Lydia Barends runs a small guesthouse, Dirimguesthouse, on a mountainside in western Turkey, where she lives with her dogs, cats and donkey. “Apart from being sociable and good companions, the animals are also very useful, because the dogs guard the house, the cats catch mice, and the donkey keeps the grass short and accompanies me to the forest when I fetch wood.” This month, Lydia tells Flow about her life.
Spring scents and water pumps
Every day, I am up before the sun peeps over the highest mountain – which, in January, is around 7 a.m. My first chores are to get the furnace going, make some tea, feed the animals and take the donkey out to graze. I notice that it’s getting light earlier now, and as I walk down the mountain, I catch wafts of chamomile and other meadow scents. At sunrise and sunset, the sky is a beautiful, transparent porcelain blue, streaked with hues of pink and lilac. It’s hard to believe that as recently as last week, everything was so frozen; all the mountains were covered in snow and my water pipes were solid. Luckily, I had the sense to store water in every receptacle possible: buckets, bottles and tubs. It takes about a day to adapt to this, but then you come to realize just how little water you actually need and how many ways you can reuse it – it’s amazing.
After a week, I put the pump back on: I flicked the switch, and listened out to hear the water rattling through to the boiler… Nothing. Which probably meant there was air in the pump. The switch for the pump is at the house; the pump itself however is down by the well. So, in order not to have to keep walking up and down, up and down, I asked my neighbor for help. He came up the hill, panting heavily (he’s 70 years old) and dressed in his canary yellow dungarees, with his wife in tow (who, regardless if it’s summer or winter, always wears flip flops and no socks…). According to my neighbor, we needed “parrot pliers” (aka water pump pliers).
It turned out that the pump was dry. So, up I went to fetch a bottle of water, then down to fill the pump. Then back up to turn the pump on. The pump started; the neighbor shouted… “Kapat!” (“Stop!”). No water was coming through. So, I messed around with the pipe that was in the well, walked back up to the house, and so on and so on. My neighbor shouted, “Gel!” (“Come here!”). He pointed to the cracked iron; the pump was broken. What a downer. That meant a trip down to the hardware store in the industrial area for a new pump. It was pretty busy there – I obviously wasn’t the only one with the problem – but luckily, they know me and said they would come out the next day.
So I spent one more day breathlessly lugging my two zinc buckets up from the well, all the while thinking how weak we are compared to our ancestors for whom this was a daily task. I decided to save myself at least one trip, and washed my face at the well. The water was cold, but wonderfully refreshing. What’s more, it felt great to be outdoors, squatting amongst the reeds, surrounded by croaking frogs. I could even go so far as to say it was warm in the sun! For a moment, I considered jumping in – the water looked so bright and inviting and the well is large enough. But then the thought of my neighbors coming up to investigate where the splashing sounds were coming from was enough to put me off.
Today the water finally came out the tap. For the first time in over a week, I was able to have a shower. Sitting here, all shiny and scrubbed, I’m watching the last pink rays streak the sky. It is almost spring.
Thank you everyone for reading my blog, and for your lovely, sweet comments!