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, August 31, 2016
The vast majority of our year here is dry, and the land is generally brown. However, once the rains start in June/July, the whole vista undergoes an amazing change. Everything gets green and our property seems to explode with growth. And somehow it always takes us by surprise, year after year.
Each day, we cut weeds for the rabbits, poultry, and pigs, but that doesn't even make a dent. We try and keep on top of the weeding, but we always get behind. So this weekend, we started attacking the weeds with a vengeance. We cut a bunch with a scythe, and all around the paths and road with a weed-eater. It'll take a while to get through it all, but little by little we'll get there.
Some of the weeds are left in place to nourish the soil, some we compost to use in the garden, and then the rest we dry, or chip and turn into silage, for the animals to eat during winter. The amount of biomass that is produced is staggering. In a way, we wish it was like this year-round, but on the other hand, that sounds like a lot of work!
Monday, August 29, 2016
A few years ago, we made a top bar bee hive out of half a 55 gallon barrel, which we called the "Honey Cow". We caught a swarm to inhabit it and the hive is now rocking and rolling. There are an enormous amount of bees, and the barrel is almost completely full of both brood and honey.
This weekend, we decided to rob some honey. We didn't take much, only 8 lb of strained honey. We figure we can always take some more in a month or so if we need to. For us, every drop we get is a bonus, as we do absolutely nothing for the bees (we don't feed them or even check on them that often).
The honey is dark and beautiful, a lot of which is due to oak blossoms. It's said that dark oak honey like this is even better for you than most honey (like we needed an excuse to eat more of it!). You can see the difference in color between ours and store bought stuff from the photo.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Friday, August 26, 2016
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
We used to have pigs, and loved them, but the breeders grew so big and ate so much that we got rid of them. It was an animal that we have really missed having.
So a few days ago, we bought a couple of potbelly piglets, and they are the cutest little things. Despite being almost 4 months old, they are still tiny. Even when full grown, they shouldn't be more than 150 lb. This will keep their feed costs down, especially as they are excellent foragers, so can live mostly off the land (with a few kitchen scraps, butcher waste, and treats).
The two we have are from different parents and will be kept as a breeding pair. The kids are already in love, and spend most of their free time with them, giving them grapes and other tidbits. For the moment they are living in one of the barn pens, but as soon as they've gotten used to us and their new home, we will put them out in the pasture.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Monday, August 22, 2016
When it rains hard and fast, so much of the water runs off, especially where there are few plants. Over time, this can form arroyos and remove the top soil from the land, which will decrease plant-life and worsen the situation. To be fair, our land is in pretty good shape these days, but we are continually trying to improve it. We are in the process of building swales across the contours, to help keep the water in place. When these swales are level, the water doesn't run, but instead is absorbed by the soil. This will help water all the hundreds of little trees we're planting.
The trench in these pictures is not one of those! On occasion, you want the rain to run, especially if you have a huge pond to fill! We had very little rain last year, and most of the rain in July (which wasn't that much) was slow and didn't run, so our pond was low.
This trench that we've just dug runs across several hundred feet of our neighbor's property. The land that the trench cuts across is fairly overgrazed and so run-off has increased. By digging the trench just off-level, not only have we slowed down the run-off (which should improve the soil and plant-life in place), but we are also directing the flow to where we want it to go, our pond.
Once the ground was saturated with an inch or two of slow, soaking rain, we then had a fast inch. You can see how much the pond came up in just that inch. And, of course, the trench has become the kids' new favorite playground. If it rains during the day, you can pretty much guarantee that the kids will run outside, to splash up and down the trench!
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Saturday, August 20, 2016
Friday, August 19, 2016
Thursday, August 18, 2016
18 Years of Data Links Neonics to Bee Decline: 'The negative effects that have been reported previously do scale up to long-term, large-scale multi-species impacts that are harmful'
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Since the cows ate everything in June, it has rained. Admittedly, it was the lowest rainfall in July that we've had since we've been here, but it was enough. Many of the trees have come back, and some of the shrubs too. In fact, on some things, the "pruning" has just made the growth explode.
Yes, there were still a lot of losses, but things look good overall. The annual garden is really the one that suffered the most. Normally we would be eating all fresh vegetables by now. Although, we replanted everything, it takes a while to produce. Still, the great thing with annuals is that you only lose one season worth of growth.
And, a large part of the hundreds of seeds that Abe planted (and transplanted) are doing great. There are lots of babies all over the place: pines, oak, mesquite, mimosa, pomegranate, palo verde, honey locust, prickly pear, goji berries, chile pequin.
We love this season, when everything turns green and wild. We let all the weeds grow jungle-style, as that is all our rabbits eat at the moment (by choice). We just wish there was a way to have this growth throughout the year.
Monday, August 15, 2016
Just as apple season starts again, we finally got around to bottling off the last of our cider from last year. It's a little late, I know, but somehow we just never got around to doing it. Still, no harm done, and the sight of 27 bottles of beautiful cider is enough to motivate us to juice more apples this year!
By the way, we have now written an article on making cider from scratch, including instructions on making the grinder and press, as well as the fermentation process. You can view the how-to here, or look at it on the Instructables site.
In order to bottle, we set up a little assembly line. I sanitized the bottles (and took photos), Leo siphoned the cider into the clean bottles, and Abe corked them. You may be wondering what Nicky was doing this whole time? Well, he got out a stool and told us that he would sit and watch us, to make sure we were all doing our jobs. Manager material?
Incidentally, is this bad parenting?
To see the whole flickr set of making cider from scratch, click here.
Sunday, August 14, 2016
Friday, August 12, 2016
The boys were out hiking the other day, when they found a baby horny toad. Of course, they picked him up and rushed back to the house with it.
Since we have lived here - 9 years now - we have only seen two or three horny toads, so this was a rare treat.
We put the little guy in amongst the plants of the inside garden, but we noticed him sitting mostly in the window (which goes from the ceiling all the way down to the ground), trying to jump through it. After talking to the boys, they decided that the horny toad would probably be happier outside, so we put him outside.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
We have some indoor plant beds that are fed by the grey water from the bathroom and kitchen. While we've never had an issue with the bathroom's outlet (shower and sink), we have had several problems with the one from the kitchen.
First of all, the grease from the kitchen blocked up the 4" underground pipe. It took years to happen, but once it did, it was a pretty nasty job to clean it out. At that point, we installed an earthworm filter under the sink, with the hopes that the worms would eat the grease. They actually did clean out the grease, but unfortunately the worms thrived so much that the pipe then became clogged with earthworm poop, an extremely thick and sticky substance.
So, we have now embarked on the next phase of the experiment: an external flower bed. We drilled a hole through the kitchen wall and then buried a pipe sloping from the the wall down to an area of the garden about 20 feet away.
We then dug a large pit, put logs and twigs in the bottom of the hole, and then a bucket upside down over the outlet of the grey water pipe. The rest of the hole was filled with wood chips (using our wonderful chipper - I discovered that I love chipping!), and topped with mulch. We also put a whole bunch of earthworms in it.
Around that hole, we have planted a few plants: a pepper tree, some roses, lavender, canna lily. We may add a couple more, but it's a start. We reckon about 30 gallons of water goes through the sink a week, so we'll see how many plants that can ultimately support.
Now we'll just have to wait and see how it does. It may take a couple of years to see if it will be effective longterm, but at the very least, if we do have to clean it out, it's outside. And maybe the whole thing will just smell like roses?!
Grey Water Outlet
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Monday, August 8, 2016
After our neighbor's cows broke into our land in June and destroyed our gardens and orchards, we invested some time and money in our perimeter fence. In fairness, we have only done patchwork since we've been here and the work was past due.
We ended up having to replace the vast majority of the Juniper posts, which were starting to rot. We also added an extra strand of barbed wire (from three to four strands). It is now tight all the way around (almost 3000 feet of it).
We are also slowly working on the "living" part of it. Last year, we started planting spiny prickly pears at the base, every 4 feet or so. Every time we leave the property (which is not very often at the moment!), we cut an extra 60 odd prickly pear pads. We have now planted over half the fence and last year's ones are all growing well and putting on new pads.
We will soon start transplanting baby agaves and ocotillos. Let's see the cows get through that!
Sunday, August 7, 2016
Saturday, August 6, 2016
Friday, August 5, 2016
Thursday, August 4, 2016
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
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