Organic Design (blog)

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Mice again!

Posted by Nad on 2 de junho de 2014 at 18h46min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
A few months during our first year on the land we had terrible trouble with mice entering the house and chewing everything. Luckily we had all our food inside strong plastic containers so they didn't get into that, but they get into everything and make a lot of noise preventing us from sleeping at night. Eventually we closed up all the holes so they couldn't get in any more, but we still hear them scratching and chewing under and around the house at night.

Recently the problems began again because we've been drying lots of chia flowers to harvest the seeds from, and it turns out the mice really like them! We decided to make a trap that would capture them alive so we could put them over the river where they couldn't return to the house. After some research we found that if they're put somewhere that has a safe area for them they won't risk returning across dangerous terrain. We have two old houses near to us that nobody lives in that the mice would likely not return from, one about 600 metres away and the other about 1km, and failing that there's a location about 800m away in the forest that would require them to cross three streams to return.

So to make the trap I decided to check the net first to see what the simplest and most effective kinds were. I ended up making my own design which is an elaborate version of this simple idea a saw on Youtube called How to Catch a Rodent with a Paper Towel Roll. The basic idea is to put a cardboard tube on a table with the end sticking off almost halfway with some bait like peanut butter in the end. When the mouse goes through the tube to get the bait, its weight causes the whole thing to over balance and fall off the edge of the table into a bin.

I made the following permanent version using a plastic bottle, but my version has the bait separate from the tube and the tube swings back to the original position whenever it gets moved so that it doesn't need to be reconfigured each time it catches a mouse. The bait was some chia flowers with some sesame oil on them to make them extra enticing! This version worked reasonably well and we got two mice with it within a day of setting it up!

Mouse trap v1.jpg Aran with mouse 1.jpg

The only problem was that our bucket was only about 50cm deep which wasn't enough, they can really jump! the tiny ones like you can see in the picture above couldn't get out, but we got a slightly bigger one too and it managed to get out. Also it's quite difficult getting more then one out of the bucket and into a sack to take away, so today I made some improvements. I made a tall funnel out of some plastic I had lying round and it fits neatly into a small plastic tub which we can use to carry the mice in, so when we catch some we just gently lift the funnel away enough to slide the tub's lid off, but being careful not to create a gap big enough for them to squeeze through!

Mouse trap v2-1.jpg Mouse trap v2-2.jpg

The abandoned house

Posted by Nad on 28 de maio de 2014 at 16h27min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Today we went for a walk to an abandoned house to the south which we can see from the big hill. There's a fork in the crystal road which goes to it so we decided to take that route on the way there and then find our way back through the bush and over the fields to get back. When we got there we were amazed to see that many years ago a lot of care had been taken to make a really nice garden with huge palm trees, a giant cactus and beautiful stone walls, but it's all been abandoned and left to the cows now. The whole place had a strange mysterious feeling about it. The house is falling to pieces and has giant ant nests on it. There was even a big Fly Garrett mushroom in the middle of a clearing under the trees, the first one we've seen in real life :-) To get back home we followed a trail out of the property then entered the pine forest to find the river and follow it back to our land.
Abandoned house.jpg Abandoned house to the west.jpg Ants nests on abandoned house.jpg
Cactus in abandoned garden.jpg Fly Garrett 1.jpg In the pine forest.jpg

New vege garden beds

Posted by Nad on 28 de maio de 2014 at 15h32min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Over the last week or so we've been making some new garden beds for planting vegetables. We've put them in the area that Barry cleared for his and Eduardo's tents a couple of weeks ago. We cleared the rest of the area and divided the cleared material into two groups, the brown ferns and the grass and other greenery. We then organised the ferns into long lines with space between them to walk, and then put the grass on top and flattened it.
New 2014 garden beds 3.jpg New 2014 garden beds from above.jpg

Bananas & Barefeet

Posted by Nad on 24 de maio de 2014 at 17h55min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
We've decided that we'll try and go somewhere every week so that we get more and more used to cycling and walking. This week we went to Canela again, we didn't really have any urgent supplies to get, but got a few things anyway. One thing we noticed while walking down a street we don't usually go down that was very interesting was some very large healthy banana trees. This is very inspiring because the climate in Canela is almost exactly the same as our land, it gets snow when we get snow, and frost when we get frost. We heard that the main problem with growing bananas in this kind of region is that their trunks are very sensitive to the cold, so we've been surrounding our small ones with piles of grass clippings. But what we noticed with these big ones in Canela was that they had Hydrangeas growing all around their trunks! Hydrangeas grow really well here so we're going to plant them around our bananas too :-)

After we got off the bus at Vaca Velha to begin the 8km walk back to the land, we again decided to try doing it in bare feet - last week we were interrupted by our 4x4 adventure after only a couple of kilometres. The trail is roughly three segments about a third of the distance each. The first is normal dirt road with some loose-metal and some muddy bits which we were quite confident about doing barefoot. The middle section is forest, half native and half pine, and the last section is mainly fields.

We didn't think we'd be able to handle the native forest bit because there are many Grinfa (fallen Araucaria leaves) which are very hard and prickly. We decided to keep going and just put our boots on if and when it got too difficult, but surprisingly we got all the way through the forest without any problem! walking barefoot is really an exercise in awareness, you put your feet down flat so you can shift weight easily if you feel something sharp somewhere, and you always observe the ground and pick a safe point to put your foot down. Applying this process got us through the forest surprisingly quickly. Again as we were nearing the last section of the trail we were thinking that we wouldn't be able to handle it because the long grass is too dangerous in bare feet, but the same thing happened - the problems were all in our minds, and in reality the cow path we follow was all short grass, and there was always a place to step where the ground was visible! in the end we got all the way back home without any problem :-)

Bananas in Hydrangers.jpg Barefoot on Vaca Velha trail.jpg

Fruit trees, cycling and bare feet

Posted by Nad on 21 de maio de 2014 at 12h08min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
When we went to Canela in the weekend, there were a whole lot of young native fruit trees being given away in the town square. Some companies give away native trees as an environmental action to reduce their tax burden, and increase the value of their goodwill. We decided to grab a few (well eight actually) since we had just a few days earlier, with the help of Barry, prepared a space along the northern fence line on the side of the hill especially for fruit trees!

Unfortunately there was no way we could take them back home with us, because after getting off the bus at Vaca Velha we had two hours to walk with heavy bags of groceries - we didn't know that we'd be getting a ride in the back of a 4x4 all the way to our door! So we left the plants on some wet ground at the side of the road at Vaca Velha and cycled back the next day to get them.

We cycled along the Vaca Velha trail because Eduardo told us it was perfect for mountain biking, but unfortunately Beth found it quite stressful, as she's not used to biking on steep trails full of mud and rocks, and her bike has the wrong handlebars for that and also has broken suspension! On the way back with the plants we went the long route via Lava Pes which is about 23km, but on normal dirt road in good condition. Beth can handle the long rides on good roads better than I can as she's better at conserving her energy. But after the first half I had learned how to build up and maintain momentum on the flat and downhill parts without using much energy, and then using this momentum to save most of the uphill work, so I found the last half a lot easier than the first half. It took us about two hours to do the 8km Vaca Velha trail and about three to return on the 23km route via Lava pes, so there's a lot of room for improvement there yet :-/

Then today we got the plants in the ground, I made the holes and Beth put them in. She worked in bare feet since we're now inspired to go without shoes a lot more after seeing Eduardo tramping through the muddy forest with no problem! So far I've only been going to our beach, and walking the first part of the Vaca Velha trail in bare feet, but next time we go to Canela I'm going to try and do the whole 8km of the Vaca Velha trail without shoes :-)

Planting fruit trees 1.jpg Planting fruit trees 2.jpg Planting fruit trees 3.jpg
Planting fruit trees 4.jpg Planting fruit trees 5.jpg Planting fruit trees 6.jpg

Mindinho on the Basil

Posted by Nad on 19 de maio de 2014 at 18h05min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
This little fly thing is called a Mindinho and is one of the many visitors to the Basil and Chia plants. It's very small, only about 5mm long so was difficult to get a detailed shot of it.
Mindinho 1.jpg Mindinho 2.jpg Mindinho 3.jpg

Offroad hitch-hiking adventure!

Posted by Nad on 17 de maio de 2014 at 17h21min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Today we got up early and walked for a couple of hours to the bus stop at Vaca Velha to go into Canela for some groceries and to meet Barry at our favourite cafe, Confeiteria Martha, and have some beers, coffees, cakes, pizza and pastels and to say goodbye. We could only stay a short time because on Saturdays the bus back to Vaca Velha leaves Canela at 2pm instead of 4pm, so we said our goodbyes and left for the bus station at twenty to two.

We decided to try walking back in bare feet after Eduardo had inspired us so much, but we'd only been going for about twenty minutes when we saw a couple of 4x4's approaching. Well walking is good, but we like to always take advantage of a ride for part of the way when the opportunity arises, especially when carrying a heavy load - we also get to meet some interesting locals that way too.

These guys were happy to give us a ride, but they warned us that it would be bumpy and probably muddy sitting in the back, we said we were fine with that and so off we went. It turned out these guys were actually on their way to São Francisco de Paula, but were taking this out of the way route purposely to find the worst muddy rocky road in the area! This road connects our local area where we and our neighbours all live with the bus stop at Vaca Velha on "highway" RS-476. We've done it once in our Lada Niva, and never wanted to do it again! But these guys do this route for fun!! And they know of some other areas slightly off the track that are even worse which they went on - while we were clutching to the sides in the back!!!

We stopped at a couple of muddy ponds so they could film each other going through them and got to talk with them a bit. Once they heard we had a Niva, I think we made some kind of a connection with them, like we were automatically in the same "club" or something :-) We were really happy to hear that one of their 4x4's ran on alcohol like ours! We'd thought that alcohol was a really bad idea because it doesn't work in winter at all, but they said to just mix 30% or so of petrol with it and it'll be fine! One of the guys, Geremias, is a mechanic and was fascinated by the fact that we live all the way out here in the middle of nowhere. They decided to drive us all the way back to our house to have a look at our place and our Niva!

Barry was telling us what good "hole in one" luck he'd had with hitch-hiking (when you get a ride that takes you all the way to where you want to go), but this takes the cake! Who'd ever have thought we'd get a ride literally all the way to our door in the middle of the forest!?!?

4x4 adventure 3.jpg 4x4 adventure 4.jpg 4x4 adventure 1.jpg

Ladybug season

Posted by Nad on 16 de maio de 2014 at 18h49min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
May is ladybug season, we have hundreds of them all over the house and on many plants. They're really good because they keep the pests under control. We have at least three different kinds, the traditional red ones with black spots, "Brazilian ladybugs" which are green and yellow like the Brazilian flag, and another kind that are yellow with black spots.
Lady bug on chia.jpg Brazilian ladybug.jpg Yellow lady bug 2.jpg

Barry leaving

Posted by Nad on 16 de maio de 2014 at 18h16min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Barry left this morning so we're by ourselves again now, but we're going to Canela tomorrow for some supplies so we may catch up with him again at our favourite cafe, Confeiteria Martha. We took a couple of shots of Barry as he was preparing to leave. The second one shows the fire pit that we cooked the Pinhão in Sapeco style, which still has some Grinfas in it, then behind that Barry is standing next to a baby Araucaria with a young one directly behind him and a large old one in the background.
Barry leaving 1.jpg Barry leaving 2.jpg


Posted by Nad on 14 de maio de 2014 at 16h33min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Unfortunately Eduardo had to leave today as he could only take a little time off work, but before he left he wanted to show us a really good way of cooking Pinhão called "Sapeco" (not to be confused with Seppuku!). This method is really nice because it's about cooking the Pinhão with the tree's own fallen leaves ("Grinfa") and nothing more. He went into the forest for half an hour and collected a couple of barrow loads of Grinfa and about a hundred Pinhão and then we stacked the Grinfa up in a big pile with an indentation in the top to pour the Pinhão into.
Sapeco 3.jpg Sapeco 4.jpg Sapeco 5.jpg

The Grinfa are extremely easy to light, even when they have moisture on them you can get them going with a lighter or match with no need for anything else like paper. It's best to light it at three or four locations around the base so it burns evenly. Once it gets going it's like a volcano with really thick smoke and gets really hot. After a few minutes it's all burned and collapsed down, and you then scrape the cooked Pinhão out of all the ashes to eat them. We all had them for breakfast with Chimarrão :-)

Sapeco 6.jpg Sapeco 7.jpg Sapeco 8.jpg

Shortly after our Sapeco breakfast, Eduardo packed his things and left, but promised to return soon with some other friends who he said would also be really inspired seeing how we live out here. Just last week we were thinking how hard we've been finding it out here, and came to the conclusion that what we really needed was to find some good local friends who really share our ideals and values. Well the universe definitely seems to have heard us and promptly manifested a solution! thanks universe!! - and thanks Barry for introducing us :-)