Prospecting

Our quest for gold.

I can’t figure out how to use my expensive metal detector. Steel gives off the same signal as gold, iron signals the same as gold, bottle caps signal the same as gold, nails signal the same as gold.

From what I’ve read, metal detecting is almost an art form and I have yet to create a masterpiece let alone a decent sketch. Prospecting for gold is the same – it takes patience, knowledge and experience to become successful at it.

So far, gold has totally eluded my husband and I. You could point us to a gold rich river and we would come up with only pyrite or mica no matter where we dig, how deep we dig, how much material we dig – you  get the idea. We’re rank amateurs.

All I ask for is a few little grains or flakes in the bottom of my pan – just a few. I would be able to finally sleep at night.

I downloaded some maps from Gold Maps Online for Google Earth. It’s on overlay of gold claims and mines along with data from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).

You can plan ahead to find closed and open claims and check to see if they’re on private or public land (although that’s not always easy to ascertain). You can check terrain and roads beforehand. Like their website says, you really can do a lot of the footwork ahead of time virtually and save yourself gas and disappointment.

Our property has a lot of geological indicators for gold: iron rich soil and ore, quartz outcroppings and springs, not to mention an actual fault. Nothing so far though.  I even tried divining – still nothing.

We panned all summer near Snoqualmie Pass and around North Bend Washington to no avail. Denny Creek near the pass is supposed to bear gold but we came home empty handed.

One thing we did find recently is garnets.

I was panning and found a bunch of reddish looking sand and rocks. They were the only thing left in the bottom of the pan with “the heavies”, as prospectors say. We took them into a local jeweler who confirmed they were garnets. The jeweler said most creeks and rivers around these parts contain them.

My husband isn’t as interested in prospecting as myself but he always takes me places to hunt. He contents himself with exploring the area while I prospect. He found a wolf skull just last week.

I’ve yet to find any gold but my day will come. I’ve heard that when you see it you know it and that you will never mistake a piece of mica or fool’s gold for the real thing again.

Ticks and Sticks

A theoretical game involving ticks.

Note: Ticks carry disease. My suggestion of playing a game involving them is a joke.

Ticks and Sticks is the name of a game I came up with one spring day as my family and I were looking for something creative to do outside. I imagine the rules would have involved something like going up to a bush and whacking it with a stick. In the spring, the bushes are loaded with ticks.

We played kickball instead.

Ticks are nasty spidery looking parasites that cling to branches in underbrush while they wait for an animal (or human) to latch onto. They flourish in the spring and can infect a human with Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other dangerous diseases if they burrow into your skin to feed on your blood.

We eat garlic during tick season as it repels them according to what I’ve read but don’t take my word for it – do some research and protect yourself if they live in your part of the world. If you have animals such as dogs and cats, be sure to treat them appropriately. They will bring ticks into your house – believe me.

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Photo by Erik Karits on Pexels.com

I never saw one until we moved to eastern Washington and then I saw way too many.  I found several on myself the first spring we lived here. They would appear at the most inopportune times.

There is nothing like the look on someone’s face when they see a tick crawl out of your hair. Imagine this happening on a first date? Once, a guy I was talking to deftly snatched one off of my forehead as if it was nothing and crushed it. He obviously had experience with these things.

I have a theory that they don’t like fluorescent light because they would almost always come out in the library or other public building.

What purpose could such ugly, dangerous pests have in the scheme of things? I’m sure they have their place – just not on my head.

Pine Bugs

A poem.

Pine bugs here, pine bugs there

Pine bugs they are everywhere

Little smelly sticky things

Fly around on crispy wings

If you try to flick them off

They will stick like glue to cloth

Think that they’re a yellow jacket

Freak you out until you whack it

Knobbly legs with little claws

Eat them pine nuts with their jaws

Found one in my swimming suit

Found one crawling up my boot

Summer find them high and low

Never find them in the snow

Although they may seem annoying

Pine trees are what they’re destroying

 

 

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Notice the fly with the attitude. I had to follow this little pine bug/beetle around the table to get a couple of good pics of him and this fly shows up and he’s like “this my piece of paper ya’ll”. Pine bug just says “ya, whatever”.

 

What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter

It was cold and it was solid and it wasn’t letting our dishes go.

25231901698.pngIt lasted for months; the block of ice that held most of our dishes captive.

I remember the day I was able to wrest the last utensil free of the icy tomb that had encased our pans, forks, spoons, spatulas, glasses, bowls and plates – almost everything we ate off of – in one huge chunk of ice.

The Dishberg.

We had recently moved to eastern Washington and were living in a trailer on raw land when it happened. As we were settling in, we met our neighbors and stories were told of winters in eastern Washington – temperatures of minus forty-degrees with snow drifts up to the eaves of your house.

When we mentioned we were from west of the mountains, we got the all-knowing nod of someone who has just learned you are from The Coast and they must break the news to you of the impending doom that is winter in Stevens County.

Incidentally, you are from The Coast if you are from anywhere west of the Cascade mountain range. It doesn’t matter how far from the ocean you live; you are from The Coast and are referred to as a Coasty.

The stories were almost true. We weren’t prepared and me and our son went to live in an emergency shelter for three months while my husband stayed in our trailer with the cat.

Occasionally, I’d come to take a load of dishes to the shelter to wash because the trailer’s pipes were frozen. One day I piled them up in a large Tupperware container to get them  out of the way and put it outside.  For some reason, it sat there for a couple of days filling with water. Before long the whole container froze solid.

The mass was heavy and there was no breaking it up because there were plastic and glass items embedded in it. It sat for a couple of months before it finally began to thaw. I remember when it melted enough to break into smaller pieces I could bring inside and run hot water over and by the end of March, we finally had all of our dishes back.

Now if we could only find the coffee pot lid I lost in the snow in February.

 

 

 

Goose On The Loose On Gold Creek Loop

Honkers

Posted To Local Facebook Group on Febrary 3rd, 2018……

“Goose on the loose on Gold Creek Loop.

“Neighbors big white goose followed me and my husband up Gold Creek Loop about a mile from Corbett Creek road couple of weeks ago. He’s missing now. We thought he’d have the sense to return the whole half a block home but no, he seems to have upped and runned. We couldn’t turn back at the time and feel terrible. He might come to the name “Honkers” or message me if you know any thing.”

We met Honkers the first week after we moved in. He was a hefty white domestic goose with a lot of character. He seemed quirky like us and we quickly “adopted” him as the security system and gate guard.

He belonged to the neighbors who lived on the road going onto our property. We had to drive past Honkers to get to our gate and he started to intercept our truck. We had to start figuring in extra time when we left to get past him. He came to know us and the sound of our truck and we were soon obligated to stop and say hello to him.

Sometimes my husband would have to get out and he and the goose would waddle up the dirt road together (the goose would waddle – not my husband). They looked adorable together.

Then one winter day, me and my husband were frantically trying to push our truck up the slick road during a snow storm when Honkers meandered out after us. We were dismayed to see him but we had our hands too full to usher him back home.

We thought he would have the sense to turn around and go back – but he didn’t.

We haven’t seen him since.

We’d like to think that Honkers found some other geese to fly away with but no one really knows.

We miss you Honkers 🙂

 

Out of the Pot and Into the Fire

How we came to live in the wild (three-and-a-half miles from the nearest town).

Introduction

When I was a child, I would stand on the side porch of our suburban home and look down the hill past the developing landscape to the expanses of farmland that stretched out beyond. I wished I could be there where I could be with the animals and roam.

My Aunt would occasionally throw us into the back of her station wagon and haul us off to go for a hike, explore a mine, or go camping. These adventures instilled in me a love of nature.

I went on to spend most of my life living in the suburbs, the idea of having a home in the mountains or country always in the back of my mind.

Then I met a person who shared my dreams – my husband. Together we made  them come true.

  Following are the stories of my family’s journey from a temperate place of perpetual rain, manicured lawns and HOA’s to a land of baking summers, frigid winters, wild animals, wild neighbors, a driveway from hell – and the best adventures of our lives.

 After we sold our house in suburbia in the Spring of 2017 and pulled onto the road towing our twenty foot travel trailer, we didn’t know where we would end up by the end of that summer but we figured (rightly) that adventure awaited us on the open road and beyond.

Here’s our story.

……………………….

The Road

We are a married couple with a sixteen-year-old son and two cats. We want a dog but for now we have the neighbor’s.

Life in the Puget Sound region where we were living was getting frenetic and overcrowded so we sold our house in the spring of 2017, bought a travel trailer, and hit the road. We felt squeezed out like too much jelly on a sandwich so we set out to find a new slice of paradise in the rural regions of Washington state.

The national forest and anywhere else we were allowed to camp became our home for four months as we cruised the real estate websites for property. In September we found a few acres of land near the Idaho and Canadian borders in eastern Washington that was just right.

It was three and a half miles from the nearest Walmart and tucked into the foothills of the Huckleberry Mountain Range. At the time, there was one neighbor nearby with nothing else between us and the surrounding mountains. The property was undeveloped and had been unoccupied for seventy years.

Settling In

Moving onto raw land means you’re on your own. You become the engineer, contractor, electrician, and if something breaks, repairman for everything you depend on to live. We had to figure some things out.

At first, we got our water from the city standpipe then found out they close it in the winter. Luckily, by that time, we’d discovered natural springs on our property. For power we used a gas generator.  The following autumn, we installed solar and it’s been a love/hate relationship ever since.

We initially used a WiFi hot spot for the Internet but it became us vs the Google data pig.  The neighbors let us use their connection until we got into a fight and they changed their password.

We could only get online from my husband’s spot in our bed anyway, and only if it wasn’t raining. We eventually had three huge trees cut down to get a line of sight to a tower for Internet.

A person once suggested that having an Internet connection disqualified us as living off grid. Nonsense. Show me a person who lives off-grid who doesn’t rely on some sort of  technology such as solar and I’ll show you an exception.

A New Way Of Life

In addition to the logistics of setting up “shop”, we had to adjust to a different mindset. Hardiness is respected in these parts and the local government pamphlet opens with the words “Welcome to the Wild West” and urges the reader to “get used to it”.

We were fresh from a lifetime of living in the suburbs and afraid to touch a gas-powered chainsaw let alone make a go of living amongst the trees and the turkeys. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into but we were too excited to be new landowners to let any reservations get in our way.

Our First Year

After the honeymoon period, winter barreled in with a seriousness that slapped all thoughts of anything but survival out of our consciousnesses. The neighbors had warned us of sub-zero temperatures and snow drifts as high as the eves on a house. It wasn’t far from the truth.

The weather turned cold and wet and we found ourselves ill-prepared for reality. Our water pipes froze and our worldly possessions disappeared under three feet of snow. Some things we didn’t find until spring.

As the temperatures plummeted toward zero, my son and I went to stay in an emergency shelter while my husband hunkered down at the property with our cats. I worried constantly about him but we visited often. I would take dishes back with me to the shelter to clean and straighten things out while I was there.

Three months later we moved back while it was still frigid. We were low on money and propane. Keeping warm was a challenge with frost and ice gaining a foothold inside our trailer by the day.

I would grab whatever I could find and obsessively fill small crevices and holes where cold air was entering to cut the chill. Our central heating system was inefficient so we used a small indoor heater to keep us comfortable until spring.

We sometimes cooked or made coffee over a fire. I would hunch over my homemade rocket stove in the cold and wet while my husband built his pit fire. I remember feeling miserable and hopeless as I struggled to get the stove lit in the freezing rain and snow.

The harsh winter had taken a toll and my outlook had become very bleak like the weather.  There would be many challenges ahead before the days began to warm.

Spring, then summer arrived and we discovered a billion new bug species. I took up slingshot while trying to shoot down yellow jacket nests and we discovered ticks, or rather – they discovered us.  Ticks and Sticks.

The grass grew up to our waists with stickers everywhere. They would lodge themselves into our clothes and our cats fur like tiny barbed arrows and we had to push them through rather than pull them back out or risk destroying the cloth in the process. We had to carefully cut them out of the cats fur when it got badly matted (better to have a veterinarian do this).

Sweltering heat made that summer one of the longest I’ve ever experienced but we had things in the works.

We tilled rock-hard soil and planted a garden using old barbed-wire left behind on the property for a fence. We put a handle on a pickax head we found and used it to chip away at the bedrock underlying the spring. I cleaned up a seventy-year-old can opener when ours broke and it worked fine.

We did whatever we could to pass the time and keep our chins up.

Thank you to my husband for helping me to get through it all. When I was at my worst, he would hold my face in his hands, look at me and say “Good things Baby, good things”.

Moving Forward

It’s a year later and we have the solar power system, generators, a large shed, and a nicer RV (until we finally build a home). We have a fireplace to warm ourselves by and we have each other.

The following stories and poems aren’t meant to show others how to live off-grid as we still don’t know how but welcome and enjoy. 🙂