Our second year on the land
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 14:00|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 14:54|
|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.
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.
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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 15:37|
|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!
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 17:32|
|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!
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 18:37|
|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.
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!
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 21:47|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 25 January 2014 at 21:49|
|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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 29 January 2014 at 12:11|
|Posted by Nad on 02 February 2014 at 11:23|
Well about four days after we stopped Beth's headaches started to subside, but I started to get very sick, I had huge migraine headaches and vomiting! then after that subsided a bit, all the muscles in my legs began to ache constantly as if they were all over stretched. No matter what position I'd try and be in nothing would stop the pain! I couldn't sleep at all for four nights!
I couldn't believe this was due to giving up coffee and thought I must have come down with a sickness, so Beth said perhaps I should have some coffee to see if the symptoms subsided. Sure enough an hour after a cup of coffee my muscles started to feel a lot better again! Late that night they started getting bad again, and once again the next day after another cup of coffee the pain eased shortly after! After a week the symptoms had finally subsided completely without requiring any coffee. I was amazed that coffee could have such a severe affect on my body!
Beth's decided to give up completely, but since I don't really have the psychological aspect of the addiction I've decided to still have a coffee every now and again when we're at a café or neighbour's place, but I won't drink it on a daily basis any more.
|Posted by Nad on 01 March 2014 at 23:45|
|2014 Holiday in Brazil, and made a short link for it so it's easy to remember which is just www.organicdesign.co.nz/holiday.|
|Posted by Nad on 24 April 2014 at 22:20|
|We finally got back to the land yesterday! we caught a plane from Brasília to Porto Alegre which took less than two hours (it would have been 36 hours on the bus!), and then got the next bus from there to Canela which was only about twenty minutes after we arrived (buses to Canela leave every hour from the airport). The plan was to stay the night in Canela at Donna Eloi's who owns the main front house at the place we used to rent in Canela, and then meet with our neighbours who were going to be in Canela the next day and could drive us back to the land.
Unfortunately that didn't quite work out because the neighbours ended up not going to Canela, so we had to stay another night and arrange something else. It turned out that our old flat is empty so we actually stayed in there for a couple of nights :-) As a back up plan we called our truck guy Tonho to arrange going back with him and ordering a whole bunch of wood and roofing panels etc to take with us, but again the plan fell through! This time because it rained the whole night which would mean the roads were too muddy for the truck! So we decided to just leave the heavy stuff we didn't need at Donna Eloi's and get the bus to Vaca Velha and walk back.
It was a bit nerve racking because in winter the days are short and we needed to make good time to get there before dark. We made it just as light was fading and needed to use our cell phones to light the way through the forest at the end! Everything was ok with the house and we got a good night's sleep :-)
The next day we were quite surprised to see how much the vege patch had taken off! And also to see that all five bananas that Beth's parents had brought a couple of months ago had taken off - we thought only one had survived! Here's some photo's showing the vege patch in January compared to now, and one of the bananas.
The really big bushes which weren't even visible before the holiday are Chia which we're growing to harvest the seeds from as they're very healthy and good for digestion. They're currently the centre of attention in the vege patch which hundreds of bees, ladybugs, butterflies and other insects all over them. In particular the red butterflies really like them and there must be at least twenty on each bush. Here's a couple of photos showing some of them.
|Posted by Nad on 26 April 2014 at 19:48|
|We have at least five kinds of bees on our land - apart from the usual honey bees and bumble bees we also have carpenter bees, tiny black bees and tiny blue bees. Today I finally got some good shots of the tiny blue ones which range from about 5mm to 1cm long. The flower it's pollinating is Basil which is a very small flower about 5mm in diameter. The Basil and Chia have really taken off in our garden and are absolutely alive with many kinds of butterflies and all the different types of bees. This is really nice to see considering there's so many bees dying around the world from pesticide consumption and monoculture farming which makes their immune systems weak as they need a variety of different pollens to be strong and healthy.
|Posted by Nad on 01 May 2014 at 19:45|
|We were only back two days and then we saw a cow in the garden! how could this possibly be when the whole land is fenced off now?! by the time we'd got our boots on it had disappeared and we couldn't find it anywhere. But the next day there were two more! this time I ran after them when they ran off, and I followed them through the forest to the south-west corner of the land where it turns out there's no fence across the river!
It's a difficult area to fence because the banks are a metre or so high and there's nothing very low to attach fencing wire to. We decided it needed to be fenced off asap, so I got to work on it straight away. First I put a normal four-wire fence across joining the existing fences, and then to fill in the metre or so of gap in the river below this new section, I connected vertical pieces of wire attached to four sacks of rocks sitting on the river bed. The best ones are made with wire mesh, but we only had enough for two, so another is plastic mesh with some wire to support it and one is a large chunk of metal pipe.
It was a really horrible job! it was a cold overcast day and I had to wade into the mud and cold water which filled up my boots. Every time I needed to attach wire to the east side, I had to walk about 50 metres up stream to get to a point where I could get up the bank, then go back and attach the barbed wire all with soaking trousers, socks and boots!
|Posted by Nad on 14 May 2014 at 19:02|
|My long time friend from New Zealand, Barry, arrived on Saturday the 10th. He's been cycle touring around Brazil for a few weeks, he started in Rio and cycled over 1000km to our place, visiting São Paulo, Florianópolis and Cambará on the way here. He also invited his friend Eduardo from Caxias to come too who he met on one of the cycle touring sites, Eduardo arrived the next day on Sunday the 11th.
It was really good to catch up with Barry who I hadn't seen for a few years, and great to meet Eduardo who's really local to us and shares so many ideas and values in common with us! they taught us a lot about how to cycle more efficiently to go further while expending less energy, and what the best and lightest weight clothes, tents and sleeping bags are.
After Barry cleared a spot in the bracken, they pitched their tents ready to settle in for the week :-) I installed some hooks for them to hang their bikes on since we have mice around who love to chew plastic and rubber things!
|Posted by Nad on 14 May 2014 at 19:33|
|Eduardo's a civil engineer and knows heaps about concrete and how to use it really efficiently. His arrival was really timely because we'd just bought a sack of cement for a few projects around the land, but we haven't worked with concrete before and didn't know the best proportions and how much sand and rock we could get away with adding to the mixture. The most urgent job was to make a better solution to the south-west fence because the sack of rocks idea really hasn't worked and is also very messy.
My new idea was to make a long concrete pole with wire hooks all the way along it. The bar would sit on the river bed under the fence going all the way across and then vertical lengths of barbed wire could attach to the fence and the hooks in the concrete bar.
We started by carrying all the cement and tools to the site which is quite difficult because it's very muddy. Beth and I were amazed that Eduardo walked through the grass and the forest in bare feet! this was really inspirational for us because in New Zealand we have bare feet all the time, and feel that it's really important to be in contact with the Earth and it's also really good for raising awareness and for the nervous system. We'd thought that this was something that really wasn't practical in Brazil due to all the poisonous spiders and caterpillars, scorpians and snakes, but Eduardo had the attitude that as long as you're aware and can see where you're putting your feet there's no problem! so we're going to start being in bare feet a lot more now :-)
When we got there, I made a trench in the ground as a mould for the concrete and filled it with lengths of twisted wire for reinforcing. Eduardo and Barry collected stones and sand for the mixture, then we mixed it all up with water, poured it into the mould, evened it all out with a trowel and stuck loops of wire into it for attaching the fence to. Now we just have to leave it for four days and then try and manoeuvre it into position!
|Posted by Nad on 14 May 2014 at 19:58|
|On Monday Beth and Eduardo went to the neighbours, Antonio and Donna Belinha to buy some eggs because Eduardo wanted to do home made pasta for lunch tomorrow. Since Eduardo had also bought Polenta for breakfast we decided that we should have an Italian day! This also meant we could have coffee for breakfast since it would be a special occasion and because they'd also bought milk with the eggs :-) Eduardo is of Italian decent and showed us the traditional way to make really nice pasta and polenta. In addition to all this nice traditional food, Italian day involves shouting loudly at each other in an Italian accent while waving the hands around a lot!
|Posted by Nad on 14 May 2014 at 20:33|
|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.
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 :-)
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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 16 May 2014 at 22:16|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 16 May 2014 at 22:49|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 17 May 2014 at 21:21|
|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!?!?
|Posted by Nad on 19 May 2014 at 22:05|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 21 May 2014 at 16:08|
|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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 24 May 2014 at 21:55|
|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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 28 May 2014 at 19:32|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 28 May 2014 at 20:27|
|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.
|Posted by Nad on 02 June 2014 at 22:46|
|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!
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!
|Posted by Nad on 04 June 2014 at 20:39|
|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.
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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 14 June 2014 at 17:57|
|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 :-)
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 :-)
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!
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 :-)
|Posted by Nad on 16 June 2014 at 16:43|
|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!|
|Posted by Nad on 20 June 2014 at 17:00|
|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...
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.
|Posted by Nad on 20 June 2014 at 21:05|
|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.
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!
|Posted by Nad on 10 July 2014 at 21:28|
|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 :-)
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.
|Posted by Nad on 11 July 2014 at 15:41|
|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!!!|
|Posted by Nad on 14 July 2014 at 15:43|
|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!
|Posted by Nad on 22 July 2014 at 20:01|
|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.
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.
|Posted by Nad on 02 August 2014 at 17:57|
|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!
It's not just me with these problems though, even Google have trouble protecting their cables under the sea from shark bites.
|Posted by Nad on 08 August 2014 at 20:02|
|"Ai ai ai" is "Oiyoiyoi" in Portuguese. Beth talked to our neighbour Ziza about our chewed pipe and cables in the swamp and she said it's most likely a Ratão (Coypu in Enlgish) which is like a semi-aquatic giant rat (which is exactly what Ratão means in Portuguese) that lives in swamp regions. It could be many weeks before we can get better pipes and more cable delivered, so I decided to try and repair our current PVC pipe and cables and install it in a better way first. First I spent the morning fixing the LAN cable and patching up the PVC pipe to make it usable again.
Next I cleared a path all the way through with the weed-eater and installed fencing wire that I could attach the pipe to so that it's not easily accessible from the ground or by climbing any trees. This way the entire pipe is in the clear and easily accessible by us but not by the swamp creatures!
Unfortunately this repaired cable only worked for about a day, and then the net started failing again! probably due to water entering the repaired parts or perhaps entering some areas of the cable that I had missed. At the moment I'm connected via another couple of lengths of spare cable which were in fairly good condition, but it's just loosely tied onto the pipe so tomorrow we'll have to pull the old cables out with strong string attached to the far end so that gets pulled in at the same time. Then we can use the string to pull the new cables through. I'm going to use the net for a while first so I can be sure that the cable is definitely working first.
|Posted by Nad on 04 September 2014 at 23:31|
|We've been in Curitiba for the last few weeks because Beth's been acting in a play called Dito e Feito. Yesterday was a very nice sunny day, so we decided to take our computers to the botanical gardens to do some work and reading in a more peaceful environment than inside. But since I hadn't had any breakfast we decided to go via the supermarket around the corner and get some pão de queijo. We sat on a bench in a small park across the road and ate the pão de queijo, then Beth decided to pop back across the road and get some chocolate to take with us, and I waited in the park with our bags.
As I was sitting there a red car pulled up behind me, and then two tough looking guys with tatoos and matching medallions got out with guns pointed at me and told me to raise my hands then started looking through our bags. They seemed to think that I would have money and drugs and they were getting angry when they couldn't find anything! I thought due to the matching medallions that they must be from a local gang, and started to panic since even gangsters in New Zealand often kill people with little reason, and this is Brazil! So I thought I had better do something even though the situation seemed completely futile.
So I kicked the closest guy under the chin and tried to grab his gun staying close to him as he retreated back across the park hoping that the other guy wouldn't shoot since he might hit his mate. My general idea was to try and get across to the supermarket where there were lots of people, so they wouldn't want to shoot or anything.
Unfortunately I couldn't get hold of the gun properly and after some grappling he fired it and I got shot! The grappling resulted in quite an odd trajectory, the bullet entered near my waist on my left side at the back, and came out just under my left arm pit next to my chest and also grazed my arm. It was only a centimetre or so from my lung and heart, but luckily it just went through muscle and didn't hit anything serious. I noticed that he was panicking then and so I made a run for it across the road into the supermarket.
To my surprise the guys ran in after me with their guns, even with a large crowd of people forming! Then the horrible truth became apparent!!! they were plain-clothes police and the medallions had "policia" on them! I hadn't seen these medallions before and neither had Beth, or any of the people we've talked to since. So then they arrested me in a pool of blood on the supermarket floor, and we never made it to the botanical gardens - we've been a few times before though. Here's me on the floor in the supermarket with handcuffs on and my first (and hopefully last) gunshot wound!
I spent the day being stitched up in the hospital handcuffed to my bed with armed guards all around me! It didn't hurt that much for the first few hours, probably since nothing serious had been damaged, but then after the swelling and bruising started it became very painful to move or breathe deeply. In the evening I was transported to the police station in the boot of a police car.
I was sure that I would be deported and our adventure on the land in Brazil had come to an end :-( But luckily Beth had taken my documents there and been explaining the situation, and the guys we're staying with Del and Helder were really supportive and had stayed with Beth there too. The guy who shot me was actually very nice, and he only shot because he was scared that I would get his gun. The police chief was very down to earth too and could see it was an honest mistake (sadly, most of the others were just gung-ho dick heads though). Del's assertive attitude and his friend who's an excellent lawyer helped a lot too, and we all ended up going back to Del and Helder's that night without any deportings, prisons or convictions - something I had dared not even hope for a few hours earlier!
So anyway everything's ok and I'm famous in the local neighbourhood now! Everyone was on my side and agreed that the police looked like gangsters and it was an easy mistake to make, especially for a foreigner. The next day a short news item was published here about the incident (containing numerous factual errors as is usual for the news), which implies that I'd had the horrible misfortune to be at the place where a drug deal was going down at that time!
|Posted by Nad on 09 October 2014 at 15:37|
|I'm a bit late posting this, we got back to Curitiba a week ago! We had a nice relaxing time in Brasília staying with Beth's parents and I'm fully recovered now, the entry and exit wounds from the bullet are just smooth pink areas on my skin and there's no internal pain now even when I do strenuous exercises like pull-ups or sit-ups.
A week before we left I put some olives into the Pimenta (chiles in oil) so that Beth's Dad and I could eat them the night before we left, unfortunately they weren't very hot though so it was a bit of a let-down, but the photos Beth took captured the expectation and disappointment perfectly! Later Nelson arrived and tried one too, but he looked a little less certain about them not being hot enough :-)
|Posted by Nad on 09 October 2014 at 23:24|
|BitcoinToYou store in Curitiba to sell some Bitcoins that I had bought on the BitNZ exchange site yesterday. By buying the bitcoins on an exchange which is in the same country as your bank account, you don't have to pay any fees to transfer the money into the exchange. Bitcoin's finally starting to take off here in Brazil which is really good news :-)
This is a way for me to transfer funds from my NZ bank account into Brazilian Reals, but without having to be robbed by the banks in the process! In fact the price of Bitcoin in Brazil is a little higher than the international price since it's still very new here, so I actually made about R$80 in the process. If I had used an ATM to do this I would have lost about 5% on the currency exchange, and then had another R$12 cash advance fee added on top of that, which means this simple operation of transferring my own money would have cost me around R$100!!!
Bitcoin allows people to transact with one another independently without needing to trust the banking system which deserves no trust at all since it engages in secrecy, extortion and fraud as an integral part of its actual systemic core.
|Posted by Nad on 17 October 2014 at 14:31|
|The residency process became a lot easier on September 1st 2014, where now you can just get it all completed in one day after filling in this form, and making an appointment with the federal police. So one good thing about getting shot on September 3rd was that it made us quickly decide to get the residency process under way again, and we were one of the first in line for the new process :-) They're still very busy though so the appointment was set for October 16th, but at least this ridiculous procedure of effectively being under house arrest for a month has finally been done away with!
Today we went to my appointment and everything went smoothly and I got my new ID on the spot! Unfortunately I had to pay the R$800 illegal over-stayers fine for the second time! The girl told us that if I had written in within three months of being declined last time and said I was going to try again then I wouldn't have had to pay the fine again, but nobody told us that! This ID is much better than the last one because it's a permanent one and I can leave the country any time and re-enter without any problems, and I can use this ID for travelling within Brazil instead of my passport :-) Oba!!!
Unfortunately the photo on my ID is pretty bad! The guy who took my finger prints mentioned that I looked really different with short hair, and I said that I should have taken the photo after I got my hair cut - he said "yes you really should have" :-D
|Posted by Nad on 14 November 2014 at 23:33|
|I had my court hearing on October 6th which turned out to be nothing more than both Tiago and I agreeing that we both wanted the whole thing over and done with, so the mediator said that we could opt for reconciliation which simply involved me apologising to Tiago for attacking him and us all signing a statement saying as much, and that was it! The mediator women didn't even know what it was actually about as she had a million other disputes to deal with and hadn't even read the report!
So the next day we got straight on a bus and set off for Caxias, we stayed one night with our friends Fabrício and Eliane at their mother's place, and then set off early the next morning on a bus for Lageado Grande to get our bikes (which we'd left at our old neighbours who moved there) and cycle back to the land. We had a huge load, but thanks to our new side panniers we were able to cycle with all of it no problem! We finally arrived back in the afternoon on November 10th, just in time for our 3rd anniversary of moving to Brazil on the 11th :-)
We originally only intended to be away for two weeks for Beth to do the Dito e Feito play, and then we were to return straight after that. But then Beth ended up doing another week of the play, and then helping Del with some translation work, so two weeks became a month, and then there was the ill-fated incident in the park which took another two months to resolve! When we finally got back everything was really overgrown, here's a couple of shots of what it's like now followed by one of how it was before we left.
The few vegetables that have survived are very strong though which is good to see - there is a big courgette, a few cauliflowers and cabbages, chia, spinach and lots of mint. Most of the fruit trees along the northern fence are doing well too, the oranges are flowering and a peach even has some small fruit on it!
Del and Helder gave us some nice German liqueur chocolates that they got in Portugal (they got back from a trip to Portugal just the day before we left their place). We had some of them on the bus to Caxias, but unfortunately the rest of them all melted in the sun when we cycled back, so we let the wasps and bees have them. They loved them, but were getting really drunk from the alcohol in them :-D
I couldn't post this item when I wrote it a couple of days ago because the net cable was still damaged from the giant swamp rat bites, but today on the 14th the weather was finally good enough to go about replacing the bad cable in the pipe with a good segment. It took most of the day, but it's finally done and the net seems to be going well - whew!
|Posted by Nad on 16 November 2014 at 20:33|
|After being away for so long we almost feel like strangers here! After lunch our local lizard Leelee turned up for a visit which made us feel a lot more at home :-) he was very curious with all the changes that have happened over the last few days since we arrived and was looking through everything.
We went for a bit of a walk around our small forest today to try and get reacquainted again, and got a couple of nice photos.
As we came out of the forest along the beach path, Beth noticed that our grape-archway has got its first signs of fruit appearing on it :-)
|Posted by Nad on 19 November 2014 at 20:01|
|We went to Canela yesterday to get some groceries and this time I took some photos of our side panniers. We cycled to Lava Pes and then left our bikes at the church and got the bus in to Canela. We took a large backpack to carry the groceries in until we got back to the bikes at Lava Pes. The backpack was on the limit of being carryable, in fact it was past the limit because one of the straps broke on it! I'd estimate it was about 30-35Kg. When we got the bus back to Lava Pes we transferred all the groceries from the backpack into the panniers.
Amazingly, cycling with all that weight was very easy! It would be practical to cycle 60km with at least 50% more weight! It really is an excellent example of the rule that having the right tool for the job makes life a lot easier. We'll have to pick up another pair for Beth's bike soon :-)
|Posted by Nad on 21 November 2014 at 17:42|
|We got a contact message from the site a couple of days ago from an Australian women named Anna who came across our blog from this gringoes.com thread about our adventure here on the land :-) She's staying with some friends on a horse fazenda down near Barragem do Salto which is only a couple of hours ride from here, so she was keen to meet us and check out our place here.
Anna's an extremely independent hardcore cyclist, and has been cycling all around the continent by herself for the past five years. Here's some pictures of Anna and her bike which has done over forty five thousand kilometres and been across the Andes fifteen times!
|Posted by Nad on 11 December 2014 at 15:15|
|Beth bought some large diameter PVC pipe that we could chop in half and use as a gutter and was much cheaper than buying the proper material. Last week I installed it on the south side of the roof so it all pours into a tank. We were quite surprised at how much water can be collected in this way. After only an hour of very light rain we collected about 100 Litres!
|Posted by Nad on 02 February 2015 at 17:05|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
|Posted by Nad on 03 February 2015 at 11:36|
|Even though we're still in Brasília and will be here until the end of the month, I've started the blog for our third year on the land with the last article about the retreat in both the blogs for the second and third year.|
|Posted by Nad on 17 October 2016 at 19:58|
|Finally had a bit of rain today, but Beth doesn't let that get in the way of her morning stroll! The plants are all looking very happy as well (the ones we can see at least) This is the view from our window this morning, and the state of the road to our house through the forest!|