Organic Design (blog)

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Starting a well

Posted by Nad on 20 June 2014 at 16:05
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Max and Lucy are both dowsers, and after we told them that we were thinking of digging a well after Rui had done some dowsing a few weeks ago, they decided to check what our water situation was around our garden too - and they both pinpointed a good strong source in exactly the same place as Rui had found it! I made a small hole with a fence post borer and after about a metre the dirt turned to clay, then after another half metre the bottom filled with water! I then made two more holes to form a triangle, and Eduardo then used the spade to connect them together into one big hole so I could get in and start digging the bottom down further to eventually reveal the more solid rocky ground where the clean water can enter.
Max dowsing.jpg Well hole started.jpg Water found.jpg
Three holes.jpg Eduardo burying Aran in the well.jpg Everyones reflection in the well.jpg

This morning I had a look in the hole and the water looked pretty clear since all the mud from digging had settled to the bottom. I carefully filled a glass with the water without disturbing it and the water looked amazingly clear! So clear in fact that I decided to give it a try - and it was really good :-) It's incredible that this excellent clear water came straight out of a hole in the ground without any structure or anything! This is our first step to complete water independence!

Drinking from the well hole the next day.jpg Drinking from the well hole the next day 2.jpg

Back to the land after our visit to Caxias

Posted by Nad on 20 June 2014 at 12:00
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We got back to the land yesterday after spending about ten days at Eduardo and Tiago's place in Caxias. We had an awesome time there as Eduardo introduced us to some really nice people and showed us some beautiful places that we all cycled to. Beth also found some really excellent organic markets and shops that are actually better priced than most supermarket's chemo food! And she also found a good meditation group, a yoga class she liked and some nice Buddhist contacts, so we'll definitely be trying to come to Caxias a lot more regularly - and hopefully we can do it by bike! Here's a few photos of our time in Caxias...
Auri pouring wine for Beth & Aran.jpg Priscila visiting 3.jpg Dodgy 2.jpg

Tiago's parents (Max and Lucy) were really keen to see our land too as they also have a nice spot of rural land that they grow their own food on as well, so we went with Eduardo in his car with the new bike on the roof, and Max and Lucy followed in their car. When we got to Lageado Grande we dropped in to our old neighbours, Ivor and Erenita, to pick up our bikes, so for the last 20km we had all three bikes on the roof.

Leaving Eduardo's.jpg Our three bikes on Eduardo's car.jpg Shadow of the bikes.jpg

Aran's new bike

Posted by Nad on 16 June 2014 at 11:43
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Eduardo found a really good bike for an excellent price that we went to take a look at this morning. We were to meet the guy selling it at 11:30, but he's a dentist so we had to sit in the waiting room for a while first - it turns out they do that for all appointments, not just the dental related ones! The three of us all had a little ride around the car park out back on it and all liked it, and Eduardo looked over some of the finer points and gave it the thumbs up! So Beth handed over the cash (but not after a bit of negotiation to knock another R$100 off the already insanely good price!) and we took it back to Eduardo's :-) Now we just have to find one for Beth!

Aran's new bike.jpg

Visiting Caxias

Posted by Nad on 14 June 2014 at 12:57
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We're in Caxias now, and have been here for about a week now. We cycled the first 20km from our land via Lava Pes to Lajeado Grande which is the closest place that has buses that go to Caxias. The ride to Lajiado Grande was pretty easy and so next time we're going to try and go the whole way to Caxias which is another 60km of highway! hopefully by then we'll have much better bikes because one of the things we're doing here is trying to find some good second hand ones for a reasonable price. We're staying with our friend Eduardo who knows a lot about bikes and is helping us find some good deals :-)

A couple of his cycling friends have lent us their older bikes (which are still extremely awesome and a lot better than we'll be buying for ourselves!) so we can get an idea of how much better it is to have a decent bike to ride on. Eduardo took us on a ride of about 40km with quite a few hills, and although the last hour was pretty hard we managed it pretty well :-)

Bike ride with Eduardo 1.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 2.jpg

He took us to some really nice places with lots of orange trees we could fill our backpacks from, and to a beautiful little village called Otavio Rocha which is one of the original places where the Italian settlers came to. The village is really clean and tidy and has free wifi for everyone! We went to a bakery so Eduardo could show us a traditional kind of fresh baked bread called Cuca with melted chocolate in it :-)

Bike ride with Eduardo 3.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 4.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 5.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 7.jpg
Bike ride with Eduardo 8.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 9.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 10.jpg

We set off back to Caxias from Otavio Rocha in the early evening, and still felt pretty good at that point. But the last part of the ride coming in to Caxias was a huge hill which must have taken the better part of an hour to get up, and by the time we got to the top it was dark and we were really tired!

Bike ride with Eduardo 11.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 12.jpg Bike ride with Eduardo 13.jpg

When we finally got into the main city, Eduardo took us to Parque da Festa da Uva where they have the traditional grape festivals, and it was a really nice view with the full moon over the city. This is actually where Candido took us the very first time we came to Caxias, and we took a photo from exactly the same spot which I've included here too :-)

Bike ride with Eduardo 14.jpg Caxias.jpg

Finding water on our land

Posted by Nad on 4 June 2014 at 15:39
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Most of the water we use is for plants and washing clothes and dishes, and for these purposes the river water is fine. But we also need about 20L per week of drinking water and the river water would need to be boiled if we were to use that. But our neighbour Maneco has a spring on his land and is happy for us to fill our 20L bottles from it - and it's really awesome natural spring water! Ideally though we'd like to be more independent and we were talking about this with our other neighbour Ziza a few days ago. She said she knew a local guy who's a dowser and when we showed interest, she gave him a call and we arranged for him to come and check out the situation.

Well today he arrived, so we set off for Ziza's about 1pm as we'd arranged to meet at her place so they could catch up with her first. When we arrived at Ziza's, Rui's wife and friend were inside talking to Ziza and Rui was outside taking a look at the friends car which was having problems - turns out he's a mechanic too! Beth joked that maybe he could fix our car too :-)

After a coffee we came back to our place with Rui and his wife to start the dowsing process. We started close to our house and walk in a few line around the garden area, and soon enough found that we had water passing at the closest corner of the vege patch about 2.5 metres down! Beth asked if there was anywhere up the side of the hill too because we know Maneco has a second spring on his side of the same hill, and it turns out there's an underground river running at about 10 metres hight above our house. It's four metres deep though and there's probably a lot of rock to go through, so we'll probably need the council to drill that as only they have the machinery for it locally. So if that all works out then we could actually have running water here soon! We talked a bit about Dowsing and he tried to explain how to do it, but we couldn't feel anything in the stick at all. His wife said she'd tried a lot too and couldn't do it, it seems to work though and is used a lot throughout Brazil very successfully.

Rui dowsing on our land.jpg Beth dowsing.jpg

When we got back to the house he saw our Lada Niva and Beth explained that it wouldn't start because it's too cold. Just last week, Geremias (one of the guys who gave us a ride home a couple of weeks ago, and is also a mechanic) said that Alcohol's not so bad in the cold, but you need to mix about 30% petrol with the alcohol (we currently mix about 5%). But Rui asked for the keys to give it a go, and low and behold! He got it started straight away! And when we told him that was the first time it's started in over a month, he was shocked and said it must be working extremely well to start that easily in the cold after not running for so long!!

Beth asked how he did it and he told us a trick to getting alcohol cars started. Many of them have a small supplementary petrol tank that's used when it's cold to warm the critical parts of the engine up to help the alcohol ignite. There's a small button you press to release some of the petrol into the engine. We were told by the last owner and some other mechanics that you press this for a few seconds and then start the engine. But Rui said you should press it while you're starting, which works really well! So Beth's joke that maybe he could fix our car while he was here as well turned out to be exactly what happened! After they left, we put Nivinha straight to work and got the remaining wood and roofing panels which we'd left in the field a month ago when we last got a truck load of supplies delivered :-)

House - carrying wood in car.jpg

Mice again!

Posted by Nad on 2 June 2014 at 17:46
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
A few months during our first year on the land we had terrible trouble with mice entering the house and chewing everything. Luckily we had all our food inside strong plastic containers so they didn't get into that, but they get into everything and make a lot of noise preventing us from sleeping at night. Eventually we closed up all the holes so they couldn't get in any more, but we still hear them scratching and chewing under and around the house at night.

Recently the problems began again because we've been drying lots of chia flowers to harvest the seeds from, and it turns out the mice really like them! We decided to make a trap that would capture them alive so we could put them over the river where they couldn't return to the house. After some research we found that if they're put somewhere that has a safe area for them they won't risk returning across dangerous terrain. We have two old houses near to us that nobody lives in that the mice would likely not return from, one about 600 metres away and the other about 1km, and failing that there's a location about 800m away in the forest that would require them to cross three streams to return.

So to make the trap I decided to check the net first to see what the simplest and most effective kinds were. I ended up making my own design which is an elaborate version of this simple idea a saw on Youtube called How to Catch a Rodent with a Paper Towel Roll. The basic idea is to put a cardboard tube on a table with the end sticking off almost halfway with some bait like peanut butter in the end. When the mouse goes through the tube to get the bait, its weight causes the whole thing to over balance and fall off the edge of the table into a bin.

I made the following permanent version using a plastic bottle, but my version has the bait separate from the tube and the tube swings back to the original position whenever it gets moved so that it doesn't need to be reconfigured each time it catches a mouse. The bait was some chia flowers with some sesame oil on them to make them extra enticing! This version worked reasonably well and we got two mice with it within a day of setting it up!

Mouse trap v1.jpg Aran with mouse 1.jpg

The only problem was that our bucket was only about 50cm deep which wasn't enough, they can really jump! the tiny ones like you can see in the picture above couldn't get out, but we got a slightly bigger one too and it managed to get out. Also it's quite difficult getting more then one out of the bucket and into a sack to take away, so today I made some improvements. I made a tall funnel out of some plastic I had lying round and it fits neatly into a small plastic tub which we can use to carry the mice in, so when we catch some we just gently lift the funnel away enough to slide the tub's lid off, but being careful not to create a gap big enough for them to squeeze through!

Mouse trap v2-1.jpg Mouse trap v2-2.jpg

The abandoned house

Posted by Nad on 28 May 2014 at 15:27
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Today we went for a walk to an abandoned house to the south which we can see from the big hill. There's a fork in the crystal road which goes to it so we decided to take that route on the way there and then find our way back through the bush and over the fields to get back. When we got there we were amazed to see that many years ago a lot of care had been taken to make a really nice garden with huge palm trees, a giant cactus and beautiful stone walls, but it's all been abandoned and left to the cows now. The whole place had a strange mysterious feeling about it. The house is falling to pieces and has giant ant nests on it. There was even a big Fly Garrett mushroom in the middle of a clearing under the trees, the first one we've seen in real life :-) To get back home we followed a trail out of the property then entered the pine forest to find the river and follow it back to our land.
Abandoned house.jpg Abandoned house to the west.jpg Ants nests on abandoned house.jpg
Cactus in abandoned garden.jpg Fly Garrett 1.jpg In the pine forest.jpg

New vege garden beds

Posted by Nad on 28 May 2014 at 14:32
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Over the last week or so we've been making some new garden beds for planting vegetables. We've put them in the area that Barry cleared for his and Eduardo's tents a couple of weeks ago. We cleared the rest of the area and divided the cleared material into two groups, the brown ferns and the grass and other greenery. We then organised the ferns into long lines with space between them to walk, and then put the grass on top and flattened it.
New 2014 garden beds 3.jpg New 2014 garden beds from above.jpg

Bananas & Barefeet

Posted by Nad on 24 May 2014 at 16:55
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We've decided that we'll try and go somewhere every week so that we get more and more used to cycling and walking. This week we went to Canela again, we didn't really have any urgent supplies to get, but got a few things anyway. One thing we noticed while walking down a street we don't usually go down that was very interesting was some very large healthy banana trees. This is very inspiring because the climate in Canela is almost exactly the same as our land, it gets snow when we get snow, and frost when we get frost. We heard that the main problem with growing bananas in this kind of region is that their trunks are very sensitive to the cold, so we've been surrounding our small ones with piles of grass clippings. But what we noticed with these big ones in Canela was that they had Hydrangeas growing all around their trunks! Hydrangeas grow really well here so we're going to plant them around our bananas too :-)

After we got off the bus at Vaca Velha to begin the 8km walk back to the land, we again decided to try doing it in bare feet - last week we were interrupted by our 4x4 adventure after only a couple of kilometres. The trail is roughly three segments about a third of the distance each. The first is normal dirt road with some loose-metal and some muddy bits which we were quite confident about doing barefoot. The middle section is forest, half native and half pine, and the last section is mainly fields.

We didn't think we'd be able to handle the native forest bit because there are many Grinfa (fallen Araucaria leaves) which are very hard and prickly. We decided to keep going and just put our boots on if and when it got too difficult, but surprisingly we got all the way through the forest without any problem! walking barefoot is really an exercise in awareness, you put your feet down flat so you can shift weight easily if you feel something sharp somewhere, and you always observe the ground and pick a safe point to put your foot down. Applying this process got us through the forest surprisingly quickly. Again as we were nearing the last section of the trail we were thinking that we wouldn't be able to handle it because the long grass is too dangerous in bare feet, but the same thing happened - the problems were all in our minds, and in reality the cow path we follow was all short grass, and there was always a place to step where the ground was visible! in the end we got all the way back home without any problem :-)

Bananas in Hydrangers.jpg Barefoot on Vaca Velha trail.jpg

Fruit trees, cycling and bare feet

Posted by Nad on 21 May 2014 at 11:08
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
When we went to Canela in the weekend, there were a whole lot of young native fruit trees being given away in the town square. Some companies give away native trees as an environmental action to reduce their tax burden, and increase the value of their goodwill. We decided to grab a few (well eight actually) since we had just a few days earlier, with the help of Barry, prepared a space along the northern fence line on the side of the hill especially for fruit trees!

Unfortunately there was no way we could take them back home with us, because after getting off the bus at Vaca Velha we had two hours to walk with heavy bags of groceries - we didn't know that we'd be getting a ride in the back of a 4x4 all the way to our door! So we left the plants on some wet ground at the side of the road at Vaca Velha and cycled back the next day to get them.

We cycled along the Vaca Velha trail because Eduardo told us it was perfect for mountain biking, but unfortunately Beth found it quite stressful, as she's not used to biking on steep trails full of mud and rocks, and her bike has the wrong handlebars for that and also has broken suspension! On the way back with the plants we went the long route via Lava Pes which is about 23km, but on normal dirt road in good condition. Beth can handle the long rides on good roads better than I can as she's better at conserving her energy. But after the first half I had learned how to build up and maintain momentum on the flat and downhill parts without using much energy, and then using this momentum to save most of the uphill work, so I found the last half a lot easier than the first half. It took us about two hours to do the 8km Vaca Velha trail and about three to return on the 23km route via Lava pes, so there's a lot of room for improvement there yet :-/

Then today we got the plants in the ground, I made the holes and Beth put them in. She worked in bare feet since we're now inspired to go without shoes a lot more after seeing Eduardo tramping through the muddy forest with no problem! So far I've only been going to our beach, and walking the first part of the Vaca Velha trail in bare feet, but next time we go to Canela I'm going to try and do the whole 8km of the Vaca Velha trail without shoes :-)

Planting fruit trees 1.jpg Planting fruit trees 2.jpg Planting fruit trees 3.jpg
Planting fruit trees 4.jpg Planting fruit trees 5.jpg Planting fruit trees 6.jpg