Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Greetings from Weardale.

The day begins overcast and still, much as yesterday. The lack of breeze has resulted in an unfortunately high midge count in the quarry, and from all indications, we will be in for more of the same today. If one is spending the day underground, this poses little problem, but in the current scenario someone needs to spend some time outside, washing and processing the rapidly accumulating backlog of specimens that Byron has been digging. That someone is, of course, yours truly. Yesterday the wind came up late in the afternoon, and the day finished sunny and clear. I can hope that the same happens today, but earlier.

Yesterday at the mine we were stood up on the powder delivery, but I have received a phone call this morning that they are on their way. Even better, we have the same driver as last summer and he remembers how to get to the quarry. No small feat for the uninitiated. My day was spent, for the most part, carrying tubs of specimens down from the mine, giving them a preliminary scrub to remove as much mud as possible, and then making a decision as to which were candidates for shipping home and which will get chucked unceremoniously onto the dump. Fortunately for me, Byron’s collecting slowed down yesterday as he had a good bit of unproductive ground to move in the pocket. Otherwise I would surely be even further behind in processing material than I am. He still managed to get out a couple really good specimens, both of which will need trimming with the chainsaw.

Taking a short break from the muddy specimens and cloud of midges, I had a walk around the quarry to scout out and photograph some of the wildflowers. When we first started this project ten years ago, the quarry looked as if it had seen very few visitors in recent years, and the flowers through the summer were quite prodigious. The past few years we seem to have had sheep wandering through the quarry, eating almost everything in sight. What survived the sheep was then largely plowed into the mud by a group of off-road vehicle enthusiasts, who visited the quarry with fair regularity. Both seem to be absent this year, and the landlord has even blocked the ungated track into the quarry with a very large rock. In past years we’ve always had a profusion of wild orchids blooming about this time. In my wanderings I was able to find only a few this year, one of which is the subject of today’s photo. Hopefully they will come back.

Some friends from the US, Peter, Allison and Lauren Megaw arrived for visit in the dale late yesterday afternoon. I had initially hoped to get dinner somewhere but it seems that Monday is now the day off for virtually every eating establishment in the area, so it was another beer, crackers and cheese dinner. At least the beer and cheese in these parts is superb. Everyone will be down the mine today getting muddy and having fun. Hopefully the breeze will come up so I can get some work done without loosing a fair part of my body weight to the local insect population.

Until next time,

Jesse & Byron



Wild orchids in the quarry.

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