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Pack rats.

Is it just me? Or has anyone else out there noticed the lack of postings at this site recently. The truth is, winter months are hell on fossil collectors. Most of the good sites are covered with snow or the ground is frozen. The creeks are too cold for screening and it's next to impossible to hit the chisel with muffins on. And for the seventh year in a row Santa has refused to bring me the Ground Penetrating Radar kit I keep asking for. So collecting pails and shovels are put away until the spring. But to take a dedicated collector away from fossils "Cold Turkey" is cruel and extreme punishment. That's why the more addicted collectors learn to be pack rats. I personally plan ahead for those periods when I can't get into the field. I try to put certain projects aside that I can do in my lab with the door shut and limited ventilation. If I have fossils that require hardening with butvar I'll try to do those when it's warm outside and I can have the garage door open. Fossils that require only grinding or brushing I'll put away for the cold months. I also collect buckets of matrix from various sites that I can screen indoors. I'll stash about 20 gallons of material in my second garage. Then I'll look through them at my leisure during the rerun periods on TV. Most of the fossils will be small. But there's a whole different fossil world out there in the millimeter zone. One of my favorite sites has an Early Eocene marine layer. It's a fine oyster bed hash that has an amazing number of small sharks, rays, fish, turtle, crocodile, and marine boas. A few cups of material can keep me entertained for hours. I also collect large slabs of shale from the Ordovician. I carefully spit the thin layers off to reveal trilobites and crinoids. These are just a few things I do to keep busy during this season. Next year try to plan ahead and put aside a few items of your own. Join the rest of us pack rats and you'll never suffer "Cold Turkey" again.
Location Berkeley County, South Carolina, USA

Date Added12/20/2006

This is one of the buckets of Early Eocene material that I've saved for the cold months.
I've put a 12 ounce cup of material into a pasta strainer. The holes in this one are about 1.5 millimeter in diameter. Anything smaller would not let the coarse sand screen out.
I gently crush the material into smaller pieces so as not to damage the fish and snake vertebras.
I then place the washed material in a glass bakeing pan. I use a glass pan because it allows light to come from below that enhances my ability to see smaller fossils. I tilt the pan up slighly and push the material down as I go through it. A trick I picked up is to have a small amount of water at the bottom of the pan. This allows me to rinse off the tweezers when they have dirt on them. It's a pain to stop and clean them off by hand when you're wearing head amplifiers.
Another trick is to have a small container filled with water to place your small fossils in. Dipping the tweezers in the water allows the item to come off easily. Having the fossils in a water container also keeps them from accidentally being blown away from sneezing, coughing, fans, etc. It does't take much of a breeze to send a two millimeter fossil across the room. Been there!
I place this small dish filled with water next to the pan. That way I only have a few inches to move the fossil. When your holding delicate fossils with tweezers you have a greater tendency to drop the item. The closer the container, the better!
This is my haul from a cup of material. Some of the ray material requires a microscope and a lot patience to identify. The coprolites are self explanatory.
Yes, the scale above is in millimeters. I don't expect the fossil club members to drool over these at the next meeting. But I sure had fun finding them.

Playing opossum.
Playing opossum.
Table scraps
Table scraps
big ditch clean up
big ditch clean up





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