Sunday, May 25, 2014

Week 21

The cattle are happy,

And the pigs are fat.  The cows are fat too and the pigs are happy.  I think.  They need to head to the butcher shop very soon, so if you live here in Humboldt and would like a half or whole hog let us know ASAP.  As in right now, as we are planning to haul them in on Tuesday.   

There really is something to this heritage breed hoopla as we just ate our first pork chop and it was fantastic.   The flavor and fat melt in your mouth and the meat was pink and tender.  We loved it.  You will too.

Our price is 3 dollar a pound on the hanging weight and you also pay the butcher .70 a pound for cut and wrap.  The hanging weight on the hog we took in last month was 190, and these current ones should be about the same.  

(Btw: we have a few head of grass fed beef not spoken for as well.)

Everything is still pretty and green here, with splashes of gold across the south facing prairies.  

The evergreens tips look like they were dipped in bright green paint.

Buckeyes are blooming and smell fantastic.  Think tropical.

Saw my first firecracker flower today a sure fire sign of summer for me. 

We got home and Mark hit the ground running.  Chores on the ranch as well as back working for our neighbor.  I, on the other hand, hit the ground staggering under real life.   Like dishes.

Trail life is easy.  Only responsibility is to take care of my feet and make sure to drink enough water.  Well, a few more items as well, but very few and no big decisions.  I'm having a bit of a struggle getting my old rhythm back.  I find myself sitting under this apple tree a lot looking at the sky.

Or smelling our roses.

Watching the fountain splash and make water jewels on the lily pads is another way I pass the time.

I've gardened a bit too and walked.  I'm turning into a lazy lady.  I better turn over a new leaf this week and get some work done.  Or not.....

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Week 20

We've actually been gone from the ranch for a little over a month.  A week in Las Vegas visiting our two grandsons and family, then 20 days backpacking from the Mexican border to Interstate 15 along the PCT, then almost another week visiting our grandson and family in Fresno, CA. 

It was a long time to be away from home, but we love spending time with our grand babies and we love extended backpacking trips.  We decided to take a long spring hike instead of our usual long summer hike.  It was fun and as always very renewing for us, but it sure is good to be home.  We are also very appreciative of Eric and Jo who take good care of the ranch and all the animals.  

For me, I was especially happy to see this little face. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Week 19

The Homesteaders:

We have two known homesteader sites on the ranch and they are deemed historical on our Non Industrial Timber Management Plan.  Both sites, we are told, were homes for the Smith brothers.  Not sure if that is accurate information  as it is purely anecdotal.

But the sites are real.  As is the artifacts of days gone by we find scattered around.  Mostly just their garbage, as in old bottles and cans, some broken tea cups.  Some days its fun to dig around in.  Mostly I just sit and ponder the life they might have lived. 

Those who settled in remote areas, like Salmon Creek faced a life of hard work just to transport the necessities of life. The first homesteaders packed in a few basic articles by mule or horseback.  Every few months, they might have made the journey down the mountain to the nearest town nestled along the Eel River.   As I stand in these remote locations on our property and try to imagine being the person who ran the broken sewing treadle machine laying at my feet.

I am a bit overwhelmed. At a trot, it takes over an hour just to ride a horse from my home to this location, and over 2 hours on foot.  This is rough, steep country and I have good roads and trails to traverse.    It had to be a lonely, and in our climate, soggy  existence. 

I wander over and sit by the pond and listen to the birds call and the gentle swish in the trees and  time slows down and I realize amidst the hardship, life was perhaps simpler.

Looking at an old map from 1921 I see that our ranch was mostly Burnell Land, but there is one t-shaped piece that was owned by the Sage Land and Imp. Co. and it also is the area where I think these two homestead sites are located.  We have seen evidence of and heard that split products were made here: stuff like railroad ties, grape-stakes, fence posts and shingles.  Salmon Creek was also well known during prohibition as one of the best sources of bootleg whiskey.  Kind of funny because this area is now well known for some of the best marijuana.   

One of the sites had a historic apple orchard.  In the old days, before the fire, we would take a jeep or horse ride up to the "Smith Orchard."  Only a few straggly old trees were left, but it was pretty cool and what apples the bears left tasted good.  The Canoe Fire burned them up.  After the fire we planted a few back, but they too have struggled to survive.

This site has a fantastic spring and last fall Mark decided to put in a little dug out pond for the stock.  What he didn't know was that there once was a pond here and it had just silted up.  When the bulldozer entered the area and scraped away a bit of dirt it sank and sank fast.

 Before he knew it, he had a nice sized hole, only problem was our  CAT was stuck in the middle of it.   I can tell you he had some tense moments/hours as he tried to find something to wench from as this area was part of the 2003 fire and only had a few burned out stumps and trees.  Eventually Mark got it out and there is a nice little pond again at this homestead site.

Another historic site we have on the property is Briceland Charlie's place. He was also known as Indian Charlie or Charlie Briceland.  He was well known in the area and one of the last of his tribe, so the oral histories he told are priceless.  He came from the Briceland area, but  for a time he lived in the upper area of Salmon Creek on what is now our property.  We've dug around in his garbage too and found some cool old milk bottles.  I've read that there was a school near his place at one time and that Charlie took care of the children's horses while they were at school.

We also have numerous Native American village sites.  They are small and most located on a nice shelf above a natural pond or creek.  These sites were seasonal as they traveled around during the year harvesting as nature provided.  During the creation of our timber plan all of these sites were duly marked and protected.  We've had some people come out to the ranch to spend the night at a village site amidst some cedar trees and they say it is a very spiritual experience.

We appreciate what little history we know of this land and hope to learn more as time goes on.  We are all just passing through and need to remember those who came before and those who will come after.

*A lot of the historical information came from our dear departed friend Jonell Monschke,  who made the historical contributions to the  Salmon Creek Watershed Assessment.   

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Week 18

Our Utilities:

We are off the grid.  Meaning we are not hooked up to Public Energy Works.  We have solar panels,

a pelton wheel,

 and a back up diesel generator.

We aren't hooked up to public water either.  Our water bursts fresh out of the hillside and we capture it  and put it in a tank. Envision us running hither and yon putting our hands around the droplets of water.  Obviously just kidding.  Most of our springs on the ranch that we use have a spring box, but our main house spring kind of just comes out of a rock and the pipe taps into it.  Here is the area of the spring.

 The pipe then runs down to our spring tank.

 From the tank the water runs downhill in a pipe to our buildings and barn.   (The overflow from the spring tank is used for the pelton wheel, it was turned off while this photo was taken and you can see what a great overflow we have.)  We've never had our spring go dry.  She's a good one and tastes great too.  We even had the water tested to be sure it didn't have any heavy metals or other bad stuff.  All good, clear, clean mountain water.

I originally thought we would save a lot of money being off the grid. But this stuff is expensive to set up and has future costs as well.  The batteries that store the energy from the sun, water and generator have to be replaced sometime between 5 and 10 years depending mostly on how well you take care of them.  See the distilled water jug.  They need it, regularly. 
 Generators and pelton wheels need rebuilding from use and the solar panels themselves  have a life of about   25 to 30   years.  That isn't even mentioning the inverter mumbo jumbo or generator auto start.

 Being off the grid is self sufficient, it is fairly green,  but it ain't cheap.

But we have power and this is good.   Our home is a modern day home with computers, television,  phone, dishwasher, washer and dryer.  Love it.  We have a lot of power most of the time, so much so that we have a heater that just kicks on when we have too much power.  Isn't that fun.  But there are lulls.   Fall is probably when the generator runs  the most.  The sun is not as strong then, or not present at all due to clouds, and the rains haven't really started to get a good overflow for the pelton wheel to run off of.  Before the pelton wheel, winter was low power season too, but now with that little generator humming 24/7, winter is as good as summer. 

I may have lost my rose colored glasses in regards to the cost involved in our private utility company, but I am still real thankful to have it and think it's pretty darn cool.  Who would of thunk it.  Certainly not the homesteaders that I'm going to write about next week.