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 . 🙂

 

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.

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 ten reasons why:

  1. While you’re waiting in the lobby, the conversation turns to a car prowling – committed by one of the hotel employees.
  2. Your son, who stayed in the car, has already turned down three drug deals by the time you get the room key.
  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 across the freeway launches leftover fireworks mortars directly over the hotel: really big ones.
  6. Someone has taken the parking spot in front of your door leaving you with the space at the dark end of the lot.
  7. There are signs of a past forced entry into your room.
  8. You hear rap music at three in the morning and open the door to discover the source is the person who took your parking space.
  9. You wake up at eight to 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 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.

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 made my approach noisy – like I was out hiking but it became immediately apparent the tiny house had been abandoned for some time.

No squatters.

Debris from the once-household lay strewn about outside, including parts of the fireplace and chimney but I wanted to see inside first. I called my husband and told him I’d found the place as I crept through the doorway and into the little space.

Bright sunlight shone directly into the interior and onto the still-sturdy planks. Various kitchen items lay scattered about, left behind by the former occupants, but most were gone.

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 prowling too close 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 second I considered whether it might have been used for a human (my vivid imagination). A couple of saws, a cup and an empty toolbox sat on top, forgotten and rusty.

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 navigating app to find my way back 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 buy 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?

Blog To Book

The night we packed up the trailer and truck in a downpour near Snoqualmie Pass was emotional. It was September of 2017 and we were headed east to our new home.

Family, friends, our old home, and our memories (bad and good), would soon be nothing but a reflection in a rear view mirror.

After we sold our house in the spring, we inched our way across the state looking for land to buy and that time on the road was only the beginning of a grand adventure. Since the day we first pulled into our driveway to today, life has been vivid both in experience and emotion.

Our first year was hell. We didn’t have a lot of money and had to deal with the realities of living on raw land in any way we could. We walked through snow, dragging a sled loaded with groceries and propane because our four wheel drive was broken.

Our pipes froze and we froze while we scrambled to find everything we’d left outside under three feet of snow. Our trailer had canvas walls that we had to insulate while at night we listened to animals just feet beyond the material. Spring was short and summer brought a scourge of insects we didn’t know existed, along with temperatures we weren’t used to.

I wondered often, if we’d done the right thing. In my head, life involved literally making it from one moment to the next, knowing we had things in the works financially. The patience required was infinite.

In our time here, we’ve learned how to drive in the snow, keep warm in an RV, install and repair appliances and use propane for just about everything. We no longer take water and electricity for granted. We’ve overcome a lot of challenges and walked away from the rest.

Today we live in what’s still an uneasy standoff between our choices and their consequences. I’d be lying if I said I was perfectly happy living like this but I wouldn’t trade this past three years for anything.

What makes it all worth it is stepping outside to see the early morning sun coming up over the mountains across the valley, framed by massive Ponderosa Pines. Looking the other way, the Huckleberry Mountain Range slopes up into the distance, carpeted with trees and capped with low-lying clouds.

The skies are big and full of strange things out here. We’ve seen stuff we still can’t explain.

Our spring is the centerpiece of our property. It’s where I go to meditate, think, and to cry. This place was dry when we moved here but a lot of digging later, we have all the water we need. Thanks to gravity, it’s the turn of a spigot away.

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, our cats.

We decided not to build for a lot of reasons but we’re comfortable in our fifth wheel for the time being and we have the shed for projects and hobbies.

The place is paid off and when we’re outside, my husband sometimes gestures broadly with his arm and reminds me 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 these stories to preserve our memories of this time and place. I recently read an account of my Grandfather’s life and found it fascinating. What is everyday existence for us can take on new meaning for someone down the road.

Our lives changed forever that night we packed up and headed east in the fall of 2017. I hope you’ve lived, if just a little bit, with us, through these pages.

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.

 

 

Chasing Bridgette

She was finally on her way to the truck doctor – but they were closed.

Bridgette is my husband’s other woman.

I’m not even jealous because she’s a part of our family. She’s heavier than me but stronger and she’s willing to take the garbage out. Unfortunately she’s been sitting in one spot for over a year now.

You might say she’s lazy but Bridgette is our 1986 Ford F-250 pickup truck and my husband is very sentimental about her. She might need a new engine. We’ll see.

My husband acquired her in a moving-out deal and she pulled us and our trailer from our old to our new home and throughout our three-month journey in-between in 2017. Bridgette The Truck

To me she has a personality – she reminds me of a horse.

That summer, she threw a shoe (got a flat), leaving us to camp on the side of the road for three days while the tire store put seven hundred dollars into matching replacements and a rim . She lost her brights right after we pulled onto the freeway in torrential rain on our final journey over the mountains and across the state to our new home. I had to drive the whole night with the low-beams on.

Her driver’s side window wouldn’t roll up that night and we had to pull out the door panel in order to manually push the glass up so I wouldn’t freeze for the drive.

We were told by her owner that she had a hole in her front gas tank and to not fill it up too much or it would leak. Her defrost was broken, and her four-wheel drive mechanism busted the first winter we lived here leaving us to walk and/or push her through the slightest of slippery conditions.

But we love her. Especially my husband.

That’s why we’re contemplating putting so much cash into replacing the engine.  We had the other repairs done last year before catastrophe hit and we limped her home for the wait.

Our driveway recently dried up enough for someone to come and get her so we called the repair shop a couple of days ago and made arrangements for an inspection. This morning we called the tow company.

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When he arrived, I told the driver I was writing about it so he took the time to describe how a vehicle is secured as he hooked her up. He backed up and slid brackets under the tires before hoisting the rear end up then wrapped two chains around both axels to keep the truck from “jumping” out on the bumps.

Bridgette has a manual four-wheel drive lock so he disengaged it from the drive train so as not to drag her to town. He wrapped the driver’s seatbelt around the steering wheel at the top and locked it into place to keep the wheels facing forward. He stuck red lights onto Bridgette’s hood that complimented her running lights quite nicely.

The driver asked us if they were expected in town, we said “yes”, and off he went with our beloved beast.

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Then we called and found out the shop was closed. What if there was no place to park the truck? What about the keys?

We freaked out and jumped into our car and sped after Bridgette.

Down the hill we went and sure enough, we could see the white speck that is Bridgette about a mile ahead of us on the straightaway towards town. Trying not to speed, we caught up to her at a railroad crossing a couple of blocks away from her destination.

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The driver was positioning Bridgette in a vacant spot behind the shop by the time we’d parked and I hurried over to explain but there was a key drop-box and it really wasn’t a big deal after all. I thanked him for putting up with my incessant talking and picture taking and we left her to wait for her turn on the lift.

What we do depends on the estimated grand total – repair or not?

I’m willing to have another woman around as long as she sleeps outside.

Memorable Moments

Times we won’t forget since we moved.

Here is a list of some memorable moments we’ve had since we left “civilization” over two years ago:

  • Finding a man asleep in the back of his pickup truck minutes after a bear ransacked his belongings at his open tailgate – inches from his feet.
  • Driving with a twenty-five foot trailer behind me for the first time and coming to a halt at a bridge we weren’t sure was wide enough for us.
  • Shaking a skunk out of a cage at 2:30 in the morning.
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    A passerby.

  • Watching the solar eclipse on the beach of a river at a campground.
  • Coming home from work to the first snow we’d seen in years. Three feet of it.
  • Hitting the ground after a bullet ricocheted off a tree near us and yelling “there are people down here” when our neighbors almost shot us.
  • My husband walking out the door to our RV to see a bear about thirty feet away.
  • Finding a skunk in my kitchen in the middle of the night.
  • The night our cat jumped onto the canvass of our camper-trailer, collapsing it onto my head and my half-asleep husband mumbling “are you sure that’s the cat”?
  • Bambi
  • The night we packed our trailer to leave for our new home in eastern Washington in a monsoon then having the lights on the truck go out on the freeway.
  • Getting a flat tire while pulling our trailer out of the woods and living in it for two days on the outskirts of a residential area while we had the tires replaced.
  • Letting an extremely aggressive wildcat we’d caught out of a cage.
  • My husband listening to the bays of a wolf pack while he stayed in the trailer alone one night. We found tracks outside the trailer the next day.
  • Striking water under pressure and seeing it gush out of the ground while we were digging our spring deeper one summer. We’ve been set ever since.
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  • The family from hell we camped next too while on the road who got drunk every night and fought. It ended with half the crowd screeching away in a cloud of dust and spraying rocks one morning.
  • Driving down the highway as we neared our new home with Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream playing on the radio as the sun tipped the horizon to the east.
  • Runnin’ to a dead-end after we discovered the road to our property had been washed out and having to back the trailer into a dirt ravine to turn around.
  • Pulling up our driveway for the first time on the morning of September 18th, 2017.
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    Our latest four panels.