Chiminea

Our old chiminea that I built a couple of years ago has given us great service. On cool mornings I would get up and light it and we would enjoy our morning tea in comfort. The only problem we had with it was that we had to cut the firewood in half because of the diameter of the tank.

old
The old chiminea. Needs a new coat of paint.

I vowed to built a better one from a 30 lb tank laying on its side. So we went to our local refurbishing propane tank guys and I saw a 50 lb tank and fell in love. It was perfect, this would make an awesome fireplace. The problem was that they refurbish this particular size of tank and had no used ones. I could buy a new one for $78 but I’m way too cheap to do that. I pleaded with the guy and asked him to turn his back so I could steal one, but he wouldn’t budge.

I was thinking of all ways I could get a 50 lb tank. I even looked it up on Kijiji but only came away disappointed.

As I often do, I put it out to the universe and waited to see what would turn up. One morning we went into the ‘big city’ of Bowser for some groceries. As we were leaving I remembered that the local gas station served propane and just might have a used tank.

We pulled in and spoke to a young guy serving there. He took us to the back of the lot and low and behold we saw a veritable field of used propane tanks. They didn’t have a 50 lb but he showed me a very nice 40 lb tank that I was sure I could work with.

He had to clear it with his boss and after the usual warnings that I could blow myself up, (as if!) he gave me the tank for my favourite price of Free.

I’m very cautious around used propane tanks as even the smallest amount of gas can be dangerous. The first thing I needed to do was remove the valve so I could fill the tank with water to force out all the old propane.

Well, I hammered and smashed that darn valve but it wouldn’t budge. Plan two: open the valve to release any left over gas; turn the tank upside down to let any more gas escape. Then, very carefully drill two half-inch holes in the top, then fill the tank with water.

In the meantime there was a smell of propane in the air with our neighbor Bruce running around trying to find out where the leak was coming from. He had just got a new tank and thought it was leaking. I explained that it was only me making that smell (well not actually me) and he went home happy.

My next challenge was to cut a door in the tank. The neighbours must love me because I used a cut-off disc on my hand-held grinder so it was some noisy.  What the hell, I have rights too. Besides, I’m sure they have fun referring to me as that mad English bastard doing something stupid again.

new
The new tank with the door cut out.

I had a bit more grinding to do but had to put it off  because of the extreme fire hazard condition. The grinder kicks up a lot of sparks.

Well, the door’s cut out so we will have to see how it goes from here.

Bigger and better

Our bigger and better gazebo arrived and we went to pick it up.

We were in the old beater truck as the package we were collecting weighed 550 lbs. As we got into Nanaimo we stopped at a light and I noticed wisps of smoke coming from the left front wheel well. Great, that’s all we needed.

We got to Lowes, dropped off the old gazebo and waited for the fork lift to load the new one. All the time I was worrying about how we were going to get home with a busted truck.

They eventually brought out the package and we tried to load it onto the truck. There were three of us pushing with Rosalie supervising. The darn thing got stuck and wouldn’t slide off the forks. But then somehow the lid of the box popped open and low and behold, inside were six smaller packages. Now it was easy.

We still had to get home though. The problem we had was that the brake was dragging intermittently. I found that if I hammered the brake pedal with my foot it would free it up for a while. It worked and we got home just fine with no more smoke. Another job for another day.

That afternoon, I opened all the boxes and checked the contents to make sure all the parts were there. This took about two hours. Holy smoke, there were a lot of parts. I couldn’t start without Peter who was coming the next day. I had to have him to supervise, lose bits and generally get in the way. I jest! I couldn’t have done it without him. Thanks again Peter.

Gazebo parts
Lots of bits

So, the construction begins. The instruction said that it would take six to eight people two and a half hours to erect. Peter and I reckoned we could halve that time. We had started at about 10:30 that morning and at four o’clock I called it a day with about an hour’s work left which I finished up the following morning.

We would have completed it a lot sooner but neighbours kept dropping by. Some out of curiosity and one to offer a second ladder which we found very handy.  I didn’t mind the interruptions as one brough me a bottle of wine for helping him find a TV antenna.

While Peter and I were working Rosalie had gone to the monthly campground meeting. She returned with the news that they had been discussing gazebos in the park. I don’t know what it was about but it was up now and no way was it coming down anytime soon.

gazebo
All done but the walls

We love it, it’s comfortable and way back in the trees where the air is coolest. If it gets too cool we can close the walls and light the new chiminea. Which is another story for another day.

Gazebo

As we plan to live at the trailer all summer, I suggested to Rosalie that we need somewhere comfortable to sit outside; and possibly nap. So, we decided to buy a gazebo and add some comfortable furniture.

We found a gazebo on-line at Lowes. We decided on a soft top as they were by far less expensive. But, as I soon learned, you get what you pay for. I gave them a call and some young guy told me that they had a similar one in stock. Having nothing better to do that day we drove into town to take a look. They had nothing like the one we wanted. It was a wasted journey so we went home, ordered the one on-line and waited.

It finally arrived so I had my handy sidekick and supervisor, Peter, come and help me put it up.

The instructions said it would take four people four hours to erect; we did it in an hour and a half. Time to sit have a beer and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

Gazebo
Peter and Rosalie found it comfortable.

The following week, Peter and Suzie came for a visit.  While the girls went for a walk Peter and I decided there was too much beer in the fridge so we had better try reducing the stock.

We were sitting in the gazebo when it started to rain. Nothing serious, it only lasted fifteen minutes. However, I felt a drop of water hit my head. The darn gazebo with its weather proof roof was leaking. I guess rain doesn’t qualify as weather. Eventually a lot of drops got through meaning we had to return it.

Off to Lowes again. We eventually found a bigger, better one with a metal roof. The original price was $1,699, but had been reduced to $999. The salesman then told us that it had been further reduced to $830. Not only that, but that day only,  they a 10% sale as well. It endedup, that we got a better, bigger gazebo for about $100 more. Since it came without walls, it ended up costing a total of $300 more.

When they phoned to say it had arrived, I took down the previous gazebo and loaded it into the old beater truck ready to take back and get the new one. Now all I had to do was get Peter to supervise the next erection. (?)

Wrapping it up

We had left PG on Monday morning and it was now Friday. We had moved 37 loads of dirt and we were feeling the effects. Dean was a lot younger than  the rest of us, except Lyndon, and didn’t realize the toll it was taking on us. When he clued in he decided to shut the operation down.

When we were digging, Gordie had decided to dig under a huge rock where he was convinced the gold was hiding. He got so carried away that I thought the rock might  fall on him. He eventually realized it wasn’t a good idea and filled the hole back in.

We had planned to shower that day but we decided to give it a miss as we would be home soon.

Before he did though Dean said that we, the workers, would get three processed buckets of pay dirt each for the work we put in. After it was processed I left with an ice cream bucket about one third full of dirt to process when I got home. I was full of optimism and could see us paying off all our debts and buying a mansion in Mexico. The reality was that I got about $15 worth of gold and a sore wrist from panning it.

My boots were mostly for hiking and maybe a bit small so it looks as though I may lose a toenail.

Saturday morning we started to pack up the equipment ready for hauling out on Sunday. Then Vic informed us that we would head out that day. I was so happy I had my stuff packed and ready to go before he saying ‘today’.

The five anigos. Vic, Dean, Lyndon, Gordie and me.

On the drive out we only saw one vehicle in the six hour trip back to Fort St James. Vic gassed up and completed our journey getting in to PG at about 1:30 am. First a shower (our second in five days) and then to bed. Boy, that bed felt good.

The following day we took the truck and trailer to the truck wash and spent an hour washing off all the dirt we had collected. I wanted to pan it but Vic talked me out of it. I bet there were some nuggets! I could still get the dirt from my fingernails though.

That afternoon we went out to Norman Lake where our wives were waiting and enjoyed a great Canada Day party with family and friends. Rosalie never looked so good.

I swore that I wouldn’t go back. But then Gordie and I started to make plans to build them a new cabin next year. Man, I muse be a glutton for punishment. Come next year though, I may have talked myself out of it. There is the enticement of those three loads of paydirt though.

Some final pictures.

 

We soldier on.

At home we take showers for granted. In the bush it’s somewhat more complicated.

So how do you take a shower in the bush where you either freeze or get eaten by bugs? Well, we had a plan. First, Vic set up a sheet of hardboard for privacy. Then we threw a 5 gallon water tank on the fire to heat up. At the end of the day we poured water into a shower bag and hung it above our makeshift bathroom. Easy peasy!

My shower went like this; strip, get as wet as possible drowning as many mozzies as possible, soap up, rinse really quickly, dry off really fast, grab a can of Raid and spray myself all over all the time shouting “stay away from that! Dont you dare” then quickly dress and spray myself again. Then stand Really still and wait for the itching to start.

Later Vic said he lit a couple of mosquito coils and had no problems. Now, why wasn’t I that smart?

Dean had another plan. He had a small water on demand system and he and Gordie decided to use that. They tried to shelter behind Dean’s truck to get out of the wind. I happened to arrive to the camp as these two were running around in their undies freezing cold and trying to get a shower. Of course I gave them a hard time about it and Vic and I needled them for days after.

We had been in the bush for four days and hadn’t seem a living sole but ourselves. That evening, Gordie went to do his business in the bush and as he was pulling up his pants he heard toot, toot as a pickup went by. It was a couple of First Nation folks returning home from the big city. What timing, I loved it.

That evening we were visited by another miner who happened to be a geoligist. He gave us lots of usefull advise as to where to look for gold.

The following evening our geologist friend showed up again and shortly after was joined by another couple of guys whom I think we’re father and son. The older of the two was 83 years old and had mined in the Yukon before setting up a business selling mining equipment. He was an interesting guy. He said that he had taught the main guy from the show “Yukon Gold” how to mine. He also showed us some photos of 1 lb gold nuggets, probably worth about $20,000 each.

Another problem we had was getting up for a pee in the night. It was bloody cold out there so eventually we set up a communal pee bucket which we took turns emptying , and life was a bit better.

I was dreading taking another shower.

More pictures.

Prospecting

Well, we weren’t really prospecting. We knew the gold was there, we just had to hunt it down.

There are a few videos in this post and parental guidance is recomended. We were a bunch of guys in the bush, so the language got a little rough.

Most of the transportation to the claim was by quad and a side-by-side quad as it was about 1.5 km from our campsite. It was still really cold that morning but I had wrapped myself in five layers of clothes so I stayed fairly warm.

Before we started, Vic and I rigged up a tarp around the old outside biffy for some privacy. This was of course where you are most vulnerable to the mosquitoes so a few records for doing your business were broken.

Dean had brought down most of the equipment the day before, so all we had to do was hook up the water pumps and start digging.  We seemed to get into a rhythm quite naturaly: Gordie and Lyndon did most of the digging; Dean hauled the dirt to the conveyer; I shoveled it into the hopper and Vic worked the stick. The stick was important as you can see in the video. The dirt was wet so we had to break it up with a stick to keep production going. I would relieve Vic once in a while but didn’t quite have his technique. I think it’s all in the wrist. At the end of the day we had processed eight loads of dirt. Not bad for our first day.

The tailing pond, where the dirt was washed into was a playground for Dean’s dog Bailey. She was just like a little kid. Once she was out of the water she would stand shivering just waiting for a chance to jump back in.

I had started a fire as soon as we got to the claim. This job remained mine as I like to set light to things. (Evil chuckle). Vic had managed to drive the truck in (a video of him driving it out) so we had all our food available. At noon I threw a pack of smokies on the grill and we had a nice lunch.

We worked through the afternoon and quit about 3 pm. Time to head back to camp open a beer and eat some of the great food the ladies had made for us. Then sat around the fire drinking and telling lies.

We were in a pretty desolate area. They had just logged all the pine beetle damaged wood and it was way too early for the bush to grow back.

Before we turned in we lit a stove in the trailer for an hour, so at least we went to bed warm. I wasn’t quite as cold that night so things were improving.

Gold we found gooold!

Our brother in law Vic and Rosalie’s cousin Dean, own a gold claim way up North of Fort St James. They invited another brother law, Gordie and I to come along for a short ‘holiday’. I had been promising to go to the claim for several years but never managed to make it. But this time I went. Gordie also bought along his grandson Lyndon.

We were to be in Prince George on Sunday but Rosalie had an appointment on Saturday evening for an MRI to find out what the problem was with her arms falling asleep. We expected to get to Hope at about midnight. As it turned out, she was finished early so we were able to catch an earlier ferry.

We got to the hotel only to find out that I had somehow booked for the following night and the place was full. The manager though, had reserved a room for himself and gave us that one. Phew!

We arrived in PG at about 5 pm the following day. Vic had a 14 ft cargo trailer that we had to load so we set to work on that. The quad went in first then everything else.

The following morning, after several false starts, we eventually got away at about 9 am. The first 2 hours were fine as we were on paved roads. Once we got to Fort St James we stopped to top up on a few essentials like booze. We didn’t want to run out as we were going to be out of contact for several days.

For the next six hours we drove an average speed of 50 kmh over dirt roads. We got to the camp,site at about 5 pm. On the way we saw a couple of bears, one, a grizzly. We were at an elevation of 3,800 feet and the temperature was 1 deg C. It was raining and the wind was blowing. As Gordie and I got out of the truck, he looked at me and siad”WTF have we let ourselves in for.”

We had to unload the cargo trailer as that was to be our sleeping quarters. We got our cots and sleeping bags set up, and after that, we got a fire going had bit to eat and a few drinks and settled in for the night.

Now our ordeal began. It rained on and off throughout the night and the wind blew so hard it was banging the aluminum sides of the trailer to keep us nicely awake. The trailer wasn’t heated so we froze. Tomorrow we would make some changes and go for gold.

Here a few photos.