Organic Design (blog)

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PVC pipe doesn't cut it out here in the wilderness!

Posted by Nad on 2 de agosto de 2014 at 13h57min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
When we first laid our LAN and power cables between the house and the antenna on the hill for our rural net connection, we just had them naked and hammered in to trees with U-nails through the forest area, then held overhead on some strong fencing wire across the open areas. It wasn't long before the cables became worn and chewed, so we decided to lay the whole distance on the ground within a strong PVC pipe. This worked very well for a year or more, but in the last few weeks connectivity problems have begun again! I thought the problem must be due to the various cable joins at the ends and at the hub at the mid-point, but after checking, re-checking and even re-soldering them all, the problems remained :-( I could tell by the fact that I could connect without trouble from the mid-way hub, that the problem must be in the first hundred metre segment between the house and the mid-point, but I couldn't figure out where the problem was. It was Beth who eventually found the problem; after carefully examining the PVC pipe through the thickest part of the swamp she discovered that some animal has chewed many holes right through it exposing and chewing the cables within! It seems from the damage that whatever animal this is doesn't like to leave the thick cover of the forest and swamp, because there's no damage at all in the open areas or even under the house. It looks like we're going to have to use metal pipe for the fifty or so metres of forest and swamp!
Pvc net pipe chewed.jpg Damaged power cable.jpg

It's not just me with these problems though, even Google have trouble protecting their cables under the sea from shark bites.

Mouse attack!

Posted by Nad on 22 de julho de 2014 at 16h01min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Out here in the wilderness the mice are relentless! there's no point trapping them and taking them away or even killing them, because within hours of their absence others quickly replace them. We've been having a lot of trouble with them over the last few weeks, perhaps because it's nesting time or something. Every night many of them are scuttling all over the house looking for any slightest hole they can gnaw away at to get in.

A few nights ago one of them finally made it into the ceiling. We tried putting a trap up there, but country mice seem to be smarter than city ones and they're able to remove the food from the trap carefully without setting it off. We quickly set about sealing up any holes in the ceiling that it would be able to enter the main living area through, but unfortunately we were too late! It managed to get out of the ceiling onto the top storage shelf, and when we started removing items from the shelf to reveal it and trap it, it made a huge two metre jump onto the kitchen bench and disappeared amongst all the bits and bobs. It took an hour or two, but we eventually managed to corner it and get it into a mouse-transportation jar.

We tried to seal everything up as best we could by nailing bits of wood around the suspicious looking parts of the exterior, but then last night we heard another one scampering around in the ceiling! We eventually discovered that they were getting into the capping and entering from in there. So today I went up there and pulled it all off to put concrete in all the holes, so that firstly they won't be able to get into the capping, and secondly if they did manage to get in there's no entrance into the ceiling from there. Here's a picture after I got started with the job.

Concrete under capping.jpg

The lesson learned from all this is when you build a house in the forest, it has to be made without any holes at all, especially in the foundations or roof which often are left with some small holes such as under corrugations. It's best to seal any holes up with concrete during construction, because it's a major hassle doing it after everything's built! Concrete, metal or hard wood is best because the mice will eat through anything softer given enough time.

Cycling back home from Caxias

Posted by Nad on 14 de julho de 2014 at 11h43min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Since we both now have decent bikes, we decided to try riding all the way back from Caxias! Normally this would be about 80km (60km to Lageado Grande, and then the usual 20 from there back home). Eduardo, Beth and I all cycled to Max and Lucy's the evening before for dinner and stayed the night there which is about 20km along the highway towards Lageado Grande, which made the trip a bit shorter :-) The first photo below is taken at Max and Lucy's as we're just about to leave at 10am.

Also Eduardo showed us a way we could go that meant we only needed to travel about 17km on the highway to a small town called Apanhador, at which point we could have some Pastels for lunch and then turn off and travel through the country side from there. The total distance is about 5km shorter this way, and the country tracks are a much nicer ride - also this stretch of highway is really dangerous, and you have to cycle on the rough gravel shoulder to avoid being hit by trucks!

After turning off onto the dirt road, it's about 12km to another small town called Juá which has just a school and a wood yard. We stopped at the wood yard to get their phone number as they may have better prices than our place in Canela, and they would be able to deliver to our place very cheaply. From there it was another 15km to Lava Pés, and we were starting to get really tired by this time - we started to think that Eduardo's instructions were way out, as it felt like it had been more than 30km from Juá by the time we finally saw Lava Pés!!! But when we checked the map later it was only about 15km, so we must have been really tired! The second photo below shows our first view of Lava Pés coming from Juá which was a great relief indeed! We knew would could make it the last 12km home when we were in familiar territory, so we slowly carried on.

Four cars passed us on the road home from Lava Pés and three of them were people we knew who stopped to talk, which really made us feel like we're proper locals here now :-)

We finally arrived home at about 5:30pm, so we had taken about seven and a half hours in total - but we had stopped for half an hour for lunch in Apanhador, another half hour just before Juá to fix a puncture, and another half hour or so for various conversations and bites to eat along the way. The total distance we cycled that day was 56km, which is the longest ride we've done so far. It was a very hard ride for us, and we were both really glad we hadn't also had to do the extra 20km we'd done the day before to get as far as Max and Lucy's!

Leaving Caxias on our new bikes.jpg Lava Pes coming from Jua.jpg

Apanhador to Lava Pes.jpg

Beth's new bike

Posted by Nad on 11 de julho de 2014 at 11h41min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We've been in Caxias for a few days again to get some supplies and hook up with some new contacts. We cycled to Lageado Grande and then got the bus from there again, this time we took the bikes with us on the bus so we could cycle around while we're here. As luck would have it, Eduardo heard about a bike for sale that would be suitable for Beth (having a slightly smaller frame and closer handlebars), so they went and checked it out while I stayed back at Eduardo's to deal with some server issues. Beth really liked it and paid for it right then and there, so on the way back, Beth will be riding her new one and I'll be riding my new one that she's been riding - oba!!!

Beth's new bike.jpg

Eduardo visits with a few friends!

Posted by Nad on 10 de julho de 2014 at 17h28min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
It can get a bit isolated at the land, especially after a couple of weeks of rain like we've just had! But then I heard the familiar sound of bike brakes in the field, so I figured Eduardo had come to visit :-) After peering through the trees I could just make out that he must have brought a friend or two, well after a few minutes he emerged from the forest with not one friend, not two friends, but eighteen!!!

He wanted to show them all our tiny house in the forest and the Vaca Velha trail which is really good for mountain biking on. So after a quick lunch in the garden (luckily they all brought their own food with them!) we all set off together down the 8km Vaca Velha trail :-)

Eduardo and friends visit 2.jpg Eduardo and friends visit 3.jpg Eduardo and friends visit 4.jpg
Eduardo and friends visit 5.jpg Eduardo and friends visit 6.jpg Eduardo and friends visit 7.jpg

At the end of Vaca Velha we turned north and cycled together for another 5km and then they all turned off onto some trails to the west to start heading back towards Caxias, and Beth and I carried to north to go another 15km home via Lava Pes.

Starting a well

Posted by Nad on 20 de junho de 2014 at 17h05min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Max and Lucy are both dowsers, and after we told them that we were thinking of digging a well after Rui had done some dowsing a few weeks ago, they decided to check what our water situation was around our garden too - and they both pinpointed a good strong source in exactly the same place as Rui had found it! I made a small hole with a fence post borer and after about a metre the dirt turned to clay, then after another half metre the bottom filled with water! I then made two more holes to form a triangle, and Eduardo then used the spade to connect them together into one big hole so I could get in and start digging the bottom down further to eventually reveal the more solid rocky ground where the clean water can enter.
Max dowsing.jpg Well hole started.jpg Water found.jpg
Three holes.jpg Eduardo burying Aran in the well.jpg Everyones reflection in the well.jpg

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

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

Back to the land after our visit to Caxias

Posted by Nad on 20 de junho de 2014 at 13h00min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We got back to the land yesterday after spending about ten days at Eduardo and Tiago's place in Caxias. We had an awesome time there as Eduardo introduced us to some really nice people and showed us some beautiful places that we all cycled to. Beth also found some really excellent organic markets and shops that are actually better priced than most supermarket's chemo food! And she also found a good meditation group, a yoga class she liked and some nice Buddhist contacts, so we'll definitely be trying to come to Caxias a lot more regularly - and hopefully we can do it by bike! Here's a few photos of our time in Caxias...
Auri pouring wine for Beth & Aran.jpg Priscila visiting 3.jpg Dodgy 2.jpg

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

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

Aran's new bike

Posted by Nad on 16 de junho de 2014 at 12h43min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Eduardo found a really good bike for an excellent price that we went to take a look at this morning. We were to meet the guy selling it at 11:30, but he's a dentist so we had to sit in the waiting room for a while first - it turns out they do that for all appointments, not just the dental related ones! The three of us all had a little ride around the car park out back on it and all liked it, and Eduardo looked over some of the finer points and gave it the thumbs up! So Beth handed over the cash (but not after a bit of negotiation to knock another R$100 off the already insanely good price!) and we took it back to Eduardo's :-) Now we just have to find one for Beth!

Aran's new bike.jpg

Visiting Caxias

Posted by Nad on 14 de junho de 2014 at 13h57min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We're in Caxias now, and have been here for about a week now. We cycled the first 20km from our land via Lava Pes to Lajeado Grande which is the closest place that has buses that go to Caxias. The ride to Lajiado Grande was pretty easy and so next time we're going to try and go the whole way to Caxias which is another 60km of highway! hopefully by then we'll have much better bikes because one of the things we're doing here is trying to find some good second hand ones for a reasonable price. We're staying with our friend Eduardo who knows a lot about bikes and is helping us find some good deals :-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bike ride with Eduardo 14.jpg Caxias.jpg

Finding water on our land

Posted by Nad on 4 de junho de 2014 at 16h39min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Most of the water we use is for plants and washing clothes and dishes, and for these purposes the river water is fine. But we also need about 20L per week of drinking water and the river water would need to be boiled if we were to use that. But our neighbour Maneco has a spring on his land and is happy for us to fill our 20L bottles from it - and it's really awesome natural spring water! Ideally though we'd like to be more independent and we were talking about this with our other neighbour Ziza a few days ago. She said she knew a local guy who's a dowser and when we showed interest, she gave him a call and we arranged for him to come and check out the situation.

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

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

Rui dowsing on our land.jpg Beth dowsing.jpg

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

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

House - carrying wood in car.jpg