Students on TED University's ID 320 Sustainable Living and Design course came to visit, with their instructor Dr. Damla Özer (who in 1997 was one of my first students at METU). With students from Iran and Yemen, all conversations were in English. In the discussion, the 3rd and 4th year students of Interior Architecture and Industrial Design recalled the 6 Rs of sustainability; RETHİNK was new to me, but particularly meaningful - zero carbon footprint, just a matter of consideration. While some students were already keen on nature, or from families growing their own vegetables, a couple were on their first ever visit to the countryside. There were many discoveries, lots of questions, and always fun. OK we did need to talk twice about "fear of creatures with too many legs"... Resolved well enough, with my decades of experience smoothing insectophobia.
With two billion years of experience, nature is infinitely far ahead in design, always always needed to create alternatives to existing forms simply to stay alive. Many key details are so small that few humans realise why... Why are some leaves shiny? Why do some seeds stick to clothes? A simple hand lense can reveal quite a lot. Last year's cocklebur (Xanthium) stalk has long dried out, but still has seeds, waiting to hitch a lift from a passing animal. Look at the spines on the seeds, and see how their tips curl at the end. In 1941, George de Mestral noticed the mechanism, and invented Velcro.
Sustainability versus cost? From inside the straw bale building we looked up at the viaduct, where trains are now running, 3 a day from Ankara to Sivas, and 3 in reverse. The Mandala building was built in a few months in 2007, by over 60 volunteers; the highest cost was the bales which in that year of drought had to be brought from 300 km away. Extremely cheap compared to the 2016-9 section of the viaduct: "One pillar (around 100m tall) costs as much as two factories" had boasted one foreman. However until signalisation is working, the "high speed" trains are slow and barely heard from below. At 3pm we heard one gently glide over us. Once they settle into their high speed routine, we'll be able to set out clocks "according to the train": by sound, without seeing one. No chance of seeing a train from under the viaduct: you need to be further away to see anything on the viaduct. One more point: until the end of May, the journey is free. By then the elections will have happened; only a week left to wait...
Doğuş, the construction company that built our viaduct (and many other sections of this line) has contributed many times to developments at Güneşköy. Of the 10 000 meters square expropriated for the viaduct construction, the "landfill" between 9th and 10th pillars is most liable to erosion from wind and rain, especially on the steep slopes. Already, on the eastern side some deep gouges have been carved into the poor quality soil, mostly serpentine dust. A Doğuş excavator is working on preparing the area for tree planting. On the western face, nearest the Greenhouse, horizontal trenches are being dug for irrigation pipes, for plants that should hold the soil firm.
Two large irrigation tanks are now in place at the highest point, above the 9th pillar. From here, gravity will drip feed water to plants at lower levels.
The area below, down to the base of the 10th pillar, is now ready for tree planting next season. Why prepare now? Because Doğuş is due to vacate the site now that this contract has been completed. Staff and machinery are being moved to their next postings.
İnci notices a Bombus bumblebee hovering around the lilac bush in bloom. Above it, the rosemary is in flower too.
On the bare dried out soil that has often been a path, was this a petal fallen from a nearby fruit tree? The shape wasn't quite right. On closer look, the pink patterns on the white petals were different... No it hadn't fallen, it was attached. I scratched with a blade to discover a thin white stem/stalk in the earth. Could these in fact be leaves rather than petals, those of a parasitic plant lacking chlorophyll? What could it be feeding on? The nearest plant is couch grass, itself an aggressive survivor. Might they have tetamed up in their bid to colonise new territory?
Three and a half months ago, the central strip of land had just been landscaped, most of the Paliurus Jerusalem thorn bushes dug up by their roots to create flat terraces ready for planting. 16 weeks later, fresh little bushes with shiny leaves and still soft spines are busy claiming their space in the bare land: more pioneers, strong in the art of survival. On the area above the glasshouse, land cleared three years ago has several wild almond bushes (P. amygdalus orientalis, of the rose family) putting down roots. No sign of such steps by the nearby Barberry (Berberis vulgaris, of the Ranunculaceae, or Buttercup family). Strategies for survival vary widely.