I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Back At the Ranch

I was so pleased with the comments that all of you made about our gold quest and the beauty of the area.
Everyone  seemed to understand the reasons why we love this area and why we have "gold fever". It's an illness that never goes away... a sickness with benefits.
Like the gold ring on a merry-go-round, you reach... you try... and there is always the possibility that you may find the prize in your hand.
But, the overriding question was.... Did you find any GOLD?
So without further delay, I bring you Gold Recovery 101.

The Prospector has set up an area near the garage and near WATER (critical to finding gold).
This is a sluicing arrangement that he has made using an animal water trough, a pump, a couple of sluices and various buckets and hoses.
First he uses a classifier to reduce the concentrates to less than a quarter inch. This eliminates dealing with larger rocks and debris that clog up the trough and make the process longer and slower.

One of my jobs is to sort through the pile of bigger gravel just in case there might be some HUGE nuggets (Hope springs eternal.) that couldn't get through the screens.
Nope, no nuggets. But you never know... you need to check everything and dump nothing.
We're not talking 1848 here, just before the Gold Rush, when you could reach down into the rivers and pick nuggets out of the water. The original dream is gone. The 2011 dream is to find a place that no one has been before (rare) and go down to the bedrock. Read the river for signs that tell you it's a good place. Then you take sample pans and see if there is any "color". This is very fine gold that might indicate more in that area. Then you do the hard work which can been made easier by investing in some good equipment. The Sluice box is the answer to hours of back breaking work with a gold pan. This article can  explain what sluicing is and how it works.
The Prospector has connected two sluice boxes together to catch as much "fine" gold as possible.
He turns on the pump. The water flows down over the sluice boxes and into the metal trough. The water is then sucked back up into the pump and reused. 
 The quarter inch concentrates, the PAYDIRT, is slowly poured into the header box above the sluice box.
Gold is very heavy. I mean very, very heavy. It's 20 times heavier than water and you realize how heavy it is just by holding it in your hand. This is the best, quick assay of what's gold and what isn't.
Because gold is so heavy, it SINKS below the water fast and in a sluice box it gets caught in the riffles and the miner's moss (matting that traps and holds heavy values inside woven vinyl fibers) below the riffles.
Are you still awake?
 Here's a small diversion to keep you from saying, "Why did I ever ask her if she found any gold?"
There was Brownie. He was watching the whole operation with what appeared to be interest. The other goats came and went. I guess they didn't like the noise of the motor and the pump. But Brown was down for all of this.  He was watching us intently.
I walked over to him and started talking to him and rubbing his head. Then I said something like " Oh, Brownie. I just love you. You're such a good goat. I'm glad that you're still here with us.", etc, etc, etc. And I kept rubbing his head as I talked to him.
Well ,guess what he did?
He sniffed my face, as goats do.... and then he smiled.
That is a smile. That's a cute " Yes, I'm a wonderful goat." smile.
He has mellowed so much. He use to be so annoyed all the time. Injustices were an everyday occurrences. But since his accident, he has become a sweet old goat that loves being paid attention to, especially when the other goats aren't around.
That was a smile and it was for me. I just know it.

OK! Back to finding the gold.
 I love watching water flow. Whether it's from a faucet, or moving down a stream or river... or going over a waterfall. I love how water moves. But, when there is a possibility of finding gold, underneath the water, it takes on a whole new meaning.
We stopped the pump and cleaned out the sluice box.
There were no big nuggets lying on the screen but there was a lot of fine gold sparkling at us in many places.
We pulled the riffled screen up and rolled the miner's moss into a pan filled with water. The fine gold will be in the fabric of the moss. You want to catch as much as possible.
The Prospector panned some of the concentrates out and look....
This is a small nugget. A gift from the earth. So far, they are all very small.
They have not traveled very far. The roughness of each piece tells us that they haven't move over rocks and down streams very far because they are not rounded and worn. This is gold that indicates there may be more in that area.
I wish I could get closer so you could see how very beautiful this precious metal is. We would have never quit our jobs to do this but many did in 1849 and, with no work at all, in the depression of the 1930's. Some made fortunes. More folks went back home broke.
We are retired and this is a hobby. A SERIOUS hobby with a lot of "toys". We really enjoy gold panning, metal detecting and sometimes dredging, like fisherman love fishing and kayakers love kayaking.
The state has seen fit to stopped recreational dredging in this state. The Prospector is very angry about this. I will not get into a political discussion about our feelings on the subject. I won't even give you a link to information about it because I don't want to fire up an already touchy subject. I will only say that legislation of a dredging ban has been signed by the governor, without proof, and awaits a thorough environmental study. I want to see proof that dredging, on a small scale, does damage to spawning salmon  and other wildlife. I'm waiting and I'm listening. But, I want the truth.
This is some of the gold we have worked for in the last week or so. It's not going to buy us more fencing or add on a room to our house but when I look at it I know that we worked hard for it and that it's out there for everyone.
We will fill this little jar and start another one, because someday we want to give them to our grandchildren and tell them our stories about Noni and Papa's excellent adventures and where this gold came from.
It's a fine balance of personal freedom, recreation and a love of wilderness . A compromise will be made eventually... I hope.  I don't know what else to say.
All of these things are starting to look endangered.
Maybe I've said enough.


  1. Connie, I remember when we bought our house in Sutter Creek, we had to sign a waiver that we did not own any gold or precious metals that were below a certain footage. i think it was nine feet. So, if we decided to dig deep to plant a redwood say, and struck it, we had to tell someone. And give them the gold. ummmmmmmmmm. If we didn't sign the waiver, we didn't get the house.
    Never did sit right with me!

  2. ok this was fascinating...including goat grins...very cool on your find and the process you go through to get it...it sounds like a lot of work but you have fun with it so...and maybe you will hit the big nuggets soon enough...smiles.

  3. that was very intersting. I had no idea the work involved in getting that sweet little prize! I does sound like fun and obviously is a joy to your hearts to be in nature.
    You have been absent from my place for such a long while that I was getting concerned. I hope all is well dear Farmlady and may you and the Prospector have a wonderful Thanksgiving. jj

  4. I was raised as you know in Nevada
    City, California. I understand the different ways gold is mined. In fact my dad worked in the gold mines. My husband and I tried to pan for gold one time and the only thing I got was a good sunburn, but it was fun. I have a friend who lives in Sierra City, California and she pans for gold and has quite a few nuggets. I enjoyed this post and the pictures
    Hope you find lots more nuggets. Have a blessed evening and a great Thanksgiving day. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.

  5. just LOVED this post, thank you very much. The gold fever makes sense to me now ... do you suppose that we have gold in New York State? LOL. Your beautiful goat smiles - worth their weight in gold!!!!!

  6. I have seen a process similar when in Alaska. Had no idea that it was so involved and hard work with a lot of patience. I found this most interesting and you gave a lot of details I did not know. Wishing you the best of luck in this wild adventure. Gold is very high now. Trust you strike it rich.

  7. Here's hoping you find a great big one some day :)

  8. What fun, I used to read stories about the gold miming rush in Australia & people still do what you do, some even eking out a living. It's a nostalgic look at a romantic lifestyle that is in fact a whole lot of hard work!
    Happy Thanksgiving, Farmlady & your Prospector & to all your critters too.

  9. Wow what an adventure you lead...love the Bean post too...Hope you had a wonderful holiday...


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