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[Warning: This is frank stuff concerning surgery on male genitalia]

Take heart, guys, I did it and it worked out fine. The internet abounds with people who had problems with this, because the ones who don’t have a problem don’t have much to write about. As with most men, I panicked like hell when I found out that the lump in my prostate was a cancer. With current technology (circa 2018) this meant one of two things: radiation and hormones, or surgery to remove the entire prostate.

The concept of being on hormone blockers, and having radioactive things in my groin did not appeal. My surgeon informed me that the cancer was relatively large – about 20% the volume of my prostate – and that with a gut ailment made me a poor candidate for radiotherapy. Also surgical recovery in my case would be more rapid, and I would be more likely to recover “function.” The main downside was that instead of relatively non-invasive treatment lasting a year, I’d have to get over open abdominal surgery and re-learn how to use my bladder.

First off, it was very important to keep sight of the primary objective here: get rid of the cancer. I had had a Fusion Biopsy because of aforementioned gut issues, and an advantage of that was a very accurate biopsy of the cancer. It was in one lump and wasn’t going anywhere yet. So I had a life to look forward to.

Until I had the biopsy I was completely symptom free. Absolutely nothing. All worked perfectly as per specification. After the biopsy, the prostate swelled up and I experienced issues urinating, maintaining erections, and for a while there was bruising, and blood in semen and urine. This mostly passed but I was anxious about the erection thing and it put me off my stride. Was this a harbinger of things to come?

You have to wait a few months after the biopsy before the operation. You’ll want to find things to distract you. I spent a record amount of time at the rifle range, and went on a holiday to Europe. I panicked, my use of sleeping pills increased. I became a trifle difficult to deal with. Every little twinge in the groin area was incorrectly blamed on the cancer. Sex was difficult because it was nigh on impossible not to think of the cancer. Worst of all, I could find very little concrete information on what my likely outcome was.

So like many others, I resorted to Dr. Google. I found a lot of things I hadn’t been told, and a huge variation in outcomes for continence, erectile function, and orgasm. I was clearly up against two things:

Firstly, the doctors don’t want to scare you off. Some people might get so worked up they’d rather run off and die. I’m not one of those people and I hope you aren’t either. In fact, I feel much more comfortable knowing what’s going on even if the news isn’t good. Many people I’ve met in the medical profession have difficulty grasping that. Anyway, none of that was helping me.

Secondly, they can’t tell. What I did get from the doc was basically that I had a 50/50 chance of regaining “normal” sexual function, maybe with a bit of help from pills. I’d no longer produce ejaculate, and would lose 10-20mm length off the penis. The bladder would take between 2 and 18 months to become continent, and there were fix-ups if it didn’t want to heal.

Dr. Google gave lots of different numbers. Take your pick. One major problem being nobody has a good definition of “normal” sexual function, an orgasm, or continence. As I discovered, all this means diddly anyway because what’s going on inside you is only finally revealed when the surgeon slices you open and takes a peek. They go in there with intentions, but basically have to deal with what they find. This ain’t like having your tonsils out.

So eventually the big day comes, I go into the city and stay the night in the hotel. You’re on no food or booze, so celebrate the night before. Also there is a “bowel prep.” This makes you crap out the entire contents of your digestive system over about 6 hours, though spasms happen through the night. Two big tips: grease your arsehole well with petroleum jelly before you start, and drink plenty of clear mix-up powder drinks, half strength, to keep you hydrated. Obviously, don’t leave the bathroom door.

The reason for this rigmarole is that when you’re lying down, your prostate rests on top of your rectum. The doc doesn’t want it pushing up, or even worse, moving while they’re doing the delicate stuff and neither do you!

What you want to hear are the words “bilateral nerve preservation.” These days, if the cancer is essentially confined to the prostate, both the sets of nerves on either side of the prostate can usually be preserved. Depending on your anatomy they may almost separate off by themselves (mine were apparently easy) or there may be a bit of shoving and bruising which recovers after a few months.

These nerves don’t relay sensation from the penis, and those that do are safely out of the way. They just control erections. It may come as a surprise, but an erection is not necessary for an orgasm to happen. I found this out after the biopsy. So in short, with modern pills and so forth, if you could orgasm before the operation, you should manage something afterwards.

Will orgasms be the same? Before my operation I had concerns that the doc was rather ambivalent about, so I located a registered sex worker who was happy to just talk about post-operative clients without breaching confidentiality. She knew 6, and they could all reach orgasm. Those who spoke about it all said orgasms were still pleasant but different. Now I’ve been there I can confidently say why: You’ll have no ejaculate, and the vesicles where it is stored will be removed, so you feel no resistance at orgasm. Other than that, things pump away as usual. Some men – like me – find that a small quantity of urine comes out instead. This is no big deal, and if it’s an issue just wear a condom.

So in you go, they cut a slot between groin and navel of a size varying with the elbow room required. They do the prostatectomy and bladder thing, stitch and/or glue you up, and put you in recovery. If you want to see the operation, Johns Hopkins have some excellent videos though some of the actual surgical technology is a bit dated. What this leaves you with is typically a drain in the wound, a couple of little tubes to flush local anaesthetic in through (very effective!), and a honking great catheter.

What I learned from the video was that as well as the prostate and the vesicles, you’ll also part with the neck of your bladder. The sphincter will be preserved, though will take a while to come right, but the bladder neck is reconstructed around aforesaid large catheter. This means they want to leave it in until things have all healed up, because re-inserting one around all the scars and joins is tricky. It has to be a honking great catheter because you’re going to see all manner of blood and bits come down it for some time and they don’t want it to block because of the re-insertion problem.

But when you come round you can ignore all this. Your number one aim at that point is to not throw up, sneeze, or cough. Someone just cut a hole in your abdomen, and if you do you’ll likely painfully pull a muscle like I did. Warning the staff is good. If possible, grab the nearest pillow and hug it tight across your lower abdomen. This will save you a world of hurt.

When back on the ward, take all the pills, rest like a good boy, walk about a little bit, and ignore the catheter. Drink heaps, and bring your own flavourings if it helps. Bring audio books, videos (not comedies, as laughing is no fun yet), music you can listen to for days etc. I did a James Bond movie marathon. Books aren’t as good because the drugs may stop you focusing. I was ravenously hungry, and fortunately Wakefield Hospital food is absolutely amazing. Not often you hear that. Eat plenty of fruit (and drink kiwifruit juice) if opiates bung you up. Straining on the loo is bad. Removal of the drain is no fun, whatever they assure you.

After a few days, they’ll teach you how to care for your catheter, tag you, and release you back into the wild for 5-10 days. They’ll tell you some blood may leak around the catheter. Hah. Be prepared for several ‘leaks’ to come out in one bloody great squirt! Scared the bejesus out of me. Continue to take the pills and eat lots of healthy fruit and veg. You can have a beer at this point. I found a beer was about all I could handle of an evening before feeling a bit off. Still, it was a beer!

When you go back to get the catheter out, which is relatively painless but weird, take some Tena heavy duty incontinence briefs. Do not worry about incontinence underwear or leaks. Any funny looks, respond with “I’m recovering from the bloody cancer.” You now have to learn to pee all over again.

All those cues you got since birth from pressure on the neck of the bladder and on your prostate don’t work anymore ‘cos those bits are missing now. Your bladder will no longer contract at the appropriate moment when you pee, but might catch up a bit later, so widdling starts earlier than you expect and takes longer. Expect a fail or two initially, but you soon get the hang of it and the bladder starts to sync up. Peeing standing up seems easier than when sitting down – don’t forget things have slopped around in the area of your rectum so pooping feels different too. Do your Kegel exercises; in fact, start them well before the operation.

So how bad is the incontinence thing? Well for me, not much of a problem after the first fortnight. I used briefs for the first 4 nights, then heavy pads for a week, and when it was apparent that there really wasn’t much leakage at night I went to light pads and they usually stay dry. At 3 weeks I use light pads just in case during the day, and heavy pads when I go out – while I may have control, when I gotta go, I gotta go and there’s not a lot of warning. But peeing at every opportunity generally does the trick, and so far no accidents out of the house.

So, erections. It’s a big boy thing. I got stirrings while the catheter was still in. I was prescribed sidenafil every other day to promote blood flow and nerve healing. Erections definitely tried to happen around the catheter, and the day after the catheter was out I awoke with a definite surprise down the front of my briefs. Didn’t last long, but hey. A couple of days later orgasms worked. Now I’m 3 weeks on and with the help of the sidenafil I could in theory manage sex. However the abdominal surgery has to heal up properly first, and I don’t want to herniate myself. By the time that’s done, I might not need the pills but I have to take them for 3 months anyway.

So in summary, whatever horror stories you read on the internet, it can all go remarkably well. If you or your partner are still lucky enough to have a prostate, please get it tested regularly so that if anything does happen to it your surgeon can give you the same smooth outcome that I got.

Vik :v)

We’ve heard of people growing gardens on top of straw bales, and inspired by this are using hay bales to form a raised border. Growing on top of hay bales direct is probably not a good idea as the grass seed will all sprout between your, er, sprouts. So we’re loading chipped stuff fromt he olive grove, cat litter, chicken coop sweepings etc. in there, then loading purchased topsoil on to cap it off. This and other goings on are documented in our latest video “Earth, Wind and Fire.”

Oh, we’re surviving the earthquakes with little real impact other than the occasional power cut. As you can see, we’ve retained the capacity to brew a cuppa!



Now the initial batch of hydroponic runs are up and, er, running we’ve gathered enough confidence to do a video on how we add runs to the system. We’ve run out of the 100mm x 150mm runs (at least ones of any reasonable length – there was a run on them) so we’ve run out a 100mm x 75mm run with smaller holes for smaller tubs. These are just fine for our intended crop: strawberries. If you want to run through the video, run over to and check it out.

Hydroponic Strawberries

We’ve done our first ever olive harvest, and boy was that an education! Many thanks to Bill Hay from The Olive Press in Greytown for their invaluable advice. The long and the short of it is that over 3 days a bunch of us rattled, sorted and shifted 840kg of olives which got pressed into 100 litres of premium olive oil. Now we know what to expect, we’ll be doing it a bit differently next year but the principles are now understood.

Here’s the video, click to play:

Screenshot from 2_olive_oil.wmv

There was a bit of a chaotic moment at the mill when the council temporarily shut it down. The council had given permission for the press to run, but when push came to shove found their sewerage systems were not as capable as they’d thought and told the press to hold off. Bill and his capable crew arranged holding tanks and did an amazing job of keeping our stored produce in good shape, and despite the council’s best efforts gave us an awesome load of the good oil.

There’s a lot more to this olive oil thing than we squeezed in, and we’ll get into more details in coming episodes.

[Update: Here is a video introducing the hydroponics system inside it.]

After an awful lot of work, we have a greenhouse. It’s an extended Titan from, aluminium framed, with polycarbonate panels to resist the wind-blown debris prevalent in these parts. At the moment it’s full of construction debris,  but it will house our upcoming new hydroponics system.


There are a few little bits left to do, like the guttering and repairing where a couple of bulldogs an a labrador pup went through the side. The PVC capping strips are a real pain to install and very hard on the thumbs. Fortunately they include old-school W-clips to hold panels in where the frame is compressed too much for the capping strips to work – the frame compresses as you add panels and extras like vents. Also the door will not close properly as the frame fouls on capping strip. This can be fixed by using the clips instead. It is topologically impossible to connect the rear wall to the frame as documented. I had to offset the centre base peg there, and use a frame tie – fortunately they supply plenty of spare parts in the kit.

The electric fence is to stop the dogs chewing on it.


Olive leaf extracts have been used for some time to treat high blood pressure and diabetes, with some degree of demonstrable success. There is also some antiviral and antibiotic abilities in the extract as well. All the scientific stuff aside, it makes a great bitters to go in the gin & tonic. Seeing as we are blessed with an over-abundance of olive leaf, we thought we might make some. The recipe is rather simple: Take 500g fresh olive leaves, add 1.5 litres of 40% abv alcohol (we make plenty of that), seal in a bucket and shake every other day for 6 weeks. Yields about 1.25 litres of extract. Picture shows the latest batch with the donor olive trees in the background.


We are also in possession of a number of unwanted wild bunnies, which unchecked will kill our olive trees. With the aid of a silenced, very high-power air rifle these are humanely converted into bunny meat, and thence into rabbit meatballs, or “hareballs” as we call them. Again a simple recipe: In a foody processor blend 6 cloves garlic, 2 thick slices of home-made bread and your favourite home-grown herbs (sage, thyme etc.). Add 500g raw bunny meat, thoroughly de-boned, and 4-5 rashers of dry, fatty bacon, salt & spices. Blend well. Add one free-range egg and blend until it holds together. Makes 20 hareballs, or a dozen hareballs and 4 tasty sausage meat patties for breakfast the next day. Video here.


Herded by the head of technology (aka Chief Earless Chicken Wrangler) Angela Tennant-Jones, we have here a fine bunch of young hellions from Masterton Intermediate School. Instructed by Geeko Farm experts Tamara (far left) and Vik (leaning on Tamara) over a couple of days they each made at least one water-powered rocket. These things were going up 60 metres plus, courtesy of a couple of compressors hidden in the shed in the background. The kids experimented to produce the best fin designs, and made a variety of nose cones, some of which probably contravened the Geneva Convention and had to be slightly truncated. There were two-stage rockets, and even a few parachutes – some of which actually deployed on the way down. Deployment on the way up led to some interesting aerobatics. We may have inadvertently educated some of the kids too.

It even made the news, for all the right reasons for a change. They also invited us back…


OK, we’re rural. We have sheep and a solar-powered electric fence (an S10 Solar Energizer for those into such things, and a 4-wire SmartFence that winds back up again after deployment). They’re not actually our sheep, but we get one occasionally for the freezer as we let them roam around under the olive grove to keep the grass down – and we don’t have to shear, dip and drench them! There are 10 brave enough to come onto the main lawn, which we do mow, but it’s a bit of a time-consuming bugger to cut and we’d rather leave it to the sheep.

Our mate John is donating a chicken coop to the cause for our upcoming free-range flock, and we’ve been promised some Orpingtons to go in it. If that goes well we might try some geese as an alternative to relying entirely on sheep for grass control. This is important as we have to keep sheep – or more precisely sheep shit – out of the olive groves at harvest time.

The next big step though is the arrival of the large greenhouse to house our hydroponics system. the weather here is lovely but windy, and anything outside tends to get hammered flat. A test hydroponics system suffered 25% casualties, so the greenhouse is more to keep the weather off than the crops warm. Oh, and keep the sheep out.

It is with great pleasure – and no small amount of trepidation – that we can announce that Geeko Farm is headed for the countryside. We are relocating to Masterton, and will be helping to rename it to “Makerton” by encouraging all things makery and crafty. The new residence looks a lot like this, and is surrounded by 250 olive trees and a flock of wooly lawnmowers. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, a pool, two large workshops and a distillery. We think it’ll be a great place to farm geeks.


So we’ve reinvented the EC meter, or CF meter as we call it around here. When gardening hydroponically, you usually use an “EC Truncheon” to measure the concentration of nutrient salts in the hydroponic fluid. If you just pass a current through the liquid and see how much passes, you start to change the chemistry and your reading goes inaccurate very quickly. So these devices measure the conductivity in short pluses, swapping direction each time they make a measurement. The electronics, we thought, was an unnecessarily complex collection of op amps, comparators and other fancy bits. So we designed a way of making an Arduino do the hard work so you can build one into your own automated systems.

Start by extracting the carbon rod from the centre of an AA zinc/carbon battery. Clean it, clean everything else, then boil the rod in water for a few minutes to get the last of the battery compounds out of it. Break into two pieces, notch the ends with a file, wrap and tightly twist a wire into each notch, then embed the whole thing in your favourite waterproof plastic leaving a couple of millimetres of each rod sticking out about 10mm apart. That’s your sensor.IMAG0021

The wiring is easy: One electrode is wired to A0 on the Arduino, the other to A1. A 2K2 resistor (red, red, red bands) is used to connect D2 to A0, and another connects D3 and A1. That’s it. Load the code below into your Arduino and you’re off.

Calibration is a bit tricky, and unless you have EC buffer solutions handy, you’ll want to borrow a real EC meter. We use CF units rather than EC units because they’re largish integers which both the Arduino and humans find easier to relate to. Run the code below and call up the Arduino serial monitor (under “Tools” in the IDE) to see the sensor values your setup is measuring. Dunk sensor in pure water to get the ‘baseValue’, and edit it in. The ‘cfTable’ consists of a series of [sensor reading,CF reading] pairs. Mix up slightly salty water, measure it’s CF value with the real EC meter, and then test it with your homemade probe. Use a range of CF values as we have, and if you expand or reduce the table do remember to alter the TABLE_ENTRIES count.

Feel free to hack the code to return more convenient data for your automation system, or use A0-A3 for the pins to simplify the wiring. The important thing is to remember to call the neutral() routine as soon as the measurements are done to turn off the sensor and prevent chemistry happening. It’s all GPL’d. Enjoy.

  CF Meter (or EC meter) for aqueous nutrient measurement.
 Reads an alternate analogue pins, reversing polarity on each
 read so that electrolytic effects even out.
 The circuit:
 * A0 connected to electrode Alpha
 * D2 Connected to electrode Alpha via a 10K resistor
 * A1 connected to electrode Beta
 * D3 connected to electrode Beta via a 10K resistor
 created 17th Feb 2015
 (C) Vik Olliver
 This code is licenced under the GPLv3

// These constants won't change.  They're used to give names
// to the pins used:
const int alphaAnalogue = A0;
const int betaAnalogue = A1;
const int alphaOut = 2;
const int betaOut = 3;

// These bits you change to configure the sensor
const int baseValue=340;  // Value of pure water
const int cfTable[]={
#define TABLE_ENTRIES  6

int alphaSensor;
int betaSensor;

// Stop the outputs from doing anything electrolytic.
void neutral() {

void setup() {
  // initialize serial communications at 9600 bps:

// Use the table to average out the sensor data and calculate the corresponding CF.
// This may not be the best way, but it is the most legible!

int calcCf(int sens) {
  int i;
  int sensDiff;
  int sensDelta;
  int cfDiff;
  // Spot very low values
  if (sens <= cfTable[0]) return cfTable[1];
  // Spot very high values
  if (sens >= cfTable[(TABLE_ENTRIES*2)-2]) return cfTable[(TABLE_ENTRIES*2)-1];
  // OK, we're in range. Trot through the table until we overtake our sensor reading
  while (cfTable[(i*2)]<sens) i++;
  // Find the difference between the last 2 table entries;
  // Find the difference between the last 2 CF readings;
  // Now the amount our sensor passed the previous table entry by
  // Now we can work out a ratio,and calculate the corresponding CF
  return cfTable[(i*2)-1]+((cfDiff*sensDelta+1)/sensDiff);

void loop() {
  int cf;
  // Reset for the analogue alpha pin
  delay(2);  // Wait for the ADC to settle.
  alphaSensor = analogRead(alphaAnalogue);
  // Reset for the analogue beta pin
  delay(2);  // Wait for the ADC to settle.
  betaSensor = analogRead(betaAnalogue);

  // Now stop buggering around.

  // Calculate the CF from the average sensor value

  // print the results to the serial monitor:
  Serial.print("Sensor = " );                       
  if (alphaSensor>baseValue) {
    Serial.print("\tCF = ");