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, September 30, 2015
We made a series of dry-stacked rock walls, back-filled with compacted dirt, to bring the old recycling area up level with the circle drive. It now allows for two or three level, shaded parking spots.
Terraces are a major part of our property development here, as we live on a hill. Almost everything we do involves digging out or filling in to create level areas. It can sometimes seem like a lot of extra work, but it has its advantages. We hope to one day have the whole 10 acres terraced in one way or another.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015
Last week, we made our first batch of juice of the year. We cut up a crate and a half of apples, which produced 5 gallons of juice. Half of those we froze (or drank) as juice, the other half is bubbling away as it turns into cider.
We have made a few improvements on our juice press, which we will document next time we make juice, now that the idea has been tested. Over the next couple of weeks, we hope to process another 10 gallons or so.
Juice and Cider
A High School Where College Is Not the Goal - At Randolph Technical High School in Philadelphia, students are learning about carpentry, culinary arts, and auto repair. Has the system given up on them, or has it saved them?
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Friday, September 25, 2015
For the past eight years, we have been saving (and even going out and collecting) anything that might one day be useful: PET bottles, glass, metal cans, cardboard, and paper. We had it all stored under a couple of Juniper trees to the south of our circle drive, but we decided to move it all to the workshop.
We made a few compartments, with roofs, to contain the junk and keep the wind from scattering it. Now, whenever we go to the shop to work on a project, we have everything we need close by - tools, materials, parts, and junk. It’s awesome.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
To get the actual juice from the tunas, we went through the same steps as we listed in the prickly pear jelly recipe in the Papa’s prickly pear paradise post (before any sugar or pectin are added).
From less than a crate of fruit, we got 10 liters of juice, to which we added 6 cups of sugar (to get 23 brix or 1.095 specific level). We then added 1 packet yeast.
After one week, we siphoned off the bubbling juice into a bottle and added an airlock. After two months total have passed, we will rack it off, making sure there’s no airspace in the bottle. We will then have to rack it off every couple of months until it turns clear.
We have tried it a couple of times, and though the taste is pretty raw (beer-like), it is developing a distinct and interesting flavor. The one true downside though is that you’re supposed to wait a whole year before drinking it.
Prickly Pear Wine
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Saturday, September 19, 2015
My local market sells hardwood charcoal with no additives. Can I crush this up and add it to my soil as a biochar?
Friday, September 18, 2015
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Monday, September 14, 2015
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Friday, September 11, 2015
On our way down to school, we play various games, like I-spy and alphabet games and such. The latest has been a “Who am I?” animal game. You think of an animal, and then the others have to guess what you are by asking questions like “Are you a mammal?”, “Do you live in Africa?”, etc. Nicky is especially enthralled with this game and wants to play it ALL THE TIME.
Anyway, one of the things that came up that they didn’t know about previously was the group Amphibians. We explained the whole metamorphoses between water and land creature, talking about frogs as the example. That was all it took, they decided they had to have some tadpoles. They bugged us continually to go look for some, and so, one day after school, we stopped by the river to hunt for tadpoles.
We caught several, one of which even had legs already. We then set up a little habitat for them at home, with gravel, plants, food and clean water. The kids feed them every day and get to watch any changes. Once they get big enough we will then release them down by the pond.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
We recently cut a bunch of big weeds throughout the forest garden and around the place to make silage for the rabbits. With the weeds gone, the ground was somewhat exposed to the heat, and it has been a very hot and dry August.
So we decided to cut huge areas of a grass that the rabbits aren’t fond of. We then spread it through the second row of the forest garden and throughout the circle drive. Both places have several new trees planted, and we wanted to make sure that these young trees retained some moisture in between waterings.
Mulch is an absolute miracle for any garden or orchard area. We spread it thick (at least 6”) wherever we have anything important growing, and it truly does wonders for the plants and soil.
"Everything I do is online, and I make sure every decision I make is so that I am not stuck in an office." - QUARTERLIVES: Kevin's Story
Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Over the years we have collected a lot of “junk”. This includes lumber, metal, PVC, motors, barrels, and much, much more. Basically anything we think we might one day need, we keep. Lots of people would object to this kind of hoarding, but it has been invaluable to us time and time again. Every time we make a prototype of some invention, contraption or doo-hicky, we rummage through our junk-pile and find the things we need, at least to test a theory. It saves us having to go to the city before we even know whether or not an idea will work. Spare parts are saved, just in case we need something and can’t make it to a store.
The junkyard was located to one side of our driveway. However, now that we have a workshop that houses all our tools and other materials, we decided to consolidate. We have now moved everything useful around the shop. We still lack a few bits and pieces, but the vast majority is done, and more or less organized. It is also mostly hidden from view, unless you are walking towards the shop.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Monday, September 7, 2015
The other day, Abe butchered one of the young Muscovy drakes.
He made himself a poultry kill-cone, to make the nasty part as quick and easy as possible (for both the animals’s and his sakes). It worked really well, and definitely minimized any trauma. He then skinned it, which he said was pretty tricky. Next time, we’ll try plucking it, to be able to compare the two methods.
For our first recipe attempt, we decided to do a traditional roast. We wanted to keep it fairly simple, so that we could really taste the meat and decide what would go well with it. It was very akin to roast beef in both flavor and texture. Leo ate about four helpings!
So far we are extremely impressed with the meat. We have a long learning curve ahead of us, on both the butchering and cooking front, but our experiments promise to be very enjoyable. We have plans for smoking, disco, fruit glazes (especially with prickly pear syrup), and many more.
The one thing we noticed about our drake that differed from our expectations is that he didn't have much fat. Muscovies are supposed to have a layer of fat, similar to pork. However, our ducks love to fly, and they also walk back and forth to the pond at the bottom of the property. Maybe the added exercise has affected the meat, as they certainly eat plenty of food, of all kinds (from grain to weeds to viscera), and usually have some left over.
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Saturday, September 5, 2015
Friday, September 4, 2015
The grey water from our shower and sinks goes into two 10 ft long wicking beds inside the house. The water passes through a drainage pipe which has holes in it, and seeps into a gravel bed. There is then high quality soil on top of the gravel bed, which, along with the plants’ roots, wicks up the water.
We used to have cherry tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, rosemary and citronella planted there. However, there were two problems with these choices. Firstly, they all, except for the spinach, grow super tall and cover the whole windows and their beautiful views. Secondly, we had an infestation of white flies. For the past couple of years, I have been constantly battling this pesky little plague. Several times, I thought I had won the fight, only to have them return again.
So, I dug up the whole garden. I then put a thick layer of compost down and covered it. As it heated up, any remaining white fly eggs were (hopefully) killed. I then stirred up the soil and planted some new foliage. We now have thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, and some flowers. None of these grow tall, so we get to keep our views, and I can go and pick the herbs I need while I’m cooking. I still have to go outside for things like sage, rosemary and mint, but that’s OK.
So far, not a single white fly...
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