Our sixth year on the land

From Organic Design wiki
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

Back to the land for 2018

Posted by Nad on 03 January 2018 at 13:41
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
We just arrived back at the land after spending Christmas and new years in Brasília. We were only gone for two weeks but everything's extremely overgrown, so there's a lot of weed-whacking to do over the next few days.

We missed out on some of the first blueberries, but there are still hundreds of new ones growing. The potatoes that we planted directly in the mulch in Bed E were ready too and were almost a success - they were really easy to find and remove and didn't need to be washed, but for some reason, only one of them was a reasonable size, they hadn't developed and were only tiny, so there's still something missing in our process there.

Bluberries ready.jpg
Tiny potatos.jpg

The new wood fire

Posted by Nad on 04 February 2018 at 12:54
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
We really love our 'Coski, but we decided that a much smaller one would be better for our tiny house, and also one that's optimised more for heating the place up. So last week when we were in Canela we picked up a small cast iron one with a glass door.

At first we couldn't understand how it could work since we couldn't see any place for the air to enter, and the store owners had no idea that fires even needed air! Eventually we noticed that there was some open space around the ash box underneath.

But then we we got it home and gave it a test run, the fire would only stay alight with the door open! A few second after the door was closed and it would go out and smoke would pour out everywhere!

We were almost ready to take the thing back saying that it was a total design failure, but then I thought it may be best to try it with a chimney first. Well it turns out the chimney's essential, it worked perfectly after we stuck one on the back! It seems that the design relies on the chimney to create a constant airflow outwards so that new air is sucked in through the bottom :-)

New fire 0.jpg
New fire 2.jpg
New fire 1.jpg

We're on satellite now :-)

Posted by Nad on 09 February 2018 at 14:35
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
We were in São Francisco a few days ago for a few bits and bobs when we noticed a shop which did satellite internet connections. We'd tried to get satellite a few months ago, but found that we really needed to have our solar system upgraded first, and also the guys didn't want to install it on our house as they said it was too weak :-( they said we needed a strong pole supported by a concrete slab installed before they could come back. Well we told this to these guys in the shop and they thought it sounded a bit suss, so we showed them photos of our house and they said it would be no worries to attach the dish support to the wall like normal :-)

They came and did the installation yesterday, it all went very well except for the fact that the bandwidth provider's system was down and they had to stay here for almost six hours talking to various companies on the phone and waiting for them to return calls!

Finally at 9pm we had a connection! It's working at about 20mbps which is about 15 times faster than we were getting over 3G from VIVO - actually we were getting 3-4mbps from VIVO, but their service has been steadily declining over the past year or so.

Info.svg HughesNet Brazil connects us to the Eutelsat 65 West A Satellite which covers mainly Brazil but also other south and central American countries and the Caribbean. Eutelsat (European Telecommunications Satellite Organisation) is a European satellite operator who have 40 geostationary satellites in orbit, ours was launched in March 2016 by a French Ariane 5.

Guest bathroom started

Posted by Nad on 04 March 2018 at 23:48
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
We've been so flat out with so many different things that we haven't made enough progress on the guest house and Mum and Dad are arriving in less than a week! So when the neighbour Vladimir and his friend Bento offered to get the bathroom started we were very happy to accept :-)

They got the main structure and roof done, and half the walls (that was all the wall boards we had), and they got all this done in just one day! The structure is positioned facing north so that I could put the old solar panels on it, but unfortunately only one of them is working now - still a single 150W panel is fine for lights which is the main thing.

Vladimir and Bento building bathroom.jpg
Guest bathroom structure done.jpg
Power to the guest house.jpg

New house design for 2018

Posted by Nad on 06 March 2018 at 00:28
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
Oops! I should have posted this a month ago! The bad feng shui in our house has been driving Beth crazy12345 so after getting some emergency interior design advice from our friend Irena, we bought some new furniture in Canela and made some long overdue changes!

2018 house interior 1.jpg
2018 house interior 2.jpg
2018 house interior 4.jpg
2018 house interior 3.jpg
2018 house interior 5.jpg
2018 house interior 6.jpg

Antonio trabalhando na terra

Posted by Nad on 26 May 2018 at 00:22
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 :-(

This girl chop wood good

Posted by Nad on 03 June 2018 at 20:12
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!"

A huge pile of shit!

Posted by Nad on 07 June 2018 at 19:40
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
We just paid a thousand 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

Punnets of pain!

Posted by Nad on 08 June 2018 at 22:27
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 :-)

Going it alone again

Posted by Nad on 20 June 2018 at 02:23
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.

Things finally starting to grow!

Posted by Nad on 12 October 2018 at 00:54
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

Dangerous wasp adventure

Posted by Nad on 12 October 2018 at 01:14
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

Beth's plumbing projects

Posted by Nad on 24 December 2018 at 20:51
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
While I spent the last month in New Zealand, Beth's had to get familiar with a lot of tools that she'd never normally use such as G-clamps and silicone. A few days after I left, one of the new water pipe joints that Antonio made burst and she had to learn to connect it back together more firmly using metal hose clamps. This involves heating up the pipe first using a cheap gas torch we bought for R$30 which can only be described as a flame thrower! Not only did she fix the broken join, she also added a tap so that we can now disconnect the water to the island without having to go all the way to the guest house where the water enters the property :-)

Beth's tap.jpg

After having mastered the flame thrower she had gained a lot of confidence, and so then went on to make another connection to get water into the house and added a kitchen tap!

Kitchen tap 1.jpg
Kitchen tap 2.jpg
Kitchen tap 3.jpg
Kitchen tap 4.jpg

And then still not content, she added a down-pipe from the gutter into the water tank which involved quite a bit of Gambiarra since the gutter is just a PVC pipe cut down the middle, and she didn't have all the right pieces at hand either.

Water tank gambiarra.jpg
Gutter gambiarra.jpg

After doing these three jobs and two gambiarras, she has now earned the right to publicly display her plumber's crack to indicate that her work is of a professional quality.

Fully graduated plumber.jpg

Note that whale tails are also generally accepted as indicating high quality workmanship in the case of female plumbers, but you should probably steer clear of male plumbers using this methodology.

More veges than you can shake a stick at!

Posted by Nad on 24 December 2018 at 23:11
This post has the following tags : Our sixth year on the land
Well we certainly can't complain about our Christmas yield! Things are really starting to take off now, which is a huge relief because we've really been struggling to get anywhere with planting for years now. This has been especially devastating for Beth as she's really put everything she had into the planting side of things, and has been on the verge of giving up many times. She's really happy with the results now and we're both super motivated to carry on :-)

Here we have a lot of corgettes, potatos, beetroot, garlic, broccoli, parsnip and onions. Since I've been away for a whole month I've been able to notice how much bigger things have got too; the blueberry and feijoas are at least another half as big, and the Chuchu and pumpkins are probably ten times the size! All the fruit trees look a lot bigger too, and we have a whole lot of kiwifruit on the way for the first time!

Merry Christmas everyone! The next post will probably be the first for our seventh year on the land :-)

Corgettes xmas 2018.jpg
Grape and kiwifruit arch xmas 2018.jpg
Potatos xmas 2018.jpg
Beet bucket.jpg
Hanging garlic harvest.jpg
Big broccoli.jpg
Vege harvest Dec 2018b.jpg
Vege harvest Dec 2018.jpg
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