Scripture Case Pattern

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rocks

Lately, Gavin has taken up an interest in rocks.  To kick off his spring break, I planned a rockhounding trip with my parents to the west desert.  At first I was just planning on going to the Dugway geode beds.  My parents took my siblings and me there when we were younger.  I remember being a little disappointed. We didn't really know what to look for, besides round rocks, or how to search for them.  That was before the days of the internet.  This time around, I wanted to make sure that we had a successful trip, so I started doing research.  I thought it would take a couple of hours of researching and planning.  It took hours and HOURS (at least 20 hours) of planning.  I found blog posts and forums that kept talking about Loy Crapo's claim having the best spot for finding geodes.  They would talk about how they got the GPS coordinates for the claim so that they knew right where to go, but they would never share those coordinates.  SO frustrating. After more searching, I finally found some info that led me to some useful information but also informed me of a bunch of other nearby places to find some fun rocks and crystals.  I decided that I would share our rock trip, with coordinates and all other useful information, here on the blog, so that others can go on a fun rockhounding trip without having to spend countless hours planning for it.

You will need a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a GPS.  There is no phone service out there, so your maps app won't work.

Dugway Geode Beds
GPS coordinates: N39 53.660'  W113 08.242'
visit thebughouse.net for contact info to get permission to be on the claim

When you see this sign, you know that you have reached the
right place.
First off, this area is on a claim.  You will need to get permission first (find contact info HERE) and pay a $30 fee.  In my opinion, it is definitely worth going to this claim as opposed to finding your own place to dig that is on the BLM land.  The owners have an excavator that they use to dig HUGE holes, so that people have better luck finding geodes.  They go out there numerous times each season and turn over new dirt so that there is always a good crop of geodes to be found.  For $100, the owner will go out there with you and use his excavator to dig up some new stuff, and then he'll help you find enough geodes to fill a 5 gallon bucket.  If you want to skip the claim and dig on your own, you will have to dig down 6-10 feet to get to the clay level where the geodes are hiding.


You will probably see this excavator right at the entrance of the path down into the current pit.

I am standing on the other side of the excavator, looking down the path into the pit.
We came ready with shovels, buckets, rock picks, chisels, a sledgehammer, and a couple of regular hammers.  We were ready to do some serious digging in the clay wall.  I think that the owner had turned over some new dirt recently, because we had our best luck just searching through all of the loose stuff in the pit and along side the path leading down into the pit.  As we (my dad, mom, and I) took turns sitting down with Ander, we discovered that the ground we were sitting on was covered in perfect geodes. We were able to gather at least a whole bucket full just by picking up the ones that were within arms reach. There were tons of already broken geodes littering the place, but there were probably just as many, if not more, whole geodes.  We filled three 5 gallon buckets with geodes ranging in sizes from 1/2" diameter (we just wanted to see what those were like for fun) all the way to 9" in diameter.  The average size was about 4"-5".  We found a chunk of clay right at the beginning of the path that we started chiseling away at.  We ended up finding around 15 average size, completely intact geodes in it.

A panoramic of the pit.  We first started out trying to find geodes in the wall.  We found lots of little ones, but our best luck was in all the loose dirt along the path and down at the bottom of the pit.

Ander was not amused.  Tim finally figured out that Ander didn't like sitting on the uneven ground.  Tim took him up to where the cars were and sat him down on the flat ground, and Ander was completely content for the next hour.

As we were packing up to leave, the owner arrived and checked permission slips. They regularly come out and check on that, so I highly recommend that you get permission to be there.

Now that we're home, we've been trying to figure out how to clean they clay off and how to get the geodes open without costing us an arm and a leg (or a finger or two if we used our own saw) and also without destroying them.  Local rock shops charge at least $12 a cut (that's up to a baseball sized rock) and then the price just goes up from there.  We don't want to pay to get all of our geodes cut, knowing that many of them probably aren't really pretty inside.  We chiseled a few open with success, but it's all jagged around the opening.  We want a nice cut just in case they're really pretty and worth keeping.  We can rent a brick saw from Home Depot, but that can be really dangerous (you have to hold the rock in place the entire time, so small rocks are almost impossible to do on it).  We'll figure it out, and let you know.  I tried soaking the geodes in water for a week to see if that helped get the clay off.  It kind of did, but not really.  We borrowed a pressure washer, and blasted those things.  Some got a little cleaner, but not what I wanted.  I read somewhere that we could soak them in some kind of chemical, but if we go that route, then we would also have to soak them in continuously fresh water for the same length of time.  It would take about 2 weeks in the chemical solution and then another 2 weeks in continuously fresh water.  Grrrr...  I'll figure out a better way.  I know I will!

Most of our haul

one of the common small ones

the largest one we found

this one looks like three separate ones, but they are all interconnected

Gavin and Kade call this one the butt cheek one. I think it looks like testicles, but we'll go with butt cheeks.

Gavin and I cracked open a ton of the really little ones.  Almost all of them shattered/exploded.  When the first one that didn't explode came around, I examined it to try and figure out what those ridges mean and where the best place to put the chisel is.  I found that where all the smooth parts are, in between the ridges, is actually the thickest part of the rock.  To crack them open, find a place where the ridges are intersecting and place the chisel right next to them.  Don't try to chisel right on the ridges.  That is where the crystals start forming and it is harder than the actual rock.  Once I figured that out, I was able to cleanly crack open the rest.
Here you can see the ridges and the smooth parts that I mentioned


Obsidian Hill
GPS coordinates: N39 41.946'  W113 10.005'

All those black rocks are balls of obsidian
called Apache Tears
About 20-30 minutes south of the geode beds, there is an area called Obsidian Hill where you can find Apache Tears just littering the ground.  I thought it would be a fun, quick stop for the kids.  The best place to get them is up on the hills.  The hills are small and easy to climb, so no need to stress about a hike.  We decided to explore a little.  It was neat to see how the tears formed and all the different volcanic rock formations. The only tools you need are your hands and a place to put your rocks.

Tim calls this place Poop Hill. All three kids ended up pooping at this location and somehow Tim ended up having to help (or change a diaper) all of them. What a trooper.

This is a HUGE (about the size of a large living room) piece of volcanic rock.  The black, round this in it are the Apache Tears.

Typical Kade lying in the dirt.
Our largest and smallest Apache Tears
The Apache Tear collection



Topaz Mountain
GPS coordinates: N39 41.781'  W113 5.878'

About another 20 minutes southeast of Obsidian Hill is Topaz Mountain.  This took us FOREVER to find.  It's all completely dirt roads/paths with no markings. We have a super old GPS, and it would all of a sudden lose reception and show us that we were w
ay off the path, so then we'd turn around and back track until it showed that we were on the correct route again.  We did this about 3 or 4 times, getting to different areas each time (and we came to find out we were getting closer and closer to the correct spot) before our GPS told us we were actually not where we thought we were. We did this for over an hour.  On the finally time that we turned around and tried to get back on course, we found a camping area.  We stopped and asked for help, and the people directed us back the way we had just come from.  If we had stayed on the path 30 seconds longer, we would have seen our destination. Ha.  Figures.  So...if you want to do this, use a better GPS than we did.  I forgot to take pictures once we arrived.  Sorry.

You can go about finding topaz two different ways.  You can find clear topaz all over the ground, mostly in the washes, though.  When the sun is out, you can see the topaz blinging in your eyes.  Unfortunately, the sun was hiding from us the majority of the time that day, so we used gold sifting pans (found HERE) and our hands.  If you use a sifter, I recommend that you use an 1/8" screen.  We had 1/4", and it was too big.  The people that helped us find to place told us that they use a flashlight at night to find topaz. The guy gave us a handful of some really nice topaz pieces that they had found the night before, just in case the kids couldn't find any good stuff.  He was really nice.

The second way you can find topaz is to chisel away the gray rock.  It is HARD work.  You will need chisels, a hammer, rock pick, and possibly a crowbar. The topaz hiding in the rock is a beautiful sherry color.  It bleaches out within a few weeks once it's exposed to UV rays and heat (aka the sun). There is a huge gray rock right in the middle that people are chiseling away on (that is where we chiseled).  You can work there, or you can hike up the mountain and find your own places to chisel.  From what I've read, you'll find better luck hiking up the mountain on the west side of the basin.  There's not only topaz hiding in there but there is also garnet, some kind of really cool looking black, shiny, cube shaped rock, and the extremely rare (and expensive) red beryl.  If the sun is shining, you can see sparkles on the rock. You'll find that that is a piece of topaz in the rock.  Start chiseling away, and hopefully underneath that you'll find a pocket of other sherry colored topaz.  Also look for pockets and seams, especially near vegetation, and start chiseling there.  My little kids did not enjoy having to work that hard for the topaz, so they went back to searching in the washes.  Tim uncovered a few pieces of the sherry topaz, though.

Here's out topaz collection.  We found some purple and blue pieces of something.  We don't know if they're just glass or something else, though. :/
A piece of topaz (on the right) hiding in the rock. 
Sherry colored topaz compared to the bleached out topaz
Our sherry topaz haul

I had a couple other places that I wanted to stop by on the way home, but getting lost searching for Topaz Mountain cut into that time, so we dropped that from the itinerary.  We were going to hit up Drum Mountain for its agate (GPS N39 37.939'  W113 1.915') and Vernon for its wonderstone (GPS N40 6.145'  W112 21.434).

During my research, I found a book all about rockhounding in Utah. I immediately ran to Barnes and Noble and bought.  The lady informed me that it was just released the day before.  This book is great.  It shows a map of Utah with all the different rockhounding locations marked on it.  It gives coordinates, the tools needed, directions, and tips.  I highly recommend it.  You can find it HERE.


Go have some fun digging for rocks!!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Vanilla Part 2: Vanilla Sea Salt

Image stolen from my mom. This will be the only good looking picture in this post.{source}
Gah. I'm so bad at blogging. I've had the pictures all ready to go for this post for a month now, and I've just been too dang lazy to blog about it.  First off, I'm really sorry my pictures are terrible... like horrendously terrible.  I know nothing more about photography than point the camera at the object and touch the button to capture said object. And by camera, I mean my phone. We don't own a camera. ha. So, get over it. :)

Ok, on to Vanilla Sea Salt. (ok, so it's already taken me 25 minutes to get to this point. I'm already bored and distracted. :/ I need to work on that).

Vanilla Sea Salt can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It can be used as a finishing salt sprinkled on fish and other delicate seafoods, spring vegetables, green salads that have seasonal fruits in them, cookies, brownies, and caramels. Experiment. Have fun with it.

Ingredients:


1 cup (preferably) flaky sea salt (I did not have flaky sea salt, so I used what I had on hand)

1 vanilla bean, split, scraped*

lidded container





Directions:

1. Mix salt, vanilla bean, and caviar* together in container.

2. Give it a good shake every day or so for the next week, and then it's ready.


* I wanted my salt to be speckled with the vanilla caviar, so I scraped the bean and mixed the caviar in with it. You do not need to do it this way. The majority of the vanilla flavor comes from the bean itself, not the caviar. I did it simply for aesthetic reasons.

Sources:

Jars in the very top picture: 2.7 oz week jars
Other good containers: HERE and HERE
Vanilla Beans: Beanilla.com
 Sea Salt: Costco

Friday, January 3, 2014

Vanilla Part 1: Vanilla Extract

Last fall, my mother gave me THIS wonderful vanilla cookbook. I've been wanting to make vanilla extract for christmas gifts, and this book finally gave me the motivation to do it. At first I was just going to keep the gifts simple and give out extract, but as I started doing research and shopping around for things, my gift idea evolved into something much more elaborate. I became obsessed with vanilla. I wanted to bathe in it and eat it for every meal.  I wanted it for a child so I could love on it and drink in its' aroma anytime I wanted.  Everything about vanilla is amazing.



For Christmas gifts this year, I made vanilla gift baskets. Some were full of vanilla treats (vanilla lollipops, vanilla and peppermint French macarons, and vanilla marshmallows), some had vanilla baking supplies (Ugandan vanilla extract, vanilla sea salt, and vanilla sugar), and some were a combination of the two. For my in-laws and parents, their baskets contained some of everything plus two extra vanilla extracts made from Madagascan and Mexican vanilla beans.
Photo courtesy of my ma (link)
For the next few posts, I will be doing a series of vanilla how-tos. This post will be about vanilla extract and the difference between the different varieties of vanilla beans I used.

Vanilla extract is so insanely easy to make, I don't know why I have ever bothered with the store bought stuff before. Even though I haven't been able to try my extracts yet (they have to steep for at least 2 months), I can already tell they are better than store bought.  After the first week of steeping, I smelled them and they already smelled 100x better than any store bought brand I have gotten. I could barely even smell the alcohol. The vanilla scent was so rich.

I bought all of my vanilla beans from Beanilla.com. I shopped around for a while, and Beanilla.com definitely has the best prices and selection, and the quality of the bean is far superior than any store bought bean I have gotten.  After reading the different descriptions of the vanilla beans, I decided to go with Ugandan vanilla. The vanilla that you buy in the stores is mostly Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla. You can also find Mexican vanilla for a higher price.  I wanted to use a vanilla bean that most everyone had not tried yet, so I chose the Ugandan. Beanilla said that its aroma is earthy with tones of milk-chocolate and its flavor is bold and is perfect for rich desserts. That sounded like my kind of vanilla.

After I made all the Ugandan vanilla, I decided I really wanted to make me some Mexican and Madagascan vanilla, so I ordered some more beans. After a week of steeping and being able to smell the difference between each extract (and also after a week or reading up on the different vanilla beans and how Tahitian vanilla is the king of all vanilla), I just HAD to order a few Tahitian vanilla beans and make some extract with it. Tahitian beans are very expensive, so I only ordered enough to selfishly make only myself some extract. The Tahitian vanilla smells so different from the other three vanillas. It has a floral/cherry smell to it and doesn't have that rich, vanilla smell that the other three do. The Ugandan vanilla definitely has a chocolaty smell to it. It's amazing. The Madagascan vanilla smells exactly like all those vanilla candles and lotions. It is the typical vanilla smell.  The Mexican vanilla has a more "buttery", earthy smell to it. This is what Beanilla.com has to say about the difference in flavors:

Ugandan: very bold; perfect for rich desserts
Madagascan: rich, dark, and creamy flavor
Mexican: rich and smooth with subtle tones of smoke
Tahitian: aroma that is floral with tones of ripe fruit; flavor is rich of chocolate, licorice, and caramel

So, without further ado, here is how to make your very own vanilla extract:

Vanilla Extract

Bottle
8 oz vodka
5 vanilla beans










1. Split vanilla beans length wise and open them up a little.


 2. Place in bottle

3. Fill bottle up with vodka

4. And give it some good shakes
5. Now, here's the hard part. You've got to let it steep for a couple months. During that time, shake it up weekly, daily, every other day, or whatever else you like, but no less than weekly.  To replenish your extract, once it is half way to two thirds of the way gone, top it off with more vodka and let it steep for 2 weeks while you give it a good shake every now and then.  You can do this a couple of times before the beans lose their flavor.

*Notes
-For the vodka, you don't need a super nice kind. Bottom shelf vodka will work just fine. You can use another neutral flavored alcohol if you wish. Just make sure the alcohol content is at least 40%.  On someones blog (can't find the link, sorry), she said she used cream flavored vodka for her vanilla extract and it was amazing. I will have to try that soon.  Another person said that they used Everclear instead of vodka, because its alcohol content is 95%. They said that their extract was ready within a few weeks, instead of a couple of months.

-I bought my 8.5 oz bottles HERE

- As I was making the extract, some of the extract went murky. I don't know why some did and some didn't. I tried filtering it through coffee filters (multiple times) to no avail. I even let it rest for a couple of weeks to see if sediment would settle to the bottom and the extract would clarify... it didn't. I will let you know if it affects the flavor.
Left: murky, Right: not murky

Sources:
Vanilla beans: www.beanilla.com
Pure Vanilla cookbook: Amazon

Ander says "hi"!



And so do Gavin and Kade:



Kade insisted that Ander needed to wear his new hat at all times