I packed up the wagon with kids in tow and headed out to Underwood Family Farms for the Fall Festival and to spend the day with grandparents.
Goats were sighted overhead eating from a pepper tree.
The kids enjoyed a John Deer thrasher turned slide.
My oldest and I took to the corn maze. For the first time, we found the haystack pyramid through the maze. In previous years, hunger took over and we would enter from the exit to summit the haystack.
The day was gorgeous. Starlings, cowbirds and yellow-shouldered blackbirds outnumbered the crowd. Some would take flight with at least thirty birds in a group and fly noisily overhead turning in unison in a moment's notice.
I always love taking the meandering tractor trip through the fields.
Resident Eric Thomason stumbled upon a grim scene early in the morning en route to his first cup of coffee. In the kitchen, he found the body of a fencepost lizard splayed on it's back revealing a cerulean blue belly. The lizard was declared dead on the scene.
A stunned Thomason said, "It just happened. There was nothing on the floor, then I turned around and it was here."
A suspect was held for questioning but released shortly thereafter to go pee outside.
The same weekend of Gem-O-Rama, we did some exploring of BLM land in the Mojave Desert. We stopped in at Bickel Camp. As told to me by the current Bickel Camp caretaker, the camp was claimed in 1934 by Walt Bickel and has been lived in continuously since then. The non-profit organization, The Friends of Last Chance Canyon, preserves Bickel Camp as a monument to Depression Era gold miners.
Walt Bickel suffered a stroke in 1987 and moved to a nursing home in nearby Ridgecrest. His camp was preserved the way he left it. He died in 1996.
The caretaker, Mark Aslin, lives alongside Walt Bickel's main camp in newer trailers with his special lady friend and two good dogs. The full time caretaker helps keep Bickel Camp in tact. A nearby camp that belonged to Burro Schmidt has been completely decimated by looters.
Mark Aslin grew up in the area and says he used to explore the hills and knew a lot of the old time prospectors.
Pudgy, one of the good dogs. Blind as a bat, sweet as candy.
Walt Bickel's main cabin.
The shade on the outdoor patio was rebuilt in 2006. I imagine how great it must be to sit there when the sun finally sets and watch the fantastic show.
When I scored my silk tri-tie thrifting about a month ago, I also picked up a dollar purse. I hemmed & hawed before purchasing. I don't like having a lot of stuff even when the price is enticing, so I tend to ponder my acquisitions. I finally went with it because the leather was quite lovely. Very soft and made in Italy. I figured if I didn't use the purse, I could reuse the leather for other projects.
Although the leather was nice, the lining in the bag was uninspired: a ripstop nylon with one small zippered pocket. I took that out, used it as a pattern for a cotton print lining and added multiple pockets for a pen and pencil, billfold, bamboo utensils and other mobile gadgetry.
Some projects come together easily. Some don't. This project was a surprising snap. I surprised myself with how easily it reassembled. I even did some no-pin-punk rock sewing which often ends in regret and a seam ripper. The sewing angels smiled kindly on this project...and I minded my language.
Now that we are firmly entrenched in fall, I review my summer lists. At the beginning of the summer, the boys and I sat down to write down what we wanted to do over the summer. One of my favorites is "Plan a trip around the world." Check.
I am happy to say, we checked off everything we had hoped to do as a family.
I also made a personal list of projects that I wanted to tackle this summer. I did accomplish a lot of work over the summer but out of the six items actually written on my list, I only complete one: "hang out with kids HAVE FUN."
Last October was the first time I'd ever heard of Gem-O-Rama. On a Monday morning before school while our kids played in the playground, Ilse Ackermann told me about a great adventure she and her family enjoyed over the weekend digging through mud to unearth crystals from the Searles Valley. It sounded like a true treasure hunt. Then she went to a picnic table and picked up two minerals each bigger than her hand.
I went home and marked my calendar a year in advance for Gem-O-Rama 2011, which happens the second weekend in October if you want to mark your calendars for 2012. Each year, the Searles Gem and Mineral Society opens the salt flat in Trona for gem collecting.
The harvesting is through three curated field trips, the Mud Field (pictured above) where Hanksite is plentiful. Boots, gloves, three pronged cultivators, trowels and shovels come in handy.
In the afternoon, there is another dig called Blow Hole, where many search for the rare Sulfohalite, a gem that looks like a pyramid on top of a pyramid. We were lucky to find some beautiful specimens.
The following day, a field trip for Pink Halite happens. Bring your waiters, a crow bar and long water proof gloves as wading into the lake is necessary to acquire a good specimen.
Treasures can be taken to the brine trough to clean. As the crystals are salt, they will dissolve in fresh water but not in brine.
Bodies and tools are cleaned up in a rigged up faucet system fed by brackish water. Don't take a swig.
The overall verdict on Gem-O-Rama as reported by my oldest son. Gem-O-Rama brings together a great selection of people: gem enthusiasts, gem obsessionists, amateurs. I watched a sixty year old man present a ball of mud to a woman. He said, look what I found. She leaned in and watched as he pulled away the mud to reveal a brass container, inside the container was some fabric which he unrolled to reveal a plastic green ring with a harvested Hanksite pushed on the end. He presented it to her and asked her to marry him.
She said yes.
Thanks again to Ilse for the great tip. Hope to see you there next year.