Someone Paved Our Driveway – Sort Of

It’s that time of the year again – when the snow melts and the ground doesn’t. As a result, billions of gallons of runoff heads in our direction in the space of about three weeks.

The layer of permafrost won’t let the water soak in except for the topmost couple of inches; just enough to make a nice mud pie.

Our driveway, which doubles as a seasonal creek and has never been user friendly,  becomes a bog. It should have been regraded and graveled a couple of years ago but that would have required the neighbors to agree on something.

We have three times the traffic this year and every time someone drives through the goop, it gets deeper and threatens to suction the car in place – never to move again – and it’s one lane.

The prospect of becoming a ginormous speed bump the neighbors have to negotiate on their way home is enough to keep us far, far away from The Thing – The Road.

The destruction extends all the way to the main road. The postal service left a nasty-gram in everyone’s mailboxes telling us to fix the road or no mail would be delivered.  Luckily someone  dumped a load of rocks in front of the boxes, thus restoring our service.

The trek is so intimidating we stay home unless we’re out of oxygen or something. Don’t try to text during the ride or you may end up ruining a relationship with someone you never knew and becoming best friends with someone from Lisbon, Portugal in the space of a quarter mile.

By the time you reach the street, there’s a chance you’ll be seasick and may have incurred some sort of blunt force trauma after glancing off of some inner furnishing of the vehicle. The violent lateral lurches are capable of putting a head through a passenger door window.

The other day we needed cat food (oxygen), so we piled into the four-wheel  and braced ourselves. As we crept to the top of the worst part of the easement – a steeply graded slope – we looked down and noticed someone had laid pavement at the bottom.

More accurately, someone had lobbed chunks of broken asphalt all over the road. They lay at all angles and sizes where they were chucked. Some slabs were two feet in diameter with smaller shards mixed in.

This project had our uppermost neighbor’s “hold my beer” signature all over it. Huge ruts from his truck now cut into and through portions of the road – which he missed with the asphalt.

What we were looking at reminded me of a school project. Imagine a four-year old with some glue and macaroni only big.

I told my husband to stop while I jumped out and I redistributed the minefield.

I  jumped back in and we skirted the construction zone as far to the right as we could without rolling down the slope away from the road.

Now we had to make it past Cowhead Guy’s house (explanation here).

Never a dull day.

The Totem

You may have heard of The Long Long Long Driveway.

It’s the almost mile-long unpaved easement we share with our neighbors to get to our landlocked properties. The stretch of gravel and dirt resembles a stream bed in places and a mud-bogging race track in others, depending on the season.

The legal agreement says it’s for “ingress and egress” only, but it’s become oh-so-much more – including a nifty place to display one’s trophies for all to see; in this case, the head of a freshly slaughtered bull.

Our newest neighbors have placed this lovely item on top of a fence post right next to the shared entrance to our property. I’ve put the photo at the end of this post, far far down so those who don’t want to see it don’t have to.

Who does this and why? Is this what farmers do after a slaughter or could it be  because someone is pissed because I yelled at them about the snowmobiles and they want to send us a message?

There’s a history with the snowmobiles.

Shortly after we moved in, one family took it upon themselves to ride their mobiles all over the property that surrounded and spanned the driveway, tearing it and the road up pretty badly.

When I confronted them, the matriarch of the clan claimed they’d just bought the lot. I found out differently the next day and the not-very-happy realtor sent someone up to straighten things out. Turns out they’d made an offer then weren’t able to “perform” or fulfill their end of the deal. It wasn’t their property.

The next year, after another of their family members bought one of the remaining lots, they resumed their riding only this time, in large circles around the surrounding properties, essentially turning the barely snow covered road into a racetrack.

Out went a letter from our attorney and all was quiet until a couple of months ago, when there they went again. We gathered evidence via surveillance cameras just in case, and I finally yelled at the top of my lungs for them to stay the hell off of the easement as they drove by.

They had a pow wow about it after driving the machines up onto someone else’s private property and rallied for one last stand or drive. I could hear every word they said as they plotted from their secret place atop the hill. I had to resist the urge to yell out “I can hear you” from the darkness. I believe there may be some discontent.

By the way, one of them stole a UPS package from us a couple of months ago. We have good reason to be out there standing our ground. It’s a shame but we have not picked the fights.

Back to the bull. Is this a thing in rural America; the displaying of your leftovers from the slaughter? What’s gonna happen when it warms up? Is this thing going to sit atop it’s post and rot into the summer?

Will we break down and leave a note in their mailbox or go up to their door and tell them to please put it away with the rest of the Halloween decorations until next year? Does anyone know this to be a custom of farmers and won’t it attract predators?

I love Halloween, but please.

Photo way below – off screen. 🙂

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cow

Wintertime Is Here

Wintertime is here three cheers
Time to feed the deer
Winter time snuck up oh f*ck
Wading in the muck
Wintertime is cold and old
Shoveling up the road
Wintertime’s too long begone
It goes on and on
Wintertime is white no light
Sun’s dipped out of sight
Wintertime’s a mess no less
Put away the dress
Wintertime means sleds warm beds
Snow atop the shed
Wintertime is ice that’s nice
Hear the skater’s slice
Wintertime snowballs and falls
Hatchets, axes, mauls
Wintertime is fire and choirs
Racing Radio Flyers
Wintertime is crisp snow drift
Giving others gifts
Wintertime is here we fear
Donning our snow gear
Wintertime is snow we know
Gifts with great big bows
Wintertime is great full plates
We all celebrate
Spring’s a dream away let’s pray
Counting down the days

The Wood Goddess

The Story Of A Local Wood Cutter.

Did you know that firewood with smaller rings, burns longer or was it hotter?

I learned one or the other today from a person I shall call The Wood Goddess or Goddess Of The Wood – take your pick.

She visited us as we were in need of her magic after a lean season last year.

Winters are cold here and a fireplace warms a space like no man-made heat source can. The sound of crackling, the smell of fresh cut logs, the way the heat radiates; there’s no substitute.

Burning wood is a wintertime ritual. Here’s a poem I wrote about gathering wood: Wood Gathering: A Poem.

A hot stove or fire soothes the soul. It’s draws people around at gatherings. It dries soaked socks and gloves and beckons pets to lie down in it’s glow. A good supply of fuel means security.

Last year we didn’t purchase a load from one of the many local purveyors. Instead, we hauled our electric chainsaw and about two-hundred feet of extension cord down the hill to where three large trees lay, and harvested our own timber.

We waded through five feet of snow in blizzard-like conditions to buck the timber then swore our way back up the nearly vertical slope with the rounds. That was the worst part. Second was the splitting. Third, the hauling into the RV.

Fourth? Getting the damned fire started with wet wood.

It took a lot of patience and an assortment of tools. A propane torch, bacon grease, maybe some candle wax, some skill, and a lot of patience – especially at three in the morning, freezing cold, in a robe.

No more.

This year The Goddess Of The Wood paid us a visit! She doesn’t leave anything under your pillow but who wants splinters in their bed anyway? This supernatural-like figure brings the gift of ambiance upon request and now we can eliminate steps one, two and half of four.

When the cold temperatures arrived this fall, my husband and I agreed we’d had enough of the self-sufficiency thing so we looked around and found some wood for sale. I’d made arrangements for the delivery by message so I was surprised to see a woman pull up. Another tomboy like myself, I thought!

Her roundish canine companion, who rode shotgun jumped out to tour the property while she unloaded. Cocoa happily ambled off to find the best vantage point from which to keep watch. The Goddess explained that his figure was a result of his love of the occasional snack at home.

We chatted as she worked and The Goddess told me how she and her daughter make forays into the national forest where they fell trees, buck the logs, and split them on the spot so the wood is ready for delivery. That’s hard work and I was impressed by these women.

She has been selling firewood for about three years after some health issues threatened her sense of happiness as things like that do. She was previously a nurse but found the switch in vocations to be life changing if I remember her story correctly.

The woods can do wonders for the soul and for healing, I believe.

After she threw the last round, we said our goodbyes as she boosted the somewhat rotund Cocoa into the truck and off they went – presumably home before their next trip into the forest where she will work her magic for someone else.

As she drove away I found myself wondering if there is a deity of wood stacking.

Thank you again to The Wood Goddess. We shall see you in a couple of months.

You Get What You Pay For

It weighs two-hundred and twenty pounds, is green, was cheap, and sits outside our shed in pieces. It was supposed to break rocks into pieces – not itself. It’s Bill, our new rock crusher.

As an amateur gold prospector, I got tired of hand-crushing rocks. It gets old fast – believe me. Gold doesn’t always come in nuggets that you find in creeks, rivers and beaches: sometimes you have to pry it from the rock itself.

This is what we bought Bill for: to process gold ore.

I had an assay done on some ore from our property a few months back that came back at 14 grams of gold per ton of rock and 15 of silver. That’s not the mother lode but it’s not bad, either.

The problem is getting the gold out of the rock – especially if it’s disseminated throughout in tiny particles. You have to crush a lot of rock in order to smelt the precious metals out (heat the ore with flux in a furnace to extract the precious metals).

I needed a more efficient way to get the job done so I went to Amazon and ordered Bill.

He was born in China and traveled a long way to get to us. He arrived in a sturdy wooden crate that looks a lot like the box that held The Ark Of The Covenant in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. At least the box was well made.

We met the delivery guy in town to pick Bill up and it turns out that the guy’s father is a preeminent geologist. This is a good sign, we thought. We were wrong.

The broken adjustment knob.

After hauling him home, the whole family wrestled Bill onto several pallets I’d screwed together to make a table. He was to stay in his crate for safety reasons (a spinning flywheel with no guard, for one). Then we discovered Bill didn’t have a plug.

After some research and a couple of calls to electricians, we determined Bill would work on a North American electrical system. He would run a bit fast, but run he would. We installed a plug and everything went fine until we fed some wet material through him.

The info I’d read said this was OK but believe me, it isn’t! The finely crushed material mixed together with the water to make a nice cement-like paste and gummed the machine up.

Two hours of cleaning later, we started Bill up again only to discover his adjustment knob had sheered off. This is the part that allowed us to set how finely we wanted the rock crushed. Without that function, we were once again dead in the water.

I think it was poor workmanship and materials that led to the failure. Several screws also vibrated loose which caused a metal piece in the feeder to bend and get jammed full of rocks. Another two bolts came out altogether and when I tried to tighten them, I realized they weren’t long enough to seat.

It was time to contact Amazon and the seller.

This evening, Bill sits partially dismantled and I’m in negotiations with a company across the world about how much of a refund to agree to with some parts thrown in.

And I’m back at it with the sledge hammer.

Bugsville

Moving to the country means more rocks, bushes, trees and dirt for insects to occupy. Every single teeny, weeny, nook and cranny is a potential home to these critters and we are at full capacity.

If you pick up a rock and you’ll find a microcosm of bug life from funnel spiders who weave cloth-like sheets of webs with hiding holes, to ants – one colony per rock, to the occasional baby cricket or centipede.

Grasshoppers make great play toys for the cats. Stinkbugs flock to the interiors of our vehicles or occasionally find themselves stranded in the bathtub. Do not disturb or they will live up to their names – stink. They are called Pinebugs because they smell like pine trees.

Strange unidentifiable creatures occasionally creep along or fly across our paths along with some of the biggest bees we’ve ever seen.

I found a couple of dung beetles one summer, riding/pushing a piece of – well – dung through what would have been to them, a jungle. Where to? Only they knew, although my son mentioned something about navigating by sun. One seemed to be doing all of the work while the other rode in – uh – luxury on the poop ball.

You’ll be mistaken for the premier of some kind of bug attraction if you wear a head lamp. They’ll flock to you. A face mask will keep them out. I’m sure you have one of those sitting around.

Never open a can of tuna fish with a window or door open; the yellow jackets love the smell and will do anything to get at it. Think The Hills Have Eyes as you look nervously out of your window – waiting for the next wave.

The fifty flies that have been waiting outside will ride the air vacuum in if you open your door – and head straight for the head.

Black ants regularly find their way to our kitchen. I wrote a poem about them here: Ant Invasion – A Poem. Borax mixed in with sugar is the antidote.

At night in the summer you’ll hear the chirping of crickets (a sound I’ve always loved) and sometimes you can hear hornets or yellow jackets scraping the surfaces of wood, harvesting material for their paper nests.

For the most part, we’ve gotten used to living with this disposable-like population but every once in a while, one makes itself known, like yesterday, when a pinebug landed smack dab in the middle of my glasses.

Soon enough they’ll be gone for the winter. They will disappear or fly to Florida. I can just see V’s of pinebugs heading south for warmer climes. 🙂

A New Old Family Member

Out of the barn and onto a second chance.

Our truck Bridgette has a new companion. 

Last week we brought home a 1941 Chrysler Windsor sedan.

My husband has a passion for the classics and has always wanted one. He’s not sure yet whether to restore it to it’s original condition or modify it. There’s a lot to consider such as current resale values and whether or not he’ll keep it for his own.

He found the car on Craigslist for a deal. Right now it looks like a deal. A lot of rust, rotted plastic, spare parts in the trunk, the skeletons of seats, frayed electrical wiring, and a lot of evidence of rodents now sits in a spot under a tree on our property – but it’s a piece of history.

chrysler solar

They truly don’t make ’em like they used to but sixty nine years of exposure to the elements, driving, and human influence will take a toll. All we know about it’s past is that the guy we bought it from bought it from a guy who’s father owned it. It would be nice to learn more. I still have to run the VIN or serial number through the database to see what comes up.

The lines are rounded and my husband says it looks like a gangster car. I guess there were a few produced for the military (don’t quote me on that) but generally, there was a break in automobile production roughly between 1941 or 1942 until the end of World War II during which the United States focused its production on tanks and aircraft. This vehicle may have been one of the last of its kind to role off the assembly line before the pause.

Picking the Chrysler up was a “gas”. It was parked in the back of a pole barn where so many relics end up, on a carpet of dried cow manure behind a 1950’s Pontiac. We had to inflate some tires and cut some brush back to clear the way for both vehicles.

The owner hooked a chain up to his car and we pulled the Pontiac out and to the side and waited for the God Fearing Brothers tow company to arrive. They were in church so we bided our time till the afternoon.

A good tow truck driver can maneuver a school bus out of a Walmart parking lot on a Black Friday without touching another vehicle and God Fearing Brothers didn’t disappoint us on this muggy Sunday afternoon.

The operator backed up his rig, hooked up our antique to a winch and coaxed the reluctant sedan out of it’s spot in the shadows and cobwebs and onto the flatbed for the trip. It was strapped down and all hatches inspected for the freeway speeds and the wind and off we went.

I learned there’s a phenomenon wherein once these beauties are pulled out of a barn and parked atop what might as well be a parade float, they gather attention as they fly along the road. People see them and we were told they don’t always make it home on their maiden voyages. It’s not what you think; they get noticed, followed, and bought before they reach their intended destinations!

chrysler dash

The God Fearing driver said we had what may have been a potential buyer on the hook on the way home but they continued on straight as we made the turn onto the last stretch of road to the property. Almost.

Long story short, we got the car home and rolled off the truck into it’s new spot in the shade without incident and there it waits for the portable canopy I ordered.

I haven’t seen much of my husband since.

 

 

Other Adventures

Today I changed the description of Stories From Off The Grid to include other adventures.

There’s only so much that can happen to or that a family can do on 3.74 acres.

The garden is growing (peas and cabbage only this year and we planted way late), we moved the raspberry bushes closer to the RV so I could tend to them better, I still slingshot, the appliances are constantly breaking or now getting lost or damaged in the mail, and the pool is still halfway brown, still freezing, and largely unused.

The turkey’s are still turkeying along with this year’s batch of goblets,  I’m still obsessively looking for gold on our property although I’ve expanded my search to beyond the perimeters, Lawnmower man now drives a small backhoe and insists on creating a park-like setting here in the semi-wild, and we are dreading winter.

All is quiet on the western front with the neighbors, thankfully, and I’m running out of off-grid subjects. We don’t have livestock and I don’t make soap: wait, I did a couple of months ago but I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and certainly couldn’t write a how-to post on the subject. I cook, but lately, dinner has more often than not, been microwaved chicken patties and store-bought cookies. No how-to-cook posts here.

The solar power system is on the fritz. Nothing new.

Things have been pretty quiet here actually. So, in the spirit of trying to keep things interesting, this blog covers about anything that happens in our lives or that we make happen (I hope we’re still behind the wheel) that might be funny, informative, or humorous.

Other than the propane fridge we’ve long needed getting damaged in transit so we’re still short an LP fridge and me dredging the well, camping for gold is the order of the day this summer. There have been lot’s of adventures at Sheep Creek where we’ve been prospecting. We’re heading out again this afternoon and I’ll take lots of pictures because we might be onto something!

Whether it be the ongoing mess inside our car from packing or stays at motels from hell, its now all free game. The motel featured photo is not the motel from hell . 🙂

 

Gold Is Where You Find It

Listening to the experts.

If you can’t find the gold where you are, go to the gold.

In addition to willing gold into existence on our own property, I’ve decided to drive to it; about sixty miles to a place called Sheep Creek. This in response to a phone call last week from a fellow prospector who suggested we camp and pan for the weekend.

I’m not giving up on my thought experiment of materializing gold out of dirt and rock here at home but I figured it was about time to increase our odds of finding the shiny and holy substance. The caller is a guy we met about a year ago who shares this mental illness called Gold Fever.

The fever causes one to become irrational and obsessed with either conjuring up the elusive metal through the use of chemical processes to spending hour after backbreaking hour in the sun sifting through bucket after bucket of gravel in search of even one tiny morsel of goodness.

Stricken with this disease, my husband and I gladly crammed the back of our Dodge Durango with every manner of implement designed to aid in the finding of the noble metal.

Classifiers of every size, sluices, buckets, shovels, picks, hammers, and as many containers as one can fit as you can never have too many. All of this plus everything but our cookware (my husband recalled later, putting it away on a shelf in the shed) went into the hatch and off we went.

After an unsuccessful exploratory expedition to find a new spot, we turned around  about five-hundred feet shy of the Canadian border and headed for the sure-fire place for gold: Sheep Creek.

The creek is in the Colville National Forest and we found a good campsite for the first night. There wasn’t much time for panning so we set up and planned on heading out in the morning.

Several Sloppy Joes, ten cigarettes, and two UFO’s later we called it a night.

Worth mentioning is that on our way to find a suitable spot, we found a mine, or hole dug into solid rock along the road. It went about twenty feet in before dead-ending. We scraped some samples into some buckets (never enough containers), before continuing on.

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The mine.

The next morning we found a great spot near a rapids, moved camp downstream, and set to work. This is where all of those tools come in handy. Gold is heavy and you have to dig for it under very large rocks and in low-pressure zones in the water or where the water was at the high mark.

You have to ask yourself where gold would logically travel and fall out when being tumbled downstream. It tends to move along with the big stuff and settle with the heavy stuff so you look for those kinds of things and those locations and dig.

We are all amateurs but three sets of hands and brains is better than one. I jumped all over the place digging and sampling while the men found a good spot and kept at it for most of the time. They were rewarded for their efforts.

We spent the better part of the day and half of the next moving large boulders, scooping up buckets-full of sand and gravel and either running it through our sluices or hand-panning.

Our friend had the best of the luck, finding a nice wafer-shaped “picker” about three millimeters in diameter. My husband found some good ones and I managed to eek out a couple of specs with my fishing magnet.

If you throw a powerful magnet into the river, it picks up iron which in turn sometimes picks up gold with it. You separate it later.

By the last day, the fatigue was setting in and it was time to pack up and go. Our treasures were stored in one of the many many containers we’d brought to be separated from the black sands once we got home.

That night, our friend put away all of his camping and prospecting gear and sifted through his black sands to reveal his trophies.

Our car is still mostly loaded and we at least began the process of recovering our gold today. We got home day before yesterday.

 

Gold Is Where It Is

That means it’s on our property – right?

If you can’t find gold in your back yard, look again and again and again.

I’m finally coming to grips with the idea that we may not have a mother-lode on our property.  I’ve spent the last two years searching and coming up with nothing so I finally sent three rocks in for an assay to settle the matter.

An assay is a test to see how many ounces per ton of any given precious metal such as gold is, in the sample. It’s a pretty exacting process that I believe requires smelting the crushed ore to separate the good stuff from the crap and calculating the results.

We have about fourteen grams of gold per ton of rock – at least in the three I sent in. If ours was a major mining operation that wouldn’t be a bad number but for the weekend prospector – not so good. I called the assayer and he said that it is the nature of prospecting to discover a gold vein seven feet under and to the side of where the specimen came from – or not.

I twisted his words into the hope that I could still find that mother-lode. I suddenly found myself power-washing one of our quartz outcroppings today to get a closer look at the parts previously concealed by vegetation.

I’ve taken my metal detector to every square inch of the property in search of anything that sounds like gold – to no avail. Maybe another few sweeps will turn up something different.

With my hopes and behavior, I’m breaking one of the first rules of prospecting: look for gold where others have found it first. And a second rule: if you don’t find gold, don’t waste your time and keep digging.

In my desperation, I’ve come to believe I can will it into existence with the power of my mind.  Just wait.