Organic Design (blog)

We're on satellite now :-)

Posted by Nad on 9 de fevereiro de 2018 at 07h35min
This post has the following tags: Our sixth year on the land
We were in a few days ago for a few bits and bobs when we noticed 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.

 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.

The new wood fire

Posted by Nad on 4 de fevereiro de 2018 at 05h54min
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 :-)

Back to the land for 2018

Posted by Nad on 3 de janeiro de 2018 at 06h41min
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.

Rest in peace Fluffinha

Posted by Nad on 9 de dezembro de 2017 at 07h44min
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.

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!

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 :-)

Blender gambiarra

Posted by Nad on 2 de dezembro de 2017 at 09h30min
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! :-)

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!

Oba!!!

Forest cottage ready for Beth's 2017 retreat

Posted by Nad on 30 de novembro de 2017 at 12h06min
This post has the following tags: Our fifth year on the land
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 :-)

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 :-)

New solar system

Posted by Nad on 7 de novembro de 2017 at 04h40min
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 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.

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.

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.

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!

Hot sauce in Curitiba

Posted by Nad on 21 de setembro de 2017 at 06h36min
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!!!

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 chainsaw

Posted by Nad on 13 de setembro de 2017 at 09h27min
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 garden bed approach

Posted by Nad on 13 de setembro de 2017 at 09h10min
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:

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 :-)