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:

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twinkle Toes

Originally uploaded by velacreations
This one was worth a mid-week blog!!

Turn the volume up.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stucco finished!

This week, we finished the south and west walls of the kids' rooms.
Ferro-cement basically consists of a rebar, remesh and lathing frame, stuccoed with concrete. The concrete mix we use is 3 fine sand, 1 cement, and a little waterproofing additive. On each side, we do a scratch coat (fairly dry), then a brown coat, and finally a cement and fiber coat, all of which are now finished. Even the 4 windows are in.

We still have to paint them and silicon the window/concrete join, but that won't even take a day.

Next week we start work on the north and east walls.

For more photos, click here.

Top Bar beehive

Something very exciting happened this week - we got our prototype top bar beehive made.

We want to start keeping bees as soon as possible, for both honey and pollination, and this method seemed like the best suited to us and our way of life. It is cheap, easy to do, and other people that use the top bar system say that they see a marked reduction in bee diseases. It seems to be the "organic" way to keep bees.

In short, the hive consists of half a barrel on 2"x4" legs, a frame around it on which rest 23 bars for the honeycomb, and a roof. We will be writing a full how-to over the next week or two, which we will post at

All we need now is to find a swarm of bees. Usually they swarm - which is when a new queen leaves the old hive with a group of bees, ready to make a new hive - in Spring, although people say that bees do swarm as late as this here.

For more photos, click here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Managed to sew most of the curtains for the kitchen, dining and living rooms this week.

At this time of year, the sun is starting to come into the rooms a lot more (in summer it doesn't come in at all, and in winter it almost hits the back wall). However, it can still be kind of hot in the days (80s in the shade), and the rooms were getting a little warmer than perfect. But now, with the curtains pulled against the sun, we can control the temperature a lot better. Plus, the fabric we used is fairly thin, so light can still pass through without letting in the heat.

Winter Planting

We made use of bad weather this week to do some gardening.

We harvested all the beans, potatoes and most of the winter squash. All that's left now is collards, cabbage, turnips, carrots, parsley and lettuce.

We cut all the weeds and plants that have already produced, making a huge compost pile. We then replanted most of the beds with wheat, rye and barley, and spread compost on top of everything for food and mulch.

This year's focus has been the house. Next year, we hope to concentrate far more of our time on the food systems.

Scratch Coat

Having said that we were now past the season where we have to call off work due to rain, it rained half the week! So once again, we had a very light week building-wise.

Still, we did manage to get the scratch coat of the ferro-cement walls of the kids' rooms done. It is starting to take shape, emphasizing the windows.

We also made a small concrete retaining wall on the north side of the building site. That was the last place that needed building up before filling in with sand, which will be compacted before we pour the foundations for the brick walls.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jar Organiser

We were doing some work in the garden today, getting it ready for the winter/fall's planting, and picking and drying out seeds. It made us think, we need to get a better system for organizing our seeds - we are now starting to have things that have grown in our soil for a couple of years and we are starting to select which plants do better and produce heavier.

So, we decided to make use of some of the Gerber's baby food jars that Leo has used, and make us a seed organizer. The same thing can be used for seeds, buttons, electronics parts, etc. etc.

We took a chunk of 2"x2" lumber. We screwed the jar lids into it on all four sides (must use two screws per jar). Then we screwed the jars into their lids. Very simple, 30 minute project, and it looks great. It can stand upright or on its side.

For more photos, click here.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

18 months old

Yep, that's right, Leo is now a year and a half old - can you believe it? When I was pregnant, time seemed to go so slowly, but now that he's out in the world, time just zooms by.

We went for his 18 month check up yesterday. He's always been a little on the short side, in the lower rather than higher percentile, but now his weight is down. According to the weight per age and height charts, he is considered underweight. The nurse was kind of upset by this, but the doctor agreed with my lack of concern. Although these charts are very useful as a guide, to me that's all they are, a guide. I refuse to acknowledge that Leo is underweight/ undernourished. He eats great; he is constantly running around; he is never ill (except for two small colds since birth); he is bright eyed and alert; he's got great muscle tone, far from either skinny or fat. All in all, he looks in great shape. As far as I can see, we are each of us individuals, growing and changing in our own unique way, so why should a baby be any different?

Apart from that, he is a regular toddler - you know, either making you laugh or scream! The tantrums have definitely started. When he wants something that he can't have, boy, does he let you know he's not happy! The temper doesn't usually last long, and we're hoping these will fade out as his communication skills increase. He's certainly adding to his vocabulary all the time, which he loves.

His latest favorite toys are his books, surprisingly. He never had the patience for them before, but ever since getting a Sesame Street DVD, he wants to play with his books, his alphabet pieces and his number flash cards. He tries to sing along with some of the Sesame songs - it's great to watch.

He's also wanting to put shoes on more and more. He's never been interested in them before (he can run barefoot on rocks without missing a beat), but now whenever we go outside, he says "shoes", sits down and puts his foot in the air. I guess our little monkey is starting to put on airs!!

Still loves his animals. He goes up and kisses the dogs several times a day, and will even try it on the chicks when they let him! The weather is starting to change, and in anticipation of the coming cold, we have had a couple of garden snakes trying to get inside. Leo is the one who noticed one of them - he was pointing to a crack and saying his sound for "critter". He wouldn't go close to it, but was trying to make one of us check it out. We couldn't see anything and figured it was a fly or something that flew away, but he insisted. So we looked again and could just see the tip of a snake's tail - the rest was hidden. We took it out to the garden.

I don't have many photos or videos of him this week, but will post any I get this month in 19th Month

Back to work

After a few weeks off, we have now started working on the house again. We only ended up working a couple of days this week, due to one thing or another, and we're sort of glad - as we both feel a little stiff and sore and tired!!! It's amazing how fast you get out of shape.

We are now working on the kids' rooms (and for all those who have noticed the location of the apostrophe and wondered if Leo has a sibling on the way - no, we are just planning ahead!!).

We're doing the south and west walls first. They join onto existing walls/roof, and will be made out of ferro-cement. Abe welded the four window frames and we now have them tied into place, as well as the rebar, remesh and most of the lathing tied up. This makes for the frame of ferro-cement. We should be starting stuccing it next week. For photos of these walls, please click here.

The north, east and partition walls will all be made out of Compressed Earth Blocks, but we probably won't start laying the brick for another two weeks.

Work should no longer be called off due to rain, as that season is pretty much passed. Now we are headed into Fall - windy at times, and chilly at night. So far, the house is staying a consistent 10 degrees warmer in the house than outside at night, without any heat source. We'll have to see how it does as it starts to get really cold (so far, our low at night has been 50 degrees; daytime still sees 70s/80s).

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