The Midlife Makeover

Me…and a rock……in the desert.

I turned 50 in 2017. Never being one for big celebrations, my birthday came and went with little recognition from anyone. In my own mind, however, I had made a sketchy plan of where I had wanted to be in my life by the time I turned 50. Looking at that hazy dream, I realized that very little of it would ever be attainable. My health really put a wrench in the monkey works. But I had a new plan. I ALWAYS have a new plan!

My husband and I had been collecting rocks as a serious hobby since 2014. We ventured farther and farther from home and soon realized that , if we wanted to make the most of a three day weekend, we would need to purchase a trailer. So, in 2015, we bough a small, simple, jacked up trailer and followed our curiosity beyond the borders of Oregon and into Nevada and California. By 2016. we had acquired an 18 inch rock cutting saw and we started slicing into many of the rocks that were now forming piles around our property. Steve enjoyed this a lot, but since the beginning, his interest was focused, primarily, on thundereggs. While he was out-rigging our truck with a winch, stronger suspension and some serious off road tires, I was daydreaming about cutting my own stones to add to my jewelry designs.

So, on my 50th birthday, when we just happened to be a the local rock company buying a truckload of gravel, I wandered into the back garage and started eyeing the lapidary equipment. There was a new trim saw, a few larger old saws, two sets of grinding wheels from the 1950’s and a new, large flat lap. At the time, however, most of it was completely foreign to me. When the only mobile employee finally had time to answer my questions, I only had one. I wasn’t sure what a flat lap was for so when he told me that it was usually used for polishing thundereggs, my mind was made up. I rejoined my husband in the front, sales room and told him not to pay for the gravel just yet.

In the end, I purchased a combo grinder with two silicon carbide wheels, and expanding wheel and a flat sander, a 10 inch trim saw and, to my husbands near giddy approval, the 20 inch flat lap. Happy Birthday to me…and him.

Two days later, there was an ad in the local paper. Someone only two miles away was selling another combo machine but this one had diamond wheels. The price was more than reasonable. When we went to pick it up, the gentlemen who were selling it decided to get rid of all of the slabs they had as well and threw them in for free. NOW, I thought, I was ready to embark on a new chapter in my life. We were all set! I was going to figure out how to cut rocks. There was only one problem, however, we had no place to set up all these wonderful machines….yet.

It was a chaotic mess at first.

Life is a Journey

Life is a journey, not a destination. If life were a destination, however, I would like for it to be here. We are now miners as well as claim owners. We have two claims in the McDermitt, Oregon area which are for chalcedony primarily (in the form of thundereggs) and a gold mine in the Denio, Nevada area.

The gold mine was never very productive and has been abandoned since the 1930’s. We are finding a lot of silver but primarily, we chose this site for the copper minerals. There is lots of chrysocolla as well as gem silica and small amounts of azurite, malachite and cuprite. Occasionally, we get a little bit of gold as well.

There are a few folks who are not happy about our claiming these areas. They have been written about in books and many rockhounds believed that they were simply areas made available to the general public for collecting. In truth, all of these areas were discovered by miners who staked a claim and, once they were done with it, left it for someone else to claim. We came accross them, the same way that most rock people do but we realized that the bulk of the good material could not be accessed without the use of power tools and that we wanted to sell the material we found. I have a suspicion, that most people who go out and collect rocks, are unaware of the limits they can legally collects and that no matter how much they bring home, it is illegal to sell or even trade those rocks without having a claim. Power tools can only be used if you have a claim as well.

I will not make it sound easy to juggle three mines, two businesses and a home because it isn’t! My original shop, Tangible Imaginings, is being redesigned right now with the intention of reopening (online) on the first of the year. Our new business, SG Lapidary, is in it’s infancy and I am learning a great deal by default.

McDermitt is a 5 hour drive from our home and so is Denio. They are over one hour apart so even traveling between them can be quite a trek. My husband has a day job as a sheet metal fabricator for an HVAC company. It comes in handy especially when we need to redesign equipment. So, during the day, he is at his job while I am busy cutting rock, cabbing, lapping, washing (a lot) stabilizing, designing jewelry, fabricating and selling EVERYTHING!!

This blog is more a way for me to remember all that has happened on this journey than it is to enlighten any of my readers. That being said, however, I welcome any questions and hope you enjoy what you read. As you can see from previous posts, I am an illustrator but arthritis and EDS have taken my hands so I am no longer able to work in the detail I enjoy most. I also have Essential Tremor. So far, I have found ways to still make jewelry but I doubt that will be for too much longer unless I can get the surgery I need to stabilize my thumbs. Who know what the future may bring!?

Happy 2020. Lets hope this year lives up to its name and we all find a little clarity along the way!