently? Well, we were sitting by our pond enjoying a beer in the last of the evening sun when it started to ‘rain’. Except it wasn’t raining rain and the ‘raindrops’ spattering all over the pond were in fact little beetles arriving in their thousands and dive-bombing into the water. Having run the gauntlet of the many pond skaters intent on a bit of fast food and struggled through the surface tension they were off like little bonitos to explore their new home.

I’ve never seen this on such a scale before and I think it was amazing!

‘Wonderful!’ fits in just below ‘Amazing!’ and there is lots about the pond that sits in that category. It is alive with creatures that have made their own way to it and settled in.

Great Diving Beetle

Long Water Scorpion

European Green Toad

Water Boatman

There are also Common Black Diving Beetles, Whirligig Beetles, Pond Skaters and much more. There are also four young Grey Mullet that have survived over the winter and seem to be thriving. OK, they didn’t fly in or make their own way here, I netted them in a pond up in the mountains and carried them here in a bucket! All-in-all I’m delighted with the pond and can’t wait for the dragonflies and damselflies to emerge.

So, apart from sitting around and drinking beer, what else have we been doing? Well, J has been beavering away on the veggie patch. When you consider that just over a year ago this was a stony, compacted desert the transformation is ‘Amazing!’

There is an ‘Amazing!’, satisfying calmness to our life when we are up here. Not that Okçular is frantic or stressful you understand. But picking caterpillars off the leaves of fruit trees or watching, beer in hand, beetles plop by has a certain . . something. Add to that mix the ‘Loveliest Of Trees’ . .

. . cooking alfresco . .

. . completing the ‘Grand Entrance’ . .

. . and doing useful things like making an ashtray from recycled materials after J discovered yet another butt-end in the garden!

And now you are amazed that anyone could find any of this stuff ‘Amazing!’

Alan, off looking for beetles and caterpillars.

 

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Flushed!

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Yesterday, you may recall, ‘Shit Happened!‘ Today? Well, today is another day!

This morning we both felt a tad moribund. The need to go to the loo being counteracted by the chipped lip of the plastic paint bucket that was filling the toilet role (such a way with words). The garden beckoned but the prospect of no water for five days, and no rain forecast either, had us reluctant to plant seeds and, instead, wandering around the garden hacking viscously at baby thistles and the like!

Meanwhile, after the visit yesterday by the Forestry people and the Jandarma, all was quiet on the Western front. The monster was also moribund – but more so.

Five days was looking more like five months, five years or maybe never! The Forestry people were back in some force with much coming and going. Enveloped in our ever more dense cloud of pessimism a small miracle occurred. Our neighbour Sadık arrived in his battered old Tofaş (an old-style Lada by any other name) with a great coil of water pipe tied on the roof. Knowing our situation, and being our plumber, he had taken it upon himself to get us sorted one way or another. Within twenty minutes water was flowing!

Sadık, a true neighbour, a squire and a gentleman!

This wonderful fellow has sorted a temporary arrangement that will see us through until the situation at the source is finalised. And finalising it (to paraphrase Capt Oates) may be some time!

Once Sadık left, again refusing payment, ‘We can sort it all later.’ (you recall he repaired the ravages of winter on the watering system), the Big Nobs arrived in force. The Forestry Chief for our province arrived with various Deputy Chiefs in one of those very intimidating 4x4s. We haven’t seen him for over a year when he donated a wad of trees for our garden. It was great because he was so interested to see what we had achieved since his last visit. The pond was a smash hit as were all the trees and J’s garden and compost heaps got special attention. Then they were off to assess what our new neighbour had been up to with his hired digger. Such a site visit by such high-flyers does not auger well for him.

And so it proved. What he has ordered done is totally illegal and he must answer for it before a judge. The owner-driver of the digger machine has had his machine and low-loader impounded and it will be parked outside our village muhtar’s office until there is a resolution by the judge. I don’t know if the driver has been charged but the loss of income alone will be devastating. A clear warning to others to ensure that, before you half pull a mountain down and fill a ravine and water course, what you are doing is legal!

So, life is pretty much back to normal and our moribund has done a bunk!

Alan Fenn, flushed and showered too!

ps after 20 years and a lot of political upheaval folk still ask us what it is that binds us to Turkey – the answer is all around us – Turks!

pps the Forestry Dept has undertaken to gift us a bunch of lavender plants – special delivery expected some time soon.

Stuff

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!

Stuff

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).

Stuff

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!