My baby is huuuuge. He was born in the 98th percentile for length and has stayed there for the past 8 months. Vests… do not fit for very long. If this is your problem, you can either buy the next size up (which won’t fit around the tummy) or extend the ones you currently have. You can buy vest extenders but why buy what you can make?
So here’s the quick and easy way to make your own vest extenders:
Get a vest that you don’t mind cutting up. I chose a plain white one from a 6-9-month multi-pack and I want to extend 9-12 month vests.
Check the poppers on the donor vest will work with at least most of the other vests you have. I had one vest from the US store Carter’s that didn’t have the same poppers as all my other vests so that one couldn’t be cut up to make a vest extender.
Cut across the fabric in a straight line.
Check you have both sides facing opposite directions (mine in the picture below is wrong although this will still fasten).
Sew together using a good stitch such as blanket stitch or use a sewing machine.
Have you ever wondered how to make a rabbit stroller for your houserabbits, so you can take them places? I wanted a rabbit stroller because my bunnies sometimes need to travel with me, such as when I took them to the vets today. I originally wanted this rabbit stroller so I could include my rabbits in our wedding, but sadly the registry offices in the UK don’t allow pets or animals except guide dogs, and we didn’t want the rabbits to wait outside on the hottest day of 2014, so this project languished in obscurity.
My rabbit stroller is finally a successful, completed project! After procrastinating for 2 years, I finally got it made last night. It took about half an hour last night, plus about an hour or two (two years ago). I couldn’t afford a fancy stroller conversion by a professional rabbit stroller company, and a dog stroller was way out of my price range too, so I made do with the cheapest pushchair money couldn’t buy:
Broken pushchair rabbit stroller
When I bought the stroller (a pushchair), this was what it looked like. Note the cracked handle (right) and the open front for baby’s feet to go through (or, for my rabbits to escape through)! The pushchair was also dirty and very difficult to open and close, but it was an unbelievable bargain at £2.80 from a private seller on ebay. There was no postage to pay as I collected it myself. Why did I buy this shitty cheap stroller for my VIP bunnies? Because at the end of the day, the fabric’s not important, I can fix that, but I wanted a good solid base, intact and working wheels, and more important than anything else, the backrest on the pushchair seat had to adjust to flat, to turn it into a pram, because I wanted more floorspace for the buns to lie down in. This one had that function but still folds down for storage.
I bought a net cot cover (one of these) for about £2 from Amazon Warehouse Deals which, if you’ve never heard of it, is where you can buy loads of Amazon.com products at amazing discounts for reasons such as “the box is damaged” (which, if you shop on Amazon, you know happens all the time on full priced products anyway). The strong mesh didn’t look like it would protect from mosquitoes as the holes in the mesh were too large, but it was perfect for keeping rabbits in their stroller while making the whole thing breathable (I didn’t want hot, cross bunnies). I cut and sewed the mesh cover to the bottom of the fabric pad like so:
This then went over the baby handrest like this, to stop rabbits escaping through the leg holes:
Optionally, when it’s raining, it’s possible to also lift the foot rest up to cover the same spot with more solid plastic, but it does still need that mesh net there to stop the foot rest just falling down all the time:
I don’t know what this is called but I bought it at the Mothercare outlet store on sale for £5. The brand of this rain hood thingy is Mamas and Papas. It’s like a rain hood with a mesh net, the whole thing attaches over the top of a stroller to keep bugs away from babies (or something, I really don’t know but all strollers seem to have things like this). This one gets narrower towards one end for some reason, but overall it was perfect to attach to our stroller to stop the bunnies from just jumping out of their snuggly space:
This hood thingy had popper loops that made it easy to attach to our stroller, even though our stroller was some obscure brand, not Mamas and Papas (as a sidenote, I highly recommend Mothercare for rabbit toys, they make indestructible toys for newborns that are often also great for bunnies).
The existing (non-waterproof) canopy hood thingy on the stroller was non-removable and part of the structure of the stroller but the new one from Mamas + Papas was really great because it was wider than the original, and fitted perfectly over the top, but the metal frame of it was lightweight and flexible so it also squishes through the stroller’s handle so I can change the direction the rabbits are facing (the handle flips so you can either see your rabbits, or they can see where they’re going; I recommend one where you can see your rabbits if you’re getting a stroller with a non-movable handle because the rabbits will try to escape).
The outside of the stroller had now been rabbit proofed, but the inside still looked utterly miserable. I hated it and the fabric was worn and discolored in places, so I found this cute rabbit scarf someone had bought me for a present at some point in the past, and I lined the stroller with it.
See? Way cuter and it has a rabbit print on it. Long term, I think I’m going to make a new padding for the inside of the stroller so it’s machine washable because bunnies are generally very tidy and clean but sometimes they gotta pee and I like to wash their fabric cushions and other items ASAP when they get soiled.
I also tied the front of the fabric to avoid any dangling ends that could get caught in the wheels:
To continue the improvements, I used two wide hair ribbons I bought about 5 years ago from Wal-Mart (ASDA) and wrapped them around the handle, after tying them to each other to make one long ribbon. This looks much nicer than the cracked broken handle, and feels a bit more comfortable to hold, but long term I want some foam padding between me and the cracked handle and of course this handle isn’t practical in a rain storm:
I hooked my umbrella over the handle because if it rains, that mesh netting’s not going to keep my bunnies dry so I’ll need a backup! This is the finished, fixed, converted rabbit stroller, it fits two bunnies in the main area and the netting just unhooks from the front to get the buns in and out:
Another view of the finished bunny stroller:
And, of course, here’s some pictures of Timmy in his new stroller:
Today I took the rabbits out in their stroller, since I no longer have a car and they had a vet appointment. The vets is just over a mile each way. I didn’t like how low the stroller’s handle was, and it didn’t have any way of raising it. I’m only 5’6″, I’m above average but I’m not a giant, and it seems a bit sexist that they’ve designed this pushchair for really, really short people. I’d be aware of that if you’re buying a stroller for your buns. Aside from that it was ok although I want more padding between the rabbits and all the bumps of the pavement. The biggest issue is that they can’t be in it for more than about half an hour because there’s no way of giving them water. I need one of those travel pet bowls for dogs in cars, because my rabbits don’t drink from bottles, and even if they did, there’s nowhere in this stroller to attach one. That’s going to be the next addition to this bunny stroller.
The rabbits liked being able to see out, and I think they didn’t mind being in their stroller once they got over the initial confusion about what was going on. The vet thought it was adorable. After going to the vets, I needed some feminine hygiene supplies so I walked around the supermarket with my rabbits in their stroller. The woman at the till gave me a very strange look but no-one else really noticed that there were bunnies in the stroller. I’ve used the stroller once before, taking Fifer to a supermarket the day after Katie died (he needed companionship and so did I), but he could easily escape because the sides were open (he chose not to, because he’s a very well behaved rabbit), which I wasn’t happy about. Now it’s 100% rabbit proof and safe to use outdoors too!
Is It Legal?
Regarding the law, unless you’re going somewhere such as a government building (eg. for a wedding), anywhere else there is no specific law in the UK against taking your bunnies as long as they are safe and in an enclosed space. As long as the bunnies are safe and can’t escape, its perfectly legal to take them to most public places (if slightly unusual), but I would suggest people consider whether the environment might stress the rabbits too much before just taking them out everywhere. Public transport (bus drivers etc) may have issues if you get on a busy bus and have to take the rabbits out of the stroller to fold it away and put in the luggage hold, because at that point there’s a loose rabbit on their bus, so I would think about that aspect as well.
If you’re a punk fan, you’ll probably know that the Membranes were an integral part of the punk scene in the 70’s (and the post-punk scene in the 80’s). If it wasn’t for the Membranes, and the other bands that started up at the same time, there wouldn’t have *been* a scene.
The band has always been about as DIY as you can get – to be any more DIY, their lyrics would have to be about plumbing. Case in point – when the band first started, they didn’t have a drummer. Not to be put off, they used two bin lids.
How many bands these days would do that? How many of the school leavers who start a band would care so much about the fundamental soul of music that they’d make their own bass guitar? Then, despite not knowing how to play, they invented their own chords and tuning scheme so that they could get the sound they wanted. There’s a lot of people these days bemoaning their lot in life; the attitude of the ’70s was this – don’t wait around for things to happen. That was the point of Do It Yourself culture. In their most recent album, they’re reported to have used a plastic bucket, some rocks they banged together, and a fire escape (like, literally played the fire escape itself).
The Membranes embody everything I love about punk. They don’t conform to anything.
And while I always assumed I’d catch them at Holiday In The Sun (now called Rebellion festival), I actually ended up seeing them at Thursday’s Therapy? gig.
Surprisingly, they were the supporting band. Given that I’ve also seen Alice Cooper as a supporting band, that doesn’t really mean what people think it means. Which pretty much sums up the Membranes. They are deliciously obscure and delightfully inscrutable. I love that.
The line up is: John Robb as the frontman and singing and playing the bass and mouth organ, Rob Haynes on drums (and apparently anything else he can hit) – there was also something that looked like a large greek vase with a skin stretched over it, which I thought was a stool until he started hitting it.* There were also two guitarists – Peter Byrchmore and Nick Brown.
*I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about music, but I know what I like and I know that I like stuff that sounds good and I don’t care what instruments (if any) it’s played on.
Here’s some pictures (email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are in the band and want the full size versions of any of these at no charge for use on your website etc, the full size versions have better definition but they don’t fit on my site due to the cost of data):
What I liked most was the amount of energy they had on-stage. I mean, they were fizzing with more energy than calcium carbonate that’s had acid dropped on it (which is pretty fizzy). They seemed to be playing their own thing, as if the audience’s lack of enthusiasm was inconsequential (the crowd weren’t biting… until they suddenly were).
I said yesterday about how when I don’t know the music, I’m quite happy to go along with it as long as it’s sounding good. Well I didn’t know any of the songs but I was headbanging from my vantage point in the weird side balcony beside the stage.
I’ve never seen a warm-up act manage to win over an audience like that… stepping back from my role as a member of the crowd, and going into analytical mode, I was awestruck by the audience’s transformation – at the start, the audience was mostly indifferent, then about halfway through, they very quickly got into it and suddenly there was bouncing and cheering and participating and all that sort of thing.
My favourite part? When the mouth organ came out. I mean, I guess that must be what a mouth organ looks like – I’ve never seen one of those before.
So by the time the band finished, I was sad to see them leave. Before Thursday, although I knew of the band, I didn’t know anything about their music (except that it was recommended by my stepdad who played drums in a punk band in ’77). I’d only really come to see Therapy? (I hadn’t actually looked at who was supporting, more fool me), at that point when the Membranes stopped, I would have been quite happy if they were the main act or if they’d done a long set. All in all they contributed to Thursday being a very memorable and outstanding gig out of the long list of gigs I’ve been to so far on my quest to fulfil my Bands Bucket List, despite not actually being on the list because I totally overlooked them when I was writing it. Don’t make the same mistake I did – they’re not a band to overlook.
Supporting bands get a lot of shit, and sometimes they get too much credit when they shouldn’t have any (the Last Internationale who were supporting the Who really failed to engage me on every level, I couldn’t believe anyone had hired them as a band for such a big event – perhaps this went a long way towards explaining why my patience wore too thin and I ultimately walked out of the Who early and got an early night sleeping on the floor of Dublin airport). It’s a tricky line to walk, to be a good supporting band, because it takes different skills than being a good main act. A lot of people think that supporting acts need to be new inexperienced bands who do it for the exposure to new audiences. Sometimes this works out ok, other times it bombs. Not many supporting acts understand their role well enough to really run with it. I think of all the bands I’ve ever seen in their supporting role (rather than their headline act), The Membranes sit up there alongside Anthrax and Alice Cooper as the three best bands you could hire to really get the crowd stoked (and I’d actually say slightly better than Anthrax).
And, as with Anthrax and Alice Cooper, I was left wanting to see, hear and know more about this band. I particularly liked the part when John Robb said to the audience “ask me any physics question” (I know for a fact that there were at least two physics teachers in the audience). So someone asked something like “what’s inside a black hole” and the whole audience went silent. Everyone’s attention was focussed on John Robb. Everyone was waiting, thinking “what’s he going to say?” He had clearly thought about all this stuff a lot and knew what he was on about, and I thought his answer was pretty impressive, especially since it was a random question asked by a member of the audience. I like randomness (all my Youtube videos end with “subscribe for more randomness”), and I like thinking about the nature of the universe. So I thought that was an excellent lead-in to the next song.
If the universe is being destroyed and remade from one moment to the next, then I never actually saw them because the past no longer exists. Which means I need to go and see them again. But when I see them again, they will be different and so will I, because you can’t cross the same river twice. Hmm…
At the end of the day, if you’re looking for a testosterone-fuelled shoutfest using three (established) chords, go and see Agnostic Front or someone similar. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that side of punk, except that everyone thinks it’s the *only* side to punk, which just isn’t true. If you’re looking for a thought provoking, entertaining, wide variety of music that defies definition (and thus becomes what punk is supposed to be about), the Membranes are for you. Or you could take the blue pill instead.
Last night I saw the Northern Irish band Therapy? (the cryptic question mark is part of the name) supported by The Membranes, in Leeds. My Dearest and I managed to get right to the front at one side where there were a couple of seats because everyone else assumed someone was sitting there already (thanks for the tip, Stanley Milgram). Naturally we didn’t sit down.
This meant we were standing right next to the speakers, and they were deliciously LOUD. I should have paid attention to my ears at the point where I was getting ear pain, or the point when I was getting dizzy. But I didn’t. So now it’s the next morning, I have a loud whistling noise in the ear that was closest to the speaker, a quieter whistling noise in the other ear, I can’t hear a lot with my right ear, but I do have some PHENOMENAL PHOTOS to share with you. If you’re a Therapy? or The Membranes fan, you’re in for a treat (and if you’re in one of these bands and would like any of the full size pictures – in higher definition – for promo purposes etc, drop me an email at email@example.com and I’ll work out a way to get them to you). I’m going to split them into two posts, one for each band, and this first post is for the Therapy? pictures because that’s who we went to see. I’ll link The Membranes when I add their pictures tomorrow.
Yesterday’s Therapy? concert was the first time I’d used my multi-shot function on my camera and I was quite pleased with the results. Today I’ve spent a lot of time going through the 625 pictures and choosing the best ones then resizing them because I can’t remotely afford £89 a year for the unlimited storage option on WordPress.
We were actually originally going to see Therapy? back in 2014, when we went to Sonisphere two weeks after our wedding, but because we were both working on the Friday and the Monday, and it was the middle of exam season, we could only get down to Knebworth for the Saturday, and I believe they were playing on the Sunday alongside Metallica. So when I came up with the Bands Bucket List, they were one of the first bands I added to it, not because they were in any danger of kicking the bucket any time soon (hell, they’ve got at least another 25 years before it’d become urgent to see them), but rather because we both really wanted to see them and felt we’d missed out by having to work before and after Sonisphere. As teachers, you can’t really book a long weekend off. Ever. So anything you want to do outside the holidays is tough shit (and anything you want to do *inside* the holidays has to be so squeaky clean because there’s kids everywhere). Work seems to get in the way of music (I was in before and in the next day after Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Motley Crue and Megadeth, both of which I haven’t written about yet), but I do want to get back to work again – especially since we’re broke and no immediate family members have died for 3 months straight.
For a Thursday night gig in Leeds, the venue was still pretty packed and I wasn’t sure how everyone had fitted.
It started out like this, the odd perspective of the venue made for some interesting shots.
If you’ve never heard of Therapy?, they’re classed on Wikipedia as a “alternative metal” band. I would say they’re a bit more DIY (as in; punk-like, not as in; goes on stage and shows off plastering skills) than your average metal band though. They generally play big crowds so this concert was nothing like I expected. They were playing through their Infernal Love album, which included Epilepsy, Stories, A Moment of Clarity, Jude the Obscene, Bowels of Love, Misery, Bad Mother, Me vs You, Loose, Diane, and Thirty Seconds. Had we gone to Sonisphere, we would have heard these tracks there, as they played the whole Infernal Love album then, too. I think we got a better view at Leeds though.
The current line-up includes Andy Cairns pounding the guitar and singing the lead vocals, Michael McKeegan wielding the bass guitar and contributing extra vocals, and Neil Cooper smashing the drums. To be fair, they haven’t got much of a history of line up changes. The long and short of it is that they struggled to find a drummer hardcore enough to hack the tours, but not necessarily with the drama that you’d think that implied. Their original drummer quit during the first Infernal Love tour in ’95, and since then they got a replacement who quit in 2001 and was replaced in 2002 by Neil Cooper who’s been with them ever since. I’ve said it before about replacement members from when I went to Dublin to see The Who, but when a replacement member has been with the band for longer than the original member, why do they still get called a “replacement” instead of just “the drummer” or “the flugel hornist” it’s like it implies they’re second rate and I’ve seen time and again that this isn’t true while I’ve been to performances for my bands bucket list. Consider Dave Gilmour as a perfect example (although I’ve not seen him). Regardless of your stance on this, it’s undeniable that Cooper is a phenomenal drummer who’s more than capable of punctuating the bold phrases of Cairns’ guitar and McKeegan’s whitewater rapids of bass.
They played great and I was over the moon to finally use my DSLR to take photos at a concert and the pictures came out quite well (but I can see room for improvement) and my Dearest got high fived by Andy Cairns and at some point my ear became very painful and I haven’t been able to hear properly all day. I went to about 15 concerts last year and this has never happened before (said the bishop to the actress) so maybe I’ll have to get a hearing aid. I’d totally go for one of those long trumpets.
They could probably have just played Infernal Love and two or three hits from Troublegum and gone home (which is what NOFX did when I saw them in Birmingham) but that wasn’t Therapy?’s style. In addition to the Infernal Love tracklisting, Therapy? also played Teethgrinder, Screamager, Knives and Nowhere, amongst others.
All in all, if you want an excellent night of entertainment you should go see the band. In fact, if you want music for a road trip, check out their back catalogue. I can’t think of a bad album they’ve ever done, and at no point in the proceedings last night did I feel like I was adrift in a bog of “wtf are they playing?” unlike when I went to see The Who and ended up leaving. Or Megadeth, which I also ended up leaving early (which I haven’t reported on yet because I’m still trying to work out whether I can be bothered) . If I don’t recognize a tune, I tend to not even care as long as it’s good. If it’s not that good, I’ll give them two more songs to sort it out, if it’s still crap I tend to leave.
At no point during Therapy? did I consider leaving. Which puts them as better than The Who and Megadeth for a live act in the past 9 months. And tickets are a fraction of the cost, and we didn’t get oppressed by door staff either, which was great. So go and see them already!
The supporting band The Membranes were also pretty good, I quite liked them (my stepdad recommended them when we saw NOFX actually, we had a flyer for Blackpool Punk Festival and he was telling me all the ones he liked, so The Membranes’ve got the Someone-Who-Was-Actually-Doing-Punk-Before-Sid*-Died Seal Of Approval). *Vicious, not Barrett. Barrett is not punk. But then, The Membranes are one of the original punk bands so this gig was like that time we saw Alice Cooper supporting Motley Crue.
Towards the end of the performance, the audience really sort of lost their shit so some of them climbed onstage to try and find their shit again. Then stagediving and crowdsurfing happened (which is one of my favourite parts of any good concert – whenever I’m at a venue and see a “no crowdsurfing” sign part of me dies inside (despite having no intention of crowdsurfing).
The two people above the audience have been pushed off the stage by the bouncer, who as you can see turned up after the stage got mobbed by crowd. The band were thoroughly professional and continued playing. And that was the end of the show.
It was so nice to see such a well-known band in such an intimate setting, I never expected this event to be this good when I bought tickets. I also liked how close we got to the band and I left utterly deaf, but happy. Maybe the deafness will subside with time. We drove home and despite my lack of hearing, it was apparently in all the wrong places so I still ended up sleeping in earplugs.
After seeing a lot of articles about 101 uses of coconut oil (or more) I decided to write a list of what I’ve used coconut oil for. All of the things I mention here are things I’ve actually used coconut oil for, because there’s a lot of embellished “uses” for coconut oil floating around the internet that aren’t quite verifiable (I wrote about this yesterday in my article 10 Myths About Coconut Oil That Just Need To Die).
1. To cook food. It’s especially good to fry stir fry if you’re having Thai food. I tried spreading it on toast but I didn’t like it. I’ve never tried it in coffee, but in tea, it just sits on the surface as an oily blob even if you use a blender. People say it’s flavourless in cooking – I disagree, I think it tastes like coconut.
2. As a moisturiser / lotion. Just rub it on your skin. Too much can cause breakouts on sensitive skin (e.g. my cheeks). Bear in mind it sits on the surface a bit, so it will cause grease stains on your clothing, sofa or sheets unless you want to stand upright for several hours after using it. Coconut oil and silky fabrics REALLY don’t mix.
3. As the base for homemade cosmetics, such as DIY lipbalm. Actually that’s the only one I’ve used it for but it was really easy to add some rosewater. I’ll make a video of how to do this real soon.
4. To clean and possibly whiten your teeth via the oil pulling method, which is an Ancient Ayurvedic technique (i.e. they use it in India and have done for a while). I’ve made a video where I investigated the claim that coconut oil can whiten your teeth. Watch the video here.
5. To moisturize dry hair as an intensive conditioning treatment: Melt, slather over hair, leave on for at least 30 minutes and wash out with normal shampoo and conditioner.
6. As a home-made dandruff prevention and scalp soother. Melt a small amount in your hand, rub between your fingers and rub it over your scalp. I found this sped up hair growth as well.
7. To smooth frizz/flyaway hair. Using a small amount regularly prevents split ends so hair appears to grow faster.
8. For hayfever and seasonal pollen allergies. Rub it on the inside of your nose instead of Vaseline to soothe allergies. This isn’t going to be as effective as Benadryl; it catches the pollen before it gets a chance to get up your nose where it would usually wreak havoc, but of course it’s not going to catch all of it. When I worked at a pharmacy we used to recommend this to pregnant women as they were unable to take allergy tablets.
9. To make natural home-made tea light candles instead of using beeswax. Melt it, mix with the scents or colorants you feel like, add a wick, set it on fire. I only did this once and I found the coconut oil melts too quickly unless you do this in a tea-light foil dish thingy. Do those things have a name??
10. To make natural home-made soap instead of using glycerin. Melt it, mix with the scents and colorants you feel like, and rub it on you in the tub (but remember it’s still going to melt at relatively low temperatures).
Please consult a healthcare provider before using coconut oil if you feel ill.
What have you used coconut oil for? Did it work as you expected? Let me know in the comments!
Travel Tuesday: How I Converted A Citroen Xsara Picasso into A People Carrier Campervan Conversion
Today I want to talk about ROADHOUSE (my car camper)
Have you ever dreamed of owning a car that fits comfortably into a parking bay and STILL lets you sleep in it, stretched out, comfy and flat? That was the plan when I sold my £7500 Golf to buy a £600 Citroen Xsara Picasso (it was a category C write off, and had just been repaired when I bought it).
I reviewed the Citroen Xsara Picasso in a previous article, to tell you all of its good and bad points. In a future article, I’ll talk about WHY I swapped my VW Golf for a Picasso. Here I wanted to talk about how I converted the Picasso, and what we actually do when we’re on the road and we want to use our car as a camper.
There were some big problems I needed to overcome in order to “convert” my car. Here are the things I did, in order (click to go straight to that section or scroll to read the lot):
Took back seats out – NOTE this gets you an MoT advisory because it stops them checking rear seat belts, so put seats back in for your MoT.
– NOTE this gets you an MoT advisory because it stops them checking rear seat belts, so put seats back in for your MoT.
They were pretty easy to take out. They have a lever at the back, then you tilt the seat forward, and jiggle it with brute force and ignorance until it comes out. Swearing at it is optional. Why did I say easy? They were VERY easy when compared to a lot of other cars I’ve looked at, and they are designed to be removable so it wasn’t anything like trying to get the seat pad of the VW Golf out. My husband custom-built a storage unit in one of our spare bedrooms to keep the seats when we don’t want them in the car. This also makes the car more fuel efficient because they’re slightly heavy at around 15kg (which is the same weight as a cardboard fry box full of frozen McDonald’s fries).
Made window blocking panels.
I bought some silver coated insulating bubble wrap, at £7.99 a roll from Homebase. One window at a time, I held the insulation up against the car window and drew the shape of each window on separate areas of the bubble wrap, cutting each out before moving on to the next window. I was going to attach it with sticky back velcro, but when we set off for Europe I realised I’d left it behind, so I ended up using gaffer tape (duct tape, duck tape, same diff) and that was an okay fix although the condensation in the car caused the tape on the back window to unstick a lot and the stickiness of the tape damaged the panels so we couldn’t use the same ones again.
Bought a memory foam mattress and stuffed it in.
I bought mine off Ebay, I literally went for a 3 inch thick “memory foam” mattress. I had investigated a lot of options including cot mattresses, inflatables and roll mats, and decided this £17.99 memory foam mattress would be the cheapest. They had a two inch option at £14.99 as well but we thought that was sacrificing comfort. We just folded the lower end so that it would fit in the car, and after we got back from Europe we took it out of the car and put it on our bed to make it warm and cosy over winter. Update: We had to chuck it out after 15 months because it started to stink. It was still pretty cheap but I’m looking into other ways to do the same thing. To be honest you don’t really need it in summer even in the Highlands, but in the Alps, or in winter, something like this is essential.
Added a ceiling luggage storage.
I got some of that fabric that net curtains are made out of, and sewed it over some elastic at either end, then tied the elastic together and attached this to the handles above the rear doors. If there had been somewhere to attach it front centre this would have been a great storage idea, but as it happens it was mostly in the way and didn’t fit an awful lot in because it didn’t stay on the ceiling at all.
Removed it again after Europe.
I scrapped that idea for now, so storage is still an issue.
Scrapped window panels after Europe.
I decided that storing them in the car when you’re on a long journey is far too much hassle (you can’t legally have them in the windows when you’re driving which means you need to put them somewhere), so I looked at other options.
Put curtains in.
Basically I was SO squeamish about permanently damaging the car, because there were NO tutorials for how to put curtains into your car, so I used the thinnest drill bit available and drilled very thin holes into the plastic either side of the back windows, then screwed some eye hooks into the holes. I tied string to the eye hooks and sewed some curtains out of cheapass satin material that I had hanging around after I made a dress. I also used some nice ribbons as curtain ties to keep them out of the way as they tend to blow around the car if either of the front windows are open and you’re driving. I keep the bottoms of the curtains attached to the windows during sleep times by using the sticky back velcro that we forgot to take to Europe. It doesn’t stand up to a lot of force but if you open and close the velcro pieces carefully they’re a great solution to this problem.
Added a shoe holder for storing smaller items:
I dangled it down the back of the driver seat. It’s basically a fabric thing with loads of pockets, so we keep gloves, deodorant, binoculars etc in the little pockets, helping us to stay organised in a small space.
(the Citroen Xsara Picasso car campervan tragically died due to a gearbox failure on a busy set of traffic lights – I was very ill at the time and had to force the car through the traffic lights so the damn engine seized up. We are currently driving the hilariously inappropriate Rover 75, where I have installed the behind-the-seat storage just as it was in the Picasso, and the picture above is a photo of the back of the driver seat in the Rover 75).
Fitted the memory foam mattress
For Scotland, I had to change the shape of the mattress because we had to fit a kayak in there as well as our usual luggage. So I cut some of the length and width off the mattress so it also didn’t need to be folded at the foot end, giving us more foot room and making it more manoeuvrable if we needed it out of the way for any reason.
Draped a blanket over the two front headrests.
When we went to Europe we used one of those silver reflective panels in the front windscreen but it kept falling down and then people could see into the back of the car where I often needed to get dressed (I’m a chick. Sleeping in underwire gets uncomfortable after a couple of days. I also physically cannot sleep in socks). On our Scotland trip I realised that a fleece blanket or a microfibre towel does the job just fine. They can be easily removed when we want to pass through to the front of the vehicle or for when I’m driving so I still have full visibility.
Future plans for our camper:
1. Proper ceiling storage. I’m still not sure what to go for here, having exhausted every search term to try and find some inspiration, but once I work it out I’ll do an article on it.
2. Ventilation. I want to drill wall vents into the side of the car (on the non-petrol side) but since I drove the car through a wall on the petrol side a couple of months ago, I’m not sure if it still has the structural integrity to withstand more damage to the body.
3. Other storage. I need more storage solutions, although we fitted all our luggage and a kayak in with us when we went to Scotland a few weeks ago, it could still be better organized.
4. Rear window curtain – I was most recently using that silver sunshield gaffer taped to the back window because I haven’t made curtains for the rear yet.
So I’ve been reading some other rabbit sites recently, mostly trying to find out whether there’s a law in the US governing hutch size, which is the topic of a separate article. What I have noticed is there is a definite hole in the bunny-site market for a good quality, well thought out article on toymaking.
Some people will be thinking to themselves “why does a rabbit need a toy?” You, my friend, need to read this article. Other people are looking for inspiration, which you will find here in buckets.
Rabbits need toys for several reasons. Primarily, rabbits have higher intelligence than many people think they have. If you compare the skull size of the average rabbit with that of a cat, you’ll notice they’re a similar size. Rabbits, in fact, have bigger brains than most kittens. Would you put a kitten in a box full of sawdust with no toys? I sincerely hope not. Rabbits need just as many stimuli and growth opportunities as larger pets. They need puzzles to solve, projects to work on, variety of environment and shared experience. What does this look like to the average rabbit owner? Toys, and someone to play with (that’s you).
Puzzles to solve:
Bunnies like thinking with their teeth. This means puzzles, such as:
1. A box with a hole that’s not quite big enough for them to run through quickly (get a box, seal off the top and bottom with duct tape, cut a hole in the front and another in the back that’s just the same width as bunny in hop mode – that’s about 30% narrower than his sitting down width. Bunny will chew the hole bigger). They can then solve this puzzle with their teeth.
2. A box that doesn’t quite sit in the natural environment is a puzzle they can drag around the room until it’s solved (get some shapes and sizes of boxes and just randomly scatter them in a corner. Bunny will either fall upon them and start rearranging, or occasionally nibble them, it’s a bit hit and miss).
3. A treat on a high platform is a puzzle they can solve by exploration and discovery (make it visible, accessible, but make it require some thought to get to, e.g. put it on a table with a dining chair in front of it).
4. A slinky with the base attached to something solid is a puzzle they might never solve (but you get hours of fun watching them try).
5. A tunnel with only one entrance and exit is a puzzle they can solve by chewing extra holes in the side to add multiple escape routes (get a long thin cardboard box, cut a hole at either end to make a tunnel, put it against a wall or piece of solid furniture; it sometimes takes time but eventually bunny will probably chew the entire wall-facing side out of the tunnel. We’ve seen this three times with three different rabbits and tunnels).
Rabbits just love puzzles, once they get the idea that they can interact with them. Puzzles are often incorporated into other toys, as a secondary purpose, as you can see with many of the examples above.
Projects to work on:
Bunnies like projects – these are things they can work on over a longer period, having a nibble, then doing something else, coming back to it later that day, week or month. Pragmatic rabbits love projects like these:
1. A hay box with an overhanging edge of cardboard (get a box, fill with hay, make an entrance for rabbit if the top is too high. Avon delivery boxes are really good; paper ream boxes are a little too small). Remember to empty the hay every once in a while because bunnies often poo in hay.
2. A box filled with smaller cardboard boxes. Rabbits seem to prefer three dimensional cardboard to chew, although occasionally they will chew flat card. Banacek loves chewing labels from new clothes, and has been known on several occasions to chew around them in such a way as to turn the words on the labels into cryptic messages, such as “happy” “magical u” (was magical unicorn) “cheer” (was cheerios) and “millionaire” (was Millionaire’s shortbread). I think it happens because he goes with patterns that he finds pleasing in terms of light/dark balance (words, to those who can’t read, are after all just shapes), and I think these are projects he likes to work on, for example, magical unicorn was “magical uni” for quite a while before he eventually finished it. He also once chewed us a perfect triangle out of a square. I measured 60 degrees at each corner with a protractor. Rabbits are way clever.
3. A large chunk of wood; make sure it’s clean and not infested with slug eggs or something equally horrible, then place it near a rabbit. If it’s tasty wood, they’ll be all over it in seconds (this extends to pieces of furniture so watch out for that antique pine cabinet your grammy left you) and it will take weeks or months to devour. Check which woods are safe for bunnies, and be sure which species of tree the wood chunk came from, to ensure you don’t accidentally poison your bunny with something deadly such as yew sap.
4. A wicker basket. This is a project any bunny would love, especially if there’s bits of wicker ends sticking out visibly. Make sure it’s not treated with anything that makes it taste bad – we got one from a charity shop that’s the only wicker basket our rabbits have ever not pounced on – a year later it’s still virtually pristine, we can only conclude it’s not very tasty. Usually, though, rabbits plus wicker = om nom nom.
5. A dig box made of packing materials. You know the masses of brown paper that Amazon insists on sending you every time you order something small that arrives in a large box? Take out the something small, and the delivery note, then give the box and the brown paper to the rabbits. They also love tissue type paper that comes as gift wrap. Avoid metallic colours or anything glittery or plastic backed – a sick bunny is a sad bunny.
Variety of environment:
I would love every bunny to have all the environments described here, but I know most will get one or two. It’s still worth knowing what’s there, in case you get an opportunity to treat your bunny to a new place:
1. The garden: This is far and away the absolute best rabbit environment for indoor or outdoor bunnies. Once they’re satisfied that it won’t try to kill them, they all love the garden. There’s so much to do out there, and you can make the garden environment even more fun with a few quick hacks. Put rabbit runs in grassy areas, away from any plants that might be toxic. Add a paving slab or two for the discerning sunbathing rabbit, or in case it rains so they can avoid the mud if they want to. Don’t forget to buy a second water bottle to attach to the run (or bowl to put in there) in case they get thirsty. Add a couple of sticks for nibbles, and a small area that’s sheltered from hot sun or cold rain, and it’s a perfect, compact outdoor play space that’ll all fit inside a standard run. But why stop there? There’s so many other things you can do with a rabbit garden over time that I’ll discuss them in a separate article closer to spring.
2. Carpeted flooring: Bunnies interact completely differently on carpeted flooring to any other environment. They love to lie out on it and sleep. I think they find it more comfortable than solid surfaces, although come summer, they tend to sleep on the metal bit in the doorways or on the tiles around the (utterly disused) hearth, or wooden platforms in their hutch, I think they’re regulating temperature by doing this. Carpet is the indoor rabbit’s racetrack of choice, because it offers the best friction without being uncomfortable on little paws, and they love running fast around the carpeted parts of the house. Do be careful with transitioning a rabbit from living predominantly outdoors to indoors – some of them don’t understand the difference between carpet and grass, and will dig and chew the floor. Training them out of this is part of acclimatizing them to indoor living, along with letting them gently adjust to the temperature.
3. Tiles: Bunnies love tiles when it’s hot. The cool ambient temperature of ceramic tiles are their preferred sleeping spot on hot days. If you’ve got no tiled areas in your house or in their hutch, consider laying a two foot square of tiles on some plywood or cardboard for bunnies to cool down. They’re also easy clean.
4. Platforms: Bunnies love to climb. Give them things to safely climb on and make it worthwhile for them to reach the summit. No-one wants to climb Mount Coffeetable if it’s got nothing on it except a dangerously slidy surface. Mount Cardboard Box is good as long as the top is sturdy enough to take rabbit’s weight – over time, they can start to get a bit crushed from over-use. McFries boxes from McDonald’s make excellent bunny platforms to enable them to reach higher places. If you plan platforms that bunnies ARE allowed to play on, they’re less likely to make the effort to get onto high places where there’s nothing interesting, and where you don’t want them to go.
5. Laminate flooring: It’s not most rabbits’ idea of a good time, they struggle to get a friction coefficient so their paws slide all over the place. But it can provide a good exercise and also teach them that there are many different surfaces in the world so they know how to carefully navigate slippery surfaces – possibly a good idea before they break a rib slipping on an icy puddle in winter. I wouldn’t make this their usual environment, or at least put them some rugs or lino down so they can move comfortably, but it’s an educational environment for the inquisitive rabbit.
Bunnies are social creatures. In one study, female rabbits chose companionship over food or territory. They need interaction with others. Here’s some thoughts on firing their imagination with friends:
1. You’re their best friend. As a bunny owner, you are the best friend and companion they will ever have. You talk to them, take them places, feed them when they’re hungry, stroke them when they’re not moving, play with them by holding boxes so they can give them a good chew, fill up the hay when it gets low (don’t leave it until empty, they rarely polish it off due to a natural urge known as preservation of resources), play chase with them when they want to practise their moves, and provide mountain rescue for them when they’ve got themselves stuck on top of a bookcase or shelf. Take time to play with bunny, give them all the input and attention (and healthy boundaries) you would lavish on a child, and they will reward you by being your most loyal supporter.
2. Get them a girlfriend or boyfriend. This needs proper thought, don’t just bung two rabbits in a hutch and leave. Rabbits are picky, like humans are, and won’t just bond with any old rabbit. They need to be introduced carefully in a way that doesn’t threaten either rabbit or their status or territory. For this reason, a neutered male and female often make the best pairings. Take it slow. Read up on it, the Houserabbit Society of America has the absolute best articles on introducing rabbits, and I don’t want to try and explain something that’s already been discussed very well by other people, because reinventing the wheel is not working smarter (although I intend to discuss how I bonded my own rabbits in a separate article, but mine seem to have all been the exceptions). Check the Houserabbit Society out.
3. Get them a different animal companion: People have had success pairing rabbits with small cats, guinea pigs, tortoises and even dogs (give them separate living quarters in every case). There is a huge huge huge (I can’t convey how huge this is) welfare issue if you shove two different species who have never met into a hutch together and lock the door, never to think about either animal again. Aside from that, I can’t see how you would manage mealtimes if the animals were housed together. Keep your cat in a cat place, your dog in a dog place, your bunny in a bunny place and your guinea pig in a guinea pig place, and let them have contact during supervised, managed playtimes. This is apparently a good option if you’ve got a rabbit who doesn’t get along with other rabbits – cats and rabbits have had good pairings. The main point is to do your research, gradually introduce the animals, be ready to separate them at the slightest, and make sure they’ve got their own places to go. Never, ever leave a rabbit unsupervised with a non-rabbit – there have been plenty of stories of rabbits and guinea pigs being left in hutches together and it always ends with dead guinea pigs. I could forsee this happening with the rabbit ending up seriously hurt if you left it alone with a dog, and with the cat, it could go either way depending on the temperament of the cat and the rabbit. Rabbits don’t often have the ability to make very loud noises to alert you to distress, so need housing separately to other pets. Train the dog or cat, make sure they’re tolerant, and make sure if you’ve got a cat or dog in the house that the rabbit gets regular vaccinations/boosters because the cat/dog could bring home RHV or Myxomatosis by contact with wild rabbits whilst walking or roaming.
4. Cuddly toys: If you can only have one rabbit, and don’t have as much time as you’d like (24/7 please) to adore your bunny and spend time with him, put some soft toys in their living space and around their hangouts. Banacek was an only rabbit for 18 months before we could get him a friend, and during that time he’s been given about four different cuddly toys, which he still looks after now. Sometimes we’ll see him positioning Squeakytoy (a 50p soft bodied dog toy) at the water bowl to drink. Sometimes he’s washing White Rabbit’s ears so they stay clean. Other times, he’s gone to sleep snuggled up to Brown Bunny. A little tinkle alerts us to the times he’s grooming Cat Ball (a baby toy) or Baby Bunny (another baby toy – Mothercare wanted us to know they’d replace it if it became damaged, then retracted this when we informed them it was for a rabbit). Check soft toys for safety when you buy them (this is why baby toys are the gold standard as far as I’m concerned, plus they’re usually more stimulating in the ways which rabbits are able to interact with toys) – button eyes, bits of edible plastic, etc are dealbreakers – and check them regularly for damage and remove/repair accordingly so they don’t ingest stuffing.
There are plenty of other ways you can make a fun and stimulating environment for your rabbit, to help avoid Bunny Brain Death: You’ve seen those rabbits in hutches that just sit there, not moving, not doing anything? Sometimes they gently rock back and forth for hours. I call it Bunny Brain Death, and I firmly believe it’s one of the reasons “outdoor” rabbits have traditionally had shorter lifespans than houserabbits.
Sebastian and Neville, our 100% outdoor rabbits, are kept well stocked with toys and interesting environments both in their hutch, shed and run (all of which they have 24/7 access to), and they are curious, interested rabbits who never just sit there. To summarize, make life interesting for your rabbit, and your rabbit will be interesting. Make your rabbit bored, and they will be boring. Unlike certain other “small” pets (c’mon, some rabbits are dog sized), they’re not stupid enough to repeat futile activities endlessly to amuse you.