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:

Monday, August 31, 2015

Benjamin Disraeli

"Nature, like man, sometimes weeps from gladness." - Benjamin Disraeli

Solar Water Boiler


Last week, Abe finished installing a solar water boiler on the roof of the town house’s bathroom. It is a unit that comes with 10 vacuum tubes (which heat the water, even on cloudy days), a frame, and a 30 gallon tank. It took him two days to install and plumb, and cost $250 total.

solarboilerRight now, we have it connected to the shower, washing machine, and bathroom sink. The boys and I have all taken showers down there, and done a couple of loads of laundry, and there has been no sign of there being insufficient hot water. Even if you were to use it up, it heats very quickly, so you’d only have to wait an hour for more. I had originally thought that there might not be hot water in the morning, but today I had a shower right after dropping Nicky off at pre-school, and it was great at 9 am. In fact, the only real downside is that you have to be careful to mix in plenty of cold water, or else you’ll burn yourself!

The post Solar Water Boiler appeared first on VelaCreations.

Solar Water Boiler

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Rabindranath Tagore

"Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." - Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, August 29, 2015

John Keats

"The poetry of the earth is never dead." - John Keats

34 Indigenous Crops Promoting Health and Feeding the World.

34 Indigenous Crops Promoting Health and Feeding the World.

Fruit fly trap (household ingredients only)

Fruit fly trap (household ingredients only)

Illustration from Th

Illustration from Th -

Paul Stamets - Mycelium Running 1 of 5

Paul Stamets - Mycelium Running 1 of 5

Hawaii's Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It's Not Using Natural Gas As A 'Transition'

Hawaii's Going 100 Percent Renewable, And It's Not Using Natural Gas As A 'Transition'

Best Cider Apple Varieties

Best Cider Apple Varieties

How to make a fur ha

How to make a fur ha -

These look interesti

These look interesti -

How to propagate ros

How to propagate ros -

These look really go

These look really go -

Deep irrigation usin

Deep irrigation usin -

Rapidobe Walls. Che

Rapidobe Walls. Che -

100-year old way to

100-year old way to -

Clever ideas on harv

Clever ideas on harv -

A passive solar gree

A passive solar gree -

Rain Harvesting Into

Rain Harvesting Into -

How to make cheap an

How to make cheap an -

Fermented Chicken Fe

Fermented Chicken Fe -

5 DIY Backyard Compo

5 DIY Backyard Compo -

Find fruit trees and

Find fruit trees and -

Simple square foot g

Simple square foot g -

I bet a lot of these

I bet a lot of these -

Sometimes seen as a

Sometimes seen as a -

Victory Garden For A

Victory Garden For A -

Prickly Pears

Friday, August 28, 2015

John Burroughs

"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." - John Burroughs

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Khalil Gibran

"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens." - Khalil Gibran

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Charles Lindbergh

"If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes." - Charles Lindbergh

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

John Muir

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." - John Muir

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mahatma Gandhi

"The good man is the friend of all living things." - Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, August 23, 2015

William Wordsworth

"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." - William Wordsworth

Saturday, August 22, 2015

R. Buckminster Fuller

"The earth is like a spaceship that didn't come with an operating manual." - R. Buckminster Fuller

Friday, August 21, 2015

Francois Rabelais

"If the skies fall, one may hope to catch larks." - Francois Rabelais

Stocking Your Fish F

Stocking Your Fish F -

Ferro-cement Walls

Ferro-cement Walls -

A good guide on prun

A good guide on prun -

How to Keep Mosquito

How to Keep Mosquito -

This would be fun to

This would be fun to -

Hanging Potholder

Hanging Potholder -

Capturing and storin

Capturing and storin -

We love venison!

We love venison! -

15 Chicken Coop Desi

15 Chicken Coop Desi -

Cow VS Goat: Which o

Cow VS Goat: Which o -

Some good advice on

Some good advice on -

This is a nice butch

This is a nice butch -

We've tried this sys

We've tried this sys -

How to Grow White Tr

How to Grow White Tr -

"Tired of city life stresses, many Chinese return to farming." - NPR

"Tired of city life stresses, many Chinese return to farming." - NPR

PVC Chicken Feeder (Instructables)

PVC Chicken Feeder (Instructables)

Recipe and guidance on eating with the season

Recipe and guidance on eating with the season

Reconnecting with soil through art and culture.

Reconnecting with soil through art and culture.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nikolai Gogol

"Countless as the sands of the sea are human passions." - Nikolai Gogol

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stephen Gardiner

"Land is the secure ground of home, the sea is like life, the outside, the unknown." - Stephen Gardiner

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Roy Rogers

"What's a butterfly garden without butterflies?" - Roy Rogers

Our Property


Here’s our hill in 2007.


And here it is now.


Every year we get a little more done, and our place is slowly turning into the dreams we have for it.

The post Our Property appeared first on VelaCreations.

Our Property

Monday, August 17, 2015

Oliver Cromwell

"Nature can do more than physicians." - Oliver Cromwell

Tire Toys


With an old tire, cut in half, a piece of square tubing, and a couple of pieces of scrap lumber, he made a teeter-totter and a “horse”.

It only took him a couple of hours, and the kids got to help, which they really enjoyed.

They love the toys, and have already spent a lot more time playing with them than it took to make them. A great little project.

The post Tire Toys appeared first on VelaCreations.

Tire Toys

Sunday, August 16, 2015

John Webster

"Eagles commonly fly alone. They are crows, daws, and starlings that flock together." - John Webster

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

"Man is a creative retrospection of nature upon itself." - Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel

Agroecology as a Tool for Liberation: Transforming Industrial Agribusiness in El Salvador

Agroecology as a Tool for Liberation: Transforming Industrial Agribusiness in El Salvador

Jam and Jelly


We have one young plum tree that produces so heavily that we cannot keep up with eating the fresh fruit. We all do our part, especially the boys, who are constantly picking fruit and stuffing their faces, but it’s not enough.

The tree in question is an Italian plum, which is the variety used for prunes, so we’ll definitely have to dry some as well, but in the meantime we figured we’d make jam.

Plum Jam

We used about 54 plums and turned them into four pints of DELICIOUS jam. Here’s the recipe:


  • 3 lb plums, washed and de-stoned
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Fill a canning pot with enough water to cover the jars with an inch or two of water.
  2. Heat the water, with the clean jars and lids inside to sterilize them. It takes a while to heat this much water, so best to get it going before you start on the fruit.
  3. Combine all ingredients in a pot over high heat.
  4. Bring to a boil, mashing with a potato masher.
  5. Stir frequently until the mixture clings to a spoon and falls off slowly (about 15 minutes).
  6. Spoon the hot mixture into jars, wiping the sides and rims with a clean cloth.
  7. Finger-tighten the lids.
  8. Lower the cans into the canner, and bring to a boil.
  9. Once the water is boiling, start your timer. We boiled them for 15 minutes (we live at an elevation of 6300 - less time is required for lower elevations).
  10. Remove jars and cool. Check the seal.

Mint Jelly

While we had the canner going, we also tried out some mint jelly, to fill up the space. We planted mint last year throughout the forest garden and it has taken over. It doesn’t actually die back completely in winter, but there is less, and I usually reserve it for cooking. So, we decided to try out a mint jelly recipe. It turned out great, and we can use it in the winter months on pancakes and the like, or just add it to water as a tea. If we had access to lamb, I would make mint sauce as well, as that was one of my favorite dishes when I lived in England (my grandmother, Pam, is an excellent cook and produced countless delicious meals, but her roast lamb with mint sauce was one of the best and holds very fond taste-memories).


This recipe makes 2 half pint jars.

  • 3 cups, tightly packed, mint
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp low sugar pectin
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  1. Wash the leaves and stems, and crush or chop them finely.
  2. Add the mint and water to a pot and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain off the the mint (using cheese cloth or nylon).
  5. Measure 4 1/2 cups of the tea and put it into a pot. If you want it to come out green, you can add two drops of food coloring.
  6. Mix a 1/4 cup of sugar with the pectin and add it to the tea. Mix well.
  7. Add the butter to reduce foaming.
  8. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
  9. Add the rest of the sugar.
  10. Return to a rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  11. Pour into hot jars.
  12. Finger tighten lids and lower into the canner.
  13. Once the water is boiling, process for 10 - 15 minutes.

The kids have been so excited with all the jelly, and have wanted pancakes or biscuits every day. We had two half jars of jelly and jam, which went straight to the fridge instead of being canned - those jars are now empty, after only two days. We have had to explain to them that the purpose of canning is to save your produce for winter when there isn’t any fresh fruit - they are having trouble with the concept!

The post Jam and Jelly appeared first on VelaCreations.

Jam and Jelly

Friday, August 14, 2015

Luis Barragan

"A garden must combine the poetic and he mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy." - Luis Barragan

John Dryden

"Self-defence is Nature's eldest law." - John Dryden

Vladimir Nabokov

"The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea." - Vladimir Nabokov

Nicholas Culpeper

"Waters are distilled out of Herbs, Flowers, Fruits, and Roots." - Nicholas Culpeper

Ruth St. Denis

"We have the capacity to receive messages from the stars and the songs of the night winds." - Ruth St. Denis



There are many ways to grow trees, depending on which type you’re talking about, and Abe has been trying them all.

Planting from seed is slow, but effective, for the ones that come true (are like their parents). This is generally the method we choose for the native trees, which we plant mainly to reforest our hill. For example, last year, when the oaks produced a lot of acorns, Abe and the boys walked all over the property planting seeds along the contours. Not all of these will make it, but some will, with no further effort or water from us. Another good reason for planting seeds is when you can’t find the live plant - ordering a seed online is sometimes the only way we’ll find some of the varieties that we want in our forest garden.

Another form of propagation is to take cuttings and root them. We’ve had some success with this method, but not as much as we would like. Abe has made a propagator, but it is still a work in progress, ironing out kinks in both temperature and humidity control. It’s faster than seeds, but involves quite a bit of time and care. We plan to build a greenhouse porch onto the house at some point, and that space will be almost entirely dedicated to our budding nursery (though a spot will be saved for some chairs and hammocks!).

We also have trees that produce shoots from their roots. We have dug these up and put them in pots. We’re not entirely sure what they are, as we bought the trees originally from a nursery and they may have used a different root stock than the tree that grew. If this is the case, we will just draft the variety we want onto this root stock, as they did.

Air-layering is the latest method that we’re trying out. You basically cut the bark off a limb, add root hormone to the wound, and surround it with moist peat moss. Roots will form within the ball of peat moss and you can then cut the limb off the tree and plant it. The huge benefit of this system is that you can combine your pruning with producing more trees. If you have to prune a large limb, you also get to start off with a pretty big tree. Air layering also has the benefit of starting with mature trees, so there is no waiting for fruit, like with seeds.

The other day, Abe did a test on two trees, an apricot and a mulberry. It’ll take a couple of months to see how it works, but if it does, we will be air-layering all over the place! We’ve already come up with a few ways to improve our technique, and once we’ve got it all perfected, we’ll do a full how-to.

The post Air-layering appeared first on VelaCreations.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

John Dryden

"Self-defence is Nature's eldest law." - John Dryden

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Vladimir Nabokov

"The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea." - Vladimir Nabokov

Tire Toys

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