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/
Thursday, June 30, 2016
Whenever we get back from a trip, Abe usually spends at least an hour walking around the forest garden, checking on all his trees and shrubs. It’s his way of relaxing and unwinding, and it always increases the joy of coming home. Unfortunately, this trip was different; we came home to disaster.
The guys that had been checking up on things had warned us of the destruction, so it wasn’t a complete surprise. They had come to work one day and the cows, 20 or 30 of them, were everywhere. They had broken the perimeter fence in a few places to get in, and had destroyed all the fences around the garden and orchard. They ate just about everything green. They even ate all the mulch.
All the time, energy, money and devotion that we’d put into our young forest was wiped out in a single day and night by cows that were starving on their overgrazed land. At first, we were devastated and depressed. However, as the days have gone by we have gained a more positive outlook. One of the more demanding aspects of homesteading is that disasters do happen. Sooner or later, if you choose this life, you will have to face an overwhelming urge to give up. But you can’t let that urge win, or you’ll lose out on all the very positive aspects of homesteading.
The key is to learn from the disasters. We will obviously be spending some time and money improving and heightening our perimeter fence. We have also devised some ways to reforest that might bear fruit quicker than we had been doing. And we’re going to test a Food Web technique to reforest sections of our property and improve its retention of water. If the latter works, we hope to use it as an example to others around us to restore their overgrazed land.
As I write, we have already replanted the garden, and we have hundreds of seeds that are either germinating in wet paper or have been planted in pots or straight into the ground. Abe’s started over 300 trees in the last few days. We feel a lot happier now.
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
How to Revive Local Agriculture in the United States - Small farms are eager to meet growing demand for local, sustainable, & organic food—if only the federal govt would trim regulations and get behind their efforts.
Monday, June 27, 2016
It’s been 12 years since we last visited my relatives in both England and Portugal, and a trip was long overdue. None of my aunts, uncles, and cousins had met my kids, and there were a ton of youngsters that I’d never met. It was a wonderful reunion.
The trip itself left a lot to be desired, what with missed connection flights, delays, overzealous security measures, airport food, long flights, etc. But it was all worth it. And funnily enough, the kids actually loved the traveling. Sure, they didn’t appreciate the waiting or the long lines of “yet another immigration”, but they did like the trains, planes, escalators, their own TV on the long-haul flights. In fact, they had so much fun that Leo has decided he wants to “travel” when he gets older, which sounds familiar!
After the dry heat that we experience at home this time of year, England was amazing. So green and cool, and of course it rained most of our days there. We had to wear sweaters and socks! Abe was enchanted by the quantity and size of all the trees and plants, and we spent a fair amount of time walking through the woods by my grandparents’ beautiful home.
The highlight for the kids was definitely the cousins. They got to spend time with my uncle’s kids, another uncle’s grandkids, my sister’s boys (who all came over from the States). It was a genuine kids’ convention. They actually all got on really, really well. Nicky is still sad at having to leave Daniel, who’s a little older than he is and has three sisters.
We also spent a few days in Portugal, seeing my dad. Although we have seen each other more often (at reunions at my mom’s house), it’s been a long time since I’ve been back to the place where I spent my formative years. His house, which he built himself, is truly amazing. The kids loved the pool and beach most, but for us the highlight was a drive up into the Alentejo (and of course the food). We went and walked around a village and castle that overlooks hundreds of miles of surrounding lakes and hills. It dates back to prehistoric times, with the main castle being built in the 8th century when the Moors invaded.
The main drawback to the trip was definitely the lack of time. We could have happily spent longer in each place, with each set of family, and I would have loved to have caught up with some old friends too. Still, two weeks was better than nothing, and maybe next time we can go for longer.
To see the full flickr set, click here.
Now we all can improve our soil fertility, using these simple organic methods. Even applying any single strategy will help in the long run
A windtower (wind catcher) (Persian: بادگیر bâdgir: bâd "wind" + gir "catcher") is a traditional Persian architectural element to create natural ventilation in buildings
The Push to Make Pears the New Apples - A horticulturist wants a different fruit to rule America’s grocery aisles.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Friday, June 24, 2016
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Meet the latest addition to our family. We first saw him/her a couple of weeks ago, when it was a small baby. It's been living in our inside garden and seems to be growing well. The kids have loved seeing him about the place and consider it their pet.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Monday, June 20, 2016
We started drinking our 2015 cider when my parents came to visit at Christmas. It was good then, but now that it has had a chance to mature, it is truly excellent. It’s smooth, tasty, fizzy, and surprisingly strong.
Abe’s recipe and efforts have steadily improved over the past couple of years, and we are now to the stage when we can increase our production.
The guys that work for us around the place both have a lot of apple trees, and each time they taste the cider, they vow to bring us more and more apples. It seems like every cold glass that they and Abe have together, the size of this coming year’s batch increases - from 20 gallons, to 50, to 200, to... maybe I should stop them drinking together :)
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Saturday, June 18, 2016
This soft, flexible power generator creates energy when bent, pressed or stretched. In a wristband it can light up several dozen LEDs with the motion of your wrist (10-20 microwatts per cm), and costs less than 1 US dollar to make.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Thursday, June 16, 2016
In amongst all our other work, we still have had to find time for our plants and animals. The animal setup is well-developed, and despite the birth hundreds of baby rabbits, ducks, and chickens, it requires little work. The plant-life, on the other hand, is still a work in progress.
We have planted most of our annual garden (the rest will be done once the rains start), and it is really thriving. In another month, we won’t have to buy hardly any veggies.
As for the orchard (forest garden), it continues to be increased. Abe started about 100 trees and shrubs over the winter, many of which have been planted out. We have two rows of the forest garden that are full of trees, shrubs, vines, and ground cover, and two more rows that are being prepped. We’ve also increased the little forests in the circle drives and down at the town house.
It’s actually a very rewarding kind of chore. While we’ve been spending so much time working on the computer, it’s strangely relaxing to have to go out and play in the dirt. There’s something inherently therapeutic about watching life grow and thrive.
For more photos, see the flickr set.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Monday, June 13, 2016
A friend of ours from Terlingua, Mike, came to stay with us a week or so ago, and Abe’s mom, Vickie, hitched a ride.
It was awesome to see them. Mike had never been here and it’s been a while for Vickie, so that made the visit extra special.
Unfortunately, it was only for a couple of days, which passed way too quickly. Still, we had fun, seeing a couple of the local sites, and chilling in each other’s company. The kids, as always, loved the extra attention, and were especially sad to see them go.
For more photos, click here.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Friday, June 10, 2016
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Now we get to Abe’s major project that has sucked up most of his time these last few months. He has been designing and developing a web-based app to manage rabbits. And it is awesome!
For those of you who don’t have rabbits, it’s hard to understand how tedious the paperwork can be. They breed like, well, like rabbits, which means an enormous amount of kits (babies) each year. You need to put does (females) in with a buck (male), then pregnancy check her, then put a nest box in where she can kindle (have her babies), and see how many were born. You also need to weigh the kits, several times, and wean them when they’re ready. Not to mention monitoring all your rabbits’ health and happiness. It all mounts up, and our paperwork consisted of an overall schedule, breeding charts, information and stats on individual does and bucks, litter charts, income and expense records, and a little-used sick chart.
All that paperwork is now obsolete with Abe’s app, called Hutch. It does it all, with a quick swipe of the finger. There’s a schedule, which emails your weekly tasks, detailed production reports, an income/expense ledger, litter manager and tracking, breeder management, pedigrees, transfers between rabbit owners, and much more. I love it, especially things like reports, which allows us to quickly see if any doe is performing badly or if there are any issues we need to address (analyzing that information by hand was very time consuming).
So anyway, the app is now open to the public. It has over 1,200 users and 17,000 rabbits in the system, already!
That doesn’t mean that Abe’s work is over, as we are continually developing and improving the app with user feedback. We have a long list of features that we want to include, and they will get done as we raise sufficient funds. We hope to provide the ultimate rabbit app before we then go on to make ones for poultry, pigs, goats, fish, etc.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Monday, June 6, 2016
The reason I haven’t blogged in so long is that both Abe and I have been completely occupied and obsessed by a couple of big projects. I’ll deal with Abe’s in a different post, but mine was organizing a science fair at our local primary school (as I mentioned in the post on "Starting a Science Fair").
Because it was the first time the kids had ever done anything like this, it ended up being a lot more work than I had originally anticipated. There are 25 kids in the school, whom I helped with each stage of the scientific process (proposition, hypothesis, experiment, experiment plan and list of materials, results and graphs, conclusions). Still, when it was all said and done, it was well worth it.
We did almost all the experiments together in class, which the kids loved (of course!). They also really liked seeing the end result, when all the work they’d done was on their presentation boards.
The event itself, held on 12th May, was great. We had three judges, who went around looking at each project and talking to the kid who did it. Every kid got participation prizes, but we also had some cooler prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places for each of the three groups (1st/2nd grade, 3rd/4th grade, and 5th/6th grade). Different friends, family and acquaintances had donated old phones, tablets, laptops, and cameras for these prizes. These were a huge incentive to the kids and very much appreciated.
I’m kind of relieved it’s all over and I get a little free time to relax and catch up with all the jobs I’ve been neglecting. However, it is definitely something I want to repeat. We’ll be making it into an annual event, even if the theme of the project changes from year to year. If you would like to donate a prize for the next school year, I have a public Amazon wishlist going, from which you can purchase any of the prizes.
Here's some of the projects. To see the full flickr set, click here.
Science Fair Success
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Friday, June 3, 2016
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