Friday, June 7, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

So far, our almost summer-like weather has held. Yesterday we had a bit of rain over night, but today begins sunny and cool with a slight breeze. I keep telling myself not to get use to this.

Wednesday morning, after our fun day on the scaffold, I stuck my head up into the pocket for one last look around before telling Dave we were finished with it. One final specimen remained lodged in the mud, which I managed to get out without dropping may more mud and rock on myself. Afterward, Dave built up the platform on the scaffold with some more timbers and managed to get our really large one off the rafters, onto a ramp and slid down, across the Eimco and onto the waiting loco. Several other large specimens, which surprisingly, no one had been interested in carrying out by hand, were also loaded onto the loco and then chauffeured out to the landing by Joe. After transferring them to out stack of old railroad ties, Ian gave them a good washing and we began planning how to cut them up. Today’s photo is of our assembled hoard awaiting the saw.

With that accomplished, we turned Dave loose to prepare the face for our first blast of the season. By the end of the day he and Joe had taken down the scaffold, mucked out all the mud and rock we had dislodged from the ceiling, and completed the timbering to the face. Meanwhile, Ian and I got out the chain saw and started cutting up our collection of large rocks. With the sunny weather this week, the sawing episode was much more pleasant than last week’s and we soon had a collection of smaller pieces in hand. Most are still rather large by the standards of what most collectors want, and they will undoubtedly need to be “finessed” once we get them home, but at least we are not shipping back the weight of a lot of unwanted rock.

Yesterday morning, Dave set to drilling the face, while Ian and I went shopping for a list of needed items, including new blades for the bow saw, which Dave uses to cut the mine timbers, a selection of nuts and bolts so we can replace the old and rotting timbers that make up the bed on our flatbed car, and the always-needed supply of fresh gloves. Being that we are in a fairly rural area here, acquiring a list of needed supplies usually requires visiting a number of merchants around the area. This time we had to make four stops before finding the correct type of blade for Dave’s saw.

Sometimes these “wild goose chases” can turn up something unexpected. While out enquiring about the saw blade with a local hardware merchant, we were directed to a couple places in the nearby town of Crook. The first and seemingly most likely was a large building supply company, who turned out to be no help at all. The second, and seemingly last resort was a small hardware shop (referred to here as an “iron monger’) located on the town square. When we finally got there we found it shut for lunch, which his something many merchants still do around here. After waiting around for about 15 minutes, the shopkeeper returned, and after opening up we found one of those old-time small hardware stores crammed floor to ceiling with all sorts of stuff and a shopkeeper who knew exactly where everything was, including the blade we were after. I thought this type of shop had long ago been driven out of business by the “big box” chains and internet suppliers, and I hadn’t seen anything like it back home for many years. If you ever find yourself in the area and are in need of odd and seemingly obscure bits of hardware, try R. Defty in Crook!

Back at the mine with our list of items now in hand we found Dave getting ready for an afternoon of drilling at the face. Ian and I got out the chain saw for one last round of rock slicing and got through the few pieces that remained from the day before. While doing this, I came to the conclusion that it is time to replace the old worn chain on the saw. These things are rather expensive, so we tend to put it off as long as possible, but trying to cut a large rock with a highly worn chain can be a miserable task, and by mid-afternoon it was getting pretty miserable.

Dave, meanwhile, had made short work of drilling the face. The holes were loaded the shot went off as planned at the end of the day. Hopefully, we will find a nice, neat pile of rubble in the center of the tunnel and fluorite showing at the face when we return this morning.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse & Ian

a few small bits from the ceiling pocket.

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