Monday, July 16, 2007

Greetings from Weardale.

Surprisingly, we had little rain last week, but come Friday afternoon things got back to normal. Over the weekend we yo-yoed back and forth between sunny and pleasant and cold and drippy. This morning weíre in a cold and drippy phase. Hopefully it will cycle back the other way as Iíve accumulated a large batch of washed specimens at the mine and it would be nice to have them at least somewhat dry before theyíre wrapped and binned up for shipping. Unlike a wet bath towel, itís hard to hang them on the heated towel drier in the loo.

Friday Dave was off tinkering with his bike before a weekend race so Byron and I concentrated on packing specimens down from the mine and getting them clean enough for shipping home. This usually involves the water hose and a scrub brush to get as much mud off as possible, and them letting them dry. By mid-afternoon I had a table full of specimens washed and drying nicely in the sun when, as if on cue, it clouded over and the rain returned. The only option at that point was to spread old newspaper on the counters in our second storage container, carry all the specimens inside, and hope they dry off enough over weekend for wrapping. Guess Iíll find out today.

Saturday remained mostly cloudy and wet. Byron, after spending the better part of the week moving rock and mud in the ever-lengthening Rat Hole was feeling rather tired, so we took the day off from the mine and made a grocery shopping run to Barnard Castle. For day to day shopping I usually go to the local Co-op, but the available selection of things is pretty limited so once in a while we need to go further afield and the nearest supermarket is to the south, in Teesdale. Barnard Castle also has its share of antiques and book shops so we had a bit of a wander around town as well. On our way back into St. Johnís Chapel we passed Daveís house and I noticed him unloading his vehicle. Knowing he should have been away for the weekend, I feared the worst, and on stopping to ask I found out that his new engine has developed some problems and he was not able to race. Fortunately, it was not a catastrophic failure like the time last year when a nut came loose in his gearbox and chewed up the gears. Iím sure, however, that it will be a frantic week for him getting it repaired as he has another race scheduled for next weekend.

Saturday evening we met up with John Faithfull and his wife Cath, who came down from Glasgow for a visit and a look at the mine. John is curator of mineral at the Hunterian Museum and played host to Joan and me last summer when we stopped by to see their collection, so it was nice to return the favor. Sunday, in keeping with its name, started out sunny and warm, so Byron decided it was time to get out the chain saw and pare down some of the larger bits heís recovered in the past week. After getting a tour around the mine John and Cath headed to Barnard Castle, where she lived and worked for a while as a teacher. As Byron proceeded to turn a few large specimens into many small ones, I packed them down and began the washing cycle. Following what is becoming an annoying pattern, it clouded up and began raining by mid-afternoon, forcing me to pile yet more wet specimens into the container.

Sunday also saw yet another invasion of the quarry by the local off-road vehicle group. This seems to have become a regular occurrence, and what in previous years was a progression of wild flowers that bloomed in the quarry through the summer is now a lot of mud. There was one particular individual with a Land Rover who seemed intent on plowing through every bog and mud patch with as much speed as he could manage, and by the end of the day he has made a good mess of several sections of the road. I think the only thing that saved our water line from being dug up again is the fact that we re-buried it in a place that is currently under several feet of ponded water. Fortunately, they seem to have stayed away from the mine itself, perhaps only because weíve been there, but some patches of flowers do remain. Todayís photo is of a patch of low lying yellow flowers that are blooming in profusion on an old part of the mine dump.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron


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