Self Sufficiency & Nature
We had six acres of land in Brasil and although we were not primarily living there to be self sufficiently we do feel that quality of life, quality of environment and also quality of food is important. When you can taste the difference between the locally grown produce of eggs, tomatoes and chicken compared to what would pass for the same in the UK or Sao Paulo city then for us it is well worth the time and investment.
We grew everything organically and are also interested in permaculture although we didn’t have the time to do more than basics. For example, we fed the rabbit droppings to our fish during the dry season and used them for our flower garden and fruit trees during the wet. We were lucky in that there were plenty of people raising cows who cannot cope with the cow muck and so there were two farms close by where we could collect what we wanted for free. There are also some very good natural organic products in Brasil to help deter various pests. The most difficult being ants.
So, we established a large kitchen garden of about 10 meters by 5. As this area was on a slope then to prevent the soil being washed away we used the large boards left over from our construction work. Now nicely seasoned they offered both a sturdy barrier to erosion and a defined walk way. It was nice to have a climate where you can almost forget about such plants as tomato, egg plant, cucumber, peppers and still get good crops.
Close to the vegetable garden we planted a large orchard containing about 70 fruit and nut trees and shrubs of about 50 different types. These would require another year maybe two until they really start to produce.
While the orchard plants grew we planted half the orchard area in sweet corn and the other half in sunflowers between the trees. The sweet corn fed us (and our fish) while it was fresh and fed the hens when dried. The sunflowers look great and the seeds helped feed our aviary birds and we were thinking about squeezing oil in the future.
We also had a fish tank dug out early after purchasing the land. This is 30 meters by 5 and varies between 1 to 1.5 meters deep. We then brought water down a 500 meter long plastic pipe from higher up the stream to feed it. It comes through the swamp.
Initially we were disappointed as the soil was so sandy that the tank only half filled due to water leaking out. Fortunately a chat with the local nature spirits made us persevere and after a year and in particular after the rainy season lots of mud was washed down from the road into the tank effectively sealing it enough so that sometimes we now even have it over flowing.
During the rainy season the pipe taking water from the stream gets washed away in the floods and in all seasons gets blocked with leaves making maintenance difficult. So, we made a small brick water tank to act as a filter from the stream to the main pipe removing leaves, soil and sand and for all pipe entrances we have a wire mesh filter. We now also tether the pipes to tree roots and boulders in the stream. Over time the water fails to come down to the fish tank about once every three weeks and the leakage is now small enough that it can stay sufficiently full for 3 days.
When we left we had carp and tilapia, from an original eighty that were put in about a year and a half ago we now estimate we have at least 1000 with some beginning to reach a good size. Lots of dinners worth. Above is a photo of some Tilapia we caught in our fish pond.
We have started to place ornamental plants around one end with bamboo and pampas grass and were after a range of floating plants to cover some of the surface.
We also had three hens in a hen house made of locally grown and therefore free bamboo. They are fed corn, green vegetables and a proprietary feed. There is nothing quite like corn fed hens eggs – it is probably just as well that we were not getting more eggs other wise cholesterol level would probably have become a problem.
We also grow a wide selection of banana plants including close to the fish tank and the communal kitchen area. Apparently the most popular species are now under threat of extinction due to pest problems.
The Bird House (Aviery)
With the help of our friend Bill (the current owner) we built a bird room just down from our sitting out area. Eucalyptus posts with bird wire on the inside and chicken wire on the outside to stop the cats. This housed a collection of love birds, budgies and a pair of calopsitas.
About the same time as we made the bird room we also got a couple of dwarf rabbits. The first a female Dutch lop called Billie which was then closely followed by Zorro (alias Mr Fluffy) who is a black and white lionhead. See them on the left here.
Well it did not take them long to do what rabbits do . . . and then there were 9. So on the right is Picashoo. The same colours as his dad but with his mums droopy ears and general shape. What a fluffy bunny eh!
So we had to divide up the rabbit run in to 3 areas on the perimeter for the males who can goggle at the females who have the large area in the middle to themselves. Else the males do what males do and fight amongst each other.
The locals here are a bit strange (isn’t everyone eh!) they would only consider rabbits for eating so they cannot quite understand the point of what they considered our collection of fluffy nonsense. But hey we did like our rabbits. All things considered there more friendly and better looking than most of the locals anyway.
The cat and the dog
We did get a couple of stray cats turning up to our rented house just before we moved to the land so they came with us. We called them Ginger and Luna Preta (Black Moon) for obvious reasons. We did make it clear to them that they were free to leave if they wished.
So, Luna decided that enough was enough the day that Mini the dog arrived and sadly we have not seen her since.
Mini turned out to be a great companion and a good guard dog, once she sorted out the difference between people she does not know from butterflies, birds, falling leaves and anything else that risks moving.
Here is a picture of Mini and Ginger who are strangely enough best friends and even stranger with minimal supervision they all get on with the rabbits when we let one out to run free.