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/

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Piglets

SANY9946 Gloria had her 2nd litter of piglets yesterday. We knew they would be arriving, as she had milk that morning, had made a beautiful nest and was panting.

The first one was born at 4.08, the last (which was breech) at 5.45. There were 13 in total. One was stillborn and the runt didn't make it through the night, so we are left with 11 healthy little piglets. And they are beautiful. You forget how small they are, and how cute.

SANY9925 There are 6 females, 5 males; 3 black spotted, 1 red, 7 white.

For more photos, click here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wild Honey

SANY9856 We continue to forage for food for us and the pigs. We have now stopped gathering grass for hay, as it is drying out, and have moved instead to river cane (which the pigs LOVE) and willow branches. We are also starting to collect some of the numerous wild plants that are edible for us, including a big bag of mint.

But, the score of the week has been delicious HONEY. A hive had made itself at home in a meter box type thing for the local water system. We were asked to remove them. Abe opened it up and removed all the brood comb and most of the honey, and placed it inside a bee box we had at the house. He then closed the lid of the manhole and set the box over the hole. He put dirt all around the two, so that the bees would have to go through our box to get out.

SANY9869 We went to check on them after a couple of days, and they seem quite happily moved into their new home. After a while, once they have had chance to clean up, we will move the box away from the manhole.

While Abe was in there though, he took out some of the honey comb for us. We have had such a bad year with water and flowers that we won't be robbing our bees. These guys however have plenty of flowers as they live down at the apple ranch (where we will now be moving all our bees). The honey is dark and wonderful. We removed it from the comb using the sun's heat, so it is still raw, and boy is it good.

for more photos click here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Three and a half Years.

SANY9826 Leo's just turned 3 1/2 years old. Crazy. I don't tend to write much on him on his own any more, mostly because the changes are less pronounced than in a baby. And yet he does change. Now, looking at him, there really isn't any baby left. He's suddenly this boy - willful, sharp as an arrow, inquisitive, loving, deaf (selectively), willful. And he seems so independent, wanting to do everything on his own, and generally succeeding, sometimes coming up with an ingenious way to accomplish some task or other unaided.

He's a skinny little kid with the energy of a firecracker. He eats pretty good (though not always without a little "no dessert" bribery), but none of it goes to him growing, as he burns it all off the second we let him down from the table!! He runs around outside, playing with the animals, rocks, plants, bugs, etc. We have to constantly yell at him to put his shoes on, as he's not that fond of shoes and much prefers to run barefoot.

He is curious about everything, and there's just a constant sound of "why" around our house. For the most part, we try and answer his questions, but we usually end up saying "Because we said so" in a somewhat frustrated tone!

He loves his brother very, very much. In fact, he is a very loving child. Cuddles and kisses anyone who asks for it, which everyone does as he is adored in the village, especially by the little girls at his school.

School is a definite success. He loves everything about it - the kids, the teacher, the work they do, even his homework. His Spanish is getting better ever day (both English and Spanish are used). English continues to be his stronger language for now. He still has trouble pronouncing "L", but his grammar is getting really good, differentiating between the tenses.

SANY9847 Unfortunately for him, he can't go to school right now. He has chicken pox! Poor little guy. He actually doesn't seem to have too bad of a case, and it looks like the spots are already fading without ever having gotten too itchy. I really hope I'm not speaking too soon!

Leo definitely exhibits a lot of characteristics that I will really enjoy in him when he gets older, but that right now can be...um...difficult (have I mentioned that he is willful?). He is super tidy, very independent, questions authority - all qualities to be respected, but in a three year old? He spends a fair amount of time getting into trouble with us and us saying things like "why won't you listen?", but I guess it's just his age. The good thing is that we love him so very much that we are unlikely top kill him... yet!

For photos of this month, click here.

Clothesline

SANY9839 We just a made a new clothesline. Our old one was strung up between a tree and a water tank, and was kind of in the way. This one has more than three times the capacity (over 150 feet of line and room for a lot more) and doesn't take up near the space.

We actually made it a little too large for most people. The boards we bought were 8 feet long, so we just used them as is without cutting them down. Space is not an issue for us, so we figured "why not!". Besides, the design allows us to fold it up should we ever need to.

I especially like that it swivels, so I don't have to move when hanging out the laundry.

Parts and construction are very simple. We'll post a how-to soon.

Click here for more photos.

Five months old

SANY9791 The months just keep ticking by, with Nico now 5 months old (actually 5 1/2, seeing as it's taken me so long to post). I cuddle him and breathe in his babiness as often as I can, knowing that this stage will soon be over. With Leo, every age and event was new and exciting to us, and so we loved seeing him grow and change. With Nico, being our last child, we want it all to slow down a little and let us savor the moments, but he's not being cooperative and just keeps on growing at an alarming rate. In fact, the time seems to be going even faster than before. Oh well, it does have its upsides, getting to see what kind of boys my babies are turning into is a pleasure in of itself.

I guess the most important change this month is that his first tooth has come through. He has been a drooling mess for two months now, but it's paying off. The bottom right is through and the bottom left will appear over the next day or so. So, one down, nineteen baby teeth to go... sigh! I wish they didn't hurt him so much.

SANY9820 He eats a little real food at most mealtimes - applesauce, bananas, carrots, ceareal. He loves it all and eyes our food with genuine desire. He'll stare at your plate and follow the fork from the food to your mouth, with his mouth hanging open. I keep expecting him to use some Jedi mind trick to move the fork of his own volition, but so far we remain in control. His communication skills are improving because of his desire. He'll stare at his bowl or water cup and VIBRATE. When you ask him "water?" or "eat?" he'll break out in a huge grin and grunt until you give him the food.

We have now officially entered the "nothing is safe" part of babyhood. He grabs at EVERYTHING, and is coordinated enough to get it. Leo especially likes it when Nicky grabs him, his hair, his clothes (although not always so keen when he grabs his toys!). The two of them are really starting to play together, it's adorable, but potentially very annoying. For example, Leo likes to make him laugh, and does so at the table while Nico's eating, which results in food going everywhere. So, we have made a rule - no playing at the table, and Leo gets in trouble when he doesn't obey it. Leo finds it hard enough to resist, but Nico makes it a whole bunch worse by staring at him, waiting for his antics. When Leo is good and doesn't do anything, Nico squeals and flaps his arms up and down, which renders Leo helpless! We see years ahead of us of the two boys conspiring and ganging up against us.

SANY9824 His eyes are starting to change color. No longer the blue of his birth, but something in between that and brown. His hair, what little he has, is now turning blond. Everything just like his big brother. We've been looking at photos of Leo as a baby, and though not identical, you can tell without any doubt that they are brothers. I know lots of people say that Nico is fat, but actually Leo was just the same, surprisingly enough. He looks skinny now, but at Nico's age he was only 0.2kg lighter (and a little shorter). If anything, Leo's cheeks seemed fatter.

We've been leaving Nico without a diaper recently. He does most of his poops in the potty, but not his pees. With his diaper off we can learn his patterns and signs a lot better. We'll see how it goes.

Nico is very quick to laugh, just like Leo was. We notice that our family does a lot of laughing, and we hope that is the same for everyone.

For photos this month, click here.

Chispito

SANY9760 Our home-made wind generator, Chispito, has been out of action for a little while. Its PVC blades broke last spring and we haven't had time to fix them. The wind we would get in Terlingua was stronger than here, but it was steady. Here we get tremendous gusts, and those sudden bolts of power broke our previous blades a couple of times.

So, this past week, Abe made a few adjustments. Instead of its previous design, which was a horizontal axis machine, he converted it to a vertical axis generator. The conversion was fairly simple and the new blades he designed have a strong metal framework, and then a metal skin and a PVC scoop attached to it.

It probably won't produce as much power in lighter winds, but it is much stronger. Besides, we don't really get much in the way of light winds. It's usually calm here or windy as hell.

Our wind season is fall and spring, and the fall winds have just started. After he'd put it up it didn't stop turning for two days straight. It's great to have Chispito back in action. It seemed sad and incomplete for our property to be without a wind generator.

We'll put more photos here, but for now there's just a little video.

Apple press

SANY9732 We've been processing a lot of apples, while they're in season, to make them last one way or another all year. Drying, freezing and juicing.

The apple juice is delicious, but won't last long. We've got three gallons in the freezer and the rest we made into cider. The downside however to juice is that it is a time consuming process when you don't have the right equipment, so Abe made us an apple press. The press is useful for all kinds of things, but apple juice was the motivation we needed to make it. It works a treat and allowed us to press the juice out of the ground apples very quickly.

Next piece of equipment we'll need is a grinder. For now, we used our meat grinder after cutting the apples into small pieces, but it was slow. We have plans for a machine that will grind a bushel of whole apples in five minutes, but we couldn't find the parts we needed in time to make it for this year. We aim to make it for next apple season.

For more photos, click here.