Vela Creations is an in-depth resource for off grid living. The site documents our research and experiences, hoping that they might help others interested in pursuing this lifestyle. This blog is designed to document our day to day experiences as we build our new, sustainable homestead. If you are interested in seeing more photos and videos, we have a flickr account at the following url:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

South wall

We have made a lot of progress the past couple of weeks. I am now able to work full time again, and I had forgotten how much I love stuccoing! I have no pain in my stomach at all.

We've been leveling (with a two inch incline over thirty feet) and stuccoing the gutters, which are now ready for rain. (photos)

We have also begun on the south windows. The south walls of the dining room and living room are almost entirely window. This not only allows for solar gain in winter, but also year-round growing, as there are flower beds (which will use grey water from the bathroom and kitchen) at their base. Abe welded up and hung the window frames and we are now stuccoing around them. It has really changed the look of the place. (photos)

Have finished digging out the cistern hole, which is the next project once we finish these rooms. (photos)

We feel as though the end is finally in sight. There's still a lot to do, but each week sees the list get smaller and the house look prettier. We are ready for this too be done, that's for sure!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Breastfeeding benefits

This probably isn't something people normally blog about, but I find it interesting.

Today I started my period... for the first time in almost 2 years! I'd read that some women don't menstruate while breastfeeding on demand, and I guess I was one of those. But now, 1 month after Leo decided he didn't want any more boobie, my cycle began anew!

Mmmmmmm - I think I see a way out of the dreaded female curse...!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Leo's first bed

One great thing about Leo is that he has never really moved about after waking from a nap. He wakes up, cries and you come and pick him up. I know this isn't the case with most babies. I guess he's just used to us being close by - we all live in one room and sleep in one bed. And because of this, we've always been able to do things outside while he slept, knowing that he would let us know when he wakes up.

Well, that's all changed now. He's started waking up and either sitting or going straight into a crawl, before he really know he's awake. Yesterday, he was sleeping and we were outside in his playroom (what will be the kitchen). I heard him utter one cry, so I dashed the 20 feet into the house... to find him standing up at THE END OF THE BED looking at me. I nearly had a heart attack!

A friend of ours gave us a crib several months ago, but we have no space for it in the house. We had just figured he could sleep with us until we finish the building and then he could move into his own bed. Well, him teetering on the edge of the bed without his human safety nets has changed that. We went into the village, picked up the crib and it is now set up in his playroom. He will still sleep with us at night, but during the day he will now be confined to baby prison.

We weren't going to put him in it yet, as he has teeth cutting through at the moment and is running a high fever and feeling lousy, and we didn't want to try a new thing while he was feeling bad. But we gave him a bath and he was feeling super rambunctious, so we thought we'd try it out. He loved it!!!! He doesn't know it's for sleeping yet, but he thinks it's a great new toy! Our baby has his first bed.

For more photos and videos, click here.

Pouring the roof

The roof is now truly underway.

Abe and a couple of others put 8 inches of polystyrene over the whole thing and covered that with black plastic. They then put rebar and remesh over the plastic, and tied that into the metal framework of the gutters.

I'm still not able to help much on this kind of thing after my operation, and I hate not being involved. However, there were a couple of days when I was kind of glad - the days when they were up on the roof and it was 100 degrees in the shade (it's usually low 90s at the moment). All of them looked like they'd just spent a month at sea!

On Wednesday, 6 people came to help. We had two on the mixer, one moving the wheelbarrows to where they were needed, two passing the concrete up, and two on top, trowelling. I kept waters filled and got things people needed, Leo perched on my hip.

The mix we do is 12 shovels sand, 4 shovels cement, a big handful of concrete fibers, and a handful of a waterproofing additive. They did 47 loads in a little over three hours, giving us a brand new concrete roof. They then poured and trowelled the slopes of the gutters - a two inch rise over 30 feet. It was a good day.

We'll put another cap on the whole thing before painting it, but this was the big hurdle. At least we'll be able to walk on it without scaffolding for the next layer.

Click here for more photos

Grazing our land

When we bought our property, it was severely over-grazed, the land nothing but earth and a sporadic blade of grass or two. Now, after two years of resting, the grass is waste-deep and thick again. It's time to reintroduce animals...

We don't yet have any grazing animals, not until our pond fills up this rain season, so we are borrowing our neighbor's cows. His land could use a break, and ours needs mowing.

Grazing makes the grass's roots spread out and you end up with thicker, more lush pasture. The trick is not to leave the cows in any one place for too long, as that will damage the roots. You want to try and imitate nature's herds, which move as one and keep moving.

With that in mind, we divided the southern part of our property into various paddocks, using electric fencing. We will rotate the cows each week, and then move them to the northern part of the land.

Our grass will be trimmed, fertilized and ready for the rains.

For more photos, click here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Leo's now Walkng

Originally uploaded by velacreations
Leo is now walking everywhere. He'd been taking steps before I went into the hospital, but that progressed rapidly while I was away. Walking is now his main form of transportation! We've had to turn one of the unfinished rooms into his playroom, putting a tarp down on the floor. He loves it – plenty of space to walk and walk. Only problem is that the doorways are too enticing, and his main goal is to distract you so he can make a run for it!!! We have considered using a chain... is that cruel?

Another major development is that he is weaned!!! I wasn't able to breast-feed him while I was in hospital - I wasn't even allowed to see him :( - or while I was on the 2 types of antibiotics they gave me to take for 10 days. While I was gone, he was offered formula out of a bottle. This was a new experience for him, one that he did not appreciate at all. Even full fat milk in a bottle held no interest for him. So he just started eating more and turned his nose up at the poor excuse for a boobie.

I pumped my breasts several times each day during the two weeks I was on meds, hoping to continue breast-feeding for a couple more months. However, the other day, when I was finally drug free, I reintroduced his to the boobie... no go! He is no longer interested. I guess as far as weaning goes, that was pretty easy, but I wish it could have happened differently. He may not miss it, but I do!!! Oh well... I guess my baby is growing up.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A couple of weeks off...

I've mentioned before that each week there seems to be something that hinders our construction progress. Well, these past couple of weeks, it was a health issue.

We were going to leave Abe's folks' place Sunday 12th April, after Leo's birthday, but I was feeling poorly and wanted to stay close to the toilet. I was sick all morning – a minor case of food poisoning.

My stomach hurt all day, and that night the pain dropped to my pelvis. The morning brought no relief, but I figured that whatever had made me sick would pass through my system soon. At least I no longer had an upset stomach. So we set off in the direction of home.

We had to pick something up in El Paso, Texas, but it wasn't ready, so we had a few hours to kill. Abe took Leo and the two friends who'd come with us to the zoo, while I slept in the car.

When they got back, the pain had become almost unbearable and I eventually agreed to let them take me to the hospital.

I was admitted at 5pm, doubled over with pain. I finally saw a doctor at midnight. They sent me for a CT scan, and performed a couple of excruciatingly painful internal examinations. At about 4am, the doctor came to tell me that I had PID, a sexually transmitted pelvic infection. Both Abe and I told her categorically that this was not possible, but it remained her diagnosis. I was given a shot of antibiotics, a prescription for antibiotics and pain meds. I was then released at 5am.

After sleeping the rest of the morning. we decided to try for home again, hoping that the antibiotics would kick in and help me out. At the very least, I was so drowsy and hurting that I would sleep the whole way home. Not to be. Abe called his parents before we set off, to let them know what had happened, and the hospital had called them telling them we had to return.

We went back to the hospital, where a different doctor had examined my CT scan – my appendix had burst and I needed an emergency operation. Once my blood pressure had risen a little over 90/40 they wheeled me into the operating room. The next thing I remember, I was coming to, with Abe at my side.

The appendix had burst, and I'd had an huge abscess. The drain they left in for 4 days was almost contantly running. Yum yum!

I wasn't able to keep down any food for a week after the op, but once I stopped throwing up everything I got a lot better.

We went back to Abe's folks for a week, while I got stronger. Not sure what we would have done without them. They helped Abe, who had probably had a rougher time than I did, look after Leo.

We are now back home, safe and well, and slowly getting back into the house. I feel great and have recovered very quickly, feeling almost zero pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, I have a cold now, but once that passes, I will be right as rain!!!!

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