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/

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two months old

SANY8747 Nico is now two months old and is changing with each passing day.

He weighs almost 13 lbs (5.75kg) and is 22 1/2 " (56cm) long. Friends and family keep calling him fat and the poor little guy has developed bolemia - he'll eat and then puke it back up. I remember Leo as a baby never let a drop of milk, and later food, go to waste, but Nico is a very messy eater. He'll suck and then open his mouth to smile, letting half the milk dribble down his chin and me. I have learned to feed him with a rag under us, so we don't get too wet.

He is letting us sleep a lot better at night. His colicky stage is now almost totally over, so he doesn't wake to pain. He'll go between 4 and 5 hours between when we put him to bed and when he first wakes up to nurse, and those uninterrupted hours of sleep have done the world of good to the sleepy parents of a newborn. He's also going longer between feeds during the day than he did at first.

SANY8755 We have now entered the wonderful world of smiles and giggles. He is overall a very happy and calm baby. He's content to sit on his own for a long time watching the world go by without ever fussing. He laughs at Leo's constant attention, and doesn't flinch when his big brother runs around screaming and jumping. He coos and chatters, laughs and grins.

He has two types of cries - one signals pain, the other signals that he wants something. The first is generally linked to his stomach and is getting less frequent. Fortunately we have a secret weapon for his pain - we put him in a bath and all crying stops instantly. He LOVES the water, and I mean "he should have been a fish" loves the water (just like his mama). The second type of cry starts as a little on/off complaint, nothing very intrusive. He often gets picked up at this point (to nurse, to change his diaper or to be with the family, depending on the tone of his cry), but if he isn't, the cry gets a little more insistent, the final warning. And then he GETS MAD! He doesn't have the throbbing vein in his neck that Leo, and his uncle Augie, have, but that doesn't lessen the effect.

We haven't done too much diaper free with Nico. With Leo he used about one diaper a day for the first year (we then starting building and someone came up to play with him and Leo stopped asking to go to the toilet). Nico has done several pees in the potty, and even a couple of poops, but he struggles so much to poop that diaper free has been impractical. He'll start signals that he needs to go, but won't get it out for another half hour or more. We'll get more serious about that soon, now that his digestive system is maturing.

SANY8697 He is also getting a lot stronger. He loves to stand and even jump, and pushes up vigorously when he wants you to hold him upright. He locks his legs and can hold his weight for a little while. His head is also getting a lot stronger and he'll hold it upright for the most part. He likes to sit on the sofa like the rest of us and can stay there for a while, but if he starts to fall he can't yet correct himself.

He completely recognizes all three of us and has different associations for each. He grabs onto your T-Shirt and strokes you when you hold him. He seems extremely affectionate, just like his big brother.

All in all, a beautiful baby and the perfect completion to our family.

For photos of this month, click here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Boars

Well, I guess we are now officially in the pig business...

SANY8651 It is getting time to wean Wanda's first litter, and thus time to breed her again. So we started looking for a boar. We found a couple of people who will rent their boars out in exchange for a piglet born of each sow bred. However neither of the boars were that great. Seeing as we have two sows that we will be breeding twice a year, we figured we should buy a boar and keep him permanently. We started looking around.

There was very little locally, but we eventually found one for sale. He looks like a Spotted Poland China and Tamworth mix and his name is now Macho. He is not very big - 10 months old and only 80 kilos - but he is beautiful, calm, and very hardy. He has been free-ranging over the mountains here and obviously knows what he is doing, as he is very healthy. We put him in a pen on his own until he and the girls get used to each other, but he already escaped and went to find them in their pasture. Luckily, they all seem to get on well and he is very gentle with the babies. But the girls did not appreciate him trying to mount them, so we separated him again (with a few amendments to his pen). Once the babies are weaned and the girls go into heat, they will all be able to run together, although we haven't decided yet if we will keep him for very long.

SANY8681 In the city, Abe also found a beautiful little boar, but he is only two months old and thus not able to do the job yet. He is a Landrace and Blue Butt mix. He is very intelligent and long in body. He will make the kind of babies that will sell well locally (while our older boar will make better pasture pigs). He is Leo's pig and Leo named him Amigo. He feeds and plays with him each day (several times a day!) and the little guy is getting real tame and tolerant.

[Please note that Macho is the only one of our pigs that looks clean. That is only because he is not yet hooked up to the water system, as we only brought him home yesterday (Abe is hooking him up as I write). As soon as the pigs have water, they make themselves a mud pool and roll around in it!]

We have also been looking into buying a milk cow, to give us and the pigs milk and cheese. We've found a couple of options so far, but haven't settled on anything. Will keep you posted.

Next major project on the property is a proper barn (with its own water catchment and tank of course).

For photos of our boys, click here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rain!


SANY8480 a video by velacreations on Flickr.

Yesterday, for the first time in 246 days, it rained! Only a tenth of an inch, but we are overjoyed. It cooled everything off a good 15 to 20 degrees.

Today, it got hot again, kicking up a bunch of humidity. Now, at 4pm it is raining again.

Thank goodness!

Gloria's first litter

SANY8471 Gloria, our second sow, farrowed yesterday morning during our first stormy night. She had 8 babies in total, but two were stillborn. Of the 6 remaining, 4 are male, 2 female.

Once again, they are cute as can be.

Wanda's piglets are now much bigger. It rained yesterday and they were frolicking around in the mud - happy as pigs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bob and Janet visit

SANY8464 My mom and step-dad (Janet and Bob) have just left, having been with us for the last 10 days.

The first time they visited us here was after Leo was born, when we lived in a small, one room house with dirt floors. Given the heat at that time and the lack of any kind of amenities, it is surprising they came back, but they have, a couple of times.

This, like that first visit, was the hottest and driest time of the year. We had asked them to bring us some rain (we haven't had any since September 28th), but they failed to do so. Other than that rather huge offense, they were the perfect house guests and we loved having them here!

SANY8334 They got to meet the rabbits and pigs, both new since they were last here, and even had piglets eating out of their hands and sucking on their fingers. But of course the animals were not really the reason they came, they came to meet the new grandson and play with the older one.

Nico is obviously too little to appreciate family visits, but Leo LOVED it. He happily gave up his room and bed for them, although he had originally done so under the assumption that he would be SHARING the bed with them. Janet was his pet - he told her what to do, what to say, where to go - everything was about Janet for the first few days. Bob told him stories and he and Abe took him kite flying, which he really enjoyed.

SANY8312 Leo is a very loving, fun, funny, sensitive child, but boy can he be obstinate and infuriating when he wants to be. He's had a rough month - mama was heavily pregnant, then an invalid with a new baby; papa has been busier than usual, picking up the slack of mama being out of action; both are getting less sleep and are thus less patient and energetic; and Leo has suffered some from all the changes. Then came Bob and Janet, which meant that he has been overexcited. He has missed much needed naps, and replaced them with a meltdown almost every day since we've had visitors. We all felt for him deeply, but at the same time could not let him get his way. Hopefully for all of us, this stage will not last long.

Leo will really miss his grandparents, as will we. It is the one thing that we do not like about our life here, that we are so far from both of our families.

Photos of their visit are in the set May '11, with other photos of the boys and us.

One Month Old

bath Nico is now a little over one month old, can you believe it? We took him to the clinic and he's doing great. After one week he weighed pretty much the same as when he was born, but after one month he has gained a whopping three and a half pounds! Not too surprising seeing as the little guy nurses A LOT, still every two hours for the most part, although he is starting to let a little more time lapse in between feeds.

He is overall an extremely calm and alert baby. He has colic (painful gas and poop), and so he cries and wriggles around when he has bouts of that. But when he's not in pain, he is truly the sweetest little thing. He will sit on his own for long periods of time, just looking around, but also loves to be held. He likes to be on his play mat and can already hit the shit out of his dangling toys. He LOVES baths and has never once made any protest at being put in water, even when it gets in his eyes.

SANY8353 Leo by this age was already smiling in response to things you did (kind of rare), and has continued to be extremely social ever since. He also did not like to be put down. Nico by comparison seems more serious, and more laid back. Obviously too soon to start characterizing him, but it is interesting to see the differences already shown. I really love the dynamics of having two sons, and am looking forward to them growing together.

For photos of this past month, click here.