Saturday, July 30, 2011
Friday, July 29, 2011
Finished up the shore line job yesterday at Chemong Lake near Bridge North Ontario. The weather was markedly hot and the water was lukewarm. The wall was built up from the lake bed (below the surface of the lake) to rise a full thirty inches above seaweed level. We used all the stones that were there originally plus about four tons of material we brought in.
Working along a lake in July was just about the best way to stay cool as a waller here in Southern Ontario. Temperatures were in the high 30's for several of the days we worked here. Our permit required that the wall be built at this time, apparently allowing for the fact that most of the fish in the lake would have spawned by this time.
When all the fish come back from their honeymoon they'll be surprised to see their new surroundings all shored up, which may make for stimulating conservation and probably whet their appetite to see more dry stone habitat created along the lake rather than concrete or huge armour stone barriers.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Planking is this crazy thing that lots of people are doing that some friends of mine told me about on our last trip to the Lake District. Apparently it is an activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the internet is an integral part of the game. Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play.The term planking is described as the practice of lying down flat with arms to the side, to mimic a wooden plank.
Many participants of planking since 2011 have photographed the activity on unusual locations such as atop poles, roofs and vehicles, while some "plankers" engage in the activity by planking only their upper body and feet while leaving the back suspended.
The lying down game is claimed to have been invented by Gary Clarkson and Christian Langdon first becoming popular in North East England
The lying down game spread to the rest of the world, where it has also been known as "시체놀이" ("playing dead") "à plat ventre" ("On one’s belly", France 2004 "extreme lying down", (2008, Australia)"facedowns" (2010, USA and Ireland),and "planking" (2011, Australia & New Zealand and worldwide).
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Last weekend we attended the wedding of some friends of ours. The chair where each guest was supposed to sit was revealed by a small stone with each person's name on it at the particular place setting. I was interested to see stone showing up at the reception table and having a fairly prominent role, even at such an important ceremony. Perhaps it is the long lasting quality of stone that was being made reference too. Perhaps it was merely an artistic touch.
Anyway I was amused at the idea of a stone telling me where I was supposed to be positioned rather than the other way around.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
The tree I built on our property last year maybe doesnt 'look' safe enough for a child to climb and to sit on any of its branches. For this reason I asked Petra, one of our neighbour's children from up the street to volunteer to be put in one of the branches and demonstrate how 'looks' can be deceiving. I know she looks a little unsettled perched their in the tree but really she is quite comfortable and feeling very safe.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Working along a lake shoreline rebuilding an old dry stone retaining wall has presented a lot of challenges. The first two courses of stone have to be built under the water.
By the way, crocks prove to be the best footwear (yet again) for this kind of amphibious occupation.
After we took the old wall apart, sending some of the stones up over the bank and some of the bigger ones into the water behind us, we prepared the foundation and then started groping in the water to begin rolling the biggest stones back into position.
On the plus side, rocks are surprisingly lighter in water. Rocks that would be impossible for one person to move become easier to handle as long as you don't try to lift them up right out of the lake.
My hands became my eyes as I probed the translucent shallows looking for the right shaped stones to fit in each space I was working on in the wall. At Rocktoberfest we often have various dry stone walling competitions. I had considered in the past introducing a category of blind stone walling. Using stones from the lake, that can only be felt has given me a better idea of how a wall might possibly be built seeing only with my hands
As the wall grew in height I got better at judging thickness and shape under water, and even did some shaping of stones with them partially submerged. The water buffers impact and the exploding fragments loose their momentum in water.
I wonder about building a wall completely under water some day? Hmmm.
Friday, July 22, 2011
For anyone who builds dry stone walls there may be a better, more applicable version of the old adage of 'putting the cart before the horse'. If a waller adds the hearting up inside the wall higher than the outside course of stones it will be in the way of the next course of stones.
So, one must remember not to put the hearting before the course.
But on the other hand, one shouldn't add a another stone course on before the lower course of stones has been properly hearted.
And of course if your building in a random rubble style you can't afford to be any less heartless.
Just putting out some handy thoughts.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
NOT Gneiss Stone
Aggregated basalt (to the eyes)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Yesterday a TV crew from Toronto drove up to film a segment about dry stone walling across Canada. The interview went very well. We looked at several dry stone structures in the Port Hope area. There are some really unusual ones within a five mile radius of here including three bridges, several dry stone trees, a folly ruins, two stone-roofed sheds, a vaulted behive hut, a couple of circular walled enclosures on town property and a dry stone pre-viking boat-dwelling. If you are ever driving through this way you might want to check some of these out. Definitely bring your camera (crew).
Thanks Vincci Chung of Fairchild Television for taking the time to find out more about 'walls without mortar' for your viewers to enjoy. www.fairchildtv.com
Maybe one day there will be a full time documentary TV channel in Canada focusing entirely on all things pertaining to walling and stone structures. Rock celebrities could have their own prime time shows.
Just thinking with my hands again.
Monday, July 18, 2011
This tank in a park near Collingwood Ontario got me thinking about the fact that dry stone walls are often sited as being unsafe structures for children to play on in public places. People have said to me when I have been commissioned to build one somewhere - "But what if a child falls from that?" I usually say something polite about how safe dry stone structures are. The fact is that kids like to climb but they are usually pretty careful. My secret answer to these sort of questionings about children being protected from climbable structures is - "Well, what was God thinking when he made trees?" Or in this case- " What are town park planners thinking when they drive a tank into the park for kids to play on?"
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I went for a walk the other day along a beach that has many interesting, finely shaped stones. It's a great place to pick up real beauties. Lots of the pretty ones have already been taken. In one area only the 'cover-stones' remain soaking up the late afternoon sun.
I started to think about the fact that stones are often taken home and used to 'dress up' a property. Using rocks and stones from trips to the beach or the country require real skill to avoid making a yard or garden look tacky or garish. It is almost impossible to do when you are merely 'decorating' the place up with stones.
Stones prefer to take a less showy role in the garden. The stones that look best are arranged in fairly subtle, definitely more structural applications. They like to have a reason for being where they are. It's not easy for a stone to look or feel comfortable when it's been thoughtlessly tossed into a new relationship in some window well, around a pond or along the side of a driveway.
That's probably why the best ones don't mind staying where they are, just being admired and chaste along the beach.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
My friend Eric works for a landscape company that went through a series of mishaps with their heavy equipment last week. Among several mechanical failures and accidents including one overturned excavator and major damage to one of the company trucks there was also the incident of the tipped wheelbarrow. It had rolled over and eric had lost the entire load.Eric fired off a text to his boss and sent this picture just minutes after the accident.
Fortunately no one was hurt and everything was okay. Good thing too, there was another wheel barrow on the site. Within an hour or so with a little bit of teamwork Ryan was able to pull Eric out and set his wheel barrow upright again.
High fives after the situation has been cleared up.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Inspired by Norman Haddow's comment yesterday I have included another example of stonework and food morphing into one another. This is a table we built recently of random limestone. The table originally had a cherry top. I was concerned about the cherry getting damaged with rain and extreme sun exposure so we exchanged the top for this big slab of limestone flagstone. Three of us managed to lift it onto the stone 'legs'.
There is a stunning contrast between the elegance of the place setting (and the reproduction Windsor back chairs ) and the raunchy look of the rock table. We had another meal on it last night prepared again by Colin our personal chef. The meal was delicious, and the table? ...Well as Goldilocks would say, "it was just right".
This is a good thing, because I don't think we will be moving it to a new spot in the garden for a while.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
My son who is a really good chef has started part-timing with me as dry stone waller. He is getting really good at building walls and we get the benefit of him cooking these fantastic meals for us in the evenings he stays over.
Actually the two disciplines are starting to morph into each other more and more. Last week he selected two flat slabs of limestone and brought them back to his place and prepared an exotic meal for a young lady he is seeing which involved serving up Raspberry Point oysters on pre-chilled ice-topped rocks. My stonework has never looked this delicious.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
We wallers, more than other professions perhaps, sometimes feel like we are merely fitting parts of the geological universe back together. I'm working on an island in Muskoka Ontario this week and admiring the nice fits in the exposed bedrock that nature starts with. I see evidence of rocks beginning to form and split up from their tight fitting configurations and drift apart. I imagine they eventually leave home, go their separate ways, and much later, they employ us to reunite them again somewhere else in this crazy puzzling world into lovely dry stone walls.
Monday, July 11, 2011
A clever way to incorporate the look and structure or dry laid stone in a rain barrel application, this galvanized cow trough is clad with random quarried limestone rocks to form an attractive garden feature that doubles for a serving area for garden party food. Watering the garden then becomes a treat.
This trough was painted black to give the water a look of depth. It is situated higher than most of the surrounding garden and so a lot of watering is done by gravity feed through a hose attached to the base of the trough.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Richard Karlo provided the wine yesterday evening at a special ACO Garden Tour reception in Port Hope Ontario where gardening expert and author Marjorie Harris talked about the host's garden, designed in 2010 after we did a lot of terracing stonework. Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County is the home of the Hubb Creek Bridge, a lovely dry stone hiking bridge built in 2006 by wallers from Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and the United States.
I noticed on their promo material (behind Richard) that Sherry Martin (Richard's partner) did a nice graphic of that bridge and thought I'd post a picture of it here.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
I should add that this dry stone wall we built nearly eight years ago was the subject of much controversy. We were instructed by the owner where to build the wall. Though it was nearly twelve feet back from the road (much further back than many other fences and retaining walls further down the street) it managed to set off the town alarms, in the form of one newly hired director of works and engineering. Apparently the road allowance mysteriously widens a full twenty feet more in front of this one house. He drove by several times while we were working and on the day we completed it he informed us that the fence had to be taken down.
This is just one example of an encroachment of stones closer to the road than our wall
which apparently didn't merit any cause for concern by the town.
I watched the drama unfold in various newspaper accounts. Back then I was always looking to read anything about dry stone walls in the local paper. We had only recently moved to Port Hope.
One article pointed out rather cleverly that the wall was built not using any mortar, but rather merely stacking random stone material and that it didn't have the usual deep poured footings for a foundation. I thought the writer had got the details perfectly and was extolling the virtues of this time tested way of building. My wife pointed out that no, it sounded more like the article was implying that only an idiot would try to build such an unorthodox wall.
Friday, July 8, 2011
There is an unreasonable, almost irrational aspect to people's expectations concerning the longevity and structural merits of dry stone walls. This wall we built in Port Hope eight years ago was greeted with mixed reviews when we first constructed it. The general public loved it and applauded the rustic look it gave to the property and the character it added to the street. The town and those in charge of planning and improvement hated it and wanted it taken down. There were those too who wondered whether it would last. Others were concerned about the hazard it presented to traffic. Cars might crash into it.
The wall eventually became part of the fabric of the street. It has since blended in to the surroundings and many people drive by just to admire it.
Over the years the wall has withstood various challenges including immense build ups of snow from plows continually clearing the rest of the road on to it. It is subject to constant flooding, periods of severe erosion and the onslaught of heavy machinery during various attempts at road rehabilitation along this section of the road. Interestingly enough, the municipal works department has had to come and fix this part of the road no less than four times since the wall was built. Most recently a major break in the water main had to be repaired in a make shift way last Christmas and now a more permanent rebuild of the road and major repairs to the underground water utilities have just now been completed.
No one asked back when when the first repair to that section of road was done (the wall was already two years old by then) whether the road surface would last. Has anyone noticed too that the wall has already lasted longer than the water main that ran under the road along that section?
I think we need to put things in perspective and recognize the things that actually do last and give dry stone walls a better shake.