In the 9 months of 2023 I've never been this Güneşköy focused...
Saturday 9th September: 4 years after the last UNDP Small Grants Program fair (2019), This recent wave of grant recipients gathered to display their wares to visitors. It was also a great opportunity to meet up and find out what others have been doing. Güneşköy's KırCan (BoostingRuralLife) partnered with the Elmadağ local authority - here selling locally baked "ulavaş" (a long bread, with meat filling), from the women's cooperative. Quite a queue formed and soon none were left...
Sunday 10th September: I had arranged to go to the Çiftlik neighbourhood (a section of the village of Hisarköy. Perhaps a hundred years ago, it grew from a few families with large flocks of sheep, goats and cows settling where there was space and easier access to pastures). When I arrived the hot sun and gentle breeze were drying the teaspoon size piles of dough geldim, laid out on sheets - on the table, so the chickens, cats, puppies or others would not get easy access. Three days ago, Seda had prepared the rich selection of vegetables, mixed them with strained yogurt and flour, and left to ferment; this morning the little piles were spooned out to dry...
This morning Seda also prepared 8 sacks of tomatoes: cut in half, cut out harder or damaged parts. Eventually the phone rang "Salçacı", the sauce machine man! Such short notice, and we were only 3 women and a 5 year old. Nazli held on firmly to the sacks collecting the shredded tomato sludge The guy operated his machine... leaving Seda and me to upload tomatoes fast enough to feel the machine. Seda isn't supposed to lift anything heavy (since her major back operation last year), but her lifting power is so much better than mine. How does she still manage?
After preparing the evening meal, she sat down to the next stage of Tarhana making: passing it through a fine sieve, so that only dust and pieces fel through onto the sheet. Before bet this was spread out on a dry sheet, breaking up clumps help by moisture which would evaporate over the next days. Seda's daughter Rukiye arrived, with 3 year old Ecrin: she'd come to help her mother, having started the day at 5am picking tomoatoes in her in-laws' field. By bed time were wer all ready to go to sleep, except for Ecrin who'd got some sleep during the day. For her, it was time to play up to her new audience! She was not going to let us sleep, so I took my quilt and went next door. Tahir's bed is has TWO thick wool matresses - what were the 7 metresses of the Princess and the Pea made of? I certainly slep well. Yes, traditionally, local wool was used in many ways; now its value has dropped away as synthetic petroleum based products take its place.
Monday 11th September: Seda was up before all of us, preparing breakfast so she could start boiling down the tomado paste. Today we felt the autumn air creeping even into homes. Until 10.30 it was chilly, the season is turning.
The main reason I came was to wash a winter quilt, made over 2 decades ago, hand sewn and filled with wool. Seda had guided me through the process: what was needed, how long it would take, and finally how the quilt would be sewn. Yes this is still done professionally by master quiters; she knows who to ask in Elmadağ; I wouldn't know where to start in Ankara. Nazlı had got me the "washing soda" (a whitish, odourless powder. Its chemical formula is Na2CO3.10H2O - better known as sodium carbonate decahydrate) and softener. Once Seda got the tomato paste boiling, she had time to focus on the wool quilt. "İperini sök" she said (undo the thread) but when Rukiye laughed watching me cut the thick cotton from within the cover. My method only worked near the edge; I carried on with the regular approach - cutting on the outside threads that I pulled as much as possible. I left the 1.8 x 2.00 m bag ready for Seda to take over.
Then what? No one stays empty handed. An extra pair of hands, gathering onions! The field was just round the corner. İbrahim and Fatma, and a family from Mardin. For some months, they have been living on the other side of Hisarköy, making charcoal from wood from the forest - permission granted by the forestry directorate. A trade learnt from their father... For an hour and a half, I gathered onions (without damaging them, warned Fatma). every 10 litre yogurt container was passed up to the youngest, who emptied the onions at the back of the trailer. Working in the fields is chance to listed to people chat. The banter moved between the inevitable economic squeeze, politics (attitutes are changing as frustration anddisappointment set in), dreams for the future - "Germany". İbrahim is quite clear about the value of Türkiye. It feels good to hear people who haven't given up; so many seem ready to jump at opportunities to move away.
How many years has it been since I rode in a trailor behind a tractor? You bump along passively, no control, not knowing when the next jerk will come - as the tractor climbs a bank then drops down into a trench, heaves back out again, then swerves to the right... as we sat on a thick layer of hard onions; not the most comfy of rides. The field was a short walk to the farm, but we'd worked hard and welcomed the lift.
Last week we'd seen the 11 ducklings. This time I got closer: two femals are closely caring for them! Which is the mother is not known. One sure fact is that when they feel threatened, they'll defent / attack: 3 year old Ecrin can tell you... When I left, she gave me a great sendoff. She'll remember me from now on.
Tuesday 12th September: the "Aktif Güneşköy" group have been working since 2016 to keep Güneşköy alive and active. Today we met to talk of possibilities. Inevitably, as we walked around the perimeter, hundreds of seeds seized the opportunity to travel to new places to settle; they are particularly attracted to knitted fabric cuch as Tshirts, while woven materials aren't as easy to catch on to.
The fig tree behind the Mandala building is bearing fruit; darkening but still not ripe. There are plenty of plums, one particular tree producing fruit that melt in the mouth...
...and in the steep slope of soil a series of large holes, recently disturbed (a different colour soil). Doğukan says they are fox holes. From here our last stop was to the south-western point, where an Ailantus tree has so well settled that the saplings that Soner had cut back exactly 2 years earlier had, as expected, grown back even stronger. Fikret's verdict was disappointing: "Whatever is done won't work. Neighbouring trees are shedding seeds so it would be a fruitless task to try removing them". Male and female trees are different, very successful dissemination strategies with both seeds and vegetative shoots... These too are reflecting the changing conditions worldwide - what is worth investing energy in? The spreading greenery can now been seen in satellite pictures.
And of course we drank tea as we reflected on the day. In the two tiers of the Turkish tea pots (bottom one for hot water, top one with a thick tea concentrate) the yellow rays of the setting sun are slowly chased up the viaduct pillars as night creeps in. Or more correctly as the earth rotates away from the sun. Let's be accurate.