On the way to Siberia?

On the way to Siberia?

I promised to write more in English, for friends on other countries, and fate sent us a traveller from Siberia… So Alex, this is also for you too.

Meeting at 8am, it is so dark the street lights are still on – the clocks never went back this October, so we are closer in time to Kolkata than London. A beautiful day, crisp and sunny though cold – a maximum of 8 degrees. I kept most of my 6 layers on all day; it is no longer warm…

Only 4 of us in the Guneşköy van today: a busy week meant I was not able to organise enough people for a bus. At ourregular “25 Hours Bakery” stop for bread (+ old tea leaves – for the worms, oak ash – for the chickens, and breakfast for us humans), at the next table, there was a hitch hiker with a large pack, a ukelele, and some Turkish: Alex is heading back to Russia after 4 months travelling through Europe. Coming from Ust İlimsk *, (1000km north of Irkutsk, Siberia), the winter cold of the Central Anatolian Plateau is mild. We took only 10km, enough to connect… and left him on the highway when we collected bags of hazelnut shells – for the stove that will keep the worms warm through the winter.

We dropped by at the local Elmadağ market to collect bagfuls of greens: the market sellers cut off damaged leaves so they can display their vegetables at their best. For our chickens, these scraps are a treat!

As Adnan set up the stove in the worm tent, three of us reinforced the craters around the base of trees and saplings along the top terrace, giving each a good dose of manure – this will sink down into the soil over the winter and feed the new roots. Last year we had planted a few trees on the edges of the newly arrived soil. After hundreds of thousands of years building up in the Balaban River bed, the soil was removed for massive foundations of the tallest pillars of the 10th viaduct of the Ankara-Sivas high speed train track. The building company needed to dump massive amounts of rich alluvial soil. We said Yes; 500 trucks each brought 20 tons of soil. The soil will be settling for several years; to stabilise it, we are planting trees. 400 Juniperus virginiana saplings a were planted month ago.

Our chickens are getting a new cleaning regime: how much straw is needed to scatter the floor and roosting shelves? Is it easier to hoe or scalpel the manure off? They certainly love the greens from the market, though only the ducks were interested in the slightly rotten tangerines. Fikret is working on a pond at the natural end of the micro-valley. Meanwhile the high speed train viaduct V10 on the Ankara-Sivas line is a little nearer completion: tiny men are working on top of the 12th pillar, setting the mold for the “head”. It is now clear the track will sloping down before entering the tunnel.

So… you say this is not very environmental? Sure, this is not what we had dreamed of 15 years ago when we bought the land – in order to avoid what had happened to a previous project, Hocamköy: After we had built an small house, planted trees and made an irrigation system, someone turned up with the official deed for the land – showing he was the owner. All we could do was walk away. Three years ago, when the state told us they were going to build the train track through our land, we were devastated! However, we realised we did not have the strength to resist, especially a train track – the most environmentally friendly form of travel after walking and riding (horse, donkey, bicycle…). Life is teaching us resilience, keeping standing despite unexpected, undesirable realities. We had to make a choice: half of our original group decided to not to continue, preferring to invest their time and energy elsewhere. The rest of us did not want to give up on the land we have got to know so well, where we have tried and not always succeeded, where nature has shown us clues we have been late to pick up, but also where we have grown so much ourselves: in understanding and in skills.

Today one step that warms me is that I have connected a local father and a primary school teacher from Ankara: Canan Hoca will mentor your Elif’s parents, to show them how they can support her in her learning. Father and mother had 8 years of education, and want to give their daughter a stronger start. Güneşköy is feeding more than the land…

In our developing Nature Discovery events (some call them education), we not only look at Nature, but also the way Homo sapiens has affected nature: not just in the 21st century, nor 2000 years ago (the nearest village Hisarköy comes from the settlement which probably dates back to Roman times). When hunter gatherers began settling around 10 000 years ago, the cycle of damage began… * I didn’t know that Ust İlimsk is on the River Angara: from Angara to Ankara…

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