Tag Archives: Okcular

Fun Guys

It’s been a bit wild and woolly down here in Okçular these past few days – howling gales and torrential rain – fairly normal for the time of year! I can often be found, book cast aside, standing with my nose stuck to the window feeling glum.

stormy Okcular

the aftermath

Being shut in with J for a few days can lead to some interesting, usually suppressed, behaviour surfacing. Scrabble is a good example and is a sure indicator that life is not normal!

Okcular after the storm

the aftermath of the aftermath

Anyway, even stormy weather passes eventually, the sun comes out and we are able to venture out into the verdant, green, dripping forest that is our backyard. So, bank the fire, put your wellies on and join us, as it turns out we met some really fun guys . .

Fruity Brittlegillhere’s the first of the fun guys by the name of Fruity Brittlegill

Common Puff Ball

and his sidekick Common Puff Ball

Gilded Brittlegill

Gilded Brittlegill

the Gilded Brittlegill twins


any idea who this fun guy is?

Meanwhile the sun continued to shine . .

Okcular in the sun


some of the fun guys wear beautiful, frilly petticoats

slime fungiwhilst others are really slimy types

cup fungi

don’t know who this guy is

Crested Coralone of the nicest of the fun guys, Crested Coral

Hope you enjoyed meeting the guys. Whilst none of them are magic, they can have some really interesting effects on you if you join them in a meal – I wouldn’t take a chance on any of them.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Our Family Trees

There is an area just behind our house that once was a source of pocket money for a less than creditable muhtar. He would oversee the removal of trailer-loads of rock that was ideal as a base material for tracks and small construction jobs. Over time the removal created a mini ‘Red Cliffs of Dover’ with the wall to the village graveyard perched on top. When he started to dig out behind my garage/workshop I threatened him with a complaint and put a stop to his activities in this area at least.

We knew from experience and plain, common sense that the ‘cliff’ was unstable and told him so – ‘Problem yök, (no problem) profesyonal, profesyonal!’ (professional) pointing at the digger driver. Two days after we got rid of him and his bloody digger the first collapse occurred, not too serious, but an indicator of what could follow. That was when J and I began a programme of planting young trees and collecting seeds from trees all over Turkey.

Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens

seedling of Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens (seeds from L. Van)

Common sense and a man from the Forestry Authority told us that most of the seedlings that ‘hatched’ wouldn’t make it but we nurtured them anyway. Our idea was to try and stabilise the ground and discourage anyone else from digging stuff out.

A few years later a second small collapse left parts of the wall undercut and we thought that the big one couldn’t be far away. More years passed by, we continued planting and nurturing and the trees continued to grow. The ugly red cliff was almost forgotten as the trees screened it away from view. In the rainless summer months I would drag out the hose and keep the young trees alive. Gradually a mini climate developed and other species settled in and made themselves at home. The dozens of Red Pine seedlings that we planted began to seed and produce young. The Toros Cedar thrived despite being a couple thousand metres too near sea level. The Eucalyptus must be fifty feet high now and the Carobs are doing great. Of the seeds of the Cappadocian Acer from Lake Van that we planted, two survived to be potted on and eventually set in place. They are slender and fragile but one day they will grow into beautiful, graceful adulthood. Here are some photos of adult trees of species we have planted near the house wherever there was space. We even have an English Horse Chestnut that we grew from a conker!

Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens

adult Acer cappadocicus ssp divergens

Pinus brutiaRed Pine Pinus brutia

I should say ‘were’ for some of these because a few days back the inevitable happened after some heavy rain and a biggish section of the cliff has come down bringing the cemetery wall with it. Our mini Special Forest has taken a real knock. We have lost at least half of our beautiful trees and shrubs, buried under a small landslide that feels bigger than it really is. The Toros Cedar has survived – part buried and so a few feet ‘shorter’ than it was. The Acers have survived, one unscathed and the other was dug out from under and set upright. Only two of the carobs and two of the pomegranates made it and a lot of Red Pine, wild avocado and Maltese Plum, et al have gone together with a lot of shrubs like Cistus.


a young one we dug out from under and propped up

toros sedir

Toros Cedar – one day ours will look like this


most of the fallen blocks cleared


but so much is buried and lost

old Eucalyptus

really old Eucalyptus – one day!

Melia azedarach

Indian Bead Tree – Melia azederach

Indian Bead

and its flowers

There is no point in being too despondent, we’ll carry on planting and try and stabilise things again – who knows, with a bit of luck, the next landslide will be someone else’s mess! For anyone interested there is a comprehensive list of ‘our’ trees and shrubs below. Some in the garden, many, in fact most, outside – a lot of them collected as seedlings or grown from seeds.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Yucca flamentosa; Pinus brutia; Vitis sylvestris; Aesculus hippocastranum; Acacia retinoides; Acacia cyanphylla; Cercis siliquastrum; Albizia julibrissim; Ceratonia siliqua; Paliurus spina-christii; Planus orientalis; Persea americana; Rosa canina; Eriobotrya japonica; Liquidamber orientalis; Capparis spinosa; Cistus salvifolius; Eucalyptus camaldulensis; Punica granatum; Clematis sp; Schiaus molle; Pistacia lentiscus; Melia azederach; Lanicera caprifolium; Catalpa bignonioides; Jacaranda mimosifolia; Plumbago aumiculata; Olea europaea; Morus alba; Morus nigra; Acer cappadocicum ssp divergens.

Judgement Day 2.0

rup winners

By way of an update on the previous post, here are the photos and names of the three winners of the ‘Okçular Village Guide’ book. These three entries were considered to be ‘most promising’ and I hope that the books will encourage the recipients to explore the beautiful countryside around my village where they will find lots of wonderful subjects to fill up the hard-drives or storage cards on their electronic devices!

For any of you reading this post who are curious about the book and the ‘Okçular Book Project’, you can click on the tab at the top of the page, or the ‘Okçular Book Bazaar’ tab where you will find information about our secure, worldwide order/delivery service.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


Judgement Day

photoc-camera_w2Several moons ago friends, fellow nature lovers and environmental activists from Dalyan asked me to join a judging panel for a photo competition they were organising. The logic behind our Okçular Book Project has always been to encourage people to get out into the beautiful countryside around here, use their eyes, and discover some of the amazing flora and fauna, people and views to be found. That being the case I was delighted to accept the invitation, not least because it is always enjoyable to see things through the eyes of others.

Each month the panel would sift through the entries in three separate categories and select winners and runners-up. These were then printed out and put on public display.

jury2(credit: Co Jonker)

Dalyan photo comp jury

Finally, the panel gathered yesterday to select the overall winners and runners-up in each group. We were not looking for the most professional photos, this is after all a competition for enthusiasts and total amateurs. What we were looking for were moments in time that captured the essence of Dalyan, its human and wild inhabitants and the surrounding area. It was interesting how few photos that had been ‘colour enhanced’ or otherwise ‘fiddled’ with made it through the earlier rounds.

Here are the category winners and runners up:

Flora and Fauna

1st flora and fauna

‘Squacco Heron’ – John Codling – a great capture with terrific detail


‘Jay’ – Mark Mills

Village Life and Scenes

1st village life

‘Crocheting Lady’ – Serhad Özsoy – the detail of the scarf oya really draws you in


‘Honey Colours’ – Quentin Alder


1st Landscapes

‘Foggy Iztuzu’ – Monique Boon – this beautifully balanced, moody shot of Iztuzu Beach captured the eye of more panel members than any other and was judged the best overall picture in the competition


‘Serene Köyceğiz Lake’ – Carla de Cuijper

Generous prizes donated by local businesses will be sent to the category winners and the runners up will receive a copy of the Okçular Village Guide Book courtesy of yours truly. It was a lot of fun to see so many excellent photos and it has spurred me on to ‘see’ stuff around me in a different light.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

The Archers

The Archers, as in The Archers, is not ‘an everyday story of country folk’! Let me explain – Hurriyet Daily News recently published some terrific photos of young Turks keeping alive their traditional skills as archers on horseback. These Archers are probably the best light cavalry the world has ever seen! My village being called Okçular in Turkish or Archers in English and this blog being ‘Archers of Okçular’ why wouldn’t I be fascinated?

turkish horse archer1

both images Hurriyet Daily News

turkish mounted archer7

Skills that greased the explosive expansion of the Mongol Empire that by 1279 CE had it hammering on the doors of Western Europe. The storm troopers of this empire were the highly mobile and deadly efficient mounted bowmen with their small (by European and Chinese or Japanese standards), extremely powerful, recurved, laminated bows.

These images instantly transported me back in time to the Army Museum in Istanbul where I first saw the amazing craftsmanship that goes into the Turkish bow and began to get some inkling of how it delivers such terrific striking power to the arrow that it would penetrate European style plate-armour and have much-vaunted European armies fleeing the field of battle in total disarray.

composite bows and thumb rings

showing the lamination and final lacquering together with two thumb-rings

bow2another beautiful example

What also flashed into my mind’s eye was meeting the national champion archer of Mongolia and her husband and child on a visit to that country a few years ago. They were both using traditional recurved composite bows not dissimilar to those the Turkic archers used to aid Genghis Khan in his empire-building.

mongolian national archery champion

National Champion of Mongolia

mongolian archer

and her husband – also a champion

mongolian child archer

future champion

They were kind enough to let a few of us tourists have a go and so I promptly stepped up. I well remember the embarrassment when I failed to draw his heavy bow more than a few inches! His wife offered me the lighter bow that she was using and with much huffing and puffing I managed to flight the arrow about 15 feet and strip the skin off the inside of my arm! I realise that technique counts for a lot in archery, but so does a back like a barn door full of muscle tissue! That was when I realised just how powerful the Mongolian-Turkish laminated bow really was. By way of comparison with my 15 feet, in a 1910 archery contest held on the beach at Le Touquet, France, a chap by the name of Ingo Simon was able to shoot an arrow 434 mts using an old Turkish composite bow! Heavier Ottoman flight bows have reached distances of around 900 mts.

Back to the Ottoman archers’ ability to penetrate the plate-armour much favoured by European armies – with a direct, head-on strike the arrow would penetrate plate and heavy padding but if the plate was curved or angled away then the arrow would likely glance-off. To overcome this the Ottoman horse archer or Sipahi would affix a small ball of bee’s wax to the tip of the arrow. This would prevent the arrow glancing-off and concentrate all of the kinetic energy at one point – in many ways similar to the principle of the modern HEAT (High Explosive Anti Tank) round. The effects of a needle-sharp war arrow head weighing between a quarter and half a pound travelling at speeds in excess of 200mph can be imagined. That said, the mounted archer’s target was often the enemy’s horse as a heavily armoured fighter brought to ground would be near helpless against massed infantry.

ottoman horse archer at speed

Ottoman mounted archer at full speed

arrows3 arrowsdetail1










Ottoman arrowheads and fletching

The Turkish bow is a recurved composite bow that was brought to perfection in the time of the Ottoman Empire. The construction is similar to that of other classic Asiatic composite bows, with a wooden core (maple was most desirable), animal horn on the belly (the side facing the archer), and sinew on the front, with the layers secured together with Animal glue. However, several features of the Turkish bow are distinct. The curvature tends to be more extreme when the bow is unstrung, with the limbs curling forward into the shape of the letter “C”. With some bows, the rigid tips of the limbs (“kasan”) even touch. The grip area is not recessed like other Asiatic bows and is fairly flat on the belly, while the front of the grip bulges outwards.

comp bowThe dramatic curvature of the bows makes stringing them very different from straighter bows found in Europe. There is an old saying in Turkey that there are “120 ways to string a bow,” though the most common methods involve sitting on the ground with one’s feet pressed against the grip. Heavier bows usually require the use of a long, looped strap called a “kemend” to pull the limbs back and hold them while the string is seated. Seasoning aside, these bows took more than a year to construct with much ‘resting’ between each lamination. Arrows would need even longer with seasoning and drying taking more than five years.

mongol-bow diagram

Ottoman, Persian, and other Asiatic archers who all followed similar traditions would also extend the power of their weaponry by using a device called a majra or a siper. These devices are used to draw arrows past the bow’s front limb where the arrow would normally rest. The siper is a type of shelf strapped to the archer’s bow hand, which allows the archer to pull the bow back to extreme lengths in order to get the maximum amount of force behind the arrow. They are most commonly used to achieve the greatest distance.


The Majra is a thin piece of wood with a channel cut in it and small loop for the archer’s draw hand. The device allows the archer to pull back arrows that are much shorter than were intended for the bow. It is believed that this device was designed to shoot arrows that were too short for the enemy to pick up and shoot back, or it may have been a way to reuse bolts fired from crossbows.

Turkish archer with bow and majra

Finally, there are the Zihgir or thumb-rings used by Mongol and Ottoman archers to draw and release the bowstring. Ottoman Sipahi were recruited exclusively from free-born Turks. They always fought on the flanks of the army with the Janissaries in the centre and were considered an elite that, unlike the Janissaries, never had their loyalty brought into question. The Zihgir was recognised as the mark or symbol of great distinction, rather like a masonic ring, and the horse-archer would tend to wear it at all times. Such was the prestige associated with it that it developed into a fashion statement and eventually some became so ornate that they were incapable of serving their original purpose.

thumb ringsTo cap things off, here’s Genghis Khan from the exhibition of the same name


Alan Fenn, Okçular (Archers) Köyü (Village)


We’ve been on tenterhooks the past few days whilst hosting our dear friends Mark and Jolee (of Senior Dogs fame) and Mark’s brother and his wife. Nothing to do with them directly and everything to do with the amazing ability of our all-encompassing Ortaca Town Council. Everywhere you look they are getting on with stuff!

About a week ago our muhtar (village headman) arrived with a request – the road gang was coming to lay a new road up to the cemetery just behind our house and because the village now has no budget to feed them (new regulations put the entire budget with district councils) he was asking various villagers along the roads being done to help by cooking a meal for the workers. ‘Alright!’ agreed J, ‘How many?’ ‘Ten or fifteen’ said the muhtar. ‘That is going to be interesting’ said J in the biggest understatement I’d heard since George Dubya declared ‘Mission Accomplished!’

iconic photo steelworkers

OK, it’s not Ortaca’s road gang but it is a pretty amazing photo

I thought, ‘Jeez! You must be insane – I mean, how many plates do we have? What’s our biggest pan?’ I kept these thoughts to myself because even hinting that Yorkshire lass of mature years is insane is a life-threatening matter!

village ladies cooking

village catering

A little later, I mentioned that it might be a tough call because we live up here alone whilst our neighbours will be clubbing together and helping each other. Many hands and all that. Why don’t we order in a bunch of take-aways and save ourselves a lot of grief?’ I suggested. Now, I guess that reality had kicked in because J readily agreed. ‘In fact’ she said ‘why not get the Ley Ley Restaurant to sort them out!’ So we did. It was a smart move because if we ever need a little ‘slight of hand’ from the boys in council overalls they will be there to deliver – no problem!

But I’m getting off piste as they say in certain circles. Where was I? Oh, yes! The road.

So, we were worried that whilst we were hosting/guiding our friends that this being Turkey where things don’t happen by stages but all at once with ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’, that we might want to get out and find that the road was closed and full of machines and piles of gravel. As it turned out we were lucky, there were no disruptions and we scraped home by the skin of our teeth. Well, nearly home!

We’d said our goodbyes and had our hugs from our guests and were on our way up our road when we were confronted by this:

new road Ortaca

new road OkcularThe digger broke the main village water pipe but at least there was a nice, ready-made drain-away – and it didn’t take too long to repair the damage and we were soon grinding over the half-filled trench and back home to a welcome beer! Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .

This morning we were faced with this . . .

new asphalt Okcular

1.5kms of glistening, wet tar to get to the main road. We’re hoping that our bucket of good-will is overflowing and that the gravel trucks and road-roller will be along soon – otherwise we could be stuck here (literally) for days! Help! Is there anybody there?

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


A Little Light Relief

. . from all the crap that is going on in the world. A reminder that there is still beauty to be found . . if we look closely enough! Taken this morning in my garden in Okçular.

Robber Flt

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

Rhino Beetle – Oryctes nasicornis

I know, I should get out more often! As it happens, J and I are off to hunt for Blue Slugs in the Kaçkar Mountains in a few days – now that is something for me to get my teeth into!

Alan Fenn, soon to be somewhere else for a while!

Happy Ever After

About three years ago a delightful young lady by the name of Anna learned about our village primary school. Anna, who was also at primary school in the UK, was shocked when she realised that, compared with the facilities that she and her fellow pupils enjoyed, our children had to get by with very basic equipment.

cake bakeKnowing that one of our school’s dreams was to have a science cupboard she set about the business of turning dreams into reality. With a bit of help and support Anna baked cakes and biscuits that she then sold at a ‘Cake Bake’ stall. In all she raised the princely sum of £100 which was handed over to the school on her behalf when her nanny came out to Turkey on holiday.

Anyway, as often happens here in Turkey, suddenly everything changed. First it was announced that the state was going to supply science equipment to primary schools and so our staff waited to see what would materialise before spending Anna’s gift. They waited, and then they waited some more! Nothing! Then came the great reorganisation with primary, secondary and high school divided into a 4:4:4 system. Before anyone realised, three years had gone by and poor Anna had no idea how her money had been spent (or in this case, not).

It was with some relief that J and I had a call from the school staff to say that they had learned that the state wasn’t going to come up with anything so could we please get back on course with the science cupboard. We met with them and together with Anna’s £100 we guaranteed a further 700 lira from the Okçular Book Project funds and ‘Voila!’ our school now has some really good quality equipment for the children to use.

Most of the stuff, as you would expect, is made up of boring things like beakers, bunsen burners, pipettes, slides and the like. Pride of place goes to a beautiful, top quality microscope and two figures for anatomy lessons. So, on behalf of Anna whose initiative really got this ball rolling, let me introduce you to ‘Osman’, a really old Turk, Mike O’Scope and some of the Cupboard Crew.

Okcular village school science cupboard

l-r head teacher Erdal, ‘Osman’, teacher Mahmud

Okcular village school science cupboard

gruesome twosome – Osman and Brainiac

Okcular village school science cupboard

So, a really big ‘thanks to you Anna’ from the present and future pupils of Okçular İlkokul (Primary School).

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Working Out With The Green (and pink) Goddess

A quick follow-up on Gülay and her exercise machine. Apart from any small mods that may crop up to make things better with the ‘scrap heap’, the ball is now well and truly with my chum Ahmet and his  technocrats and engineers in Istanbul. It seems that if we need any backing, whether technical or financial we can turn to the TÜBITAK – the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey. I find that amazing, but Ahmet knows about these things and has the contacts and skills to pull this off.

Down here in Okçular we have the hard job of waiting it all out. Meanwhile, Gülay gets to build her muscles, pump a bit of blood and model her fancy, spotted green ‘pantalons’ and lurid pink top – enjoy!

ps we fixed the chain rattle!

Gülay’s Work Out Machine from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Edge Of The Abyss

by_the_skin_of_our_teeth_by_celestial_moo-dEvery year we are drawn back. Every year we are convinced that it will all be over; that one of nature’s little gems will have toppled over the edge; gone, swallowed by a land-slip. And yet, every year so far, it has clung on – if it had teeth then it would be by the very skin of those teeth!

J and I first spotted this gem about seven years ago when we were exploring an old, badly eroded forestry track which had been carved out of the mountainside leaving a great, vertical cliff-face to one side. What caught our eye was a hint of creamy white that seemed to glow in a patch of sunlight whilst surrounded by sombre greens and browns. Getting close was impossible given its position on the lip of a nasty drop with a very steep slope behind. Photographs enabled us to identify it as Orchis provincialis the Provence Orchid.

Provence Orchid clinging to the edge (how it looks from the track)

Every year heavy Winter rains wash away sections of this track and cliff-face; every year we are convinced our little gem will be gone; every year, so far, we have been delighted to rediscover this delicate beauty clinging to the very edge of existence.

the best I could do with a 300mm lens and trembling knees clinging to the cliff face!

Here’s a decent shot from WikiMedia:


Despite a lot of looking we have never found another specimen – the orchid is fairly rare in Turkey and found in just a few scattered locations.

Whilst on our wander up this track we were amazed to find the first Armenian Tulip - Tulipa armena ssp lycica blooming at least a month early – ‘Global Warming’/’Climate Change’ I suppose! on a positive note, the Corporate Capitalists have decided to stop denying the phenomena – now they’ve decided that there is nothing they can/will do about it apart from ‘manage’ the consequences. Great! ‘Fiddling while Rome burns’ comes to mind – as does teetering on the ‘Edge of the Abyss’!

Alan Fenn,Okçular Köyü