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2nd Oct 2015

After one night in the previous campsite we moved onto Alte Saghmuhle in Sulzburg; only a couple of miles away in distance, but a million miles away in beauty and tranquility!  Saghmuhle means sawmill and this area is clearly BIG on timber.  The old sawmill wheels have been re-invented as water features on the site next to the main house….IMG_4276 IMG_4287 IMG_4293 IMG_4294

Our type of campsite is rural and we got this in spades….DSCN6417 DSCN6422 IMG_4313 IMG_4315

Amongst the magnificent trees and scenery of the South Black Forest, this campsite is deceptively large because so much of the terraced camping is hidden amongst a very old and established forest on terraces which are hidden from each other by vegetation.  This is our idea of paradise, and despite it being beautiful, remote and picturesque it still has all the facilities that we need with bathrooms, washrooms, laundry and electricity.  

Across the road, and where the majority of the sites are situated, is a very old Jewish cemetery set against the hillside in the forest.  I wasn’t able to go up these stairs, even my hubby puts his foot down at certain inclines, but hubby got some lovely pictures for me…DSCN6407 DSCN6413 IMG_4293

Next let’s talk about wood piles.  Not something many of you will get too excited by, but when your home has 3 working fireplaces (and 5 others to uncover) then you may begin to understand my wood pile envy!  Obviously in The Black Forest there is no shortage of wood for fires and wood piles are equally aplenty in back yards as well as farms, but here at Alte Saghmhule we have a pretty impressive woodpile by anyones standards…IMG_4321 IMG_4327

For me, forget all those other 5 star campsites with their swimming pools and restaurants, I would happily spend a few weeks here and tour the region, visit the vineyards, or sometimes just sit around the campsite.

4th October 2015

We headed off through Basel and down towards Gruyere.  An easy couple of hours on really good roads so we arrived in plenty of time to do a bit of sightseeing, and what better place to start than at Castle Gruyere.  A stunning town set on a mountain top with a castle at the peak.  We watch a short film on the history of the castle before going off to get some beautiful pictures of the building and surrounding countryside.  This place is wonderful, but a REAL challenge in a wheelchair!  My Trekinetic was a lifesaver and without it I wouldn’t have even got to the gates of the castle.  I wasnt able to go inside the castle but they didnt charge me an entrance fee but I still managed, only just, to get around the grounds and outer yards.

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Next on the agenda was the factory visit to the Gruyere cheese board.  Very nice, but very commercial, so we didn’t stay too long before heading off to find Camping Haute Gruyere in Enney.

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Dinner was an obvious choice because our campsite cafe offered cheese fondue on the menu.  Hubby is definitely a happy camper….

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Today’s blog post is a review of our final camp site in Germany by my hubby….

The river Nied runs gently through Campingplatz Siersburg and the river front pitches are large and spacious with lovely views; all very picturesque.

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We decided to choose a pitch with a great view of the river, but this did mean we were at the furthest point from the ablutions. The ablutions are very clean and have all the facilities you need when out camping.  Access for toilets and showers for wheelchair users is in a separate space at the main restaurant and office complex and I did not make use of these am unable to make any comment, but the brochure does say they have heated shower and toilet facilities for the disabled.  

Our camper was on one of the larger pitches which had a hard standing which was level – rather nice as we have not yet had the chance to buy chocks for the wheels to level the van.

We arrived in the first week of October and by then the site was entirely empty of families as they had returned for the new school year.  The only other campers were touring couples and a few semi-static caravans which had not yet departed for the end of season.

Generally the campsite is neat but as with all German campsites we have been to so far, there is a large number of semi-permanent caravans left on site all year and these were sometimes a little untidy as they were filled with a years worth of camping and holiday paraphernalia, but this did not detract in any way from our enjoyment of the site.  

Internet access on the site is excellent and available all round the site for a very reasonable cost per day.  A real bonus when you are attempting to blog about your travels.

The restaurant and bar served us an excellent takeaway meal last night and the owners are very helpful and friendly.

We were very happy to have stopped here for the three nights at the end of our holiday as it is quiet and comfortable with great access to the wine routes in the Rheinland.  We are also within a 4 – 5 hour drive of the ferry in Calais which makes it a good alternative to the other great camping site we stayed at previously in Luxembourg.

3rd Oct 2015

Today was unification day, and an official holiday in Germany so we were not entirely sure what to expect apart from being told that all the shops would be closed.  When we set out on our tour of the countryside, we never expected too much, but we got WAY more than we could have hoped for.

Firstly a lovely drive through the Black Forest.  Then off to Staufen for a walk about followed by a pitstop for cake and coffee whilst we watched the local races around the town.  Different distances and age groups participated, but generally most people got involved and we notice that the Germans are a very active nation and they start them very young which is admirable.IMG_4373 IMG_4385

From Staufen we headed off to the wine route near our campsite because they were having a Weinwandertag, or wine-route-meander today.  We had expected to amble into the village and see what was going on, but we were immediately caught up in the local excitement of wine, food and a bit of fun in the sun, and decided to join in.  Firstly hubby had a glass for the road accompanied by the local German band in full swing, and then we grabbed our map of the route and struck out for the vineyards.  IMG_4435

I will admit that it was very hard work, especially for hubby, as these vines like to grow on hilly ground and therefore the route was up and down and all around!  Thank goodness for my trusty Trekinetic K2 because otherwise this amazing activity would have been beyond us.  This may well be the first time any of these folks have seen the route completed by someone in a wheelchair…and almost definitely a first for Trekinetic….Thank you K2!

 IMG_4412 IMG_4414 IMG_4417  (a little horsey one just for RM) 🙂

This Weinwandertag is brilliantly organised each year by the Britzinger winery with very well stocked food and drinks stations along the way.  We opted for Rosenberg route 2 because it is apparently not quite as taxing as route 1 – I cannot compare them but boy am I glad we didn’t do more difficult one!!!

After a kilometre or so we stopped at the first station with tents, table and chairs and plenty of food and drink to be enjoyed before the next stage.  We forged on without stopping and after a wonderful walk through the vines we eventually arrived at the next station where we thoroughly enjoyed our refreshments.  We decided to skip out a number of the stations because we had started so late in the day and really wanted to be back to enjoy some of the food, wine and music on offer at the Britzinger winery.  The next stage was a bit of a killer, and hubby and I huffed and puffed up a number of very steep tracks and roads before getting back to the starting point.  Oh boy, that was a workout and after 6kms we definitely deserved that fat port roast roll and new wine.

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Seriously, this has to be one of the best days out you will ever enjoy.  If you are ever in Germany during early October, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Satiated and tired we headed home to pack up our campsite ready to leave for the next stop on our journey…

Switzerland, you have a LOT to live up to!

1st Oct 2015

A quick 60km north and we arrive in the city of Freiberg, and the old historical part of the city definitely doesn’t disappoint.

The Munster is set in a very large square and despite some scaffolding covering parts of the spire, it is magnificent….DSCN6346 DSCN6381 IMG_4255

Outside on the square and in the surrounding small streets are the most exquisite buildings which are grandly painted…..DSCN6341 DSCN6386 DSCN6391

…and the most historic looking McDonalds I may have ever seen….DSCN6388

In this city, even the gutter covers are beautiful…IMG_4268

This is definitely a city that should be visited because it isn’t just the Munster and town centre that are lovely, but the bridges along the waterways are each a work of art as well.  

My trusty steed, the Trekinetic K2, did an incredible job once again, and made short work of all the cobbled streets.

Back to Sulzburg for a bite of dinner.  The village has an Espetata restaurant which is amazing!  The food was simply superb and we may have to visit here again.IMG_4272

1st Oct 2015

Today was meant to be our shopping in a big city day.  We don’t usually do this on our holidays as I detest shopping so much, but we did need a few bits and pieces and therefore agreed that we should head off towards the Rhine and do a bit of sightseeing, a boat trip and then a quick shopping trip.  

The plan was to go into Basel which is at the junction of three countries – Germany, Switzerland and France – and therefore should be of significant interest.  For whatever reason we had assumed Basel was in Germany – WRONG!  It is in Switzerland and we realised this as soon as the border crossing appeared on the motorway and a guard demanded 40 Euros for road taxes!  We had expected this as we were heading off to Gruyère in Switzerland in a few days anyway, but this was not the plan for today.  Luckily the road tax is for the entire year and we wouldn’t have to pay it again, but this place is huge, and industrial, and not what I had in mind so we turned around and headed back into Germany.

Fortune was on our side because the route back was via Wein am Rhein just inside the German border and this is when we stumbled across this….DSCN6274 DSCN6336

…the VitraHaus showrooms, factory and museum.  This site is an architect and designers heaven because it is full of iconic and famous architectural buildings and design pieces.  The current exhibit has just opened for Bauhaus and it seemed appropriate that whilst in Germany we should experience a bit of German design culture.  

My favourite building was completed in 2013 and designed by a famous Japanese architect firm that escapes me.  This is one of the VitraHaus production facilities and is housed in a round building beautifully clad in white glass fibre with 400mm internal concrete walls.  All of which reminds me of a super-charged water reservoir.  (and yes, that bunch of crazies rubbing up and touching the outside of the building are a group of architects and students 🙂 )DSCN6303 IMG_4231 IMG_4232

Inside the VitraHaus showrooms Mark thoroughly enjoyed testing out all of the Eames, Bauhaus and VitraHaus furniture….IMG_4246

….I know a certain Dave B who would be very envious of this place and all these designs!

…and then one of the amazing sales team offered to make us a Nespresso coffee….it would have been rude not to!DSCN6328 IMG_4248

A tour around the facility and the museum was a real treat, and we are very happy we stumbled across this little gem.

A 1950s French gas station…a first in ready assembled roadside gas stations that would lead to what we all see today on the motorways…

and a 1950s Detroit motor showroom in the brand new geodesic design.  A few of the interesting buildings around the site …DSCN6283DSCN6329

Next we needed something a little older and set our sights on Freiburg a little further north; perhaps here we will find some nice tourist sights and a bit of shopping too.

30th September 2015…..

The mornings have been rather chilly on our holiday and there is nothing quite as nice as that first hot cup of tea.  We have an adorable little pewter tea set in our camper van but it was missing a tea cosy to keep the tea lovely and warm while it brewed.  Luckily I had brought a small bag of yarn and my trusty crochet hooks with me – mostly in the hope that I would come across some beautiful German wool to buy and turn into a blanket.  

The only yarn I had were a few odds and ends left over from various projects, and those would have to do.  This particular purple was once created into a Minion hat for my granddaughters and it was doubled up with a few other bits to create a nice double, double yarn to ensure maximum warmth for the brewing process.

A very worthwhile endeavour on a quiet camping night, and an hour later here it is….IMG_4213

…it most definitely not going to win the prettiest tea cosy prize, but it certainly does the job…and it will hold many fond memories of our trip to Germany.

We packed up fairly early this morning and headed out on the hunt for some castles, or schloss in German.

First we drove through our new village to see if it had a tourist information centre..it didn’t, but it does have quite a few pop-up wine bars during grape harvest, and everywhere are the loveliest Autumn displays (I definitely need to bring some of these pumpkins home!) IMG_4097

Our route took us through the heart of the German winelands, and along the way we stopped to admire the grapes and the skill of the grapes pickers…IMG_4103 IMG_4101DSCN6230

An added bonus was that this region is full of fruit trees as well! I could live here very, very happily!  On the road opposite the grapevines was a huge espaliered apple tree orchard….two of my favourite things next to each other. DSCN6232 DSCN6234DSCN6229

Heading back on the road we stumbled across a beautiful ruined castles and then the town of Badenweiler. To me, this is the German equivalent of Bath in England. Very wealthy and you come here to the spa and recuperate from whatever ails you. Apparently a great treatment is the imbibing of much Neue Wein…probably because after a few glasses of this new wine, you don’t remember what was wrong with you in the first place! IMG_4112 DSCN6254 DSCN6253

Time to head back to our new campsite in Sulzburg.  Kamping Alte Sägemühle is a beautiful little place with a water wheel, forests and camping under apple trees…IMG_4124 IMG_4128

…the Black Forest, and more wine country!

Our next stop was near Sulzberg on the edge of the Black Forest.

Not too long after setting off, it was time for a pitstop, and hopping off the autobahn we stumbled across a little jewel with the best beer garden ever…IMG_4082

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Sitting amongst the vines with a pretzel and a cappuccino in the sunshine was perfection!

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Today’s campsite promised more than it delivered I’m afraid because after the previous site, this one seems a lot more ordinary.  Don’t get me wrong it is still nice, but it had a lot to live up to after our previous site.

No disabled toilet or bathroom to be found – despite the claims in all the literature. By this time of the day we can’t move on, so we decide to stay only one night and move in the morning.

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We set up our campsite and headed to the local store for some dinner. On our return we followed a sign for another campsite a few kilometres away. What a lovely surprise, and I believe we have found our next campsite.

4th October 2015

We left Kamping Alte Saghmuhle with a bit of sadness because she will be missed.  We did however make a slight deviation from the route to stop and get a ‘not so little’ memento of our time in the Black Forest….meet Wald – that’s German for forest – because Wald is a log which used to be a member of the Schwarzwald or Black Forest.  Hubby thinks I am mad, but I wanted a reminder of our wonderful times in the forest and I also needed a log for chopping my kindling for the fireplaces at home.  Here’s Wald doing a magnificent job of hosting the camping kettle…

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…and here, the flowers from the camper van….IMG_4518

…he wasted no time at all settling in to camping life and making himself useful!

Setting up in our first day was a bit of work because we were so tired by the time we got to the campsite – Camping-Freizeitzentrum Sägmüle in Trippstadt, Germany.  We decided to have a meal in the campsite restaurant which would have been much less stressful if the provided a ramp rather than the steep steps!  No options to get inside, so if you are unable to climb a few steps this is not the campsite for you…unless you don’t ever need to go to the restaurant of course.   The bathrooms here are brilliant, and on a crisp morning brushing your teeth standing in a heated floor is rather special.

Waking up to a very chilly morning with the sun just creeping into the valley was a real treat.  This campsite set in the Palitinate forest is lovely and we were given a pitch on the lake…this is the breakfast view on a crisp, clear and quiet morning….IMG_4014IMG_4010

After a quick bite we headed out not knowing where we were going, but happy to simply explore. Happily this worked our really well because we stumbled across a wonderful town about 50km away – Bad Dürkheim – spa town with a rather unusual method of producing a seaside climate using a salination plant built in around 1860.  This enormous structure is what captured our attention….

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The salt water is fed by a pump to the top of the building where it trickles down through blackthorn twigs and the wind passing through creates what is believed to be a very healthy atmosphere. A truly fascinating place and one that is highly recommended if you’re ever in the area.

They also have the most imaginative water playground ever!  Here’s hubby having a lovely time testing the equipment…

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If this town wasn’t lovely enough already, it completely won us over because it is literally surrounded by and interwoven with vineyards – the winemaker in me was jumping for joy, and the wine drinker in hubby was ecstatic!

You are positively encouraged to walk around the paths through the vines and try out the ‘neue wein’ which is a speciality in the German wine lands….a partially fermented grape juice with sparkle.  We purchased a 3 litre jug of it and hubby has been savouring it ever since!

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IMG_4022…and their other claim to fame – the largest wine barrel in the world!  Take a closer look and you will see how many litres it can hold – although it was never used as a wine barrel, but rather as a restaurant from the outset.

 

 

…and we’re off! 

Okay fellow Englishmen, you should all be thanking us for going to Europe for a few weeks to find some much needed, and scarce sun, because now that we have left it is going to be the most beautiful Autumn weather!  Typical!  We decided not to chance our first holiday in years to the flakey English weather and when we depart for Dover it is GLORIOUS outside. 

Enjoy it, and let’s hope for the same on the continent because we are now committed to our European adventure.

Happy travels and we’ll post again at our next wifi hotspot across the channel and on another continent.  

   

Pre holiday panic!

This was me….

 At that moment when you’ve planned your first holiday for nearly 5 years,  and 2 days beforehand you go to fetch your passport out of the safe…..and the key gets stuck and won’t go in or out!!!! 

This is no ordinary safe according to the safe specialist and can withstand a bomb blast and can’t be opened without a key! 😱 

Half an hour of panic and jiggling, me and the key, and I had to ring the safe specialist and explain the dilemma….holiday in 2 days, need passport, safe stuck.  While I was waiting for him to connect, I said a prayer, and in that instant it moved and then opened – thank you! 

Safe man ‘s advice “whatever you do don’t lock it until I get there”. 

Oh well, the safe may be open, but I can go exchange money….and we are GOING ON HOLIDAY 😄☀️☀️☀️

It has been too long….3 1/2 years too long in fact, since hubby and I have been on holiday. That is about to be rectified with a trip to Europe in search of rest, recuperation and hopefully a lot of sunshine. However, being a realist, and a British citizen, we understand well the vagaries of the weather so I am taking no chances that my Trekinetic K2 will get wet at some point on our route.

Having modified my mobility van into a camper, I didn’t want my wheelchair to take up precious space on the inside, so we purchased a Bak-Rak for it to go on the outside. A great plan for perennially sunny countries, but I was taking no chances with my mobility and therefore it needed a rain cover.

  
I was lucky enough to have found a bolt of ripstop fabric when I was last at Abakhan and brought it home with the intention of making an awning for the campervan, but it struck me that it was also the perfect material to make a cover for my wheelchair …. and that’s exactly what I did.

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It isn’t a tight fit because that would make it too difficult to get the cover closed, but it has the general shape. The cover is placed onto the Bak-Rak and my K2 is placed on top of it.  The wheels are clamped down to the base and then the zip is closed over the entire wheelchair.

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Time and travel alone will tell whether this is a good design or not, but hopefully it keeps my wheelchair dry and therefore my bum dry for the duration of our holiday 😄

 

It was a VERY busy couple of weeks and in our haste we didn’t manage to take many pictures of our progress, but here is what we did….

Boxes built by hubby…..

3 at the back of the van; 2 towards the front of the van and at the foot end of the bed, and another additional smaller box built because I realised the distance between the boxes on hubby’s side of the bed was far to wide and would collapse!

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Bed slats installed and held in place on top of the boxes using dowels and holes drilled through a few of the bed slats….

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The kitchen – my favourite part of the camper van – it holds all of the kitchen gear and a crate underneath contains all of the dry foods ….

mmmm, no picture, but I will add one while we are on holiday instead!

Roll up blinds custom-made to fit each window and held in place by hooks on some windows and magnets on others…..

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The mattresses were cut into various sizes and shapes to allow them to be used during the day as seating and then re-arranged to make a full mattress for sleeping.

I was very fortunate that a friend had given me a few rolls of upholstery fabric in exactly the right colour to go with the curtaining I had chosen from the stash in my sewing room.

Add in a matching tablecloth, table mats and flowers and you have a lovely English breakfast in the sun….

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Our first weekend test outing was a resounding success and apart from a couple of changes and additions we are very happy with the results.

Really looking forward to a proper holiday soon.

We used to own a rather large motorhome, When we moved to our new home, it was the one thing that had to be sacrificed due to the enormous ongoing costs, but it is something that I have missed so much over the last four years.

I love to be out and about touring, but with my aching bones this is easier said than done and tenting has not proven to be an option with cold floors, hard surfaces, getting to the ground and back up, and rain…..nightmarish!  Something else had to done.

Being a constant thinker, it struck me a few months ago that when we had bought our Mercedes van for my wheelchair, I had mentioned to hubby that one day we should convert it into a camper van – after all we already owned it and the outlay could be minimal if we did the work ourselves.  Life happened and it wasn’t until more than a year later (and summer arriving) that I remembered my idea and began to seriously consider that this was the best and cheapest way for us to go camping but without completely roughing it.  Hubby was oddly reluctant at first, but with lots of planning on SketchUp he slowly warmed to the idea,

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Our aim was to not make any permanent changes to the van, but rather to create units that would fit into the van when we wanted to go camping and be easily removed on our return.  This is what I came up with….

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Not the best drawing, but it gave us the dimensions and a good idea of how it would all fit together.  The design was based on small wooden boxes – just like those we made for our wine racks in the cellar (but without the Illy tins for the bottles!); if you want to see these you can find a blog post about it here)

Each wooden box was sized so that it would fit an inner box or crate from Ikea – the DRÖNA, or similar.  These would form the base of the bed and hold all the camping gear.  In addition I wanted a free-standing kitchen which could stay inside the van or be removed and stored in the tent during longer camping trips.  The HINDÖ outdoor cabinet was just what I wanted and fit into the space behind the passenger seat, and would hold all of the kitchen paraphernalia.

Then came the bed.  It needed to be long enough for my 6’2″ hubby to lie full length and be comfortable for me to sit or lie down when I needed to rest.  Moving the boxes around allowed us to reconfigure the layout and insert a slatted mattress base which we already had at home.  Top this off with two mattresses which we had for guests (sorry guests, we will replace them), and you have a bed….one side 200cm long and my side 160cm long – each just the right length for hubby and I.

Lastly, curtains and cushions for the interior would be custom-made by myself; so hubby and I measured up the windows and made templates to get the shapes right.

The wheelchair would be transported on our newly purchased Base-Rak from Bak-Rak so that it didn’t take up any space inside the van.. a bit nerve-racking having my chair on the back of the van rather than on the inside, but I am sure I will be happier when we have done it once or twice!

All that was left to do was buy the supplies….

2 sheets of 18mm plywood, the inner boxes and the kitchen cupboard.  I already had the material for the curtains and the upholstery for the cushions.

We had a plan and now we needed to get stuck in because we only had 2 weeks until our planned test trip.

In the next episode we will show you what we built and hopefully a few holiday pictures….if it all goes well!

Any other wheelchair sewers out there? You may identify with these issues…..

Swiss army wife...

Being a sewer and in a wheelchair poses some unique challenges.  In a new series of (hopefully) quick and amusing posts I will attempt to list them – as they occur.  A method to vent off some steam sometimes when you are ready to scream at the annoyances.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I have come to terms with the imposed new order, but every now and again something happens to either make you laugh, mildly annoyed, and all the way through to simply mad!

…and talking about steam, here is todays anecdote…

Sitting at a good, healthy, comfortable distance under the ironing board – you build up a good head of steam to press those seams into submission and droplets of hot water that have formed under the ironing board drip in between your toes or onto your lap – VERY hot water!!!  If I wasn’t…

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A bite from life's apple

PLEASE HELP SAVE OUR BEES!!!

I cannot believe that it has been a year since we received our first bees and I wanted to remind people that bees are SUPER important to humans and we should be protecting and not destroying them.  A lack of knowledge of these little creatures sometimes makes people fearful, but please protect our bees or we may all die of starvation!

If you see a swarm please contact your local beekeepers association or someone who keeps bees and they will take the swarm away.  DO NOT call an exterminator as they will simply spray and destroy the swarm.  This site will also help you to identify whether they are bees, wasps or bumble bees who have moved into your bird box or under your eaves.

Here is how the swarm may look……

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…and you can read up about them in a previous post of mine here.

Here…

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Thanks Ted!

I found this rather interesting and thought provoking talk on TED.com.

People often ask me why I am in a wheelchair….the brave ones that is.  Having to describe how my chronic pain from Small Fibre Neuropathy affects me can be difficult because I spend a LOT of time trying to NOT think about it – because thinking about it magnifies the pain, so I practice relaxation and positive thinking techniques and keeping VERY busy – nothing else works!

Here Doctor Elliot Krane, a Pediatric anesthesiologist, gives some small insight into the problems I face.  I don’t publish this for sympathy, but rather for education; after all, who has ever heard of my condition and who of you is actually brave enough to ask the difficult questions?

Watch him here….http://www.ted.com/talks/elliot_krane_the_mystery_of_chronic_pain

Have car, can travel…..

Not much wheeling has been going on around here of late but that is hopefully all about to change.

February 1st was my goal to start pushing myself around in my wheelchair again.  I’m not talking about long trips to the store or bundu bashing through the countryside; but rather small trips up and down the passage or kitchen at home – just to get things moving – grease the wheels so to speak!

The physiotherapy exercises have been really good and I am starting to get some use of the arm back.  I dread the thought of being dependant on a motorised wheelchair for too long – after all, the longer that goes on the more comfortable I’ll get with it – NOT a good thing.

On the other hand, while I continue to exercise, I have eventually managed to get driving again – YIPPEE!!  Being able to get into the car and drive somewhere by myself is such a luxury and strangely joyous 🙂

My trusty steed…..

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…a Mercedes Vito 111 cdi – perhaps not the most glamorous means of transportaion, but I absolutely LOVE this car/van.  It has 8 seats and can fit my wheelchair into the back using the ramp.  The blacked out windows are a source of amusement for the younger generation who tell me it is my drugmobile or a WIP – whatever that is?????

Nevertheless, it is perfect for me and yesterday was a real treat because I went to town on my own for the first time in months and months.  It may not sound very glamorous to most people, but if you have ever been without for a while you may understand.

Being able to drive is one thing, but getting out of the vehicle is another – and not one I can do on my own; just yet.  So the only places I can go are where someone is with me, or waiting for me, or …… drive thru’s – yes, takeaways are the ONLY place in England that have drive thru’s, therefore my first port of call was a coffee, ordered through the car window, driven to a quiet spot and drunk in perfect contentment in my vehicle – by myself! 🙂

Small things!

I assume you know that saying, but if you don’t, it expresses a view that whatever it is that is wanted would be worth giving an arm and a leg for.  Now I know it is one of those nonsensical sayings that is simply trying to convey just how much something is worth, but I can only imagine the phrase was coined by someone with two perfectly functioning arms and legs! 🙂

In my case the two legs are present and accounted for but don’t work properly; and until last week the arms were reasonably good too – that is until my shoulder surgery last week and suddenly I didn’t have the use of one of the arms at all!  This got me thinking, as I do about strange stuff sometimes, if I was in some sort of deadly situation and I was asked (imagine big guy dressed in black, with eye patch)  “Do you want to lose the arm or the leg?”, how would I respond?  Having now got limited use of my arm back again I would have to reply “The leg”! It may seem drastic but seriously when you think about it what do the two sets of limbs actually do for you?

The legs get you from point A to B, either at a walking pace or a running pace and sometimes with a bit of exercise or dancing in between.  Your arms on the other hand seem to do everything else….take me trying to roll over in bed, or sit up in bed, or brush my hair (which is long and requires two hands to put in a ponytail, and you should see how terrible I have looked all week!), grasp and open a bottle (which rather amusingly I did land up opening with my feet at one point so you see how difficult this argument can become), take a pill out of those dreadful ‘childproof’ foils, push a wheelchair with one arm (you tend to go round in circles a bit!)….the list is endless, but I think you begin to see my dilemma.

I must say, the one thing this has highlighted for me is that I really do need to stick with the physiotherapy exercises and get this shoulder back to normal – sooner, rather than later!

So this week I am truly grateful…..for both my legs and my arms….and I ain’t never giving them up to the baddy!!!

 

There have been very few wheelchair adventures recently because of my shoulder injury…and adventures to me are when I participate in the propelling rather than being pushed around (which I am never happy about)!
Monday, and my surgery date arrived…mixed feelings of relief to have it over with and nervousness about being even more incapacitated.
Tuesday, and back home in my own bed, drugged up to the eyeballs and the nerve blocker still keeping me reasonably comfortable. Not wasting any time, I begin the exercises given me by the physiotherapist. You do need to have a fair bit of determination to start doing exercises this soon after surgery but I know how important it is for my recovery and I’m determined to do this right.
Wednesday, and the nerve block has worn off and I have removed the sling. Now you need even more determination to do those exercises, but the regular drug regime is helping.
Thursday, and the Physio exercises are coming along nicely. Drugs make me feel weird and my brain is rather fuzzy but I’m determined to do a bit more and I’ve just discovered crochet may be a good next exercise. Being right-handed helps as I can hold my work in my left hand and work away very nicely with my uninjured arm …. so that’s my therapy for today…. make some more dishcloths….

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….keep up the exercises, rest and repeat!

Being on the slightly smaller side, 155cm or 5ft1 to be closer to the truth, getting onto our huge four poster bed with its very high base has always been a stretch (excuse the double entendre!).  I had the bed designed and built-in my fitter day when this posed no challenges at all but since being in a wheelchair it has made getting into bed less than ideal but manageable.  However, this all changed when our new mattress arrived this week.  It was about time we invested in a new one because the old one was purchased back in 1994!! Perhaps a little past its prime, but what a mattress that was – cost a lot at the time, but being very firm foam and on a solid base, made it the most comfortable bed for years…until only a few months ago in fact.  The majority of the wear can be squarely placed at the door of my need to be in bed for days at a time and any lesser mattress would have shouted time-out a long, long time ago!

Getting back to the issue with the new mattress…it seems that since buying our old faithful back in the 1990s, mattresses have increased in height too and when placed onto our already statuesque bed it immediately became apparent that I could definitely NOT scale those heights!  Mmmm, just a little problematic because getting in needs a pull from hubby and getting out is no more elegant and I either drop off the side or have to roll over and slither off on my belly – not a pretty sight.  Rescue came today in the form of our son who built me a little wooden box which has made it so easy ….. why didn’t I ask for a box years ago?????

I imagine the grandchildren will also enjoy being able to step up and join me for our cuddles 🙂  One happy lady, right here!

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It occurred to me whilst chatting to someone recently that the price of disabled products seem unfairly high considering their necessity to some people.  Take for example a simple vinyl sign for my car window to politely request people leave sufficient space for my wheelchair ramp – £7; or a roof box a friend recently purchased for his wheelchair (which is constantly breaking down) – £5000!; or a wheelchair ramp which comprises a bit of aluminium, steel safety rope and a small motor – £3000; and the motorised indoor office chair which allows me access to cupboards and printers – £6.500!

This was the dilemma we faced when deciding whether to buy my Trekinetic K2 a few years ago.  On paper the price was high – not for this particular chair because most chairs with similar features will cost this or more – but when we sat and considered the freedom this remarkable wheelchair would provide…. ‘legs’ to get to places other wheelchairs can’t, then the price becomes far less significant.  Mind you, I only really realised how much it was worth once I had experienced the seaside, the river, the mountain, the lake and all sorts of other adventures for the first time in five years.

So despite the fact that mobility products are probably over priced, it depends on how much you value your freedom to explore.  I could stay in a cheap, ugly, old-fashioned wheelchair which works fine in the mall or any other smooth surfaced area, but these will definitely NOT offer me the adventures I have enjoyed over the years.

And then you get some amazing people out there who work tirelessly to make this sort of freedom possible for someone who does not have the financial means….

Take for example this amazing tweet that landed up on my desktop thanks to Bear Grylls and the Scout movement….

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Thanks to their amazing work this little boy will get to be part of a team and not be left out – priceless I’d say!

This may not appear like such a big deal to most people, but today we picked the very first fruit, and ate it, from our little espalier orchard!
It is such an amazing feeling to taste fruit off trees that arrived as little single stems with bare roots. By reading and researching, we managed to find out enough to start the espalier process and now to see that our inexperience hasn’t killed all the lovely trees that we bought with my 50th birthday fund is priceless.

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Not big and numerous, but special nevertheless!

If after one year we get just a tiny crop, I am hopeful for much bigger and better in the years ahead.

So even if you are in a wheelchair, only have a tiny garden, you love fruit and trees, then I can highly recommend trying some espaliered trees. They may take a bit of work with training and pruning but it feels like such an achievement when you taste that first plum!

Thank you Victoria Plum 😊

My two beeks (hubby and son) and I have been doing a lot of research on beehives and decided that we wanted to go down the top-bar hive route. One of the main reasons is that this is the easiest hive to handle from a wheelchair and I really want to be involved once the pathways are laid and I can get to it a little more easily.
Another good thing is that they can be built for next to no money if you have a house with all sorts of material lying around.
We downloaded the plans from http://www.biobees.com and my beek boy’s spent a weekend upcycling old doors and shelves to make the main hive body.
A piece of glass from an unneeded door was turned into an observation window and other scrap pieces used to make the top bars.
A quick lick of sealer – only on the outside – and it was nearly ready.

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Next weekend they can add the legs at a good wheelchair friendly height and make a roof.

I am so excited because my first espaliered fruit tree is eventually in the ground after two years. It has been such hard work, with plenty more to come but the sight of this one and the other three we managed to plant on the weekend is hopefully enough to continue motivating us to complete the project!

Our evenings are so busy but we will try fit in some more planting if the weather behaves 😁. Once the trees are in the difficult job of laying a pathway around the garden so I can get around to tend my trees will begin – that is a LOT of garden path but without it I would need a garden 4X4 wheelchair; especially with all the rain we get!

Amazing how happy these trees make me 😄😄😄

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I have just spent a very happy three day bank holiday weekend like this….

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Who knew that I would find a new skill as a digger operator! What a sight it must have been seeing a woman get out if a digger and transfer to a wheelchair; now that would have been worth a picture!
The building site that is our ‘garden’ needed some extensive work in order to allow me access in my wheelchair and although the house needs our full-time attention we decided that me getting into the garden this summer was a priority because I need to care for the 15 espalier fruit trees I was given for my fiftieth birthday the year before last.
The trees have so far survived in pots but it was time to get them into the ground but before this could happen we had to clear the ground of old foundations, building rubble and the wild garden that had taken root over three years.
I loved the wild garden but it had to be sacrificed if we had any chance of flattening the ground to accommodate the paths hubby is going to build around the perimeter of the garden to allow me a clear route to tend the trees.
All this heavy work required the services of some heavy machinery – hence the digger. It made sense for me to be the operator as it is all hand controls and with a little help I moved from my wheelchair into the cab and stayed there most of the day. I had THE MOST FUN in years – I could actually do something really useful and helpful for the first time in a long time and it was an incredible feeling!!!
By the end of the three days we had a mountain of reusable stone that used to form part of the demolished kitchen block from the pub days, a nice flatish ground for seeding with grass and wild flowers and fifteen holes for my trees to be planted into.

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This weekend we will install the post and wires and the trees can then be attached into their new permanent home – extremely exciting time.

Come on summer!

In February we took a trip down to London for our daughters birthday and as always, we never pass up the opportunity to visit somewhere new;  this time round it was Greenwich and the Thames Barrier.

If you don’t already know, this landmark is what protects the city from the high tides of the Thames River.  It is a beautiful piece of engineering and I can highly recommend a visit to it when you are in the area.  There is also a walk all the way along the Thames from the barrier through the city which in nice weather I would definitely try – it is a long but very interesting walk and if you want to do this yourself make sure you go onto the Thames Barrier website to check the maintenance times because when they are running tests the entrance gate to the pathway (at this point) are closed for a few hours.  I doubt if this is wheelchair friendly all the way, but I would love to give it a try one day.

We went on a day that the tea room and visitor centre is usually closed but was open because of the school holidays.  They serve a good cup of tea and a small selection of snacks and you can see some footage of the building of the barrier which I found very interesting.

Our challenge for the day was finding the elevator out of operation but I am fortunate to have a Trekinetic K2 and the flight of low stairs was a breeze with help from hubby.  I would suggest if you cannot negotiate stairs then you ring ahead to make sure the lift/elevator is operating.  You will also find a flight of stairs down to the walkway – this is apparently because they cannot have a slope as this area would be susceptible to flooding if the river rose too high.  You can however wheel along the top path and still get amazing views of the river and the city.

This is a great place to get really interesting photographs and we had a thoroughly good morning out.

Be warned it can be very chilly down by the river so I would suggest wrapping up warmly.

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After fighting our way across London and eventually finding a parking (on a double yellow line with my blue badge permit), we arrived at the venue.  My heart sank when the first thing I noticed was the stairs! It took a while for the doormen to find out how I could get into the building but eventually we got directed to the freight elevator around the side – a not so auspicious start to the day but I was trying to stay positive and really needed a coffee by this point.

This will not be the first, or last, trip I make in a freight elevator to get into a building but in this case it was at least light, airy and clean.

First things first, coffee, free samples and a quick pose for the blog….

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Once inside access was good and ramps had been provided between the two sections of the old brewery.

Before we left we hunted down the toilets and wow, was I pleasantly surprised!  I think the disabled toilets are definitely a new addition as they don’t even have signs on the doors yet but they were beautifully appointed with black and white tiles – an absolute pleasure.  Thank you Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

A few hours later, rather a few too many coffees later and some interesting contacts made, we set off on the long journey home.  Lancashire to London and back in a day – a good day’s work and a special treat out with the hubby.

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