Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stathis-The Project manager, Architect and Structural engineer

This is Stathis, our main man on the island . He co-ordinates everything regarding the building, Goes over the plans, takes them to council, organises the builders etc., etc.. 
And he loves concrete!!!!!!!!!

Second floor!!!!!!!!!

Hello Robbert.

Today  we  finished with  the  concrete, the  steps  and  the  balcony.  From  the  day  after tomorrow  we  start  working  at  the  walls  of  the  second  floor. 

  Ι am  working  the  plans  of  the  outside  area  and  I  believe  you  will have  news  from  me  at  the  end  of  the  week.

The  day  after  tomorrow  I  will sent  you  also  the  costing  estimate  for  the  concrete, digging, pluming,  and electrical.  

  Best stathis  

For those of you who can't see it, that first picture is the second floor and the hole is where the steps will go down!!

I don't think Stathis, who is our architect, builder, structural engineer, and project manager has ever done a photography course...

The 2nd picture is the concrete truck, and I can promise you , he must have destroyed a few  of my lemon trees .


Thursday, April 22, 2010


We decided to leave our ceilings exposed , raw concrete.I Send Stathi some pics of our ceiling in our studio of the raw concrete, and he stopped all work immediately, They use a different shuttering for the beton and he just wanted to be sure. I sent pics of big sheets of exposed concrete and they use narrow planks(10 cm ) .  This is soooo beautiful!!!! 
So when we saw this we knew this was the way to go. Beautiful wood-grain in the concrete....
On our way back to Cape Town we picked up a wallpaper magazine , which had a story about Juriaan Lampens, a Belgian architect who worked with raw concrete; STUNNING
Have a look

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Maria and her Famous Rovani

Here is Maria from Margaritas, the local 'sachario plasteio' in Stavros, who makes the best Rovani, a traditional recipe originated on the island of Ithaka. Makis, her husband, tells us they sell 5 of these platters a day in the summer when its high season! This delicious sweeterie is made from the simplest ingredients: rice, honey and water...and thats it!

The building has finally started

Foundation has been dug and the ground floor is done. Scaffolding for the 2nd floor concrete slab is being build by Yannis and his crew.

Another casualty...

Our dreams of sitting under this olive tree will have to wait another summer or two...!

e Amigthalies pruned the 'greek way'

We arrive on April 7th to find to our shock that all our beautiful almond trees, except one, has been pruned into giant bonsais!!! We left Pedro and Stathula to finish this off, what were they thinking....?!? We knew that there were severe gaps in our communication,but how big was it??? So after much wailing and woeing, we discovered that this is simply the Greek Way. That is how they do it...cut it grows better..!!! Entaksi!!

The naming of the house

A great Greek House must have a Great Name and our greek is severely limited.

From the first times that we arrived here Robbert’s only greek was restricted to the odd word that he’s heard somewhere and kept repeating because it ‘sounded right’. Ella ella! he would say, (which means: come, come in a slightly impatient way, or he would keep repeating, Katse katzo! which ended up meaning nothing…those words don’t exist in the greek language, but for Robbert they ‘sounded right’!

So with the help of our friend Savas in Cape Town, we got down to naming our house after the odd word that ‘sounded right’ as well as meant something: El a Mesa – which means ‘come inside’.

That sounded right for a while, but the beautiful almond trees outside our back door kept resonating with me. Nobody has almond trees like we do on this island! And the word amugdalē, (google dictionary)pronounced: a-meek-thal-yá, (with an accent on the a) just sounds so beautiful…

And so one evening over dinner in Athens, we met a lovely young Greek waiter, who just had a nice manner, gave us great advice about eating something we have never tried before, manouri cheese, made from lambs milk. He was a wealth of information in many other ways and turned out to be called Apostoulos!! He was a saint! And thus became the blessed one to make the decision: Ella Mesa or e Amugdalē. Well, he chose e Amugdalē, says it sounded more authentic and more interesting. I had to give Robbert a couple of lessons so he could pronounce and remember the name, but he likes it and is finally another difficult word richer. So there we are…the Almond tree….I was going to go Under the Almond Tree, but Robbert stopped me….!

In the mean time I have had to consult numerous villagers and townsfolk(explanation for this later) in order to get the correct spelling. So it turns out that what we have above is a nut, to make it a tree, we have to write it: e Amigthalia. And this is the English way to write it, because the greek way has too many different here can actually agree on it!!! They must be Greek!

Monday, April 5, 2010

First pruning of the almond trees

Winter was about to start and we needed to prune our 5 ancient Almond trees.

It was evident that they had not been pruned in years. And for this we needed some help from the locals as we didn’t bring any tools from Cape Town.

Luckily we have Pedro, our neighbour (who is a builder.) and his wife, Stathula, who knew all about pruning trees. She was born in the house next door, where they still live today, and has the wisdom of the island and its ways...

So there we were , a day before we were about to leave again.

It was about 4 o’clock on a Sunday afternoon when Pedro and Stathula and their helper arrived with chain saw, ladder and cigarettes. And the process started… Pedro in the tree, and Stathula showing Pedro where to cut. We also had our ideas of where the tree must be cut so a whole discussion in Greek and English started to try and figure where the trees needed to be cut. It felt like we were busy building the tower of Babel instead… After three branches the saw packed up. Time for a cigarette….. This happened 3 times during the cutting of the first tree...!

The chainsaw finally gave in completely while cutting the second tree and we knew this was a matter that would take its course in time and so we eventually left the island with instructions for them to complete the task…….

being without tools...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The planting of 20 olive trees

When you look at google-earth, the only spot on Ithaka, devoid of any olive trees, is OUR SPOT!
So, last November, Robbert set about fixing that, by promptly getting 20 olive trees and 3 lemon trees delivered from the local nursery in Vathi, which turned out to come all the way from Kefalonia - by ferry of course! Teeny little trees arrived, their size was disappointing at first, by I was very thankful, when I ended up carry them around the 6000 sq m of terraced property to place them in their 'ideal' spots. Robbert got himself a spade from the local handyman and with the help of a pick-axe from our neighbour Pedro, the Builder, as we fondly call him, he set about planting them in the stony Ithankian soil, one by one, as daylight faded into Brave, Determined ...Will See, Will Buy...Will Conquer Husband!!!