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:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

29th Month

SANY5836 Leo's now 2 years 4 months. It seems like the months just roll on by, with him growing and changing daily. I can now hardly keep track of all the little stages that he is going through.

He now totally gets the idea of deals – “Eat all your food and you can have chocolate pie” - and we thought we had entered a golden age. Not so. It seems that our two year old is as adept at deal-making as we are.
“Come on, Leo, get your shoes, we have to go into the village.”
“No. No car.”
“Yes. We have to.”
“Car, then swim.”
“We'll see how it goes.”
“Leo swim, Papa swim, Mama swim, Dogs swim.”
“Okay we'll all go swimming when we get back.”
So Leo then gets his shoes and proceeds happily to the car. He falls asleep on the ride into the village and doesn't wake up until we get home. And we figure we are off the hook, but then his eyes flicker open, look around and he says “Swim”.

SANY5958We have started swimming every day in our pond. We have put our name down for a machine that is in the area. When he gets around to us (the list is fairly long), we will be able to fix the pond, allowing 2 more meters (or 6 more feet) of depth, as well as making it wider. But even in its broken and depleted state, it is still over my head in the center. Leo loves it. He begs to go swimming all day, every day. He's not yet swimming, or even close, but he is making a lot of progress and his confidence grows each time we go down there.

His language skills are also improving rapidly. He learns new words every day, even if he doesn't pronounce them all very well. For example, he loves to play with the numerous amount of frogs that are around our place, but he pronounces them “Cocks”. Always makes me giggle when I hear him shout “Cocks. More cocks for Leo. Where more cocks?” Oh well, I still have time to mature, I guess. We are also in the “watch what you say” phase: one of his favorite sayings right now is “Oh shit!”.

We have a bunch of fridge magnet letters and numbers, which he increasingly likes to play with. He brings us letters and tells what they are (B, bear. C, car. He knows more than half of them now). He also says numbers up to five easily, though he doesn't always use them in the right place. He gets two consistently right, but then we'll add another item and he repeats two. When we say three, he'll repeat it.

SANY5826 He's still very helpful. He tidies his toys away well. Loves to get your slippers, put things in the trash, etc. He especially likes to help mama make chocolate cheesecake, which makes for a great photo if nothing else.

I have started telling him stories whenever he gets a little upset and looks like a meltdown might be coming. They always start “once upon a time there was a little boy named Leo and he had two dogs, Salsa and Gracie. One day...”. It almost always settles him and he starts to tell me what story to tell – that they meet a bird, or cow, or fish, that it gets dark and they see the moon and stars, that a car comes and his grandparents, Momo and Popo are here, etc. It's kind of fun, as he gets so excited when I incorporate what he wants into the story – he will often cuddle me and say “Good girl, mama.”.

I think I probably portray Leo in an overly wonderful light. For the most part, he is a great kid, but he is a two year old and he does have his moments – refusing to do what you want, whining, crying, etc. In this we are sometimes (though not always) able to employ the help of a little friend – Alfie. Alfie is a hand puppet that Abe had when he was a kid (you know, from ALF the TV show), and Leo adores him. Alfie can tell Leo to do anything and he'll do it. Alfie wants an elephant, a circle, a blue cup, etc. Leo will go get it. Alfie wants to put Leo's shoes on (a battle at times, as Leo still prefers to go barefoot), he'll go get them. Leo even puts Alfie on the toilet each day. Alfie is a master tool of manipulation, working for the parental units!

Leo has developed a cute-ish habit. He'll poop in the toilet in the morning, but for his evening poop, he much prefers to strip down naked and go outside. At first we thought this was hilarious and humored him. However, it has started to dawn on us that this is perhaps not socially acceptable behavior for all places – somehow city folk are fine with you pooper-scooping a dog's shit, but the same does not apply to children! Oh well. I'm sure this will not be the only obstacle we face with him entering the real world (he already finds it funny and delightful that there is water in other people's toilet). I sometimes wonder how he will view his upbringing when he grows up and sees a little more of what the world has to offer. I guess we'll find out soon enough at the rate that time is passing.

For more photos, click here.

Worm Harvester

SANY5880We made a worm harvester this week, which will make our worm-and-soil-farming a lot easier.

When we have changed the worms' bedding before (to use in the garden of course), we have picked the worms out by hand, a very tedious and time consuming affair. This should make it all a lot easier.

We will post instructions and a video of us using it soon.

For more photos, click here.

Tank amendments

We had a rain a few days ago that didn't amount to much, but did come down very hard and fast. Abe went out to check on how the new tank was performing and discovered that the gutters were overflowing the pipes.

It seems we underestimated the volume of water that comes off the roof in a hard rain. Abe found a great website that tells you how to calculate what size pipe you need to accommodate what force of rain.

We added an extra line of 2” pipe. We could have changed the whole thing to a 4” pipe (which is more than we would have needed as 4” pipe is way more than two 2” pipes, because the area of a circle is the radius squared), but it was less work and less expensive to add an extra line – one line for each side of the roof.

However, having increased the pipes into the tank, we then had to increase the overflow. If the tank is full and water is coming in two 2” pipes, but can only leave through one 2” pipe, we will have a problem. It will overflow out the top, risking water getting behind the liner and dislodging it. So Abe put an extra overflow, making it a 4” pipe just to be safe.

We have now finished the tank... again!

Know that we make these mistakes for the benefit of our readers. If we didn't make the mistakes, we wouldn't know the problem existed and we couldn't prevent others from making them! No need to thank us, just happy to help.

Click here for photos of the tank.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Trevor's iphone

Originally uploaded by velacreations
Our friend, Trevor, came to visit us in February and Leo fell in love with his iphone. To read the back-story, go to this post:

We had tried, jokingly, to get him to leave it behind, but he wasn't having any of it. Well, a week or so ago, Trevor sent us an awesome gift... an iphone! We love it. Abe reads books on it, Leo watches movies on trips, and pretty soon, when we get something sorted with our internet service, we will be able to use it as a phone.

Here's a video of Leo watching little chalk men with all of our faces on them. Within a few minutes, he had figured out how to make them go away.

Rabbit update

SANY5764Something else we did this sunny week was make an outside pen for the female rabbits. The males each had one already, but now finally the girls get to have one too, and they love it. They have already started burrowing, which is why the fence around the pen goes down into the ground a foot or until it hits bedrock.

Here's a photo of all the babies that have been weaned. We will be keeping all the females and one of the males. They will be able to go back in with the others after a couple of weeks.SANY5760

Reina has had more babies. They were born yesterday. As yet, we don't know how many, as we want to leave them alone for the first week.

We went to the city yesterday and when we got home, we discovered a little rabbit drama. Frisky (very appropriately called) had gotten into the females' pen. We have four younger female rabbits that we had not wanted to breed for another month (once they start breeding, they stop growing apparently). 3 of them are big enough and it's not that big of a deal if they are pregnant, but we are really hoping that he didn't get Button, who is younger and smaller. We keep buck, doe and litter records on all breeding activity, so we've marked down this day on our records, and we'll just have to wait 30 days to see who he got to!!!!!!

For more photos, click here.

Everything loves water

SANY5779Just wanted to post a few photos of our garden, which has exploded after the rains of last week. In fact, everything has exploded. We planted corn, beans, squash, millet and melons along all the drainage trenches, and now a million little plants have popped up. We also planted things all over the property, and lots of them are growing happily, flowering, fruiting.

For more photos, see here.

SANY5767Check out the Juniper tree - at its base is planted a winter squash, which has gone crazy and grown into everything, including the Juniper. Can you see the little squash - diagonally left from center?

Just for your information. In 2008, we got 30.2 inches of rain. Funnily enough, we got the EXACT same rainfall in 2009. The biggest rain months are July, August and September. This year, we had 20 inches in JUST JULY!

The cistern is finished

SANY5770We had a week of clear skies, allowing everything to dry out so that we could get a little work done outside.

We had a little cleanup work to do in and around the tank, of course, after so much rain. After that, we:

* put up some vinyl over the bolts, to protect the liner from any sharp edges.
* put up the liner track
* unfolded the liner and put it into the track (very easy as it happens)
* cleaned any mud off the liner
* did the plumbing

The plumbing deserves a little explanation to itself, as it might not be apparent from the photos. The roof has two downspouts, which connect into the same line, buried in the ground (we will eventually concrete around the pipes from the roof to the ground). That line goes into the tank at the top (which is several inches lower than the downspouts of the gutter). Within the line, at the lowest spot, Abe put in a clean-out valve, which we will be hooking onto a hose this week. This allows us to clean out the water that stays in the line periodically.

SANY5749The plumbing from the tank to the house is as you would expect. Coming out of the tank there is a main valve, then a pipe rising into the air, then another valve, then a check valve. The pipe then connects with the existing pipe coming from the cistern (1000 gallons) that is still on the system, and then into the house. The only thing needing extra info is the overflow pipe (the one that goes up into the air). This goes up and pours out where we want the overflow to be. There is another part that is there only if we one day want to add a backup overflow.

So now it's all completely done, minus a few 5 minute jobs (like putting a screen in the gutter, etc.), and we are ready for it to rain. Just need 10 inches to fill her up - over 7000 gallons.
And now the cistern is completely finished.

For all photos, see here.

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