Winter Really Is Over!

The little van and screen house on West point Lake

I finally made it out camping! After losing my reservations last weekend, I decided to wing it this time. I stopped at Whitetail Ridge only to discover that they were booked solid. So I drove another 20 minutes and was able to get into R. Shafer Heard for 2 nights. Not the 3 I’d hoped for.

King of the Mountain — Mikkey surveying his domain

But as unexpectedly brisk and chilly as the wind turned out to be, I didn’t mind leaving a day early and waiting for balmier weather. At least, a few spring flowers assured me that winter really was over, even though it wasn’t warm enough to sit outside. Until today when I was leaving!

See, spring finally arrived!
The van got decorated with yellow pine pollen, in case I missed the fact that spring is here.

Since brisk walks were our only outings, I entertained myself cooking inside the van.

This was a chicken and everything-in-the-refrigerator curry.


We watched geese, a big grey heron, ducks, and a hawk (not an osprey) dive for fish. It was the first time I had seen a hawk fish!

I really miss the old WordPress editor where I could intersperse small photos and have the text wrap around it. Maybe I still can, when I get used to this new one.

I plan to head out again as soon as being outdoors is comfortable.

Now– to get busy on Casita repairs and maintenance so Ron and I can go camping together!

The Best Laid Plans…

Disappointment

Today I had planned to leave for 3 days camping at Whitetail Ridge. I hadn’t felt well for a few days, but I was determined to go no matter what. Yesterday I got hit by waves of nausea on and off all day — but I was still dead set on going.

This morning I felt even worse. The prospect of spending 3 days sick on a cot in a microvan forced a decision to postpone the trip.

So I’ll just share some random photos with you until I can take you along on a new camping trip. Very soon, I hope!

tiny camper sink and water supply

Another van photo. This shows a close-up of my fresh and grey water supply, sink stand, along with a folding dishpan/tote sandwiched between the stand and the refrigerator.

portable solar panel stored in a small camper van

This is the 120 watt portable solar panel stowed behind the passenger seat.

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One of my winter sanity savers. An Aerogarden lettuce patch! This picture was taken a while back when the plants were small. I’ve since harvested it several times. What fun to pick a couple of lettuce leaves for a sandwich in my own kitchen!

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My dear friend and neighbor is always bringing me thoughtful little gifts. Lately she has been bringing me heavenly smelling miniature spring bulb flowers.

Tinycamper’s Tiny Camper Van

tiny diy camper van entrance

The side entrance. The little storage unit on the right was a tiny kitchen cart for $49 from Amazon. Non-skid mats keep the baskets in place.

Over five years ago I posted about my dream of building my own tiny get-away camper van.

I never really expected that dream to come true, but I kept occasionally checking used van ads– just hoping.  But I had my heart set on one particular model.  I wanted a 2013 Ford Transit Connect cargo van for the extra height, with side and rear windows.  And it had to be in great condition and at a price I could afford.

Kitchen view of tiny campers van interior

The little wash stand was originally a $99 table with 2 slatted shelves, also from Amazon. Since it wouldn’t fit over the wheel wells, I cut it up and used the pieces to build the sink stand with fresh water underneath, and a gray water container on the bottom. I covered the gray water bottle with a slipcover,so I wouldn’t have to look at the dirty water. I used the extra wood for the top and shelf, and had wood left over to frame the refrigerator and build a small shelf behind the wash stand.

Finally my dream came true! I immediately had a shop remove the cargo cage, then started tearing the interior apart and rebuilding it.  I completely removed the headliner, but later cut out pieces to frame the cargo side windows, since I had trouble fitting anything else there. Then I installed the Maxxair fan and the paneling.

I insulated the sides and cavities with Thinsulate, and the ceiling with foil faced polyiso.  I am going to have to add a portable air conditioner to the passenger seat if I expect to use the van in our sweltering Southeastern summers.  Fortunately I usually have access to hookups when I camp.  I do have a portable 120 watt Accopower solar panel stowed between the little storage unit and the passenger seat to keep the lights, refrigerator and fan running in an emergency, along with my one 125 amp AGM battery.

Interior view of small diy camper van from rear

I have built camper beds before, but I hated sleeping on a plywood slab. This time I went with a cot that had springs and added a cushy mattress. The narrow width doesn’t bother me as I was used to sleeping on the dinette bed in our Casita. I had to add riser legs so the porta pot would fit under the bed.

I was going to have someone do the 12 volt wiring for me.  But I didn’t really have the money for that after buying the van.  So I combed the net for the most basic tutorials, and finally learned enough to attempt it.  What a feeling of accomplishment when I finally got it done, and it worked!  Later I added a 4 stage converter charger that would power my 12 volt things and charge my battery at the same time.

Under bed storage in camper van

My only A/C wiring is a power strip that attaches to an extension cord through a hole I cut in the floor behind the driver’s seat.

At night I cover the cargo area windows with Reflectix covered with silver grey fleece on the inside.  I keep them in place with magnets.

tinycampers_van5

With the van shut up at night there is no ventilation. Static Camper Van on YouTube gave me the idea of putting a ventilation hole in the floor. So I installed a deckplate in the only place where there was space under the van for a hole that large. With the deck plate open and the fan on exhaust, the ventilation is awesome!

Hole cut in camper van floor for ventilation

Here’s a picture of the open deckplate. I am still deciding how I will attach screening to keep the bugs out.

Hole in van floor for electrical cord

Here’s the hole behind the driver’s seat for the electric cord. I plan to stuff one of those plastic mesh pot scrubbers around the cord to keep out bugs. Update: Linneth, a dear reader, suggested using a pool noodle around the wire, stuffed into the hole. Eureka!

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged (3 years?) that I’ve forgotten how to write coherently, so forgive the choppy writing.

BTW, the baskets are “Rattique” (plastic) instead of real rattan because they are water and mold-proof.

–Sharon

I’m saving a copy of this post as a permanent page so the van build won’t get buried.

Florida Again

A family feeding the peacocks at Magnolia Park. I had heard the peacock's caterwauling as they prepare to roost for the night. But I had never heard the sound like a Volkswagen's horn they make when the children got too close.

A family feeding the peacocks at Magnolia Park. I had heard the peacock’s caterwauling as they prepare to roost for the night. But I had never heard the sound like a Volkswagen’s horn they make when the children got too close.

Our first camping this trip was at Suwannee River State Park due to its close proximity to family.

Our first camping this trip was at Suwannee River State Park due to its close proximity to family.

Mikkey usually prefers to sleep with Mom, but Mom is constantly rolling over or getting up.....

Mikkey usually prefers to sleep with Mom, but Mom is constantly rolling over or getting up…..

I had not intended to blog about Florida again because we are, as usual, spending the winter here.  The biggest treat is having time with family.

Unfortunately, I had to do a factory reset on my phone and haven’t downloaded all the photos yet.  I’m waiting for our next data cycle.  So there will be no photos to share of the lovely 80 degree Christmas celebrated in shorts at Gail’s screened porch.

So when Mom wiggles around too much, Mikkey heads for Daddy's bed.

So when Mom wiggles around too much, Mikkey heads for Daddy’s bed.

So I’ll just share my available photos taken at random, and let the captions tell the story…. which is, it’s CHILLY down here now!

BTW, our water pump went out and our toilet needs replacing.  I have them ordered and Gail and I will do the mods when we get back to her house in a week or so.

Lake Apopka is a big lake bordered by vegetation that provides a perfect habitat for many aquatic and semi-aquatic critters.

Lake Apopka is a big lake bordered by vegetation that provides a perfect habitat for many aquatic and semi-aquatic critters.

Next was O'Leno Park--because it had available sites. Then Otter Springs. The spring is a black water hole in a cypress swamp. But it gave us a place to stay till our next reservations were available.

Next was O’Leno Park–because it had available sites. Then Otter Springs. The spring is a black water hole in a cypress swamp. But it gave us a place to stay till our next reservations were available.

Otter Spring did have one nice feature... an indoor heated swimming pool.

Otter Spring did have one nice feature… an indoor heated swimming pool.

While we were at Suwannee River State Park, I found my first ever Albatrellus mushrooms. I originally identified them as sheep polypores, but discovered they do not grow this far south.  All I know is that they are both Albatrellus polypores.

While we were at Suwannee River State Park, I found my first ever Albatrellus mushrooms. I originally identified them as sheep polypores, but discovered they do not grow this far south. All I know is that they are both Albatrellus polypores.

As much fun as an Easter egg hunt!

As much fun as an Easter egg hunt!

You never know if you will be sensitive or allergic to even good mushrooms. So this was my sample. After 24 hours I knew they were okay to eat. To be honest, they were slightly bitter and not very good. But I relished my discovery anyway!

You never know if you will be sensitive or allergic to even good mushrooms. So this was my sample. After 24 hours I knew they were okay to eat. To be honest, they were slightly bitter and not very good. But I relished my discovery anyway!

So now it's winter in Central Florida, but still heavenly compared to home!

So now it’s winter in Central Florida, but still heavenly compared to home!

This pond was covered with thick, scummy duckweed last year. This year we discovered they had found an elegant solution to the problem.

This pond was covered with thick, scummy duckweed last year. This year we discovered they had found an elegant solution to the problem.

But winter in Central Florida doesn't really mean winter. :)

But winter in Central Florida doesn’t really mean winter. 🙂

Ron trying to find a spot out of the wind. Note the wind blowing the Spanish moss around.

Ron trying to find a spot out of the wind. Note the wind blowing the Spanish moss around.

For Love of Mikkey

 

We are head over heels in love with little Mikkey.

Chihuahuas are not supposed to be like this.  He is almost 90% paper trained.  He gets all of his #1’s on the paper and most of the #2’s.  I had read that this breed was notoriously difficult to pottie train.  Not Mikkey.

And he was SO easy to teach not to bite.  He will mouth fingers, but no more biting!

I took him to the vet Tuesday.  He loved everyone and didn’t bark once.  He did pee when the receptionist picked him up, though.  Otherwise it was just wriggly, wagging tail greetings to everyone.  He did let out a shriek when the vet stuck him with a needle, but was friends with her again as soon as she petted him.

The only time he barks is when he is playing with his toys.  He barks, butt high in the air and head low in his play stance.   Ron stomped at him in fun yesterday and Mikkey barked 3 times at him.  Ron has agreed not to play with him that way again.  We don’t want any aggression or fear to develop.

mikkey2

He is a quiet little dog!  And so loving!  He is the world’s most wonderful lap dog — my dream come true doggie.

I still look at Sunny’s photos and love him so dearly.  And I realized that the reason I feel like Mikkey is an extension of Sunny is because it is the same love.

He is too fast to get pictures of him in motion.  He runs like lightning.  There is no way we can beat him to the door — or anything else.  He really is Mikkey Motor!

But when he snuggles, wow.  I feel such love and absolute trust in his warm, furry little body limp in my lap while he naps.  My heart just basks in his love.

We definitely got the right dog!

It’s pretty obvious we aren’t going to be able to fulltime anytime soon.  There are just too many medical tests and stuff.  I did find out that the reason I have gained 25 pounds in 2 years is due to Hashimoto’s thyroid disease (an autoimmune condition), as well as some of my meds making me prone to weight gain.  But the thyroid condition is very common and easily controlled with thyroid hormones.

The weight gain is trickier.  I look at myself in the mirror and hardly recognize myself.  It looks like I have no choice but to go back on an ultra low carb diet.  Those of you that I’ve met in person would be shocked at how I look now.

My doctor mentioned diet pills, but I declined.  Everyone I know who has ever taken them loses weight fast, then it rebounds worse than ever when they go off them.  But at least I’m willing to discuss it now.

But none of that matters when I’m snuggled up with my Mikkey.  🙂

Oh, the cataract operation on my left eye is scheduled for September 9.  I’ll be so glad to get that done.  Being able to see perfectly out of one eye and half blind in the other is annoying and causes headaches.

 

 

We Got a Cuddler

Mickey on my lap

Mikkey on my lap

Mikkey is the sweetest little cuddler you can imagine.  We are thrilled with our new baby (most of the time).

Mikkey on lapp2He bites.  I read that with a chihuahua you must train them not to bite when they are small or they can be aggressive when they become adults.  I bought him scads of bones and toys of all kinds and thought I was starting to make a little progress tonight, so I told Mikkey, “You are such a good little boy!”  He promptly bit my nose. Hard!

Also, he knew what pee pads were for, even though he only used them for #1.  But we picked up some cheaper ones that don’t contain the attractant scent that lets them know that’s where to go.  So now I have pads all over the floor, and he chooses to avoid them and use a more appealing (to him) open space.  I know I should keep him confined in his pen until he understands that he is to go on the pad.  But we do so love to see him race around.  Sometimes we call him Mikkey Motor.  The flame collar suits him.  🙂

So I’ll pick up some of the right pads tomorrow, scrub the floor with OdoBan, and see if we can start over.

His just-cleaned house before all the toys are piled back into it -- and all over the living room floor!

His just-cleaned house before all the toys are piled back into it — and all over the living room floor!

I don’t know how such an incredibly loving, submissive (he rolls over for us to scratch his belly or pick him up) can be so aggressive with the biting.

But I’m watching a lot of chihuahua videos and reading everything I can on how to train them, so I’m sure it will work.  Eventually!

I had the cataract surgery on my right eye and it is truly a miracle.  I discovered I have been seeing the world through an olive-greenish yellow filter.  Colors are stunning now.

I go inThursday to schedule the left eye.

 

I am having to postpone the eyelid surgery until next spring.  We had so much going on with the two trips to Florida, then there were other tests and procedures to schedule, so it just didn’t work out.

Camping seems like a far off, much longed for mirage at this point.  But I am still hoping we can make it down to Florida in November for the winter.

 

 

 

A New Fur Baby & Blogspot Blogs

Meet Mikkey!

Meet Mikkey!

When little Sunny passed, Ron and I realized we really NEED a dog.  I wanted a Casita-size dog and think the long coat chihuahuas are a perfect compromise between soft, silky fur and not needing visits to a groomer.

We wanted an adult so we wouldn’t have to go through the puppy stage again.  (Note the Band-Aid on Ron’s arm.  I have a few matching ones.  We forgot that little puppies’ teeth and claws are like needles.)

But the only long coat adults I could find were those who were being retired from breeding, and their cost was way out of our range.  So we got a puppy.  🙂

We are both smitten with him.  He is so very sweet.  He’s on the submissive side and has been well socialized, so I think he will be a good pet to travel with.

He is charted to weigh 4.75 lbs. full grown.  So, of course, I’ll have to get a puppy purse to show him off in!

It’s odd.  I adored my little Westie Heidi until she died.  I adored my little Sunny.  Instead of taking their place, little Mikkey just seems to be an extension of them.  It’s amazing how much comfort he has brought to Ron and me.

Healthwise, I had a stress test today.  Not anything I want to do again any time soon.  My cataracts are so bad that I have trouble reading — or seeing much of anything.  So I see my doctor Thursday to schedule the surgeries.  I am so looking forward to seeing well again!

Now to all of you who have Blogspot blogs…  I have tried and tried to comment on your blogs.  For a while, everything was working well.  But now, the “I am not a robot” field flashes for a split second, and despite many, many tries, I can’t click fast enough before the field disappears.

On others, after I type my comment a gray bar appears.  Clicking on the gray bar does nothing so the comment won’t publish.

I seriously wonder if Google is doing that on purpose to influence people to get Google blogs, since my WordPress credentials will not work on them anymore.

I really hope Blogspot fixes that soon.  Because it really irks me that I can’t use my WordPress login like I used to be able to.

Anyway, do know that I still read and enjoy your blogs!

RIP Little Sunny & Updates

Best Camping Buddy ever

Best little camping buddy ever.

Little Sunny’s camping days are over.  Besides going blind and deaf, his hip sockets would give and often his legs would go straight out to the sides when he bent down to eat, drink… or sometimes for no apparent reason.  And he completely forgot his potty training.

My little ragamuffin buddy coming out of his sweater at White Tail Ridge.

My little ragamuffin buddy coming out of his sweater at White Tail Ridge.

But it was the dementia that finally defeated him.  At the last, he would wander around, bewildered, in circles.  He would get lost in a room and not know how to get out.  He would stand in corners, apparently waiting for a door to open.  He even became unable to find his food bowl, and I would have to put him in front of his food and water bowls to make sure he ate and drank.

Sunny waiting for Mom at Cotton Hill COE

Sunny waiting for Mom at Cotton Hill COE

He still loved his Mom, but his life just got too hard for him.  So we had him put down last week.  Sunny loved having his neck rubbed more than anything, so I was doing that when the vet gave him the shot.

Although I miss the little guy more than I can say, I am so relieved that his life is no longer a bewildering maze of the unknown.

June was a tough month.  My favorite aunt died, so we went down to Florida to the funeral.  We stayed and visited family several days, got back home, and got a call that my uncle had died, too.  So we went back and attended his funeral 2 weeks to the day after my aunt’s.

Sunny at the Casita window at Ft. Pickens

Sunny at the Casita window at Ft. Pickens

But it was so precious to get to see our cousins that we hadn’t seen for many, many years.  It felt like getting a new crop of sisters.  🙂

I had a couple of major emphysema flareups, but I’m doing great now — except for the weight that my meds keep packing onto me. Two of my sisters are laughing at my concern.  Their advice — I’m old now.  Eat strawberry cheesecake and don’t worry about it.  😀

Sunny camping in the Aliner before we got the Casita.

Sunny camping in the Aliner before we got the Casita.

Ron and I have started going through our things and sorting them into trash, donate, sell and keep piles.

We plan to camp this winter in Florida, and hopefully sell our place sometime soon.  We’d like to fulltime for a while.

But eventually we want to move near my sisters — if this place sells, of course.  If not, we’ll still spend our winters in Florida.

Being able to spend time with my family is more important to me than great adventure out West.  So we’ll probably stick pretty close to the Southeast.

I have felt pretty “blogged out”  lately.  Hope that changes when we get back on the road again.  🙂

News from Sheba!

Sheba's new owner sent me this picture taken today.  Look at her face!  I am teary with joy at what a perfect home she has now!

Sheba’s new owner sent me this picture taken today. Look at her face! I am teary with joy at what a perfect home she has now!

Adventure in the Woods

Pink Ladyslippers

Pink Ladyslippers

I was outside when the sun was too high, so I hope you enjoy the subjects of the photos. The pictures themselves aren’t great.

This was the first ladyslipper I found.

This was the first ladyslipper I found.

I suppose first I’ll tell you the adventure part, as the photos are pretty self-explanatory. I set out toward the back of our property, heading toward the area that is the best mushroom habitat around, by a little steep-banked creek. I never made it that far. There were many blowdowns, thick underbrush, hills and a steep ravine. I didn’t make it back that far, either!

Another double ladyslipper.  In this shot you can see a little of the flower's interior.

Another double ladyslipper. In this shot you can see a little of the flower’s interior.

I did make it a few hundred steeply sloped feet. I found several varieties of LBM’s (little brown mushrooms) that the experts have difficulty identifying. I also found a couple of medium tan-colored mushrooms that I intended to try to identify when I got back to the house. And several tiny orange mushrooms that looked a little chanterellish, but it’s way too early for them. They went in my bag to identify, too.

(But — pink ladyslippers are blooming! They were my consolation prize.)

Anyway, I got very tired and out of breath, so decided I’d better head (uphill) home. I climbed one little ridge, and that was it. I sat down on a thick cushion of forest duff and hyperventilated for a while.

Yu can see how soft and downy the young bull thistle flower stalks are at this stage.  (Pardon the dirty fingernails... it happens when I grub around outside!  :)

You can see how soft and downy the young bull thistle flower stalks are at this stage. (Pardon the dirty fingernails… it happens when I grub around outside! 🙂

I was going to stay there until I recuperated, but then I heard some of the dogs that run free around here sounding like they were fighting. That REALLY scared me, so I bushwacked over blowdowns, greenbrier, blackberry bushes, sapling trees… until I couldn’t go any farther.

This time I found a nice log to sit on. I beat on it with my hiking pole and prodded around to make sure there were no nasty critters under it, sat down, and the log cracked and sent me tumbling.

The bull thistle flower stalks after scraping.

The bull thistle flower stalks after scraping.

So I phoned Ron and told him where I was and asked him to bring me my inhaler. After using that, I felt better. And after resting a while, we made it home.

Exhausted, I threw the mushrooms I had planned to identify in the trash, too tired to mess with them, and crashed for a long nap.

So, apparently the COPD is getting worse… which means stick to easy trails and always carry my inhaler.

Before I headed into the woods I saw a couple of bull thistles with flower stalks and unopened flowers. At this stage the prickly flower stalks are downy and can be easily held with bare fingers.

Wild strawberries are blooming.

Wild strawberries are blooming.

I had them in my mushroom basket, so did put them into the refrigerator before I crashed.

When I got up, it was an easy job to scrape the down off the flower stalks and pop them in the pan with my chicken stew. At this young stage they have a very mild celery flavor, and they didn’t add anything to the dish I was cooking except fun.

When the stalks get older, they get prickly and hollow. I hold them with a pair of needle-nose pliers and peel off the prickles with a pocket knife. They have an intense celery flavor and are much better for cooking.  They get tough at that stage though, so need to be sliced thinly then.

So today was a good news-bad news day.

Tasteless, invasive Indian strawberries are crowding out the sweet wild strawberries.

Tasteless, invasive Indian strawberries are crowding out the sweet wild strawberries.

Oh, I almost forgot! I saw the plastic surgeon this morning who will be tightening up my droopy eyelids which is supposed to improve my vision significantly. I hope it does. But I’m secretly thrilled that my eyes will look better, too!

Little orange mushrooms

Little orange mushrooms

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