Winter has come. My last visit we were making tomato paste, with sun hot enough to dry out the flour based yogurt Tarhana soup, and wool for winter quilts. I drove past Güneşköy's new chain link fence, as drizzle thickened into rain and the hills disappeared behind swirling clouds. At the entrance, as I stepped out to open the gate, my shoes slipped in the muddy soil trying to avoid the rust coloured puddles. At Güneşköy Ali and Celal were emptying the new water depots (to avoid winter freezing damaging the containers) and İnci had gathered quinces and pruned trees. Time to share lunch before they returned to Ankara. Too wet to explore the land, so a little watercolour painting before going to the nearest settlement, just behing a hill, but now the short cut to Çiftlik is fenced off. While townies stay comfortably in their urban homes, life here continues: animals to look after, cows to milk, milk to process.
Life in a village continues, whatever the season. All of you sitting comfortably in your comfy urban homes and wanting healthy milk and dairy products, have you wondered what happens before they get to you? Not just looking after the cows... Every day, after milking (by hand, no machine), the milk needs treating. Fatma's butter (from a machine) is already booked by customers at the weekly organic markets in Ankara. The fat-free by-product, called Yalan Yoğurt, is then heated with fresh milk: Çökelek is a crumbly cheese, great in salad, on spaghetti, and in börek. Once everyone was back at Çiftlik, we sat down to eat. The new shepherd, from Bagram, was surprised by my few remaining sentences of Farsi: enough for a small connection when people are far from home. Meanwhile, in the background, the television flashes a different world. Whose reality? A show where young TikTok follower accuses her husband of not supporting her addiction! No one here takes her seriously, nor much of what is on the telly.
A wood-stove-heated evening, ready for bed we caught up on the last 10 weeks. Watching Seda's favorite soap opera "Ateş Kuşları", about a heroic gang of street kids, I told her about Hailey - a woman I'd met in Bristol: 3 years living on the streets, she'd been in hospital with pneumonia but was looking forward to moving to her new accommodation in November; I hope you are warm and comfy now. As I’d squatted next to her on the pavement, Looking at the legs and bags of people walking fast or wandering slower, we’d talked about living invisibly, without being seen by the passersby. Seda, does this ring a bell, not being seen or noticed by decision makers? When I wake the next morning, the stove is roaring and breakfast is ready. The weather? Not raining, yt... A knock at the door; not Elif (she's got a course in Elmadağ), but her cousin Rümeysa, now in 3rd grade. "I'm off to the mountains" she states. She knows a lot about the area, and that the "rabbits" are in fact hares (one word "tavşan" for both in Turkish). Rümeysa describes their nests in hollows or under trees, not burrows. How many urban children would know where rabbits rest?
"Come on Rümeysa, let's go to Güneşköy!" After a quick first visit to the glasshouse, we headed out, up to Şahin Tepe - the hill top above the glasshouse. Walk, look, questions, replies... exchanges about what we notice, sharing knowledge. What is this? Why is it like this? What's it called? Learning and developing new ways of doing things, remembering... (Strategies for memorisation can help her in school). Details, cues (a wagging hand ... a tail), as this 8 year old's mind and mine interact in nature. Ali! how much work you put in to getting the entire perimeter fenced off last month! Paid by Doğuş, the viaduct construction company that for years has used our water pump, the fence was put up by a local team from Elmadağ; but it was Ali Gökmen who made sure the plans were followed. Ellerine sağlık!
We scramble up the slope, me pointing out different bushes and her seeing movement: she's spotted a whitish twig, twitching slightly. In the dull light of the drizzly grey day, we peered... (I must find my magnifying glass!): a small mantid, still alive in mid December! Possibly Empusa fasciata. Different from the green-beige species, this one is spikey to blend in to more arid surroundings. Is this a male, the females dying fairly soon after laying eggs, or might this be a young one, ready to overwinter?
Photo Description: In a child’s hand, a 6 legged insect looks at the camera. A praying mantid about 3 cm long, its thin feet are no more than 2 mm thin wide. The body is long, stick-like, with the front legs held together under its triangular head. It looks as if it’s praying, but in fact these long front legs are held, tucked in under the chin, ready to seize any passing prey: these are the strongest legs, to be able to hang on to fresh food. The other four legs (2 middle and 2 back legs) hold the body up at rest, gripping on to surfaces or walking. The abdomen of this species is wide and wavy, sculptured like a grass head, freckled in yellowish brown, grey and white. Mantid heads are triangular (large eyes at the top corners, antennae in between and the mouth at the bottom). While this insect's head is triangular like its relatives (its large eyes are in the upper right and left corners, the mouth in the bottom corner), but this one has horn-like antennae, giving it the majestic look of creatures in fantasy productions.
Rümeysa also noticed this ancient grasshopper, its thorax shining. It didn’t move, though it had disappeared when we next looked.
Under dark clouds, without sunlight the bright yellow lichen (Xanthoria?) on the dark branch of Astragalus catches our eye.
What’s around in winter? Chard, rocket… and tomatoes! One plant has gone wild in the greenhouse: thick ground cover, lots of leaves, flowers and even tomatoes. Green ones in the photo; the red ones had already been eaten.