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. 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).

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 lead 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.

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 are a familiar sight and 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 actually called Pinebugs because they smell like pine trees.

Strange unidentifiable creatures occasionally creep along or fly across our paths and some of the biggest bees we’ve ever seen can be found in these parts.

One summer, I found a couple of dung beetles 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.

Wear a headlamp at night and you’ll be mistaken for the premier of some kind of bug attraction. They’ll flock to you. A face mask is recommended. 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. 

Open your door at this time of year and the fifty flies that have been waiting outside will ride the air vacuum in and head 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. 🙂

One More Makes Three

What weighs about one pound, has no manners, is spring loaded like a moray eel, has no attention span, leaves a path of destruction wherever it goes, is currently trying to eat my husband’s headphones but is too cute to be mad at?

A kitten, of course. Cat number three.

We’ve tried really hard not to have another cat for two years now but this one was an emergency. My husband was driving to town when he saw a small animal in the road. He got out and it ran into some nearby bushes. He continued on then turned around.

Now we have the world’s cutest nightmare.

His name is Lucky (and some others if you know what I mean) because of the circumstances in which he was found. Lucky had obviously been abandoned or somehow separated from his mom and litter as he was all bones at first.

He was almost certainly feral and very hungry at first. We got him started on kitten formula right away but it quickly became obvious he was older than I first thought. He started eating our cat’s solid food on day two although we went to great lengths to adjust his diet slowly. We got him a bag of kitten chow.

It’s been about a week and a half and he seems to have doubled in size and the bones are giving way to kitty fat – and lots of kitten energy. Usually a kitten has litter mates to play with but Lucky here only has us. Lucky us.

From sun up to sun down it’s skittle here and skittle there at full speed and the claws – razor sharp. We’ve made approximately fifty paper balls for him to chase, all of which have disappeared and the one cat toy I bought went missing on day one. We’ll probably find them all during spring cleaning.

I made him the ugliest cat tower ever out of plywood, rug and a couple of tree branches. Cats don’t care how pretty their toys look. Example: the half of a squirrel one of them left behind for us last week. A head was all that was left over from the next.

So here we are with cat number three. He has moved on from the headphones and is now playing behind me on my chair. I woke up with him standing on my forehead yesterday morning.

Despite the hell that has become our lives since this little being arrived, I’m glad my husband turned around.

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.

 

 

The Garage Sale

A poem

This is based on a true story.

The Garage Sale

Here’s a cautionary tale
A five year old, some change, a sale
The neighbors had way too much stuff
Seems she didn’t have enough
Mom and Dad were sleeping in
The day was young for Deon Lynn
Asked her dozing Mom and Dad
Could she borrow just a tad
Took the money went and shopped
Got some more and didn’t stop
Back and forth between two homes
Deon with her cash did roam
Bought up all the brickabrack
In a corner made a stack
She was proud of her good taste
With great care her stash she placed
When her parents did arise
They were in for a surprise
In the corner of the room
Deon’s stash shown in the gloom
Fruit arrangements painted bright
So gaudy they emitted light
Everything no one desired
Our child happily acquired
Destination curb no more
Now it sits behind our door
The crowning glory of the lot
Was a velvet painted clock
Next to this amazing piece
Plastic bird that had no fleece
Centerpieces blinding flowers
There they sat they now were ours
Deon beamed she was so proud
Everything she bought was loud
We thought fast we had to act
How to deal with this with tact
Course we told her it looked great
It was time to decorate
To her playhouse it all went
Where its time with us was spent
Her taste improved as she got older
Beauty lies with the beholder

Fishing Is Like Threading A Needle

Catching a fish is not a sure thing for me because it seems as if anything that can go wrong, will.

Think about it: you have to attach a super thin, almost invisible line to a skinny, long pole then tie a hook onto the end with fingers way too big for the job. Then you have to squeeze a piece of lead onto it without dropping the tiny chunk of metal into the dirt. Then you have to add a float.

That involves catching the now wildly swinging invisible line with an extremely sharp hook on the end that is now trying to wrap itself around the end of your pole fifty times when you’re not looking, and wrapping it several times around the hooky thingy on the float. Now it’s time to add the bait.

Keep in mind that all the while, you’re being buzzed by horseflies and mosquitoes because you left the repellent in the car next to the tackle box. The fish bucket is next to the tackle box.

After debating whether or not to put down the pole and go back to the car for everything you forgot, you decide instead, to use a rock to dispatch the fish if you catch one. You thread the worm onto the hook trying not to spear your finger in the process.

Finally – you’re locked and loaded. Time to cast.

You release the line while grasping the portion on the pole that is now loose, you bring your arm back – and cast. Unfortunately a bush has grown unexpectedly behind you and you have now caught it.

You can practically hear the fish laughing at you then realize it’s your husband.

As you swat at the cloud of gnats that are circling your face, a sandwich is beginning to sound appealing but one more try. This time you manage to land the lure halfway across the river but the current quickly routes it directly towards a sunken tree trunk.

You frantically reel it in as it approaches the obstacle but it’s too late. The hook does it’s job well – it has now caught an entire tree. Just a quick tug will jerk it free and – the line breaks. All that is left is a tangled mass of spiderweb-thin nylon and the float.

You could barely thread the hook but somehow, what’s left of the line has spontaneously tied itself into thirty different boating knots. This is a sign, you think.

You put down the pole and prepare to go grab that sandwich when your friend casually meanders up with his pole ready to go, casts it perfectly, and snags a trout within seconds. He effortlessly reels it in, kills it, cleans it and wanders off to have his dinner.

You just stand there with your ball of filament and stare.

Culture, Charred Steak, and Gold

We are on another prospecting expedition and I’m sitting by a campfire smelling steak burning just right as the sun nears the top of the treeline to the west. It seems as if I feel less heat already in early August. Pink Floyd’s The Wall is playing – probably for the one-billionth time since the album was created. 🙂

There is laughter and talk of entrepreneurial ventures after the virus recedes – hopefully for good until the next Something comes along. I’ve just had a bite of the best Filet Mignon of my life.

Pieces of gold are being compared.  I feel content at this moment. America – the world – mankind is going to be OK. As we sit around the fire, we share stories about the prospecting culture and the local woodcutters among other things. Bits of information are passed back and forth such as that salmon berries are known by some as Smooshberries – because they are smooshie, of course. 

Local lifestyles make for great tales. The woodcutters are stuff of legend around these parts. They know how to harvest a truck load of wood from the mountains in the dead of winter (I’m from “civilization” so everything is larger than life compared to what I’m used to).

We’re out prospecting with some people we’ve just met and they are very cool. They own a computer store and the husband has a YouTube channel having to do with drones. They want to open a restaurant. I’m sold after the steak.

Earlier in the evening, the husband threw a fishing line in the river and snagged a couple of trout for dinner. I’m rusty and asked for some pointers then proceeded to snag my hook in the nearest bush then break the line. I briefly considered shooting a trout with my slingshot before grabbing a hotdog.

Our other friend’s pooch has taken up residence at my side as I give him a good scratching. His owner is dabbling with constructing campers of a different type for a specific purpose. I don’t want to disclose his ideas without permission so I’ll let that lie for now.

We all have gold in common. It’s fascinating, elusive, and worth almost two grand an ounce right now.

I’ve been focusing on metal detecting for gold ore with some success and we plan to try to track down the source. It’s exciting. I’m sending in a pound of the material for a gold and silver assay which will tell me if, and how much of the minerals are in there.

The evening is mild, the mosquitoes few, the food excellent and the trading of stories and dreams the best. Tonight, the ties that bind are exquisitely charred food, a campfire, stories of people and their dreams – and gold.

Another trip is coming soon. We only have so much time before the legendary winter sets in. Then the gold of the mountains and creeks will be locked up for the season in ice and snow.

the grimmer roci

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 . 🙂

 

The Great Outdoors: Getting Through The Packing

Packing for camping or a vacation is like cutting through twenty steel walls to get to the safe or licking a Tootsie Pop to get the to the chocolate center without chewing. The prize is there but you have to earn it.

Its 3:15 PM and we’re finally on the road to go camping and prospecting again.  We’ve been up since 7:30am. What took so long? I swear I was packing while I was watching YouTube. 

Now I’m too tired to go camping. I need a nap. Thank goodness I’m the copilot. It doesn’t help that I had to take an antihistamine for a localized allergic reaction to a bee sting. I’ll be ready to sleep when we get to camp – or before. 

I hate packing so much, I have to be forced to do it. I can’t go shopping for clothes or dishes when we get to the campground. I put it off until I can no longer ignore the fact that it must be done.

gold panning road
On the way. The weird white object is our skull.

Its a grueling obstacle that must be overcome before the fun begins. Too much staging and organizing. I wish I could hire a professional packer: Merry Packers.

As much as I despise packing to go camping there’s one thing worse: packing up to go home – and worse – in the rain. I guess that’s two.

There’s a lot of dirt in the woods and cleaning up sopping wet, muddy tents and clothes and shoving them into the back of a vehicle when everyone’s exhausted and bummed out because its Sunday – well, you get the idea.

How many of us want to unpack the entire car when we get home? We never really finished unpacking from the trip we took two weeks ago. It made it a tad easier to get ready yesterday. Only a tad.

We’re considering leaving the car packed for outings but that would still require some organization or risk finding the hotdogs we lost on the last trip two weeks later under the wet clothes we forgot to take into the house.

That reminds me of the time I brought home something extra from a camping trip. I was driving the car down the freeway and had to get something out of the glove box. I opened it up to see a mouse peering out at me. I closed the box and kept driving.

I suppose in the end, a little work is a decent trade off for the rewards of vacations and camping. The job can seem overwhelming but the payoff of spending some time in the outdoors is worth every scoop of sand in the washer – and some.

gold panning road back
The mighty Columbia River near the Canadian border.

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.

20200717_165448
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.