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, March 27, 2010

Jim and Vickie come to visit

When Grandpa Jim and Grandma Vickie said they were coming to visit this month, we were a little doubtful. For the first two months of the year, Jim had a bad case of pneumonia, which seemed to go on and on. One of his doctors prescribed him a whole of array of antibiotics, hopping from one to the other within just a few days. No wonder when they had an effect on his heart.

He went for a checkup less than two weeks ago and they told him his heart was beating at just 30 beats per minute. They immediately rushed him into surgery to install a pace maker. Then, just days before they were supposed to come here, the operation wound was bleeding. His doctors told him he must do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, until it had a proper chance to heal. So naturally, Jim listened attentively before shuffling Vickie into the truck and driving on down here.

Seeing as no harm was done, we were super happy to have them here, as was little Leo. He loved the attention, and as usual, had games that he reserved for each one. He dragged Vickie all around the property and beyond (with 6 trucks in his hands, as always). When he wasn't throwing balls at Jim, he wanted him to pick him up. I asked if Jim should be lifting things yet, but he replied "I'm lifting him with my right arm". The logic is undeniable!

Unfortunately, they didn't stay very long, but we'll take what we can get. We know we'll see them soon, as we have possession of the most powerful drug ever: an adorable, entertaining and interactive grandson.

For more photos of Leo's 24th month (almost 2 years old - wow), click here.


The bathroom isn't finished, but we decided to go ahead and build our toilet anyway.

It's a two-bay composting toilet. One for number one, two for number two (we will be drawing pictures on the lids, so stay tuned for that!). The poop one uses sawdust as its carbon cover material. The pee one will be filled with biochar (which eliminates all smell and is an excellent additive to the garden, as it releases nutrients, of which it is full, slowly to the plants). We haven't yet gotten around to making the biochar, but when we do, we'll post further explanation. The lids hinge, so that you can take the buckets out easily.

I haven't yet finished making the sawdust container, which will go on the side which doesn't have an armrest. Should get it done over the next couple of days.

We also installed a 4" PVC pipe, which is open within the toilet unit, runs under the floor to the outside, and then up into the air 10 foot. The outside part is painted black. This heats up, making the air within it rise. This makes a draft and keeps the toilet totally smell free. It works great.

So now we have an inside toilet - we are moving up in the world!

Next step, which won't happen for a while, will be a hot shower/bath. We went to the city yesterday and found a used, metal bathtub for $40. It's great.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Power system

We have been working on the power house and bathroom. Although the bathroom still has a way to go, the power house is now finished.

We've moved all the tools in there as well for the time being, but its main purpose is obviously to house the power system.

We have always had used golf cart batteries powering our electricity. They are free, which is really something you can't beat, but they don't last forever. Now, for the first time, we have a huge battery bank, made up of seven 12 volt, 190 amp, sealed batteries. It is beautiful. We also have a super fancy inverter that can do pretty much everything you can imagine. It's pretty incredible.

This week, Abe made a solar mount, to support the new solar panels (which we have had in the shed for a while). Some of the panels are up there already, but not yet connected to the batteries - that comes on Monday.

We are about to have a kick ass system. Off grid power is great in that it is something you can slowly build up, which we have been doing for some time. The reward is now here. In a couple of days, we won't have to think about power usage (at least by our standards), and we will even be getting an electric fridge.

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Spring is in the air. Now warmer, both day and night, and the risk of frosts are soon passed. So, it's time to get the garden going.

We have lettuce, collards, cabbage, onions, leeks and radish already in the ground outside, and growing great. We also have beets, radish, onions, carrots and tomatoes growing inside in soil blocks, almost ready to go out. We should be starting some more seeds this week in soil blocks.

But more exciting than the vegetables is that we have planted some trees: 3 apricots, 2 cherries, 1 pecan, 1 plum. And we have 5 apples coming soon, free from our city council. That's all we have water for this year. But we'll be building a large tank in a couple of months, so next year we plan to plant 50 more trees! Forest garden, here we come.

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