Thursday, August 20, 2009

Greetings from Weardale,

Yesterday the weather was typical for the North Pennines Ė breezy, sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy, sometimes a bit of rain. The rain never quite reached down the dale to the mine, but we could see the rain clouds up towards St. Johnís Chapel from the mine. This morning looks much the same. It has been unusually warm, however, and the thermostat in my hire car said it was 21C/70F yesterday around 6 pm as we drove back from the mine.

The past few days have been a bit of a frenzy as we get ready to close the mine for the season. On Monday the winch cable we use to haul timber and equipment up to the mine landing from the quarry floor got tangled in a pulley and broke. Though Dave was able to splice the cable together again, it was obvious that the pulley was too small for the job and needed to be replaced. Cal located a rigger in Consett who had something that might work for us and made a quick trip over the moors on Tuesday morning to get it. In the mean time, Dave had drilled several holes in the limestone wall of the landing in order to install new anchor points that would put the pulley in a better position. Todayís photo is of the master in action.

The new pulley was installed by mid-morning, but during the process I noticed that Daveís splice was already becoming frayed. After a brief inspection and some head shaking Dave said ďThe cableís fucked, got to replace it!Ē This being about the strongest condemnation Iíve ever heard from him, I knew we had no choice but to do so. As Dave was under a time constraint to get the face cleaned up and shot again before closing we sent him back to that chore and Cal, Byron and I had at the winch. Fortunately, someone remembered seeing a spare length of cable amongst the pile of stuff in our storage container. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a larger diameter than what was currently on the winch. This meant that it was much stiffer and will be more difficult to use for our purposes, but after much grunting and swearing, Byron finally got the nuts holding the old cable in place loosened, and the new one installed. After winding the new cable onto the winch drum I realized that some of the bits used to make the loop on the end of the old cable were too small for the new one, so Cal and I were off on a hunt around the dale for something that would work. After three stops we finally came up with something that would do the job, and by around 3 pm we were ready to begin the job of pulling up the timber and new air receiver tanks, something we had planned on starting around 10 am.

Yesterday Cal, Eric and I assembled the last of the pallets to be shipped back to California and pickup by our shipper is scheduled for today. Hopefully this will go as planned but often it hasnít in the past so everyone is a little apprehensive until the lorrie driver actually arrives. There has been more than one occasion in past years when the driver has not shown up at all, and last year he arrived a full week before we had scheduled the pickup. Iím not sure what the actual problem is but despite the fact that we have been using the same shipper for eleven years, confusion seems to reign every time. This year our contact at the company, which is the largest shipper here in North England, claimed he could find no records for our past business and knew nothing about us. This being despite the fact that he was the person who managed our shipment last year!

After finishing the pallets and doing a bit of cleanup around the mine, Cal and I spent a few final hours digging at the cavity in the back of the Rat Tail that I had discovered on Monday. Aside from getting wet and muddy, most of what we got was wholesale-quality specimens, which will be stored over winter for next year. Cal did get one nice little knob-like cluster that will be coming home in the hand luggage, however. Daveís tasks at the face went as planned and at dayís end the shot was fired.

Today we await pickup of our shipment, and will be posting some boxes of better specimens back home in order to have them for the internet and upcoming Denver show. After that the final cleanup around the mine and our cottage begins. Cal and company are planning on departing tomorrow while Joan and I will linger until Saturday. Once back home we will once again shift gears from mining to cleaning and marketing out summerís finds in hopes of making enough money to come back again next summer.

See you at the shows,

Jesse, Joan, Cal, Kerith, and Byron



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