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: http://flickr.com/photos/35090117@N05/collections/

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sex changes

It can sometimes be a little tricky to sex young rabbits, especially if they are squirming around. With that in mind, we decided to re-sex our rabbits, just in case, before the young ones get old enough to breed (they can breed when they are 3 months old, but we want to wait until they are 6 months).

Obviously no need with the adult females, Reina and Coco, who have both had babies since arriving at our place. Likewise with the adult male, Socks, who has a big old pair of testicles.

However, with the others, we discovered two mistakes. It turns out Obama is a female - I guess she now becomes Mrs. Obama? And Frisky is a male - the name can stay. Hopefully Frisky isn't yet old enough to have bred Reina or Coco so soon after they gave birth. We'll see in a few weeks.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A day in the Life of Leo


I've had a few complaints from family about not doing any updates on Leo recently, so here's one for the grandparents - be warned, it's kind of long. I'm afraid we haven't taken many photos or videos recently, but I will try and amend that over the next week. For this month's photos (both the ones we have and will take), click here.

A typical day for Leo begins at about 6am. He wakes up, grabs his water and the toys I place by his bed after he falls asleep at night, and comes into our room. He clambers up into our bed and will either snuggle up and fall asleep for another hour or play with his toys on our heads and bodies. The toys in question are his favorites of the moment, the ones he falls asleep clutching. Right now, they consist a small elephant, pig and truck.

We all go downstairs and have breakfast. Of course, the elephant and pig have to eat some of whatever he is eating, and they seem to especially like submerging themselves in milk. Every once in a while, one of them will fart (the sound having been faked by little lord Leo), and Leo will then exclaim "Oh, oink!" and then laugh heartily with his father.

While we do a few morning chores, Leo watches one of his movies on the laptop. It is really a credit to some of the movies out there that we can see them OVER AND OVER again and still find them entertaining (examples: Cars, Horton Hears a Who, Sesame Street videos, Shrek, Jungle Book).

We go outside and play with the dogs and rabbits. It's amazing what both will put up with from the two year old terror.

Abe and I then take it turns to work and watch Leo. Work currently involves prepping for building the cistern, planting, digging trenches, and other rain season jobs.

Leo spends a lot of time outside and we encourage him to "help" us with as many of our chores as possible (dishes, laundry, planting, making rock swales, feeding, watering, etc.). He loves to go hiking, especially if a water feature is included. We'll often hike over a mile each way. He runs half the way there, over pretty steep hills, and walks the other half. However he usually wants to be carried a lot of the way back.

Inside play involves hide-and-seek, running like a madman all over the place, tipping out all his toys and then putting them back again (minus one or two "chosen ones"), shapes, alphabet jigsaw, number cards, jumping and somersaulting on the bed, jumping and somersaulting on us, looking at books, talking to his talking Elmo. The list goes on.

He has a nap after lunch. Every once in a while he won't take a nap, but that usually leaves him super grumpy in the evening.

And grumpy also usually rears its ugly little head during the day too. He's only had one tantrum so far, which we're thankful for. However, he does whine or cry some when he doesn't get what he wants. Listening is pretty selective, which is normal I guess, for a male of the species. When he doesn't listen on something important (like don't go near the electric fence without us), he gets a smack or harsh words, at which point he gets very upset and wants to be cuddled.

Language is helping with the frustration he must feel. His extent of comprehension, both in English and Spanish, is impressive, and very recently he is starting to say a lot more words. After talking very little up til now, he is suddenly taking off. He's also putting up to three words together for more complex desires. For example, "Car, wa-wa, shoes" means "let's get in the car, drive down to the river where you can put my water shoes on and we'll get in!". However, the flip side of that is that even though he can make his wishes much clearer, we still sometimes refuse to give him what he wants - so he'll just repeat it over and over, looking at us as though we are deaf or stupid.

In the evening we go feed the animals, and here comes his favorite chore. He gets to help us pick worms out of the worm bin, and it is then his job to feed them to the chickens. He LOVES this. He especially likes to hold the worms out of reach, so the chickens have to jump to get them, and believe me, they will jump HIGH for worms.

We have dinner. He eats great overall. He is a little tricky to feed, as he loves something one meal and won't touch it on the next. He also tends to snack a lot in between meals - fruit, yogurt, nuts. All in all, if you can't get him to eat what it is we happen to be eating, he will always eat meat then fruit (pretty efficient way to get your requirements I suppose).

In the evening, we'll often watch a movie. When it's not one he's interested in, he contents himself with climbing all over you and running around. We usually have to watch a movie 3 or 4 times before we have seen it all.

He falls asleep in my arms between 9 and 10. You know he's asleep when he finally releases his elephant, pig and truck, which he has had in his hands throughout the day. I am sure to put them by his bed once he's asleep, as they are the first thing he looks for when he wakes up.

Rain Season

The rains have now officially started, with three days in a row of heavy downpours. And they are very welcome.

Everything has cooled off and has been well and truly doused. Within a couple of weeks, the land will go through its biggest transformation of the year - it will become blindingly green. It already seems to have a pre-green sheen.

Yesterday was a big storm. The rain was so thick you couldn't see two feet out the window. Luckily, we had walked around the property right before it rained, broadcasting extra seeds that we had (squash, oats, beans, herbs, corn, sunflowers, wheat, etc.).

This morning, we planted the rest of the garden - all beds are now seeded. For photos of the garden and trees so far, click here.

Our pond also got a lot of water. It never filled up last year. The grass on our property is pretty healthy and we have very little runoff, except on roads and paths. So this year we have made a couple of trenches to help guide water into the pond, and they made a big difference. We will be digging a few more soon.

Our tanks are all full. We are currently digging out a hole for a new cistern. We had made the hole last year, but we are making it an extra foot and a half deep. As soon as it's all dug out, we will begin construction on the tank.

Breeding like rabbits

2 days after we got the rabbits, one of the adult females, Reina, gave birth to a litter of 7 babies. All survived and are now starting to open their eyes. Very cute (especially now that they have fur!). We had known that she was pregnant, but had certainly not expected her to kindle so soon.

Our other adult female, Coco, whom we thought to be just a couple of weeks pregnant, gave birth this morning. We only saw two babies, which is odd. However, we haven't looked around too much, as does are apt to eat their babies if they get too freaked out. Maybe she has more hidden somewhere or maybe the huge storm we had last night caused a problem with the birth. Will let you know in a week or so, but for the moment we are leaving her and her young in peace.

As for the others, they are all doing great. Seem very happy and are growing like weeds. They have made a whole web of burrows in the dirt and straw we put into their pens (on top of wire, so they can't burrow out).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rabbits


Well, we finished the rabbit shed. For photos, click here.

There are 4 pens inside - one for the females, one for each of the two males, and one for the babies once they're weened. All with dirt and straw (and toys for them to get under and on top of). Plus each pen has an outside yard area (although we haven't yet done the females' one).

The shed has its own catchment system, with a 1000 gallon tank.

There's an electric fence around everything to help keep predators away.

But, more exciting than the shed, is that we went to the city yesterday and got a bunch of rabbits! The guy we bought them from has a colony set-up as well, although his males are not separated from the females, which we wanted to do so that we can give each female a break from being pregnant.

We have three adults - one male (Socks) and two probably pregnant females (Reina and Coco). We then have five younger ones - one male (Obama) and four females (Button, Oreo, Kiwi, Frisky). They are the sweetest little things and super curious and playful. We will be getting each one (except the pregnant females) out of the pen every morning to play with them and tame them up a little. Needless to say, Leo LOVES them. It's hard getting him away from the shed, unless you tell him that the dogs are waiting to play with him.

The rabbit in the photo is Button - she's the baby of the family. For photos of the others, click here.

Mushrooms

We are now mushroom farmers.

We put a bunch of horse manure and straw in an ice chest until it completely composted (and got incredibly hot). We then put the compost into lined boxes and added the spores of Oyster, button and almond button mushrooms.

No photos on this right now, as it's just a bunch of dirt in boxes.