Our fifth year on the land

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Petrycoski land cover image.jpg
At the end of 2011 on the 11th of November we moved to Brazil and bought some land to set up a more independent and meditative lifestyle. We started in a flat in Curitiba, then about a year later moved to Canela which is the closest town to the land.
1. Moving from Curitiba to Canela          Our power project
2. Moving on to our land          Our rural net connection
Year on the land: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6          Our first house
           Our second house
           Lada Niva

New wood storage usable

Posted by Nad on 10 January 2017 at 15:16
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
A few weeks ago our firewood storage collapsed and we decided to design and build something more permanent. A few days ago, it was complete enough that we could dismantle the collapsed one and move all the wood into the new one.
New wood store.jpg
New wood storage usable.jpg

It's not complete yet though, I'm going to put vertical supports on the front as well so the wood can be piled up higher, and also put shelves over so that a second pile can be made above the existing ones while still allowing for good air flow.

Beth's almost scary forest retreat

Posted by Nad on 10 January 2017 at 15:31
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
Beth wants to do a ten day forest retreat soon, but because it can flood we decided to make a platform that she can put her tent on safely. Later I'll make the platform into a small A-frame house so retreats can be done more easily without a tent.

We found a nice spot that didn't have any dangerous looking branches overhead. I cleared the area and made some poles to put the platform on, but then got I delayed with finishing the new wood storage.

Beth's forest retreat started.jpg

It turned out it was very lucky I got delayed because right in the middle of the time Beth would have been doing her retreat there, a large tree fell straight over the area right on top of the front two poles!!!

Fallen tree in retreat area 1.jpg

After I started clearing it all away I found that actually if Beth had been there she wouldn't have been harmed because the small tree that we'd left in front of the area had diverted the main heavy falling wood away from the where the platform wood have been! It would have been a real scare but it looks like no damage would have been done. None of the poles had been damaged by the incident.

Fallen tree in retreat area 2.jpg

Finally I got all of the fallen tree cleared away and got back to work - you can see the small protecting tree to the left in the picture below :-)

Retreat area cleared and work continuing.jpg

Beth's forest retreat underway

Posted by Nad on 20 January 2017 at 15:00
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
Beth's doing a short retreat in the forest where she'll be fasting and meditating for three days and nights. I made a small platform for her to put her tent on in case there's any flooding, but the weather looks like it's going to be quite clear. She's finished her first night this morning - I don't know how it went for her (since we won't be seeing each other until it's finished), but I felt quite anxious with her being alone in the forest all night :-(

Each morning and night I go a few metres into the forest where there's a tree that Beth's tied some material onto, I untie it and put it on the ground so she knows I'm checking on her, and when she sees it on the ground she ties it back up again so I know she's ok. This morning the material was tied up, but had a note in it saying she wanted me to leave a blanket there :-)

Retreat with tent 2.jpg
Retreat with tent 1.jpg

Back into the 4x4 team

Posted by Nad on 09 March 2017 at 11:27
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
We decided that we need to trade the Sandero for a 4x4 because it's slowly getting more and more damaged each time we go anywhere in it. So far it's only been very minor damage such as all the protection on the bottom being dented and having to have bolts replaced or added, but it would have only been a matter of time before something more delicate on the bottom broke or we lost control and smashed something more major on it. But even more importantly is that now we're going to the city regularly, but it depends on the weather if we can actually leave or not - and visa versa we don't know if we can make it back, we might have to turn around and get a hotel if there's been too much rain here! So we decided to trade it for something more powerful while it still had most of its value.

After looking at a few other options we settled on this twenty year old 3L diesel Hilux from a used car company in Canela, it was quite a coincidence because Beth had just been to a mechanic to ask for recommendations, and a couple of hours later he went to visit a friend who happened to be selling a Hilux that the mechanic thought would be perfect for her! It's done over half a million Km, but it's only had two owners and the last owner had the whole engine replaced so it's effectively done a lot less distance.

It was quite muddy when we drove it back last night, but it was no problem at all - Beth was whipping over all the difficult parts in the road at 60k that we usually had to practically stop on before, laughing hysterically all the way! I drove the second half of the way which has the parts that normally involved a lot of surfing, but the Hilux handled it perfectly only having to surf through the forest at the end - the old Crumpie and Scottie ads are no exaggeration, it was just like that coming back to the land! The forest was no trouble at all, even after it had been raining a lot, it was far easier than it ever had been in Nivinha :-)

Here's a photo of it, we should have a bunch more soon after we give Vaca Velha a try! Update: after a fair bit of rain we decided to go for a bit of a drive to test it out, but it wasn't a very long drive - we almost got through the forest path and then it got stuck in the mud! It looks like the tyres are much too smooth for our conditions :-(

New Hilux.jpg
Hilux stuck already.jpg

At the moment it has Pirelli Scorpian ATR tyres which are 50/50 off-road/on-road tyres, but we need to upgrade to at least the MTR's which are 80/20 or maybe even the Scorpian Mud's.

Scorpian ATR
Scorpian MTR
Scorpian Mud

The dog house

Posted by Nad on 24 June 2017 at 13:38
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
We have dog guests so regularly that we decided it was time to make a house for them to stay in when they visit! Especially now that it's winter and they're sleeping outside the door shivering all night when it's cold. Unfortunately they didn't like it and have been sleeping on some sacks behind our house, but I think they'll find it more appealing next time there's a bit of a frost :-)

New garden bed approach

Posted by Nad on 13 September 2017 at 16:10
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
We've had some good tips for how to do good mulch and garden beds, first we were told that the mulch should be mainly dry wood chips and should cover the entire range of sizes so that there's nothing missing in the range of lifeforms which feed on different sizes of material. Our first attempt at mulching didn't work very well because we didn't leave the material to dry long enough before putting it through the mulcher so the result was too full of moisture and all matted together. Our latest version looks like this:
Dry mulch.jpg

We also visited some friends in Caxias who have some very productive land and sell their produce to an organic fruit and vege shop there. They have a very similar way of thinking to us (or at least to how we'd like to be!) such as not killing insects and not weeding - just working with nature rather than always fighting against it. They showed us how they do some of their garden beds, and we've tried to follow their example. First we clear an area and then partially bury some small rotting logs, then we cover that in mulch, and put a layer of dried leaves over the top of that. We then put logs around the whole bed to define the boundary and keep the nutrients in. We also put cardboard under the logs so that grass doesn't grow near them so that it's easy to do weed-eating around the bed. We cover the cardboard with dry grass to hide it :-)

Garden bed burried wood.jpg
Garden bed with dry mulch and leaves.jpg
Garden bed finished.jpg

New chainsaw

Posted by Nad on 13 September 2017 at 16:27
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
Our small chainsaw's worked really well for us for about five years now, and apparently this is really good luck, because two different people who fix chainsaws have told us that our model (the Husqvarna 236) is complete junk! It's an entry-level model they made for super markets - which is pretty much the kind of place we got it too - shops that specialise in chainsaws and similar tools never stock the 236! They said we've had really good luck though, because if a 236 is regularly used and keeps working for the first six months, then it's likely that it will keep going :-)

But even though it's been working just fine, I have been realising lately that it's just too small to handle many of the jobs we need it for. So when we went in to our regular repair shop to get a water pump, we asked the guy what model he'd recommend if we were to, at some point in the future, start thinking about maybe getting a bigger one... well he said that they just don't make them like they used to, but it just so happened that right then he happened to have a model 257 sitting there that the owner wanted to sell, and the 257 was the best model that Husqvarna have ever made - it's light, powerful, and will last us for thirty years! Luckily we said we'd take it for the R$1050 the owner wanted for it right then, because the next day when we went to pay and pick it up, another guy had just been in saying he was looking for a second-hand 257 for up to R$1500!

Well I got to work with it today and chopped up some of the fallen tree that had tried to kill Beth the other month. I'd had to give up trying to cut it up with the 236, but the 257 made easy work of it - it's really dense wood but it went straight through it all without struggling a bit :-)

New chainsaw.jpg
Using new chainsaw.jpg
Using new chainsaw 2.jpg

Hot sauce in Curitiba

Posted by Nad on 21 September 2017 at 13:36
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
I've been looking for a good source of really hot chilli sauce for ages, and Beth happened to come across a huge variety in the Curitiba market today! We're here for a few days on business and she just happened to see these stands full of pimenta! She knows the names of some of the hottest peppers now and so she got some Bhut Jolokia and a couple of varieties of Trinidad Scorpian for me to test out - and yep they pass the test!!!
Pimenta at Curitiba market 2.jpg
Pimenta at Curitiba market 1.jpg
Pimenta em Curitiba.jpg

Then if that wasn't enough, just as she was leaving she overheard someone in the adjacent store saying "really there's coffee inside the chocolate?" - sure enough they were selling chocolate coated coffee beans! I've been looking for them for 15 years!!!

New solar system

Posted by Nad on 07 November 2017 at 11:40
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
We made out first panels (2x75w) at the end of 2012, and then made another two 150w panels about a year later. These have served us very well, but we've finally decided to replace the whole set up with a completely new and more powerful system.

First I took all the old home made panels and structure down. The first pair of 75w panels were in pretty bad condition! one of them had stopped working completely, but amazingly the other was still putting out about 75% power even though all the wood was rotten and the cells were all broken! One of them disintegrated and fell when I was lowering it down with a rope, but luckily the glass didn't break. The second pair of 150w panels were still operating pretty well, but the glass in both of them was cracked, the first by super-hail and the second due to the roof and wood slowly bending out of shape.

RIP v1 panels.jpg
V2 panels still usable.jpg

The new set up involves 6x260w panels with a 1Kw charge-controller/inverter unit and two 240Ah batteries. I had installed the controller and batteries a few days before, and after spending the whole morning removing the old installation from the roof, I only had time in the afternoon to get one pair of the new panels installed. The next session a couple of days later I got the rest of the structure ready for the remaining four panels. I had to raise two of the bottom ends of the vertical metal bars up a bit to compensate for how bent our roof is! Unfortunately this will mean that the right pair will be at a different angle than the others, but it's better to ensure that the panels are sitting nice and flat than to have it looking perfect.

V3 controller and batteries.jpg
V3 panels, 2 of 6 installed.jpg
V3 panels, structure ready.jpg

I had to wait a week before I could finish the installation because our panels are 35mm thick, but the clamps only support 40mm panels even though the shop sold them all together. The manual said that the claps work for both sizes of panel but I couldn't figure out how that can be, the only way I could get it to work was by raising the panel up with a stack of washers! I went back to the shop and asked how the clamps can work for our panels, and after trying to figure it out they came to the same conclusion as me - that they need to be raised up - the odd thing is that nobody had ever reported this problem to them! I got a bunch of 5mm steel pieces to raise them up more reliably than the washers.

Panel needs raising.jpg
Panel raised better.jpg

The final session to get the last four panels up ended up taking all day and I put my foot through the roof twice! I've just covered the holes with some spare roofing panels for now and will have to nail them in properly later :-( I was just using metre long planks of wood to sit on to try and distribute the pressure to protect the roof, but it wasn't enough, I found that putting the aluminium ladder flat on the roof was much safer and worked well.

Here's a couple of photos of all the panels up and running :-) We can now use all our power tools, the spinner dryer, washing machine and even our vacuum cleaner directly from the inverter!

V3 panels installed 2.jpg
V3 panels installed 1.jpg

Forest cottage ready for Beth's 2017 retreat

Posted by Nad on 30 November 2017 at 19:06
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
Retreat with tent 2.jpg
We've been slowly making a tiny A-frame house in the forest for Beth to do periodic meditation retreats in. Last year it was just a platform that she put the tent on to sleep in.

But this year we've managed to get a lot more done, although it's been a bit of a last minute rush. We decided to make our own doors because we couldn't find anything nice that fitted, and getting them made was going to take more than a month! We bought some nice wood for it and they turned out quite nicely in the end - we've just finished getting them installed :-)

First cottage door done.jpg
Cottage doors open.jpg
Cottage w burned oil.jpg

Last year I felt really nervous with Beth sleeping in the tent in the forest by herself, but I think I'll feel a lot better with her safe in the little cottage :-)

Blender gambiarra

Posted by Nad on 02 December 2017 at 16:30
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
Beth thought that now that we have so much power, she may as well get a decent blender! But the first time she used it (to try and blend up my vegetarian burger mix so I don't starve during her retreat!) it smashed the cup when trying to blend the fava beans! So she took it back to the shop when we went to Caxias yesterday and today she tried using our old blender which worked for a short time and then the motor burned out!!!

It could seem that karma was telling me that I shouldn't have my vege-burgers, but I'm not listening to such nonsense, instead I found a suitable sized socket from my socket set and used the drill to turn the blade - easy! :-)

Blender gambiarra 1.jpg
Blender gambiarra 2.jpg

That was a great success!!! Well at least it was for about five seconds... then the plastic spindle broke due to the excess torque supplied by the power drill :-(

But karma shmarma, all that's needed is a more extreme form of gambiarra!

Blender gambiarra 3.jpg
Blender gambiarra 4.jpg



Rest in peace Fluffinha

Posted by Nad on 09 December 2017 at 14:44
This post has the following tags : Our fifth year on the land
Our beautiful dog Fluffinha passed away on December the 7th 2017 :-(

Fluffinha (pronounced flu-feen-yar) was only seven months old and came down with a sudden illness. Maybe she ate a poisoned rat at the neighbours or a dangerous mushroom, we'll never know. She was so healthy and active one minute, and then suddenly felt very sick and vomited. We thought she must have eaten something too rotten and would recover after she got it all out, but the next morning she looked really bad, and she went off into the swamp to die! A thunderstorm came in and we tried to find her searching through the thick bush in the swamp in the pouring rain. We thought that if we could find her in time we could take her to the vet, but it was impossible to find a hidden little dog in such a big swamp full of dense bush.

We all prayed for her and sent positive energy for her to recover and come back to us, or go in peace if it was already too late. Amazingly she showed up at Beth's meditation cottage the next morning! She was in very bad shape, we took her into the house to dry her up and she vomited and had a seizure. We rushed her to the city to take her to the vet, but she died on the way.

We drove back slowly and buried her in one of her favourite spots in the shade by the vege patch. We buried her in her blanket with her favourite toy - one of our old work gloves which she used to carry around to different places and chew.

Her life here was so short, but it was such a beautiful place for a dog to live and she had a really happy life here, it was like a paradise for her. She was such a light in our lives too and she'll always be in our hearts.

Here's some recent pictures of Fluffinha that were taken when the three of us went to our local waterfall a couple of weeks ago.

Fluffy at the waterfall 3.jpg
Fluffy at the waterfall 4.jpg
Fluffy at the waterfall 1.jpg
Fluffy at the waterfall 5.jpg
Fluffy at the waterfall 2.jpg

And here's some pictures of her when she first arrived with her mother Menina back in May. Menina's the neighbour's dog who used to come and visit our place. She had a couple of puppies one day and would come and visit with both of them, Fluffinha and Pepino. Fluffinha had chosen to stay here with us almost as soon as she arrived. When Menina left or went for a walk in the forest, Pepino would follow her, but Fluffinha would stay here in the island. Even when we went to visit the city Fluffinha would always stay in the island waiting for us to come back, and come running to greet us when we arrived!

Puppy and mother visiting 2.jpg
Puppy and mother visiting 1.jpg
Puppy and mother visiting 3.jpg
Puppy and mother visiting 4.jpg

You can see some other pictures of her throughout her short time here with us here.

Rest in peace Fluffinha, you'll always be with us in our hearts and we're so glad to have had the chance to spend this short time together in this amazing paradise :-)

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