June 5, 2001

Good Morning. We’re on a definite roll here as far as the weather goes – yesterday was another sunny, breezy, clear day, and this morning is looking the same again. Heaven forbid that it should actually get warm here at Little Allercleugh, and the wind takes care of that nicely. Had a near full moon hanging in a clear sky over the Dale yesterday evening, and if it stays clear, the scene should be a nice one this evening.

Yesterday was our first full day of operation at the mine, and everyone converged at around 10 AM. First order of the day was to tour the mine with Dave and Lofty (Dave’s “assistant” for the summer) and plot strategy for the summer. With the blasting permits still off somewhere in the bureaucratic ether we can’t jump right into driving tunnel, so one of the first orders of business will be to replace a lot of old timbering in the which has become rotten over the years. Dave and Byron worked up an estimate of what was needed and I hiked off to the saw mill to place an order. Found Alistair driving a forklift and placed the order. For those of you who haven’t met him, Alistair Ward owns the property the mine and quarry is on, and operates a saw mill not far from the mine. Though always pleasant, Alistair is a man of few words, and what passes for a conversation often involves single word sentences. This allows business to be conducted quickly and to the point, however, and I was soon hiking back through the quarry to the mine.

The compressor had not been delivered yet, so Dave and I decided to push the equipment out of the east tunnel onto the landing. The hydraulic power unit was sitting on a small flat bed rail cart known as a “boogie” (don’t ask me how it got that name), and when we went to push it out discovered that a wheel had frozen. After much pounding with a hammer and application of copious amounts of WD40, Dave got it moving again. After muscling it into place on the sleeper pad Byron and I constructed last week, we installed a charged battery and Byron fired it up. Started right up and purred right along. Starting up a piece of diesel equipment that has been stored over winter is one of those tension-filled moments for me. I can only think of the experience we had with the compressor last year. I think Byron was quietly holding his breath as well.

The compressor was finally delivered around 1 PM and the first order of business was to use the pneumatic winch or “tugger” to pull the Eimco bucket up onto the landing. Last fall we took the bucket off the unit because it needed some welding. Dave had done this for us during the winter, and brought it back in his van. After much grunting, groaning, and pounding of hammers, we got the bucket back onto the unit. Dave and Byron gave it a thorough greasing, and it was ready for another summer’s work. All in all, a good start to the mining season. The only minor problems were a couple blown air hoses when we pressured up the system, and Byron has these fixed in short order. Today’s picture postcard is of the crew relaxing after getting the equipment up and running.

Jonina spent the day with various chores, including going to the bank. In order to avoid the substantial (17.5%) sales tax here (known as the Value Added Tax or VAT), most people deal in cash when possible. For us this means paying the crew, and many of our local vendors with cash rather than check. Evidently, the local branch of Barclays doesn’t keep a whole lot of cash on hand, and if large amounts are needed it must be ordered a couple days in advance. Friday will be payday for the crew so Jonina went in to place the cash order, only to discover that Barclay’s computer system was down and few transactions (such as getting money out of one’s account) could be handled. Not a big problem for us as we won’t need it for a few days, but evidently some poor fellow was about to leave for the US and couldn’t get at his money. Jonina said he seemed about as mad as she has ever seen the normally reserved folk around here get.

Had a quick pint at the Golden Lion on the way back from the mine, and got a chance to chat with Isabel. She seems to be doing well despite the downturn in business caused by the foot and mouth epidemic, and was quite interested in knowing how we all were doing as well. She sends her greetings to Cal and Kerith and says she looks forward to their return.

Back at the cottage the wind had picked up and Jonina had had about enough of specimen cleaning for the day. She had fixed something she referred to a meatloaf for dinner. Though it didn’t resemble the variety I am familiar with, it was quite good, and everyone chowed down.

Alistair promised delivery of at least some of our timber order today, so first order of business at the mine will likely be replacing a bunch of rotting wood. Diesel needs to be picked up from Mark Watson, and other supplies from Neil Fairless. Jonina plans to continue the cleaning routine, and I guess I’ll fill in where needed.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse and the Crew

The crew (L to R: Lofty, Dave, and Byron) after getting the Eimco and hydraulic unit up and running.

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