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, May 24, 2017
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Monday, May 22, 2017
Sunday, May 21, 2017
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Monday, May 15, 2017
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Monday, May 8, 2017
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Saturday, May 6, 2017
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Monday, May 1, 2017
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Friday, April 28, 2017
In February, I did a blog about a solar pump we had bought for the pond.
In order to install the pump correctly, we had to empty the pond, which we have now done (and the orchard thanks us!). So, before going on vacation, Abe and a friend dug a hole to the side of the pond.
They put a 4" PVC pipe from inside the hole to up on top of the pond, near the solar panels. The end of this pipe is covered with feed sacks, to keep solid material away from the pump. The hole is then filled with rocks and gravel. Once the casing was all in place and secured in a couple of spots, they slid the pump into it.
We will now be able to pump water once the pond starts to fill up, and can pull the pump whenever we need to check on it.
For more photos, check out the flickr set.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Abe first got Salsa at the end of 2001, when she was 6-8 months old. He found her in a pound in Austin when he was getting ready to move to Terlingua. At first, the pound hadn't wanted to release her to him, because he didn't have a house or fences on the property. He ended up showing them photos of the wild, empty land that had no traffic and no neighbors, and they finally agreed that she would probably be happy there.
She had a great life, both in Terlingua and the new place. She has always been fiercely loyal to our family, and was only ever torn over the issue of who to protect when Abe and the kids were play-fighting. She got to run all over the wilderness, and continued to hike with us up until last year. She has always been the alpha, even when she was completely deaf. She was a really good dog, and will be missed.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Monday, April 24, 2017
Overall, we were gone for two weeks, but it feels like we've been away for a lot longer. I guess that's because we managed to pack so much in. We really had a wonderful time, and are already missing everyone.
Abe's side of the family
Part of the time was spent with Abe's mom in her new home near Austin, Texas. The drive took a day and a half, but it went through some beautiful landscapes - from our mountains, through the desert, into the hill country. There was lots of wildlife to see, including a ranch with exotic animals, which kept the hours interesting.
Vickie's place is gorgeous, with a lot of space to run around. The boys had a blast just exploring, swimming, playing basketball, and picking dewberries.
We got to see Abe's mom, brother, grandmother, aunt and uncle, cousin Ford, and cousin Charlie and his family. It was the first time that the boys and I got to meet the cousins, who also live in the Austin area. Charlie has two boys about the same age as ours, and they all got on really well, which was great to see. I can see all kinds of trouble that the four of them will get into over the years to come!
On Leo's birthday, we gave both boys their first ever brand new bikes (Nicky got his a little early so he could practice on it with Leo at Vickie's, which is flat and smooth, unlike our place!). We then went out to eat, before visiting a kickass fossil museum in Austin.
We had an early birthday party for Nicky before we left and that was fun too. We went to a place called Gattiland, which has a pizza buffet and a bunch of arcade style games. The boys had never done anything like this before and they loved it, especially the bumper cars.
Josie's side of the family
We flew to Florida for a few days to hook up with my mom, step-dad, dad, and my sister and her family. The visit was way too short, but fun nonetheless.
We all got together at Easter and had a huge meal. While we digested, the younger kids went on a treasure hunt with clues, as well as an Easter egg hunt.
We went swimming most days, and by the end of the holiday the boys had improved a bunch. At home, we generally only swim for a few months of the year, which means that Nicky loses his confidence and has to start over. Leo, however, is now to a point that he won't forget what he's learned.
One of the days was spent in Legoland. It was super fun, but very tiring. The boys were really into the rides. And, of course, they LOVED the trip to the shop that my dad treated them to.
For more photos, you can check out this flickr set.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Friday, April 21, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Monday, April 17, 2017
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Friday, April 14, 2017
Thursday, April 13, 2017
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Monday, April 10, 2017
Saturday, April 8, 2017
Friday, April 7, 2017
Thursday, April 6, 2017
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Monday, April 3, 2017
Saturday, April 1, 2017
Friday, March 31, 2017
When we first made our concrete roof, we covered it with a fabric mesh and waterproofing paint that is supposed to protect the concrete for 5 years. That was 8 years ago. So, we figured it was high time we put another couple of coats on the roof, and that's what I've been doing while Abe was digging hundreds of holes for trees.
Instead of using the mesh again, we used a waterproofing paint with added fiber, applied with a big broom-like brush. I did two coats, each painted on in a different direction from the other (the first coat had brushstrokes going up and down, the second with the brushstrokes at a 45 degree angle from the first). The trick (aside from being on a bright, white roof in the blazing sun!) was in the shingling. You start each coat at the bottom of the roof and work your way up to the top. That means that the top part is painted on top of the layer below, just like shingles. Now, this wouldn't be a problem with a normal roof, but ours is a little complex. There are several levels of roof that all flow down to the same gutter downspouts. It meant I had to position strategic ladders before starting to be able to get down from places other than the main access point.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Another example of a Water Retention Landscape after lots of rain handling the water very well in Tamera, Portugal
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
I love this time of year. As it warms up, everything has started to bloom and leaf out (we already have tons of tiny fruit growing on various types of plants!). The only downside with the season is that it means a LOT of work! There's planting, transplanting, watering, mulching, etc. And it's all made a million times worse by the fact that Abe has been seed crazy ever since the cows got into the property last year. He has literally planted more than a thousand seeds this past year, and they all have to be tended.
So, this week, he decided to get a friend to help him. Between the two of them, they transplanted hundreds of trees and shrubs, repotted a few hundred little saplings, and planted several hundred more seeds in cone-tainers. The work was made a little harder due to the fact that it is starting to get hot, and we're not quite used to it yet. Still, the reward is apparent every time you walk through the orchard, circle drive and animal pens. This place will be truly amazing once all this stuff gets big!
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Monday, March 27, 2017
On the 21st, there was a party at school. Moms brought different food and drinks, and the kids dressed up in costumes.Nicky wanted to be a bear, and Leo went as grapes. The latter regretted his choice, as it was a lot harder to play when covered in 40 balloons, something that had sounded so much fun to him in theory. Still, we took it apart after a little while and he handed out the balloons to everyone.
One of the most surprising events of the party came from Nicky. Our local kindergarten has now reopened (there wasn't a teacher for the first few months due to an accident), and the kids came to the party. Nicky played mostly with them, and he had a blast. He later declared that he wanted to return to kindergarten. I was a little hesitant at first, because there aren't any other kids his age (they are now going to school in the nearby town), and because he is easily keeping up with first grade work and so might be bored. However, as the days passed, he didn't change his mind. He said, "I've never been the big kid before", and that actually makes a lot of sense. He's the youngest brother and is by far the littlest/youngest in school (being only 5), so I can see it might be enjoyable for him to be the big kid.
I talked to the kindergarten teacher and to his current one, and we're going to try it out for a couple of weeks. If he likes it, fine, if not he can always go back to Leo's school.
Sucks for me - I was enjoying having them both attend the same school, as it meant only one set of meetings/fundraisers/cleaning, etc. Oh well.
Friday, March 24, 2017
We have been here for almost 10 years, and during that time, the land and soil have improved significantly. We still have a lot more to do to get the place to where we would like it, but at least we know we're on the right track, judging by the significant increase in local wildlife. We now have whole flocks of birds (including several cubbies of quail) that live on our place that weren't here before, there are lots of deer tracks throughout the lower half of the property, and the increase in horny toads is astounding. We're on our way to creating an oasis.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The pigs have been working: plowing and leveling two new rows of the orchard. They actually did a fantastic job, and could probably have accomplished it faster if we'd have moved them more quickly from section to section.
Once they had done their job, we sent the kids in to move a few rocks to the retaining wall part. Abe then installed irrigation, which consists of a couple of pipes that span the length of the rows with drippers every couple of feet. They planted a bunch of plants for the rabbits, including parsley, alfalfa, and chia, and then covered everything with a thick layer of mulch. Many of the little plants are starting to sprout.
A little later in the year, we plan to add hundreds of Mulberry and Black Locust trees. We will coppice these and feed them to the rabbits. We are calling these two rows of the orchard our Fodder Rows, as they are exclusively for the rabbits.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Monday, March 20, 2017
Our old dog waterer was a five gallon bottle inverted over a bowl. It worked great, but we were having to fill it up every few days. Not a big deal, I know, but we do ever strive for efficiency!
This new one is a metal basin that is filled from a hose. It has a float valve built in to maintain the water level at half full. Right now, we have the hose connected to a 30 gallon tank to test it out. We'll eventually connect it to a larger tank and gone will be the days of filling up dog water!
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides destroy soil, ecosystems, and a third of the crop is still lost to pests, just as in the many millennia of farming before chemicals.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Here Are the Three Main Challenges Facing U.S. Agriculture Over the Next 50 Years. Luckily, there's an inexpensive and easy-to-use solution: soil.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Monday, March 6, 2017
We had been expecting the piglets for more than a week, as poor Potter's milk had come in and her belly was dragging on the floor! Every day we would go to the barn hoping she would finally push them out, but nothing. And then, on Saturday, it was clear she was going into labor. We checked on her every half hour, and on one trip there were 3 piglets already out!
In all, she had 9 piglets - 6 white, 3 black. Overnight one of them died (the last picture). Not sure if he just got away from the others and got too cold, or if he got squished. It can happen. The rest all seem to be making it around fine. Another couple of days and the risk of losing one will greatly reduce. They are all cute as can be, and so small.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Saturday, March 4, 2017
Friday, March 3, 2017
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Monday, February 27, 2017
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Friday, February 24, 2017
Thursday, February 23, 2017
We have had an extremely mild winter this year. In fact, we had tomatoes still growing outside until mid-January, and it was getting up into the 90s in early February. We figured that we were passing straight from fall to spring.
The day that Abe was due home from his trip, the boys and I woke up and got ready for school. As I was getting a few chores done before leaving, it started to snow. Within minutes, there was a full blown blizzard and everything turned white. School was cancelled (not being prepared for the sudden turn in the weather), and so the kids instantly went outside to make snowballs.
They had a blast, and the only thing that detracted from their joy at the snow was the thought that "Papa won't want to come home if it's cold!". I told them not to worry, that he was already en route. Still, they needn't have worried, a couple of hours later all the snow had melted and the sky had turned blue again. Abe came home thinking that I must have photoshopped the picture I'd sent him!!!
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Monday, February 20, 2017
Last week, Abe went to stay with Vickie in her new house. They spent most of their time setting up utilities and buying furniture, but they still got to enjoy a little of the new scene. The area, near Austin, sounds pretty cool, with a lot of museums, activities, restaurants, etc. Plus, it is all so green!
The house itself is gorgeous, with a small forest to enchant Abe, and a treehouse, pool and basketball hoop to excite the kids, who cannot wait to visit.
As for us at home, it was the first time that the kids have ever been apart from their dad overnight, so it was weird. In fact, it's one of the very few times that he and I have been apart since we got together. Still, Leo and Nicky were good as gold, which made everything easier, and the time flew by.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Friday, February 17, 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
During rain season, our pond collects a vast amount of water; when full it holds about 300,000 gallons. However, we lose quite a bit of this over the rest of the year to evaporation. Although this loss should reduce as trees and water plants increase and provide shade, that may take a while. In the meantime, we are looking for ways to make use of the water before it evaporates.
We have just bought a pump that runs on solar. It can pump about 600 gallons of water a day (more in summer when the days are longer). Our eventual goal is to build a huge tank on the top of the property, which will then be able to provide pressurized water to the whole hill. For now, we will be watering the orchards and gardens directly, as well as filling up the current irrigation tank as it goes down (it's full at the moment).
We plan to hand-dig a hole just off the side of the pond, which will act as a well. We will be able to pull the pump up the casing if maintenance is needed, and add filtration measures to the well itself. The only problem with this is that we need the pond to dry up in order to dig the well! So, we are currently trying to use up the water. We put the pump inside a PVC pipe and wrapped it in a feed sack as a basic filter, and then just sunk it in the middle of the pond, which is currently about 4 feet deep.
We have four months left until rain season begins, so we should be able to use up the water currently held in the pond (evaporation will help us out too). What it means is that the trees we currently have planted will be receiving a LOT more than we usually give them, and we will be planting out the hundreds of little trees and shrubs that we have had growing in our little greenhouses (we would normally wait until rain season to plant them out).
Solar well pump
- Jacques Yves Cousteau
- Friedrich Schiller
- Elbert Hubbard
- Tennessee Williams
- William C. Bryant
- Robert Fortune
- Charles Eastman
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca
- P. G. Wodehouse
- Thomas Fuller
- Neil Young
- Thomas Tusser
- Hannah Arendt
- The Amazon is not a Wilderness, it's an Advanced P...
- Make A Chicken Wire Compost Brokestead The HomeSte...
- My husband took over our garden and it's the best ...
- Perennial Vegetables & Fruit: Plant a Perennial Fo...
- Kales in swales | Pest Free Vegetables
- Great video on how to build a pretty affordable an...
- FREE Pallets | Ideal for the walls of our next chi...
- Chicken Compost - Compost Ring Gardens and Amazing...
- Polycultures and Guilds - 3 - Succession design an...
- Funny post about stopping rabbits from destroying ...
- National geographic short story on land restoratio...
- Leggy Seedlings, Mini Greenhouses, and Raised Beds...
- Make A Chicken Wire Compost Brokestead The HomeSte...
- Johannes Kepler
- Thomas Browne
- Marilyn French
- John Gay
- Pablo Neruda
- Gustav Mahler
- Polycultures and Guilds - 3 - Succession design an...
- 50 Years Ago, This Was a Wasteland. He Changed Eve...
- Feed and Weed - why are the chickens so HUNGRY?
- Van tour of some van lifers (Living simply on the ...
- Pond well
- John Keats
- Vladimir Nabokov
- Annie Dillard
- Easter 2017
- Easter 2017
- Intrinsic herding techniques.
- GRAFTING LESSON #1, The Possbilities, Grafting = F...
- Homestead and Farm Resiliency: Adaptive Land and I...
- 11 Years Living Off-Grid in an Earthship Style Hou...
- Old Trailer Renovated to New Off Grid Home
- Homestead Tour inside the Cabin — Off Grid Sweden
- Gathering wild (invasive!) oysters with a bucket
- Permaculture Plant Potting
- How to Start a Mushroom Farm
- Preparing vegetable beds and HUGE plants
- Grafting, A Skill Every Homesteader Should Have! S...
- Making a Bottle opener + Screwdriver 😀😀
- O. Henry
- Malcolm de Chazal
- Don Marquis
- Rupert Brooke
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
- Edouard Manet
- Robert Delaunay
- Elias Hicks
- Martin Luther
- Douglas Wilson
- Alan Hovhaness
- Roy Rogers
- Ray Bradbury
- Bill Watterson
- Max Beerbohm
- Clarence Day
- We built a polytunnel from scratch.
- Perma Perspectives: Why Growing Food IS Political ...
- 21 Photogenic Trees Gallery
- Three Seeds to Sow in April | Pumpkins, Spanish Fl...
- Finishing the HUGE bed
- Morel Mushrooms!: Took the Family On Mushroom Hunt...
- Mapping a Site
- Chicken Compost - Spring 2017 Update - Compost Rin...
- Be Great at Anything By Being Great at Simplifying...
- The Pleasure Ceiling--a practical explanation for ...
- Propagation - Easy Stool Layering Technique
- Chicken Compost - Spring 2017 Update - Compost Rin...
- Roasted mealworms with chili and garlic with lots ...
- Super simple and easy Chicken Auto-Feeder holds TW...
- John Ruskin
- Samuel Daniel
- Joseph Conrad
- Mark Twain
- Ambrose Bierce
- Hardwood Propagation (with bottom heat) - Update 1...
- Wine Cap - Inoculating Burlap Sacks - Part I
- Observing a beehive using a thermal camera - Reall...
- Check out how this guy builds his chicken tractors...
- Victor Hugo
- Painting roof
- Under cover potatoes
- Turning your extra raw milk into cheese in 10 minu...
- Quick Run Down of my Friends Off-Grid Solar Rig.
- Getting started with hatching & selling chicks for...
- Oregon State University is offering a free online ...
- Another example of a Water Retention Landscape aft...
- Pierre Schaeffer
- Planting out
- James Agee
- Saint Augustine
- Spring party
- Google Tool Calculates Your Roof's Potential Solar...
- How to make Cider with an AXE! Part 3 Dressing the...
- This is a blog about succulents, good tips on how ...
- Hardwood Propagation - DIY Bottom Heat Technique (...
- Transplanting tomatoes - spring must've sprung!
- DIY A19 LED Bulb Growlight Completely from Scratch...
- Dog Waterer
- Pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides destroy s...
- We can’t vertically farm our way into a techno-uto...
- $150 Greenhouse - Can it handle a blizzard!?
- How Geoff Lawton Helped Me Understand Why I love P...
- Kudzu—it's not just for goats anymore.
- Google: 4 out of 5 US homes have solar power poten...
- How To Drill A Well In Your Own Backyard!
- Rabbits: Cute, Cuddly, and Capable of Feeding Vill...
- Anatole France
- Tom Allen
- Laurence Sterne
- Should Agriculture Be a Required School Subject?
- Top 10 question to ask Before Going OFF GRID
- We need farms that support farmers AND the environ...
- Sap To Syrup
- How to make your own bokashi composter
- March Homestead Tour
- Here Are the Three Main Challenges Facing U.S. Agr...
- The Winter Cover Crop Part II: Green Manure
- SCOBY Fruit Leather, Kombucha & Kale Smoothies, Wa...
- Hand Digging Ponds - In-Depth Discussion
- Jean Giraudoux
- Saul Bellow
- Orison Swett Marden
- Mary Shelley
- Comfrey Planting, Dividing, Expanding!
- It's March! Sowing panic sets in! Got my first bee...
- Depression Era Tactics for Self-Sufficiency
- Like start-ups, most intentional communities fail ...
- Teen Entreprenuership and Farmer's Markets with Am...
- 7 Essentials TIPS for Raising Chicks
- Millions of Americans facing 'megadrought' as Colo...
- Mini Jersey Cow - The Perfect Miniature Family Cow...
- Long-Term Conventional and No-tillage Systems Comp...
- In nature’s lap: These five Indian families gave u...
- Very small scale water harvesting with swales.
- Luther Burbank
- Pierre Bonnard
- Edmund Burke
- Arthur Schopenhauer
- How To Make A Living Fence For Your Garden…Step by...
- Hugelmounds and Waterways - In-Depth discussion
- 7 Essentials TIPS for Raising Chicks
- Russian video on making rope out of plastic bottle...
- Fruit trees and guilds: the rules of spacing
- Philip James Bailey
- Edwin Way Teale
- Archibald Alexander
- D. H. Lawrence
- Andy Warhol
- Henrik Ibsen
- Paul Dirac
- Over 3,000 Bakers Are Now In Business, After Minne...
- Comparing growth and harvests in adjacent strips, ...
- Hog Killing Time (excellent longread)
- This is how we dry & use wild Lambsquarter
- The Compost King of New York
- Herbs: History,Types, Uses, and Cultivation
- Why nature restoration takes time: fungi grow 'rel...
- Trees, forests and water: Cool insights for a hot ...
- Do Trees Have Feelings: The Hidden Life of Trees i...
- Permaculture Keyline Water Systems: Don Tipping @ ...
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Lao Tzu
- Pamela Hansford Johnson
- Solar well pump
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