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:

Monday, September 28, 2009

A blog entry from my mum

A little different this week - this one is written by my mum about their trip to come and see us...

We got up early on September 11th and were driven to Orlando. A good journey saw us arrive on time at our destination. As before, the easiest airport in the world had us reunited with Abe, Josie and a sleeping Leo in 10 minutes from walking down the stairs onto the tarmac.

We went straight to the dentist – Bob decided to have the work done that they suggested he needed, 4 visits, 4 fillings, 2 root canals and 2 crowns……. I decided not to bother!!! We then drove the 2 hours back to their place. Unfortunately, we had rain and rain and then a little bit more, and by the time we arrived at the turn off to their village, the river was raging and we couldn’t cross. So drove to the next town where there was a motel with rooms for $10 each. We ate the chicken we had bought enroute and went straight to sleep.

Early the next day, with the river back down again, we had our first look at the work Josie and Abe have done since we were there last May. My goodness! They have a beautiful house. The views from the large windows are spectacular and they have designed the house with that in mind. Using Abe’s genius, there is heating and cooling underground with ac and dc power in all the rooms. Josie has her kitchen and it is wonderful. Rustic and practical, with everything one needs. Josie is an excellent cook and we had wonderful meals including apple pies (made with fresh, free apples from the village), fresh bread, pancakes, cookies and much more. The dining room furniture is bright and they have painted all the rooms bright and cheerful. We had the sitting room and a very comfy futon as our bed.

The bathroom is not yet done, but there was a compost toilet and we had outside showers which we both enjoyed – they have a wonderful system of collecting water and all their tanks were full.

The dentist took up 3 days, but 2 of them Josie, Leo and I stayed behind and caught up, which was wonderful. Bob and Abe took some walks over the mountains and neither of them stopped chatting about future projects. The evenings saw the 4 of us with a glass of wine, playing cards and having a laugh. I slept wonderfully even with the coyotes, mouse and dogs.

Leo – my goodness he captured our hearts totally and completely. He is a wonderful little boy. Doesn’t say much at the moment, but points, nods and shakes his head and seems to get exactly what he wants across – doesn’t always get it but……… if he wants anything, he takes you by the hand, or pushes you up off your seat and takes you to it. We had so much fun just watching his antics. He decided that Bob was his best buddy. Would give him one end of a slinky and lead him around all over the place for ages….. if Bob put it down or got a bit tired…. He was reprimanded and given the end again. Off they would go. We just killed ourselves laughing. He also has many different walks and faces that he entertains you with. I could go on and on, but am sure everyone has stories about their own children/grandchildren that are equally as sweet.

Given the problems of crossing the river after heavy rains to get to a ‘proper’ highway road in case of an emergency, Bob and Abe took themselves off one day to scout out a little used route across the hills that could be used to get to a roadway avoiding the river or any creeks. The going was so good that Abe’s low clearance small pickup truck managed the entire route with very few problems. There was just one section, where the three of them, (they had got Leo there as well of course, with it being a mans’ outing!) took over an hour to sort out a path over some rocky terrain to join up the paths on either side of the hill top’s crown. But the good news is that they can now (if they want to) get from their house all of the way to a paved highway without any risk of being carried away in a flood.

One other rather memorable event occurred (for Bob mainly). While Josie was outside watching Leo in his small inflatable splash pool, she called for Bob to take his camera outside as there was something there he might be interested in photographing. Turned out to be a monster tarantula! Now, it’s well known in family circles that Bobby is afraid of spiders, (well, some anyway) and yet, seeing how Leo wanted to play with this one, and how Abe just let it walk all over his hands and arms, our Brave Bob decided it was time to put away his fears and get better acquainted with that form of nature. Anyway, we now have pictorial evidence that there is at least one very large member of the arachnid family who was kind enough to let Bob host him for a while without so much as a nibble!

I guess that having the snake in the house was also a bit of a test for Bobby, who for years had avoided going anywhere that he was likely to encounter such a slithery creature. Once more, the proof of the pudding was that all snakes won’t just take it into their minds to attack without cause and the brave old soul is rethinking his irrational fears and hopefully will learn, even at his age, to live more in harmony with those who share this space.

Walking around their homestead and knowing what they have both planned to do eventually by way of development there, it’s easy to see the attraction of the place that they have chosen to live in and to bring Leo up in. He’s certainly one very lucky young boy. He’ll grow up with both of his parents available to him, to teach and explain all there is around as well as to open his mind to the type of questions that present themselves daily when growing up in any natural environment. OK, so he won’t get to experience the city stress, or the type of peer pressures to do wrong that other kids might face as they grow up; but he will still have access to other young people of his own age, will see respect being given to those around him, will share a great work ethic with his parents and their friends and will get to know life at its best. Like I said, one very lucky little boy!

To say the very least, the trip was wonderful, and we both look forward to our next visit and to seeing what additional progress they have made. Next time too Leo will be able to vocalize his needs and perhaps Bob can come off his leash and simply respond as asked whenever his number one fan has a request!

Thank you very much Josie and Abe xxxxx

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bob and Janet's visit

For more photos and videos, click here.

We have been having a lovely time with Bob and my mum. Mostly relaxing and enjoying our time together (who knows when we'll get to do so again). We play cards when Leo goes to bed; we've gone for a few hikes; got a few odd jobs done (like the boys making me a beautiful shelf for my kitchen - photos); picked some apples. A pretty perfect vacation actually. But of all the positive aspects of having them here, the most striking has been with Leo.

He's at a stage where he communicates perfectly, but does not use many words. He will point at things, grab your hand and pull you to what he needs or wants, grunt - in fact, he has a whole array of putting his point across without actually speaking. We haven't been at all worried, as he seems to understand everything (in both English and Spanish) and he is quite ingenious at making you understand him. However, with Bob and Janet here, it seems like his vocalization is suddenly kicking in. Maybe it's the fact that since they've been here we have only spoken in English, rather than the two languages, or perhaps the new Sesame Street DVD (which he LOVES) is helping, or maybe it's just that British is easier to mimic than American (!!). Who knows. Whatever the reason, all of a sudden, he is starting to use more words. He nods and shakes his head at appropriate times, answering questions. He seems to be adding words, or trying at least, each day. Even if he doesn't say the word, he will make you say words until you get the right one, then nod. Here's an example "conversation":
- He makes the sign for eat.
- "You want to eat?"
- Nod.
- "What do you want to eat? Cereal? (shake) Fruit? (shake) Nuts?"
- Nod. "Mm- huh." And then an attempt at nut.

We also finally, now that the whole place isn't a building site, got out the paddle pool that his American grandparents got him. And since we did, he has spent a HUGE amount of time in it. He likes to be outside most of the time anyway, but now every time he passes the pool he starts to climb in, taking as many of his favorite toys with him. He gets kinda mad when you tell him it's too cold or we're about to eat.

He has developed a strange preference for toys. He has always liked wheels and anything with wheels (like his cars or tractor, or our wheelbarrows, trucks, etc.). However, over the past month or so that preference has been fine tuned to round things. He will empty out all his shapes and carry the two little circles, blue and yellow, everywhere with him. He will play with the alphabet, but eventually discard everything but the 'O'. He loves balls, wheels, bottle tops. Other things still really interest him, but it seems like at all times he now has something round in his hand.

He has loved having the constant audience of doting grandparents. He is a naturally funny baby, always thinking of different ways to make people laugh. However, with this new audience, he has really been able to show off. In the evenings, we sit back and watch his show, as he stomps through the house doing different walks, different noises and faces, little dances. He'll then move around the crowd giving everyone a kiss. And of course, while we are all in hysterics, his face is lit up in delight. We are the ones who get tired first, getting to where we just can't laugh any more, and only then will he decide it's time for bed.

I'm sure he's really going to miss Bob and Janet when they go in a few days, as will we.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Moved in!

It has been an incredible week and a half since I last blogged. Like most weeks, we got a lot accomplished, but this time the result is far more tangible in that we are now living in the rooms we built!!!!! Yep, that's right, we have finished the living room, dining room and kitchen (of course there's always a few details that remain to be done, but for the most part...).

We laid the brick floors, in a different pattern, in each room. Running bond for the living room; basket weave for the dining room; herring bone for the kitchen; running bond, in a different direction, for the entrance. They came out really beautiful, and a lot cheaper and easier than a concrete floor. We will continue to fill the cracks with fine sand as it settles, and then seal it with a varnish in a couple of weeks. More photos.

Each room is painted with at least four colors, sometimes more. It is a colorful house. This is helped by the huge windows that let in so much light, and make the whole place feel bright and airy. Incidentally, we had originally put polycarbonate windows in the living and dining rooms, but we had to change them out. They had an interesting and annoying flaw: they intensified any light from outside (like the sun!), and made a point of light into a band all the way up and down the window. It had the effect of BLINDING you as you walked into the room - as I said, annoying! So we now have clear plexiglass instead, and it is wonderful - it feels like there's nothing in between you and the outside, other than you don't get wet in the rain. Photos.

Even more exciting is that we bought furniture (for more photos click here) and have actually moved into the rooms. After living in a single room, with a toddler, for two plus years, the extra space is wonderful. I have real cabinets and a proper table, and a sofa - it all feels so luxurious. We now even have space for Leo's crib, so he has finally moved out of our bed. It's about time, as he needs the extra space for sleeping these days. Unfortunately he has had teething pains the couple of nights he has slept alone, so he has woken up a lot. Never mind, all in good time.

And then, to make it all even better, my mum and Bob arrived the other day for a two week visit. We are so very tired after the past few weeks of non-stop work, and now we get to enjoy a two week vacation with family. I think we deserve it!

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