Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gold Panning at the Creek

Today has been a day of well deserved rest.  We made our usual garden visit first thing this morning, but then Mountain Man and I did our own things, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. 

We decided to eat a light fruit and nut lunch while dipping our feet in the cool flowing creek water, as it was another scorcher, 96 degrees (though I have to be grateful for that because there are places over 100!), and to pan for gold, one of our favorite pastimes.    
The water was refreshing, well cold really, I had to keep pulling my feet out to warm up:), the air was cooler and with the sound of the flowing creek along with the slight breeze, it was quite comfortable.  When I looked up, I saw...
 ...when I looked around I saw...
~life is good!

We haven't panned for gold in a long time and today was a perfect day to do so.  We bought the bag of gold ore we used today at the Crisson Gold Mine (we keep a big bag in the basement).  We filled a coffee can with the gold ore and brought it along to the creek with a gold pan, tweezers, a small jar to put our gold nuggets into.

After eating our lunch and soaking our feet, we moved to sit on a couple of rocks along the creek at a spot that had a small pool...let the panning begin!

Pour some gold ore into the gold pan...

...put some water in the pan and swirled it around, which helps to move the gold (heaviest object) to the bottom of the pan...

...slowly pour the water and loose sand/stone over the side of the pan with the ridges, which eliminates the sand/stone but leaves the heavier gold...

...now you look in the pan, through the water (helps the sun reflect off the gold to see it more easily), to see if you find any gold nuggets...watch for fools gold, looks similar, and can make one think it is gold, but when you see the real gold, you know it for sure...

...there's gold in them thar hills!!!...

...we actually found 2 nuggets in one pour...
...I didn't crop this picture so you could see them in relation to the pan, they are in the center of the pic...I never said they were big nuggets, just nuggets, LOL!...

...then using tweezers, we carefully put the nuggets into a small vial with water...

...and repeat this process until the gold ore is gone...we found a total of 6 nuggets today, not bad!

Have you ever tried gold panning?  Have you found gold? 

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,


Friday, June 29, 2012

Still Working on Winter Wood, Day 2

Well, today has been a day of serious physical labor, if I do say so myself...my muscles are aching, and though in a good way, they still ache...and I don't mean a little.  To compound the physical efforts of the day, we are having an unusual heat wave (up here at the cabin we reached 93, that is really hot for here) and this evening in particular feels hot.  But while I say that, I have to be grateful for the lesser humidity compared to our river home, because there the heat + humidity would be unbearable, although you are inside with strong AC (none here)...geesh, am I complaining???  I dare not, because Mountain Man suggested we head down to the creek before bed and soak our tired feet in our lovely creek (always 60 degree water from a spring)...I think that is a lovely idea...hmmm, maybe I'll bring some up in a bowl to put next to my bed for my hot flashes...

On to the events of the day...beginning with the end result, this is what we accomplished today...notice the big stack of wood next to the outhouse and the remaining split wood next to the splitter that we still need to find a place to stack...

After visiting the garden (morning routine), we got to work.  The photo below is early this morning.  Our first steps...Johny had to replace some rotten wood on the outhouse before we could begin the splitting & stacking wood process, and I had to prepare the ground for the pallet we would be stacking on.  Then we began splitting.
It didn't take long and we were stacking!
This is the splitter working, an amazing machine and very grateful to get to use it!
I'll have you know that today Mountain Man was much more comfortable & knowledgeable of the process and not longer stood behind the wheel, LOL!

I decided that it would be a great idea to burn all the bark we were getting off the logs.  We have a small fire pit right near where we were splitting, so it seemed logical.  Of course, I did not begin this burning until early afternoon, the warmest part of the day, so the heat from the burning remnants did not help with the heat.  But I was happy with how clean things were when we were done, ha ha! And note the water in the background...safety first!

After splitting most of the logs, we had to put a log next to the stack in order to be able to reach the top and stack some more logs! We finally reached the point that we could stack no more!  Though there is some wood that is touching the outhouse, that is due to settling; we did stack the wood with space in between.

But we had to finish the job!  And since we were returning the splitter to Charlie tomorrow morning, we decided to put all our dwindling energy into continuing to split until every log was gone (of those we had selected...there are still about 75 more logs behind the outhouse to go), and just throw them in a pile, organize tomorrow (from previous posts, you may presume this was not my favorite thing to do, but I was so tired, I just wanted to be done!).

The very last log, which was the largest, was 21" in diameter, 66 1/2" in circumference...so heavy! We were so tired we did not want to risk trying to lift it, so Mountain Man used his manual tools to make an initial split...and then we could lift it to the splitter.
If we had to cut each and every one of these logs this way, we would never make any headway!  While we are working on living off the land, I sure am glad there are some tools like wood splitters to help along the way!

I'm off to the creek, my feet will thank me!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We've Got Winter Wood!

Or at least we are on our way!  Our good friend and neighbor Charlie is letting us borrow his wood splitter (he made it himself!) for a couple days, so we can cut some logs that are too knotty for Mountain Man to cut with his ax/maul/hatchet/sledge hammer, whichever combination gets the job done but can't get the job done because the wood won't cooperate.  So today and tomorrow you can call me Lise the Wood Splitter!

While we were preparing for the job, I came across these three pieces, which made me laugh out loud.  The artistic and humorous part of me will not allow them to be split.  These will be turned into something creative, though I don't know what yet. I thought you would appreciate seeing them! To me, the one on the left in the first picture below  looks like planter/vase potential or a nook & cranny to put stuff into, the one on the right a pair of legs with zipped pants, maybe a table?  The second photo piece of wood looks kind of like, well....never mind...I'll let you use your imagination!

Back to business, Charlie delivered the splitter last evening; the passenger is his grandson Liam (great name:) and very nice boy!  Liam is visiting with his sister and a cousin up here in the mountains for a while.  I think he liked his ride!

We got up early this morning, went to the garden to water, and then the wood splitting fun began.  Here is the wood we needed to split...the first two photos are birch & oak mostly, stacked near the basement, and the third is lots of hemlock...(Yes, we know it is not good to burn lots of hemlock (due to the sap) but we will burn bits of it at a time.)  The hemlock logs are the result of our having about 18 dead hemlocks around the cabin cut down 3 years ago.  I will share more about this on a future post, but all the hemlocks in Western NC were killed because of a Eastern Hemlock Blight...so sad; I can only imagine how thick the woods today would be if these trees were still alive and well...the trunks still stand tall with the branches far outreaching...amazing trees! 

We first had to move all the wood in the first two pictures up to where the splitter was (our car used to be parked there)...
...yes that is an outhouse in the background, no we don't use it (it is the pump house, ha ha).

Let the splitting begin!

It's amazing how this thing works! It has the power to split a huge log in no time...the 3 pictures above were taken in about 3 - 5 seconds! The wood makes a wonderful cracking sound as it splits, I really enjoyed hearing it each time:)

One does have to be careful though, the very first piece of wood we split was so hard is was snapped off the machine as it was split and as Mountain Man would describe it, "jumped right into my lap"...he was not a happy wood splitter for a few minutes, and though he did not double over, he did go check his merchandise!  From that point on he stood behind the splitters big tire while splitting the wood for a while...no need to worry thought, he's OK and fully recovered very shortly after the incident!

As we split the wood, we loaded it into the wheelbarrow (did you know that wheelbarrow is made of two words, wheel [obviously] and barrow which comes from the Old English word 'bearwe' that meant a devise to carry loads) and then moved it in to one of two wood racks, one upstairs near the back door of the cabin...
...and a huge one Mountain Man built downstairs along the basement wall...
...we were very pleased with our work, as each rack had some wood, but not like this.  We still have much to cut, but this was a great days work for winter preparation!

Tomorrow, we will split the hemlock.  We moved a bunch of logs from around the outhouse in preparation of the splitting to begin tomorrow morning, of course we discovered a couple rotten boards on the outhouse so that will need to be repaired first, and while Mountain Man does that I am going to rake the rotten leaves and hemlock remains to put into our compost pit (all part of living off the land).  After that I will begin splitting until he is ready to join me...I'll be sure to keep my privates away from jumping logs!

Come back tomorrow to hear all about Day 2!  Can't wait to see how much we can accomplish:)

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


A garden requires some work, some love, some knowledge (or learning as you go, as is mostly our case) and a great deal of patience.  I've confessed before that patience is not something that comes naturally to me, and I find the wait part so looooong!  Thank goodness there is the water and weed part that happens often in between!  Not to mention the fungus, bug & bird control and other maintenance issues that must be taken care of. 

I am so excited to report that several of the zucchini appears to have begun flowering!  Now this is a plant that accommodates my need to see results quickly, though I must admit I was completely surprised when I saw this today!  Woo hoo, we may be able to begin enjoying the fruits of our garden sooner than I expected!  (Did I sound like I was complaining earlier about the waiting? Just ignore that, LOL!)

Speaking of maintenance, what do you think of my "living off the land" snow pea plant trellises?  Made from small branches of trees we've cut, and some twine we had in the basement that I strung between two branches so the peas can climb with support.  Let's see if my construction holds up over time!

The squash and beans from our 3 Sisters Garden is sprouting. I love to watch the progress...this is one squash seed beginning the push through the soil, can you imagine the strength of this seed that is only 1/3 inch big when planted 1/2 inch into the ground?
And this is the same seed sprouting through, reaching for the sun!

I do have to admit, I do enjoy the process.  Each morning, we walk to the garden and admire what we have.  I am so grateful that we are living this life right now...  It is true, patience is a virtue I continue to pursue, but it does seem the Universe is working with me!  Life is good!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Day Like Today is what Makes Living in the Mountains Excellent!

This has been a most perfect nearing the end of June day!  Reasonably low humidity, temp starting in the upper 50's, reaching a peak in the upper 70's and decreasing to the 70's as the sun is setting...better yet, the sky has been blue with nary a cloud in the sky, and the mountain breeze has been gently brushing my chimes all day.  Excellence!!!  This is our place today, it's a crooked picture, I know, but I have been wanting to update the picture on the header on front page of my blog, but that takes so much time, and I just want you to see where we are today, so forgive the crookedness, if you don't mind...it is not a reflection of the land or any recent earthquake activity (there has been some around here actually, nothing major, 1.7 or something, but there has been some)...anyway, our place, today, a day filled with excellence!

The day has been filled with finding new growth in the garden (woo hoo) and discovering my sunflowers are sprouting (another woo hoo and even happy dancing), working in the woods to cut down overgrown brush with our new battery powered Ryobi weed eater (my new best friend, don't tell Mountain Man), finding new mushrooms in that process and eating them (more to share in a bit), moving wood from the chopped stack downstairs to the wood holder near our back door, baking a new desert creation (no recipe, just my ideas) that I will say was an excellent learning experience (not a disaster, but like Einstein, takes lots of tries before getting it right) so I am not sharing much about it today, discovering a new caterpillar climbing the walls, floors and beams that will soon become a Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly...so many things to share...sorry, I do believe this is a ruuuuun on sentence!

I think of most interest to you will be the lobster mushroom we discovered and ate this evening, along with our Roasted Tomato and Goat Cheese Portobello Mushroom dinner, a recipe I got from my cousin Mitch's Pinterest pins, a delicious, fulfilling vegetarian meal I would highly recommend.

As for the lobster mushroom, it lives up to its name...
 ...ha ha, not pretty, I know, the first time we came across this thing we thought ick!!!  But notice the red shell, and keep in mind it has not been cleaned yet...
...this shows you how big this mushroom is...
...this is once we cut it open, look how it resembles a piece of lobster now!...
...sliced up for cooking...
...and dinner is served!  It was actually very good, meaty, tasty, looked like lobster.  I told Mountain Man we should be dipping it in butter and lemon:) 

It is amazing to me how many mushrooms grow in our backyard, and though much care and caution must be used prior to eating a wild mushroom, we get great pleasure out of enjoying what we find and can eat!  Wild mushrooms only grow for a certain period of time, so we just keep eating mushrooms...

PS, we are no experts, so you are on your own with eating wild mushrooms, look to those who know before ingesting!!!

Thank you for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Monday, June 25, 2012

Daddy, This One's For You

My Dad is new to the whole blogging world and doesn't really enjoy complicated Internet activities.  However he has been commenting on my posts via email almost each and every day, which I have been appreciating tremendously.  When he was here for a visit recently, we spoke about how to post comments, and he said he was committed to figuring out how to make it happen once he returned home from vacation.  Persevere he did, and today, I had my first comment from him on my blog rather than an email.  It made my day!

While he was visiting (I have several posts about it), we passed by a waterfall on the road leading up the mountains toward our cabin.  It is a well kept secret, set far back from the road.  One day, as we passed by, and I pointed it out to him and Donald, he wanted to take a picture.  It was 3:19pm, and the sun was just exactly right, shining on the water at just the right angle, causing it to sparkle and shine while targeting the water specifically (rather than the trees and brush surrounding it).  So we stopped in the road (there is no turn off opportunity or curb) so he could snap the shot.  Of course, as things happen, a car approached, and we had to move on.  We tried several additional times to capture that scene, but the timing of the sun hitting the falls never happened in the same way.  He kept joking about how that moment would be a mere memory!  So being the loving and dedicated eldest daughter that I am, who loves her father/daddy/dad/friend/teacher/mentor dearly, has been trying to capture the moment again. 

Well Dad, here it is...
...not quite the same as being there, and not taken at 3:19pm, but I think it captures the feeling.  I will never again pass that waterfall without thinking of you!

With all that said, Florida is getting a bucket load of rain from this tropical storm, especially the Gulf Coast.  So I hope that all is well dad.  While we had some spectacular evenings on the porch when you were here, watching the fireflies and bats & all 4 of us chatting away, the sunsets were lovely but not spectacular.  So today, with the thought of calming winds and rains, the scene from the porch...
Happy Father's Day dad, again:)

Thank you for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sinfully Scrumptious Strawberry Jam

I made my first strawberry jam yesterday, thanks to The Garden of Eating blog strawberry jam recipe.  I won't go through the recipe itself, because you can click on the link for the details and Eve's delightful blog. 

This was my first foray into "jamming" with fresh whole fruit, and though it was not really difficult, there were some challenging moments.  But the end result was absolutely scrumptious strawberryness on my ciabatta toast for breakfast. Oooh yeah!

Eve's jam instructions are excellent, and make the process easy to follow.  The first important step is macerating the fruit.  That means mixing the cleaned strawberries with sugar and letting it "steep" overnight so the fruit becomes saturated with the sugar, eventually drawing out all the natural sweetness to make a sweet, syrupy strawberry bowl of goodness.

Then you have to sterilize your jars, lids and seals in boiling water.  I actually used 8oz. jars rather than the pint size Eve suggests.  This step makes for a very steamy kitchen (I used 3 pots filled with jars).  I recommend you sterilize 1 or 2 more jars than you think you will use, because you don't want to find yourself with jam ready to jar and no jar to put it in!

This is the stage I begin gathering my ingredients...and as my father would say, taken from the Bernstein Bears series, "let this be a lesson to you"...make sure you have a sufficient supply of all your ingredients prior to planning your "jamming"...otherwise, like me, you will have to make an unexpected run to the store, that is after begging the neighbors, which I don't have many, if they might have what I needed, which unfortunately, one did not and the other was not home.  So off I ran to the store for pectin, pectin of all things!, can't make jam without pectin, and I needed 1 1/2 TBSP more than what I had.  The unexpected plus and awesome thing about this side trip was I met Mr. Grouse, a very handsome dude strutting his stuff on the road to our cabin. You can read more about Mr. Grouse in yesterday's post, just click here.

I was finally back in business...ready to make the strawberry jam.  In go the ingredients (I love how the berries are reflecting off the side of the pot in the photo below).  I should add here that I did amend Eve's recipe by adding the zest of 1 lemon; when I made my violet jelly, I found adding a bit more than the recipe required resulted in a little bit of extra zingyness, so I decided to add that to this recipe as well.
So up goes the heat, and viola, strawberry goodness boiling & foaming toward sinfully scrumptious jam another really hot period of time in the kitchen:)  

Once the jam reached the silky consistency Eve's recipe describes, it was time to pour it into the jars.  Now that can be a tricky step, especially if you don't have a canning pot with a holder for the jars.  At first I had too much water in the pot, so as I added the jars and the water would rise, jars would start tipping over!  So with Mountain Man's assistance, we removed some of the water, and reorganized the jars into the pots.  Now when I spoke to Bertie today about it, I was delivering their jar of sinfully scrumptious strawberry jam, she told me 1. "I told you you can borrow my canning equipment any time" and 2. "in the old days we used to use towels around the jars".  "Thank you Bertie, you are sweet and I know you said I can borrow those things, and ha ha, what a great idea, I will use towels next time if I need to!"   I did finally get the jam into the jars with the seals and lids on, and soon enough all the jars were in the boiling bath for 10 minutes.

Here is the coolest thing, and Eve mentions it as well.  When the jars are set on the counter to cool, you begin to hear the pop of the lids as they seal...it is the most beautiful sound.  Each time I heard it, I would giggle and clap and say "woo hoo" and do a little dance in the kitchen...when you hear that sound...success!...jam that is sealed and will last about a year!  FYI, all my jars popped except for one, and I discovered the lid (the round part that twists shut) had a small dent, therefore the seal could not be completed.  The good news is jars that don't seal will still last in the fridge for about 2 weeks. 

But ours won't make it that long, we opened it up this morning, tried it on toast, and so delicious!  Just the right amount of zingyness in the sinfully scrumptious strawberryness and not overly sweet.  And pretty:)

We ended up with 9 8oz jars of this delightful goodness.  In fact, it was so good, it was PB&J for lunch...so as you can see, we've been enjoying it!  And no you don't see only 8 jars because we ate an entire jar, I brought one to Ron & Bertie today:)

If you ever come visit, I promise to share some sinfully scrumptious strawberry jam with you if we still have any left, better hurry!

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,