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, July 28, 2010

When it rains it pours


It HAS NOT STOPPED RAINING since Jim, Vickie and Em left on Saturday. Spitting, drizzling, raining, pouring - it fluctuates between them all, but amounts to the same thing... it's wet!

Yesterday we woke up to a small tragedy - the pond filled up, and then burst its bank. It's a pretty huge rupture (looks a lot worse from the back) and will need a machine or many weeks of manual labor to fix it. And of course, we can't do anything right now. There is a chance we can fix it without losing all our water, but that will depend on the weather.

As is, we can't do anything right now, either on the pond, the tank, or anything else. None of us are used to spending so much time inside, and are getting a little stir crazy. Maybe things will clear out soon.

For photos, click here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Connally Visit

This Wednesday, Jim, Vickie and Emily came to see us. We had been telling Leo about them coming for several days, saying that Momo and Popo were bringing a big elephant (that Abe and siblings had played on as kids) and that Em would be sleeping in his room. Each time we would would say that they were coming, he would then say "Big boo (his word for elephant), Em in Leo's night-night".

We met them for lunch at a seafood restaurant in the city and then we all went on to visit a friend of ours in hospital. Armando - he and his wife being our closest friends from the village - is awaiting a back operation for three ruptured discs. He loved seeing Jim and Vickie and was very grateful for the visit - he has now been lying on his back for more than three weeks and is bored (not to mention in pain).

We then went back to our place. This is the first time Abe's sister, Emily, has been here, and the first time that Jim and Vickie have seen everything so green.

Leo definitely remembers them all from May and he rememberes which games to play with each! He has changed a lot since they last saw him, as he is now saying a bunch of words and is more boy than baby. He really loved having them around, so much so that he didn't want to sleep, which caused a few tears.

We hung out at our place, talking, walking around, weighing baby rabbits, etc. We also visited our neighbour's ranch and got some apples from some of his 5000 apple trees.

On Friday, we went to a local fish farm. The place is beautiful. Many ponds, huge trees, picnic and BBQ areas. Abe cooked us some trout and corn, while we did a little fishing and walking. After lunch Abe got to fish some. While Jim and I got one fish each, Abe bagged about 30! They were all little Perch, which we took home to put in our pond (which is now full of water). We still need some Catfish, but that'll have to wait til another day.

They left on Saturday and since then it has not stopped raining. A pretty good excuse to stay inside, read, watch movies and play with the little guy, who is still talking about Momo, Popo and Em.

Thanks for a lovely visit.

For more photos, click here. And for other photos of Leo this month, click here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tank update


We haven't advanced too much from my last post on the cistern, after which we got a huge amount of rain. Everything was so wet that we couldn't get sand for many days. It finally dried up enough to get sand and we did get a slab poured inside the tank. The slab will offer a smooth, strong surface for the liner to sit on, but more importantly it will hold the metal in its shape at the bottom. It also all slopes towards the out-take, making it easy to empty and clean out should we need to do so.

We also got the trenches for the plumbing dug.

We don't have many days left of work to be able to finish it, but it is raining again this weekend, so we'll have to see how it goes. Probably won't be able to do anything until at least Wednesday.

We wish we could have got it all done before the rains had started, but our other projects took longer than we thought and the rains came a little early this year. Oh well, no biggie. We only need 10 inches of rain to be able to fill it, and we should easily have that left once we finish it.

Rabbit weening and weigh in


The first of our two litters of rabbits reached 6 weeks old on Wednesday, so we got all the babies out of the pen to weigh and sex them. Out of the 9 babies, 5 are female, all of which we will be keeping. On average, they weighed 2 pounds (a little under a kilo). The three largest (over 2lbs each) we have put in a separate pen to ween them. We will be weening the other 4 of Reina's babies over the next week or two.

One side note: we used asphalt board (painted) for the shed, and we are not impressed with it. Although it keeps the inside dry, it has bowed considerably. It will work fine for a while, but we will have to replace or cover it some time. We won't be using it again.

For more photos, see here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Adventures of a little elephant


We went to the city a while ago to get some materials needed for the cistern. On our way back, we stopped at a rest area so that Leo could get out and run around a little.

In his hand, as usual, was his favorite toy, a little elephant. He and the elephant are never far apart, even when he sleeps. He was running around a shrub-like oak tree that had been planted there, and before we could stop him he threw his elephant into the tree. He often does this with toys - he'll throw them somewhere and then enjoy getting them. We have tried (obviously with less than 100% success) to curtail this irritating little habit.

We looked for the elephant for over half an hour, with Leo mournfully, and repeatedly, asking for it. We couldn't find it. We eventually gave up and left, with a very teary Leo.

At home, we showed him his other two little elephants (these are all toys that Abe had as a child), but he didn't want them.

Over the next 10 days, Leo would ask if we could go get his elephant. When we said no, he'd lost it, he would point to the truck and say we could go get it in that.

Well, about a week later, we went back to the city. We had had a huge amount of rain, so we decided to stop and see if the rains had shaken the elephant out of the tree. And sure enough, there it was, waiting patiently for us. Leo was so happy and excited, though he did not seem surprised - that was exactly where he had left it! Sigh.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Videos of Leo


I have just uploaded a BUNCH of videos of Leo. Click here if you want to see them.

You gotta love 'shrooms


Last night we ate the first mushroom grown on our place. You expect homegrown veggies to taste better (and they sure do), but we never thought it would make that much difference with a mushroom. It does. Neither of us have ever tasted such a delicious, great textured button mushroom.

We have two types of button mushrooms as well as oysters growing. One type of the buttons is starting to fruit.

It was super easy.
  • We put horse manure and cut up hay in an ice chest and added water.
  • We turned this mixture every couple of days to speed up the composting. As it composted, it got super hot (you couldn't even hold your hand in it), thus killing any unwanted critters.
  • After about 20 days, we put the compost into plastic lined boxes, and added the spores.
  • Once the spores filled the soil, which it has done with the one type of buttons, we added a sprinkling of peat moss onto it, opened it up and spray it with water every day. The mushrooms are our reward.
We plan to build the mushrooms their own little underground house when we get a chance. Right now we have them in the power house, which stays a pretty constant temperature all year around. This is key with mushrooms - you don't want it getting too hot or too cold.

Cistern


Our current project is building a 7200 gallon water tank. We have had 12" of rain so far this year (3.5 last night!!), which would have filled the tank had it been ready at the beginning of rain season. Still, we have more than enough rain left to fill it.

It is 8 feet tall, 12+ feet diameter and about 40 feet circumference.



  • We had to dig it down about a foot and a half extra from where we had previously had the hole, so that the intake for the tank would be a bit lower than the downspout for the gutter. This extra foot and a half was in almost solid rock, which makes for a super stable base!
  • We added a few inches of sand over the whole area.
  • We marked the center of the hole with a rebar, where diagonals from each corner meet.
  • We laid bricks in a level circle for the metal of the tank to sit on. We attached a string to the center rebar and marked a circle which would show where to lay the bricks.
  • Using a jig we'd made, we drilled holes every 6 inches on both sides of the sheets of metal. There are 10 sheets of metal, each 8' x 4'.
  • We bolted the sheets of metal together into a circle that sits on the center of the bricks.
  • We welded and attached a frame for the roof.
  • Painted everything with primer and Rustoleum.
  • Filled dirt in around the cistern on the outside. This must be done evenly all the way around, so as not to shift the circle of metal.
  • Attached metal to roof. The edges of this we bent inside the walls and screwed it into the walls. This allows water to run off the roof into the tank.
And that's as far as we've gotten so far. Next week we should be able to attach the pond liner to the inside of the metal and then do the pipes from roof and to house.

For photos of it all, see here.