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, November 27, 2010

The Leo/Nicky Bed Fund

This post is for family and friends that would be buying us something for Christmas or a gift for the new baby when that time comes. We ask that instead of doing either of those things, would you please consider contributing to this project.

We got to thinking about what we needed to get for when the baby arrives, and we realized that we have absolutely everything we need - clothes for boy or girl, crib, blankets, toys, a new house and bathroom, etc. There is however one very large thing that we need - a bigger bed.

When Leo wakes up in the mornings, he likes to come and get in bed with us and either go back to sleep for a while or play. And when the baby joins us, she will be sleeping with us at first. It's already pretty crowded in our double bed with the added bulk of a rowdy two and a half year old, let alone a new (and delicate) little one. So we have decided to get a king size bed to accommodate the whole family.

We priced out what the whole thing will cost, including frame, mattress, sheets, etc. and the price (without shopping around too much) is $700. So, chip in to the bed fund with the widget above, and help us achieve our goal!

This little piggy went home with us

SANY6908 Pigs have always been on our homesteading agenda. The original plan was to get our feet wet with a couple of feeder pigs in Spring 2011, and then maybe get 2 or 3 breeder sows and a boar the year after. A great plan, and only one hitch so far - it got jump-started.

Abe was talking to a guy in the village who mentioned he had some piglets and was about to take them to the market. Abe naturally asked to see them, and 5 minutes later he had arranged to come and pick three of them up the following day or so. That was Thursday.

We went from his house to a nearby town to get some sacks of feed, a nipple that the pigs drink water from, and a few T-Posts. That afternoon, we began work on building a corral and house for the newcomers.

By 3 O'Clock Friday afternoon, we had finished the remesh pen, the water and feeding system, and the hoop-house, which we filled with hay for bedding. So we went to the village to pick up our pigs.

Joel caught them (not too hard as they lived in a pretty small pen) and lifted them up. Abe held up a feed sack under them and pulled it up over the pig. In the sack, they were fairly calm and couldn't run around. It was funny to see these feed sacks with a pig nose sticking out of them!

SANY6900 We took them home and let them loose in the pen. They were over the moon - they had never seen grass before and were immediately rooting around. We were in the pen with them and Leo just loved it. The hardest thing about the whole thing was getting him to leave.

Abe checked on them a couple of times in the night. The first time, they were bedded down outside the hoop house, so he picked them up and threw them into the hay. The next time he went to check on them, he couldn't find them anywhere. The giveaway was the fact that the straw (where they had buried themselves) was snoring.

Now all we have to do is put up some electric fencing, so that they can pasture. We plan to make the fences follow the contours of the land, so that when the pigs are rooting, they will actually be doing the foundation work for swales.

First thing Leo said this morning was "See pigs?"
"Sure. Let's go. How many pigs are there?"
"That's right, one for papa, two for mama, three for Leo."
"One Nicky?" (Nicky is what we're calling the new baby at the moment).
"No baby, Nicky's going to share mama's pig."
"Poor Nicky."

For more photos, click here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sealing the Floors

SANY6862 We finally got around to something I have been waiting for for a very long time - sealing the downstairs floors.

Because the sealant is so stinky, it is not something we could just do, as the house must be left open for a while. We'd wanted to do it at the beginning of the year, but we had visitors, then other stuff came up, then the rains started, etc. This was the last chance we had to get it done before it gets cold.

This was something I did not participate in, as we were worried that it might be something that would affect the baby. Abe and a friend did a great job and it went a lot faster than we had thought.

We have left the house open and alone, while we take a mini vacation, much deserved we feel.

We have now done all the major projects we had wanted to get finished before winter, and when we return home I will be able to sweep and mop the whole house - just in time for the pregnancy nesting phases. Poor Abe.

For more photos, click here.

Compost heater

SANY6845 Another thing we did this week was build a compost heater.

The brick walls on the north side of the bedroom can get a little cold this time of the year, so we are trying an experiment. To the north of Leo's room, we built a big, insulated box out of hay bales, 14 feet by 4 feet, 3 feet tall. We then lined it with a tarp and put layers of weeds and manure into it. After wetting it down we covered it with a tarp and insulation.

We'll see how it works before we do outside our room. So far, it is doing great. It has definitely heated up. The bricks lower down the wall are considerably warmer than the ones higher up. Time will tell how much it warms up the room and how long it will last. The great thing is that even if the experiment is a failure, we will get a whole bunch of compost out of the deal!

For more photos, click here.

Tank finished

SANY6830 Well, the hot water system and bathroom are now totally finished.

We put radiant barrier around the tank, then insulation (R40), and then built a box around it all, which we stuccoed, waterproofed and painted.

The water now sits at about 115 to 120 degrees. It is too hot on its own. We can take showers as long as we want. If we leave the floor heaters on all night the temperature drops to 95 degrees, but heats back up to 120 by 10 or 11 in the morning.

We are very happy with it!

All photos, click here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First shower in the new bathroom

Well, we didn't hit our desired deadline of 1st November for the bathroom, but we are now within 2 days of totally finishing. Things always seem to take longer than you think they will, what with unexpected occurrences and general delays. Oh well.

So, what have we accomplished?

SANY6795 Abe has got a lot done outside. The panels are finished and are now circulating hot water through the tank, which is in place and hooked up to the system. We have 2 pumps connected - 1 circulates the water through the sub floor heating, the other pumps the water from the tank to panels. When the panels are within 10 degrees F of the tank, the pump turns itself off. There is a control panel inside the house, which shows us what the temperatures of the panels and tank are. All that lacks now is to insulate and stucco the tank, which should take 2 days. As is, the tank's water gets hot in the day, but then loses its heat overnight.

SANY6776 He had one major mishap, one that was totally beyond his control. The hot water for the shower and sinks comes from 100 meters of 1" pipe that we coiled up inside the tank (which was a bitch to do!). It was in place and hooked up and Abe was about to fill the tank with water when the pipe sprung a leak, luckily near the end. I climbed inside and cut the bad piece of pipe off (almost couldn't get out, and give me another month of pregnancy and I won't be able to!) and we thought all was well. He filled the tank and then a day later the pipe sprung another leak. He had to take it all out (after emptying the tank water), buy a new one and recoil it inside. What must have happened was the machine that picked up the roll in the factory must have pierced it, for there were three identical cuts in the roll. We got our money back, but it sucked a lot of time.

SANY6779 I filled the inside planters with soil. We had made a huge pile of compost many months ago and this composed the main substance of the soil. It was black, rich, tarry and filled with worms. I also added a little sand and soil (for trace minerals and bacteria) to the mix, and then put a thick layer of mulch on top. I must have moved more than a ton of earth, and of everything I've done recently it was the most tiring couple of days.

SANY6788 I also finished all the interior concrete and then painted the bathroom. Abe installed the bathtub, shower and sink, and then we hung the curtail rail and shower curtain. Yesterday, the three of us took our first ever showers in our own home. It was truly blissful, and of course Leo loved it as much, if not more than we did. I got the privilege of the first shower, which was a mistake, as Abe and Leo then got in and stayed there until the hot water ran out, which was a very long time. That's the last time I let Abe be chivalrous.

We've been dreaming of having a hot shower in our bathroom for so long now that we can hardly believe it's actually done. We feel like we have truly climbed to the dizzying heights of civilization. I guess all that's left to do now is a solar hot tub!?

For photos, click here.
For photos of the construction of the planters, click here.

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