Shameless hussy

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Some girls just don’t know when to quit. This iris was a gift, in the form of a rhizome, from my mother. It did very little last year, but seems to be making up for lost time. I want to say, “relax, we loved you even when you didn’t flower.”
Meanwhile, with one week left until my due date, I’ve come to see the virtues of slowing down. I’d been a bit concerned because my whole body was so creaky every night. How can I give birth, I thought, when everything aches so much? Then yesterday I had no gumption whatsoever, so I took it easy and even got some knitting done; I finished a pair of leggings for the baby that I’d started months ago:

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Last night, I was amazed to discover that my body ached not one bit, and I woke up feeling wonderfully rested this morning. So, with apologies to the vegetables and the flowers, I think I will let the weeds have their way with the garden for the next few days.

Non-electric appliances that I love #3

Tea and toast
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On a chilly morning or a cloudy afternoon, there is nothing more pleasing than tea and toast. In the absence of electric kettles and toasters, this pair does the job very nicely. Growing up, I remember having a copper kettle in the kitchen for much of my early childhood in the US. When we moved overseas, electric kettles supplanted it, but I remembered the cheerful whistle of our old kettle, and was delighted to receive this kettle as a birthday present from my mother.
On the right, your eyes do not deceive you if what you see is a simple heat diffuser for the stove. It doubles very nicely as a toaster, though. I love toast, so I was excited to learn, from Adi Pieper’s book, “the Easy Guide to Solar Electric (part 1)”, that in spite of not being able to plug in a toaster, I’d still be able to have my toasty slices. I can feel my eyes glaze over and my mind becoming impermeable when I read about electricity, so I can’t claim to fully understand our solar power system, but I do well with rules of thumb (heating and cooling are largely out of reach) and useful tactics.
In addition, I am experiencing a slight strawberry jam obsession. We ran out of last year’s jams (peach and quince) a few weeks ago, right as strawberries started showing up at the vegetable markets. I made a batch of freezer jam that turned out pretty well, but I had a recipe that I’d been curious to try. A while back, before my mom moved to NY, a friend came to visit from Paris and brought us an extraordinary bottle of jam. It was seedless raspberry jam, if you can believe it, and it had been made by a woman named Christine Ferber. I soon learned that she is a famous jam maker, and that her cookbook, “Mes Confitures”, was available on English. Naturally, I got a copy, and strawberry jam would be my first foray into her methods.
It was, to me, an unusual recipe that required not only that the berries be macerated overnight in sugar, but also that, once brought to a simmer the following day, they be macerated again overnight. Then the syrup was to be strained and cooked further, and the strawberries added for a final cooking. It was then, she promised, that the berries would “become translucent”. Surely not, I thought. But as I peered into the pot of boiling syrup, with strawberries bobbing to the surface, I caught a glimpse of a translucent berry. I fished one out with a spoon and admired it. The berries had been transformed into glistening jewels. And the jam is just wonderful on toast.

Note to Self

Lately, probably because of their shared obsession with playing games on my iPod, Ali and Baki have been trooping down the hill to the red house early, leaving me alone for a little while. It is so nice to have a bit of time on my own, especially at night time when I do not feel guilty not working in the garden. We went to the doctor yesterday, and she said that I have at least two weeks to go before the baby comes (the due date is not until May 6), so I guess I should enjoy this down time while I can.
I swore that I would not get impatient to have this baby, since babies are, after all, so much easier inside than they are when they come out (although not half as interesting). I mean, knowing as I do about the marathon sleeplessness, the endless diaper changes and feedings, breast engorgement, the postpartum train wreck, and all those other things that you swear never to do to yourself again, why would I be in any rush? Well, I have finally gotten big and heavy enough (not to mention that insane pressure on my cervix) to feel impatient.
Plus, this being the second time around, I know for certain what everyone tells you but you just can’t believe is true — whatever it is that is driving you crazy, it will pass. What’s more, when you look back on it, if you are anything like me (I erase bad experiences almost immediately), they will seem like no big deal. And even weirder, I miss that newborn madness. Well, not for long. So this is my note to myself in a month or so — it really does fly by, and you’re going to miss these days, so just try to enjoy them. Find something every sleepless day to savor.

Scorpions awake!

Berto, a friend who lives nearby in Cirali, came to visit today. He’d just found a tick on himself, so we got to speaking about various bugs. The chickens were scratching around in the background, and Berto commented that they probably ate their fair share of ticks. They do, I said, not to mention that they got our grasshopper problem pretty well under control last summer. Of course, the thing I appreciate the most about them is their appetite for scorpions.
I was unaware of this before coming down here, but a chicken who encounters a scorpion will waste no time in using their beak to swiftly break its back, leaving them with a tasty treat. Anyway, while we were on the subject, I regaled our friend with tales of last summer’s run-ins with scorpions, including the memorable encounter that I had with a fat white scorpion that I found under my pillow while searching for my mobile phone one afternoon (I squashed it between two pieces of firewood that happened to be lying around).
The conversation left me thinking about scorpions and wondering when they would wake up. They go to sleep under rocks and in the soil during the cold months, so we can relax a bit and not have to look for them everywhere. When it is cold out, we are most likely to find them if we lift up a rock, or while digging a vegetable bed. That is in contrast to finding them in the house, say, crawling on the outside of the mosquito net while we’re reading in bed, or sitting inside a t-shirt left overnight on a bench in the garden.
I soon had my answer. As I walked down the path to the red house, where Ali and Baki were already in bed, I found myself staring down at a big fat black scorpion, sitting perfectly still, caught in the beam of my flashlight. Now, around here they say that the black scorpions are not as poisonous as the white ones, and that big ones are less poisonous than small ones, but I must confess that I was frozen to the spot. I’m afraid that’s what happens to me when I see black scorpions on the path at night (this is maybe the fourth time it’s happened). “love….?” I called, and Ali, who was only half asleep, answered almost immediately. He probably thought I was going into labor because all I talk about lately is how the baby’s head keeps pressing on my cervix, or that’s what it feels like.
In a cinematic moment of bad timing, my flashlight died, and I imagined the scorpion getting away, or worse, heading for me, but Ali was there before either of these scenarios played out, and he skewered it and took it up to the chicken coop. (We do not, it must be said, harbor very neighborly feelings towards scorpions. I do not feel the same way, though, about snakes. Their appetite for rodents and natural shyness make them ideal garden inhabitants, I think.)
Thoroughly creeped out, I made a beeline for the house. Naturally, before getting into bed I had a good hard look under my pillow.

Non-electric appliances that I love #2

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Sandwich press

Around here, grilled cheese sandwiches are more or less a staple come lunch time. Luckily, tost, the grilled sandwich, is a mighty presence in the culinary lexicon of Turkey, so there exists this magnificent little device- the stove-top sandwich press.
Ali and Baki are most fond of the classic karisik (mixed) tost, consisting of sucuk sausage and cheese. I, on the other hand, am purely a grilled cheese and tomato girl.

Non-electric appliances that I love #1

The Lehman’s hand washer
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The first thing that I learned when we got our solar electricity up and running was that anything that heats or cools probably required more electricity than we could spare. Our first attempts at refrigeration, using a mini-bar sized 12-volt fridge amply demonstrated the truth of this.
Laundry being one of the chores I am most fussy about, I have gone through a number of strategies. In our first year, I used a wash board and a plunger like device to do laundry. The downsides were clear- it was time consuming, shredded our jeans, and wringing the clothes out was a drag. Plus, in winter my hands were a mess. We started taking our clothes into town, but there aren’t any self service laundromats, so we had to have our laundry done for us. Getting strange socks back with our clothes creeped me out, though.
When we first came out here, we brought a petrol-powered generator with us for the construction of the house. It now lives at the bottom of the land, in a friend’s carpentry workshop. I had assumed that since the generator had powered the circular saw, drills, and other big heavy tools, that it would power a washing machine as well. Without going into too much detail, let me admit that I was mistaken and that I discovered this the hard way. That was a day that I could think of nothing else to do but sit down and cry.
Shortly after this heartbreaking discovery, my mother sent me the latest Lehman’s non-electric catalog. I can’t remember how I first came across it, but the Lehman’s catalog has been invaluable since we moved down here, and many of my dearest non-electric appliances either came from there or I learned of them there.
Anyway, leafing through the catalog, I saw the Lehman’s hand washer and I knew that all was not lost – I could have my laundry day!
On our most recent trip to NY, I ordered the washer. It was shipped in pieces, and the wash basin just happened to fit nicely, if snugly, into my largest duffle bag. For some reason no one seemed concerned about the large metal vessel in my luggage, and it arrived in Turkey without incident.
Now it stands in the garden and serves us almost daily – between our own copiously dirty clothes (muddy spring) and all of Baki’s old baby clothes and diapers, we need to wash pretty much every day. Baki helps me with the wringer, though, and the actual washing doesn’t take that long. It makes me very happy to have laundry day back at home where it belongs.