Stuff

Feckless

In a few days J and I will be heading back to Okçular because there are boring things that have to be done before we head to the UK. Things like laundry and ironing and banking and stuff like that. Like I said boring!

The time has flown by what with one thing and another. The cairn got finished and the pair of us are pretty pleased with our handiwork . .

cairn1

cairn2

You can see the extra pair of solar electricity panels that we brought up and fitted. They have made a huge difference to how and what we can now use. Add a couple more and I can see us laying on a son et lumière come next Summer’s solstice!

Daily work clearing the remaining rocks was interrupted a couple of times by monumental thunderstorms – they weren’t confined to the mountains either as the coastal resorts copped it as well.

storm1

storm2

The fresh stuff from J’s veggie gardening has been really enjoyable – the onions would grace a garden society show and the courgettes are prolific enough to warrant much searching on the internet for ‘things to do with courgettes’, none of which fell into the category of ‘adult entertainment’!

The storms gave us some beautiful dawns and evenings . .

storms3

storms4

What else? Well, we had a friend visit for a couple of days and we all got more than we bargained for when the people at the accommodation that was booked told us there was a problem. Never had the decency to tell us and we were left with no option but to bed our friend down on the floor because, this being the main holiday of the year for Muslims, everywhere else was booked solid! We managed and he had a good experience, or so he said!

On one of the dodgy storm days J decided to test the waters of the lake . .

lake swim

. . whilst I interfered in the private life of Onychogomphus forcipatus – Small Pincertail dragonfly. They are amazing – they lay their eggs in the lake and there the nymphs grow and develop. When they are ready to emerge as dragonflies they crawl from where you see J at the water’s edge all the way to where I am standing, a distance of around 200 mts! Here they crawl up into the sedges and the transformational miracle begins – it is fascinating!

exuviae1

Exuviae, the exoskeleton left behind when insects and spiders get too big for their boots

exuviae2

small pincertail dragonfly

it’s astonishing what comes out of the packaging!

So, what was all that ‘feckless’ stuff in the title? Well, I thought many times these past days that I should/would like to write a post but was always too much what the dictionary clearly understands me to be – ‘feckless ˈfɛkləs/ adjective: feckless lacking initiative or strength of character; irresponsible’. I was completely without feck! No, that is not strictly true because, actually, I felt pretty relaxed, laid back and cool about life so really I didn’t give a feck!

Alan Fenn, in a feckin’ cabin in the feckin’ mountains

Stuff

Things That Go Bump

”fae ghosties and ghoulies and lang-legged beasties and things that go bump in the nicht… guid lord, deliver us” – so goes and old Scottish prayer – no wonder they voted to stay in the EU!

things

I mean, a body needs their sleep and so, in the event that these ‘things’ are disturbing and disrupting a good nights rest then one can call in the power of the EU and its amazing array of regulations in order to bring some peace and tranquillity. I mean, there is bound to be something that says the dead shouldn’t be up and about, especially after midnight when the discos have to close down!

My question is, ‘What about squirrels at dawn?’

Where’s the enforcement of regulations to curb the antics of Caucasian/Syrian/Persian Squirrel – Sciurus anomalus? The little sods are a bundle of energy and and they start their day with a game of rugby on the roof of our cabin. The fact that they were here before us, living in the big, old pine is neither here nor there!

syrian squirrel1

syrian squirrel2

syrian squirrel3

zoom in on those ‘pinkies’ – formidable!

Then there are other ‘ghoulies’ that prey in innocent, passing victims . .

small pincertail1

small pincertail2

small pincertail3

Small Pincertail/Green-eyed Hooktail – Onychogomphus forcipatus – female

small hooktail4

the male

. . long legged beasties and the things that go bump in the night?

J

Not true, actually, well she is certainly long-legged, but she sleeps gently and quietly, rises at a reasonable time and is mostly not scary at all!

Alan Fenn, back home in the mountains.

Stuff

(F)lights of Fancy

Life has become a bit of a distraction, and it’s rather nice! What with one thing or t’other I seem to be flitting between inconsequential jobs whilst what’s left of my mind goes walkabout or indulges in flights of fancy (which I’m told is a ‘really relaxing colouring book’ for adults).

f of f

My mental wanderings seem mostly to be focussed (in a misty sort of way) on the imminent start of the building of our cabin in the mountains at the other end of the rabbit hole. In an attempt to keep my feet on Terra Firma J has been keeping me occupied on lighter projects. She has always disliked the garden lights that were installed when the house was built. ‘They’re boring’, she was wont to say, ‘everyone has these!’ She wasn’t wrong – I’ve seen them all over the place in one variant or another.

Her propositions for change start something like this – ‘Don’t you think it would look wonderful if . .?’ or ‘What do you think about . . for an idea?’ And so it has been that for the past ten days or so I have been bringing some of her (f)lights of fancy from fluffy butterflies of wishful dreaming into solid manifestations made up of any old stuff that has been hoarded because it might be useful one day or was just lying about the place.

Old, handmade bricks, rocks from the mountains, plastic pipes, antique glass ‘windows’ from a hamam and bits of gaffer tape have taken on a new persona and really come into their own as night time falls. As they used to say on Blue Peter, ‘Here’s one I made earlier.’

Flight of fancy

by day

Flight of fancy2

and by night

Flight of fancy3

by day – a pile of rocks

Flight of fancy4

at night – still a pile of rocks!

Buoyed up by the success of her ideas J has started to collect things like ‘interesting’ tree branches, jam jars and the like. I have taken to locking myself in the workshop and sharpening chisels, plane blades, drill bits and doing other important stuff!

Whilst on the subject of lights and flights of fancy I really have to make mention of my sister. Despite my very best attempts she never, ever, forgets my birthday! Things have much improved from the days when I had to fly home with three concrete meerkats and a Christmas pud in my bag. These days, with the never-ending tide of electronic tat from China, she is able to pack dozens of items into one, lightweight parcel of pleasure! Here’s a little solar-powered garden light that has proved to be a real hit with some of the locals.

Flight of fancy5

Orthetrum coerulescens anceps – Keeled Skimmer

Flight of fancy6

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

A Natural Antidote To Depression

Anemone coronaria red
Anemone coronaria

There’s no denying that at a personal level, the past two weeks have been bloody awful. J and I chose to live where we do for the beauty and semi-solitude of the location – discovering the bio-diversity and our delightful neighbours has been a real bonus. However, the last few months have seemed like Armageddon with great machines hacking away at our corner of paradise.

First it was Kara Göl or Black Lake, a seasonal area of shallow water just below our house that has been home to some very rare species of damselflies and dragonflies as well as a huge variety of more common fauna. There has been an attempt to drain this last vestige of a once mighty flood plain – I say ‘attempt’ because it looks as though it might have failed to achieve the purpose – I live in hope! In the process the machine ripped down mature trees and long established areas of undergrowth that were home to so much; what is left looks like the Somme on a bad hair day! The fact that the Somme lived to fight another day (and World War) gives me hope that Black Lake might do the same.

Cyclamen alpinum
Cyclamen alpinum

Then came a real body blow; having played a part in the villagers’ fight to stop Kocadere Valley from being turned into a quarry and cement works, we now have the nightmare of an army of great machines and trucks ripping the forest and mountainside to pieces 200 metres from our house! The ‘authorities’ are widening the death trap that constitutes the main road from Dalyan to Ortaca in a bid to weed out more of the stupid, macho prats who endeavour to kill themselves and others with their excessive speed!

J is far more pragmatic than me; pointing out how quickly stuff grows and the fact that we have been promised a ‘nature park’ to replace the real nature park that is now becoming a quarry! I take these things far more personally, having never got passed the infantile feeling that ‘I’m being picked on’ and consequently get ‘down in the dumps’ very quickly over such affronts. I know there’s no point, that it doesn’t make anything better or different, but pasting on a rather unconvincing smile doesn’t make the feeling go away either. Pathetic, really!

Gagea villosa
Gagea villosa

 

Today, J dragged me out for a walk to the ‘kale’ (castle) at the other end of the small tepe or hill where we live. The kale is what remains of a Neolithic fort that nobody else seems bothered about, so it is a perfect place to survey our ‘kingdom’ and take stock of life in general and the beauty of our surroundings (as long as I don’t look ‘over there’). The walk is not far and the track is littered with nature’s gemstones – flowers are everywhere!

Those who know me will remember my love of orchids and today ‘Toprakana’, Mother Earth, offered up a gift to lift my depressive state of mind. There, not 50 metres from our house were several dozen of the beautiful and very delicate Ophrys fusca the Sombre Bee Orchid. Thank you, Earth Goddess! Thank you!

Instead of pictures of destruction, here are pictures of life!

 

Ophrys fusca - Sombre Bee Orchid
Ophrys fusca - Sombre Bee Orchid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ophrys fusca - Sombre Bee Orchid

Ophrys fusca – Sombre Bee Orchid

 

 

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Incredible Okçular!

. . of Nymphs and Vagrants and Emperors

6th of June 1944 – D Day! D as in don’t be daft enough to call it ‘I’ for Invasion Day!

6th of June 2011 – D Day! D as in Drain Day! and ‘they’ meant drain Black Lake, a very important, biologically sensitive seasonal wet area just below my house.

Black Lake Okcular
Beautiful Black Lake

Black Lake is home to a number of rare species of flora and fauna and if drained this tiny refuge would be another nail in the coffin of Turkey’s fast dwindling bio-diversity. I wrote for the print media and blogged about the threat that coincided with a visit by two of Europe’s leading dragonfly experts; Christophe Brochard and Ewoud van der Ploeg.

It was to no avail, a few weeks ago, before the rains set in, the job was done. But, done in such a way as to have J and I speculating on how on earth they expected it to work. (Don’t worry, I’m not going into detailed explanations.) Then the rains came and to everyone’s surprise, except smug old us, it didn’t! Well, that’s not strictly true, part of the job worked brilliantly from the perspective of lovers of wetlands, because a new ditch brought even more water to the lake even more quickly!

Time will tell. I just hope the area will stay under water long enough for the landowners to forget how they’ve done the job, the pipes to get blocked and the sumps to fill with mud!

Anyway, back to our two dragonfly experts. Christophe and Ewoud are two of the most enthusiastic people I’ve ever met; they love what they do and they quickly infect anyone around them with the same enthusiasm. It was my pleasure to spend three days with them and facilitate their field work.

In particular they were looking for evidence of breeding by Anax ephippiger the Vagrant Emperor, a magnificent, rare and strongly migratory species of dragonfly. Black Lake exceeded their wildest dreams, not only did they record and photograph the adult, collect more than 70 exuviae (shed skins of the nymphs), but they also recovered living nymphs which had them jumping up and down with excitement!

Back in their hotel room they had set up an aquarium where Christophe, who is a photographer of distinction, could take pictures in a controlled setting. It was here that our rare Vagrant Emperor nymphs were brought and here that the first ever photos of the species ‘hatching’ into the beautiful adult were taken. It was also where the ‘skins’ were dried and made ready for transporting back to Holland (and, as I learned yesterday, all over the world for use by other researchers).

God knows what the cleaning lady thought!

Last year, by way of thank you for the help I was able to give them, the guys sent me what they described as a ‘special’ gift – except it didn’t arrive! Fortunately, three months later it turned up back with them in Holland, so they had another go. A couple of days ago it arrived, it had only taken six weeks this time! At least the PTT delivered it to my house, which is a first, and I only had to pay 5TL for the customs duty, which was not!

When it was handed over I was glad I hadn’t had to collect it because it weighed in at a whopping 4.2kgs! What was it? A book! The title? ‘Die Orchideen der Türkei’, this is the definitive reference to the orchids of Turkey and no, I don’t speak German! Doesn’t matter; the pictures are fabulous and everyone reads Latin, don’t they?

Seriously, this is a book to die for and Christophe and Ewoud knew of my love for these amazing plants. (This is becoming a post of ‘superlatives’.) Sending it cost a small fortune at €27.60; in fact two small fortunes!

With the book were two of Christophe’s superb photos and showing you these is really what this post is about. Although he uses top of the range Canon equipment, stuff that would have J cast me into the wilderness if I so much as look at it, it takes more than good gear to take good pictures. This guy describes himself as an amateur . . you tell me.

These photos cannot do justice to the originals which each had a file size in excess of 1 gigabyte. None the less, beautiful, or what?

Anax ephippiger Vagrant Emperor nymph
Vagrant Emperor nymph
Anax ephippiger Vagrant Emperor male
Vagrant Emperor male

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü