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The awesome power of gambiarra

Posted by Nad on 25 March 2015 at 16:28
This post has the following tags: Our third year on the land
Now that we're on a daily schedule we seem to getting a lot more done on the land even though we have so much meditation to do each day! Beth's been making excellent progress painting the inside of the house and cutting the grass and weeds around the vege patch and other areas on the land. And I finally completed the east extension which has been an outstanding job for at least a year!

East extension.jpg

Over the last few days I've been working on getting the upper segment of the PVC pipe containing the net cables raised overhead so we don't end up with the same, or similar, trouble as the lower segment (i.e. having it eaten by giant swamp rats!). This job turned out to be a lot more difficult than expected, because the weight of the hundred or so metres of PVC pipe made the force required to pull the wire straight into the equivalent of hundreds of kilograms! The standard fence wire-tightener was useless in this scenario because it's made of too thin a metal and also the force required to turn the bolt soon becomes too much.

So I had to let the cable back down and figure out a different approach. The next day when making a hole for Beth I suddenly realised that the hole-making tool I was using could work as an excellent high-force wire-tightener if it had a hole drilled in the middle! This new Gambiarra tool worked very well, and before long I was able to pull the wire tight with hundreds of kilograms of force no problem :-)

Gambiarra wire puller 1.jpg
Gambiarra wire puller 2.jpg

       Nek minute....

Net pole pulled out of ground.jpg

The force was so much that the whole pole was ripped right out of the ground!!!

Actually it was a bit of a design failure because since the force is pulling from above the pole, the forty-five brace was of little use in strengthening it, so yet again I had to go back to the drawing board :-(

The next day I added a new shorter pole about four metres behind the tall one and put it deeper in the ground and put it at an angle roughly perpendicular to the direction of the force. The original pole is now just lifting the cable so it only experiences a downward force and needs no braces, it's settled to an angle halfway between the directions of the short pole and the top of the hill. So far this solution seems to be holding up!

Net pole new solution.jpg
Net pole new solution (close).jpg

Sleeping in the loft again

Posted by Nad on 15 March 2015 at 08:35
This post has the following tags: Our third year on the land
We've been sleeping on the fold-out couch for the last week while Beth put a few coats of paint in the loft to try and resolve the toxic off-gassing problems with the OSB (oriented strand board). The paint's been dry for a couple of days now, so last night we decided to try out sleeping back up there again. It's actually more of a pleasant atmosphere up there with the lighter colour, and it seems to have worked - we didn't have any asthma!
Loft nice and cozy.jpg
Painted Loft.jpg

See Our house#The bedroom for more detail about the loft.

Back to the land after months away again!

Posted by Nad on 8 March 2015 at 17:46
This post has the following tags: Our third year on the land
We've been back at the land for about a week now after being away since halfway through December last year! We were in Brasília at Beth's parents place for Christmas, new year's and then for Patrícia and Nelson's wedding and the Mahamudra retreat. It was really nice to stay there and spend some time with the family, and we had some fun times there, but we were also starting to miss the tranquillity of the land after a month or so :-)
Keep calm and screw the banks.jpg
Self service.jpg

As usual when we arrived back, everything was completely overgrown with six foot high bracken all around the house and the vege patch invisible under a forest of weeds - except for the Chia which is always bigger than everything else! But after a week of weed-whacking, it's nice and clear around the house and garden area, and the most important paths and roads are cleared. Beth chopped the main weeds in the vege patch, and we were happy to see that some things are really starting to get their roots down and it seems the soil is finally starting to improve - the lemon, peach and apple trees are doing really well, and the kumara, courgette and watermelon are looking really healthy and spreading all over the place!

Healthy kumara.jpg
Our first watermelons.jpg
Peach tree in vege patch.jpg

We're slowly getting our new daily schedule under way that we organised with Tilmann on the Mahamudra retreat. It's quite extreme though so we're working in to it slowly over a few weeks, especially since it's always quite overwhelming getting accustomed to the land after living in civilisation for a while! But it's going well, and we're doing all the yoga and meditation sessions each day now, the next step will be to reduce the unnecessary conversation and work on presence, "living deliberately" and less mental chatter between the mediation and yoga sessions.

Apart from that we've been doing a lot of work around the house and garden, Beth's painting the OSB (oriented strand board) in the loft and on the cupboards to try and reduce toxic off-gassing and mould issues which have been giving us asthma problems, we also installed a low power ventilation fan so we can change the air over regularly up there. And I finally got round to raising the trailer onto blocks to protect the tyres - a job which has been overdue for more than two years!

Trailor on blocks.jpg

Starting our third year on the land!

Posted by Nad on 3 February 2015 at 06:36
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Even though we're still in Brasília and will be here until the end of the month, I've started the blog for our third year on the land with the last article about the retreat in both the blogs for the second and third year.

Our third year on the land >>

2015 Mahamudra retreat

Posted by Nad on 2 February 2015 at 12:05
Our third year on the land
Beth and I have just returned from an extraordinary meditation retreat. This retreat was the forth of a seven part transmission on Mahāmudrā (natural being) with each part being in the form of a two week intensive meditation retreat in Pirenópolis in February each year. The teachings are given by Tilmann Lhundrup and one of his students Gelek Dirk. Both of them are German, but the teachings are given in English with translation into Portuguese. Gelek lives here in Brazil and speaks fluent Portuguese, and Tilmann will probably start giving the teachings in Portuguese soon as he's getting pretty fluent now too.

The structure of the transmission is based on the 9th Karmapa's text on Mahāmudrā from the sixteenth century, entitled "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning" which has been the definitive text on the Buddha's original teachings used by many schools in the Tibetan tradition up to this day. The text has been made available to the public and translated into several languages in recent years, but for a proper understanding it requires a teacher who has received the transmission directly, which is very rare, so these retreats are really precious. Tilmann's first three year retreat during his own training was guided by the great master Gendun Rinpoche and one of his more experienced students, Henrik Havlat. Henrik wrote German and English translations of the original Tibetan Mahāmudrā text, and the English version, called Mahamudra - The Ocean Of True Meaning, is the version that Tilmann and Gelek use as the basis for their Mahāmudrā teachings.

Quote.pngThe Ocean of Definitive Meaning, the most extensive in length of the Karmapa's three texts on Mahamudra, is exceptional for providing not only the general view and practices of Mahamudra, but also the rich methods of the oral instructions for realising the nature of one's mind, enlightenment. By writing this profound text, the ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje, preserved and passed on many of the oral instructions of the Mahamudra lineage, a living tradition that continues to this day.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

The land where the retreat is held is called Espaço Azul, and is a beautiful space with many small rivers and waterfalls. It has a really tranquil energy as it's only ever used for meditation retreats with no alcohol or meat consumption ever happening there. There are many animals and birds there such as horses, monkeys, wolves, tucans and Macaws, and lots of amazing rock formations and interesting paths to wander around. The meals are prepared for everyone and conversation is strongly discouraged so that everyone allow their minds to quieten down so they can focus completely on the practices. The teachings take place in a nice dwelling constructed just for meditation, yoga and similar practices shown on the below. There were about thirty people in the group. All the photos from are available in Gelek's Dropbox here.

Pirenópolis retreat meditation room.jpg Pirenópolis retreat Beth's refuge 4.jpg

Staying for two weeks at Espaço Azul is quite expensive (about R$1700) because it's not only the rental of a room, but also covers the food, cooking and cleaning for the period too. There's also a house on the adjacent land which Beth and I rented so that we could distribute the costs amongst all those who really wanted to go to the retreat but couldn't afford it. We had seven of us in the house which worked out to around R$400 each, some couldn't afford anything at all, but we were happy for them to stay as well since the cost was much lower than expected. The house is really nice as well and has a beautiful little waterfall and swimming hole only a couple of minutes walk away. Since the whole retreat is meant to be done without conversation, we who were staying in the house made a schedule on the first day so that everyone knew who was making and assisting with lunch and dinner each day and who was doing cleaning all without the need for any discussion.

Pirenópolis retreat house.jpg Pirenópolis retreat horses in garden.jpg Pirenópolis retreat waterfall.jpg

The house is such a good resource for the Buddhist group that we all decided to chip in and rent the place permanently so that it would be available every year, and also for those wanting to do retreats at other times throughout the year. Gelek lives in another property nearby and would be there to guide the retreats taken there.

Each day the morning meditation started at 7am followed by some teachings until 9am when there would be a one hour break for breakfast. Then there would be a more intensive session of teaching and meditation until midday with a half hour break for self practice in the middle. At midday is a three hour break for lunch, and then a final teaching and meditation session from 3pm to 6pm with a self practice break in the middle. At 7:30 pm is an optional half hour of chanting and prayer session.

On the last day was a long session where Tilmann posed some questions for everyone to meditate on about what we had learned, what we considered to be the most precious gift from the time there, and what we would be putting our energy into during the coming year. We then all sat in a circle and shared these thoughts with the group. For Beth and I it's really clarified the direction for our practice and has pointed out to us how precious our situation at the land is, where we have everything we need, a huge amount of free time available, and a perfect environment for concentrated meditation practice. This has always been our vision for our life at the land, but we've realised that we'd put it off into the future, when in reality we already have it now! So with Tilmann's help we've created a daily schedule for practice that we'll try and stick with for the whole year until the 2016 Mahāmudrā retreat.

Collecting rain water

Posted by Nad on 11 December 2014 at 10:15
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Beth bought some large diameter PVC pipe that we could chop in half and use as a gutter and was much cheaper than buying the proper material. Last week I installed it on the south side of the roof so it all pours into a tank. We were quite surprised at how much water can be collected in this way. After only an hour of very light rain we collected about 100 Litres!
Gutter.jpg Gutter close.jpg Gutter inside.jpg

Tank filling from south gutter 1.jpg

A visitor who found us on

Posted by Nad on 21 November 2014 at 12:42
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We got a contact message from the site a couple of days ago from an Australian women named Anna who came across our blog from this thread about our adventure here on the land :-) She's staying with some friends on a horse fazenda down near Barragem do Salto which is only a couple of hours ride from here, so she was keen to meet us and check out our place here.

Anna's an extremely independent hardcore cyclist, and has been cycling all around the continent by herself for the past five years. Here's some pictures of Anna and her bike which has done over forty five thousand kilometres and been across the Andes fifteen times!

Anna's bike.jpg Anna with her bike.jpg
Anna's got a blog about her adventures called a thousand turns.

Our new panniers

Posted by Nad on 19 November 2014 at 15:01
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We went to Canela yesterday to get some groceries and this time I took some photos of our side panniers. We cycled to Lava Pes and then left our bikes at the church and got the bus in to Canela. We took a large backpack to carry the groceries in until we got back to the bikes at Lava Pes. The backpack was on the limit of being carryable, in fact it was past the limit because one of the straps broke on it! I'd estimate it was about 30-35Kg. When we got the bus back to Lava Pes we transferred all the groceries from the backpack into the panniers.
Panniers 1.jpg Panniers 2.jpg

Amazingly, cycling with all that weight was very easy! It would be practical to cycle 60km with at least 50% more weight! It really is an excellent example of the rule that having the right tool for the job makes life a lot easier. We'll have to pick up another pair for Beth's bike soon :-)

Getting to know the land again

Posted by Nad on 16 November 2014 at 15:33
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
After being away for so long we almost feel like strangers here! After lunch our local lizard Leelee turned up for a visit which made us feel a lot more at home :-) he was very curious with all the changes that have happened over the last few days since we arrived and was looking through everything.
Leelee and jandals.jpg Leelee with head in towel 1.jpg Leelee with head in towel 2.jpg

We went for a bit of a walk around our small forest today to try and get reacquainted again, and got a couple of nice photos.

Natural rope bridge 2.jpg Forest canopy by the beach.jpg

As we came out of the forest along the beach path, Beth noticed that our grape-archway has got its first signs of fruit appearing on it :-)

Beth looking at new grapez.jpg New grape.jpg

Two weeks became three months!

Posted by Nad on 14 November 2014 at 18:33
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
I had my court hearing on October 6th which turned out to be nothing more than both Tiago and I agreeing that we both wanted the whole thing over and done with, so the mediator said that we could opt for reconciliation which simply involved me apologising to Tiago for attacking him and us all signing a statement saying as much, and that was it! The mediator women didn't even know what it was actually about as she had a million other disputes to deal with and hadn't even read the report!

So the next day we got straight on a bus and set off for Caxias, we stayed one night with our friends Fabrício and Eliane at their mother's place, and then set off early the next morning on a bus for Lageado Grande to get our bikes (which we'd left at our old neighbours who moved there) and cycle back to the land. We had a huge load, but thanks to our new side panniers we were able to cycle with all of it no problem! We finally arrived back in the afternoon on November 10th, just in time for our 3rd anniversary of moving to Brazil on the 11th :-)

We originally only intended to be away for two weeks for Beth to do the Dito e Feito play, and then we were to return straight after that. But then Beth ended up doing another week of the play, and then helping Del with some translation work, so two weeks became a month, and then there was the ill-fated incident in the park which took another two months to resolve! When we finally got back everything was really overgrown, here's a couple of shots of what it's like now followed by one of how it was before we left.

Overgrown house 2.jpg Overgrown house.jpg Non-overgrown house.jpg

The few vegetables that have survived are very strong though which is good to see - there is a big courgette, a few cauliflowers and cabbages, chia, spinach and lots of mint. Most of the fruit trees along the northern fence are doing well too, the oranges are flowering and a peach even has some small fruit on it!

Del and Helder gave us some nice German liqueur chocolates that they got in Portugal (they got back from a trip to Portugal just the day before we left their place). We had some of them on the bus to Caxias, but unfortunately the rest of them all melted in the sun when we cycled back, so we let the wasps and bees have them. They loved them, but were getting really drunk from the alcohol in them :-D

Bees drinking liqueur chocolate 1.jpg Wasp drinking liqueur chocolate.jpg

I couldn't post this item when I wrote it a couple of days ago because the net cable was still damaged from the giant swamp rat bites, but today on the 14th the weather was finally good enough to go about replacing the bad cable in the pipe with a good segment. It took most of the day, but it's finally done and the net seems to be going well - whew!