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.

Road Trip And Motel Hell

You can’t make this stuff up.

I hit the road about six days ago due to pressing family matters and I needed a place to stay for a good price. I headed to Hotwire.com for a Hot Rate deal.

The website offers a list of hotels near your destination but doesn’t tell you the name of the place until you’ve booked. The trade-off for the missing info is a great price.

Like Hotwire, I won’t disclose the name of the hotel I picked but it was in South Tacoma, Washington. Probably not the best neighborhood I thought, but why not give it a chance for forty-nine dollars a night?

I booked it for seven days. We left after one. Here are twelve reasons why:

  1. You’re in the lobby checking in and look out the window to see a junkie trying to do a drug deal with your son who stayed in the car.
  2. While you’re waiting in line, the conversation turns to a car prowling – by one of the hotel employees.
  3. You have to pay your deposit in cash and don’t plan on picking it up before seven a.m.
  4. The hotel is next to the freeway.
  5. Someone nearby decides to launch left-over fireworks mortars towards the hotel: really big ones.
  6. Someone has taken the parking spot in front of your door.
  7. There are signs of a past forced entry into your room.
  8. It’s three in the morning and the person who parked in your spot decides it’s a good time to listen to rap.
  9. You wake up at eight to the sound of the same rap music – and a dog barking – right outside your door. The mortars are still coming.
  10. You meet your hotel neighbor who is the source of the barking – her dogs that is – all three of them. She tells you the story of how she inherited one from the guy who died in the room next to yours and how that is somehow connected to the car prowling story you heard in the lobby the night before.
  11. You decide the hot rate isn’t hot enough to justify another twenty-four hours at The Economorgue and while you’re once again in line in the lobby to claim your cash deposit, you learn there’s been yet another car prowling; this time with the windows smashed and the tires slashed.
  12. Yes, there was at least one car on jacks in the parking lot.

A Little Cabin In The Woods

Had someone been squatting on a neighbor’s land?

We’ve been looking at land for a few months and we often check Google Earth for a closer look from a couple of miles above the earth. There are two parcels for sale adjacent to us and up the hill towards the mountains that we’ve been interested in.

I noticed what looked like a shack on the property in the latest satellite imagery and rolled back the timeline a couple of decades. Someone had built whatever it was after 1998 and it had a roof as late as 2016 – the last captured image date.

Was the object a shelter with someone living in it? I got permission to walk the property for a closer look and I told the real estate agent I’d check for a possible squatter.

I use the My Tracks app when I go for hikes to keep my bearings so I started to record my movement as I crossed the property line and continued up toward the mysterious – whatever it was.

I climbed up the steep hill and through some almost impenetrable thickets toward the structure until the app told me it was almost directly in front of me. I peered through the brush – and there it was.

A cabin!

I wasn’t expecting to see such a well-made and picturesque abode. It was minus a roof and a chimney but someone had taken the time to craft this little building and had been living in it.

Anticipating the possibility of surprising someone, I had made my approach noisy – like I was out hiking but it was immediately apparent the tiny house had been abandoned for some time.

No squatters.

There was debris from the once-household scattered about outside, including parts of the fireplace and chimney but I wanted to see inside first. I called my husband and told him I had found the place as I crept through the doorway and into the little space.

The sunlight shone directly into the interior and onto the floorboards which were still sturdy. Some kitchen items had been left behind but the place had been cleaned up well, before whoever it was left – aside from what was outside.

The stovepipe remained attached to the wall while the rest lay in a heap with some other rubbish near the shell. I looked out a window in the rear to see what “they” saw when they looked out. I imagined seeing snow or maybe wolves through that window on a dark night.

They’d left behind a wooden wind chime and a couple of fish shaped dishes they’d used as ashtrays; a match and some ashes were still in them. I put the little trays in my pocket; no one was coming back for them.

I picked my way to the back of the shelter and found an animal cage. For a split second I considered whether it might have been used for a human (my vivid imagination). There were a couple of saws, a cup and an empty toolbox strewn about.

My curiosity satisfied and my mission complete, I stood and looked out at the view the mystery people would have enjoyed. It was spectacular but how did they get up here? There were no roads nearby. They must have cut the logs for the cabin on the spot.

I used my Tracks app to navigate down the hill to “safety” – across our property line. I breathed a sigh of relief although I had really enjoyed the afternoon’s adventure.

I don’t know if we’ll end up buying the two parcels next to us but someone had built a house with their own skills and a few tools and lived there for some time.

I wonder who they were?

The Pool

If only I could use it.

I bought an Intex above-ground pool a few weeks ago.

After two summers here I knew I had to have something to sit in when the temperatures reached two-hundred degrees. The pool is twelve feet in diameter and four-feet deep; plenty to immerse myself in and maybe float around in on a raft.

I have yet to use it. We’ve had nothing but thunderstorms and cooler than normal temperatures since I set it up.

If you want rain – buy a pool.

Intex self-supporting pools are designed to be set up on a level surface or else the weight of the water will cause it to become unstable. I had to find a level spot on our property or end up like the neighbors. Last year, they erected a massive pool on top of a hill that must have been slightly off-level. A few days later, all that was left was blue plastic debris and fencing.

I found a spot behind our shed among some trees. I now needed several hundred-thousand gallons of water to fill the pool up.

I had the pump in our drinking water well as opposed to the old one that has mud on the bottom and I had to wait for it to refill several times before the pool was full. Then I tested the waters; it was frigid – I mean leg-numbingly cold.

I had to find a way to heat it.

The place where I was forced to put the pool was in partial shade which meant little sunlight. I realized the ground was probably soaking up every molecule of warmth so I decided to put leftover insulated foam board underneath it. That meant draining all two-hundred thousand gallons of water and starting over.

I taped several pieces of the Styrofoam together and spread the pool out for a second time. I put the hose in and left it for the night.

The next morning I excitedly checked on the status of the refill: the water was brown. The pump was back in the original spring with the mud bottom and now my pool also had a mud bottom.

Last night I pulled the drain plug again after a day of filtering the water with the pump that came with the pool yielded less than spectacular results. Third time’s a charm.

Today I move the pump back to the drinking water hole and start again.

That’s OK because thunderclouds are forming on the horizon.

Blog To Book

I’m publishing a book of our adventures. This is the last chapter:

 

Out of all of the milestones of the past two and a half years since we left western Washington, the night we packed up the trailer and truck in a downpour at Tinkham Campground is the most emotional to me.

It was the night we said goodbye to our family, friends, our old home and our memories (bad and good) and left it all behind.

Over the summer of 2017, we inched our way across the state while we looked for land to buy and that time on the road was only the beginning of a grand adventure.

From the day we first pulled into our driveway until tonight, as I write this last chapter, our experiences have been vivid and memorable, harsh and rewarding. These stories are as much about our emotional journey as they are about our experiences.

From the coldest days of our first winter here when we had to walk through drifts of snow from our truck to our property pulling a wagon converted into a sled to the hottest days of summer we spent melting because we weren’t used to the climate, so much has occurred that could only happen in a place like this.

Everything we previously took for granted like water and electricity, we learned to appreciate as we had to work for them. We had to think every project through and we learned as we went. How to drive in the snow, keep warm in an RV, install and repair appliances, use propane (safely), and how to survive on our own – are obstacles we overcame although we sometimes threw up our hands and walked away.

Today we wake up to see the sun coming up over the mountains across the valley, framed by the massive Ponderosa Pines that populate our hillside. We rise to the sound of pheasant calling and turkeys lined up for breakfast outside our sliding doors. From the other side of our RV, the Huckleberry Mountain Range slopes up into the distance, carpeted with trees and capped with low-lying clouds.

The skies are unobstructed by light pollution and we’ve seen things up there that we can’t explain. On a super-moon event (when the moon is closest to the earth), it sets over the distant treeline, seemingly gargantuan as it slips out of sight over the horizon. The cover photo is one I took at three o: clock in the morning during one of these occurrences.

The spring we dug has provided life and convenience to us and is the centerpiece of our property. It’s where I go to meditate, think, and to cry. It’s the part of our land that draws me the most. There was no sign of water when we moved here. Now there is a series of pools and a trough going down the hillside that we use for all of our needs, including water for our garden. It’s all gravity. If we need water, we just turn on the spigot like a garden hose. I am grateful.

None of us can imagine living back in “civilization” again. We like it out here with the deer, turkeys, skunks, pheasants, occasional bear, cougar, one white rabbit, and, of course, two cats.

We’ve adapted to our new home and are prepared when winter approaches. I recently bought a pool in anticipation of summer. I set it up a couple of weeks ago on a ninety-degree day and it’s been thunderstorms ever since.

Although we still don’t have a house, we’re comfortable in our fifth wheel and we have the shed for projects and hobbies. We installed the solar power system (and boy hasn’t that been an adventure). All the delivery drivers that come up here are impressed.

We paid off our property a few months ago and when we’re outside, my husband sometimes gestures at the landscape and points out that “we own this place”. It’s a nice feeling. The trees, the rocks, the dirt below our feet belong to us – or do they, really?

I wrote about our adventures because I wanted them preserved for my own benefit and perhaps for family members in the future. I recently read an account of my Grandfather’s life and found it fascinating. What is everyday existence for us can take on a whole new meaning for someone down the road.

Our every day lives changed forever that night we packed up and headed east in the fall of 2017. It took a turn for adventure and I hope you have enjoyed the ride.

 

Metal Detecting – A Rhyme

Got myself a gold detector
Precious metals a collector
Up and down the hills I’ll go
If it’s summer or it’s snow
Digging here and digging there
Garbage buried everywhere
Beeps all sound the same to me
Have to shovel just to see
Is it treasure is it trash
Maybe someone’s secret stash
Fifty bullets rusty nails
Takes the wind out of my sails
Maybe someday I’ll find gold
But for now it’s something old

Hermits

Hiding from the neighbors.

Today, my husband and I took turns peeking suspiciously out our closed curtains to see if the neighbors had fixed their broken-down truck which stood near the entrance to our property.

Neither of us wanted to go outside and expose ourselves to the perceived scrutiny of one of the men who stood around the vehicle with its lid propped open. You see, we’d had this place to ourselves until “they” moved in about a year ago and to this day, we are about as anti-social as they come.

Why didn’t they tow the truck the rest of the way up the hill to their property where all the tools were? Why leave the truck out in the “open” where we could watch every move they made? Didn’t it bother them? Is this a cultural thing?

I hope you get that I’m talking tongue-in-cheek

We understand the psychology of social anxiety. Some of us are more introverted than others and have the perception that we are different and might somehow be unliked by others; in this case – the locals.

We get that it’s our own insecurities and we joke about it freely.

The truth is, however, that we want to be left alone. We want our privacy and if a seven-foot tall fence was in our budget, you better believe we’d have one by now.

Human relationships are the most important part of life but every time our neighbor (Lawnmower Man) starts up his Sears Special, we find ourselves halfway hoping he’ll run over a really big branch that will stop the machine in its tracks – at least temporarily. Although I’ve chatted with him a few times, I’ve always left the conversation wanting to run away as fast as I can.

He has a lot of plans for his property but his property is smack next to ours and every time we hear the chainsaw start up, we cringe and hit the real estate ads. I want to be in control of when I socialize and watching my neighbor cut the grass right up to my property line thirty feet away every other day unnerves me.

We moved to the country for solitude.

Where we came from, our neighbor’s doorstep was two-hundred feet from our own and I was not allowed to plant a single bush for privacy because the HOA said we couldn’t.

One day I set up a carnival-like play area for my then youngster with bean bag throwing, an alien bubble-making tub, and other fun stuff. The power-hungry president of the HOA showed up on my doorstep to point out that the driveways were not designated for such use.

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I took the matter into my own hands and ended up uncovering so much corruption the whole organization had to be overturned.

This history is, in part, why we are so reclusive.

Hemmed in and getting panicky, we are carefully planning ahead to ensure we have a buffer around our new home when the time comes – lots of acreage surrounding ground zero – our front door.

This evening, we finally heard the thunderous rumbling of our neighbor’s V-8 and we rushed to the blackout curtains to take a peek. The hood was down – this was good. All tools were put away. Almost time to skulk out from beneath our rock and sprint to the car for the pop.

But alas, the man and his accomplices decided to gather around the truck to chew the straw for another hour.

Cornhole and the alien bubble-making booth will have to wait until tomorrow 🙂

 

Woodland Waste Disposal

I don’t understand the mindset.

While we were on the road a couple of years ago between homes, we came across many designated and undesignated shooting areas out in the woods. One thing we were always sure to find: shot up electrical appliances. Other garbage too: slugs, clay pigeons, casings, pallets, and household waste.

We even encountered an expired family pet or two, sadly.

From TVs to computers, I can see the fun in venting one’s ire on broken or hated gadgets or just having fun watching them disintegrate but if you’re going to take it to the woods to die, clean it up and keep in mind it’s illegal in the national forest and is also subject to other local and state laws Explosives and Exploding Targets Prohibition in the National Forest.

There will probably be bits and pieces left behind but give it a proper burial. Haul it to the dump or dispose of it according to whatever guidelines apply.

Whether it’s a printer or that old overstuffed lounger, I don’t understand the mentality of people who think it’s OK to crap on nature. Not enough money to take something to the dump?

When we ran across the corpses of electronic devices, I took advantage of the situation and harvested what I could out of them for art. I took the copper wire out of a bullet-hole-riddled TV and made this tree.

tree at tinkham

To this day, we run across these dumpsites when we go out prospecting or for a hike. We try to at least scavenge for things that aren’t toxic and are still usable. Otherwise, there is way too much for us to clean up.

There is an area near us where hunters leave the remains of the deer they kill in a gruesome mess of cut-up skulls and plastic bags. I wish the governing agencies in charge of these places would put up hidden trail cams. It would be an easy way to catch offenders.

I imagine this message won’t be headed but it feels good to say it anyway:

Leave it how you found it – or better.

Endcap Entertainment

Grocery store treasures and other games to keep the family busy.

Impulse-buy sports.

Since we can’t recreate away from home, our family’s been looking for new ways to keep busy here on our property. The only games we had were Uno and Pass The Pigs which were getting old.

Fortunately we have room outside to spread out so we looked for outdoor diversions.

A trip to the grocery store was the answer.

Bowling.

We found the giant bowling set in a display at the end of the Haircare isle. With fat, two-foot-tall plastic pins and a hollow ball, it is not to be confused with yard bowling.

It is an illegitimate game with implied rules and is guaranteed to be broken or forgotten about within twenty-four hours of purchase unless you consider the potential for creative destruction.

I couldn’t get the pins to stand up so I filled the bottoms with dirt making it impossible to knock them over with the shell that was the ball. After attempting to pack it, too, full of dirt with unsatisfactory results, I hung the pins from a tree and we threw rocks at them instead.

They’ve been sitting in the shed ever since except that I cut the bowling ball in half and used it for a smelting furnace mold.

Horseshoes – A short story.

My husband picked up the horseshoes game a few weeks ago and we set it up without reading the instructions as per protocol. We positioned the stakes as far apart as we figured we could throw then lobbed the shoes.

If not for the overhead screen of branches the game might have lasted.

All of the shoes, having been knocked off their trajectories, eventually ended up in the nearby bushes next to last-year’s lost cache of slingshot balls where they will remain until tick season is over.

Note to cat owners: Check the pits before gameplay.

Badminton – with an emphasis on bad.

Yesterday we picked up a badminton set, or rather, four racquets and eight shuttlecocks. Most of the family outdoor play equipment had sold out so there weren’t any full sets left on the shelf.

During the ten whole minutes we spent running around flailing at the birdie, we learned this sport is best played away from equipment, rocks and solar panels. My husband speculated that getting a net would also improve our game. Makes perfect sense.

Still, it beats Yellow Jacket Tennis – What is Black and Yellow and Flies All Over?.

Wiffleball – AKA long distance running.

This was another endcap special at Safeway. They were on sale at two for the price of one so I grabbed two.

Play involves mostly running after the ball which inevitably ends up in the bushes next to the horseshoes and the slingshot balls.

If you have an overly enthusiastic five-year-old who thinks running after a ball is the next best thing to ice cream, you can save a lot of energy.

Cornhole – Beanbags gone professional.

Cornhole came home the same day as the badminton set. I’d never heard of it.

It’s beanbags – outdoor beanbags.

It may be a professional sport according to the words emblazoned on the panels with the holes in them. I’ll have to check Youtube to see if it’s true.

My husband says I’m a shark and that I should play professionally. I have a hard time believing that. Maybe the hopscotch I played as a kid is finally paying off.

Thankfully, beanbags don’t roll.

Next week we get a pool.

 

 

What Is Off-Grid?

Does it have to be an ideology or could it just be circumstantial?

When I first contemplated starting a blog about our adventures living off the beaten path, I considered calling it Stories From Almost Off The Grid.

To be honest, we didn’t originally choose a lifestyle of independence.

We kind of fell into it.

After we sold our house and hit the road looking for property, our priorities were nature and seclusion – not necessarily living off-grid. The stories naturally followed, however, and I started my blog with that theme.

I once posted on Facebook that we lived off-the-grid and the town troll suggested that I couldn’t be considered off-grid because I had the Internet. Another person once suggested the same applies because I have a phone.

Ridiculous.

One could argue till the end-of-time as to what qualifies as “true” off-the-grid status. It varies for everyone.

Our family happens to live this way for a lot of reasons but I feel the adaptations we’ve made and the hardships we’ve overcome help to define what it is to live off-grid. When we bought undeveloped land we had to change our paradigm and we had to get busy.

We installed a solar power system and dug a spring through breccia and bedrock with our own hands. We planted a garden and learned to install and repair our own appliances. Having to provide for ourselves taught us how to be more resourceful.

We like not having to pay someone else for our power although only through the summer (until we tweak our solar power system). My husband wants ducks and geese for their eggs. We want our own dog – not the neighbor’s. We’re planning on farming truffles but to pull it off we’re having to think outside the box because it’s too cold here.

We have been inspired.

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Photo by Kristina Paukshtite on Pexels.com

At the end of the day, this idea of living independently has caught on with us regardless of how we came into it. I believe that however or why a person comes to live off the beaten path isn’t so much the point – it’s the experience.

Besides, you can’t make this shit up. The stuff that has happened to us since we left the suburbs makes for one hell of a story.