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John Sheldon Opal Beds

While on a short vacation/scouting trip to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, we stopped to look at some property in Burns Lake. It looked really good on paper, and when we went into where we thought the driveway was, we were quite hopeful.

Then we saw it was about ten kilometres down a mountainous logging road.

That would not be good in the winter; not by a long shot.

While we were camped out near the property, Gerri looked up other things to do in the area and it turned out that there was an opal/agate bed only a few kilometres from where we were camping that night.

We decided that we didn’t have time right then but would stop and camp at the site on the way home. We both love looking for fancy rocks, so how could we pass up a chance to go mining for free?

We did a quick search and found out that John Shelford staked the claim in the 1980s after finding two pieces of precious opal but left the claim for the district to turn into a public reserve staking. This means that anyone can go up there and dig up some stones. There was a 1.9 km hike that was easy, with some steep sections but there are opals at the end of it.

Pretty cool, right?

I think that I like rockhounding because Gerri loves rocks so much and I love the outdoors. I also love searching for things as well as the thrill of finding them.

When I can do something I really enjoy and possibly give the love of my life something that she really enjoys, I think that’s probably the best hobby you could have. It also gives us both a few things we crave more than anything.

Quality time together, relaxation, and adventure.

There are lots of other fantastic points, like mental and physical exercise, fresh air, the outdoors, and wildlife. We also like cooking outdoors and making coffee in odd locations.

Okay, back to the quest

A few days later we came back and drove into the campsite part of the John Shelford Opal Bed. There were some signs.

The campsite was pretty good, especially for free. There were a few spots, a couple of picnic tables with fire pits…

…and a really cool outhouse.

That sign is not the cool part, especially because we now had to fry the steaks. No, this is the cool part.

I could watch the stars from my throne. If only I could stay up that late.

We had some supper and then tucked into the old fartsack for the night.

(Seriously. After those beet tops and the tri-tips, it got a little gaseous in there.)

OPAL TIME!!!!!

As you can see, we are very eager beavers. I couldn’t even wait to put shoes on… or pants.

After a breakfast of leftover steak and potatoes, we were off and running.

This is the start of the trail the next morning.

 

The first half a kilometre was really nice. We scared up a cow moose with calf near the start, but I couldn’t get my phone out quick enough.

I kept the phone out after that. This was the pleasant part. We’re thinking the only reason it was good, was because it had been recently logged off.

There were nice, flat trails for a bit. Like this.

It didn’t take long for them to get like this though.

You can see the trail in the centre of the last photo. We quickly learned that things have changed since the 2011 article that we were going by. It said the trail was easy. We have since notified them and it is now changed to difficult or challenging.

We made it to a few different sites, where we found stones, but we were pretty beat. We decided to hike back out before we lost the strength and the will to survive. We also didn’t want to forget the way. (We’re getting older, you see.)

There was more of this…

…but in the end, we made it back. Partly because we found a plethora of huckleberries to munch on along the trail.

There were literally thousands of bushes like this along the higher parts of the trail, which was good news, I think.

I figure that if there were bears (or people) in the area, these patches would have been robbed already. Most of the raspberries were drying on the plants and the huckleberries were at the peak of ripeness. If there was a bear around, I imagine we would have seen sign of it.

Unless…

They just fill up on hikers that stop to pick the berries amongst a trap of deadfall trees.

A little worse for wear, but after some big gulps of green juice, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Well, I was not feeling good about choosing shorts for the hike. These are some of the reasons.

When we were all packed up we thought we would boogie into Burns Lake for a swim as we had seen a nice little beach area when we passed through. As we came down off the mountain, we saw this.

That was the start of the Shovel Lake fire which has been burning out of control for over a week. As of posting, it is the largest wildfire in British Columbia.

Well, enough sadness. On to the gratuitous partial nudity!

The water was pretty cold, but it was just what we needed to rinse off the blood, sweat, and tears of a day of prospecting.

Speaking of prospecting, this is some of what we found.

And our favourite…

This is the one that made Gerri cry when we got it out without breaking it. We don’t know if it’s an opal or an agate but it will always be the reason we went on that trip.

We have no idea if anything we found is worth money, and we don’t care. We don’t even know what to do with them but we are going to start looking into lapidary tools and see if we can turn any of it into something beautiful. We have always loved looking for cool rocks but had never really known how rewarding it could be to go through such a struggle for the unknown and finding so much more than you were expecting.

I guess this is why there are prospectors.

When we got home to the computer, we figured out how to track ourselves, somewhat, with the location thingy on the phone. I traced it out for you. It’s supposed to be 1.9 kms in, but we think it is a bit longer now to get around everything.

When we go back, we will be taking better tools and will be cleaning up a lot of that trail. We would like to spend a few days camping and really learn about how to extract these gems without smashing them into shards. We’d also love to pick a bunch of those huckleberries. I bet they make a delicious jam and maybe even a pie.

If anyone is interested in meeting up on a long weekend and having a rockhounding adventure, the site is about fifteen minutes from Burns Lake, BC and we would love to plan a trip for possibly the Labour Day weekend, but definitely for next summer.

You can reach us at chris@granolalight.com or via telepath crystals. We’re hoping that a few of these hold those qualities.

Gardens And Reflections

All winter I was dreaming of building some river rock, raised- bed gardens in the backyard. I had everything planned out in my head and had read many articles on mortars and techniques in preparation for when the snow disappeared.

We were going to have a mixture of reclaimed logs and stone to try and keep everything natural looking.

We still might.

 

For now, we are going to work with the logs. They are free and doable.

As usual, I forget to take photos when I’m doing things, so I rely on Gerri to document our progress. I don’t think I even took a “before” picture. Luckily she showed up before I finished, or it would just be me trying to describe the process to you.

I suppose I found the stonework daunting, more than expensive. It’s hard to admit that, mostly to myself, but there it is. I kept saying that I was going to buy cement and mix it up for the footings, but I never did it. There was always something else that the money was needed for. The rock is free, but when I started to think about building the wall, and the sheer weight of the rock I would be wheelbarrowing into the backyard, I sort of froze up. Mentally and emotionally.

I can’t think of anyone I would rather be beside when I’m feeling down or inadequate. Even just having her near me gives me everything I need to keep going. I love when she comes out and tells me to wait, just so she can take a selfie of us, or asks why I’m doing something a certain way.

Sometimes it’s just nice to take a break, put my arm around her and stare at the tomatoes while we cool down and talk about things we would like to do if we had the money.

It’s never anything grandiose or even expensive. It’s simple stuff, like a rock waterfall and a little fish pond or to replace our dilapidated sheds. A little piece of property and a sawmill.

We really don’t want much.

We talk about how nice it would be if we could use the property behind us to plant some gardens in. It gets excellent sun and under all that grass is a gravel parking lot. It used to be a theatre but now sits empty, except for a room upstairs that the cable company uses to broadcast it’s twenty-six channels from.

Don’t tell them, but I cut down a big poplar on their property last year that was full of carpenter ants. I didn’t know about the ants until it hit the ground. The real reason I cut it down was that it was blocking all of our sun.  We threw the branches and limbs in this garden as sort of a hugelkultur garden.

We also threw in our old compost pile. It wasn’t completely broken down but mostly. Just like us.

It was filled with kitchen scraps, old chicken bedding and last years tomato plants, along with an uncommon amount of ants. I was thinking about how to safely poison all those ants but then I thought better of it. They really weren’t hurting anything, and possibly were helping break things down.

I did take a few particularly infested clumps and threw them in with the chickens.

Circle of life and all that.

We mixed in 4 loads of wood chips to the mix and then got ourselves prepared for shovelling the trailer load of manure into wheelbarrows and moving them to the backyard and into the new garden.

That was when I had an idea!

You know, I never thought I’d make it to forty, but here I am at forty-six and I feel like my life has just started. I finally feel like I have a goal, and I also have someone to strive for that goal with.

It took me a long time to find someone who appreciates the simple things in life. A crackling fire and some s’mores, pruning some tomatoes, or just getting high in her fort and dancing. She’s so much more than I had ever hoped for, yet feels like she’s sometimes not enough.

Even though she’s the reason I even want to do anything. The reason this got built, and anything after it.

I’ve finally found someone who appreciates old, weathered wood, and realizes that rich soil is one of the most valuable things that we can have in our lives.

With rich soil you can grow anything.

My Little Worm Project: Update #1

So on April 11, 2017 I started My Little Worm Project. So far, it has been a rousing success.

This was on May 3.

Apparently this is called parasola plicatilis. There is some debate as to its edibility and possible psychoactivity.

I didn’t test for either.

After two months, I was completely surprised to open it up and see this.

DO YOU SEE THAT?

That is a pile of worms. And a bit of fungi.

Some of the first babies are now adolescents that are over an inch long, but all of that spaghetti looking stuff is dozens of baby worms. In another couple of months, they should be close to full size.

I put a chunk of watermelon rind in there when I saw the first food start to disappear, and it didn’t take them long to get it down to just the skin. I think I grossly underestimated the breeding power of these red wigglers. I’m pretty sure that this Cool Whip container won’t last the year without having to split it.

I guess we will see.

Seeing as they have almost finished the watermelon, I threw in some cilantro that was starting to get mushy. I have some broccoli ends in the freezer, so I will probably try that as well.

I just put the cardboard in to dry it up a bit.

Okey dokey, let’s tap the brakes a bit

The four month mark has just passed, and I had to move the worms into a bigger tub. While I was sorting, I did a count and found 153 worms, that were big enough to count. I’m sure there were a bunch of babies, and I know there were at least 50 cocoons that went into the big bin with whatever scraps of cardboard and watermelon rind was left.

Here is a clump that obviously made a great nursery.

All of the yellowish ovals are cocoons, and you can see a few deflated ones as well. One was releasing a new baby as we were taking this photo, but we didn’t even think of filming it. It was just cool to watch, and give a squeeze to help out.

I’m really glad that I chose to do this now, because I think that the bottom was getting a bit too wet, and possibly turning anaerobic. For that reason, I threw a bunch of dry material in the new, larger bin, and in the CoolWhip container where the castings, cocoons, and any babies that slipped by will go.

That is the new bin, and this next one is the old one.

I’m starting to add in some of the siftings from other batches. I figure they will break down eventually. It’s mostly old spruce needles and twigs, but there is some dried clumps of castings that could be rejuvenated. I guess I will have to lay off the watermelon, and any other really wet food, plus an occasional turn wouldn’t hurt either. I put some more holes in the bottom as well, so we’ll check back in in a couple of months and see how it is going.

My thoughts on this type of project

I was really floored by the activity in the small container, but have learned through forums and YouTube, that the breeding will slow down when the space becomes cramped. I think that this would be an excellent school project for young kids, that might get them into a life with one less strain on the system. If they were allowed to get a bigger bin for home, it wouldn’t take long to have a good setup with the capacity to detour a couple pounds of waste from the landfill, while producing some high quality amendments for their gardens, house plants, or even just to throw on the lawn.

Kind of a win/win situation, there.

Chris

We Were Going to Rent a Chipper

Something like this one, but probably not from Amazon.

Between pruning and heavy snow damage, we lost a pile of our fruit, spruce, and lilac branches. Over the winter we tried to burn some of them in the fire pit, but that was  futile as it took more good wood to keep the fire going just to burn up a bit of lilac.

Sadly, this photo was taken today, April 20th.
This was April 19th. Way better.

We lamented about how nice it would be to have a chipper so we could mulch all of the piles up and at least get some benefit from the destruction.

 

We tried advertising locally to see if someone had one that they would like to rent out, but nobody responded, so we started looking at nearby rental businesses.

The problem is that the closest rental place to carry wood chippers is two hours away in Dawson Creek. There’s four hours of driving and at least $50 in gas on top of the $150 a day rental fee.

That’s for a chipper that will handle up to 3″ limbs or trees.

We couldn’t justify spending $1000+ on a new machine to mulch up a few piles of branches each year, so we started to look at local classified ads to see if there were any used ones for sale.

There wasn’t, but I did notice that there were electric chippers for as little as $200 when I Googled it, so I started to look into that option.

We really liked the design of the Earthwise GS70015, but it was more than double the price of similar units without the catch bin.

Then we found the same one with a different paint job at Canadian Tire for $199 and started to do a little research and comparisons. Overall, it seemed like a much better option, because we could easily trim our branches small enough to fit through the 1 1/4″ opening with the Cyndi Loppersand we loved the no cleanup aspect with the built in bin.

I had read a bunch of complaints about the product and the screws rusting into the blades and making it nearly impossible to get them out without stripping them, so I took the advice of one reviewer and put anti-seize on all of the screws before use.

Then we went out and fired that sucker up. It made great sized chips for mulch, and once the branches were cut down to size, it gobbled them up quite fast. It didn’t take too many crabapple branches to make this little box of gold.

I kind of want to roll around in them.

I’m going to do up enough to get 8″ of this stuff in the chicken’s run and let them work it around and build up some good compost. I wanted to try it in the coop for bedding, but I’m told that it isn’t a good idea for a few different reasons. All of the reasons include the girls’ health, so I don’t want to chance it. I was just hoping to save a bit of dough, because the bales of shavings are $10 a piece at the local feed store (which doesn’t seem bad after looking at Amazon), and that all adds up.

We also plan on making some good mulch for around the trees and in the gardens, so I will play around with the green/carbon ratios when I’m doing the chipping. I’m sure that I can find the right amount somewhere on YouTube.

Another thing we want to try is hugelkultur, so this is another way we will be able to use the chips and the bigger wood together.  I am going to  look further into it, but I do want to get at least one bed going this year.

I also got thinking that we might get a smoker and see if we can dry the fruit wood chips enough to use them for that. We have a bunch of crabapple, plum and apricot branches to do, so it would be free fuel. I mean why bury them when you can smoke meat to go along with your fresh veggies? 😉

Anyhow, if you are in the market for a little chipper, and you don’t mind a little extra work, you can save yourself quite a bit of money and hassle by shopping around for a small electric one. I can’t vouch for any of them right now, but this one seems like a good deal, and works really good so far. I will definitely update this if things go awry though.

Chris

P.S. If you get the Canadian Tire one, look at my review there. It will tell you about getting new blades from the company. What it won’t tell you is that they will send you free ones if you call before you have had it for two years and they wear out. That is all done over the phone, so you don’t have to take them into CT.

That’s if they weren’t lying to me, and if things don’t change in the next two years.