Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Turkey Diaries 2013 - The Tough Love of Country Life.

I'm squeezing in one last post of my Turkey Diaries before Christmas is here.

Camels passing through the village

This year's holiday has been a bit different, although we are living in a villa with a lovely pool we are in a semi rural location (Kayakoy) surrounded by fields and wildlife and as I said before I'm a city girl which makes some things that go on around us a little bit hard to understand although some of them may be cultural and not just because of the rural location.

Can you see the chicken?
The owner of the villa, Mustafa has a cow, one cow, it is owned by him and another two family members.
 It lives on it's own in the field just outside the gates of the villa. In the next field separated by a wall lives another cow and sometimes two, they are owned by another villa owner, the lady I spoke about who makes and sells bracelets. The other two cows are always fed first in the evening and when we are leaving to go for our own dinner the villa's cow is thrashing about and it's distressing moos cut into my heart. She is tethered by a rope and can't wander to look for grass to eat and anyway the sparse grass is burned and dry. The cow kicks her bucket where it's last meal was and gores it with his horns,I'm afraid she is going to lift her head with the bucket attached. She is hungry and  can see the other cows being fed. We meet Mustafa on the way out, he hears the cow and laughs, he holds up a paper bag containing what looks like leftovers of the family's evening meal with bits of bread and my heart sinks, that is going to fill that cow's belly for another day?
Poverty can't be the reason the cow only has scraps as it's owner has a shop, a huge house he lives in, a villa and talks about building another one.

I ask Mustafa about the herd of cows which have suddenly appeared in a adjoining field. He says that the locals all bring their livestock to the field so they can all go to market at the same time. Our cow has one month left before he makes the trip. I'm thankful that we will be home by then and I won't have to look at the empty field. A bit further down the field a horse is tethered too, all day long in the heat with no shelter.
I would never make a country girl.I would give all the animals names and wouldn't be able to send them to market. I am a contradiction, I eat meat without thinking and yet the thought of those poor animals going to slaughter fills me with horror. Throughout my stay here I don't eat meat very often but it is hard to find a good vegetarian meal.
The next morning the holding field for the cows is filled with black goats and the herd of cows more.

                                                  A Mother's Love 
Tonight, returning from Fethiye we are walking down the pitch dark lane towards the villa with only our trusty torch guiding our way,we hear the most horrible guttural howling sound in the distance. Have you ever wondered what a monster would sound like? It would sound like this noise we are hearing right now.
 It would be normal for us to be running in the opposite direction but being one with nature as we now are we march bravely on.
We reach the front door and hubby goes inside to pour some drinks (well,we're on holiday). I decide to take in the washing. I hear the noise again, much louder and very near, the low guttural howling.
You remember those film where the girl hears a noise and goes to investigate and you're shouting at the screen, "No!" ? Well you'll be glad to know I ran into the villa and locked the door.
Hubby laughs and takes the torch to investigate.By this time we have decided that it must be a cow, not the villa's cow because I always shine my torch on it as we pass and it was sleeping. Hubby can't see anything but the very deep mooing goes on and on and sounds very angry. We think it's maybe a cow who's wandered off and is lost somewhere in the ruins behind the garden.
Our bedroom is at the back so we didn't hear it during the night .
Next morning, sure enough it's still very angry. I was out of bed first and feeling braver in the light of day I walk through the gardens following the noise.There is another villa across the way from us (bracelet woman) and in the field at the bottom of their garden is a black and white cow. I look over to see if it is trapped or hurt but it has been tethered there by a long rope and it's not happy at all, it doesn't want to be there.
 Every time it gives a loud moo it is answered by another moo not quite so strong. I go to the back of  our villa and look out into the field behind us. There is only one cow, the black and white on has gone.
It's only now I realise that the cow left behind in the field is very young and this is who has been replying to the loud moos. That's when the penny drops as for the second time during this holiday the book I've been reading African Ways by Valerie Poore helps me out. I remembered her saying that at the farm they separated cows from their calves during the night and then milked them in the morning before returning the cows to their calves.
The calf. You can see he's tethered
The cow in such distress is crying for her baby and has been all night long. I see the owner of the cows coming with a bucket and a few minutes later mother and baby are reunited. What a sight! It brings tears to my eyes. The mother cow is licking her baby's face all over while the Turkish lady is milking her then the baby takes over and suckles and peace reigns once more.

The howling cow,she's now saw and fed her baby .

I watch for a while then leave to get my camera when I get back Mustafa is there watching too. I tell him the cow was wailing all night and he shouts in Turkish over to the owners, probably telling him how stupid I am.
I ask why the cow was moved and he says something about new grass but I've read Val's book and I know the truth. By the time I take my photo mother and baby are now eating their own little piles of hay but they keep their eye on each other just to make sure.

 Mustafa tells me the black goats are going to market today and as he's talking a flock of sheep enter the field beside the goats, next in line for market.
It seems the cow will go into the field tonight beside the villa's cow, she'll still be able to see her calf so maybe she'll be calmer.

The cows and black goats taken with zoom lens.
It all seems cruel to a townie like me  but what it proves is....mothers do not like to be separated from their children and will cry and howl and let everyone know, until they are back together once more.

I savour my last day here.I wander around the gardens and draw the surroundings in my memory. I look at the clear blue sky and remember it's colour. The heat from the sun will have to keep me going all through the winter. We will not return to this villa, there are so many other villas in so many other beautiful places to experience and of course,other countries to explore. Perhaps next year my diaries will be written in one of those countries instead of Turkey,who knows?
Now let's get on with Christmas!


  1. Anne, I am a bit late here. It's been a very busy week at work, but I love reading your posts, especially about Turkey. Country life is harsh in many ways. Now you know why I wasn't a very good farmer when I tried it. I love animals too much and cannot bear to see them distressed. Interestingly, I don't remember the cows in Africa being upset about their calves. being away from them over night. They never made a fuss except when they wanted to be milked, but then they were never tethered and always had plenty of food. They were never alone either, the cows or the calves, so maybe they were just generally more contented. Your post made me sad for the poor creatures in Turkey there. I am a vegetarian…no surprises there I suppose :)

  2. I didn't know about cows being separated from calves until I read your book. Val if you could have saw them being re united it would have made you cry,she really missed her calf.

  3. Heartbreaking, Anne. Today, I watched a beautiful film about wildlife here in the Netherlands, but some of it was very sad. A newborn foal being abandoned by its mothers because it couldn't get up on its feet. It was tangled up in the birth sack. In the end it managed to get up by itself, but where its mother had gone, I don't know. Poor little thing. Even nature can be very harsh.

  4. I love watching wildlife documentaries but they now show too much sad stuff,can't bear to watch.

  5. It is heartbreaking. I look at the wild animals around here and wonder how they survive in these drought years and some farm animals really suffer. The older I get, the more upset I become over these things. Take care.

  6. Thanks Inger,yes I agree it affects us more the older we get.

  7. Oh how sad Anne. Me and Hubby would love to live in the country and have our own farm (although I think I may struggle). There's no harm in treating animals with decency and kindness though. The animal world is a wonderful one but lots of sadness too but that's life too, isn't it. Another wonderful be it sad account of your Turkey diaries.


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