I will be the gladdest thing under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay, "Afternoon on a Hill"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Day Apart

The Prospector decided to stay home with the dogs and take care of the farm. I drove down to spend the day with family.  I stayed overnight at my sister's house and came back home yesterday.

We all had a wonderful time. Lots of visiting, laughing and EATING.
My Sister-in- law's decorations were wonderful and the food was delicious.
Little Bean was so excited about everything and found the staircase a wonderful place to get away from the madding crowd.
I think that if someone had handed him a blanket, he could have gone to sleep there, but his feet still kept moving even though his eyes were glazing over.
Big brother, aka THE BEAN, was acting very grown up.
until someone put a soda in his hands. Then he and Mom got kind of silly for the camera.
And he went a little crazy.

This is The Bean's version of a magic trick, "Look Noni! No hands."
"You'll cut your lip."
"No, I won't Noni. I'm holding the tab."
"You'll swallow the tab!"
"No, I won't."
That's when I used my best "who's the boss" voice,
"Give-Noni-the-can."

Too much sugar? Maybe... but he gave me the can.
I took the can and then made the mistake of asking him to smile for the camera. Yea, right.
This is the portrait of a young man.... A few teeth missing, a fake smile... and a dead eye dick stare. So natural, so sweet... HA!
He's a little boy... with attitude.  What a little toad, but I love him.
Then  his mom let him have her camera. This was a special treat and he knew how to use it.  All of a sudden he was the consummate photographer.
He spent the next few minutes before dinner taking lots of photos of unsuspecting relatives.
It was a really nice day. Wish the Prospector could have been there too. Our neighbors invited him over for a turkey dinner so he didn't exactly starve. I made him a pumpkin pie to take over there so don't feel too sorry for him.
I stayed overnight at my sister's and drove the river road home the next day.

**************************
On my way back I stopped to take some pictures of a very large herd of goats.
They were stretched out for a quarter of a mile along the road. It was late afternoon and the sun was coming through the clouds. It was the perfect photo shoot.
I stopped and got my camera out. I stood between the car and the fence because there wasn't much room for the car and I wanted a buffer from the road.
I reached over the fence to get a shot of the goats when I got this funny feeling. I don't know how to explain it. Kind of like a bee buzz only inside of me. I backed up and then I reach over again and the same thing happen. I honestly didn't know what was going on.
Well, I'm sure all of you who have livestock, making sure that your animals are safe from crazy people who might harm them and wanting to keep your animals from wandering into traffic on the road, are well aware of what was happening to me.
This trespasser, who thought she could just lean over the fence to take a few photos was getting "fare warning" from the fence. IT WAS ELECTRIFIED! My brain finally caught up with what was happening.
It's a good thing that I didn't fall against it. Someone would have had to pick me up off of the ground.
And, as if to make things more complicated, I heard a bark and a big white dog came barreling up to the fence.
It must have been lying down with the goats. It came out of nowhere. I backed up and started talking to it.
Immediately it stopped barking. Just call me the dog whisperer.

She had an identical mate right behind her and he didn't seem as friendly.
She settled right down and , although she never jumped up on the fence, she gave me her best wonderful dog look. She seemed young. I think she wanted to play or needed some human companionship.
She was very friendly in a quiet sort of way. Look at that sweet face. I would never have reached over to pet her or made any fast moves, but as long as I kept talking to her she was very agreeable.
I took my pictures without touching the fence  and kept talking to the dogs. They never got too far away from me. I was, after all, a stranger.  A wolf in human clothing. They were doing what they were trained to do.
Look at those eyes.  So wise, so beautiful... yet warning me.
The encounter was lasting longer that they wanted it to and she was probably thinking, "Is this lady every going to leave so I can lie down and rest."
"I just want to go lie in the sun, Lady." She kept pacing back and forth until I realized that she wasn't going anywhere until I took my leave.
So I said goodbye and  got back into the car.

The drive back across the valley and up into the hills was uneventful.
It was good to be home. The Prospector and the dogs were waiting  for me.

I have a lot to be thankful for. Life is good.
Family is important even if circumstances make "being together" sometimes difficult. Having good neighbors helps. They are a support system and a community of friends that serve as surrogates for family when need be. I'm thankful for these people who we call neighbors.
I'm thankful for my true family and the friends that are like family to me.
And I'm thankful for my life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving


He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.
~J.A. Shedd


 

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.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Gold Is Where You Find It.

I made some cookies with the help of Cutter, kitchen dog extraordinaire.  The recipe is on the back of the package. I reduced the sugar, added some wheat germ and baked them. They were really good, if I do say so myself.
"Excellent" said the Prospector. Then, as if to make the whole day better, we went to look for GOLD.
The day was beautiful and cool. I can't tell you where we went, but we drove half way to a place were we could leave the car and then hiked to a dry river bed.
This is an old mining road that is filled with history. 
I always expect to see a ghost on a donkey coming toward us on the path. There is history here. It is in the wind and under the fallen leaves. It's a feeling... a connection with the past.
Then we come to "The place were the ferns grow". It is where one, small creek flows down into a bigger one.
Now, before the rains, there is no water. But an abundant amount of ferns tells us that there is a lot of moisture under the surface.

This is the time of the year to dig the bedrock, in the creek below. This is the time that comes before the rains and after the rattlers have gone back into their dens. Without water we have to carry buckets of dirt back with us or use a dry washer. Because we are quite far from the truck, it would be an huge effort to bring the equipment out here. The Prospector usually fills buckets and bring them back home on his ATV but today was different.Today he wanted to show me the new place that he has been digging.
I kind of knew where this place was but not the exact spot. These small claims are secrets. Areas of "don't ask, don't tell" and only shared with trustworthy friends... and (sometimes) wives. Prospectors are very closed mouth people when it comes to finding gold. They love to show you the nuggets but they will never tell you where they found them.
We turn and hike down  the hillside to the larger creek below. It's a tough climb down but the Prospector has made a trail, of sorts, that helps the descent. Finally we get to the creek and the beautiful BEDROCK. For more information  about why bedrock is so important in gold recovery take a look at this site. This guy really knows what he is talking about.
Even aside from the fact that gold is now at $1723.20 an ounce, it's beautiful and you can still find it sitting in the bottom of streams and rivers here in California. And, you get to be in some of the most lovely places on earth.
Bedrock is ancient. It's beautiful and it's not going anywhere. It's always in some beautiful place that makes me want to pitch a tent and live, as Thoreau said, "deliberately".

This is where the wild things live.
 Where bears and wildcats come to find water and solace with the creatures of the night.
Where rock and tree root tangle together for support.
And the mosses wait for the moisture of the first rains.


A Buckeye waits to become a tree,
And the only sound in the quiet stream bed is my husband's trowel scooping dirt and a red winged hawk over head.
We will never become rich doing this but the fun of looking for the gold and the beautiful peace of this place will bring us happiness beyond riches. As Robert Service wrote in one of  his poems .

"There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting; 
It's luring me on as of old; 
Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting 
So much as just finding the gold. 
It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder, 
It's the forests where silence has lease; 
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder, 
It's the stillness that fills me with peace."