All that Jazz

Well the MC gig at the Merimbula Jazz Festival went off without a hitch. I was the master of ceremonies at our local RSL club on the Saturday night and our golf club on the Sunday afternoon. The town was abuzz with Jazz fans and most of the venues around town were booked solid. Desiree joined me for one of the gigs and she really enjoyed the jazz.

Desiree enjoying the jazz      Alex Cochran Jazz MC


 The Jazz Festival must bring a ton of money to our town and it is good to see an event that is run professionally and with the support of its patrons. What did occur to me was that the Jazz fans are now starting to age. I would say that there were very few of the Jazz fans on the lower side of 50. I was wondering if this is the norm for Jazz fans all around the world and whether there is anything that can be done to promote Jazz to the younger generations.  The festival has become such an important part of the Merimbula tourist plan that it would be sad to see it decline over the next 10 years. We probably need to start to think about other events to supplement the tourists that visit for the Jazz Festival.

Merimbula Jazz Festival       The Wizard & Oz

 We have had a number of people stay at Bimbadeen since the Jazz Festival, most have been children with cerebral palsy and their carers, giving the parents some much needed respite. We have some bookings over the next few weekends, so the word is starting to get out that our facility is an easy & relaxing place to stay for people with disabilities and access issues.

Some Technical Questions

A few people have asked me about the back end of the Universal Design Renovations Blog.

It is built on a WordPress platform and uses a theme called Anaconda. The site is hosted by a company called Hostgator who I would recommend to anyone who is considering starting up a website. Their service is great and I have been using them for over 5 years for a number of websites and have not had any problems.

I am not a “code monkey” so all of this has to be useable by someone who has just basic editing skills.

Here is a link to Hostgator have a look for your self.

Making Life Easy

We have had a steady stream of guests into Bimbadeen over the last few weeks. Most of these have been referrals from the Bega Valley Respite Centre. We have had three children with Cerebral Palsy, Colleen, Sarah & Jake and their carers. There have been a lot of compliments about the quality of accommodation and how easy it is to live in with a wheel chair. This is because of the good circulation space and the set up of the bathrooms.

 Kitchen Circulation Space      Bathroom with Altro Non Slip Flooring

 This makes Desiree and I very happy. All of the work we put into the design is now starting to pay dividends.

Over the Queens Birthday weekend ( June 5 – 8 ) Merimbula  will stage the 29th Jazz Festival. This has become the biggest weekend outside of Christmas in our town. The whole place turns into one big Jazz jam and we have thousands of people come to stay for the event.

 Merimbula Jazz Festival 1      Merimbula Jazz Festival 2

In a moment of “weakness” I decided to do my bit for the festival and volunteered to become one of the announcers for the event.  (Really I am looking forward to becoming involved) You can download a pdf copy of the weekends program or go to the official site on the links below.
Merimbula 29th Jazz Festival Program
Merimbula Jazz Festival Website

I have put together a small Google Adwords advertising program to promote Bimbadeen as a suitable venue for people with disabilities to stay during the festival. Hopefully this will be successful.

Starting Our Marketing

Now that we have almost finished fitting out Bimbadeen we are starting the marketing process. Initially we will be using online methods which include this blog and various websites to spread the word.

We have set up descriptions of Bimbadeen on Australia for All which is a website that bills itself as a one stop shop for accessible tourism in Australia and overseas. We have set up a booking page on the Sapphire Coast Tourism website which is affiliated with Tourism Australia.

I have compiled a fairly big list of  health industry contacts during the development process and have emailed them a copy of our electronic brochure Bimbadeen Disability Friendly Holiday Accommodation 

So hopefully this will start the marketing ball rolling. Feel free to post this link to people you feel appropriate.

Its pretty funny how things come up. Last week I was talking with Jim my local nurseryman. He has been the supplier of many of the plants that have gone into the garden. We were discussing Bimbadeen and as it happens Jim was a renal nurse prior to being a plant grower and he said that there were very few holiday facilities where a person who needs dialysis can stay. Apparently you need a highly filtered water supply and uninterruptible power. I think that with a few minor modifications we can set up the back bedroom of Bimbadeen so it is dialysis friendly. I am making enquiries with the Australian kidney foundation now about what I would need to do. Lets hope that we can get this done as it would open up another market for us and provide a much needed facility.

The garden is still very much a work in progress but it is starting to take shape. The birds have found it and in the mornings and evenings there are a wide variety of birds that are starting to visit. Some of the plants have also attracted the local wallabies so the place is becoming a bit of a sanctuary. Anyway here are a couple of photos of the garden and fauna.

 Back Garden      Bimbadeen Kookaburras

 Back patio view      Back garden view

 Bell bird      King parrot

Rainbow lorikeet      Black wallaby

The little green bird is a bell bird and you can hear them chirping all day, the red parrot is a king parrot and they are pretty reclusive but when they come out they are magnificent, the multicolored bird is a rainbow lorikeet, these guys must be the clowns of the bird world not only for their color but also their antics. The black-wallaby is playing havoc with the new leaves on our lilly pilly trees. I think that he comes in at night.

Bimbadeen Comes to Life

It has been a couple of hectic months since my last posting. I have been putting the finishing touches on Bimbadeen. I had forgotten how much stuff you need to fully set up a home. We managed to get get all of our furniture last week. A lot of it was flat pack so I spent a day putting tables, chairs, bedside tables and entertainment units together. Multiple trips to the supermarket to pick up all sorts of odds and ends. The results have been great.

 Front Bedroom      Rear Bedroom

Kitchen       Laundry

In the meantime the garden has started to grow and we are attracting a hoard of local birds.

Back Garden       Bimbadeen Kookaburras

 If you are interested to come and stay with us, here is a brochure that you can download that gives you some details about the facility.

Bimbadeen Disability Friendly Holiday Accommodation


Getting the Garden Going

Now that we have all of the structural work finished and we are on site, I can start to concentrate on the outdoor site works. This means the garden and surround. I have struck up friendship with Alan from Woodlands Nursery in Merimbula which is walking distance from Bimbadeen. I will be using Alan for advice and to supply all of the plants that we will need for the garden.

We have also put a lot of though into the layout and landscaping of the block. We want to achieve a number of things.

  • Have the entire block accessible by wheel chair.
  • Create a garden that attracts native birds and marsupials.
  • Have a vegetable garden to help with self sufficiency.
  • Retain all of our magnificent views.

Making the gardens accessible by wheel chair was quite a feat for the landscapers. The rear of the block falls away about 3 metres from the back of the house to the boundary. I do think that they have achieved this, check out the terracing in the picture below.

 Back Garden Terracing

All of the pathways are less than a 1 in 14 slope which is in keeping with access standards and we will plant them with a local grass that is very hardy and gives a firm surface to wheel across. You will also be able to touch the plants from wheel chair height.

To attract birds and marsupials (we border onto the bush) we needed to focus on native Australian plants. Using Alan from Woodlands Nursery and a bit of research here are some of the species that we will be putting into the garden.

 Acmena Smithii
Acmena Smithii
These are commonly known in Australia as Lily Pily they have unusual flowers and both bird and marsupial attracting berries. We will plant these on the back border so that the wallabies and kangaroos can get good access.
Callistemon Endevour
Callistemon Endevour
These are commonly referred to as bottle brush plants. The endevour is a brand name for the citrinus strain and has striking red flowers. This will attract the nectar feeding birds.
Callistemon Pallidus (Lemon Bottlebrush)
Callistemon Pallidus
The lemon bottle brush is also planted for the nectar feeding birds. It grows to about 5 metres high but we will keep it trimmed to retain our views.
Grevillea Bonfire  Grevillea Forest Rambler

Grevillea Honey Gem  Grevillea Supberb
Grevilleas are probably the best plants for attracting nectar eating birds. So we have planted a pretty diverse range as you can see from the above photos. These should all grow into a hedge that we will keep at about 1.5-2.0 metres high. We have also used a prostrate version (Grevillea Gaudi Chaudi) for some ground cover in the front yard to avoid planting too much water loving lawn.
Grevillea Gaudi Chaudi
Mesembyanthemum (Pigface)
Pigface Orange Pink Pigface Yellow Pigface

As there are a number of small runoffs we needed a plant that would stabilize the banks. We chose pigface for this purpose as it is an evergreen succulent that has a great show of flowers.
Along the walls we will use Osteospermum which while not an Australian native (I think it comes from South Africa) will drape over the walls and is good in a dry environment.
Piniculatum (Brush Cherry)

Lastly we will plant some Brush Cherries which is an endangered species here in Australia. This will attract the berry eating birds. They have great flowers and rich red berries.

This is the first round of the garden design. We will need to now concentrate on the side areas and some darker areas around the water tank. Then it is on to doing the vegetable garden. Desiree has also just announced that she would like 3 chickens so I guess a chicken coop will also be required.

Moving Day

Just prior to Christmas the big day came. We made the move. Packers came in to our unit in Sydney and spent 2 days packing about 50 cubic metres of our belongings. We then had to put the logistics around the move. The removal van would leave Sydney about midday and then travel the 700 km’s down the south coast of New South Wales to Merimbula stopping overnight. We would meet up with the truck the next day for the unload.

All went according to plan. We arrived in tact and so did all our belongings. What I did not realise is what 50 cubic metres of stuff looked like. There were boxes and boxes to unpack. Not doing anything by halves we had arranged for relatives to visit from the UK arriving 10 days after our move then it was Christmas when another 5 would arrive. All in all we would have 15 to feed on Xmas day. Not to mention that we needed to supplement the bed situation. At some stage the house would be home to 11 people. No rest for the wicked they say. (I just did not realise how wicked I must have been.)

Well we got through Christmas day with no mishaps, no fights, everyone fed etc etc. The house has come up way better than I thought, and as it had been more than 12 months since the last visit I had almost forgotten the spectacular views.

Now we need to concentrate on getting the last few building jobs completed, the garden done and some furniture for the holiday unit and we are up and operational. I will be posting some more details over the next few days now that I have got the Internet access sorted out.

In a previous post I noted that I had become a public toilet expert. This was because Desiree and I spend an inordinate amount of time searching out wheel chair friendly toilets when we are out. I used this time to work out what fittings we needed and where they came from. it was not unusual to see me crawling around the floor looking for brand names and contact details. It was when I was doing this that I came across the name Bradley Australia . Where ever we found a well fitted out loo it always contained some fittings from Bradley Australia . I searched them out and found that they were headquartered in New South Wales and the company had been established by the Newhouse family. They specialised in making stainless steel bathroom fittings for commercial and domestic applications. One of their specialties was to make made to measure grab rails. Exactly what I needed. I managed to get on to the company and they agreed to partner us in our project.

I was amazed at the service that they offered. They said that when we had all of the measurements to hand that they could make up the tailor made grab rails in a matter of days. I thought that this was too good to be true. But it wasn’t. True to their word 3 – 4 days after John Bennett the builder gave them the specs the products arrived on site. We have now installed all of the fittings and they went in without a hitch. Check out some of the photos below.

Bradley Australia fittings in the shower.         Bradley Australia grab rails in shower

You can see in the above photos, the tailor made grab rails, a double toilet roll holder, paper towel holder and a 400 mm stainless steel shower shelf with soap holder. You cannot have too many shelves in the shower.

 Bradley Australia grab rails        Bradley Australia grab rails and Skope heated towel rails

You can see above the Skope heated towel rails and bathroom heater together with the Bradley Australia grab rails, and even a stainless steel soap dispenser. All designed to make living easier for people with disabilities. You also get a good view of the Altro safety flooring .

Getting the Deck Finished

When we first started the project we put a lot of focus on the outdoor decks. Harry Sprintz our architect joked that we would become a family of deck dwellers. We do spend a lot of time outdoors in the Aussie sun so having a good deck meant a lot to us. We started by specifying a good Australian hardwood as the material of choice. We settled on stringbark gum which is a local eucalypt. This is a very resilient timber. We used a no-nail decking system made here in Australia call Deck-Max . What this system bought to the project was a beautiful smooth nail free surface. In addition it reduces the amount of cupping and warping that can happen during the weathering process. Avoiding this means that the decks will remain smooth and true. Something that is important for wheelchair use. We then left the deck for 8 months to settle in.

Last week was the time to finish off the decks. We chose a suit of products from our friends at Dulux .

The first thing to do was to get the floor sander in to go over all of the surfaces to make the deck true and smooth.

We then used Dulux Intergrain Reviva Wood Cleaner.  Dulux Intergrain Reviva is a high strength cleaner that restores dirty, weathered rust or tannin stained timber.  It should be used to prepare the surface for the application of Dulux Intergrain Ultradeck.

As the decking areas will be used by people with disabilities, it was important to us that the surface was as non slip as possible. Dulux make a product called Intergrain Ultragrip which is an additive for Intergrain Ultradeck . This was the reason that we chose this system. Dulux Intergrain Ultradeck is a durable long lasting water based decking oil for exterior decking. When Intregrain Ultragrip is added to the Ultradeck you achieve a slip resistance assessment of R12.

There is a misconception that the ‘R’ scale runs from R1 to R13, where R1 is the most slippery, and R13 the least slippery. In reality, the R scale runs from R9 to R13, where R9 is the most slippery, and R13 the least slippery. R12 means that the slip angle is between 27 and 35 degrees.

Deck-Max deck ready for sanding         Deck-Max deck coated with Dulux Ultradeck

 Here are some before and after photos. You can clearly see how the deck weathered through the last 8 months. The photo on the right shows the same deck after application of the Dulux Intergrain system .

If you are interested in more information about slip resistance you can download this guide.

Slip Resistance Explained

The last few days has seen some serious progress on the back yard. The yard was a bit of a disaster zone. The back corner of the house is right on the 80 metre mark while the boundary of the back fence falls away to the 77 metre line. This is a 3 metre fall in a distance of 20 metres. In terms of making the yard accessible we can’t have any slope greater than 1 in 14. So our slope is more than twice what is mandated by the access code in Australia.

So the answer was to put in a series of retaining walls in a switchback type arrangement. Boral make a retaining wall system using keystone blocks that can be laid in curves. We have both convex and concave curves in the design.

Boral Keystones laid in a convex curve     Boral Keystones laid in a concave curve

You can clearly see both the concave and the convex curves in the above photographs. We are yet to put on the capping stones to finish off the walls. You can also start to see the switchback arrangement which allows us to reduce the slopes to less than 1 in 14.  The ramp is on the right side in the photo on the right. To do all of this earth moving we have bought in a small bobcat. Otherwise it would take days.

View of the yard from the back deck. Retaining walls taking shape.     Preparing for the Boral Keystones

We are now at the point where we need to make a decision on the grass  species that we are going to use for the lawn areas. The lawn will be on the ramps so the considerations are that it needs to be hard wearing, but also not too spongy. Spongy and wheel chairs do not go together well. The two species to consider were kikuyu and buffalo. Both would have been suitable, but kikuyu forms a harder surface, which is good for wheeling over. So kikuyu it is.