Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I have to confess that I don't know my next door neighbour very well. I have yet to learn his name (first and last) and have no clear idea which of the many people of ages who come and go actually live there.
Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
There is a growing battlefield out there. Fields and gardens in our area (Southern Ontario) are being invaded by a insidious green enemy: Dog-Strangling Vine or Black (or Louis’s) Swallowwort (Vincetoxicum rossicum or Cynanchum louiseae).
It reproduces by seed and also by runners under the soil. In the wild, it sneaks up and begins to twine itself over shrubs, trees, beloved perennials and peace loving wildflowers. About this time of year, it blooms with seemingly insignificant pinkish-brown flowers but once fertilized, the plant makes narrow pods that will later release milkweed-like puffy pods and burst with airborne seeds when the time comes. Unsurprisingly, it is a cousin of the common milkweed. However this enemy is proving to be almost unstoppable.Trying to yank it up through weeding can cause breaks in the root system -- and each break can encourage a new growth top. It can cover large areas in a frighteningly short time.
The energy, discipline and hard work needed to build beauty into our gardens are the sane qualities needed to stop such a focused and insidious foe as Dog Strangling Vine. Like any serious battle, we need to marshal our resources. The best, most earth-friendly thing to do is to cut the stem(s) off at, or just below, the soil level. Repeatedly mowing over throughout the growing season will eventually wear the plant out but farmers and forest managers are dealing with thousands of hectares where a home lawn mower simply won't do.
Will a well built dry stone wall hold back the botanical deluge? Probably not — though I have clients willing to find out. Walls of stone can be the demarkation zone between lawn and bushland, garden and wilderness, or just your proeprty and the neighbours. Weeds and other garden enemies tend to quickly occupy any well intended buffer zone, so eliminating the no man's land with a wall is generally a good idea. An engineered wood or wire fence will not do as good a job and will definitely not look as nice. Stone walls give the landscape less of a modernday 'battlefield' look. They add character and create a sense of time and place to the battlezone which at least makes it seem more like an historic re-enactment.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
When I was in Scotland two years ago I thought I recognized the waller who had done some exceptional repairs to some walls we discovered near Drummond Castle Gardens. It turns out I was right. Mastercraftsman and waller Norman Haddow was the one, and he was quite chuffed that we had come across these walls and identified them.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
We spent a lot of the last week trying to meet a deadline for a stone sculpture proposal for the city of Saint John New Brunswick. Evan likes to do everything at the last minute. There were forms to fill, bios references and resumes to come up with, designs to rework, discussions over the phone, a whole lot of downloading pdf files and emailing back and forth to bring the thing together to send it off on time today. This was all done between muddy sessions of walling and gathering stone in the rain all day.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Friday, June 18, 2010
The right hand brain and the left hand brain not only occupy two different hemispheres of the cerebrum they control very different functions. People with a tendency to think more on the right hand side of brain are sometimes less logical than the left brain people. The left brain people like things to be more concrete. If they choose masonry as a career they will probably not like working with stones. They prefer to believe that civilized people only use blocks and bricks and that's the way things that are cement to be. They like rules and rulers. They usually vote for left wing dictators.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
There were thirty tons of squared stone from this house (not unlike this one which still standing on the E D Smith property)
It was stored on skids on the site until it was purchased by Bob Chrystian of Garden Strategies.
He contacted me and asked if we could build a dry stone oven with some of this reclaimed stone, based on this simple prototype his son David ( a prominent chef in Toronto) had cleverly constructed the year before.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
There is a lot of excitement at the end of a day of walling. The sense of accomplishment is invigorating. Yesterday we completed over 50 feet of terrace using a lovely workable squarish sandstone in order to have students get some practice learning the principles of building dry stone retaining walls.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
The Dry Stone Waller Muses About Chipmunks and Transubstantiation
Often chipmunks move in before the wall is thigh high
and, with Franciscan robes and indifference to mallet blows
earthquaking their dark, meditative chambers below,
remind me of Christian mystics leading contemplative lives
while armies catapulted stones against monastary walls
before pillaging meat, grape, and grain for this or that king,
and so I praise these brothers faithfully chanting morning prayers
before bravely foraging acorns through another day where
stone shards might spear into their soft shoulders, though
not keep them, I see, from losing faith in the inherent
goodness of nature as, when the wall is almost complete,
few see evil in the acorns of alms I offer in my palm
and, before eating, look like a priest holding a host
up to the lapsed catholic in me again a believer
by Dennis Camire
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Last Saturday and Sunday many hands got together to acquire more dry stone walling skills by building together a small double-arched dry stone bridge which I designed as a workshop project for heritage masonry instructor, John Scott's students at Algonquin College in Perth Ontario.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
I held this historic round cope stone in my hands yesterday. It sits balanced on a heritage dry stone wall that John Scott showed me in front of an old church in Beckwith township, Ontario which John tells me is made of potsdam sandstone . The Hamlet of Franktown is about 40 miles south of Ottawa and began as a half-way stagecoach stop between the military settlements of Perth and Richmond. Many of the orininal settlers were Irish who refused to join the Church of England and built this quaint stone church in 1822. There is no documentation on the date of the dry stone wall in front of the church, however it certainly is reasonable to assume it goes back to the church's early days. The original drive opening in wall was expanded around 1900 with concrete posts and the wall was crudely rebuilt in places. Other than settlement from tree roots and some tampering here and there, a lot of the wall remains in it's original bond. The round granite coping stones seem small and out of place....kind of delicately placed on top. However pictures from 1895 and then again in 1925 reveal that they are (possibly) not not only original, but some of them haven't moved from their original position for over a hundred years!
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
Building a dry stone wall is an exercise in regrouping. The mass of random stones which have been collected or dumped in a pile onto our property are going to have to be systematically regrouped into a much smaller more ordered space. There is something inherently pleasing about this undertaking. Regrouping stones can often become a visual or physical equivalent to regrouping mentally or emotionally. We are taking the time to turn the seemingly random aspects of our lives into a 'better' organized structural pattern. The activity of regrouping is a valuable exercise that greatly contributes to our sense of well being and contentment. If we have an opportunity to arrange even a small selection of stones in a wall and stand back understand the decision making and how it works we begin to understand what the benefits are and what is involved in regrouping in the more complex and abstract applications of daily life.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Did you know June is Dry Stone Wall Month?
Increase your awareness of the benefits of walls made without mortar across Canada.
Everyone can help in a nation-wide campaign which hopes to educate and encourage others by involving the help of the media, promotions, toolkits, children's contests and activities - the engagement of municipalities, schools, community groups, families and individuals in more walling activities during June - dry stone wall month, and on, into the rest of 2010.
The campaign theme FIT A STONE IN A WALL EVERYDAY! reinforces the message of how important it is for all of us to participate in some form of dry stone walling activity each and everyday. Regardless of ability or age, Canadians are enjoying walls in an increasing number of ways. This year's theme recognizes that walling activities are varied and numerous. "Activities of all kinds, not just physical, are acknowledged and celebrated. Whether it's creating garden features, hearting, learning to build an arch, reading a walling book or wall gazing ... walling is about celebrating life and stones... Live it Everyday!"
Take pictures of walls, collect stones, help a farmer clear his field, visit a quarry, give a stone as a gift to someone, organize a group to fix a wall or retaining wall that needs repairing in your area, write a stone wall poem, build one in your back yard, take a dry stone wall course, join a dry stone walling organization, or sponsor a community wall to be built in a public place near you.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The standard way of describing the height of a horse is by measuring how many 'hands' high it is. At first this way of measuring may not have been absolutely accurate. Somewhere back in history however it was agreed that a hand should be standardized as 4 inches. Anywhere above 16 hands is considered a pretty tall horse. A pony is under 14.2 hands high. On the other 'hand' the horse is 14.2 hands high and over.
A dry stone wall that is below 4 feet (12 hands) in most cases, just looks wrong. It would be considered a pony, not a horse. A tall wall looks elegant. It looks like it has a purpose other than to be sat on. A short wall looks like people were afraid to build any higher, or perhaps that it wasn't finished yet.
The taller a wall is built the more of a statement it makes. We have to take every opportunity to build proper tall free standing walls when ever we can. It may mean really taking the extra time and energy to educate people about the merits of building walls that have this traditional height based on them being a type of barrier for livestock containment. If it can't hold grazing animals in, it isn't being honest to its roots.