Organic Design (blog)

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Carpenter bees

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 14h49min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
As well as several kinds of wasps, we also have Carpenter bees which unfortunately are not so harmless, the females burrow into wood and will also sting to protect their nests. One was burrowing into our new bathroom door today! The burned oil didn't seem to put it off much either, but some research revealed that they do much prefer fresh unpainted wood, so I've tried screwing an unpainted piece to the door in the hopes that it will use that area when it comes back next - I also drew a bee-friendly symbol on it which should help it decide :-)
Carpenter bee burrowing into door.jpg Carpenter bee mitigation.jpg

Wasps on the house

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 14h47min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Now that it's summer the insect population has really sky rocketed, we painted the whole house with burned oil which seems to have deterred the worst problem insects such as termites, but there's still a lot of interest from wasps. We have at least three different kinds around the house, the first find existing holes and then pad the inside with leaves to make their nest, the second make the typical paper-like nests that hang on the walls and under eves, and the third kind are Mud Dauber wasps. None of these types of wasps are aggressive and don't sting people even when they fear their nests are in danger.

The Mud Dauber wasps are really amazing, they create nests out of clay made of a series of chambers with an egg in each one. They then find spiders and paralyse them with their sting and put a spider in each chamber so the new wasp has food when it hatches. The first time I saw a nest on the side of the house I thought I had better remove it as I didn't know what kind of wasp it was it was and whether the larvae might eat the wood. When the nest fell on the ground I was shocked to see it filled with spiders! I looked on the net and soon found out what was going on. More have been constructed now, but since I now know they're harmless I've just let them be.

Mud Dauber wasp nest.jpg

Capacitor plague!

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 11h37min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Beth was drying the washing with our portable 500W centrifugal spinner dryer when all of a sudden we heard a loud bang and then the horrible familiar smell of burning electronic components! I took a look and saw that smoke was coming out of the 800W inverter!! luckily this is not our main inverter that we use for running the lights and computers, the 800W is only for tools and other high power appliances, but it's still a major problem to have it blow up because it would take weeks to get a replacement.
Tv capacitor pillage.jpg
I opened it up and found that everything looked fine except for two electrolytic capacitors used to smooth the input power which had exploded and ejected their burning electrolyte liquid all over the inside of the case. I found this quite strange because they were rated for 25v but the input can never exceed the maximum voltage of the battery which is about 14.5v.

After doing a bit of research I found that the problem was most likely the "capacitor plague" which affected millions of capacitors made about ten years ago and used by many companies in all sorts of devices from vacuum cleaners to computers, and the typical symptom is capacitors exploding well before their normal lifespan and well within their specified voltage.

The problem is that there's nowhere in Canela or Gramado that sell electronic components and ordering by net would take at least a week, probably two to sort out. But as luck would have it, I saw an old TV at the side of the road in a pile of rubbish, and TVs always have loads of capacitors in them! so we threw it in the car and when we got back I pulled it apart and pillaged all the capacitors from it - they're probably thirty years old, but they're Siemens which is one of the best brands in the business and things tended to be made better back then too :-) I found a couple that would do just fine and they were rated at 40v which is nearly triple what's required so there should be no problems. I installed them in the inverter and sure enough we're back in business!

Vagalumes & Pyrophorus beetles

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 10h32min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Vagalumes are a kind of firefly that make a green light at night, sometimes stable and sometimes flashing. There's a lot of them at this time of year and they make excellent natural Christmas lights :-) Vagalumes a flies about a centimetre long with a glowing tail, but last night a different kind landed on the window and I was able to get a close photo of it, I was even able to hold it in my hand for a minute or so! This one was a different type completely, it's a very big insect about 4cm long and it looks like its eyes are glowing, but actually I think the glowing parts are further back than they eyes. I looked on the net and found out that these are Pyrophorus beetles, they look really sci-fi like some kind of robot bug!
Vagalumes.jpg Vagalume close.jpg Holding vagalume.jpg

Fixing Nivinha's ignition barrel

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 08h37min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Niva coil gambiarra.jpg
Poor Nivinha was stuck in the forest again for over a month at the start of the year when we were carrying some wood from the field to the house and she suddenly stopped. We couldn't start her again, the starter motor would go and the engine would turn while the key was in the start position, but when the key was released to let the starter motor stop, the engine would also stop.

We talked to one of the neighbours who said that it was the ignition barrel needing to be replaced and that a Fiat one should would ok. Beth sent me to get the replacement from a shop on the main road when we were in Canela with her parents, but I miss-heard the instructions and went to our 4x4 mechanic Fernando instead. Luckily he was really helpful and even though he didn't have the right part, he explained that I could temporarily fix the problem by attaching a wire from the positive of the battery to the positive of the coil and remove it when we want the engine to stop. This worked very well and we were able to get Nivinha out of the forest back home :-) This was a real breakthrough for me with my Portuguese learning too because this was quite a complicated conversation and I was able to successfully explain the problem in detail and answer questions about the symptoms and then understand what he said I should do.

Since I have all the manuals with the wiring diagram for the car I was able to then work out what exact connections were failing in the ignition barrel. To fix the problem properly, I first removed the ignition barrel (this short video shows how to do that). The main catch is that the key must be in the ignition and turned to the first clockwise position before it can be removed, also there's a small catch that has to be depressed by poking a screwdriver into the hole (a little above the left hand mounting screw on the barrel). I then opened the barrel by removing the metal ring from the end with the contacts. I found that there was some bad corrosion on one of the copper plates causing it to lift off from the contact. I filed off the corrosion and also added some solder to the contact and the plate since the copper was also very thin and cracked. I then tested the connection with a multimeter and saw that the problem had been solved, so I put it all back together and reinstalled it into the car!

Niva removing ignition barrel.jpg Niva fixed ignition.jpg

Beth's parents come to visit the land

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 07h54min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
Beth's parents arrived on January the 9th and stayed for nine days. They came all the way here from Brasilia by car which is over 2000km! It went really well and they really loved it here! we were a bit nervous before hand because we thought they wouldn't like our basic facilities and having to wash in the river, but they were really happy with everything :-) they brought a huge load of vegetables and fruit trees for us to plant, we have chillis, lemons, pineapples, bananas, mangos, papayas and more! many of them may not be able to handle the climate down here, but we've tried planting them at the border of the forest and the garden where there's no frost but hopefully enough sun.
Beth planting with her parents.jpg Aran, Beth and her Mum planting.jpg

We all went to Canela a few times to go overboard on cakes and coffee! in Portuguese they say "pé na jaca" which translates literally as putting your foot in the durian and it means to go overboard and have too much of a good thing :-) We also had many good meals at home including an indoor vegetarian "Churrasco" on our wood stove which is the cultural style of Brazilian barbecue cooking.

Churrasco de legumes em casa.jpg

It was really nice having them here, and I think it was really good for them to see first hand what it's like here and how we live. The pictures really don't tell the whole story and they were a bit worried about us and thinking it wasn't good for our health and well being. But now they see that this is an extremely healthy and fulfilling way of living and completely understand why we're doing it :-)

The new bathroom

Posted by Nad on 25 de janeiro de 2014 at 07h00min
This post has the following tags: Our second year on the land
For some reason our awesome natural forest toilet isn't very popular with the guests and Beth's parents are coming to stay next week! so we've decided it's time to make a small bathroom addon under the south extension.
Making a bathroom.jpg Making a bathroom 2.jpg Bathroom almost finished.jpg Bathroom finishing touch.jpg


The bathroom needed to be able to be closed and latched from the both outside (to keep the door closed when nobody's in it) and inside while in use. We didn't have any spare latches so I made a cute natural looking one from some spare wood. The latch is on the inside, but has a slit in the door with a large nail attached to the latch so it can be slid open or closed from the outside too - I knew those cool-looking eight inch nails would come in handy some day :-)

Bathroom latch inside.jpg      Bathroom latch outside.jpg

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