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

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familiar views as you’ve never seen them before

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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

Stuff

Kontrolation 2.0

‘Oh, dear! Here he goes again, prattling on about rabbit holes and secret cabins – boring!’ All I can say is that this Old Boffer and his squeeze are excited and who’s writing this drivel anyway!

cabin01

So, where were we? As I recall, the framework of the cabin was up, the roof was nearly complete, the external cladding was well under way and the crew kept getting interrupted by splendid feasts instead of getting on with the job. J and I had to come back home for a couple of days to get the car serviced and MOT’d. Then it was back to the place where our dreams were fast becoming reality. Here’s what we found . .

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insulation, floor and internal cladding under way

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starting to get some idea of how it will be when finished

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looking east through the ‘square window’ – Play School fans will get it

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canalisation work begins

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. . and the plumbing

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the amount of stuff is going down rapidly

Meanwhile, our demirci/blacksmith is about to give a culinary master class . .

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works canteen – Turkish style

Next day we sloped off over the mountains to stock up from our favourite winery. When we got back . .

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internal walls were up

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. . and J is looking decidedly happy

Another day and . .

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ceilings are up

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fascias are fitted, and . .

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Hasan the plumber is under there somewhere

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and the cheerful chippies are . .

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. . really cracking on

Over there, up the hill a bit and as far again, a digger has, throughout the day and late into the night, dug a trench, laid the pipe and back-filled to our own, personal supply of mountain spring water.

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Hasan putting the finishing touches, including . .

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. . his patent sand filtration system!

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everywhere, finishing touches to the woodwork

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The temporary steps that will be replaced by really old ones from a derelict building made from Juniper/Ardiç which, having survived longer than J and me, will almost certainly outlast us!

As we left for home again, there were still bits and bobs to finish off. Now we have a few days respite whilst the carpenters adapt the old doors/frames and build the kitchen cupboards, our bed and the windows and shutters. There is still the soba/oven/range to buy and fit but our new mattress and energy efficient fridge are just awaiting word for delivery. J is already packing boxes with stuff to take up there, including wine, whisky and rakı glasses – well, with a balcony looking out over that view, we deserve to be spoilt for choice as we toast yet another beautiful day in Turkey!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü and the other end of the Rabbit Hole!

 

Wanderings

Piste Off!

In a past life, J and I were once licensees (in modern parlance) of a very lively village pub. I preferred the term ‘landlord’ and ‘landlady’, as did most of our punters, because it conferred greater gravitas on us guardians of such a warm, inviting and noble, British tradition.

inside Green Dragon, Hobbiton

to illustrate, here’s a shot of the very traditional Green Dragon pub in the village of Hobbiton, The Shire, Middle Earth

Traditional pubs are glorious places that breed gloriously eccentric ‘Guv’nors’ and punters alike. Well, they used to before they were all taken over by pub chains and themes! I was known as ‘Basil’, after the character in ‘Fawlty Towers’, for some obscure reason. Another landlord I knew well had a pith helmet with ‘Pith Off’ written on it. Instead of politely calling ‘Time gentlemen, please!’ he’d don his helmet and bellow ‘Pith on, now pith off!’ The locals loved it!

Shepherd_NeameAll this waffle brings me neatly to the point of this post – the weather of late has been somewhat confining, a condition that leads to feelings of paranoia vis-a-vis the malevolence of the ‘gods’. I was getting well-and-truly pissed off (to use a very traditional Britishism) and beginning to fantasise about village greens and cries of ‘Owzat!’ and pints of Shepherd Neame’s finest Kentish bitter beer. And so was born the idea of pithing off to the piste in search of early bulbs and other delights by way of a compromise. Did you follow the logic of my drift with this? Not boring you, am I? Excellent!

So, J and I set off for the mountains by way of the village of Üçağız about forty minutes drive east of Kaş on the south coast. You can read about it by clicking the link. It’s a place we like very much, but only out of season before the day trippers inundate this tiny, largely unspoilt village. We were using it as a jumping off point for an up and over a couple of mountains drive, but more about it another time.

We were heading, via the rabbit hole, for our secret hide-away in the mountains; there to explore backways and track-ways and lake-sides, as yet, untrodden by us. Snow, rushing streams, mountain meadows, clean, crisp air, the chance of finding some different flowering plants and no day trippers! We were not disappointed . .

lake from the snow line

lake from the snow line

Crocus olivieri ssp olivieri

Crocus olivieri ssp olivieri

C olivieri and Euphorbia

hiding away with a Euphorbia

Crocus fleischeri

Crocus fleischeri

lichen

luminous lichen

Crocus fleischeri

Scilla bifolia

Scilla bifolia

Colchicum minutum

Colchicum minutum

Colchicum serpentinium

Colchicum serpentinium

Colchicum triphyllum

Colchicum triphyllum

Colchicum triphyllum

happy campers at the ski centre

J and friends ‘Off Piste’

Crocus biflorus ssp isauricus

strange buds turned out to be . .

Crocus biflorus ssp isauricus

Crocus biflorus ssp isauricus

Colchicum triphyllum

Crocus triphyllum

red Anemone coronaria

Anemone coronaria

Iris unguicularis v carica

Iris unguicularis v carica

So, there you have it – from pissed off to off piste! Was it worth wading through the dis-jointed verbiage to see such beauties? Be happy to hear from you either way.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Shepherd Neame

 

 

 

ps Was that better than a pint of ‘Shep’s’? Probably not!

Stuff

A Bit Of A Shower

J and I got back from Iran to a couple of things (apart from a mound of emails) that are not every day matters, especially at this time of year. First, there was a lot of unseasonal but very welcome rain – cloudbursts even. Second, there was a group of walkers from Manchester that we’d committed to take on a hike through our mountain paradise.

It very soon became apparent that the two were linked – the ‘Shower’ from Manchester had brought their notorious weather with them! They also turned out to be a bunch of  (mostly) experienced ‘yompers’ who were delightfully interesting company to boot! I’ve never been one to believe that ‘interesting hikers’ was, like ‘military intelligence’, an oxymoron – although there are some X-Box players who do!

some intermittent drizzle

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followed by a right old shower

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Anyway, we had a great time together as they showed me up by being totally unaffected by the heat and inclines whilst this old ‘Boffer’ had leg cramps for the first time in his life. Such was the pity that they felt that at the end of the walk they made a very generous donation to the Okçular Book Project as well as buying a good number of books. What can I say? Our children and village thank you – a deluge of generosity from the Manchester Shower. May your walks be life-long, filled with gentle sunshine and may Lancashire win the County Championship (Not much chance of the last two, eh! You could always try Premium Bonds!)

Alan Fenn, recovering in Okçular Köyü

ps I will get around to Iran Life stories

Incredible Okçular!

Edge Of The Abyss

Every 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:

Orchidaceae_-_Orchis_provincialis-2_2

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