Happy Birthday to Baki

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Baki turned 7 today. It is utterly redundant to make mention of how the years have flown by, and how that little baby I once held is now running around, reading, wearing glasses, writing in cursive, and doing all sorts of other things that I never imagined possible in those first early months, or even years. And yet it is all so true.

As usual, we went up to Istanbul (last weekend) for his birthday party, so that my mother in law and his aunties could see him. This is the last year that we will be doing this, though, as Baki has informed me that he would like to have birthday parties here in Antalya with his school friends from now on. Fair enough — we can go up for Kaya’s birthday next year.

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The weather was beautiful while we were in Istanbul, and I managed to avoid getting caught in any of the city’s epic traffic jams, so it was a good trip. We even managed to fit in a morning at the park, where Kaya had his first encounter with a sand box — love at first sight, I’d say.

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Then it was back to Antalya and the school week began. This morning was presents from Grandma and my cousins, and Baki was off to school, seven years old for real. We invited his friend Leyla over after school to play a bit and have some birthday cake with us. My mom had sent re-igniting candles, so the kids had a great time trying to get them to go out. Baki even tried using his new kazoo from my cousin Pamela. In the end, a glass of water came to the rescue.

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As for me, I’m leaving the dishes for tomorrow after Baki gets off to school and heading to the tub.

Free range baby

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Spring is here, and Kaya is crawling, so I let him range free in the garden while I worked. He used to observe garden work from a high chair or on my back in the baby carrier, but he definitely prefers a more hands on approach. The chamomile is flowering (nature’s work, not mine) and Kaya loves to grab the flowers, squeeze them, tear them apart and stuff them in his mouth. I give him chamomile for his teething woes anyway, so I guess you could say he’s self medicating.
Not everything turns out to be so palatable, though. Rocks, he has discovered, are not a very good snack

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I smelled the top of his head as I put him to sleep, and after a day in the dirt and the sun, he smelled like a potato.

Three steps to dinner

Here’s the recipe for the easiest way to cook fish that I know.*
You need:

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1) Some fish
2) Some herbs (optional- I used fennel tops)
3) Salt

Step 1:

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A thin layer of salt in the pan.

Step 2:

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Add fish (with herbs in their bellies if you’re using them)

Step 3:

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A thin layer of salt to blanket the fish. (coarse salt is easier to remove after, but fine salt works too)
Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes.

Scrape off the salt and serve.
Part of a balanced dinner.

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* Recipe adapted from the very excellent Pauper’s Cookbook by Jocasta Innes.

cola bottles and the tops they wear

Out by us in Ulupinar, no one would ever dream of throwing away a cola bottle. Be it 1 liter, 500 ml or 2.5 liters, these handy bottles are used again and again. They don’t leak, so they are invaluable receptacles for fresh milk, diesel, home made pomegranate or grape syrup, and as I have discovered, great for watering.

This is the time of year when we peer at little pots of paper waiting for seeds to germinate. The paper pot, folded out of newspaper, is a wonderful thing. It’s cheap and easy to make, and pretty much any seed can be started in it. One thing that you have to be especially watchful of, though, is that they not dry out. Watering tiny seedlings sometimes no thicker than an eyelash can be nerve wracking, and is best done with a fine shower of water.

I used to have a rose for my watering can, but it was detachable, so naturally it got lost. Then I came across a couple of solutions that can be used along with the venerable cola bottle.

The first is a bottle top that screws on to the cola bottle. I got this from the Thompson & Morgan website when they were giving them away to anyone sufficiently spendy (I have my moments). It is a little fragile, though — I got four of them, and this is the only survivor. Still, it works really well, and it is serving us in the Yellow House as our seed sowing waterer.

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In the apartment in Antalya, I am starting tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and cucumber seeds in black bags. It is warmer here, since we have heat, and I am using bags so that I can grow them in the bags for a few weeks without worrying about them getting too cramped by the time I can plant them out. I have a little sprinkler cap that I got at years back. It is intended for sprinkling water on your ironing. I don’t iron, so I can’t say whether it works well for that or not, but it makes a great waterer when paired with a cola bottle, and since it’s a cork you could just stuff it into any old bottle.

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As usual, though, the best answer was staring me in the face. There’s nothing wrong with the bottle cap on the bottle itself. Here’s one that Ali burned holes in with a hot needle (a job best performed in open air, or at least with open window).

It works marvelously. Cola may be bad for you, but cola bottles are the gardener’s friend!

Embracing my inner cornball

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I usually buy raw milk from a dairy farmer at the Thursday market and pasteurize it at home, but I went out to the garden today. This evening, I stopped by the supermarket to buy a bottle of milk to tide us over. On my way out, I was waylaid by a man in a suit… And handed a carnation and a diet coke for the distinction of being a woman on March 8! It was a little corny, but I have to admit that it did make me smile. Happy women’s day, all!

Knowing my weaknesses

Like most plant enthusiasts, I love to leaf through seed catalogs. My uncle even gave me a seed catalog for Christmas (for Landreth seed company, the oldest seed company in the US) and what a welcome and well thumbed gift it was.
When I first started gardening, I’d try anything, and I was always seduced by the more exotic varieties. Years of failure and disappointment have modified my habits. I still like to try new things, but I like to get some sure bets in there too. This has meant taking into account the vagaries of our climate, like the unrelenting heat and lack of rain every summer. It has also been important for me to know myself as a gardener. I have the very best of intentions, but there are some things that I am not well suited to.
I was looking through a seed catalog a little while back, trying to decide if I should give French beans a go. I love those skinny little beans, with their deep flavor. Then I read that they have to be harvested every day to catch them at their skinniest and tastiest and I had to admit to myself that I was probably not going to live up to the modest demands if the French bean.
Lest you think this is false modesty, let me share the state my broccoli got into:

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It had never actually occurred to me before this happened that the foliage of broccoli trees was actually flower buds. In retrospect I guess that should have been obvious. So I was not only horrified but also shocked to see the broccoli about to enter full bloom. Still, if there is anyone else out there as negligent as me, don’t lose heart; the broccoli was absolutely delicious, flowers and all (Baki took a few big bites before handing over his bouquet). I’ll be sticking to runner beans and a few kinds of bush beans (edamame, black chickpea) this year.