June 04, 2001

Good Morning. Yesterday was, for the most part sunny and clear, with a steady breeze that kept things on the cool side. This morning is starting out much the same. As we have yet to experience the usual episodes of torrential rain and gale force winds, I am beginning to feel that there must be something wrong. I suppose I’ll adjust, however.

Yesterday was spent on odds and ends – or “bits and bobs” as the locals would say. After coffee, I helped Jonina with a round of specimen cleaning in the garage. She was feeling a little grumpy as she had just come to the realization that the battery in her portable computer appears to have died – just as she has left home for the summer. No escaping the power cord for her now. Cleaning specimens in the garage here can be a bit of a challenge, due to the weather (nice thing to blame all one’s problems on!). Even on a nice day, the breeze is usually fairly stiff up here on the hillside. The cleaning process involves dipping specimens – and one’s hands in and out of several water and chemical baths, along with using the water gun, which sprays water everywhere. Any water that gets on you is quickly evaporated by the breeze, and while this can be pleasantly cooling on a hot day at the pool, up here you can get quite cold very quickly. Using the rock saw is a particular treat. If you stand in front of it to feed the rock to the blade, the lubricating water sprays all over you. Standard working attire is gloves (often two pair), multiple sweatshirts or sweaters, and sometimes a raincoat. A bit of “work therapy” seemed to help Jonina’s mood, and soon she was speaking to everyone again.

When we saw him at the pub a few days ago, David Rennison said he would be in attendance at his crystal shop in Barnard Castle this weekend. He seems the type who is constantly trying to do five things at once, and is often hard to locate. He was, in fact, at his shop yesterday (perhaps only because the foot and mouth epidemic is keeping him from his preferred pastime of field collecting), so after a round of cleaning we all headed off on a drive to Teesdale. The day was beautiful up on the moors, and today’s picture postcard is a view of the upper Wear valley as seen from the top of the grade between St. John’s Chapel and Langdon Beck.

David, despite being unable to do much field collecting, had been putting him new diamond chainsaw to good use. Sitting toward the back of the shop was a LARGE plate of limestone matrix covered with numerous twinned pale green fluorite crystals. Evidently, some large fluorite-containing boulders had been recovered from one of the local collecting localities a while ago, and David had been busy carving them up. Though pale in color, the specimen was quite impressive, and almost completely free of damage, thanks to the saw. He was justifiably quite proud of the piece, and ask me if I knew anyone who might be interested in it. I had to tell him that, unfortunately, we have had a difficult time selling any of the really large plates we have taken out of the Rogerley with our saw, and have taken to carving most up into smaller specimens. The piece would look great in a museum display, but unfortunately, most UK museums seem to have no budget for acquiring such things these days.

A local fellow who makes spar boxes stopped by to drop one off for David, who had a customer for it. One of his “tricks” is to find old non-working mantle clocks and use the cases for his spar boxes. The one he had delivered was fairly impressive and had the modern touch of having a black light installed in the top, which made the fluorite glow a bright bluish white. Black lights always remind me of my high school years during the late ‘60s. The application at the time was rock posters, not rocks, though. I thought it might work well with a Hendrix soundtrack, and mentioned something about it being an “Acid Rock” spar box. I don’t think he quite understood the joke, though. We had a good chat, and as the supply of local minerals for his boxes has grown rather meager, he was interested in getting a supply from us. We exchanged cards, and I invited him to stop by the mine after we get up and running.

Made it back across the moors into Weardale in time for our 3PM meeting with Dave at the Golden Lion. Schedules appear to be sorted out, and all loose ends anyone could think of at the time were discussed. Dave had some chores to attend to and headed off about the time Ken showed up. Ken is a local herder, and had been out gelding young cattle during the day. He seemed to enjoy giving us city folks a detailed description of how you make steers.

Headed back to the cottage for dinner – which consisted of “refrigerator improvisation”. Sautéed chicken breast with mushrooms, onions, and bacon in a sour cream sauce, over basmati rice. No one complained, so I guess it was acceptable.

Today is the first full day of operation at the mine. Dave needs to put in a couple hours in the morning with his other job at the local school, and will be starting around 10 AM each day. This suites Byron just fine, as he is definitely not a “morning person”. On the agenda for the day is having the compressor delivered, moving all the equipment out of the mine, getting our drums filled with diesel, and I’m sure many other chores.

Stay tuned for more….

Cheers,

Jesse and the Crew



A view of upper Weardale from the road between St. John's Chapel and Langon Beck, in Teesdale.

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