Monday, June 30, 2014

Reconnecting family stones

 A student of mine taking the Port Hope May 23/24 2014 workshop has since just finished the lovely stone garden wall in the above pictures. The stone material that Rodger reclaimed came from a historic limestone home which his great uncle owned and had bequeathed to Queens University.  Unfortunately they sold it to a land developer who realized it lacked proper designation.  They quickly demolished it on a Friday of a holiday weekend.  Rodger told me he feels a kindred spirit in the reuse of these family stones.  "They lay in a huge pile where the home stood."  Rodger went on to say " Kinda sad today that developers can still get away with this." 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Seems like a Geological idea.

"I think quarries should sell a blend of pink granite, white marble, and brown limestone and call it Geopolitan." 
John Scott

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lunar Landscape

Today we visited one of my favourite places in the universe to load up a lot of moongate material in my truck.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thinking Without Handbooks

This is a photo I took in Minorca a few years ago of an 'un-bonded' cheekend supporting a dry stone wall fitted in the local traditional polygonal style. The wall (built on a grade) looked to be the same age as many of the other walls in the area - at least 100 years old. I pointed it out to Patrick McAfee (author of Irish Stone Walls ) and we both stood there marvelling at the audacity of its decision to stay standing against so many of the standards introduced by the Brits. 

I think it is time we Canadian wallers consider the diversity of walling types that are not included in the DSWA handbook.

Monday, June 23, 2014

First Wall



A former student of mine and her husband built their first dry-stone wall last week. They sent me photos and were obviously very proud of their retaining wall project which they completed in only 4 days. 

They wrote to say the four tons of stone they ordered had to be moved at least three times. 

"Plus a ton & a half of fill and new plantings,..... And as if that were not enough, Chris & I completed two other heavy stone lifting projects that Father’s day weekend: A new flower bed and ramp to the under veranda storage area. ‘Sure aren’t we ‘divils’ for punishment!" 

When I went to see the wall Darrell thanked me for the suggestion that he get a dolly to move the stones saying "It was essential in saving both our backs." 

The hand truck (dolly) was a complicated apparatus which had four wheels and folded out into a stair climbing thing and doubles for a rolling walker for when Darrell gets older.

The new wall looks terrific guys !

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Country Rock Concert

Thanks to Louise Knight-Warn for photo

The Golden Country Classics Band warms up for a concert in the Venus Gate Outdoor Amphitheatre at Hart House Farm in Caledon Ontario. The Venus Gate was built back during a Celebration in Stone in 2011

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Matching Sides

Right Side - completed yesterday.

Right Side - completed last fall

Kind of look like they were made for each other.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On not getting all hung up about the dry stone wall thing.

There are so many beneficial aspects to having a dry stone wall built on a rural property. A free standing wall has such a low ecological impact on the environment and provides shelter and protection to a myriad of varieties of habitat. Wildlife and various beneficial forms of plant life thrive where walls of natural stone criss cross the countryside. One would think there would be nothing to find fault with or complain about.

Unfortunately there is always someone has to come crashing along and spoil it for everybody else. Take the case of this Phoebe that flew into the wall we were building last week. He was not looking where he was going but I can imagine him muttering to himself "Who put this stupid wall here. That wasn't here before. I'm going to lodge a formal complaint at the next bird meeting. 

He was perfectly okay after Mark untangled him from the string (except for a slight bloody nose). No need for him to go flying off the handle about liability and damages, or pressing for some legal injunction to have the wall removed.
On the other hand I suppose we could put a caution sign up when were building a walls in the future…

… or maybe just attach black silhouettes of birds to our walls.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Making both sides match.

We have returned to Algoma Mills Ontario this week to complete the dry stone gate entrance we built last year. Just days before winter put a 5 month strangle hold on much of Canada we finished the north pier and wall. Now we have to do the south side.
It is sometimes the case, especially on a project like this one, using random undressed quarry material, that the selection of stone determines, to a certain degree, the final shape and proportion of the overall design. This makes building in dry laid stone a very creative process and much more enjoyable than using pre-cut blocks and being merely required to work to predetermined specifications. 
The challenge of course for us now is to make the south wall (and pier) the same shape and proportion as the side we have already built. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mossy Toes

Yesterday I had an opportunity to spend a relaxing Father's Day. After cutting the lawn I sat back and watched the moss grow between the toes of the foot-shaped stone that came from the Goodman's property near Collingwood. It was originally presented to me by Ray and Kathy after teaching a very successful dry stone wall workshop back in June of 2006.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tree sculpture installed

The moongate built at Alton Ontario at the 2013 dry stone wall festival is now complete.
The design always was to include this tree designed and specially created by a local sculptor Dan Sinclair for this installation.
That sculpture was installed in the opening this week.
Thanks to Ryan Stananought for the photo 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014


What is it with toads?
They seem to like to hang out in rock piles !
Don't they know how easily they could get squashed?
They must think they are invincible.

Drawing by Redmer Hoekstra

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Now that the terracing is completed at Dorset, Ontario, Marc is able to get his tractor around the lake side of the cottage to access the garden where he plans to excavate and then bring in large stones for our next project which will be next year. But not in bug season I hope!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ruff ruff *

They were putting new shingles on the cottage this week where we are working. There is a temporary ramp made from the raised ground around the back of the cottage up to the lower end of the gable. Farley used this to walk up topto show the men how to ruff.

Friday, June 6, 2014


It was a special B-day yesterday. They were everywhere in Ontario cottage country where we were working this week. Farley decided feeding time was over for the all the ones bugging him so he stayed in the lake. I carried on building despite great swarms of black flies crowding into the spaces between my clothes and my skin. I figure I gave enough blood yesterday to save hundreds of lives. Unfortunately there was no juice and cookies after. 

My leg this morning.

Here is part of what we finished today. Oh yes, and it was my birthday too.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cobourg Ecology Garden

Cobourg Ecology Garden (CEG) is situated at the south end of Hibernia St. in Cobourg Ontario.  The mission of the CEG is to demonstrate and promote “ecological gardening” on-site.  An amphitheatre-style dry stone seating area just south of the existing gazebo will provide seating for educational seminar participants, garden visitors, and people on the boardwalk who stop to rest.  The green and white bands around the gazebo mark the exterior and interior boundaries of the proposed dry stone wall (Figure 1).  The natural, complicated, and permanent nature of an amphitheatre-style dry stone wall is consistent with CEG's goal to build a model of permaculture by the beach.

Dry stone walling across Canada ran a two-day dry stone walling seminar at the Cobourg Ecology Garden last weekend. We completed the lower seating area of a lecture amphitheatre in the park.

Congratulations on a job well done Judith, Gregory, Warren, Sandy, Kyle, Alec, Sandra, Lee, Medina and Mike

Special thanks go to James Quelch who envisioned the project and made the whole event possible.