Sunday, February 22, 2015

So Many wips

I've been a little mia of late.  It's been a tough couple of weeks, mentally, and I'm doing a lot of thinking.  More on that another time.  The upshot of this is that I'm doing a lot of knitting.  Well, after I cleaned up the entire house from top to bottom after the boyfriend accidentially released a cloud of super fine black sticky ash while trying to fix the furnace, which settled as a super fine black sticky layer all over the house.  Fun times.

ANYWAYS, I have a ton of knitting wips to share!  No sewing, because the sewing room is still an ashy mess and I need a bit more time before I face it.

wip: Cardboard Cafe
I finally got the back finished of my Cardboard Cafe.  I really procrastinated on the last dozen rows, but I got 'er done!  Despite needing a bit of a break, I immediately cast one one of the front pieces to make this a little bit easier to come back to.  HAHA I am brilliant!

wip: Cedar Glen Mitts
Before I'd even finished the back of Cardboard Cafe, I started on a pair of Cedar Glen Mitts by Holla Knits - mostly because I don't know I was bored.  I'm hoping I have enough of the dark grey to do the palms of both mitts, but the pattern yardage says otherwise.  I'm going to finish one mitt and check the yardage before starting the second - otherwise I'll just reverse the colours.  The lace bit above is blocked and the palm is ready to start at any time, but I got distracted by another project.

wip: Socks!
Uh, I started another sock.

You might remember a sock I started while back.  I ran into a few problems and abandoned ship, and I thought that I'd never make another sock again.

But then I found this aran weight sock yarn at our LYS, and I couldn't resist.  I'm pretty sure I picked the ugliest colourway possible, but these socks are for my cousin who has been hounding me for a pair of handknit socks for years, so it's perfect!  I started this sock on Thursday and have been pretty dedicated to it ever since.  Since it's Rendezvous weekend here in Whitehorse, it's been my companion to a couple hockey tourney games and a few events.

I might've been bitten by the sock bug.  So much more fun in heavier yarn!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

fo: Fingerless Mitts for Mom

AKA the LAST of my 2014 Christmas gifts.

Fingerless Mitts for Mom
Yes, those are pj pants with little skier on them.  It's been too cold to ski lately, so I am living vicariously though my pj's.  Plus they're warm and my house is cold, I'm not changing into real pants today.
If you remember, I was trying to get these done for my Mom, but I ran out of time.  She got a box with a picture of the mitts, a swatch, and an IOU.  She reported back immediately that she loves her 'thumb warmer' and has been hounding me (politely and ever so subtly) ever since for her mitts.

Until recently. 

As Mothers will, she wasn't above using guilt and told me about how her current fabric mitts are held together with duct tape, and she couldn't wait to show off her brand new mitts to all the ladies at work.

'Okay Mom, I got it.  I'm sorry Mom.  Yes I love you too, I promise I'm working on them.  Yes right now, I'm putting down everything else.  I'll have them sent off by the end of this week.  No I promise.'

Guilt works.

Fingerless Mitts for Mom
Pattern: Toast and Jam by Emily Foden.
Yarn: Nova's Earth Collection Alpaca Peru Natural in Smoke.

I made a couple of modifications, mostly by adding length, but I altered the palm garter stitches a bit.  I've explained it on my Ravelry project page if you're interested.

This yarn was lovely to use and wonderful to wear.  I like it so much that I bought a couple more skeins to make up Cedar Glen mitts for the Holla Knits KAL.

Fingerless Mitts for Mom
Haha crotch shot!  I'm sorry guys, this wasn't my classiest photo shoot. :)
Back to Toast and Jam.  I'm impressed with this entire design.  The thumb gusset is really neatly done and the garter stitch palm squishes that section down lower than the back of the hand so that your fingers have full range of mobility but are still covered over the knuckles.

Fingerless Mitts for Mom

Fingerless Mitts for Mom
The thumbs are very snug, but this is actually a good thing.  It keeps the thumb covering low on the digit, giving you full use of your thumb, and keeps the entire mitt on securely.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get these in the mail with the hopes that they arrive early next week.  Because dammit if I didn't get these finished TWO DAYS EARLIER than I promised my Mom!

Well, promised this time.  Because I think my IOU claimed sometime in January.  Oops.  Love you Mom!

Monday, February 09, 2015

Life at the Mine (Pic Heavy!)

Well guys, I've been putting off tackling this post, partially because it's a bit of a slog trying to wittle down my photos to a reasonably sized post (and also try to track down photos from underground - I wasn't really successful at either), and partially because it's bittersweet.  I'll get to that latter part later.  I'm going to explain how my job works, but I'll also be sprinkling in a bunch of photos from around the mine site, because I have a lot of them!

In front of the mine portal
Here I am, in front of the portal leading underground.  This is, honestly, the only picture I have of myself in my gear and anywhere near underground.
So you've been asking for details about life at an operating mine, and here it is.

I'm a production geologist at an underground mine in the Yukon.  Basically what that boils down to is that I go underground, get in everyones way, look for shiny rocks, draw pictures, and tell everyone where to go. 

Well okay, there's a bit more to it.

The Mill - where the ore we haul up from underground is processed and our economical metals are extracted (copper, zinc, lead, silver, and a bit of gold).  Awesome storm over the lake in the background.
We use a cut-and-fill mining method, where we excavate long tunnels or 'drifts' following the ore (the rock that contains the economical metal-bearing minerals) by blasting out the rock in 3.5 m long rounds, then fill it back up once the drift is done with a combination of waste material (non-economical rock) and paste (a goo made from cement and tailings [the left-over material after we mill the ore]).  Because the ore body is tilted at about a 40 degree angle, we will then mine another level (aka 'lift') above and to the side of the previous, like a series of steps.

Are you still with me?

Here's a jumbo, drilling off a round at our mine.  If you look closely, you can see the ore (lighter brown) dipping from upper left to lower right across the 'face' (the leading edge of the drift). 
We drill off these 3.5 m rounds using a Jumbo Drill.  The geologist job is to go in to see every single round that was blasted, map the ore in the whole round, especially the face and back (face = leading edge of the drift, back = the ceiling of the round, and walls or ribs = the walls on either side of the tunnel).  Once it's mapped and I've sampled the ore, we tell the jumbo operators what direction to turn.  The ore isn't perfect - it pinches and swells, meanders about, and sometimes a fault will cut it off or send it off in another direction.  It's our job to 'read' the rock and anticipate any upcoming turns in the ore, then tell the drillers how to follow it.

Our drillers are fantastic guys who have more experience underground than I have out of diapers, so one learns to tell them where to go very respectfully!  And honestly, I've learned more from those guys than I ever did out of a textbook.

The view as you exist the portal.  This is a wonderful site after walking up the I-don't-even-want-to-know-how-many kilometre hike up from the bottom of the mine.
Once I'd been around to all of the blasted rounds that day, me and the Geotech Engineer (the guy in charge of ground support - I'll explain that more soon) will go to surface, talk to the miners shift supervisor, drop off samples at the lab, and clean up.  Because I'm a geologist, so of course I've got to play with the rock and climb equipment and get sprayed by water and generally find any way possible to get filthy, a shower is definitely called for - yes, even at 10 in the morning when we get back up.

This is a clean day - you can see the pasty skin on my hands and my face is practically spotless!
Did I mention that our day starts at about 5:30?  Yeah, it sucks as badly as you think it does, especially for this night-owl.

We can get a lot of snow...
Anyways, once up in the office, I make up good copies of all of my maps, update all of our digital maps and input data into various programs, and assist with mine planning.  I also plan for the following day, trying to anticipate any surprises or upcoming turns in the ore.  And then go bug anyone available - my favourites is our Environmental Coordinator (who is awesome and hilarious and gets so exasperated by all my geeky enviro-geochem questions) and our Geotech Engineer, because I live to sass that guy.

My days are very predictable and unchanging, but the details are interesting.

Underground though, our miners are as busy as ants.  We usually blast all of the rounds drilled off and loaded with explosives at the end of day shift.  Every round that gets blasted, needs to be first mucked out with a scoop.  That means that the equipment shown above goes in and 'scoops' out the blasted rock and takes it to a big underground haul truck, which generally hauls the rock to surface (unless it's being stored underground somewhere).

Bolter in an active drift. You can see bolt heads and screen up on the walls and back.  Also our Geotech Engineer on the right.  Shiny doofus.
Once all of the rock has been hauled away, the round needs to be supported.  The ground (the surrounding rock) at our mine is bad - like, really bad.  It crumbles away like nothing, and if we don't keep drift sizes as small as possible, or if we go too far into the soft rock above the ore, or if we don't support the round properly, we could wind up with a rockfall, and someone could get hurt, or worse.  So this is a hugely important job and the reason why our Geotech Engineer goes around to all of the active drifts with me - he makes the call about what ground support is needed, and keeps an eye on other areas of the drift in case things are deteriorating.  Then he tells the bolter (the miner who installs bolts and screen on our bolter equipment) what will be needed.

These guys are also fantastic.  They really know their stuff.  And since they're drilling into the rock all around the drift, they usually have a good feel for what types of rock is around us and are immensely helpful by passing on that information to me, which in turns helps me make more informed decisions. 

Once a round is supported, the next round can be drilled off, and thus we complete our little mining cycle!

Sunrise in the winter...after 10 am.
Seriously, we have the best guys at our site - all of them are just fantastic and one big well oiled machine.  They work in a mine with one of the worst ground conditions in Canada (and possibly North America) with minimal staff and some real tempermental equipment.  And they do it with a (generally) possitive attitude and the knowledge and drive to get it done properly and safely.  I've learned so much from them and admire them immensely.

One of the planes that take us back and forth from Whitehorse.
Life at the mine itself is interesting.  I do a two and two rotation, where I work two weeks straight at the mine doing 12 hour days, and then back home for two weeks out.  My Mom always comments about how I only work half of the year, but to be fair, we work 168 hours in that two weeks, the equivalent of full time hours PLUS eight hours overtime a month.

View of the sun rising over the mountain range as we fly out of camp.
Since I live in Whitehorse, my commute back and forth to the mine is easy - just a 45 to 90 minute flight (depending on the plane) to the mine - people coming from Vancouver or Toronto or worse - the Maritimes - have a much further trip and lose some of their time out to travelling.  The flights are lovely though - we usually fly low enough to get a good view of the mountains and early enough that we get to watch the sun rising over them (if it's not summer and the suns already been up for hours by then).

3 of the 6 dorms on the right, the two men's dry and the one tiny women's dry (place to change and shower and 'dry' your gear after being underground) at the top, and offices on the left.  And low cloud layer above - we're usually socked in like this on Thursdays - because of course Thursdays are Flydays.
We live in Atco trailer dorms, eat in a kitchen constructed out of a bunch of Atco trailers attached together, and work in offices made the same way.  I don't seem to have interior shots of any of them - weird.  We all have our own individual rooms with shared bathroom facilities - and yes, there's dedicated women's washrooms.  Our rooms consist of a tiny bed, a desk and chair (which, in my case, are both generally covered in yarn), a shelf with a TV on it, and two closets.  I share my room with my cross-shift - the women who I share my job with and who comes in when I go out for my two weeks.

Sundogs on the airstrip.

Having a good relationship with your cross-shift is key, in my books.  Makes your job so much easier when there's no conflict there.  We're lucky because me and my cross-shift think and do our job very similarly, so things are really consistant between us.  Plus we're friends, so we try to make eachothers rotation as easy as possible.  The only down-side is that despite living and working in the same place, we only ever meet up for a few minutes on the airstrip on Flyday.  :(

View from my office window.

What else.  Well, as I mentioned before, our day starts anywhere between 5:30 and 6:00 am (we get in earlier than normal so we can make the miner's morning meetings), and I'm usually underground by 6:15, and up anywhere between 8:30 and 10:30, depending on the day.  The rest of the day is spent in the office.  Meals are provided for us by good cooks - too good sometimes, and we usually have a nice selection of food.  And there's always too many damn desserts available.

You can't see me!
We have gym facilities, as well as a big TV room and phone booths for calling home.  There's also a few trails we're allowed to hike/snowshoe, although those can be closed the moment a bear is seen.  Yes, we see lots of bears up there, and porcupines and moose and caribou and ptarmigans and so much more!

I climbed up to the peak seen above three times.  And half-way up a few more.  It's a haul alright, especially after a 12 hour shift, but it's worth it for the views:

Looking down the valley to the south.  Camp facilities, including all 6 dorms with the kitch in the middle at the middle-right, and tailings pond and airstrip to the left.
Looking up the valley to the north.  Part of the mill facilities on the lower-left with the mine portal and associated supply area in the middle-left, and Wolverine Lake to the upper right.
Why yes, I did haul my knitting up there once!
Snowshoein' up the mountain one fine winter day.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, I really love this job - not only because it's an awesome job, but also because of the people I work with.  We've been through so many ups and downs, that the bs has mostly been cut through and we all - everyone on site - works hard together to pull it off.

I should say, worked hard.  Because unfortunately, the mine has been shut down again, and I'm pretty sure it won't start up once more.  Long-time readers of my blog(s) may remember that I've been laid off from this place twice before?  Well, I have a feeling that third-times the charm.  I'm hopeful that things will come back together and the mine will open again, but I need to be realistic too.  It's sad, but this is the mining industry, and we're in another slump.  You can't get into this industry thinking that you'll be at the same place for decades at a time.  I'm happy and thankful that I got two years working with such a great crew, but I'm sad that it's ended.

Hense the bittersweet comment at the start of all this.

On the airstrip, leaving camp after my very first rotation.  Didn't get a pic of me leaving camp on my very last.  This will have to do.

What am I going to do now?  I don't know, really.  I'm giving myself some time off - unless a good geo job comes up, I'm cutting myself slack in job hunting.  I'm knitting up a storm, thinking of more sewing projects, re-studying geology (watch for posts on the cool stuff), and wanting to spend more time on my skis (both cross-country and downhill) - if this weather ever warms up.  Oh, and hanging out with my cross-shift.  Beyond that?  I don't know - we'll see what comes my way!

The Canadian Flag flying on the ridge above camp.
Do you have any questions about the mine operations?  I know I've thrown a lot at you here in an unending babble, but there's even more I've skipped over.  I'm happy to answer any question I can about the mining process and life at the mine.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

wip: Cardboard Cafe - Cast On!

wip: Cardboard Cafe
Holla Knits KAL2015 has officially started!  ...on Feb 2.  I worked on this off and on throughout the day, and got about 5 inches of the back knit.  Considering that I'm shortening this cardigan to hip length and only need to knit about 15 or 16 inches before starting the arms, I suspect this sweater will take a bit less time than I thought. And in fact, tonight I've knit another 2 inches so far.  HUZZAH!