Thursday, June 30, 2011

An opportunity to pick up some practical points on Irish dry stone walling.

Patrick Would Like To See You!

This is a course well worth signing up for and booking your flight now. Author, heritage restoration mason, lime mortar expert, and dry stone walling instructor Patrick McAfee will be teaching this 2nd annual Irish workshop event on Inisheer Island this September. The cost is only 75 Euro for the 3 days. There will be a practical Aran Island wall building class run by Patrick over the 3 day plus a number of speakers at night, a roast pig on a spit event (hopefully), music and much more. To sign up write to

It is recommended that Course Participants are suitably dressed for the workshop and that they wear

sturdy shoes or walking boots, work gloves and dress for the weather.

Please note: It is recommended that you book your own accommodation and transport prior to

booking this course. Please see enclosed a list of accommodation and transport providers. Please also

make your own arrangements for evening meals.

Friday 23th September 2011

Saturday 24th September 2011

Sunday 25th September 2011


Inis Oírr, Co. Galway


Payment must be received in


Cheques should be made

payable to:

‘Galway County Council –

Stone Wall Workshop’

A refund of fees (less €20

administration charge) will be

given, provided that notice

of cancellation is received

in writing on or before 17th

September 2010.

After this date no refunds will be



Ms. Marie Mannion,

Heritage Officer,

Forward Planning,

Áras an Chontae,

Galway County Council,

Prospect Hill, Galway

Tel: 00353 91 509198

E-mail: mmannion@


Ms. Gráinne Smyth,

Forward Planning,

Áras an Chontae,

Galway County Council,

Prospect Hill, Galway.

Tel: 00353 91 509121



An action of Galway County Heritage plan

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hands Up

Hands up who enjoyed last weekends dry stone wall workshop. I know did.

Next weekend we will be running a second workshop here in Inverary where we will add another section of wall the same length as this first one. (Hope we didn't use up all the good material)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The old 'chisel and hammer' verses 'walling hammer' question.

If one comes at dry stone walling from a masonry background as I do, the dilemma is whether to try to use only the walling hammer all the time or continue using the masonry hammer and chisel as well.

The advantage of the walling hammer is that it's only one tool. (The fewer tools you are using the fewer you have to lose) The walling hammer is efficient. It's simple. It's fast.

The hammer and chisel on the other hand can take off lumps that are almost impossible to get with the even most deftly swung hammer. I've got good at both methods and I still believe this to be true.

The hammer & chisel method will always be more accurate too. The walling hammer is a wee bit more likely to wreck a stone. Granted a good waller could still use the misshapen stone in the wall but sometimes you just need to make sure you re not gong to ruin that last perfect stone you've found for that special spot in the wall.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The big push.

One of the best thing about the DSWAC workshops is the meals. They are provided by the host family and they are the reason I come to these events. Here is the spread on the first day in Inverary Ontario. Chile, beef stew, fresh home baked bread , salad, fresh organic vegatables and coffee, juice and ice tea. Fresh strawberries and ice cream for dessert.
These ten people worked very hard last weekend in the rain and the hot humid weather building forty two feet of wall without mortar. We had two people from New Brunswick drive in to take the workshop. There were several people form the Kitchener /Guelph area and others who were more local, coming from the Kingston to take the course. The big push came at 3:30 on Sunday afternoon when we knew we could get the wall completed on time if we ignored how exhausted we all were.
Thanks to Lachlan and Stana Oddie for hosting this beginner course. The students all told me I teach a pretty good course and everyone insisted they had fun learning how to stack rocks into this pleasing shaped wall with a gate opening. I guess I have to believe them.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lots of progress Inverary short time

This exhibition game (our June 25th weekend demonstration walling workshop in Inverary) is getting the fans really excited. What with not getting rained out yesterday it looks like we'll not be having to go into extra innings today.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Walling Workshop in Inverary

Here is a forty ton pile of chocolate limestone (dolomite) delivered from a quarry in the Madoc Ontario area, waiting to be formed into a wall today and tomorrow by students taking the Inverary dry stone wall workshop near Perth Ontario.

Here is the footprint of where the wall will be built. Stay tuned.

Here is a nice curved wall/burm structure that the host already built on his property. It has a very appealing shape and enclosed feeling to it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What colour are you going to paint the walls?

While Robert Frost observes in his poem - 'Something there is that doesn't love a wall' , there is nevertheless something about a dry stone wall that makes others with more of a creative bent want to photograph them, or write about them, or paint them. Its a wonderful treat to build a wall and then discover someone has been inspired to do something creatively in response to seeing your stones arranged in these satisfying dry stone structures.

I remember an occasion when I returned to a workshop site in British Columbia. Artists were there in the green house at Glendale Gardens in Victoria painting a wall that the DSWAC students built there the year before. It seemed like the perfect subject matter .

And just recently John MacLeod sent me this photo of members of an adult art class having taken a field trip to Kay Bridge near Rockport to paint the footbridge we built there last year at Rocktoberfest in Landon Bay Park. It is gratifying to see that the work the festival wallers put into creating this bridge continues to be appreciated and as with other public dry stone structures we've built in Canada, this 'bridge' has become a place where people can cross over and explore other forms of artistic expression.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mariana Cook

Photographer Mariana Cook (born 1955) is best known for her intimate character studies of persons both in and out of the public eye, as published in her much-acclaimed collections Fathers and Daughters, Mothers and Sons, Generations of Women, Couples, Faces of Science and Mathematicians. Cook departs from her portrait work with Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries, a project that was conceived one day at her home on Martha's Vineyard, when 56 cows strayed through a crumbling section of the stone wall she shares with her neighbor. From this serendipitous moment of inspiration, Cook embarked on an eight-year journey, travelling from New England to the American South, Britain, Ireland, the Mediterranean and Peru in pursuit of dry stone walls. Far from being a conventional travelogue, these beautiful black-and-white photographs portray the wall in landscape, the wall as abstract form, and the return of rocks to nature. Cook is fascinated with the juxtaposition of stones as an instance of geometric composition, as well as with the resonance between walls of different cultures. With a tribute from Wendell Berry and essays providing a context for the walls of each region, the resulting collection captures a fundamental aspect of the relationship human beings forge with the land they inhabit.

Mariana will be speaking this October at Rocktoberfest our annual Canadian Walling Festival at the University of Toronto country conference centre, Hart House Farm in the Caledon Hills, just north of Toronto Ontario. See ROCKTOBERFEST 2011 for more details.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Photographing Walls

Limestone Field
Inis Meáin, Ireland
5 July 2005 

While I've always maintained that it's not difficult to take good photographs of good stone walls, I admit that it requires an expert to take an exceptional one. I'd love to be able to capture in a photograph the essence of a wall that has caught my attention. At best I take a nice picture. I rarely probe the inner meaning of the wall I'm seeing and seldom get any closer to the answer of why walls are so intriguing or why they fascinate so many other people too. One who looks at a photo of a wall might ask, 'they are merely a lot of rocks piled carefully, surely'?

An excellent hardcover book on dry stone walls will be coming out next month with images that approach the visual connectivity and focused content we lovers of walls are looking for. Never mind the sheer variety of examples and vast scope of the book, the detail and content of what must be over a hundred black and white photographs allows the reader to delve into a selection of structural solutions to the age old agricultural challenge as to how stones may be used pragmatically. The images are a powerful resource into this illusive subject.

The underlying impression I got from looking over an advance copy of this wonderful book was a feeling that something very special is going on here. The photos in Mariana Cook's Personal Boundaries, are of stone walls that many of us have seen before but through her eyes they take on a new artistic meaning.

The book is coming out this July. While the title has not yet been released ( it can be pre-ordered) I am pleased to announce that Mariana will be coming to this year's Roctoberfest to give a special presentation on the subject of this her newest book of photography. Signed copies will be available at our Canadian Dry Stone Walling Festival which is run annually during the Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend.

More on this subject tomorrow .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bunny Kiss

I'm thinking there must be some good captions for this photo. Please add yours on the comments section below.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Can you read a stone like an open book?

Pamela Paulsrud cleverly reveals through her work the concept that trees speak in tongues and that they are waiting to be translated through each persons own creative process and there are entire books of sermons in stones waiting to be discovered along the way.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Concrete or Stone – Which is more inviting?

Couldn't help but notice that the concrete walls in this small Irish town had been defaced and sprayed with paint, while the dry stone wall was left untouched. hmmm

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The concrete blocks the view.

Many of the newer structures on the Aran Islands are being made of concrete. I guess it's not cement to be admired. Actually I'm not sure why there are so many concrete blocks being used there when so much good stone material is available everywhere. The more the islanders allow poured concrete walls, gateposts and all kinds of cemented stonework to be done, the more these things will compete with the natural stone walls make this such an attractive place and are lasting quite well. Inevitably if nothing is done to stop this kind of so called 'progress' this wonderful island of dry stone walls will end up loosing much of its charm.

The new concrete wall on the pier at Inismore

Friday, June 17, 2011

Knitting the two skills together

  • Start Row 1 with a right-side row. Knit 3, slip one stitch to a cable needle and hold in front of your work. Knit the next stitch on the needle, then knit the stitch held on your cable needle. This stitch pattern will be abbreviated as CF1. Knit 4 stitches, then repeat the cable pattern. The full pattern for Row 1 is K3, *CF1, K4* to last 3 stitches, K3. The CF1, K4 pattern repeats to the last three stitches.

  • Purl across Row 2 if you are knitting flat. This and all wrong-side rows or even-numbered rows will be purled if knit flat and knitted if you are knitting in the round. If you have added a border, continue it as desired.

  • Cable Row 3 in the following pattern: K2, *CF1, CB1* to last two stitches. CB1 means to cable back one stitch by allowing your cable needle with the slipped stitch on it to hang behind the work. This row provides the first cross of your lattice cable pattern. Purl Row 4, being sure to keep your tension even.

  • Knit Row 5 as follows: K1, *CB1, K2, CF1*, K1. Row 6 is purled when knitting flat. You should now be able to see the beginning of a lattice pattern in your knitting and see and correct any errors.

  • Continue the pattern in Row 7. CF1, K4 across the row until 2 stitches remain, then CF1 again. Purl Row 8 unless knitting in the round. Row 9 is the reverse of Row 5, and reads K1, *CB1, K2, CF1* K1. Purl across Row 10. The final pattern row, Row 11, is K2, *CB1, CF1,* K2. Row 12 is a purl row, then the pattern will begin again. Repeat to desired length for your knit lattice cable.

  • Row 1: K3, *CF1, K4* K3. Row 2 and all even numbered rows: purl. Row 3: K2, *CF1, CB1,*K2. Row 5: K1, *CF1, K2, CB1, *K1. Row 7: *CF1, K4 to last 2 stitches, CF1. Row 9: K1,*CB1, K2, CF1*K1. Row 11: K2, *CB1, CF1,*K2. This lattice cable pattern creates an easy and interesting visual effect in your knitting. There is little distortion, and while blocking will help the cables bloom, it is not critical.

  • Knitting with Aran Wall

  • Start row with a right-side leaning of your stones. Knit three together slip one pitched sideways and hold each one with another along your wall. Fit the next on the other, then knit a big upright, one that you're capable of moving. This wall pattern will be abbreviated as CF1. Fit 4 with the stones then randomly repeating the pattern. The full pattern for the first row of stones is CF1, K4* to last 3 stones K3. The pattern repeats to the cheek end .

  • Wall across course 2 if you are fitting flat. This and all wrong-side rows or even-numbered rows will be placed into each other and fit flat and fitted diagonally if you are working your way around. If you have added a border, continue it as desired. Leave lots of spaces.

  • Make Row 3 stable in the following pattern: K2, *CF1, CB1* to the last two ditches. CB1 means to carry back one stone by allowing your stones to straddle each other without slipping sideways and remember to stand back and behind the work to study how it's looking. This row provides the first cross of your lattice pattern. Finish Row 4, being sure to keep your fencing straight and even. Occasionally add bigger ones vertically as needed.

  • Fill in between

  • You should now be able to see the beginning of a lattice pattern in your walling and see and correct any errors. It should not look chaotic or too bland either.

  • Continue the structural pattern along CF1, K4 across the row until the last copes remain to be done then CF1 again. The final pattern row should be relatively level along the top row of stones. Repeat to desired length for your wall lattice stonework.

  • This satisfying pattern creates an easy and interesting visual effect in your walling. There is little distortion, and the slanted blocking pattern will help this type of wedged wall not unravel for a long time.

    Your walls will keep your wooly sheep nice and cozy and protected even in cold weather.

  • Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Watching the Hookers

    We watched the hookers on Saturday sail up to Inisheer Island.

    The Galway hooker was a traditional fishing boat used in Galway Bay off the west coast of Ireland. The hooker was developed for the strong seas there. It is identified by the distinctive sail formation. It consisted of a single mast with a main sail and two foresails. Traditionally, the boat is black (being coated in pitch) and the sails are a dark red-brown colour. Recently there has been a major revival, and renewed interest in the Galway hooker, and the boats are still being painstakingly constructed. The festival of Cruinniú na mBád is held each year, when boats race across Galway Bay from Connemara to Kinvara on the Galway/Clare county boundary.

    We happened to be there that weekend. The boats originally carried limestone from the Aran islands to the Connemara mainland to be used in the making of lime for lime mortar, and carried turf back for fuel to be used on the island.
    So in a way they were surf and turf stone boats.

    While we were watching the hookers racing in the bay I couldn't help but notice the very sculptural shape of these Inisheer pier mooring posts and couldn't resist the photo opportunity of clothing one a little better.