Monday, March 23, 2009

Let's Grow Moss! Yosun Yetiştirelim!

In a shady woodland garden, what could be more fitting than boulders covered with moss? I don'n have a shady woodland garden - well, not yet - but I do have a couple places where the natural rock of the hillside juts through the retaining walls. One part of this is well shaded by an apricot tree as well as a grape vine when it gets going in the summer, so I decided to try something I just learned about from an old gardening friend's facebook page: moss seeding. I did some more research and found lots of information on the internet.

What you need:

Buttermilk or yogurt
A blender

1. Choose your moss. Even in cement-bound Istanbul, moss is not at nearly the premium one might expect. I got mine from the walls of a 14th-century castle. If you don't have one of those in your neighborhood, improvise! There are many different varieties of moss which grow in a variety of habitats, so choose according to where you want to seed it. If you want the moss to grow on rocks, then take your seed material from rocks. If you have logs you'd like to be covered in a green carpet, then take your moss from wood. Also pay attention to aspect - if the place you want to grow the moss is in deep shade, then get moss from a similarly shady place; if it gets some sun every day, take that into account. The part of the castle I collected from faces west-southwest, as does the rock face in my garden; that means it receives several hours of direct sunlight a day.

2. Speaking as much like Julia Child as is humanly possible, shred the moss into your blender container, and remove tough plant roots or rocks that may be in it. There's point in destroying your blender's blade over this.

3. Add buttermilk or yogurt, and a little water if the yogurt's too thick. We're going for a thin milkshake consistency. I went for Dia generic, no need to be upscale here.

4. Vrrrrrrrroooooooommmmmmm!

5. Voila, you've made a moss smoothie! It's not the most appetizing looking thing but it actually smells quite nice, a little like something you'd get at a juice bar, with lots of...spirulina and yogurt. I didn't taste it.

6. Pour or brush over the target rocks.

7. Wait. Evidently it can take a while, but the weather is still cool and moist so I think I've got a chance.

One thing I wondered about: Why buttermilk or yogurt? One site I saw contained a post by a gentleman who uses regular milk and gets satisfactory results. Maybe being a bit thicker, buttermilk helps the "seed" stick to the rocks better, or the acidity creates a more favorable environment for the moss to take hold. I'm not sure if this is a case of spores growing or vegetative reproduction from bits of the green moss - maybe a little of both. I'll report back in a month or two on the results!

Yosunla kaplı kayalar, gölgeli orman bahçelerine birebir. Benim bir orman bahçesini (daha) yok, fakat üst bahçede doğal kayanın sedden çıktığı bir gölgeli yer var. Facebook'ta eski bir arkadaşımın tasarladığı bir bahçede yosunlu dev kayalar vardı, yosunu ilginç bir şekilde kendisi ektiğini anlattığını okuyunca ben de kendimi denemekten alamadım.

Gereken Malzemeler:
Yoğurt veya Kefir
Bir Mikser

1. Yosununuzu, yetiştirmek istediğiniz ortama göre seçin. Çok değişik yosun türü olduğu için, taşta yetiştirmeyi düşünüyorsanız bir taştan toplayın, bir kütükte ise, kütük veya tahtadan. Aynı zamanda aldığı güneşe dikkat edin. Yer çok mu gölgeli? O zaman mutlaka benzer bir ortamda yetişen yosun seçin. Benim ekeceğim yere, her gün
birkaç saat güneş vuruyor, dolayısıyla güneş gören bir yerden topladım.

2. Mikserin bıçağına zarar getirebilen herhangi taş veya sert bitki ayıklayarak yosunu parçalayın.

3. Yoğurt veya kefir ekleyin. Yoğurt çok katıysa biraz da su ekleyebilirsiniz. Amaç, biraz cıvık bir milkşeyk kıvamına ulaştırmak. Ben Dia'nın jenerik yoğurdu kullandım, pahalı markalara gerek yok!

4. Vrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

5. Yosunlu smutiniz hazır, einize sağlık! Çok iştah açıcı bir görünüme sahip olmamasına rağmen kokusu aslında fena değildi, ciks "meyve suyu barları"nda her derde deva olarak reklam edilen bir pahalı spirulinalı içecek gibi. (Tadına bakmadım. Size de bakmamanızı tavsiye ediyorum. Fakat dayanamayıp bakarsanız, mutlaka yazın.)

6. Yosunun yetişmesini istediğiniz yere dökün veya fırçayla sürün.

7. Sabredin!

"Niçin yoğurt?" diye merak ediyorsanız ben de aynısını merak ettiğimi kabulleniyorum. Belki yoğurdun katı kıvamı, yosunun hücreleri/sporlarının yerinde yapışmasını sağlar, belki de asitli özelliği, yosuna daha uygun bir ortam oluşturmakta yardımcı olur, ikisi de olabilir. Bir iki ay sonra başarıp başarmadığına dair bir haber vereceğim!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Eat Your Weeds! (Carefully)

In addition to the many weeds that I just have to get rid of are several that are edible, or at least have some edible parts. Borage is no longer considered to safe to eat (except for the flowers), but there are still several more in the garden that have a well-deserved place on the table. I'll concentrate here on the ones that are coming up now; not all of them are actually in my garden but as the farthest from home I wandered to take the photos was 15 minutes, they very well could be!

In the US at least, the business of eating wild plants is associated mostly with "granola tree huggers," "Euell Gibbons wannabees" and people into the "herbal lifestyle" and hillbillies; the majority don't have a clue. I like to think that that's changing slowly, but most Americans I know have maybe tried dandeliion greens and, finding them so bitter as to be unpalatable, prefer the supermarket. They don't know what they're missing.

Although your average Istanbullian is not as likely to be acquainted with edible wild greens as people in the villages, a visit to almost any local neighborhood market will yield at least a few. Today in our local market there was a woman selling Sickle weed (Falcaria vulgaris), Mallow (Malva sylvestris), Nettles (Urtica dioica), Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) and Prickly Goldenfleece (Urospermum picroides). The last three are common in my garden, the first grows abundantly just five minutes from the house. There was also a wonderful old woman from Trabzon selling piles of Trachystemon orientalis (the blue-flowered beauty pictured above), known rather mysteriously in English as "Abraham-Isaac-Jacob." Though it's common around Istanbul it's not well known here; the reason it is for sale in my neighborhood is that there are many immigrants from the Black Sea. It's not really a weed; I'm planting a border of it!

So let's look at some of the seasonal edibles, in no particular order!

Sickleweed (Falcaria vulgaris, Turkish: Kazayağı) is a spreading plant in the celery family, it grows through late winter and into early spring, then goes to seed and disappears when the weather warms up. It has an intense fragrance reminiscent of parsley, celery leaves and carrots all at once. It's mostly used to flavor salads but can be used in soups and sauces as well. Like parsley, it is also said to freshen the breath.

Be especially careful when collecting sickleweed however, because the untrained eye can confuse it with the the plant this photo: poison hemlock (Conium maculatum, Turkish: baldıran), especially when it's going to bloom and the leaves become narrower. You know it from your history books as the plant that was used to execute Socrates, and even a little of it can have exactly the same effect on you. Just a month ago, I was up at a friend's parcel of land near Polonezköy. Another visitor and I collected sickleweed. The next weekend another friend decided to collect some himself. He made a pasta sauce with it. Three people had just one spoon of it; half an hour later two of them were in the emergency ward unable to walk and having trouble breathing. This is not a plant to mess with; the poison can even be absorbed through the skin. Make sure you know what you have before you eat anything you collect from the wild.

Prickly goldenfleece (Urospermum picroides, Turkish sütotu, zoho, Greek Ζοχός, Αγριοζοχός, Ζοχές) is especially popular in Greece, where it is a permanent fixture in winter vegetable markets. Here I have only seen it once in a neighborhood street market. It is an easily recognizable roadside weed with curly leaves that appear spiny at first glance but it is not really. It often takes on a pinkish and bluish-green hue during the winter. Cut the entire heat with a sharp knife but leave the root; it will regenerate and flower, ensuring that there will be more next year. It has many uses, from böreks to fricasees, but my favorite way of eating it is simply to shock boil it, then drizzle it with olive oil and lemon juice and a little salt. There is a Sonchus species (wild lettuce) that can be confused with this plant. Its leaves look a bit like a dandelion on steroids, and it has similar but smaller yellow flowers on a branched inflorescence up to a meter or mor tall. It's more tender and less flavorful, but it has its devotees.

The next one vies with wild asparagus as my all-time favorite wild green: Mediterranean mustard (Hirschfeldia incana, Greek: Βρούβες). Strangely enough I have not found Turks using this one, though a close relative (mentioned below) is popular here. I'm sure it is used farther south. Actually the Greek term (vrouves) is a catch-all for several different species of plants, also mustards. The leaves are edible and sometimes used, but the real treat is the emerging flower heads. Break them off where they are still tender, as you would when picking asparagus. The heads can then be steamed or shock boiled just like broccoli; shock boiling them lets them keep their color better. This plant is now escaped and common in California; if you have it around, definitely give it a try! Also, the emerging flowerheads of kale and arugula are very similar, and also delicious.

Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum. Turkish: Turpotu; Greek: Ραπανόχορτο).

Although botanically a radish, the root is not edible; it is mainly the leaves and flower scapes that are used. It is fairly easy to confuse with wild mustard above, especially as its emerging flower heads are similar, but the leaves are more angular and slightly hairy. It usually blooms later than wild mustard but sometimes they overlap. The flower scapes of wild mustard are sweet with a hint of mustard while those of wild radish are hot and pungent as a radish that has sat in the ground too long; but both the leaves and scapes get milder when cooked. These are also eaten as a boiled salad with olive oil and lemon. The leaves are common in markets this time of year and are very popular among Turks from the Aegean area but old Istanbullians as well.

I'm adding the next two only for interest because one of them I haven't tried yet, and the other one I simply don't like!

The first is wild arum (Several species, Turkish: Nivik, Yılanyastığı). Like all members of the Arum family, which includes Philodendron, Dieffenbachia (Dumbcane), Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Taro and others, the tissues of this plant contain calcium oxylate crystals which, if eaten raw, cause immediate irritation and swelling of the mucous membranes of the mouth. I nibbled a Jack-in-the-Pulpit root once out of curiosity as a kid and I can attest to the truth of this. Major ow, for several hours. In some parts of Turkey this plant, which is considered to be extremely healthy, is eaten only after being left in a flour and water solution in a sealed container for a day to "ferment." Actually, like taro, boiling is enough to eliminate the calcium oxylate. It may also be dried. I have a garden full of it and should probably get around to trying it. But I'm scared to. :)

The other is Black Lovage (Smyrnium olustratum, Turkish: yabankerevizi.) This plant, pretty much every part of which is edible, grows in dense stands all over Istanbul and the Prince's Islands. Known in Turkish as wild celery, it is used by Gypsies as greenery, tied up around the bundles of narcissus they sell on the streets in the spring. Many people think it's poisonous, perhaps the idea that such a big and plentiful plant could be edible as well seems too good to be true. (It is, in my estimation...) But the reason may also be that the other common name, baldıran, is the same as the word for poison hemlock. (I almost hesitate to mention it on the off chance that someone might get it mixed up!) The flowers have an odd, bittersweet aroma the is not quite bad, not quite pleasant, but very, very distinct. I have a jungle of it in the lower part of the garden. The only place where it is truly popular is Bodrum, where the thick stems are boiled and then served with an oil, lemon and garlic sauce, or breaded and fried. I truly wish I liked it, but have tried it several times, both raw and simmered, and the only description I can think of for its aroma and flavor is "sub-nauseous." And this from a guy who loves durian...

Last but not least, probably the best known of the wild greens, at least in Greece and western Turkey, is wild chicory (Cichorium intybus, Turkish: Hindiba, Radika; Greek: Ραδίκια). Chicory comes up almost as soon as the rains begin in the autumn and continue through the winter. It is easily recognizable by its branched stems of sky-blue daisy-like flowers, but by the time you see those, it's too late. Still, if you learn to recognize them dry, it will help you find the plant in the winter because they stay around. Chicory is a bit bitter, but not nearly as bitter as dandelion, with which it may be confused, because though the leaves in this photo are quite rounded and even, the fall and winter leaves can be slightly jagged or heavily toothed.

In another month or so, a whole new crop of wild greens will be available, and more after that; I'll mention them as they appear.

Bu yazıyı Türkçeye çevirmiyorum çünkü Türkler için otlar yemek zaten son derece normal birşey! Bir de hem tanıma/toplama hem de pişirme konusunda o kadar çok kaynak var. Yine de mevsimde çıkan kazayağı ile az miktarları bile ölüme neden olabilen baldıranın arasındaki benzerliğini dikkatinize çekmek istiyorum. Doğa berekettir fakat İngilizce bir deyim vurguladığı gibi, "biraz bilgi, tehlikeli birşeydir."


Somer, Semih, Ahmet Ors, Turgut Kut and Tijen İnaltong, Yurdumun Yenilebilir Otları (My Country's Edible Herbs), Mutfak Dostlari Derneği, Metro Group, Istanbul, 2003.

Papoulias, Thanasis, Τα Άγρια Φαγώσιμα Χόρτα του Βουνού και του Κάμπου (Edible Wild Herbs of the Mountains and Plains), Psychalou Publications, Athens 1999.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Old Friends - Eski Dostlar

Spring is my favorite time of the year. Yes the garden is more spectacular in June, plants are developed, flowers are open and fragrances carry on the warm night air. But spring brings a different air of expectancy as well as trepidation because for me, it is a time of reunion with old friends that I haven't seen for months. How have they fared? Are they more robust than last year, is there more of it? Or are they weak and telling you that they would rather be somewhere else, or that you are neglecting some vital need?

Especially for new additions to the garden whose success is not a given, spring is when you learn if they made it or not. Last April I was back in Seattle and in addition to plants I bought at nurseries there, I also visited my old garden and rescued a few old favorites from oblivion. Now they continue to give joy in their new home.

Perhaps the thing that makes me happiest of all is when, after nervously scanning the ground for the emergence of something I'd particulary hoped would thrive, seeing no trace of it and coming to the conclusion that it has succumbed, it is just there one morning, leaving me wondering how I could have failed to trust it. This happened this morning with a couple of new additions; one of these was Arisaema-[probably]-consanguineum, which I had planted almost the moment I got home from Seattle. It went down within a week, and I was pretty sure it was a goner. Still, I was careful not to plant anything too close to its site (so I how did that Fritillaria imperialis get there?). I went out this morning and there it was, over an inch above the ground. It must have been there yesterday...but damned if I noticed it.

Another one I wasn't sure about was a tall bearded iris, "Salonique," that I'd gotten woefully out of season. Well...planted right in season actually, in September, but from a rhizome that had hit the shelves in the spring. It was on sale, what the hell I said. The other irises were several inches out of the ground, but not sign of Salonique. I was so sure it had become compost that I even bought another one when I saw it at Bauhaus the other day. And predictably, the day I went out to plant it, there she was, an inch or so out of the ground. Yes, I can hear you smirking, "Bearded iris?! You might as well wonder if the bindweed would come back." Dude, it was like, totally shriveled, okay?

A few are still AWOL. If Hosta “Sum and Substance” is still with us, it is not in any hurry to reveal itself, and the Cardiocrinum giganteum I planted in the same general area is still keeping me in suspense. But the one that remained in the pot is just now showing the tiniest bit of green so I have hopes for its brother as well.

I have pretty much given up on Geranium phaeum, though it survived in what seemed to be much worse conditions in my last garden, where it generally kept a few leaves up throughout the winter. Not a sign of it now. Ditto for the Geranium himalayense, and I loved that one! But I'll continue to avoid planting anything there until we're well into April.

The greatest disappointment is when a long-awaited treasure reappears, begins to grow, and then inexplicably disappears. This happened with my Symphytum caucasicum, or blue comfrey, which I'd gotten a piece of from my old neighbor and fellow hortisexual Skot O'Mahony, who had gotten his from me when I left Seattle. This well-behaved, non-running comfrey had always been a favorite of mine, and its sky-blue flowers were stunning against the dark red leaves of a barberry. Luckily I got enough of it to hedge my bets and plant it in two different places. The other piece is doing famously. And who knows, maybe the first one became snail fodder and will pop up again. Never trust a comfrey, I say.

İlkbahar, en sevdiğim mevsimdir. Haziranda bahçe daha gösterişli oluyor tabii, bitkiler daha gelişmiş oluyorlar, sıcak akşam havası da açan çiçeklerin kokuları her tarafa götürüyor. Fakat ilkbahar, daha farklı bir intizar, aynı zamanda bir heyecan da getiriyor. Çünkü benim için ilkbahar, aylar boyunca hiç görmediğim eski dostlarla yeniden kavuşma zamanıdır. Nasıl geçinmişler? Geçen seneden daha mı sağlam, çoğalmış mı? Yoksa zayıflayarak başka bir yerde olmayı tercih ettiklerini, yoksa hayati bir ihtiyaçlarını ihmal ettiğimi mi anlatıyorlar?

Özellikle bahçeye yeni getirilen ve başarıları varsayılamadığı bazı bitkilerin köşeyi dönüp dönmediği, ilkbaharda belli oluyor. Geçen Nisanda Seattle’dayken, fidanlıklardan aldığım bitkiler yanı sıra eski bahçeme gidip birkaç eski gözdeler de yokluktan kurtardım. Şimdi yeni evinde her ilkbaharda yeniden çıkışlarıyla haz vermeye devam ediyorlar.

Belki beni en çok sevindiren şey, heyecanla her gün yaşadığına dair bir iz için toprağı sürekli taradığım ama görmeyince kışa yenik düşmüş sonucuna geldiğim bir şeyin bir sabah “nasıl şüphelenebildin” sormuşçasına pat diye ortaya çıkışıdır. Bu sabah tam böyle bir şey oldu. Seattle’dan hemen hemen geldiğim anda ektiğim Arisaema-[muhtemelen]-consanguineum, birkaç gün dayanıp ortadan kaybolunca, her halde gitmiş diye farzettim. Yine de umutlar besleyerek onun yerine başka bir şey eklememek için özen gösteriyordu. (Öyle zannediyordum hiç olmasa…tam yanında çıkan o büyük ters lale nereden gelmiş acaba?) Bu sabah çıkınca 3 santime kadar çıktığını gördüm. Dün de orada olmalıydı, farkına varmamam nasıl mümkündü ki?

Şüphelendiğim bir bitki daha ise, çok zamansız ektiğim “Salonique” adlı bir uzun susen cinsiydi. Aslında doğru ay olan Ekimde ekmiştim de, ektiğim kök Eminönü’ne ilkbahar gelmişti, iyice buruşmuş haldeydi. Olsun, indirimli zaten demiştim… Diğer susenler iyice gelişmişken Salonique kayıptı. Artık gübreye dönüştüğünden o kadar emindim ki, Bauhaus’ta aynı cinsi görünce bir tane aldım. Ve tam tahmin edileceği gibi, ekmeye çıktığım gün, kim çıkmıştı? Salonique tabii. (Evet, hepinizin şimdi sırıtarak “Susen mi? Adam, ısırganın da yine çıkıp çıkmayacağından endişelenmiş her halde” diye güldüğünüzden eminim…)

Birkaç bitki hala firar… Hosta “Sum and Substance” hala aramızdaysa, kendini elde etmeye hiç acele etmiyor. Aynı bölgede ektiğim Cardiocrinum giganteum (dev zambak) da beni hala şüphede tutuyor fakat saksıya ektiğim ikincisi ancak ufacık bir yeşillik göstermeye başladı, o yüzden kardeşi için de umutluyum.
Eski bahçemde çok daha kötü koşullar altında fışkıran Geranium phaeum için artik umudumu kesmek üzereyim çünkü genelde kış boyunca birkaç yeşil yaprak çıkarıyor fakat şimdi herhangi bir izi yok. Çok sevdiğim Geranium himalayense de öyle. Yine de Nisan ayına iyice girmeden oralarda hiç bir şey ekmeyeceğim.

Kuşkusuz en büyük hayalkırıklığı, aylarca beklediğim bir gözdenin yeniden çıkıp büyümeye başlaması, sonra izah edilmez biçimde ortadan kaybolmasıdır. Orijinalini benden alan, benim gibi bitki sevdalısı olan eski komşumdan bir parçası aldığım Symphytum caucasicum (mavi eşekkulağı) tam öyle oldu. Gök mavisi çiçekleri, kırmızı yapraklı diken üzümünün önünde harika bir görüntü veren bu çok uslu, hızlı yayılmayan eşekkulağı, yıllardır en sevdiğim bitkilerdendi. Çok şükür ki iki yerde ekip tedbir alabilmemi sağlayan bir miktarını almıştım. Diğer parçası turp gibi. Hem de kim bilir, belki ilki salyangozlara yem olmuş da yeniden çıkar. Bir eşekkulağına hiç güvenmeyin bence...

The First Flowers of Spring - İlkbaharın İlk Çiçekleri

The sun came out today! I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and go for a walk, take some pictures and see what sort of post it would lead to. It looks like three different posts will come of it. On the road leading to our miniscule business district is this great house. I've never been into their garden (how to wrangle an invitation?) but they've made a great little space there and their plum tree is beautiful!

Bugün güneş çıktı! Güzel havayı değerlendirerek yürüyüşe çıkıp fotoğraflar çekmeye karar verdim. Her halde 3 yazılık madde çıkmış! Küçük meydanımıza inen yolda bü güzel ev var. Bahçelerine hiç girmedim (hımmm, kendimi nasıl davet ettireyim acaba...) fakat çok hoş bir mekan yaratmışlar ve erik ağaçları muhteşemdir!

We must have some major microclimate action going on here. I took a walk up the hill to Kavacık today and the more exposed slopes are quite ahead of my garden. Despite the late cold though, a few things are popping up here as well. Most of them are wild, and though not things that most would plant in the garden, they provide a good preview of things to come.

Herhalde mikroiklim fenomeni burada çok etkili. Bugün bir yürüyüşe çıktım, mahallenin üst yamaçlarında çok çiçek çıkmaya başlamıştı. Kendim bahçemde de çoğu yabani olmak üzere birkaç şey de çiçek açmaya başladı. Çoğumuz bunları isteyerek bahçemize ekmezsek de, baharın yolda olduğunu müjdeliyorlar.

One of my favorites is this Caltha, or marsh marigold. It's especially common in the lower parts of the garden where it is one of the first things to bloom. Several of these are actually planted as ornamentals in Seattle at least. Its leaves are shiny and its flowers, though a cheerful yellow, always seem to be a bit flawed - either a petal or two sags, or is's rare to find a perfect one. When you dig one up, you find what looks like a little ball of rice. Each "grain" is a small corm that will grow a new plant. So if you are digging it out of a vegetable garden, be careful not to shatter that ball.

Bu Caltha türü, en sevdiklerimin arasında. Bahçemizin en alt kısımlarında özellikley yaygın olan bu çiçek, ilk açılanlardan oluyor. Seattle'da bunların birkaç türünün süs bitkisi olarak kullandıldığını gördüm. Yaprakları parlak, çiçekleri gönlü çoşturan bir parlak sarıdır, fakat zavallı bitki, mükemmel bir tane açmayı bir türlü beceremiyormuş gibi geliyor, ya bir yaprağı eksik oluyor, ya yamuk açılıyor. Kökünden kazarsanız her tanesi yeni bir bitkiye büyüyecek pirinçten tanelerine oluşmuş gibi görünen küçücük bir top bulacaksınız. Eğer bir sebze bahçesinden çıkarıyorsanız o topu paramparça etmemeye dikkat ediniz!

This little Veronica is everywhere. It's mostly considered a weed but as weeds go it's pretty harmless, and won't cause much grief as long as you get it before it sets seed.

Bu küçük Veronica her yerde. Arsız bir ot olsa da nispetten zararsızdır. Kolay çıkar, tohum üretmeden önce yolarsanız fazla dert çektirmez.

Though my own violets are just sending up their leaves, only a ten-minute walk up the hill I found this patch, blooming against a stone wall that undoubtedly conserves some heat thus giving them a head start. Their bloom season is short; one day they are covered in flowers, the next day they're daying down. Don't blink or you'll miss them...

Benim menekşekerim yapraklarını ancak çıkarmaya başladığı halde, yukarıya doğru on dakika yürüyerek batıya bakan bir taş duvarının dibinde bunları buldum. Taşlar kuşkusuz güneşin ısısını depolayarak daha hızlı gelişmelerini sağlamıştır. Çiçekleme süreci çok kısadır, bir gün çiçeklerle kaplı, birkaç gün sonra bitiyor. Gözlerinizi kırpmayın, kaçırırsınız!

One thing that is a bit irritating in Istanbul is how vacant areas seem to be seen as little more than a dumping ground. So I was happy to see that some local version of a "guerilla gardener" had planted iris in the vacant area along the road, and even constructed a makeshift barrier out of twigs to ensure their protection. Helal olsun!

İstanbul'da sinirimi çok bozan birşey, boş alanların genelde çöplük olarak sayıldığıdır. "Türkiye bir cennettir" diyen vatandaşlar aynı zamanda o cenneti mahvediyorlar. Bugün işte beni çok mutlu eden birşey gördüm. Bazı ülkelerde "gerilla bahçivanlığı" diye bir hareket var, yaşadıkları şehirlerini güzelleştirmek isteyen gönüllüler, boş alanlara gizli olarak çiçek tohumu ekiyorlar, bitkiler, çalılar, ağaçlar bile ekiyorlar. Kendi başına öyle düşünerek kimliği mechul olan bir vatandaş, yolun kenarında susen ve diğer bitkiler dikmiş, korunmalarını sağlamak için ise etrafta bulunan düşmüş dallardan bir çit yapmış. Küçük bir girişim olabilir de, herkes öyle düşünse ne kadar güzel bir yer olurdu İstanbulumuz. Helal olsun!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Still Cold... Soğukluğa Devam...

It's definitely been a cold spring. We had some truly spring-like weather a couple weeks back but mostly it's just been cold, highs in the 40s (6-9 celsius), and lots of rain. It's not all bad, I planted some seeds that want some cold wet to germinate, and I got them out a little late, so it's a reprieve of sorts. It's been almost exactly a year since I moved into the house; this time last year the plums were in full bloom, trees were leafing out and the yard was green. This year everything seems a couple weeks behind, though the plums are getting started.

On other fronts - when the shed went, it highlighted something that had been bugging me for a while - the feeling that I was looking down a corridor because in my very long and narrow garden, there was nothing to break up the view. Adding another 3 meters to the length of the garden just made it all that much more evident. The shed yielded lots of long 4x6s that served well for edging, so I decided to widen parts of the beds on either side and create a bend in the path. I'll plant some tall things there to partially obscure the view. It did mean reducing the sitting space where the marble slab table is; that will probably come out and be replaced by just two comfortable chairs or a single long wicker chair if I can find one that doesn't cost a fortune. I've located a source of a nice light gray irregular gravel to fill the paths; yesterday was to be the day to have it brought but it was raining cats and dogs, and since it involved friends to help take the bags down 3 flights of steps, I didn't want to subject them to too much misery!

As for the back, my idea right now is to make a simple arbor and put trellises on the front for vines to climb, turning it into a seperate "room." I'm torn though, because it's also a nice place from which to view the garden. But maybe I'll just exploit the view over the yard instead. The main quandary now is what to do with the very heavy slabs of marble. Three of them are broken pieces of what was probably once a fountain and it could be a nice ornament but the rest are just...heavy.

Gerçekten soğuk bir ilkbahar yaşıyoruz. Birkaç hafta önce biraz gerçek ilkbahar havası geldi de, çoğunlukla sadece soğukluk ve yağmur geliyor. Tamamen kötü birşey değil aslında, çimlenmesi için soğukluk ve neme ihtiyacı olan tohumlar biraz geç ektim, bir nevi tecil oldu! Bu eve taşınalı tam bir yıl oldu, geçen sene bu tarihte ağaçlar yeşeriyordu, erik ağaçları çiçeklerle kaplıydı, alt bahçe yemyeşildi. Erik ağaçları çiçek açmaya başlamış fakat bu sene sanki herşey bir iki hafta gecikmiş.

Başka konularda - depo yok olunca, beni uzun bir zamandır rahatsız eden birşeyi daha da belirgin etti, yani uzun ve dar bahçemde manzarayı kesecek birşey olmadığı için bir "koridora" baktığım gibi bir his. Uzunluğuna daha 3 metrenin eklenmesi, o kadar daha belirgin etti. Depodan patikaların uclarını belirtmeye uygun olan, çok uzun ve kalın suntalar geldi, o yüzden tarhların bazı kısımlarını genişleterek patikada bir viraj yarattım; manzarayı engellecek uzun bitkiler ekeceğim. Tabi ki tarhların genişletilmesi, oturma yerinin küçültülmesine sonuçlandı, uzun mermer masanın yerine büyük ihtmalle iki rahat koltuk ve küçük bir masa koyacağım. Zaten şimdiye kadar orada en çok 3 kişi oturdu. Hatta belki de bir uzun koltuk koyarım. İnşallah bir servet harcamama gerekmeyecek! Patikaları döşemek için güzel bir açık gri renkli mıcır taşı buldum, dün getirtecektim fakat dün bardakta boşanırcasına yağmur yağıyordu. Yardıma gelen arkadaşlarımı perişan etmeyim dedim!

Yeni açılan arka kısmına gelince, şimdilik önü kafesli sade bir çardak yapıp düşünüyorum, ön tarafına değişik sarmaşıklar ekerek küçük bir "bahçe odasına" dönüştürmeyi düşünüyorum. Kararsızım ama, çünkü bahçeye bakmak için de güzel bir yerdir. Fakat belki sadece alt bahçeye bakan manzarayı değerlendirirm. Şimdilik en büyük çıkmaz, büyük mermer parçalarıyla ne yapacağımla ilgilidir. Üçü, büyük ihtimalle eski bir çeşmenin ön cephesinin parçaları olup, güzel bir süs olabilir fakat geri kalan parçaları sadece...ağır!

Friday, March 6, 2009

An Untimely Awakening - Zamansız bir Uyandırma

As I was out today cutting out extra wisteria shoots (if you are thinking of putting a wisteria in your garden, think really yard, and think again, go have coffee, and think once more), this little creature popped out at me. In English it's a glass snake; in Turkish it's an iron snake. Actually it's not any sort of snake at all, it's a lizard that just happens to have given up its legs for the cause of evolution. What makes it a lizard? Its scales are quite different, it has ears (snakes don't), and it can blink its eyes (snakes can't). Like most lizards, it can drop its tail if attacked and regenerated it to some extent later; this one appears to have done it during the last season. Since I disturbed his winter sleep, I took him down to another big pile of rubble that won't get disturbed any time soon where he can hide out till the weather gets a bit warmer. I saw normal lizards out yesterday morning so it shouldn't be long. He's kinda cute, isn't he?

Bugün mor fazla mor salkım köklerini temizlerken, bu hayvancık önüme çıktı. Türkçede demir yılanı denir, İngilizcede ise "cam yılanı," fakat aslında ne demir ne de cam, gerçi yılan bile değil: Bacaklarını evrime bağışlamış bir kertenkeledir. Peki onu kertenkele kılan nedir? Pulları, yılanınkinden çok farklı, kulakları var (yılanlar sağırdır), gözlerini de kapatabilir (yılanlar kapatamaz). Diğer kertenkeleler gibi saldırııya uğradığı zaman kuyruğunun ucunu bırkabilir, daha sonra yine büyür (ancak orijinali kadar uzun olmayacak). Bu arkadaşın kış uykusunu bozduğum için, hava biraz ısınıncaya kadar saklanacağı, bozulmayacak bir moloz yığınına götürdüm. Fazla kalmaz aslında, dün sabah normal kertenkeleler gördüm. Şirin birşey değil mi?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gone! Gitti!

Actually, it should have been gone a long time ago. Y'all remember the lovely storage shed at the end of the garden. It was truly a hideous piece of work, and I longed to have it gone, but I figured I ought to at least become a bit better acquainted with the landlord before I went demolishing buildings. Later on I got his permission and started the job, but the contents of the shed made it at least a two or even three-man job. Large hunks of heavy rusted obsolete metal machinery, boxes of ceramic tiles and the worst - several lengths of very heavy multi-ply well hose (i.e. for pumping water up out of wells). Cracked and half rotten but very very heavy and unwieldy. And of course, many humongous gray European house spiders. If you're squeamish, you might just leave that link untouched. My arachnophobia has waned considerably in recent years but these things still give me a slight case of the willies, probably due to the really filthy places they inhabit. The weather turned bad and it sat through much of the winter. The post "Going Going..." below shows the intermediate stage.

I got the metal taken away by the local hurdacı (the guy who collects scrap metal). I have two temporary housemates and decided I should take advantage of their presence to get the hose out of there. Luckily they got into it, and after we got it emptied (which still took nearly 2 hours), they wanted to go ahead and take it all down. Yay! Since it seemed that the heavy 4x6 inch supports were attched to the rock wall in the back, we went ahead and started taking off the remaining siding, all good resinous pine which makes very good kindling for a wood stove! But when the last of the siding came off, it became clear that not only were the supports not attached to the wall, they weren't even really attached to the ground, and the whole thing began leaning. My main concern was that if it fell outward it could damage the railing, and if it fell forward, it would snap the peach tree and possibly the pomegranate tree on the right. Just as I said "let's think about how to deal with this safely," it became apparent that it was not going to wait. I yelled "get back" but my housemate, who was standing right behind me, either didn't hear or didn't understand, so I just pushed him back and managed to escape the collapsing building with little more than a bruise on my shoulder. It was a damn good thing I wasn't still inside. What it did was fall in a twisted way, missing the pomegranate and bending the peach without breaking it, though it got a couple scrapes on its bark.

So we started ripping it apart, and just as we were pulling off the roof, the hurdacı happened back by like a hızır, the Islamic more-or-less equivalent of a deus ex machina. He was happy to take the sheeting off our hands. With me ripping and Omid and Mehdi working like a bucket brigade either stacking or storing the wood, it didn't take long. Here's the new view of the garden. It would be even better if the huge hideous apartment building next door were gone...but I'm not quite up to tackling that one.

The space is interesting, there is some of the natural rock of the hillside still there. I'll have to get all the built-up dirt off it before I can see just what I have, but it seems a good candidate for a small water feature, perhaps a small raised pool with water cascading over the rock. Here are a couple pictures of the area after I pruned the extraneous whips off the wisteria. It had really gone to town here, and I'm still taking up the thick runners that were the source of the whips that had invaded the entire garden before I arrived. There's a great multi-branched knot of flowring growth just above the corner though; that will definitely stay! There was an unexpected fringe benefit: The leaves falling from the wisteria over God-knows-how-many years had built up on the roof and slipped behind and into the shed; and become a bounty of wonderful leaf mold. I've piled up a good 3 bushels worth, and there are undoubtedly one or two more to follow. Just the thing the soil in this garden needs the most! Now to find something to do with the big hunks of marble...

I decided a good meal was in order so we headed to Çengelköy for a fish dinner. Here are my two willing helpers, without whom there would still be half of an ugly shed in my garden!

Upcoming posts: Snails and Slugs; and Turkey's Iris Dilemma.

Korkunç depo nihayet tarihe kavuştu! Gerçi daha önce de olmalıydı fakat içindeki çok ağır kuyu hortumları ile hurdadan dolayı tek başıma yapamıyordum. Hurdayı hurdacılara götürttüm, fakat bahçeme hortumcular sokmam...:) Ev arkadaşım askerdeyken iki İranlı arkadaş evde kalıyor, ve gençliklerinden faydalandım. Hortumlar çürük ve çatlamış olduğu halde yine çok ağırdı. Onlardan başka ambalajı çürümüş olan binlerce fayans vardı, bir eski tuvalet, paslı kutularda çoktan sertleşmiş boya ve (neden?) bir koli çürüyen ingilizce kitapları vardı. Hem de bol bol kocaman gri örümcek. Araknofobim son yıllarda epeyce dinmiş, ne var ki "Avrupa ev örümceği" olarak bildiğim bu iri yaratıklar hala beni biraz tiksindiriyor, belki de hep en kirli yerlerin sakinleri olduğundan. (Kolayca tiksinirseniz o linke tıklamazsanız iyi olur.) Neyse, herşeyi götürmemiz yaklaşık 2 saat sürdü, hala bol enerjimiz olduğu için yıkıma devam etmeye karar verdik. Suntalarını söktükten sonra başka herhangi bir desteği olmadığını gördük, tehlike bir şekilde eğilmeye başlamıştıı. "Bunu halletmek için güvenli bir yol bulalım" diye düşünürken, düşünmemi belkemeyeceği belli oldu. Direk arkamda duran arkadaşa "çekil!" diye bağırdım fakat ya anlamamış ya da duymamış, o yüzden onu da geri iterek kaçtım, sadece bir omuzuma hafif vurdu. İçerde olsaydım çok daha kötü olacaktı kuşkusuz. Yine de en ideal şekilde düştü, ne korkuluğa ne de nar ağacına herhangi bir zarar gelmedi.

Hemen parçalamaya başladık, tam çatısını sökerken, mahallemizin hurdacısı hızır gibi rastgeldi. Üçümüz çalışırken iş fazla sürmedi. Alan ilginç, doğal kaya var köşede. Hala yapılacak çok temizleme kaldı. Ben yeni gelince bütün bahçeye işgal etmiş olan mor salkımın merkezi burasıymış, ana dalını bıraktım, yere süren kalın fidelerini söküyorum. Beklenmeyen bir hazine de bulduk: Yıllarca düşen mor salkım yaprakları hem binanın arkasına hem de içine birikip çürümüştü, yaklaşık bir metreküp olağanüstü güzel humus toprağına dönüşmüştü. Bahçemin toprağının en çok ihtiyacı olduğu şey işte!