June 15, 2000

Greetings from the Great Wet North. Summer keeps trying to sneak in on us here in the dales. Yesterday dawned cold and foggy, with a light mist coming down, but by mid-afternoon the sun had returned, and the evening from the cottage was another postcard view.

Jim and Byron seemed in an optimistic mood, and hoping for a day without any serious equipment problems sent Jonina off to Kendal first thing for powder. The guys went to the mine to begin the cycle of mucking, drilling, and blasting at the new tunnel face, while I stayed up at Little Allercleugh for the morning to put together a flat of specimens for Gemcraft in the Dales Center in Stanhope. Some pieces have been slowly making their way through the dithionite bath, and I picked out a selection and began hosing them off with the water gun. After completing a batch, I realized that they would never dry in that weather, and loaded them into the oven set on low. In short order we had a pile of warm toasty rocks, ready to be boxed up. About that time Tim Sherburn, Peter Briscoe, and a friend of Peter's who's name I only remember as Tony showed up to have a look at our current crop of fluorites. Most are only slightly past the mud-ball stage of life, but everyone had a good time poking through the lot and examining them closely under the paltry illumination provided by the single bare bulb in the garage. Tony, it seems, is fond of LARGE specimens, of which we have more than a few. He was particularly taken with one of the largest - a mound of purple, quartz encrusted fluorite crystals about 3 feet in diameter, which must weigh close to 100 lbs.. I encouraged him to return later next month, by which time we should be cleaned and fit for human consumption.

After coffee and a bit of chatting, Tim, Peter, and Tony headed off to the mine, and I returned to cleaning. Soon had a decent flat of mixed purples and greens together, and set off in traveling salesman mode. Both John and Marie were in at Gemcraft, and after much chat about everything from the low level RAF fly-overs in the dale to holidays in America, we finally got to looking at fluorite. The took the entire lot without any haggling, something which always leaves one feeling that the lot was underpriced. They seemed quite pleased with the rocks, and they're of the sort that we'd rather sell here than ship back, so everyone made out. I left a copy of the R&M issue with the Rogerley article, and promised to stop by again before returning to the States.

Finally got to the mine around 1600, expecting to make it just in time for the day's shot. Evidently, a host of small problems, including a series of blown air lines had put everyone behind, and they were just beginning to drill. Tim, Peter, and Tony stayed for the blast, which finally happened around 1900. Peter parked himself across the quarry and caught the action on video, and promises that it will all be up on his web site by tomorrow. I'll have to check it out. On the way out of the quarry, Jim, Byron, and I ran into a fellow hunting rabbits (of which, for those of you who haven't visited the dale, there are literally millions). Seems he is an active falconer and was out hunting dinner for his flock. He also belongs to a group trying to preserve the dwindling population of raptors in England. Though protected, it seems that the sport hunters have a habit of shooting them because they prey on grouse. Nice fellow, and of course, quite interested to know why a bunch of mud-covered Americans would be tromping around the bush in Weardale.

Stopped for a quick pint at the Golden Lion before going up to the cottage. On the way I noticed that the cottage on the road just below Little Allercleugh had a newly erected "For Sale" sign. Could be our summer home. Shall I inquire? Jonina had already headed off to bed. Jim grabbed a beer out of the fridge, claiming "There's nothing better than a beer and a hot bath", and disappeared. I fixed a quick dinner, and turned in.

Today is track switcher day. After mucking out yesterdays mess, the crew plans to begin fabrication of the rail points necessary for our new interchange to work. There is also the compressor fuel pump issue, which I think Jim and Byron are wishing would somehow magically fix itself. I think another cup of coffee is in order before I think about that.

Cheers,

Jesse, Jim, Byron, and Jonina



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