Monday 24 June, 2013 by Uncle Spike
We all seek utopia in some form or another, all searching for that little slice of heaven on earth. In the spring of 2007, that, to me anyway, meant putting down some roots, finding a place to call my home, a place where I could be happy, fulfilled and with enough of a challenge to keep me going for the foreseeable…
And so it was, after much deliberation, head scratching, false starts and the passing over of a wad of hard earned, easily spent cash, we had the deeds in our hands to our very own plot of rocky mountainside 🙂
I guess you could say, we were obviously not wanting to make this next chapter of life too easy, straight forward of regular (as would be the want of more normal people perhaps). Our plot of land is actually 7,000 square metres (apx 1.7 acres) of very rocky ground at the base of some mountains in south west Turkey. Now when I say rocky… well, read on, all will become abundantly clear.
The area is predominantly set to citrus fruit farming, so as it happens, our land also included some 200 trees. Hmm, that sounds romantically nice, but alas not necessarily so. Much of the land was overgrown, and by that I mean we are talking untamed hedgerows 2 metres thick, and 3 metres high, almost jungle-like in places. Suffice it to say, our house build took a while to be realised, but as we were managing the whole project and pretty well most of the design ourselves, as well much of the grunt work too, we accepted things would take time to come to fruition. All good things are worth waiting for.
As the months went by, the design was completed, plans submitted, changed, resubmitted, approved, bribes paid, you know, all the usual necessities associated with bureaucratic dealings in a Mediterranean country.
Apart from designing the house, some of our major undertakings included designing the garden, and somehow making the remaining orchard fit in with our plans. For starters, there was no fence, no boundary, years of untamed wilderness, no driveway, no water, no electricity or any other amenities or services. So all of these had to be tackled one by one, but more importantly, all set into some sort of cohesive plan, so that A followed B, and so forth. Of course, nothing was straightforward, even taking 3 different map engineers to arrive at an agreed boundary line!
Did I mention rocks? Well, situated literally at then base of pine forested mountains and foothills, there is no requirement to visit the local DIY store to purchase a bag or 2 of stones… no sireee. The majority of the ground was so rock strewn, that it resembled how I imagined parts of Beirut or Serbia looked during the troubles there. To give you an idea, you literally could not even drive across the land in anything less than a large wheeled tractor, or a JCB (backhoe). And as for walking or trundling around with a wheelbarrow, forget it – it was not that sort of garden!
The house build would be in the form of a reinforced steel concrete carcass, comprising of some 26 columns, infilled with dual, insulated, air brick walls; so basically compliant with the lest earthquake building guidelines and regulations. With such a solid base (basically it’s the flat part of a mountain base) the foundations, or base level turned out to be quite an impressive feat of engineering. Now you often see some steel bars protruding upwards from some concrete column in this part of the world, but that’s a long story from where it all starts.
First of all, the site was chosen, mapped out etc etc, and then I had to cut down 15 trees and have, well let’s call it a bonfire, for want of a better term. In actuality, the fire was huge, and probably visible by Clayton C Anderson himself, as he neared completion of his 152 days aboard the International Space Station in late autumn of 2007, hmm, maybe I even was photographed by NASA, who knows. Anyway, I digress… after the area was cleared, we handed over to the team of local guys who would construct this initial stage.
But before they could start… they required a few materials, firstly, they needed some 16 metric tonnes of building steel (8-14mm), an advance order for C20 grade ready mix concrete… in total we took delivery of some 285 cubic metres (10,000 cubic feet) over the months that followed !! .. Oh yes, and a few stones please they said. The idea being that once the ground was leveled, and a foundation level excavated, a matrix of massive ‘horizontal’ concrete support pillars reinforced with steel was constructed, surrounded by a metre high wall of reinforced concrete. But you have to then fill this void…. as once that is topped off with another thick layer of concrete, that ‘lump’ forms the platform, or foundation for the house build to begin in earnest.
Ok, sure, yeah… (lots of positive noises were made by yours truly). We can do that, we can fill it with rocks, no problem. So that’s what we did. Of course, no need to ‘buy any’, as rocks are the one thing we are certainly not in short supply of.
Working as part of a gang of 5, we hired a tractor and trailer and starting collecting rocks in mid June. Starting around 7am, we followed the tractor all over the land, throwing in rocks ranging from 3 to 50kg each. It was challenging, back-breaking work, and as every cloud has a silver lining, this did too; it helped me to discover a whole set of muscles that I had never been aware of. Let me tell you, after just a few hours, I was fully aware of every muscle in my body, and the severe limitations of said muscles too. I had been an office wimp too long I guess!
In the heat of the Mediterranean sun, breathing in the fresh, albeit very hot, air, one learns to appreciate nature… in particular it’s little creatures, for low and behold, as much as we wanted to chuck those big rocks into our trailer, both the bright yellow and the menacing black scorpions were less than impressed. At least 4 times there would be a holler from someone as a few beasties were given a dose of daylight they had not wanted. One learns to lift rocks carefully is the message I took from those days.
We filled the trailer slowly but surely, then off the tractor would go, carrying it’s 3-4 tonne load up to the site of the house build. Apart from a 2 hour break at midday, we toiled steadily but continuously for almost 4 days, filling the trailer over and over and over again.
It was, for me anyhow, quite a sense of achievement, and maybe it helped me to ‘get to know’ my land, I don’t know, but the euphoria was short lived. When the time came to build and then fill in the foundation base a few months later, it was incredible, unnerving and disheartening how quickly all those long aching days efforts disappeared. In just a couple of short hours, Mustafa our expert JCB driver dumped the entire lot into the base. All gone, yep, as if there wasn’t a pile of stones ever there, just a massive patch of earth where the grass hadn’t grown.
Another job done I guess, and perhaps, one best not repeated.