Organic Design (blog)

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Dangerous wasp adventure

Posted by Nad on 11 October 2018 at 20:14
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
I've finally started the job of closing off all the gaps around the roof of the guest house so that birds won't make their nests in there any more. I've got both sides closed off nicely, but when I tried to climb the ladder on the south end, the wasps suddenly swarmed out and attacked me, I fell off the ladder and they started stinging me! It was pretty scary, so I ran away, but they came after me and they're really fast, I could barely keep ahead of them! They finally stopped following me after I got across the river about a hundred metres from the house. Fortunately I'd only been stung three times on the back of my neck.

But that was a couple of weeks ago now, which is enough time for me to have forgotten how traumatising it was! So today I went back to try again - but this time I was prepared! I made a gambiarra bee-keeper's suit using a sombrero and a mosquito net :-) When I got up the ladder, hundreds of them swarmed out and attacked me, but I didn't get stung at all and was able to nail all the pieces into place successfully, unfortunately Beth wasn't able to get a good photo of them attacking me from inside the house.

DIY wasp suit.jpg
Wasps attacking.jpg

Things finally starting to grow!

Posted by Nad on 11 October 2018 at 19:54
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
Well it's been a few months since Antonio left - and since my last post! The huge amounts of manure and the regular supply of water have definitely made a big difference, we're really seeing some things starting to grow well now. Here's the beds shown in the last post, there's three generations of carrots, broccoli, beetroot, parsnip and strawberries. Everything's doing pretty well there except that Borroro came and ate all the broccoli, and the strawberries have been the target of leaf-cutter ant attacks. The carrots have good mass and taste good, but are very malformed even though the beds are raised and the soil soft, so we have to figure out what's wrong there. We've started putting orange peel down to attract the ants away from the strawberries which seems to be working so far, and we'll need to put more wires in the fence to prevent the dear and rabbits from getting in.
Malformed carrots.jpg
Mazama gouazoubira.jpg

All the beds parallel to the north fence are doing very well too, you can see the full history of all those beds in vege patch, there's turnip in bed C, garlic in D and E, onions in F and parsnip in G.


The vege patch by the house is going super well too with big broccoli and huge kale (even though it was supposed to be cauliflower), mustard, watercress, rocket and other stuff that we're not sure about the English names for. Also some herbs; parsley, oregano and spring onion.

Vege patch mid September 2018.jpg
Broccoli Oct 2018.jpg

Going it alone again

Posted by Nad on 19 June 2018 at 21:23
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
It was Antonio's last day on Friday which was exactly a month of work - he was originally going to stay for three months, but the cold was too much for him and he cut the time down promising to return again later in the year. We set off around midday on Saturday, but only got about 100m out of the gate and the engine suddenly died and wouldn't start again. The starter would rev fine, but the glowplugs dash-light wouldn't come on, so I checked the relay for them which worked fine, and then their 80A fuse which was also working but had no current going to it at which point I was out of ideas. Our neighbour Juca came to take a look at it on Sunday and tried to tow us to a flatter area further up where we could try starting it from being towed with a bit of speed, but it was too muddy for his truck which only had two-wheel dirve. The plan was to see if we could find a tow truck to come out, but a couple of hours later Juca rang and said that on the way back his truck had broken down as well! So his son was coming out on Monday with a mechanic friend and they'd take a look at both our cars.

Our other neighbour Remi was heading to Canela early Monday morning, so Antonio got a lift with him in case the mechanics failed to get our car working. He then got a bus from Canela to Porto Alegre, and he's now on the bus back to Brasília which is a 36 hour trip (he doesn't like flying)!

He has done an unbelievable amount of work on the land in the short time he was here. All the fences around the whole land are replaced or upgraded and many new fences have been erected within the land as a secondary measure against cow-entry around the important growing areas we've planned. He's then made holes filled with manure and lime and garden beds through all these areas, as well as laying a huge network of probably a kilometre of pipes (many of them buried) all around the land so we can irrigate the new planting areas. One of the most important lessons we've learned is that we've been doing things on too much of a small scale, for example one of our typical mulch beds would use maybe three wheel barrows of manure and another three of mulch, but his ones use about 15 wheelbarrows of manure and 7 of mulch. We've been seriously under-watering everything too as we assumed the environment was wet enough that it didn't need much, hence all the irrigation pipes.

Washing machine with running water.jpg
Watering the plants like normal people do.jpg
New garden beds in the field.jpg

Juca, his son, wife and two kids and the mechanic friend all arrived late Monday afternoon and got straight to work looking for the problem with our car. After half an hour or so, they managed to isolate the problem down to one particular part which they said they had no idea what its function was exactly (it must be important though because the engine dies instantly if its not working!), but they managed to do a temporary fix (pulling one of the hoses out of the part seemed to make stuff work somehow) and get it running well enough that we could get to a mechanic in the city to take a proper look at it. We decided to head to Caxias right then while it was running, rather than risk it not starting the next morning in the cold.

We took it to an auto-electrician since the mechanic said the problem was electrical and we showed them the part in question. The guy established that some wires had broken lose on the part which he also didn't know the purpose of, and figured out where they all connected and then everything worked fine again - including the glowplugs and their timer, dash-light and relay! We're at our favourite hotel in Caxias now, and will be staying for a few days for a bit of a rest :-)

Update: I found on the Toyota wiki that our engine is the 1KZ-TE engine (a 3L SOHC diesel) and I was then able to download a workshop manual for the motor and discover that the part nobody knew the purpose of, that had the wires break off and needed the hose temporarily unplugged from to get us to the city, is the turbo pressure sensor which is connected to the intake manifold. The engine control unit (ECU) detects the intake manifold pressure as a voltage from the sensor, and uses this for correction of injection volume control and injection timing control.

The EOS network launch is under way

Posted by Nad on 11 June 2018 at 11:26
This post has the following tags: News
EOS is a new Ethereum-like crypto-currency designed by Dan Larimer who also built Steem and BitShares which are both very successful blockchain projects that both have proven scalability. Unlike Ethereum, EOS allows free transactions and is aimed at full-stack application development with familiar development languages and tools, rather than focusing on contracts using specialised languages and tools.

The network itself is not being launched by Larimer or his company, rather it has been left entirely up to the community to launch it and build applications on it. For the last year, there has been an ICO under way for EOS using the Ethereum network, then on June 1st snapshots were taken by a number of teams involved in EOS and validated together to arrive at a final single agreed upon snapshot which became the "genesis block" on the official EOS chain. There were a number of different contenders of EOS chains as well, but the one that the community at large has settled on is the one with the ID of aca376f206b8fc25a6ed44dbdc66547c36c6c33e3a119ffbeaef943642f0e906.

Now that we have an official chain, the next step is to vote for 21 "block producers" who will play a role similar to that of mining in the Bitcoin network. There are around 200 block producer candidates, and it's up to the community to vote for who they want to be managing the network. The strength of a vote is proportional to the amount of EOS you "put at stake" - to make a vote you do a special kind of transaction that locks the EOS away for 3 days. Since voting involves your private key, it's very important to do it securely - many block producers have forms on their websites where voting can be done, but I strongly discourage the practice of entering your private key into the browser since there can easily be malware running.

A single transaction can vote for up to 30 block producer candidates, and you can change your vote at any time effective immediately. This means that block producers have to stay committed to their goals and behave well all the time, or they can lose their position in the network instantly. The power of a vote slowly diminishes by half each year, so people are encouraged to keep an eye on what's going on and vote regularly. 15% of the tokens in the network (that's 150 million EOS) have to be used for voting before the network activates and becomes available for public use. The Crypto Lions block producer candidate from Ukraine have made a useful page here, where you can see how much EOS has been staked for voting so far and the current rankings of all the block producers.

There are two methods of voting I recommend, the first is the EOS voter desktop app by block producer candidate Team Greymass. This is much safer to enter your private EOS key into than the browser, and it's very easy to use - you can also select an option specifying to not save your key to disk which is even safer. But for those with big balances to protect, the secure offline voting tool by block producer candidate Tokenika from Poland, allows you to sign the transaction completely offline on a computer that has never even been on the internet, this is a more time-consuming method, but it's extremely secure.

But who to actually vote for? Well CryptoLions, Team Greymass and Tokenika mentioned just above are all good candidates ;-) You can look through the list of all candidates at random and find teams that share your values, or otherwise here is a good list of well thought out recommendations to get you started. Remember, if you find more good candidates, or any that you've already chosen turn out to be less than what you expected, you can update your vote at any time :-)

Update!!! The network has just reached the minimum votes required for activation! It happened very suddenly with whales stepping up at the last minute to place their votes, mainly accounts gm3tombuguge with 32 million EOS and ge3dkmbwgyge with 25 million (the 7th and 8th largest accounts in the genesis block) who voted only for EOS Canada. The next biggest whale who voted around the same time was account ha2tsmzqhege ranked 16th with 11.7 million EOS who voted for two Chinese block producers folowed by geztomjzhage ranked 27th with 3.1 million EOS who voted for Bitfinex and EosDAC.

Saying NO to Mircrosoft

Posted by Nad on 9 June 2018 at 15:28
This post has the following tags: Server
As you've probably heard, Microsoft is acquiring GitHub for $7.5 billion. Github is a web-based system for managing source code using the Git version control system originally developed by Linus Torvalds for the devlopment of the Linux kernel. Github hosts almost sixty million code repositories, half of them public. Although Organic Design hosts its own repositories, it also maintained mirrors on Github. But as fierce advocates for libre software and opponents of the corporate agenda, we will no longer continue using Github now that it is owned by Microsoft.

We've now moved to GitLab which is very similar to GitHub and so was a simple migration process, but really this is not a long term solution because the same thing will happen to GitLab as well when they get very popular. We need to move our code management into one of the many new decentralised options, and so research into these is now under way :-)

A lot of other people are moving to GitLab as well in response to the acquisition, they conveniently released this migration tutorial the day before, the comments clearly reveal the frustration of the community such as "Microsoft buys Github are the most evil words I've ever read" and "I hope that all my favourite OSS projects move away from M$ Github". One thing I learned about GitLab from the comments is that it's fully transparent and open source itself, you can install GitLab on your own server!

Punnets of pain!

Posted by Nad on 8 June 2018 at 17:27
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
A few weeks ago I found this insane company called Viciado em Pimentas who grow some of the hottest chilli peppers in the world! The guy who founded the company, Fábio Tuma, spent a year developing their own special hybrid chilli plant called VICNIC-1313 based on the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Scorpian Moruga - it's hotter than the Bhut Jolokia, but he couldn't beat the pure Carolina Reaper!

I ordered a big selection of their products when I found their company on the net, but they're only just arrived due to the truck strike. You can see my selection below as well as a photo of Fábio and his punnets of pain!

Nuclear selection.jpg
Fabio Tuma.jpg
Punnets of pain.jpg

As well as the standard insanely hot sauces, I also ordered a couple of mustards, a ketchup and a barbeque sauce each with an added chilli bite! They also threw in a special free present - some strawberry jellies sprinkled with coconut - and of course they too have a serious chilli aftershock :-)

A huge pile of shit!

Posted by Nad on 7 June 2018 at 14:40
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
We just paid a thousands bucks for nothing but a big pile of shit - literally - R$1200 for sixteen tons of chicken manure! Actually we gave the guy an extra couple hundred because we ordred it when we were in Canela and told him we'd head home first and let him know if the road was ok for a big truck. Well it seemed ok, but when we returned to meet him and guide him back the road had somehow got much more slippery - so slippery that even the Hilux was sliding all over the place in some parts! Still, he took it slow and got there in ok in the end, but there was no way he was going to do the last kilometre, so we're moving it the rest of the way a trailer load at a time.
Pile of shit 1.jpg
Pile of shit 2.jpg
Pile of shit 3.jpg

This girl chop wood good

Posted by Nad on 3 June 2018 at 15:12
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
Beth's been getting really efficient at chopping firewood! Not only that, but she's the only girl I've seen who actually uses the axe with proper technique - there are many videos on Youtube showing women doing a good job chopping their wood, such as barefoot girl, tiny girl or no-pants girl, but their technique is awful! Here's a description of proper technique, and as you see from the video on the right, Beth's really got the knack down pat :-)

Beth loves chopping firewood for dissipating agitation, and especially on cold days to warm up - like Henry Ford said, "chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice!"

Server move complete (again)

Posted by Nad on 30 May 2018 at 19:56
This post has the following tags: Server
It was only a month and a half ago that we completed the move of our server from Codero in the US to AbeloHost in the Netherlands, but unfortunately that just wasn't working out. They're really nice guys, prices are good and support is responsive, but a lot of dodgy spammers, botnet controllers and phishing sites have been using their service and their IP address range has gained a very bad reputation as a dirty host full of crime & abuse! This meant that a lot of the emails sent from our server were being rejected by other mail servers, so we've now just completed yet another move - we're still in the Netherlands covered by Dutch privacy law, but now we're with AltusHost on a clean IP address :-)

We've also just moved all our .nz domain names from to for the same reason that initiated the server move - our financial situation is in limbo at the moment and we've become part of the infamous "unbanked" so we need to move to services that accept crpyto as a payment option. As it turned out Gandi not only accepts crypto, but is also 30% cheaper than Webdrive :-)

Antonio trabalhando na terra

Posted by Nad on 25 May 2018 at 19:22
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
We now have a guy called Antonio living with us for a few months to help us get things moving on the land. He's been working for Beth's parents for a few years and they highly recommended him to us since he's been wanting to earn some extra money and also have some peace and quiet :-)

He's unbelievably fast and strong! The first job was to rebuild the south fence which was in a terrible condition. But it goes through about 250 meters of dense bush, some of in is thigh-deep in mud and water. I thought this would be the first week's job, but he had cleared the entire 250 metres of bush with just a machete on the first morning, and the fence was completed before the end of the second day!!! He's made and repaired many more fences since then, including about a dozen counter-masters which are used to make a firm ending that has wires pulling on only one side. In his first week, he's also cleared huge amounts of overgrown grass and made many holes filled with manure and lime ready for planting fruit trees!

South fence.jpg
Antonio counter master.jpg
Antonio working.jpg

But he works so fast that we've been unable to get the materials he needs fast enough! Although we have been having extremely bad luck as well, there's been too much rain for a truck to come, and half our trips we've made in the car to Lageado Grande and Canela have been almost a complete waste of time because the things we've needed have been out of stock - in all the stores at the same time! When we finally managed to successfully get an order of fence posts and buy a trailer to carry them it turned out we don't have a tow bar attachment, we got one made, but they took so long that it was too late to pick up the wood so we had to stay in a hotel for the night. Then on the way back, one of the bridges was broken! It looks like truck carrying a load of pine had snapped one side of the bridge and a trailer full of pine logs had fallen into the river! Much of the remaining wood on the bridge was cracked, but we decided to risk it - our load was only half a ton and the bridge still looked pretty solid. Later a neighbour told us that you can actually drive across the river to the side of the bridge, we went back to check it out, and indeed we could get across quite easily, but the river bed is too rocky to try it with a trailer I think.

Just when we thought things were starting to move smoothly with a week of fine days and we were ready to place a big order of materials to be delivered by a truck, all the trucks in Brazil have gone on strike!!! Petrobras wants to raise the price of oil even though the rest of the world is lowering oil prices. It was the last straw for the truckies and they took action, now all the cities throughout Brazil are in a major crisis, there's no petrol in the gas stations and many supermarkets are out of common items! Luckily one of our regular truck guys said he had enough gas that he could still do a delivery, but after he called in the morning to confirm the damn cell phone tower went down and we couldn't answer him!!!

Broken bridge 3.jpg
Driving around broken bridge.jpg
Petrobras truck strike.jpg

The only issue is that it seems like the cold may be a problem, he comes from much further north where it never really gets below about 15 degrees, but down here the early mornings have been well below zero. We're getting the feeling that the isolation, the freezing cold weather and the lack of modern comforts are too much for him and he may cut his time here down a lot :-(