Thursday, May 31, 2001

Good Morning. Weather this morning is following the usual pattern Ė sunny at dawn with clouds slowly moving in afterward. Yesterday afternoon we had our first real rain, but it was still far from the sideways downpours that can occur. The mud index may have moved up to 4, but I wonít know until we go to the mine. Not that it really matters there as the mud index in the mine varies between 6-9 depending on what youíre doing.

Iíve decided that in areas such as the rural northern of England, the weather forecast should include the daily mud index, which is a scientifically derived, quantitative description of just how dirty one may expect to get while carrying on with oneís duties during the course of the day. I have yet to decide on all the parameters for the index, but the endpoints should include 1 being as dry as the Atacama Desert, where any moisture-containing dirt is likely to fall off you and desiccate instantly, and 10 which means that if you step off the pavement you will sink in over your head and be lost forever. Working around the mine would usually be around 6-7, unless youíre in a particularly muddy pocket with a water hose, which might be an 8. When we first opened the mine in 1999 there was a spot in the back of the tunnel where one would sink in half way up oneís Wellies and the mud was so thick that it would suck the boot off your foot when you tried to extract it. I think thatís a 9. If we can get daily traffic reports and pollution indexes in urban areas, why not a mud index in the country?

Yesterday Byron and I spent at the mine, and due to our opening day success, Jonina had her first round of specimens to clean. We ran into Mark Watson at the Mill Race on Monday, and were told that we should stop by the garage on Wednesday to pick up the Peugeot. First stop of the morning was to drop Jonina off at the garage so she could become independently mobile. True to form, Mark hadnít finished servicing the car for us yet, but when this happens, heís always happy to give Jonina a loaner. We were told that one of their employees seems to of had too much fun over the holiday weekend and was still recovering. As a result, staff was a bit thin and no one had looked at our car yet.

Byron and I spent the morning clearing the small rockslide off the landing. It came down right onto the spot where the hydraulic power unit goes, so must be cleared before we can set it up and fire up the saw. After a few hours of this both of us were obviously slowing down, but we got most of it. Surprisingly, I came away with only two blisters on one hand. After a short lunch break Byron crawled back into last yearís pocket, and I took to cleaning dirt and rock out from around the track. If any rocks become lodged in the bends or switchers on the track, they can cause the ore cars to derail, so these places must be kept clean. An example of what can happen can be seen in the photo of Jimís accident last year, now immortalized on the UKMV website. Rather than resorting to more shoveling, I decided to try the hydraulic technique and hooked up a water hose. The water pressure at the mine is somewhere around 80 psi, which is much higher than the average residential water supply. As a result, it works real well for blasting dirt and rock around. Another side effect is that it tends to burst our hoses on a regular basis, and we have a lot of now patched ones lying about.

Byron evidently got adventurous and decided to open up the small hole we had broached between the two previous yearís pockets last August. As I was busy spraying dirt around, he emerged from the mine with a fluorite-covered boulder weighing at least 50 lbs. This one was evidently blocking the hole between the two pockets, and Byron says that you can now crawl between them. Having decided that my cleaning job was good enough, I went to help extract and wrap specimens. The order of the day seemed to be LARGE ones, so I began ferrying them outside to be hosed off. The attached photo is of some of the dayís take. Byron took a short break out of the pocket, so I crawled in to have a look around. The space is definitely tight and difficult to collect in, so I think a priority will be to lift the floor and create more working room. Thereís an incredible amount of good-looking fluorite still on the roof of last summerís pocket, but difficult to remove without more room. I did manage to work out a nice fluorite-covered knob from the ceiling without having anything fall in my face.

Near the entrance to the mine there is a small crevice in the rock where some small birds nested last year. While shoveling we noticed that they were back and had a voracious brood parked just inside the opening. During the evening, Jonina got out her bird book and we decided that the birds are Blue Tits. Jokes ensued about how it is sometimes cold enough at the mine to get a pair of blue tits.

Stopped at the Golden Lion on the way home, and kept Jeffery company for a little while, as things were quiet at the pub. Business is definitely off all around the Dale this year. On the way back from the mine, I noticed that several pubs that use to be open all day have cut back their opening hours Ė likely due to poor business. Had dinner at the cottage, and everyone turned in relatively early. On todayís agenda will be finishing cleaning off the rockslide, more collecting, and more cleaning. Perhaps Iíll look around the quarry for more Frosterley stone as we have had enquiries about it.

Stay tunes for moreÖ

Cheers, Jesse

Some of the larger specimens collected during the day. And yes, they do look better once we've cleaned and trimmed them.

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