This is Hayrettin. He is M’s nephew and has recently bought a farm. Neither his nor M’s family come from farming backgrounds. He is learning this as he goes. Most people think he is mad. I think he is brave, energetic, and highly motivated. I also think that he should be congratulated for trying to do something no one else would dare to. I really hope he proves all his naysayers wrong.
He is the son of M’s sister Ayse, who died a few years ago now. Before that he lost his dad and elder brother. The past few years have not been kind to Hayrettin, or his elder sister. He has also struggled to try and find something that suits him. He has been a soldier in the Turkish army, commissioned not conscript. He was the first Turk I met who was fascinated by survival skills and outdoors activities. I’m not saying that there aren’t others like him, just that I hadn’t met them and the outdoors, camping, diving, survival lifestyle is not one you meet often here.
His dream had been to do a Ray Mears/Bear Grylls type TV show. Sadly that didn’t pan out. But this year he bought his farm. The farm he bought is certainly not an obvious or easy choice. It is past the highest village in one of the Taurus mountains just outside Mersin–Arslankoy. As it’s a village that we hadn’t been to before, we decided to go and pay a visit.
Arslankoy is quite a drive. They are still busy widening the road but haven’t managed to do it all, so precarious twists and turns remain. Often I think widening makes drivers even worse as they just think it is like a motorway and pelt along at mental speeds. We got to the village but didn’t know where the farm was, plus the mobile signal was pretty bad so calling him to find out didn’t work. After several shouty and pointless phone calls, plus a trip to buy simit and bread, we decided to ask the local butcher. I’m not sure if M asked if he knew the crazy (Turkish) yabanci who had bought a farm but he knew who M meant and gave directions–turn right and follow the road, carry on after the tarmac ends till you reach the end. That sounds like fun.
After joggeling along the dirt track for a while, with ominous scraping sounds coming from beneath the car, we had a sharp bend. I feared that it wasn’t wide enough for our car, plus it was very muddy so I also worried we would get stuck.
We got to the farm to find he has an enormous truck. I later learned that he also drives like a nutter, phone in one hand, and only went slowly down the hill as we left because he was behind us. His farm is basically up the side of a big hill. So far he has built a large and long hut to house his chickens and has fenced off a large part of the cherry orchard so that they can roam as free range. The chickens are still a bit young, so not laying regularly. He has also bought a couple of Sivas Kangal puppies to guard the chickens and scare the foxes. At four months they are already massive, but very cute. The cherry trees fruit a white variety, not often found on market stall here. But his plans are to replace these with Walnuts as he thinks they will be easier to manage and bring better profits.
After looking at the chickens, feeding the puppies, and scoffing some cherries, we went up further up the hill to where his has built a rudimentary home. To say it is spartan is an understatement. But the views he looks out over are simply fabulous. He is also blessed with being so far away from the village he could also be classed as living in a pure dark zone–perfect for star gazers. He described how he had a fantastic view of the meteor show at night. I would have loved to have stayed to see it for myself but in all honesty even I need a touch more comfort than he can offer.
His floors are bare concrete. He has two beds, both solid wood with no mattress or bed roll. He has one alaturka (hole in the floor toilet) with a hose pipe. His kitchen is a work top, sink and one gas ring. He is perfectly happy but the home is a work in progress as he has plans. He has already sunk a pool that he plans to make into a small swimming pool but at the moment it only houses frogs. He wants to put a swiss chalet style roof on top with panoramic windows to house guests. He hopes that at first his guests will come to help on the farm. Perhaps later he will build others as a way to make money.
It is a lot of hard work and investment ahead of him. Being so high up it is also significantly cooler, by almost 8 degrees, than Mersin. It felt blissful, like an English summer and it even rained on our way up. Proper rain with some thunder thrown in. He described how in the mornings he could not see the chicken house because of clouds that had come over from Mersin and settled and that you could sit and watch them roll away as you ate breakfast. In winter though he has snow to contend with, and this could leave him isolated. We’re not talking a smattering here either. No, it will be proper snowfall. the markers on the roads show how it can be metres in depth not centimetres. He is aware that he needs to insulate his home quickly and that his wood burning soba will work hard. He is not afraid of this. Having lived in Ankara during deep snow falls and -10 degrees and lower temperatures, with ineffective radiators and large drafts, I know how hard it can be.
My only wish is that he would take some courses rather than fly by the seat of his pants or rely on ‘advice’. Advice here can range from really useful to absolute uninformed balderdash. I think that is pretty universal really but a course or two would arm him so he knew which was which. He also plans to keep bees. So he was very interested to learn that M had started to keep bees himself just over a year ago.
After a picnic, chat, and wandering round it was time to go. Hayrettin had a weekend of diving planned. He is PADI certified but has now progressed to, and prefers, free diving. For us it was a bit more mundane. We were off to Findikpinari to visit the rickety wooden yayla and Uncle Mustafa again. We left really impressed and can’t wait to return, perhaps next year with sleeping bags and bedrolls to stay for the meteor shower next year.