Well, Who Would Like to Dig a Well?

All said and done I had an excavator on that project for 16 hours at $35 an hour, paid about $700 for the concrete products and a little over $300 for the pipe and fittings.

When I bought this land the first things I did was bring in some gravel to create a good pad for a mobile home and I dug a well. I have a couple creeks crossing my property but the government was being very slow to grant my water application. Unfortunately they didn’t bother to let me know that my application was automatically approved since I was the first person to request water rights. Thanks RDNO, you guys are useless. They told me they were too busy to get to me and I waited a year to find out I was automatically in possession of the license just by applying. Our regional district likes to make things hard and expensive so I learned my lesson, try not to talk to them!

So in the mean time I need a proven water source to get my authorization to build my home. I found a nice lush meadow above my house that was mostly an under ground seep, a confined aquifer, with some surface water as well. I picked a spot I could push a small road in that was very wet and dug a nice big hole. The clay was thick there so as I removed it from my well site and made a berm or dyke with it to help create a nice little pond. In order to source more clay I dug a second pond below my well and used most of it to shore up my well dyke. Then took a whole bunch of glacial till from the embankment up hill from the well and piled it over the edge of the berm to give it some thickness. I have a good sturdy berm to hold back the water this way.



I put my well 6′ deep as I didn’t want to punch through the clay and hit gravel, allowing to water to go into the ground. As soon as I noticed gravel I put some clay back in and mushed it down with the bucket. I stopped putting clay back in when I was sure there was no longer a swirl like a draining bath tub. I probably put 2′ worth back in. I was close to 9′ deep when I started loading the clay back in. it worked!
I went to my local concrete product manufacturer and bought two perforated 4′ concrete rings and one solid one. All blemished seconds, cash and cheap. I also bought a lid with man hole to keep leaves and critters out. The excavator I rented was just barely able to lift them off my uncles trailer and I had to use the blade on the front to support it while I climbed up the hill. We pumped out the hole with my 2″ Honda pump and got the first perforated ring in nice and level, squishing it into the clay real good. After that we back filled with field stones as drain rock then put the next two rings on and the lid. Over the next year I loaded 22 pick up truck loads of field stones picked from my field to fill in the pond. I don’t want to give water bugs and mice a place to die so I buried the water with stones. This also keeps the light off the water stopping algae from forming in our water source and keeps the well rings supported while allowing the water to flow to the center where I need it.


After digging my 2″ schedule 40 PVC pipe in 4′ down and running it down to my building site 360′ feet away with about a 30′ elevation drop I hired a local well drilling outfit to test the recovery rate of my well. My gamble payed off, we tested right after a huge rain storm and I barely passed. I got one step closer to my authorization to construct. I still needed a waste water certification on a septic but by then I had my mobile set up, plumbed and the septic was installed before I bothered to apply. I was learning how to deal with the regional district… Don’t if I can help it. Of course in the end I met all certifications to create a residential address out here, I just didn’t have time to wait for bureaucracy to allow me to build before winter came. Funds limited my time away from working so I really needed to get it all done.

Being that the pipe to my home was put at 4′ underground and my well is over 6′ I made a concrete plug around the pipe as a collar, run the pipe into one of the perforations, added a 2″ ball valve and put a 90 bend with an 18″ leg to draw water from closer to the bottom. When I filled the pipe for the first time I needed to remove the leg to allow the airlock to pass. So don’t glue that section, I didn’t. We packed clay around the pipe behind the collar to help seal the trench and added a 4″ ABS waste pipe as an over flow on the opposite side of the well to help keep the dyke from eroding. I seeded with grass as well.

We had a drought year that first year and my well was starting to empty and not recover so I took a trenching shovel up above and redirected the seeps into my well and dug a diagonal trench across the top of the meadow and directed that to my well as well. Never had a problem since, lots of water for us.

All said and done I had a rented excavator on that project for 16 hours at $35 an hour, paid about $700 for the concrete products and a little over $300 for the pipe and fittings. Not bad, beats the $12,000 that I was quoted for a drilled well. It is just that I need to filter and treat this water source with reverse osmosis as it is surface water and could get contaminated easily. Or boil it, no one wants beaver fever… I had help from my uncle (he trucked the concrete up with his big trailer), my Father who run the pump and had the level handy and my buddy Dave who glued the pipe the next day as I run the hoe digging trench and filling back in. We had some fun and I saved a bunch of money.

If you’d like to see the YouTube video of this project and photos taken during the build please feel free to visit my YouTube channel at NorthernWilds Lifestyle.

If you find it helpful or interesting please like, share and subscribe to the channel, it’s free! And have a great day. ~Scott




The Dangers of False Morels

You can take a sample to an expert for identification but be careful to wash your hands after handling poisonous or unknown mushrooms. It really is best to be safe than sorry.





Today I decided to go for a walk on my property a little ways north of the house and have a look for black morels in my favorite spot. This time last year we found many pounds of the famous land fish on our land and I am hoping to harvest a bounty again this year. Being that a friend wants the heads up this time to guide an elderly couple in their late 80’s into a nice easy pick I am being a little more vigilant in finding them as they first emerge. So far no luck. This year is a lot later spring than last, being more like the common years. Perhaps wetter too and the morels have yet to pop.

What I did find is a bit concerning though, right in my favorite morel spot was a nice fresh batch of false morels. Now the variety I found looks to be snowbank false morels and can be considered choice as well but it has very close relatives that are deadly poison. They are so close in appearance that I cannot tell them apart and most pickers will tell you it is not worth the risk.

False morels are a type of helvella, they are chambered internally rather than being just a hollow cap and stalk like a true morel. There are five false morels in North America that are similar to true morels; the poisonous conifer false morel, the choice snowbank false morel, the poisonous gabled false morel and the thick-stocked false morel. The fact that these are all so similar makes it not worth seeking the snowbank false morel but if you are familiar with what true morels look like there will be little doubt when you are in the field picking.

Both the true and false morels have a brainy look but you will find that the true morels grow taller in a cone-like shape, have a large hollow void in the cap as well as a hollow stem instead of the smaller, randomly chambered caps of the false morel. The false ones also tend to have a squatter, flatter shape than the true morels. Another difference I see where I am is that the true morels will be a blackish dark or yellow/tan colour while the false morels I see are a reddish brown or almost orange colour. To me there is no mistaking the one for the other, the true black morel is pictured here below.

A most important note that should be heard by all whom wish to hunt those wonderfully allusive morels is if you are not sure about what you are doing or looking at don’t eat them. You can take a sample to an expert for identification or to look through your own field guides but be careful to wash your hands after handling poisonous or unknown mushrooms in case you have a reaction or touch your mouth and food. It really is best to be safe than sorry. ~Scott




A Berry Good Bear Hunt

I go back to my half warm victory beer and wait for my heart rate to slow down again.




This ol’ chap decided to join me while I was filling my cap with wild raspberries one fine spring day in June. I follow him and another male, a brown, for a couple hours till they are uphill from where I know my truck is parked.. Since I have my 30-06 with me and a bear tag for the season I decide to flank them for a clear downhill shot.

Never before had I seen two males travel together. They are talking to each other from time to time as it began to drizzle rain. Neat noises, like moaning grunts. I always wonder what animals are saying to each other. Are these two boars chatting about the weather? Or maybe regaling stories of all the juicy apples they had eaten the fall before in the orchards just down the hill.

Noticing their steady direction of travel I move a long ways ahead of them, finding a comfortable spot to calm down after my hike. A ten minute or so breather they walk into view… 240 yards down hill and about 10% grade, not a bad spot. I take the black since the brown was skinny and a little rough looking, I want nice healthy meat. He goes down clean, with a grunt, taking a single 180 grain soft point to the heart.

It is raining hard now. I used every rope and chain I have to hook him up after dragging his mass the 200 yards or so downhill by myself to the trail leading to my parking spot. Over logs and around rocks I stumble as I continue to yard and shift his weight. I sure hope he doesn’t wake up! Using a heavy ratchet strap for a winch, it arrives at my truck. It’s all I can do to tug it aboard using my tail gate as a ramp!

Meanwhile the other male has been shadowing at 40 yards and I feel the need to keep my rifle loaded and ready every inch of my journey. He doesn’t sound happy. I yell and toss small stones nearby as I cannot keep an eye on him while I’m dressing the beast out. He finally leaves and I can finish loading my harvest without threat of retaliation from his buddy. It is sad to see their attachment broken but I need meat for the Summer and these guys had been tearing up the local orchards steady for a couple years.

 

I’m totally soaked now from sweat and rain. Stripping to only a t-shirt, I try to cool off in the June 15th shower. After a good cleaning and rest I leave the entrails for the scavengers. Nothing gets wasted in the bush! And wouldn’t you know?.. As I start into my packed lunch I hear a noise and look over my right shoulder, startling a female coyote coming over to claim her prize. Incredible how quickly they can move in on a fresh kill. Being the third day hunting alone in a row I’m too tired to make much noise. I go back to my half warm victory beer and wait for my heart rate to slow down again. ~Scott





Smoke Em if You Got Em.

Nothing will beat a clean sockeye or coho salmon fillet fresh from a river. Now with all this salmon we needed a smoker so we could have our own Indian candy. And from there my adventures in smoked meat began.





A very handy project to tackle on the homestead is building your own meat smoker. Over the last decade and a half I have built many smokers. I lived on the B.C. coast for a few years and nearly lived on salmon.

My first three smokers were built out of old refrigerators gutted and turned upside down. I liked using the small freezer compartment door at the bottom for adding chips to the fire, it’s great because you don’t lose your smoke while adding chips! Another innovation was to cut in a sloped roof. I would use a piece of plywood angled so that any condensation will run down it to the back wall rather than dripping on to your meat. Shingle it and add a vent for the steamy air to escape and your have a perfect shell.

To hang your meat or racks to lay it on I drilled holes in the sides every few inches and added ready rod. You could use dowels or square strips of wood. Cedar would do well. On my original three smokers I laid used oven racks up cycled from the local landfill on the rods I ran through the sides. I even used nuts and washers to secure the rods and added a meat thermometer through an extra hole to gauge internal temps somewhat. These turn into fantastic smokers and I intend to make another soon, I have given all my old ones away to a local friend each time I move.

To get heat and smoke going in the smoker I have used electric elements up to 1500W. I am not a fan of them though as they just don’t pump out the heat enough for the good hot smoked, chewy jerky that I like. I’m not a fan of cold smoked mushy fish either. So to improve on that I now use the side burners of old used bbq’s destined for the scrap yard. Much cheaper and easier to acquire than a hot plate anyhow. If you do like the cold smoked meats it is easy to add an external firebox and pipe it into a hole cut in the rear bottom of your smoker and smoke your lox up too.

My current smoker is a Cadillac. I was given an old pizza warming oven when a restaurant closed down and I immediately saw gold haha. I had to do very little to it and use it exclusively for red meat and pork. I want zero fish flavour in my chops and sausages, who’d want fishy deer jerky? Not me!

I added a whole bunch of oven racks from the scrap yard again, added the old meat thermometer from our kitchen and cut some wood strips to hang sausage from. Another bbq side burner fitted into the bottom, my cast iron skillet salvaged from a flea market and voila, smoker #4. It came with ledges for shelves built in and some awesome adjustable vents on each side of the top. I swear this thing is meant to be a smoker, quickest and cheapest build yet.

I will build my new fish smoker yet but in all honesty I doubt I can make it for the $4 price tag (meat thermometer) of my jerky smoker. You can bet I surely will try. For a better look at my jerky smoker featured in this post please check out my new YouTube video about it at NorthernWilds Lifestyle. Remember to hit like and subscribe if you enjoyed it and leave any feed back you come up with. Enjoy! ~ Scott




They’re Berry, Berry Good!

When it comes to a delightful trail side morsel of flavour you can’t beat a handful of wild strawberries in my neck of the woods. My favourites anyways, I wouldn’t change them if I could!





Today I’d like to write about one of my favorite wild edibles that grows in my area. Wild strawberries! These tiny bundles of flavour have been a target of mine since I was a small child. It is incredible to me how much sweetness can be packed into a single little berry.

In my yard we have an area devoted to Saskatoon berries and in amongst the grasses around these are thousands of wild strawberry plants. They can form as wee little round berries or as long thimble sized and any size in between. This one patch that I keep my eye on in front of a big spruce tree has an incredible flavour. Sweeter and stronger than the rest, they taste like lipton raspberry juice crystals. I swear!

I find that the Saskatoons and the strawberries are ripening at nearly the same time so as we go to check how far along our Saskatoons are we get to nibble on fresh wild strawberries too. And I’m not kidding when I say nibble. They are small, so small I have yet to try wild strawberry jam since it takes so many to fill a cup. Another issue is they don’t keep well to be able to stock up on a whole lot and they squish so terribly easily. I’m not sure if I will ever get enough past my children and in to the house to have them end up in jars. Our Jake is a berry fiend! Not the fellow to have come on a berry gathering trip… Unless you are fine with them being gathered in his belly of course. And of course I am thrilled he likes them too.

The two plants featured in my photos here were actually taken about 10 km south of my place at around a 1000 meters elevation. A bit higher than here at the homestead. They produce so heavily and have such sweet fruit I dug up a bunch to add to our special spot. Hopefully they will add to the genetics of our strawberries and improve yields. I only take a few when transplanting and since they grow everywhere in this valley I am not ruining the wild bounty for my neighbours at all.

They happily grow in the local minerals and I tend to find them in well drained soil. My area has a large amount of glacial till and often little topsoil. Regardless the wild strawberries still cover many areas and I would say they don’t need much to grow in way of organics, most of ours are only watered by natural rain fall growing in normally dry areas. Preferring to mix in with grassy patches and roadside ditches they make a perfect trail side snack for a burst of sugars, I am constantly picking/eating fruit as I go.

These little treasures will never take the place of our domestic strawberries in their garden. They unfortunately won’t be found in my freezer ever either to fill my steady need of frozen berries for our smoothie addictions. But when it comes to a delightful trail side morsel of flavour you can’t beat a handful of wild strawberries in my neck of the woods. My favourites anyways, I wouldn’t change them if I could!




Thunder Bolt & Lightning

I took it as an omen that I was truly meant to go home. It gave me goose bumps all over again.


One thing that many folks might need to get used to while living in the mountains is the storms. When we get a storm up here in these iron rich mountains you are really in it! You watch the dark, menacing clouds as they gather above the closest ridge and come billowing in. One moment there is light fluffy clouds and sun, the next you can see, smell and feel the cold moisture cascading down upon you.

Here we can see the rain falling on a nearby slope as it moves in. In winter we observe the snow whitewashing that slope a good while before it hits us. I’ve learned to start packing up my outdoor projects before I get clobbered by a heavy storm, this particular slope to my West happens to be a prevailing direction for most of our weather to move in from. We get to tell if merely a light rain is approaching or if we better get the tarps tied down fast.
All great info to keep an eye on and I find I am looking at the view often to know what’s coming.

I’ve had a few very close calls with lightning the last few years up here. I’ve been on many mountain lakes fishing as bad storms roll in, incredible to see but it will raise the hairs on your arms and neck. But aside from all that fishing in foul weather my closest calls both happened in my neck of the woods. I was up on a high, rocky lookout that faces North under the high tension wires B.C. Hydro put in this area. I get to look down a peaceful stretch of the Shuswap river as it curves through the little valley down there and was watching a storm roll in from the Enderby/Salmon Arm areas to the West. It was a good one, I could feel the energy in the air and the wind was fantastic. It really gets the ticker going!

After a few short minutes the lightning started. Up here it will be reaching the ground in spots making one feel like they are right in the middle of it all. Seeing the electricity arcing through the air at nearly eye level a half kilometer away is a sight to behold for sure. Until it gets to be right on top of you.. My boldness let me stay up there as it came right at me. I was in no hurry to go home and sit in the house, loving the storm, I just watched it come.

It was when a bolt shot down, lighting up the sky right above me in a bright white and blue burst, hitting the wires and following them from directly above me down to the next set of insulators. I am just guessing that it was a small discharge being that it didn’t harm the wire or continue down to light me up. I can tell you though that I was in the cab of my truck spinning tires and down the road before the instantaneous boom of thunder stopped. Haha. I had seen this happen again on my way down the hill heading home and that time it looked less of a strike and more like a gathering of energy from around the wires. From my second perspective I got a much better profile look at the phenomenon. Did’t slow me down any, I was out of there!

On my way home a patch of Sun was shining through and a huge double rainbow stretched out along the valley. It was brilliant and the one end looked to me to be right at the lookout I was enjoying and the other seemed to complete the arc right at my homestead. I took it as an omen that I was truly meant to go home. It gave me goose bumps all over again.

The second close one was just a bit Northwest of my place, about 3.5 km away. I was working in a 21 metric ton excavator doing silver culture work for a local mill. We were getting a cut block cleared of excess slash and seeding it with conifer seeds. My partner Mike was working a ways off nearby about 600 meters away. We try to keep an eye on each other in case of emergency, you never know when a fire might start or a guy tips over a machine, he might need help.

A lightning storm moved in fast, since this happens often I just kept working. The light show was pretty close this day and I saw a couple real close flashes, one in particular looked to go out from above and away from me.

Well a couple minutes go by and Mike comes up grinning and asked if I want to get off the mountain. “Did you see that bolt that almost hit you”? I figured why bother, the worst of the storm has already passed. He tells me that last bolt he saw came right down at me and turned away about 50 meters above my machine. Pretty damn close, I had seen the flash but I couldn’t tell just how close it came and how it turned away. So after some coaxing I agreed that it might be safest to come back when the storm was over to finish up. We would have been fine I am sure but why risk it? Our boss wouldn’t be terribly impressed if we let ourselves get hurt.

You never really know which way a storm will go and where the worst of it will strike so we get caught in it from time to time. Such is life, so we enjoy the good times when we can and laugh off the rough ones after conquer them. ~Scott




Here Kitty, Kitty

Now it’s a good thing the cat wasn’t a man eating variety or I would have been an easy meal that day





A fond memory of ours was a drive we took in my little red racing jeep (my pet name for my first jeep yj). Ally and I headed back behind Brenda mine and South of hwy 97C early one year at least 12 years ago. It was cold but sunny, socked in with fog in the valley, but up there it was gorgeous.

Many km out of Peachland B.C. we were enjoying the day when we came upon this mature Lynx. Such awesome creatures, this cat just crouched beneath a pine and watched us. We took some pics but I felt I needed a better angle so I took off over the snow. Off trail… and I sunk up to my waist. Haha.

Now it’s a good thing the cat wasn’t a man eating variety or I would have been an easy meal that day! But after what I’m sure was a laugh from ol’ Lynx there, and this picture taken by me, it left.

Being that we were on a day outing and had some time to burn we decided to take note of where the wildcat went into the tree line. After my spooking him such as I did he went away then up ahead. Basically it went out a few hundred yards ahead of us, crossed our path and headed into the woods. You’d think that was it, awesome sighting at 40 or so feet away, but over.

Well I knew that area a little from my days up at Pennask Lake working at the hunting/fishing resort about 30 km to the North. So we back tracked a half km then headed South as well. After oh.. a half dozen km we came to a natural gas right of way, we followed up it a ways and we waited. After nearly an hour of near silence, maybe more, at last we see our friend. And it wasn’t alone! There was at least seven of the beautiful cats travelling as a group. Some bigger, some small, it was a sight of a lifetime. So rare to see them in a large group like that, we were wonderfully thrilled to witness it. A blessing for sure.

Of all the big cats I have run into in the bush that was the most spectacular and a cherished memory of my life. Thinking of this always reminds me of a moose hunting trip my late friend Riley and I took up North.

We were a couple hours North West from Quesnel, up in Nazko country. We seen many moose but up to the point of this story we hadn’t harvested ours. We were in a group of four hunters and two designated drinkers, a Father/son team. The elder pitch drinker did end up getting himself a mule deer (during a sober mission up a mountian to cell service) and after we dragged it to his truck he brought out about half his wives’ kitchen knives and asked which would do best. God did I laugh, and handed him my knife…

Any ways back to me and Rye. We were clipping down the road in total Rye style, about 70kph, travelling between chains of lakes when I yell at Rye “Hey there was a Lynx sleeping back there”! He slams on the brakes a moment later and we skidded at least thirty feet. Winds it up in reverse and after a bit I go “Whoa”. There it was laying there under a tree, sleeping soundly twenty feet off the road.

I need a picture. So with this crap disposable camera (pics never turned out)I quietly creep out of the truck and walked right up to the Lynx and snapped it’s picture. Turns out my junker of a camera is pretty loud at ten feet away and the Wildcat woke up. I’ll never forget the look in it’s eyes when it looked up, relaxed a bit, then it’s eyes focused in and it tensed right up. Eyes went wide. Then up and off in a shot it ran 80 or so feet into the open pines and turned to watch us some more.

As I turned around I see Rye with my rifle (I owned both the 30-06 we took on that trip) leveled at his hip pointed right at me. The bugger said he had me covered…. safest cat in the bush that day I tell ya!

I miss Riley dearly, one heck of a mind, one heck of a worker, but after that day I always let him walk in front while hunting. ~Scott

 




The Chicken Compound

My plan is to start with 20 meat hybrids from the local hatchery to see how the spacing is for them, the tractor is 11′ x 7′ approximately.





Last spring I was given this large steel mesh cage by a neighbour when I was clearing a pasture for them. It looked to be meant to mount to a flat bed truck of some sort but someone had cut it up a little. Fine by me, I seen a chicken tractor in it from the get go. I ended up carrying it by dangling it with my excavator and walking the machine home with it. I was too busy to do anything with it until winter so it was put aside. Sweet score!

So winter comes and now I have time. I ended up not wanting to run my machine down the hill and back just for that so I just used the tractor. With some swearing and slipping I get it chained onto the bucket of my tractors loader and drag it to the shop in reverse. All things considered it came with very little damage. I was pleased.

After using my oxy-propane cutting torch to clean off all the bits that I didn’t need and trimming the bottom to length I welded a 4″ angle iron skid to each side so it can be dragged on my uneven fields. The cage came with double swing out gates on the one end so I rigged up a locking system and a latch as well as welding a 2″ square tube across the front where I wanted to put a 2″ ball hitch. The hitch got 1 1/2″ square tube to truss it out a bit so the 3″ x 2″ hitch tube that I used can handle all the weight I plan to add to the coop.

Princess auto in the nearby big city (150km away) had a sale on really wide trailer axels and the hitch jacks with a 500lb rated wheel. I snagged one each and a couple wheels cheap. Still the new steel and parts came to about $400 plus oxygen, propane, welding rod and the electricity it took to make the magic happen. She ain’t cheap but I can call it bear proof haha. I need all that and more out here. I lost some sheep to a cougar last spring and I’m not big on feeding my dinners to the local critters too much. My chicken dinner! Get your own sandwich cat!!

Later on this spring sometime I intend to put an A frame roosting coop on the top with tin roofing and 2″ x 4″ lumber. A ladder plank into the bottom, a feed/water system and some roosting perches should be awesome for the meat birds. We should do well with the system I plan to build.

My plan is to start out with 20 meat hybrids from a local hatchery to see how the spacing is for them, the tractor is 11′ x 7′ approximately. Once the coop is added on top I am sure I can up it to maybe 25 or even 30 birds. We will see. Until then I will just tarp it for them and go with less. We have lots of lush grass (come spring), will give them grower pellets and by moving them around with the tractor or a jeep they should get plenty of fresh chow with clean pasture.

So far I am thrilled with my armoured chicken tractor. Even though my daughter says chickens are friends not food I am going to have to get geared up for processing them soon. And get her some fresh pullets to go in her pet egg layers too.

I will keep everyone up to date as we progress with the new food production by adding more details on how we are making out in future posts. And please… get outside and enjoy the fresh air! It is wonderful. ~Scott