Monday, October 4, 2010

Not Constantinople...

Close to 20 years ago, when I was tracing the origins of religion in college, I wanted to go to Anatolia to visit archeological sites.  But I never went.  Then, when I was a member of Raqs Halim Middle Eastern dance troupe, performing with a live band to predominately Turkish music, I mingled with many people from Turkey and talked about saving for a trip to the region.  But I didn't.  Now, as a mosaic artist, I have even more reason to visit Turkey. The place is full of ancient mosaics, intricate tiles and incredible architecture.  Istanbul is enjoying great success, with a thriving arts community, and there are many prominent mosaic artists living and working there.

In March, at the Society of American Mosaic Artists conference in Chicago, I happened to sit at a table with one other person.  He introduced himself as Suha Semerci from Istanbul, and we muddled through polite conversation in very simple words because he was just learning English.  During the rest of the conference, we touched bases occasionally, and we have kept in touch by email and facebook over the past 6 months.

Mike and I have planned a trip to Istanbul, in detail, in the past, but we never saved enough money to go.  We finally scraped together a small chunk, along with two no-interest credit card offers, and we are going for it.  I was very excited to have a personal contact in Istanbul, and Suha has been very generous about offering suggestions and looking for information to help us plan.  But more connections keep developing, and it looks like I will have a busy social calendar while I'm there.  At every turn, something else falls into place, and it promises to be a very rich experience.
Here's Suha at work.

When I get back, I'll definitely post some of the highlights of the trip.  We will visit beautiful mosques, take a ferry down the Bosphorus, see the mosaic museum, have tea with colleagues, meet many new friends, and ride camels in Goreme.
We'll stay in a cave hotel in Cappadocia, among the "fairy chimneys."

We leave on the 15th of October, and will be there for two weeks.  As you can imagine, we are getting very excited!  I feel like this trip is a culmination of many interests, and it is sure to be very inspirational.

Stealth Raccoon.

As you may know, your standard Thanksgiving turkey is a genetic mutation, developed to produce the most food for the least money and effort.  The resulting creature cannot carry its own weight after a year and is unable to reproduce naturally, in addition to being flavorless and shot full of hormones and antibiotics. Heritage breed turkeys are making a little bit of a comeback, and we have jumped on that bandwagon for the past few years. 

Each year, we order turkey chicks from several states away, and they are shipped to us in a box through the U.S. postal system (which seems none too happy with the arrangement.)  There are always a couple of dead or dying chicks in the box, and we usually lose a few more before they stabilize in a warm spot in our bathroom.

My goal has been to get them to breed, and eventually eliminate the need to order and ship live baby animals, because it just seems so ridiculous.  They are expensive, too, at about $15 per chick.  However, they no longer possess their natural instincts.  Males often can't figure out what to do with their hormones, females think I am their mate, and eggs get dropped randomly in the yard, left to quickly grow cold.

This year, I managed to get one still-warm egg under a broody hen, who successfully hatched and raised it.  It was a female, and I had high hopes that she might have some inherent maternal instincts, and my plan would finally begin to work.  But, just now, when I opened the coop to let the flock out for the day, I found a bloody, headless body on the floor.  At first, there was no sign of a break-in, but I finally found a spot near the roof where the chicken-wire had been pried apart.  I am grateful that only one of our 6 turkeys was killed, but it appears to be my baby.  My one hope.

Butchering will take place sometime this week, by my good, efficient friends at Barnyard Gardens.  I'm taking the whole bunch in, and will start again in the spring.  I can't imagine the amount of work and investment involved in a real business raising and selling free-range, organic, heritage turkeys, but I am certain that those doing it deserve every penny of the steep price.