Our third 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

2015 Mahamudra retreat

Posted by Nad on 02 February 2015 at 17:05
This post has the following tags : Our second year on the land | 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.

Back to the land after months away again!

Posted by Nad on 08 March 2015 at 22:46
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

Sleeping in the loft again

Posted by Nad on 15 March 2015 at 13:35
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.

The awesome power of gambiarra

Posted by Nad on 25 March 2015 at 21:28
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


Posted by Nad on 31 March 2015 at 20:00
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
About a week ago when I was working on the east extension a guy suddenly stumbled out of a thick part of the bushes. He was looking for his dog Xispita who'd gone missing a couple of days earlier, he carried on into the forest and we heard him calling her name for a while. The next evening we heard a dig crying in the forest somewhere and went for a walk calling out to her, but she didn't answer. Then about a week later when we were having breakfast a dog suddenly appeared out of the bushes at about the same place the guy had appeared before! We're not sure if it's his dog though because he said she was white, whereas this one has more brown on her than white, but we started calling her Xispita anyway :-)


She wasn't very well and seemed to have a bit of a fever, she ate a bit the first day, but then wouldn't eat at all the next day (although maybe its just that she didn't like polenta, lentils, beans or porridge!). She was very cold in the night and we had to put a towel on her so she'd stop shivering.

Xispita by the door.jpg

The next day after an hour or two in the sun she started looking a lot better, and then ate a bit of polenta. She started seeming like she was at home, exploring the garden and following us whenever we went of to do work at remote areas of the land :-)

But then later in the evening she left and hasn't been back for a couple of days now... perhaps she just needed somewhere to stay and recuperate for a couple of days on her travels.

Update: We went to Ziza's the other day to get some cheese, and who did we see tied with a rope in the garden? Xispita! It turns out it was the original Xispita that the guy was looking for, so even though we were sad that she's gone, it's good that she'll be back with her proper owner again :-) He takes her out to the country in the weekend to get some fresh air and to run around in the forest, but because she's a city dog, she sometimes gets lost for a few days.

A little can go a long way

Posted by Nad on 05 April 2015 at 13:22
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
After we arrived at the land this time, we didn't bring much food, we planned to go shopping after a couple of weeks. But after two weeks we didn't want to interrupt our meditation practice by going for a complicated busy trip to Canela so we decided to put it off for another week even though it would mean we'd have to put up with a pretty bland diet.

But after another week we'd found that it wasn't so bad - there were always various little things available in the vege patch that made the food a little less boring. Now we've been here five weeks and we're still doing fine! We've found that the vege patch works both ways - not only does it have to slowly improve so that it can produce more, we have to learn more about what it has to offer! For example, Beth discovered that Kumara and pumpkin leaves are edible and high in vitamins and minerals. The pumpkin leaves are a bit too rough to eat raw, but are good when cooked and added to soup or stir fry. The Kumara leaves have a really nice flavour and can even be added raw to salads.

Healthy kumara.jpg

The vege patch is producing a lot of other things in very small quantities too such as courgettes, sweetcorn, capsicums, onions and garlic. Even though it's a very small amount, it goes a long way when you don't have a lot of variety, but you can add a small but of capsicum or a few cherry tomatoes to a meal - and although the quantity is small, there's always something there :-)

Our first sweetcorn.jpg

There are always many herbs in the garden for adding to meals or having in tea, and the lime tree leaves make a good tea even though it's not bearing any fruit yet. We even had watermelon last week and yesterday, and the forest has been providing some blackberries :-)

Our first watermelons.jpg

It looks like in a couple of years we'll have the opposite problem - we'll always have an overload of fresh fruit and vegetables, but will have to ration our rice and other dry goods since we'll probably only be going shopping two or three times per year!

A feng shui emergency!

Posted by Nad on 14 April 2015 at 00:01
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Living in a tiny house makes you think carefully about what things you really need, and helps you to lead a much more minimalist and organised lifestyle. In a tiny house it's much more apparent when things aren't organised well, and this gives you a strong incentive to fix problems and get things into an orderly state quickly. For example, a few days ago when Beth had just woken up and was coming down the loft ladder still half asleep, her foot accidentally violated procedure and moved from the lounge area into the bathroom area! The "bathroom" is a shower-shelf in the middle of the South wall and bowl of water on Beth's computer desk! Her foot knocked over the bowl and poured the water all over the desk and floor! Luckily none of it went onto her computer, but it was still a very clear wake-up call - literally!

So I did some thinking about how to optimise the space a little better, and came up with a long-term plan and an immediate plan. The long term idea is to extend the toilet room southward by about 30cm and then put another north wall in there 30cm more to the south - effectively moving the whole toilet room 30cm southward. Then within this extra 30cm of space between the house and the toilet I can put all the tool shelves - basically pushing them back 30cm into the wall. That can then become a closable cupboard which will save some space along that wall and also look a lot more open and tidy.

The immediate plan which has already been completed over the last couple of days, was to remove the "BB" (Beth-Box) containing the solar components and put the battery and inverter into a new outside box. The charge-controller is now on the wall so we can still see the battery and panel status easily.

New box for battery and inverter.jpg
Charge controller new location.jpg

This was also a good opportunity to tidy up some messy wire joins and put some of my new heat-shrink to good use :-) I also moved the network hum from its unsightly location on the bottom of the loft floor to a hidden location behind the wall panel, and I cut that panel and made it into a little door so it's easier to work on in future as that panel is the main location where all the power and network connections join up.

New hub location.jpg
House wire joins with heatshrink.jpg

And so back to the original point: the space saved by moving these things outside has meant we now have a very spacious and organised bathroom!

New "bathroom".jpg

Exploring the red-light district

Posted by Nad on 22 April 2015 at 16:34
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
At first our only red-light experiences would occur accidentally when we'd suddenly realise after some time that were were in the red light zone, upon noticing this we'd quickly make our way directly back to safe territory! But after this happened a few times we noticed a slight curiosity setting in and found ourselves spedning a little more time on the edge before leaving. Then today we took the plunge! We decided it was time to let go of fear and explore the red light district fully! And you know what? there's nothing to be scared of in there at all! In fact it turns out that's where all the potential is, and I'm even going to be working there a lot of the time!

Wait! come back! I can explain... I'm not talking about that red light! I mean this one, the red light on our charge-controller of course! The photo is a messed up one that I took when the flash was really needed, but it suits the post quite well :-) The red light means that the battery is very low and that the power will be cut off soon.

In the last few months we've noticed that the performance of the battery has decreased a lot, and we're getting into red-light territory more and more often. Then a few days ago, we had a full charge at the end of the day (flashing green light), and then after only an hour or so on the net in the evening, we were right back in the red light zone!

So we thought we really needed to explore this red light territory thoroughly! And that's when we discovered what I was trying to say above - that all the potential is there! It took an hour to go from fully charged (about 13.9 volts) to the red light at 12.1 volts, but over an hour to go from there down to 11.95! And we still don't know how far the red-light zone goes - we went all the way to 11.75 volts today, but we still haven't been cut off!

So we're going to be spending a lot more time in red-light territory from now on, and I'll even be doing a lot of my work down there, because we really need to know once and for all how far down it goes :-)

New loft ladder

Posted by Nad on 10 May 2015 at 21:44
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Loft ladder breaking.jpg + Rolling pin.jpg = Aluminium loft ladder 3.jpg

Yep that's right, our nice looking loft ladder wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and a step broke on it almost leading to an accident :-(

Beth's been really scared going up and down it, especially when tired in the middle of the night and the mornings, and after a few weeks of procrastinating, the rolling pin finally came out! So I quickly got some aluminium tube (thanks Eduardo!), adjusted the size of the holes in the wood to fit it and replaced all the dowel.

Another problem that had begun and could have lead to trouble was that some of the screws holding the steps tight were getting loose and allowing them to spin when stepping on them. So I've accounted for that problem with the new aluminium steps as well:

Aluminium loft ladder 1.jpg
Aluminium loft ladder 2.jpg

To hold the hole thing together, there's a long threaded-rod through every third tube bolted on each side.

Giant kumara!

Posted by Nad on 20 May 2015 at 15:57
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
We thought the Kumara looked pretty big and healthy as you can see from the photos of the leaves a few posts back, but we couldn't see any actual kumaras. Our neighbour Ziza told us that after the leaves turn black when it starts getting cold that's the time to harvest the kumaras, and we should see their tops poking out of the ground. But when the leaves turned black we couldn't see any! We dug around a little, but to no avail.

Then later Beth was clearing up one of the garden beds ready to plant some more things, when she suddenly came across a giant kumara! We searched around for more but could only find a few tiny ones. It looks like all the healthy leaves and vines spread everywhere were all supporting this one giant vegetable! Even though there was only one, the fact that it's so big and healthy is another really good indication that the soil's getting much better.

Beth dug it up and I grated it and then we fried it with an onion and ate it. It was really nice and was more than enough for two - in fact we didn't need anything else for dinner that night :-)

Giant kumara 1.jpg
Giant kumara 2.jpg

Kitchen gets real

Posted by Nad on 22 May 2015 at 21:20
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
On out last visit to Caxias and Canela, Beth decided it was finally time to bite the bullet and get a proper oven! our little blue camping over has been with us right from the start and done a really good job, but Beth felt it was time to move on. We arrived back at the land about a week ago, but just got round to installing the new oven today, and now our place looks like a real kitchen! This is our third kitchen renovation since we started living here on the land :-)
Cooking on the fire.jpg
Proper oven.jpg

Antenna 2.0

Posted by Nad on 10 June 2015 at 12:12
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Well here it is, the long-awaited Antenna 2.0 blog post!

Our net's been getting worse and worse over the last year, not only slower, but also we have a long delay before connecting - sometimes more than an hour! And so I thought that a bigger antenna may help by enabling us to use 3G instead of 2G. Even though the problem is mainly with our provider, Vivo, because we often a perfect 5-bar 2G signal, but still have a very slow connection, we figure that a bad 3G connection will be a lot better than a bad 2G connection!

So the first step was to get the metal, thick copper tubing for the boom and thin copper for the wave-guides. Our friend Eduardo happened to have a load of six metre copper tubes - he builds apartments and has a huge "hardware store" below one of them where he keeps all the left overs and spare parts, there's rows of shelves full of pipes and cables and even areas with dozens of porcelain sinks and toilets! The new antenna is three meters, but unfortunately we needed to get it in two pieces to fit on the bus and in our little hire car. He didn't quite have thick enough single-core copper cable for the wave guides, so we went to a metal scrap yard for that and picked up ten metres of uninsulated 3mm diameter copper wire.

The first part of the construction job was to join the pipe back into a single three meter length. Unfortunately I still haven't bought an acetylene tank for my gas welding kit, so I had to make do with soldering instead of brazing. I cut the ends as shown below to increase the join length and filed the ends at an angle (not shown in the photo) so the solder would still be strong after filing the pipe smooth, and I also positioned the join exactly where a wave-guide would sit to further increase strength...

Antenna pipe join tinned.jpg
Antenna pipe join with director.jpg

...but all to no avail, the solder was just too weak to support the weight of such a long length. So I figured that the best way would be to have a section of slightly smaller diameter pipe that fitted inside the main pipe that would support the join from the inside and stop it from bending. But there's no way we'd be making a dedicated trip to the city and searching round for days for a piece of tube just the right size in the near future, so I figured that the project would have to be put on the back burner for a while.

But then a stroke of luck hit, one morning I opened the door, and there was the umbrella which had fallen on the ground and broken into three parts somehow - and you'd never believe it, but the tube that had somehow broken was exactly the right size to use for the antenna join! I quickly fixed the umbrella with a piece of wood as I sensed some rolling pin activity on the brew :-/

Antenna and umbrella 1.jpg
Antenna and umbrella 2.jpg
Antenna pipe join.jpg

So the next step was to drill the holes for all the wave guides. I needed to ensure that they were all on exactly the same plane without twisting so I clamped the pipe firmly onto a straight piece of wood and made a guide that would ensure that all the holes were in exactly the same position on the pipe.

Antenna pipe ready for drilling.jpg
Antenna pipe drill guide.jpg

Then next I filed and tinned the holes and soldered the wave guides in. I actually found that soldering them by holding the joins over the gas oven element was easier than the soldering iron because the pipe sucks all the heat away - again brazing them would be by far the easiest and strongest solution. I made sure the metal I soldered in for the wave guides was a few millimetres too long so that I could cut and file them perfectly to length afterwards.

Antenna pipe tinned hole.jpg
Antenna assistants helping.jpg
Antenna cutting directors.jpg

The most difficult part to get exactly the right size and shape is the folded dipole, the bit that the cable joins to. But after a couple of attempts I made one that was accurate to about half a millimetre. I attached it to the boom in a piece of PVC pipe as shown below.

Antenna folded dipole 2.jpg

And then the final steps, painting it and putting it up on the hill! Beth's much better at painting than me so she took care of this part :-)

Antenna painted by Beth.jpg
Antenna 2.0 completed.jpg

And so what was the final result?!

Well.... kind of mixed results really... it can only get a two bar 2G signal whereas the small one gets a full five bar signal. It picks up a zero or one bar 3G signal which is about the same as the small one, but the 3G connection seems to consistently work, whereas the small antenna's 3G connection is very intermittent. More testing is needed, and there's a few tweaks that can be made to improve performance, but overall the results are rather disappointing :-(

Update: Well I've spent a few days reading, talking to radio engineer friends and doing some adjustments and the result, while not awesome, looks like it has at least achieved the goal of getting us into consistent 3G. First I replaced the metal bolt that was used to mount the folded dipole with plastic, then I mounted the whole thing onto a large PVC pipe so that the antenna can be held very straight since it was bending under it's own weight when not supported.

Antenna 2.0 installed 1.jpg
Antenna 2.0 installed 2.jpg
Antenna 2.0 installed 3.jpg

We've had some very rainy days and misty mornings and our 3G connection has continued to function throughout it all which the small antenna could never have done, so although it's unable to get a decent 2G signal, it's definitely performing more consistently on 3G, and that's the most important thing. We seem to be getting between 500 kilobits and one megabit most of the time, which means we should be able to do voice and maybe even video now :-)

Our flattie Fattie

Posted by Nad on 28 June 2015 at 14:41
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Our flatmate Fattie.jpg
Fattie's got a nest somewhere under the south extension and wakes up about the same time as us making a lot of noise. He's very curious about yoga and meditation and he usually hangs round with us under the north extension when we do our practices. One time he even came down and sat on Beth's shoulder :-) Most days he goes off to work and comes back in the evening making a lot of noise to say good night. He often comes home briefly at lunch time as well, his main diet is bugs that he finds around the house. We think he's a Corruíra (Troglodytes Musculus), this is a better picture copied from the Brazilian Wikipedia.

Vege patch starting to look a bit better :-)

Posted by Nad on 04 September 2015 at 19:05
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Wow it's been a long time with no blogging! We were mainly focussing on our meditation practice, but then did our three monthly trip to Caxias to do our shopping which always takes a lot of both mental and physical energy out of us, and takes a few weeks to recover from and get back into our meditative state again. But nothing much has really happened that's worth post a blog item about, except that the vege patch has recently start looking a lot better, here's some pictures of it as of September 2015 :-)
Vege patch Sep2015a.jpg
Vege patch Sep2015b.jpg

Gold Bug is real!

Posted by Nad on 23 September 2015 at 14:38
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
When Pete and me were kids we loved the Richard Scarry picture books such as Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. One of the common features was that may pages would have a tiny gold bug character hiding somewhere such as in the first picture on the below. He's still around these days and even stars in his own book!

We always thought that he was just an imaginary character but yesterday I found that he's real! And he followed Beth and I here to Brazil and has been hiding for four years! He would have stayed hidden too, but he must have slipped and fallen because I found him in the bowl of water in the bathroom :-( Fortunately he was ok and I scooped him out and put him on a piece of wood to dry out. Now he's gone into hiding again :-)

Gold Bug hiding.jpg

The super-hail is coming!!!

Posted by Nad on 16 October 2015 at 15:21
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Giant hail.jpg
What a week it's been! Beth had booked to do two courses at Arca Verde which is an alternative community just out of São Francisco de Paula. One course is about agro-forestry (more commonly known as "food forests" in the west) and the other is a clown course which is all about how to be yourself and find fun in simple things.

Two days before she was due to leave (cycling 50km with a heavy load) the weather turned bad - really bad! It kept pouring and pouring until the river was only a few metres away from our house. The night before we decided to go together to the hill to call our friend Vladimir in Barragem do Salto (the dam) to see if it was passable - we had to wade through a hundred metres of waste deep water to get out of our island to the hill first. Vladimir said the dam was definitely NOT passable, but that he had a boat and could give her a ride to the other side! So we decided not to let the rain beat her and to confront the rain and mud and go for it!

Luckily the next morning the rain was lighter, the river had receded and the path out through the forest was only a foot deep, so the bike could be wheeled out with the panniers all attached and ready. Then more good luck! Beth emailed a few hours after she'd left and said that Maneco (one of the locals) had passed by and gave her a ride with her bike in the back of the car - he took her to Canela and then she got the bus to São Francisco with the bike on board. So in the end she only needed to ride less than 10km from São Francisco to Arca Verde :-)

Beth said that the Agro-forestry course went really well and that she'd learned a huge amount and that the people there were really like-minded, always talking about things we're really interested in such as alternative currencies and alternative power etc. We've actually been there before when Mum and Dad came over for their holiday, but we didn't get much chance to get to know anyone then.

Then after the first course finished disaster struck! An intense storm rolled in with super-hail as big as eggs which badly damaged their roof causing water to pour in and soak every thing. The only reason they didn't cancel the course was because they needed the income from it to pay to fix the damaged roof! But last I heard they had all worked together and got tarps covering the roof and were drying everything out.

We had a hail storm the night before Beth left which was about the size of marbles with a few gob-stoppers thrown in. I was certain the solar panels would be completely smashed, but amazingly when I went up to check in the morning they were all fine! But we have to think of some way to protect the roof and panels from the super-hail, because apparently it's going to get worse and more frequent for the next few months due to el-nino :-(

The tarantula in the well

Posted by Nad on 30 October 2015 at 21:21
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
I was just doing my emails today when I noticed a movement in the corner of my eye, I thought it would probably just be our flatmate Fattie collecting stuff for his new apartment, but it wasn't - it was a huge tarantula! It came from under the house and made its way over to the edge of the vegie patch. She's about 25cm long with her legs stretched out! I got a photo and then went back to my email. Then a couple of hours later it was time to get some water from the well, so I lifted the lid off, and guess who's sitting in there! We carried on collecting out water keeping a close eye on her (actually I don't think they're poisonous or anything), but then she decided it was too much activity for her and she left for the swamp :-)
Tarantula in well.jpg
Tarantula leaving well.jpg


Posted by Nad on 03 November 2015 at 20:06
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
When we were at Arca Verde we noticed that they were making Tapioca a different way than us, they used a more course sieve and made them really thick. We asked them how they did it because ours don't work if we try to make them thick, we have to make them thin and they're really difficult to get the water content exactly right so they don't break.

It turns turns out there's two different types of Manioc starch, sweet and sour. We've been using sweet, but they use sour, and that makes all the difference. The sour has a sort of cheesie smell when it's raw, but they both taste pretty much the same after you cook them. But the sour starch is a very different consistency and is much easier to work with.

So now we're having Tapioca as part of our meals almost every day instead of bread since it's so easy! And we also add some corn flour too to make it a bit more nutritious :-)

Oba! our net connection just got WAY better!!!

Posted by Nad on 29 November 2015 at 10:52
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
Fast net at last!.jpg
Our new big antenna's been awesome, it always gets a usable 3G connection (even though it's only zero or one bar signal) and always gets a four or five bar 2G signal. But regardless of that the actual bandwidth has been getting worse and worse - first just in peak hours, but recently the badness has been creeping forward more and more, until often it's been unusable even at 8am!

But then this morning when I connected I noticed that it was a four bar connection, and we're on 3G!!! I tested the bandwidth to see if it was just some weird glitch and we got a consistent download speed of 2-3 megabits! We've never once had more than a single bar on 3G, and the absolute best bandwidth we've ever had is 1 megabit, and that was very intermittent!

All I can think is that a new tower must have finally gone up near by :-)

(At least I really hope that's the case, rather than it being some strange short-lived atmospheric condition or something!)

Update: By midday the signal had gone up to full strength and our bandwidth was consistently over 3 megabits peaking at over four!

Off-grid shmoff-grid :-/

Posted by Nad on 07 December 2015 at 16:09
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
After a very dark winter with literally weeks of solid rain and even longer periods with no sun, we've finally decided that it's time for our solar power experiment to give way to the grid! We're still going to continue with our power project, but we'll change our focus to micro-hydro since we have a usable river current nearly all the time, and we'll look in to more exotic forms of power as well such as hydrolysis and Tesla antennas :-)

The first step to getting connected to the grid out here is to get a power pole put in with a meter on it. Then we can call another company who can connect out pole to the closest existing poles. It took a while to find someone reliable for the first job of putting the pole in, and then he had to cancel due to rain so we thought we'd miss out this year since we're leaving for Brasília in a few days, and then for NZ after that. But the weather has been good for the last few days and he spontaneously appeared today. He didn't like the look of the place though as he reckoned his truck was too heavy and the ground was still quite muddy.

But half an hour of convincing rational argument did the trick and they got to work!


And now we have a shiny new power pole! We think that the internet suddenly got awesome and the power suddenly happened because the Buddhist guardians are blessing everything to keep us working hard on the Ligmincha system! This photo seems to confirm that idea somehow :-)


Too hot to handle!

Posted by Nad on 27 December 2015 at 20:39
This post has the following tags : Our third year on the land
We're staying at Beth's parents place in Brasília at the moment, and soon after we arrived, Beth's Dad introduced me to his new Red Savina Habanero plant! This kind of chilli pepper is extremely hot and held the world record for the hottest chilli from 1994 to 2006 when it was beaten by the Bhut jolokia, and the current record holder since 2013 is the Carolina Reaper which is a hybrid of the other two. These peppers are literally hundreds of times hotter than Tobasco source! So I thought it would be a good idea to cut a whole lot of them up and preserve them in sunflower oil to make a really hot source!

I've had better ideas :-(

In the process of cutting them into small pieces a lot of the juice went onto my fingers - I didn't think that was a problem because I washed my hands immediately afterwards with plenty of soap. But the juice is so strong that not only did the washing process fail to remove enough to stop it burning, but it also just spread it all over my hands and wrists making my whole hands burn the same way your mouth burns after eating a normal chili! Not only that, but washing the juice into the sink produced choking fumes making me cough uncontrollably! I tried to get it off by having a shower which only proceeded to spread the burning sensation all over my body and into my eyes!!!

I had to pour water directly into my eyes and pat them dry with a towel, and then just accept the burning everywhere else since whatever I did just made things worse :-(

It's about four hours after the incident now and the burning has finally started subsiding! I'm not sure whether I want to take my new hot source home with me now...?


Starting our forth year on the land

Posted by Nad on 09 February 2016 at 13:20
This post has the following tags : Our forth year on the land | Our third year on the land
Wow that year sped past in a flash! We've just got back from Brasília where we stayed with Beth's parents for a couple of months for Christmas and New Years. It's always good to catch up with the family and spend time with them, but we have to remember in future not to be away from our land for too long because we start really missing the peace and tranquillity of have natural forest all around us. We have another three months away soon too because we're visiting New Zealand, but after we get back we plan on spending some really solid time here!

One interesting thing that we did in Brasília was to do some bike Mechanic lessons with Beth's friend Danielson. This was mainly for Beth because she felt very unconfident about fixing anything mechanically on the bikes, but it's made me more confident too because there were some things I didn't really understand too such as the gear adjustment mechanism. He took us through assembling a bike completely from scratch and now Beth feels really confident to fix anything on our bikes :-)


Remember the Habanero source that was too hot to handle? Well shortly after it was made I put two olives in the bottle, one for me and one for Beth's dad, the challenge was that on the last day of out visit, we would both eat one of the olives! Well I ate mine, but Beth's dad cheated and spat his out!!! It was pretty hot, but luckily we had ensured that we had some ice cold beer in the freezer to cool off with :-)


We caught a plane back to Porto Alegre a couple of days ago, stayed in a hotel there then got a bus to Canela where we hired a car which we'll use for a few days while we get supplies and arrange building materials. We have to build a house over the next few weeks since they won't connect the power to our new pole unless there's a house within 40m of it (and they didn't want to put our pole close to our current house because they thought the truck would get stuck in the mud).

When we arrived, every thing was really overgrown as usual, but amongst all the tangle of weeds we found heaps of ripe tomatoes and some grapes are ready too :-) The mulberry trees that had died from the intense surprise frost last year have regrown to the size they were before, and the banana tree is looking really good too - the tiny one that cropped up next to it is pretty big now as well!


The strangest thing we saw when we arrived though was that a pumpkin vine had travelled all the way out of the vege patch straight to our door as if it specifically wanted to visit us in our house! Perhaps this is the way that home delivery works in the wild :-)

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