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, April 23, 2011

Finished wicking beds

SANY7954 We also managed to finally finish our wicking beds this week and make a bed for currants and berries on the overflow to the gray water system (that feeds the inside flower beds).

There wasn't a whole lot to do, but we have had so much wind this month, that we hadn't been able to get to it beforehand.

SANY7924 We emptied the rest of the compost pile we had made for a winter heater for the bedrooms into the both beds, and then finished off the fence around it (one of our dogs had assumed we'd made the bed just for her). We have soil blocks with little seedlings ready to go out there. We have been taking them out each day so that they can harden up a little, before we transplant. Next week we plan to plant.

One sad piece of related news was that some kind of bug or mouse or something ate all our little raspberry seedlings this morning. Hopefully we can make some more come up without too much grief.

For more photos, click here.

Oyster Mushrooms

SANY7912 We have been eating off our oyster mushrooms this week and it has been a real treat.

We grew button mushrooms before, but our success was only mild. They are a lot more picky about humidity, and we weren't quite up to the challenge at that point. Now we are trying our luck with oysters, a far more forgiving shroom. They grow incredibly fast - you can almost watch them grow if you are so inclined. They are also incredibly tasty. We grow them in laundry baskets filled with shredded straw.

We have made more liquid culture, grain spawn, taken a spore print and have even cloned a few mushrooms. We mean to continue this wonderful experiment.

SANY7938 For more photos, click here.

Pig Pasture

SANY7969 This week we made a new pig pasture. We used three strands of electric wire (doesn't need to be very tall as pigs are not good jumpers) and tied off to trees instead of corner posts. It covers a large area, with lots of clumps of shade tress included. Seeing as the pigs root around, we followed the contour of the land, so that they can create swales for us (as they push the earth downhill, it levels off a patch that then collects water better).

Leo enjoyed the work. He walked around with us at times, got us each tools we needed or water, and then went and sat under trees and played with some toys when he got bored. He was good as gold.

SANY7976 It was super hot weather, and we were both pretty exhausted after finishing, but it had its own rewards. When we let the pigs out, they started exploring all over. Our previous, younger pigs were very cautious and it took them a long time to really explore, but these girls had no such inhibitions. Having spent all their lives prior to coming here on a concrete floor, the allure of real dirt and trees was too much. They followed us around all over the pasture. They seem to respect the fence pretty well, having both been shocked a couple of times (the shock is not painful, just uncomfortable enough to make you want to avoid doing it again).

It really is great to see pigs on pasture. Can't wait until the rains come and it all greens up.

For more photos, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Three years old

SANY7898 On April 11th, Leo celebrated his third birthday. We were going to have a big BBQ party last Saturday, but it was SUPER windy all weekend (and in fact most of the week), so we postponed it to this coming Saturday, weather permitting. So on his actual birthday, we kept it quiet. Leo and I cooked a cake, as that it the thing he most associates with birthdays, and then some friends came up for cake, presents and dinner.

Abe had been smoking ham and bacon for most of the day, and we'd also boiled and roasted some for different flavors. So dinner consisted of all different kinds of pork (with a little rice on the side).

The wonderful thing about this year is that Leo now gets that it's his birthday. I'd bought a candle set a while ago, which he saw every time I went into the pantry. He loved those candles and we kept telling him that he would have them on his birthday. Then his birthday arrived and he got super excited about cooking a cake and putting the candles on it.

We had also bought him a two-piece train a couple of weeks ago (he loves things that pull other things, like trains or trailers) and he had to choose between a red and blue one. He deliberated for some time, but eventually settled on the red one, but Abe snuck the blue one into the cart for his birthday. When he pulled a corner of the paper back and saw what it was, he instantly recognized what it was and BEAMED - "Blue one too!". It was precious.

So what's new with Leo? The changes are more subtle - very few new abilities, but rather fine tuning the ones he already has.

Language is doing great, other than he is going through a "what happened?" stage. Every five seconds it seems like he asks what happened. I guess this is the forerunner to the famous "Why?" phase. His sentences are complex, and he tells you exactly what he wants YOU to say in reply. He also talks in different voices for his toys, and his role-playing is becoming quite entertaining. His Spanish also improves, though not as dramatically as his English.

He has bad dreams every once in a while, where he'll cry out, wake up and call for me. I go in and he says "I have bad dream."
"Oh, that's terrible! What happened?"
"Big monster hungry and tried get Leo."
"Oh, honey, he was just playing. The big monster likes Leo."
"Yes, monster Leo's friend."
And he'll go right back to sleep. Another thing he has called out in a bad dream is "Little boy take Leo's red car".
To balance things though, he also frequently giggles in his sleep, probably thinking about games he plays with his dad. Of course, all of his nighttime discussions are great for me, as I'm often awake at night right now and it gives me something to smile about.

He still loves to help us work, and he's actually starting to become useful. His only downfall, both in work and other areas, is that he wants to do thing by himself, even if the things are beyond him. He then gets very upset if you try to help. We let him figure it out when we can, and he is learning to calm down and ask for help when he realizes that he can't do it on his own.

He can be quite bratty at times, saying "No", very firmly, when we tell him to do something, and then very quick to cry when we start counting to three. I'm not sure if it's attention seeking or just something he has to go through. Either way, it'll be nice to see the back of it.

He is very interested in the arrival or his little brother. Keeps on and on about how he can share things with Nicky when he arrives, and how Nicky will sleep and sit next to Leo, and how they'll talk.

He's actually very good at sharing his toys with other kids, which is good to see. He especially likes to hand out food to people. All in all, seems to be a fairly generous character for a three year old. He is also very affectionate. His hugs and kisses are lovely. He often tells you he loves you, and will call you beautiful and good girl, etc.

All in all, it's been a pretty great three years, watching him grow and develop into the little person he is. The next big milestone for him is becoming a big brother and I have no doubt that he'll be a good one.

Didn't take many photos on his birthday, but will try and get some on Saturday. When I do, I'll put them here.

Rabbit fur handbag

SANY7889 It's a good friend's (Leo's Godmother, without the baptism!) birthday this week, so I made her a gift out of rabbit fur.

I have been tanning all the furs we've gathered, but this is the first thing I've made with them. There were a few items on the learning curve of sewing leather, but all in all not too bad. I was pleased with how it came out, especially the softness, something you cannot appreciate through a photo.

Here's a couple more photos.

Kitchen Cabinet

SANY7903 We built a cabinet for the east wall in the kitchen. It was a spot that the cabinets we bought didn't fill and I've had something temporary in there since we first moved into these rooms. Now, it is complete with its new cabinet, laden with cast iron, compost and pig buckets, vegetable drawers, etc. I also made a couple of holders for plastic bags - took about 10 minutes apiece and helps keep those pesky, but useful items out of the way.

SANY7907 I'll eventually put doors on the cabinets and maybe even tile the top, but no rush on either. The kitchen now feels done and ready for the arrival of the newcomers. Little by little.

Didn't get many photos of us building it, but what we have is here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Two Connally brothers

SANY7830 My doctor in the village wanted me to check in with the hospital gynecologist in the city, because of the risk factor due to my previous C-section. In order to see the gynecologist, I had to see their GP first who would refer me if necessary. He said everything was fine and normal, come back in three weeks.

Well, to give my local doctor something more specific than that, we went and got an ultrasound. Within a second he told me that Nicky, like his brother, was breech (as he was in the previous ultrasound). The other 2 doctors had mistaken his butt for his head. And, like Leo, being in the breech position (or just the fact that he is his father's son) his head had grown more than the rest of his body. I am a little over 35 weeks - Nicky's head is more than 38 weeks, his spine and legs are at 37 weeks. He is already 7 lbs (Leo was a little over 5 at this stage and was born 7lb 3 oz).

They gave me the number of a doctor who can turn him, but suggested I see a gynecologist first, so we went back to the hospital. After explaining what had happened, I bypassed the GP referral and went straight to the real doctor. He advised against having him turned. He says he's already big, my womb is long and narrow, and there is a risk that the procedure could rupture my Cesarean wound. He says we can wait as long as possible, hoping he'll turn by himself, but the chances are this one will remain head up and have to be another c-section. I have to go back every week and see him, and we'll see how things go.

We're still hoping for a natural birth, but I can't help but feel disappointed. Still, when I think about it, the only thing that matters is that Nicky arrives as safely as possible, and seeing as we live 2 hours from a hospital, contemplating delivering a breech naturally is not a great idea.

Other than that piece of bad news, I am feeling great. Still not too uncomfortable and able to work fine, albeit a bit slower.

SANY7881 Leo gets increasingly excited at the prospect of meeting his new brother. He keeps saying things like "when Nicky comes, he sit by Leo, sleep by Leo, play with Leo, etc.". Not sure how to tell him that newborns are not as exciting as he might think, but he'll figure it all out! Can't wait to have the two of them together.

For more photos, click here. There's one photo of Abe and I together - that was taken shortly before Leo arrived - notice how my belly is already almost that big.

New Sows

SANY7866 This week we've been doing some work on the gardens, but most of our efforts have gone to the pig pen. We mucked out the toilet area (we would place hay on top of their poop, which keeps the smell away and makes for a better compost), and put it in a pile in a garden bed we won't be using for a while. While Abe and I did that, Leo carried rocks and filled in a hole they'd made under their water nipple (they quickly learned how to push the nipple so that water would pool up into a lovely mudbath, which had grown incredibly deep). We then put a shade up and made a new hoop house, so that each sow would have a nesting area.

Once everything was ready, we went to the city and bought two beautiful sows. They are still young (born in July 2010), but already showing signs of the immense size they will grow to be. Both are pregnant, one due about 18th May, the other beginning of June.

They had a stressful day yesterday with the 2 hour journey to our place, and when I went to take a photo, they were asleep under the shade in some hay and did not even stir. Notice how their front legs are intertwined (we had considered getting just one due to the cost, but decided that the company would go a long way to keeping them both happy and healthy).

SANY7868 We need to fence a new area for them to graze, although there is no rush, as we will keep them penned up until they are used to this as their new home. This is the first time they have lived with dirt and grass under their feet, so we don't think it will take them long to call this home.

We only went a few days without having pigs on our property, but we are glad those days are over. These two are the beginning of our herd, and we hope that they will long be a part of our family.

For more photos, click here.

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