How to build an igloo

So with all the boxing day snow we’ve been having, I decided to show you how to build an igloo; we built this in our drive in 2013:

1. Get some large plastic boxes:  Recycling boxes or storage boxes will do just fine for igloo building.  A packing crate isn’t very good as it’s not very strong and the sides are full of holes so the snow falls out instead of making solid igloo ice blocks.

This is the sort of box we used for the first layer - it's a 70 litre plastic box.  The lid wasn't much use.
This is the sort of box we used for the first layer of igloo ice blocks – it’s a 70 litre plastic box. The lid wasn’t much use.

2. Fill the boxes with snow.  Pack the snow down in the box to make giant bricks of ice.  You will need to repeat steps 2 and 3 a lot to make an igloo.

These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards.  I don't know where they're from - my OH was using them to store Lego before this.
These are the stronger plastic boxes we used to make the bricks from the 2nd layer upwards. I don’t know where they’re from – my OH was using them to store Lego before this.

3. Tip the boxes upside down in a circle (leave room for an igloo door) and pat the bottom to get the snow-bricks out (see picture):

This was the first layer from a different angle.  We left loads of room for the doorway.
This was the first layer of blocks for the igloo from a different angle. As you can see our first box cracked and we used a smaller one for the igloo’s other layers (which made our igloo really strong). We left loads of room for the doorway.

4. Once you have a complete layer, do the same above – but don’t line the bricks up (think about how brick walls are built), and make sure the ice blocks are facing slightly inwards so your bricks eventually meet at the top.

This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point.  The igloo doorway was improved with bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.
This was what our igloo looked like at our halfway point. The igloo doorway was improved with ice bricks set at a different angle for structural stability.

5. At the top of the igloo, you have two choices – some people prefer to build a capstone out of ice, to stop everything from falling apart.  Otherwise, leave a hole in the top to let air in.  We left a hole in the top of ours.

This is what it looked like when it was nearly finished.  The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in it over night and to keep cats out while we were building.
This is what our igloo looked like when it was nearly finished. The MDF at the front was used as a door when we camped out in the igloo overnight and to keep foxes out while we were building.

6. We used polystyrene and wire mesh to support the door of our igloo because the size of our ice blocks (and the ambient temperature being only -5 or so) meant the whole structure may have collapsed if we hadn’t used any support.  Smaller boxes (than 70 litres) or hardening the blocks of ice using cold water would have both prevented this problem, but it wasn’t cold enough for water-hardening the ice blocks and they just melted when we tried it.    For the amount of time we put into building this igloo, I was very happy to complete it and didn’t worry too much about it being 100% Eskimo-worthy.  Whether you end up with a perfect building made only of ice or not, you will feel damn proud when you go inside your finished igloo.

This is what the finished igloo looked like.  It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.
This is what the finished igloo looked like. It took us about 5 hours to build, including a break every hour or so when we went indoors to defrost.

7. Now admire your igloo.  Can you sleep in an igloo?  Definitely!  We camped out in ours with some roll mats and a double sleeping bag and it was surprisingly cosy (although we did this wearing serious layers).  It also confused the neighbours which was hilarious.

This is the finished result.  We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year.  Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another one in our new house (and get some better pics)!
This is the finished igloo. We had a LOT of fun in this igloo last year. Hope it snows as much this year so we can build another igloo in our new house (and get some better pics)!

8.  Take plenty of photos and share them with me via Twitter @invokedelight so I can see your awesome creations!

Have you built an igloo?  Share your igloo pics with me on Twitter!  Who needs an expensive package holiday to Iceland?  You can do this in your own front garden!

How to design an INSPIRATIONAL rabbit hutch

How to design an inspirational rabbit hutch:  Designing a hutch for your bunnies

Today I want to talk to you about how to design a great hutch for your bunnies; I don’t have a specific design for you to copy, although plenty of the ones here are for sale.  I hope you are inspired to build or buy your own fantastic hutch for your precious bunnies.  Updated to remove Amazon links.

Available at www.petplanet.co.uk
Hexagonal rabbit hutch, available at http://www.petplanet.co.uk

We have designed and made three hutches so far, in all three instances we used the original hutches that we acquired with the rabbits. In the case of one hutch, we deemed it too uninviting to modify it, so it sits out in one of the runs as a playhouse instead, on the understanding that we’d never leave any rabbit in that run for more than a few hours if we need them all outdoors (i.e. if we’re vacuuming, doing home improvement etc). There’s already plenty of articles about specific hutches, I wanted to discuss more generally how to ensure your exciting hutch project meets your rabbits needs (and your own) and how this factors into the design process.

Consider the basic minimum for welfare:

Check out laws in your state, in case they’re different. Most states recognise rabbits as “exotic pets” which makes no sense to me – they’re as common as cats and dogs, and are native to the USA, so why exactly are they classed as exotics, like monkeys and weird spiders? In the UK, they are just classed as standard pets, and this means there’s laws about how they should be kept. In the UK, rabbit hutches should be at least 6X2X2 feet. In the USA, there’s no minimum, but welfare charities recommend the 6X2X2 rule there, too (for a standard sized rabbit, i.e. one that is about 2 feet long when resting stretched out – if you have a giant rabbit, the hutch size recommended is 9X3X3). While there is no recommendation about dwarf rabbits, we can do the same calculations and arrive at 5X18”X18” as a conservative (generous in favour of the rabbits) estimate. This is the bare minimum size your total rabbit housing space should be. Make it bigger, by all means! This doesn’t include any outdoor space e.g. if the rabbit hutch has a run permanently attached to the front. All rabbits housed outdoors need a run. The run needs to be at least 36 square feet, or 6 by 6 (8 by 4 is also apparently acceptable). Indoor rabbits are recommended to have outdoor access if at all possible, but there’s no recommendations for the amount of indoor space.

large rabbit hutch amazon

This outdoor hutch design would look beautiful in a bedroom or lounge – I’d tile a floor underneath it and cover the whole of the bottom level with hay to give an outdoor style environment.

How much time will your rabbit spend in their hutch?

Be realistic. Do they only come out for an hour at dinner time? Do you plan for them to roam free in a particular room 24/7? Do you want them to run around the house but only while you’re in it? Think about how much time the rabbit will spend in their hutch. If they’re going to be closed inside while you’re in bed and at work, that’s about 16 hours a day of hutch time. Scale up the space accordingly. You wouldn’t want to live out the majority of your days in a space that’s your height (height) x your height (width) x four times your height (length), would you? Think about what you would like if you were a rabbit. You’d probably want to run around a bit, and have room to binky (happy jump) and stretch as well as room to sleep and impersonate a bunny slipper.

This gorgeous crate is cunningly disguised as a coffee table and would be suitable for a 24/7 free roaming houserabbit, or even overnight accommodation for your houserabbit if it was decked out with food, water, hay and toys, although if your rabbit is in his house a lot, you definitely need something bigger.
This gorgeous crate is cunningly disguised as a coffee table and would be suitable for a 24/7 free roaming houserabbit, or even overnight accommodation for your houserabbit if it was decked out with food, water, hay and toys, although if your rabbit is in his house a lot, you definitely need something bigger.

Assess your rabbits needs:

Do they like to climb? Do they like to run around? If you left a dining chair out, would your rabbit climb on it? Do you have high ceilings? Do you have lots of floorspace? These factors affect whether you build a tall hutch, with lots of platforms and climbing spaces, or whether you build a short hutch with lots of horizontal space. If you have a low ceiling, a tall hutch isn’t your best solution. Likewise, if the rabbits are scared of climbing back down when they’ve jumped onto the couch, or if they’ve got a bad leg, they probably won’t suit a tall hutch. In this case, you would probably choose a hutch that took up a lot of floor space but with room above it for your own storage, e.g. wall shelves.

The dimensions are quite small but you could use it for dwarf rabbits or for inspiration of how to modify an existing hutch to make an exciting living space for your bunnies.
The dimensions are quite small but you could use it for dwarf rabbits or for inspiration of how to modify an existing hutch to make an exciting living space for your bunnies.

How awesome is the window box???!

If you have limited floor space, build upwards. Even if your ceiling is only seven feet high, that’s still a pretty tall rabbit hutch (you want the highest platform to be reachable for cleaning, and the roof of the hutch needs to be placed high enough to allow the rabbits to comfortably stand upright on their back legs).

This behemoth from www.rehutches.com has four floors of bunny play space and a storage locker for hay and food, making the most of a tall room.  I'd put this in my living room.
This behemoth from http://www.rehutches.com has four floors of bunny play space and a storage locker for hay and food, making the most of a tall room. I’d put this in my living room.
Rehutches also does this wider tall hutch option for people with more space.  I love the attic window!
Rehutches also does this wider tall hutch option for people with more space. I love the attic window!

Decide what you can afford, comfortably build, and fit in your house reasonably:

Don’t spend money that you don’t have on a rabbit hutch. You will resent your rabbits if they’re living in a palace and you’re out on the street asking them if you can stay the night, because you didn’t make your rent this month. Yes, it is natural to want the absolute best for your bunnies, they are part of your herd. However, they also like living in a forever home with happy humans. To this end, make sure you budget sensibly for your rabbit hutch or hutch building project. While budgeting, you may be looking at your various options and thinking “hey, it’s only wood and metal, right? I could build this myself!” If you have the skills, or think it’s within your ability to learn, then great, good on you. If on the other hand you last used a drill to make a beer bucket in 1993, perhaps this is a job best left to the professionals. The cost of a ready-built rabbit hutch (or flat packed) can be extortionate, and many companies only offer a one-shape fits all approach, with the most common options being all that’s available. It’s up to you, and there’s a fine balance between budgeting and build skill. The final consideration here is whether it will fit in your home. If you’ve got a specific space earmarked for bunnies, it might be better to go down the custom-made route. Design the space, see what you can make yourself, see if there’s anything for sale that would substitute for the bits you can’t make yourself, and if all else fails, ring a custom rabbit hutch maker and have your serious money ready because custom made rabbit hutches can be shockingly expensive.

Join two of these simple 55 inch panel rabbit runs together in a room (they're modular, like lego, so you can make a big rectangle or circle with enough panels).  Team it with some good tile flooring and plenty of hay and toys and a few platforms to get the perfect houserabbit's indoor rabbit home.
Join two of these simple 55 inch panel rabbit runs together in a room (they’re modular, like lego, so you can make a big rectangle or circle with enough panels) to make the walls. Team it with some good tile or wooden flooring, wall protection, a litter tray and plenty of hay and toys and a few platforms to get the perfect houserabbit’s indoor rabbit home.  Add food, water and a rabbit or two and you’re good to go.  For larger breeds or more rabbits, just add more Panel Runs.

The rabbit run above is available from most pet retailers worldwide.  Sometimes they’re called puppy pens.  I have two of these, 16 panels in total, which provide structural support to my Bunny Village where four of my six rabbits live.

Look around for inspiration:
A google image search of rabbit accommodation, rabbit housing, house rabbits and rabbit hutches comes up with lots of good results, although on the last two there’s a lot of rubbish to trawl through as well. The best thing about getting inspiration from other people’s pictures is that often you can find a way to simplify what they have done, and adapt it to make the ideal environment for your bunnies.

This is the sort of awesome rabbit home you can build using the panel runs I mentioned above.
This is the sort of awesome rabbit home you can build using the panel runs I mentioned above.

The above photo sourced from: http://bunniesaspets.com/house-rabbit/

Get designing:

Remember to do a more detailed sketch after the first, rough sketch, where your lines are drawn with a ruler and a scale, your materials are labelled and listed, and features are explained briefly. I like square paper for anything like this. If you’re open ended or uncertain about which materials to use, a quick browse of DIY stores can help. Otherwise, you could ask a member of staff at a DIY store (although some people have conceptualization problems when it comes to building something that’s slightly outside the box – these people get confused and think you want to make one of those tiny, 3 foot outdoor rabbit hutches that evil people leave their poor bunnies in. If you get stuck with a cretin, just smile and nod and go elsewhere). Also bear in mind that you are under absolutely NO obligation to buy something just because the sales advisor has spoken to you about a product. It’s okay to say “thanks, that’s really helpful, once my design is final, I’ll come back with measurements” then work out where you can get the cheapest bargain.

If you have the room in your garden, this giant hutch (it's more of a rabbit annexe or outhouse) from www.rehutch.com would be amazing even for a bonded quintet of giant rabbits!  You could build something similar using two garden sheds and some wood and wire, and make the bit in the middle roofless (cover in wire instead) so the grass continues to grow.  Not very handy with a saw?  The guys at Rehutch will probably custom make something for you.
If you have the room in your garden, this giant hutch (it’s more of a rabbit annexe or outhouse) from http://www.rehutch.com would be amazing even for a bonded quintet of giant rabbits! You could build something similar using two garden sheds and some wood and wire, and make the bit in the middle roofless (cover in wire instead) so the grass continues to grow. Not very handy with a saw? The guys at Rehutch will probably custom make something for you, I’ve never met them but their website seems very rabbit-friendly.

Get making:

This stage might include cutting wood and screwing it together. Or it might include clipping together a flat packed hutch from amazon. Whatever hutch design you’ve gone with, this is the stage where it will start taking shape. Remember to test your hutch for stability before moving the rabbits in, the only thing worse than the hutch falling down with them in, is when they crawl out afterwards, scared and confused, and electrocute themselves on an exposed wire you never expected them to get close enough to chew. Don’t let this happen.

Banacek waits for Jason to come home with carrots.
Banacek’s hutch is 6 foot wide, 6 foot tall and two feet deep, and was custom built by someone who’s handy with a saw and nails (not me).


Admire your new hutch:

This is the best stage. Take photos, take videos, introduce the rabbits to their new home, show your friends and the Internet. Feel proud that you conceptualized this and have seen it through to the end, you’re officially awesome. Bunnies sometimes take a few days to feel settled in a new home, so their initial reaction can sometimes be a bit icy, but they will grow to like their new, spacious, fun rabbit home.

Fad diets 2: Fruitarianism vs Juicearianism

This article about Fruitarianism and Juicearianism is part 2 of a 5 part series. Read part 1 here: Part 1: Raw Veganism  Part 3 is here: Part 3: Sproutarianism

Today, I’m discussing Fruitarianism and Juicarianism.  I decided to do them both together because some people get them confused – and for good reason, since they both involve lots of fruit.  Here’s my table of information for the diets examined in this series (with macrobiotic and vegetarianism being included for baseline comparisons). Click to enlarge:

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.

Fruitarianism
The garden of Eden, an idyllic, beautiful, perfect place where man and woman lived innocently at one with the Earth. Even most Christians believe Eden was a metaphor for our different state of existence before God changed us as a species due to the Original Sin. Fruitarians? They see Eden as a valid and workable diet plan. It really sparks the imagination and I can see why people would try this as a way of connecting with their environment through consumption. But from a nutritional point of view it’s a terrible idea. Some religions follow this way of eating, and it was incorporated into the original Creationist Diet (a real diet, which I will compare to the Paleo Diet when I’ve researched them both).

The rules: You must only eat fruit, right? Actually, according to http://www.thefruitarian.com there are many different interpretations of what it means to be a fruitarian:
“Here are some common definitions associated with a Fruitarian diet:
Wikipedia: Fruitarianism involves the practice of following a diet that includes fruits, nuts and seeds, without animal products, vegetables and grains.
Dictionary.com: a person whose diet consists chiefly of fruit.
UrbanDictionary.com: A person of extreme dietary discipline who eats only the reproductive offshoots of plants.
Princeton.edu: People whose diet consists of 75% or more fruit.
Fruitarian.com: The fruitarian diet consists of RAW fruit and seeds ONLY!”
Source: http://www.thefruitarian.com/content/what-fruitarianism

So there’s a lot of scope here for trying different configurations of fruitarianism and seeing which one suits your body best. At a 75% fruit mark, this also allows you to bring in other foods, although it would depend on your individual beliefs as to what you would eat in the other 25%.

Fruitarians eat fruit and nuts

The Benefits: Getting back to nature and to a natural diet that can be eaten without processed or chemically-enhanced food seems to be an underlying theme to many of these diets, but fruitarianism does it in a way that still involves a lot of variety, with people using very different decision making processes to select foods – for some people, reducing their carbon footprint is important, for others, decisions are made by only eating local foods that would have been found if there was no city where they lived, and for others still, it’s about developing and following instincts about which fruit they should eat. Aside from the environmental benefits to eating fruitarian, adherents claim (the same as raw vegans) that they get significantly more energy from their foods than they did “before” however, I would argue rationally that it’s the developed consciousness of eating and sense of interconnectedness that is causing them to select foods that naturally contain more energy (plus all the fruit sugars), rather than adhering to any restrictive doctrine as critics have accused.

The Drawbacks: Deficiencies all over the place! As a fruitarian, if you avoided nuts/seeds, there are many vitamins, minerals and amino acids that you couldn’t get.  The problem is still present to a lesser extent even if you do eat nuts and seeds.

Sugar intake! The biggest issue is that there is far too much sugar (specifically fructose) in fruits. According to Dr Mercola, an advocate of unbiased un-moneyed medical information: “Fructose, a simple sugar found in fruit, is preferentially metabolized to fat in your liver, and eating large amounts has been linked to negative metabolic and endocrine effects. So eating very large amounts – or worse, nothing but fruit – can logically increase your risk of a number of health conditions, from insulin and leptin resistance to cancer.
For example, research has shown that pancreatic tumor cells use fructose, specifically, to divide and proliferate, thus speeding up the growth and spread of the cancer.”
Steve Jobs, often lauded as the “different thinker” who was the most famous fruitarian so far, died of pancreatic cancer. Ashton Kutcher, in preparation for his role in the Steve Jobs film, ate a fruitarian diet for six months and had to stop due to pancreas problems. Additional to pancreas problems, as mentioned in the quote above, sugar converts to fat in the liver, so eating crazy amounts of carbohydrates (the scientific name for sugar, prolific in fruits) will make you gain weight, as you can see for yourself from the number of people seeking help for weight gain in the 30 Bananas a Day forums.

Inadequate dietary fat intake! The main sources of fat in a fruitarian diet are avocado and coconut fat. On the “80/10/10” diet that is referred to by many fruitarians and raw vegans, 80% of the calories are carbohydrates, 10% fats and 10% protein. This produces problems with huge amounts of sugars (carbohydrates is the fancy name for sugars, remember), and insufficient amounts of protein and fat. “Fat” is a blanket term and covers a group of substances, and you need to eat a variety of these, not just two sources. Essential fatty acids are highly difficult to get into a 100% strict fruitarian diet, or a 75% fruitarian, 25% raw vegan one, as these need to come from food sources that don’t exist in these dietary configurations (amendment on January 7th 2015: you can get the correct amounts of essential fatty acids – the two we need are Omega 3 and Omega 6 – from eating a lot of linseeds or supplementing your diet with cold pressed linseed gelatin free capsules – although the companies don’t explain how they make the capsules so these might not be 100% raw-friendly).

Inadequate dietary protein intake! All proteins are not created equal, and it’s an oversimplification to just say “I will get all my protein from nuts.” They are very high in protein (pistachio nuts are one of the highest sources of protein of anything ever) but protein is a collective name for a group of substances made up of amino acids, and it’s the amino acids that you actually need. Saying “there’s protein in nuts” is like saying “there’s vitamins in an orange” both statements are true, but they don’t tell you which protein (or vitamins in the orange) are in the nuts, and this can and does lead to protein deficiencies which can make you lethargic, sluggish, confused and tired. Some amino acids are extremely difficult or impossible to obtain in the fruitarian diet.

High fibre issues! You will shit like a cow in a field for a few weeks until your body gets used to the fibre in all this fruit. It will be watery, smelly and prolific both in frequency and volume. Even then, you will still never shit the same until you change your diet. Fruitarians often explain this discrepancy and the associated digestive issues of bloating and flatulence as “your digestive system changing to attune itself to the fruitarian diet.” I’m not so sure about that, but one thing’s for certain – anything that gives you diarrhea is going to stop you absorbing water, leading to dehydration (which will make it seem like you’re losing weight).

Vitamin deficiencies! There are issues getting enough iron, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, selenium and iodine. Vitamin K is often mentioned, but there are plenty of fruitarian sources although planning is required to obtain adequate intake. Here is a list of fruits containing vitamin K: http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-009104000000000000000-w.html?maxCount=38

Fruitarians eat fruit and nuts

Conclusion:

The ideal behind fruitarianism is a very romanticized one, I could imagine a lot of upper class Georgians partaking in it, but it is lacking in a lot of major nutrients and more studies need to be done to find out how this affects the human body over various lengths of time. As a conclusion, I think doing this for any period longer than a few months is not safe, and alternating between this and a less restrictive diet is probably necessary for optimum health. It is certainly not a diet you can get by without seriously thinking about what you eat, and planning every meal carefully to avoid large-scale deficiencies.

Sources on fruitarianism:
http://www.incrediblesmoothies.com/raw-food-diet/faq/are-fruitarian-diets-really-healthy/
http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/open-lett/open-letter-f-1a.shtml
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/02/11/all-fruit-diet.aspx

Juicearianism
As extreme diets go, juicearianism is out there. Some people see a diet consisting only of liquids to be the antidote to the wholesale tooth decay problems associated with raw vegan and fruitarian diets. Certainly, the high fibre content of raw vegan and fruitarian foods damage tooth enamel, but the strong acids released from the plant cells when they’re juiced or blended also damage your teeth – in the form of acid erosion. Juicing as a long-term diet solution or incorporating repeated short-term juicing episodes (several days – between 4 and 40 – of only drinking juice) into your regular diet is extremely dangerous.

How it’s different to fruitarianism: It’s vastly different to fruitarianism because, while the fruits are raw, you throw away large parts of the fruit to make juice.  When I first heard about this diet, I just thought people meant that they drank smoothies all the time, I had no idea anyone would try to subsist on fruit juice.  Of all the diets I researched for this article series, juicearianism scored 43 on nutrition, compared to a score of 129 for ovo-vegetarian (dairy free vegetarian).  That’s 1/3 of the nutrients.  That’s not calories, or fat, or anything bad, that was scored purely on the bits that you actually need to take into your body to survive.  Without 2/3 of your basic nutrients, you would become very ill after a few weeks.

Fruit Juice
The Benefits:
Adherents claim they lose weight. Maybe it’s because all their hair falls out (presumably they lose weight because they’re not actually eating anything).

The Drawbacks: EVERYTHING ABOUT THE JUICEARIAN DIET IS STUPID!! I was trying to write this article from an impartial and enquiring minds point of view and every other diet (except breatharianism but that doesn’t really count) I’m discussing in this article series does seem to have some merit to the idealism and philosophy behind it. Juicearianism is just stupid. According to WebMD, the juicing fad leaves you lacking in protein and dietary fibre. This will cause constipation, dizziness and hair loss, all side effects experienced by juicearians, which they pass off as “healing” when caused by juice and “dangerous” when caused by starting to eat real food again.
In the words of the Wall Street Journal: “The question isn’t just whether these techniques work. It’s whether the body is overwhelmed by toxins to begin with.” This for me is the fundamental problem – there’s an assumption that we need to get rid of toxins, and that drinking lots of glasses of fruit juice will accomplish this. It’s all just a ruse to get you to buy a $400 juicer (according to webMD) as part of a $5 billion industry (according to Marie Claire). The consequences of following this diet can be seen in this article about “juicerexia” – which shows how juicing can lead to anorexia: http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/news/a7601/cleansings-dirty-secret/   What is really unfortunate is that the people selling juicers and juice books don’t seem to care that they are making people seriously ill.

Conclusion:
“Healing reactions are very individual. Not everybody will experience the same flare-ups. The more toxic your body, the more severe the reactions may be.”** (see bottom of page about reference)
Because if you get ill from a diet that doesn’t actually provide all the nutrients your body needs, of course it’s your fault not the stupid diet. The double standard given by this website is that, when reintroducing foods, sodium is to be avoided because it will cause nausea and headaches (which are clearly bad) but that headaches and nausea caused by juice isn’t a sign that something’s wrong, it’s a “healing reaction.” I particularly dislike the fact that people are taking it upon themselves to instruct other people in what to eat, but their prose demonstrates clearly that they have no idea whatsoever about nutrition or health, and are supplementing their idiotic rhetoric with a carrot dangled in front of their dupes – that they will lose weight. They don’t even have an idealistic philosophy. And half of the proponents are selling juicers or directly profiting from the sale of juicers. This diet is Darwinism in action.
Disclaimer: If you like juice, great! I have absolutely nothing against fruit juice or using a juicer to make fruit juice (as opposed to juicearianism), however I do strongly believe you should make sure you drink it as part of a balanced diet that includes some actual food of any description. Living off juice for any period of time is dangerous, and will shorten your lifespan.  If I have offended you I hope that it at least provokes you to think again about the safety of what you are doing – and I hope that you do that thinking during a time when you are getting adequate Vitamin B12 intake so you can think clearly about it.

In closing, I’ll leave you with some of the comments by doctors on the whole “juice detox” fad, where people subsist off juice for up to a week – this isn’t even a discussion of long-term juicing – because it’s such a stupid concept.  My bold for emphasis:
“Consuming more vegetables is great, mainstream doctors and nutritionists agree. But they dismiss the detox claims as a confusing jumble of science, pseudoscience and hype. They argue that humans already have a highly efficient system for filtering out most harmful substances—the liver, kidneys and colon.
“If you’re confused, you understand the issue perfectly,” says Edward Saltzman, an associate professor at Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University.
“Nobody has ever been able to tell me what these toxins are,” Donald Hensrud, an internist and nutrition specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says about the myth of “detoxing” and “toxins.”

Peculiarly, the firsthand accounts of people following juicearianism for preposterous lengths of time all end rather abruptly, like this individual, who claimed to do a 92 day juice diet, but presumably had to stop after 17 days, because that’s his last blog entry: http://jimmybraskett.wordpress.com/
This poor fool thought that subsisting on only juice would make her look pretty. Clearly, it wasn’t the cosmetic surgery purchased by the profit the author mentions in the title:
http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=983127 Alas, this one, also, ends rather abruptly.

Sources of information on juicearianism:
http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/juicing-health-risks-and-benefits?page=2
http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304360704579417170806726140
http://www.marieclaire.com/health-fitness/news/a7601/cleansings-dirty-secret/
**I actually don’t want to tell you where the quote at the start of the conclusion came from, because if I link to it, Google will think it’s more popular, and it’s possibly the stupidest website I’ve ever seen, I’m not sure it was actually written by a person who had any experience with what they were talking about, and I believe they might have just fabricated the entire website for adsense money – there were certainly more adverts than actual content on the site. Copy and paste the quote I used into google if you want to find out where it came from.**

[beauty] “Gel” nail varnish review: Collection Lasting Gel Colour and Avon Gel Finish

Two beauty posts in a row, you’re thinking, what is going on?

It’s Christmas soon, and I will be going to see my aunts, where I can’t really start taking photos of nail polish and what not so I thought I’d do two in a row then do my next beauty/hair post in the new year.  Between now and then, of course, I will do travel, rabbits and wellness posts.

Today I’m going to look at two nail varnishes that claim to give you “gel” nails.  Gel nails have been heavily marketed this year as the next big thing in nail polish, and it seems that nail varnish companies don’t even have to make a product that remotely resembles an actual gel finish in order to put “gel” in the title.  I’m not reviewing ones like that which I’ve tried out, because I don’t really have the money to waste on buying them to do a proper review, and I don’t think it’s right to do a review from the shop’s testers that you see in drugstores (although I’m sure some people do).  The two I’m reviewing both offer an above average shine finish, which I would say at least looks a bit like a gel.

Collection Lasting Gel Colour and Avon Gel Finish Nail Varnish

First of all, let’s talk colour.  As you probably know, Avon is a mail order company so their products can be a bit hit or miss.  The colour I got was called Candy Apple, and in the brochure it showed a nice pinky red – I thought it would suit me because my skin tone doesn’t suit orangey reds at all.  It turned up and was orangey red.  So I went to the shop and bought the Collection Lasting Gel Colour in Raspberry 7.  This was exactly the same colour as the other one was advertised, and I really love the Raspberry colour, it’s a very grown-up seductive pink in the bottle.

Going on my nails, the Lasting Gel Colour Raspberry stayed true to its bottle colour and the Gel Finish Candy Apple got even more red.  I definitely was happier with the Raspberry shade and wish Avon would be a bit more forthcoming with key information when they advertise products, such as more accurate colouring (perhaps they could photograph the bottles of nail varnish from the front rather than doing the computer-generated splodges of colours).

Avon Gel Finish in Candy Apple (left) and Collection Lasting Gel Colour in Raspberry 7 (right).
Avon Gel Finish in Candy Apple (left) and Collection Lasting Gel Colour in Raspberry 7 (right).  This is without fake tan but I still think the one on the right works better for my skintone.

Drying time was about equivalent – a light coat of both nail varnishes took maybe 90 seconds to dry.  Neither of them took very long and I was walking around on my newly-painted toe nails in no time at all.  Neither of them used a fancy drying light they just air dried to a nice shine.
The shine was superior on the Avon Candy Apple.  It was definitely the shiniest product once they had dried, although the Collection Raspberry wasn’t far behind – I tried to show the light reflection in my photos.  Both could legitimately claim to have a gel-like finish to them.  I examined them again two days later and they just didn’t look as shiny – I suspect they use waxes to get the shiny finish.  The Avon one looked like it had been smudged over the last two days, which is impossible because it was totally dry after 90 seconds.  The Collection one had faded to the same amount of shine as a normal nail varnish.  The colour of both nail varnishes didn’t fade at all though.

This photo is to show how shiny they were in normal lighting (with a ceiling light with an energy saving bulb).  I think the Avon Gel Finish one came out shiniest.
This photo is to show how shiny they were in normal lighting (with a ceiling light with an energy saving bulb). I think the Avon Gel Finish one came out shiniest.

In conclusion, I liked the initial super-shiny finish of the Avon one better, but I preferred the colour and the duration of the Collection nail varnish, which also happens to be significantly cheaper at £2.99 a bottle, whereas the Avon one is £7 a bottle.  If I was buying a red-like nail varnish again, I’d go with the Collection Lasting Gel Colour because I scoured Avon’s listings and they just don’t have any other colour that looks anything like Collection’s Raspberry 7 and I just really love that colour.  I’ve never had a gel pedicure so I can’t say how it compares to a professional finish, but then I don’t think these nail varnishes would ever really replace salon services, they’re more of a DIY option for people like me who like to do things at home (or on the road).  They’re both nice Christmassy colours though and at the end of the day it totally depends on your skin’s undertones as to which one would suit you best – I hardly ever wear colours this bright (and never on my fingernails, they’re always done in neutrals) but I was very taken with the pinky-red colour I saw in the Avon catalogue in the first place.

Which gel nail varnishes have you tried?  Do you think you got a salon finish?  Let me know in the comments or on my twitter @InvokeDelight  xx

Fad Diets Part 1: Raw Veganism

[Wellness] Fad Diets for the Thoughtful 1: Introduction and Raw Veganism

In this 5 part article series I am going to examine a range of restrictive diets branched downwards from Veganism. I have split it into five parts to make it readable and interesting, since the article is 12 pages long as I finish it off in Open Office, and that’s without the pictures.

Introduction:

Veganism is awesome. I’m going to put that out there first of all, because I believe it is true. Next I’m going to state that at the time of writing, I am not currently a vegan (I have been in the past, and will be again in the future). I believe it is our natural state of existence, and that, whilst the transition to cooked meat was a necessary one, millions of years of evolution ago, we are now reaching a point where transitioning back away from meat eating is necessary for a plethora of reasons. I will discuss these somewhere else. What I want to talk about in this series are the diets that branch downwards from veganism in the “even more restrictive” state. Anything that includes foods that are not strictly vegan were not included because they wouldn’t branch downwards mathematically. Don’t understand? Try reading up on databases. So we’re looking at the data set “diets that are considered at least vegan” and they are sorted in descending order of restrictiveness (see my delightful and informative infographic).

The colours show how healthy each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.
The colours show how healthy/deadly each one is if you ate 100% like this permanently.

This article assumes you understand the principles and ideology of what being vegan is about, as well as a basic idea of what it entails. If that’s not you, go and look it up. I’ll wait.

What I’m going to discuss in this series:

Raw Veganism (this article)

Fruitarianism

Juicearianism (second half of post)

Sproutarianism

Breatharianism

All of these diets are discussed and explained in Viktoras Kulvinskas’ book Survival in the 21st Century: Planetary Healers Manual, a book written in 1975, now into its 34th edition at which point it abruptly went out of print. He also co-founded the Hippocrates Institute. Bear in mind when reading it that the body of knowledge about nutrition was vastly different, a lot of foods weren’t commercially available which are dietary staples nowadays, and the general diet of the omnivore and vegetarian were also quite different to what these groups eat now. I would argue that while some of his work is groundbreaking, particularly his “new diet” that was predominantly raw vegan, with significant amounts of fruit and sprouted seeds, at the same time, he thinks he has a scientific basis but doesn’t actually understand the underlying scientific principles, and some of what his book develops into is just plain ridiculous, like the concept that we are evolved to subsist on light and sound (the first mention of breatharianism I could come across). We have no means of converting either light or sound into energy. If you’re confused about the vitamin D connection, please read my article “The Mystery of Vitamin D” to find out how we make vitamin D – it’s not infused into our bodies by the sun, the sun does play a part but it doesn’t “synthesize” vitamin D as a lot of people believe.

So why did I put the words “fad diets” in the title? I believe, despite the fact all these diets have been around since before 1975, that they surge and recede in popularity at different points in time. We have been treated to a few years of “juice diets” being a fad, and are now seeing a rise in raw veganism, and whilst many people are lifelong followers of raw veganism, there is currently a growing number who are following the diet for a few months to lose weight – for these people, raw veganism is a fad diet. Fruitarianism and sproutarianism have never really been fad diets – but I predict that in a few years’ time, fruitarianism will be the big thing, as people search ever more deeply for answers to the fundamental question that drives almost everything that we do in life: “what’s for dinner?”

I have quantified the nutritional value of each of the diets listed above, and put this information into a table, to show how easy (or possible) it is to get the basic nutrients from them, this was so I could speak with a little more authority about these diets as I wanted to know whether foods actually existed in the categories that could provide all the nutrients humans require. One limitation of this sort of data is that it doesn’t actually show what volume of food you would need to eat to get the assorted nutrients. If you would like to know more about which foods contain which nutrients, all the data I used to compile my table came from this amazing database: http://foodinfo.us/SourcesUnabridged.aspx?Nutr_No=502

And here is my table (click to enlarge):

Table of comparison of vegan diets
I’ve included the first three for comparison – I’m not actually going to talk about macrobiotic, ovovegetarianism or regular veganism.  The numbers come from scoring using the system on the right, totalling each column.  Note: the “Fruitarian Tyrosine” value should read “very easy: nuts”

Table of comparison of vegan diets

Raw Veganism:

Raw food diets are really trending at the moment, and raw veganism, once the domain of tree-dwelling anorak-clad protesters is now becoming much more mainstream. If veganism is as out-there and uncommon as vegetarianism was 30 years ago, raw veganism is as common as veganism was five years ago. It’s much more talked about by people in social situations, although the conversations do still tend towards insecure ridicule in the “what are your shoes made of?” vein.  As you can see from my table, Raw Veganism scored 97 for total nutritional value, compared to 110 for veganism and 121 for ovo-vegetarianism.

The rules: Raw vegans do not eat or use any animal products, of course. The plant-based foods they do eat must not have been heated above 104-120F (40-49 degrees Celsius) at any point in their production cycle, and also must not contain certain additives deemed unfitting with the raw vegan philosophy. Some proponents advocate a 75% raw vegan lifestyle to ensure particular nutrients are still part of the daily diet, but many others state that their diet is as complete as a vegan one in terms of nutrition, therefore including 25% of cooked food makes no sense. I’m not in possession of any nutritional software, so couldn’t say who is right, although I do know the vitamin content of bell peppers changes when they’re cooked (I really want a program that accesses a database of nutrients; I could write one, but I’d need to populate a database with all known edible plants so I could use it wherever I was, so if you know of one that’s ready-made, or have made one that you’d like reviewing, drop me a line). Aside from not eating cooked food, the biggest difference between raw veganism and veganism is lack of soy-based products – staples such as tofu, soymilk, dairy free chocolate and cheese – because of the production methods. For me, that’s the main appeal because I feel like I can be overly dependent on soy, and I particularly was when I was vegan. Tofu is my favourite food ever but I wonder how many great things I’m missing out on because I gravitate towards tofu.

See my table pictured above to see how raw veganism fares compared to other diets.

The rationale: Some adherents dislike that food is damaged and devalued (nutritionally) by the cooking process. Others wish to eat as our evolutionary ancestors did. Others forgot to pay their electric bill then realised they didn’t need to (joking, but if this is you, what a cool way to make lemonade out of lemons). Others still find it is more in keeping with a nomadic, tent-dwelling lifestyle as they travel around experiencing new places – what is more enticing than pitching a tent in the pouring rain and NOT having to try and get a stove working? Whatever the reasoning, it will vary from person to person (“that’s right, we’re all individuals” – Monty Python). Their solution is to eat food that is closer to its original state.

The drawbacks: According to some prominent ex-vegans, who are as quick to attack veganism as they are to stuff a hot dog in their face, raw veganism is deficient in certain nutrients. Vitamin K has been cited (see my upcoming article on Vitamin K – a.k.a. Vitamin Kale) as one deficiency. Vitamin D is the big one. Vitamin B12 is also mentioned by some. Your standard vegan criticisms. By and large, raw veganism when done sensibly with correct planning and eating for nutrition, not to satisfy a quota of bananas, will yield as much nutrition as a vegan diet, although some of the food quantities and varieties will need to be varied. The biggest problem with raw veganism is a distinct lack of cholesterol – essential for vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D3 is a poorly understood and often forgotten little vitamin, which I have written another article about. Recent studies, outlined in my vitamin D article, show that within our lifetimes, a vegan vitamin D source will not only be able to be established, but also made on a large enough scale for everyone. Why is the research happening which underpins this? Because of the growing number of vegans, and their vitamin D deficiency – it has driven forward research, which will solve the problem very soon. Personally, I see no issue with supplementing with a vegetarian vitamin D source, and a vegan vitamin K source, if you need these vitamins. Vitamin A deficiency is quoted sometimes, but you can get provitamins A from vegetables such as carrots, and because we are not “true carnivores” like cats or dogs, we can convert the provitamin A into retinol, which is the bit we need, although we are not as efficient at this as “true herbivores.” Vitamin B12 deserves more consideration because it’s the source of more misinformation than any other concern-vitamin in the vegan diet.

The B12 Myth:

The vitamin B12 fallacy goes like this: “there’s no plant source of vitamin B12.” **WRING YOUR HANDS AND GRAB A SAUSAGE!!** Here’s a shocker: There’s no animal source of vitamin B12 either. Or fungi. Let’s think back to high school biology: Of the five types of organism, plant, fungi, animal, archea and bacteria, only archea and bacteria can produce vitamin B12. These bacteria are usually found in your gut and most people don’t need supplementing. Vegans don’t specifically exclude bacteria from the diet, as this would be impossible unless everything they ate was bathed in strong chemicals prior to intake, so the classification of vitamin B12 as non-vegan is misleading pro-meat-eating sensationalism. Due to bacterial symbiosis (the interrelationship of bacteria with other organisms), there are sources such as chlorella (an algae, designated vegan source of B12 because they can make more money from labelling it “the only vegan B12 source” then charging you six times the price of the others), streptomyces griseus and pseudomonas dentrificans, both of which come from soil, not animals. It has been shown that smokers, users of oral contraceptives and many pharmaceutical products are all at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to them preventing absorption in the stomach. This is not seen as a health risk, presumably because there’s far too much money to be made by big (and small) pharma companies by selling you a drug that causes B12 deficiency and then selling you a B12 supplement, then selling you meat because they’ve convinced you to eat it again due to alleged B12 deficiency. Let me repeat: Vitamin B12 supplements are as vegan as home-made bread, licking your fingers or giving someone a kiss.

Conclusion:
Raw veganism has come under a lot of fire, and whilst I’m not actually a raw vegan, I got very fed up whilst reading for this article with the sheer amount of rabid-ex-vegans (no prefix to vegan, note, despite the fact they were all actually ex-raw-vegans and most of them hadn’t even ever been vegan) who couldn’t be bothered to use the correct title for the diet they were lambasting and who kept calling it veganism without distinguishing, as if invalidating one was to invalidate the other.

The experiences these people have had with raw-veganism are often the cliche’d “oh this is so easy I’ll just eat salad for every meal” with no forward planning or consideration of the nutritional requirements of their bodies – something every vegan, raw or cooked, needs to be in tune with. Then they invariably got ill. They psychologically fixated on meat as the cure (remember, these people live in extremes – cheese, egg or a hot bowl of baked beans would not be dramatic enough). They ate some, and within minutes (instantly in one case) felt better (can anyone say “hallelujah”). That’s psychosomasis at its best. Then they have to shout so loudly to justify that they’re not raw vegan anymore (and they were probably the loudest drum bangers when they were raw vegan, too, evangelicals often are) – to convince themselves that they didn’t fail (they probably didn’t fail personally), but were failed by a “system” “group” or even “cult” of raw veganism. This is a logical fallacy because, whilst some raw vegans can be a bit pushy, it assumes that a greater group of individuals were responsible for their personal choices – unless you are actually in a cult with a controlling leader, this is unlikely to be true. Raw Veganism is a difficult diet to follow, and people following it sometimes underestimate the level of forward planning needed to go through with it, but it doesn’t satisfy any of the prerequisites for being a cult (see breatharianism, in part 4, for a real cult). What a paranoid conspiracy. These ex-raw-vegans clearly aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 in their sausages. I wonder why that could be. ^_^

You can find a lot of these people at letthemeatmeat.com (which I thought was Let The Meat Meat when I clicked through google, until I saw their website title). The lesson here is, don’t just eat what you can eat, eat what you need to eat, in the right quantities, in order to get your nutrients every day.

Whilst researching the raw vegan diet, I did come across a video on Youtube which explained that one of the potential problems that the videomaker experienced was that she lost her period for several months. I fully agree with the lady in the video – if you lose your period, don’t ignore it.

One of the themes I’ve seen both in raw vegan and fruitarian circles is women thinking it’s okay to lose their periods and encouraging others to ignore it too. Amenhorrea is never “unimportant” it signals that you’re doing something wrong. It is one of the first side effects of anorexia. If you lose your period, you need to go to the doctor, find out why, possibly see a nutritionalist and work out how to go forwards safely. See the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=4hjSCFN8REk

I am going to conclude (and remember I’m not a raw vegan) that raw veganism is a difficult to follow, but valid and nutritionally sound diet as long as it is followed by intelligent people who understand the concept of vitamins, minerals, and balanced diets, and aren’t afraid to supplement in a sensible way and shift their food values around to get the optimum balance for their own body, but that 75% raw sounds more achievable and sustainable over a longer period of time. The main thing to remember, though, is everyone is different, and people are affected differently by different diets, and it’s ok to stop following a particular diet (even if you were banging the loudest drum in favour of it) because it’s not working for you, there’s no shame in admitting that you need to eat differently, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to eat differently too (eat being the operative word here).

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raw_veganism

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2012/08/dancing-with-raw/

http://www.thebestofrawfood.com/vegan-shopping-list.html (American food names)

http://almostrawvegan.com/what-is-arv/

http://letthemeatmeat.com/tagged/Vegan_Cliches

Twenty Must-Climb Mountains in Europe

Ever wondered which European mountains offer the best climbs?  As a key point on my “Things I Must Do Before I’m 30” list, I’ve spent the last few weeks compiling a list of twenty mountains in Europe that are worth climbing.  I’ve presented them here in order of height:

20. Ben Lomond, Scotland, UK.

Ben Lomond viewed across Loch Lomond

Ben Nevis may hold the title for the highest mountain in Scotland – and the UK – but Ben Lomond, sitting on the edge of Loch Lomond, is a worthier climb:  It has the traditional mountain shape, and at 3196 feet (974 metres), just about anybody can climb it.

19. Scaffell Pike, Lake District, England, UK
Scaffell Pike is the highest peak in England

Scaffell Pike is the highest mountain in England, at 3209 feet (978 metres).  It’s situated in the middle of a cluster of other peaks, and the view from the top is reputedly stunning.

18. Mount Vesuvius, Naples, Italy

Ever fancied climbing an active volcano?

Most people know that Mount Vesuvius is the active volcano that destroyed Pompeii.  Far less people know you can climb this mountain (when it’s not erupting) as it’s part of a National Park.  At 4203 feet (1281 metres) we’re still in “long hike” territory in terms of difficulty of climb, and climbing an active volcano is definitely a story to tell back home.  Just avoid any glowy orange streams.

17. Ben Nevis, Scotland, UK

Ben Nevis in summer

Ben Nevis is the highest mountain both in Scotland and the UK, at 4406 feet (1344 metres).  Its funny shape doesn’t put off legions of climbers every year, and there’s even special arrangements for disabled climbers to reach the summit.  Just beware the vicious midges that plague Scotland during the summer months.

16. Serra Do Geres (sometimes spelled Gerez), Geres National Park, Portugal

Stunning countryside, seclusion, what's not to like?
Portugal isn’t famous for having particularly high mountains, but the ones it does have are an excellent platform to hone your skills before attempting any of the Alps, Pyrenees or Sierra Nevadas.  At 5115 feet (1548 metres), Serra Do Gerez is a worthy offering.

15. Mont Ventoux, Provence, France.

That view across Provence...

Just take a moment to savour that view.  There’s a road all the way to the highest point, which is 6273 feet (1912 metres), so this mountain could be cycled, rollerbladed or skateboarded if you wanted to mix it up a bit.  As the name suggests, it’s windy at the top, so you’d better pack a mac.

14. Torre, Serra da Estrela, Portugal

Do you wanna build a snowman??

On the Spanish border with Portugal, Serra da Estrela (Star Mountain Range) packs an impressive punch.  The highest point is Torre, which is 6539 feet (1993 metres).  It’s also Mainland Portugal’s highest point (the highest point in Portuguese territory is on Madeira Island in the Atlantic Ocean), so if you bag this one, you’ve climbed the highest mountain in Portugal.

13. Rochers de Naye, Montreux, Switzerland

caves AND marmots.
At 6699 feet (2042 metres), this is the first mountain over 2000 metres on the list.  It’s also a Via Ferrata, a special network of fixed climbing points around the Alps (and now extended all across France/Andorra) that can be solo-climbed.  There’s also caves and marmots nearby.  What’s not to love?

12. Kaiseregg, Bernese Alps, Switzerland
Kaiseregg... sounds like an indie band.

This mountain looks like it got bombed, with the huge curvy hole in its front.  I guess that’s where the “egg” in “Kaiseregg” is supposed to fit. At 7169 feet (2185 metres), it’s well worth a climb when there’s no snow.

11. Arcalod, Jarsy, France
That is a rocky mountain.

The fourth highest mountain in France, Arcalod is 7274 feet high (2217 metres).  It also happens to be an Ultra Prominent Peak (the peak is at least 1500m above the surrounding landscape).  I would imagine getting back down again would be the trick.

10. Tour d’Ai, Leysin, Switzerland

Stripy drunk mountain

At 7658 feet (2334 metres) high, this mountain looks like it fell down drunk and landed in the forest.  I particularly love the stripy effect of the rock face and the greenery.
9. Torre Grande, Cinque Torri, San Vito Di Cadore, Italy

The pointiest peaks
Cinque Torri is a five-peak mountain on the Via Ferrata, one of the first Via Ferrate to be constructed – this one apparently has a museum dedicated to the World War One Italian soldiers who fought their war right here on the Austrian Front.

8. Mount Olympus, Litochoro, Greece

I love this halo cloud

In mythology, Olympus was home to the Greek Pantheon of Gods, and no list of European mountains would be complete without it.  It’s the highest mountain in Greece (of course) at 9577 feet (2919 metres), and as part of a national park it’s climbable, too.

7. Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

This might be the most dangerous climb in Europe

Officially the highest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna was rumoured to be the resting place of one of the Ancient Greek Titans.  Higher than Olympus, Etna’s height is constantly changing because of the regular eruptions, but currently stands at 10,990 feet (3350 metres).

6. The Eiger, Bernese Alps, Switzerland

Are you eager to climb it?

Famous for having the biggest North Face in the Alps, the Eiger has claimed the lives of many climbers in the early days of mountaineering.  It’s 13,020 feet high (3970 metres).

5. The Matterhorn

It looks like a wizard hat
Another infamous mountain, at 14962 feet high (4478 metres) the Matterhorn was classed as the most dangerous climb in the Alps for a very long time.  Now, there’s a funicular (railway) all the way to the top.  Also, it looks like a wizard’s hat.

4. Mont Blanc

It's big...

Most climbers consider Mont Blanc to be the highest mountain in Europe (although it depends on the geographical definition of Europe, as the community’s a bit divided).  It’s certainly the highest mountain in “geopolitical Europe,” at 15781 feet tall (4810 metres) it’s certainly no picnic in the park to climb.  Most climbers spend some time acclimatizing before making a bid for the summit.

3. Mount Ararat, Turkey

Mount Ararat

It’s the tallest mountain in Turkey, dwarfing even Mont Blanc, at 16954 feet (5137 metres), and is said to be the mountain where Noah’s Ark ran aground after the Great Flood, so it’s very historic.  You need a special permit to climb it, however.

2. Gora Dykh Tau, The Caucasus Mountain Range, Russia

Gora Dykh Tau

While there’s a lot of disagreement as to whether The Caucasus actually counts as Europe, both the Seven Summits and Seven Second Summits lists have mountains from the Caucasus range in them.  Dykh Tau is the European contribution to the Seven Second Summits (the second highest mountains in each continent) at 17077 feet (5205 metres), so it made my list (and the first five thousander on the list).

1. Mount Elbrus, Caucasus Mountain Range, Russia.

Tallest mountain in the Caucasus

If Gora Dykh Tau was the second on this list, then Mount Elbrus, the European listing for the Seven Summits, is of course going to be number one.  It dominates the landscape at 18510 feet (5642 metres) and has the reputation for having the worst toilet in Europe on its summit.

Which of these would you like to climb most?  Which looks impossible?  Are you inspired to climb something in the New Year?

[rabbits] Ten Things You MUST Know About Rabbits

Rabbit Care 102

So you went to the adoption center or pet store, fell in love with a little fluffy bunny, and you brought them home. Here’s what you need to know about the pet you just bought:

Rabbits eating in a rabbit hutch
Two of our rabbits eating. The red area is the remains of Banacek’s first hutch, and takes up 1/6 of their overall hutch size.

1. Rabbits are fibrevores. This means that they are herbivores (vegans) who eat grass. Cows are another example of a fibrevore. Your pet rabbit needs 24/7 access to hay, even if he has an outdoor run with grass. If he’s got no hay, he will get sick. Grass and hay are the ideal combination, but the water content in grass will give bunny diarrhea if he’s only getting the fresh stuff. They also like snuggling in hay – they prefer it to sawdust.

Rabbit digestion
It won’t look like a carrot when it comes out of the other end, and you shouldn’t feed them carrot tops either. I was trying to show continuous digestion, not the changes to the food that take place.

2. Rabbits have continuous digestion. This means they basically have a constant queue of food in their digestive system (see diagram). If they don’t have something to eat available to them 24/7, their digestive system goes to a standstill. This is called digestive stasis. Once they go into digestive stasis, it is very difficult to get their system to start again, and many rabbits die from this. Just to clarify, there’s no time limit on when it’s classed as stasis, but as a rule I would say if your bunny hasn’t eaten anything for six hours, they probably have stasis. Call a vet for advice.

Bunnies make a mess.
Top right is their bowl of water, left is their food bowl, surrounded by bunny nuggets.

3. Most rabbits don’t actually like water bottles. I previously had dogs, before I had rabbits, and I give all six of my rabbits a choice – I put a water bowl and a drinking bottle out. I have the space to do this because they are all housed in very large areas. Drinking bottles are now marketed as “safer” for small animals, but guess what? When they lived in the wild, they drank from ponds and puddles all the time and they never drowned!!!! Bottles were basically a lab-originated concept and aimed at rabbits kept in confinement with no quality of life. My rabbits all prefer their water bowls, none of them use the bottles even though three of them used a bottle for eight years before they came here. Yes, bowls can get full of hay and bunny fur, but you should be cleaning their food and water bowls (and/or bottle) every day anyway (or any pet’s bowls, for that matter). It’s good hygiene. Would you want to eat off the same plate for a week, or drink from the same cup for a week, without washing them? If so, perhaps you should consider NOT getting a pet until you’re mature enough to treat them right.

4. Rabbits make a mess. They aren’t like dogs, who leave dog mess everywhere for six months then become model citizens. Rabbits are generally highly litter trainable. The mess with rabbits is more general – their food ends up everywhere when they bury their faces in their bowls, their water can end up everywhere when they sit in it, their fur ends up everywhere (just like dogs and cats) and when you give them toys, they will probably destroy them. If they destroy the toys you bring them, don’t get upset. Did you buy the toy for them to enjoy, or to look pretty in Instagram bunny pics? You will notice that almost all of my photos and videos have some mess in them. There’s food on the floor, the occasional bunny poo (when they sleep they sometimes poo, so obviously when they don’t fall asleep in the litter tray their poo ends up on the floor, also around the litter tray sometimes, if the rabbits are sharing space, they will poo to mark their territory sometimes as well), bits of cardboard, stick and newspaper that they’ve nibbled… if you want a tidy house, you would have to spend your life following them round with a Dustbuster and constantly making your house devoid of signs of rabbits. If this is you, get a different pet. Don’t take away what is theirs just because you have an idealistic concept of what a house should look like, it’s not fair. If you did that to a child it would be cruelty. On the other hand, do keep it as hygienic as you can. I sweep up all the food/poo messes twice a day and vacuum every few days to keep it all fresh.

Fifer and Katie are marking the living room.
These rabbits like to make a mess!

5. Rabbits like to play. They don’t play how you expect them to though (unless you’ve watched far too many Youtube vids… then they probably do). They like to play chase and they like to play chew:

a) Playing “chew”: Rabbits explore everything with their mouths. To a rabbit, chewing things is the absolute most interesting thing ever, and they love to chew anything. It’s like their sixth sense – sense of chewy. Their teeth constantly grow and they need to nibble. Give them plenty of hay, cardboard boxes (some rabbits like Conflake-type boxes, others prefer the corrugated cardboard boxes, some like to go in the middle and chew shoeboxes), packing paper (never polystyrene or anything plastic coated), and perhaps a catalog or two. In the UK we have a store called Argos and it’s catalog is 2 inches thick. Bunnies love that. Also, this is a great use for any unwanted copies of fad books such as the Da Vinci Code or 50 Shades of Grey. Rabbits aren’t picky about the words, they just love to chew the corners off of books. I recently gave Banacek and Cleo a book called “Ancient Beluchistan” from the 1970s, that I got from a free book stand. It was cloth bound and had old yellowing pages, and they just pounced on it. Rabbits also like to chew their cardboard into projects, so if they do chew big holes in the cardboard boxes you’ve given them, it’s ok, they’re probably making it into a fortress so they can run around it a lot later. Leave them these chewed up boxes for as long as possible – they will get upset if you keep throwing their toys away every time they play with them.
b) Playing “chase”: Almost as important to rabbits as chewing is running. Rabbits love to practice this skill during “peacetime” (when their herd isn’t threatened) by playing chase. When you have one rabbit on their own, they will play chase with you. When you have more rabbits, they generally play chase with each other. This is because they’re faster and more maneuverable than you (sorry) so they get to practice their running away strategies more effectively. An important skill for you to learn is how to tell whether they’re enjoying a game of chase with you (or another rabbit), or whether they think you or the other rabbit is an actual predator and are panicking. There can be a fine line. I often augment chasing with cheerful talk, because it reassures the rabbit about where I am and what mood I’m in. Rabbits know your emotions by the sounds you make (how your voice changes) so keeping a cheerful narrative in a calm or loving voice keeps them knowing it’s a game. I like to say things like: “I’m chasing you! Chase chase chase the bunny! I’m gonna catch you and put you in a pie!” In a warm tone of voice so they keep enjoying themselves for longer. They will purposely stop at certain points to let you catch up. If I actually catch them, I never pick them up (they hate it). Instead, I stroke their nose very gently, or their back (but not the tail) and tell them what a good bunny they are. When they associate being chased by you with a positive outcome, they enjoy it more and will play for longer. One rabbit who I was babysitting for a friend took 2 days to understand the concept of play-chasing, then she loved running in circles, then she would get tired and lean on the wall to catch her breath. I started stroking her. She liked it so much, she just stood there for 20 minutes letting me stroke her. Her fur was a LOT softer when I gave her back at the end of two weeks.

grass hideaway
A toy that has been played with a LOT by four rabbits who all like to play chew. It’s still bunny safe because it’s made of 100% rivergrass. This was a good buy and has hours more fun left in it.

6. Rabbits have strong concepts of territory, privacy and (after a few weeks) entitlement. Decide right now which rooms you don’t want bunnies going in. Is there ant powder in the kitchen? Exposed wires in your bedroom? Are you going to clean these up and bunnyproof everything in the house, so they get all-areas-access? Or are you going to bunnyproof one or two rooms and let them spend most of their time there? In every house we’ve lived in, there have always been rooms that were off-limits to bunnies. This was usually for safety reasons – we couldn’t stop bunnies getting under the tumble dryer or kitchen units, for example – although there were other reasons too – Banacek seemed to think the entire bathroom was his litter tray (we suspect the previous tenants had missed the toilet a lot, and that Banacek was merely trying to claim this land for his herd), so once he was litter trained we gradually moved his actual litter tray to outside the bathroom (with the door kept closed) then to the top of the stairs, where it remained until we moved out. He hasn’t behaved like that in the new house, and only uses his litter tray unless he’s asleep.

Cleo is queen of the hay
Cleo has claimed this pile of hay as her territory. Banacek gets to nibble it as well, because he’s her partner. But no-one else. Excepting if they ask nicely.

7. Rabbits don’t separate your property from theirs. Rabbits assume that all property in their territory is communal; they would share their cardboard with you in an instant, and expect you to share your delicious hairdryer wire, shoes, bags, wicker storage baskets and decorative sticks etc. If you don’t want something to get chewed, put it out of bunny’s reach, and remember they stretch tall.

After the photo, Katie ate half of this box in retaliation to being left out by the other bunnies.
Banacek: “It’s the “NO FIFERS” club.”
Cleo: “No, it’s the “NO KATIES” club.”
Katie: “Why isn’t it the “NO BOYS” club?”
Fifer: “You’d still get left out somehow, Katie, let’s just play someplace else.”

8. Rabbits can use their environment and think sequentially when they want to. Here’s an example: I put a sunflower on a table where the rabbits couldn’t nibble it. When playing chase the bunny with Banacek, he went under the same table. I had to push the chair out to follow him. When he dug himself into another spot, I left him to it and went downstairs. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d better check on him. I went upstairs and found him standing on the table, chewing the last sunflower leaf off the stalk. When I came towards him, he jumped straight down, I thought, “he knew he was doing wrong but he did it anyway.” When I told my OH about this, he said “he probably just got scared that you were stomping towards him, saying his name in a scary way, and ran away.” Bunnies get scared a lot. But how did the rabbit know there was a sunflower up there???

If only Avon sold boxes of hay...
Cleo’s sequential thinking goes as far as “can I get any more hay for any less effort?”

9. Bunnies get scared. A lot. Sometimes the silliest things will scare bunnies. Katie and Fifer are well known for panicking and stampeding when I move my feet after sitting still for a while. Their regular sitting spot is six feet away from my chair. Katie is especially skittish. I guess we will never know what happened to her before she came to live with us, but I have a feeling she got kicked more than once. Unfortunately, once they’re scared of something (especially if they have decided you were responsible for some reason) it’s near impossible to un-scare them. They will literally tear themselves apart or break their own legs to get away from a perceived danger. Think of rabbits as that really cool friend you have, who also has occasional anxiety attacks where nothing will calm them down. The best thing to do in this situation is leave them to it until they calm down. Then stroke their nose.

This is my phone background.
Katie asleep in a cupboard. When rabbits get scared, they hide in small, hard-to-reach places.

10. Rabbits need the security of their own place. Whether they’re an indoor or outdoor rabbit, they need somewhere to live. If you dislike those indoor cages, get an outdoor hutch from the pet store and put it in your living room. It’ll look like a piece of antique furniture. I did this with Katie and Fifer while we were settling them in – we knew they would probably live outside eventually, but for the time being, they were indoor bunnies, so we got them a 2 story hutch that was five feet wide and four feet tall. It was varnished and made of quality wood, and it looked really nice when it was in the house, and made the living room look a lot tidier than when we had Banacek’s metal indoor hutch in the living room. Don’t worry – they never spent more than nine hours a day closed into their hutch – they either were let out when we got out of bed, or they were put straight outside to their rabbit run which had a smaller hutch for shelter (we leave the door open on that one); the run afforded them much more play space. We have recently moved them into a large brick outhouse, their hutch has moved with them and we unscrewed and removed one of the hutch’s doors so they can always access all of their new space. Once rabbits are settled in a particular hutch, unless there’s a safety or welfare concern, it’s best to keep that hutch with them wherever they go. It’s their nest. Sebastian and Neville, our 100% outdoor bunnies (they hate indoors, they only get brought in if they’re ill and need round the clock care), had a smaller hutch that their previous owners had kept them in. They love this hutch, and while we wanted them to have a more warm, secure outdoor space due to them always being outside, we also wanted them to be able to call it home. We took the front off their old hutch and put it inside their new one – a large shed with hay insulation – so they have a lot more indoor space for those cold days when they don’t want to play out, and so they don’t have to make their old hutch damp or muddy if they’ve been out in the rain. They also have 24/7 outdoor access, as do Katie and Fifer now that they live out of the main house. The sense of security a rabbit gets from feeling like they own a particular place is very important to their well-being. Even if you never want to close your rabbits inside a hutch for the night, make sure they have a hutch that belongs irrefutably to them (you can take one or all of the doors off for them, if you like).

Banacek is a free range bunny
Our rabbits are free to roam the house and garden but they all have their own rabbit housing and they can always access it. All that cardboard?  That’s his toys.

Like rabbits?  Want to see a video of rabbits?  I’ve put together a video of two of our houserabbits doing cute stuff.  Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2UN06_oVtw