Saturday, April 26, 2014

History in the remaking

Next week we are off to do some more much needed repairs to the 150 year old dry stone walls just south off highway 48 on Balsam Lake Road.

George Laidlaw, who lived from 1828 to 1889, commissioned these walls for his Fort Ranch property on the western shore of Balsam Lake. He raised sheep and cattle there which he imported from Scotland. Laidlaw, who originally came from Scotland, was a prosperous grain merchant and a promoter of narrow gauge railways. In 1880, Laidlaw commissioned a Scottish stonemason, Mr. Scott, to build the dry stone walls on Balsam Lake Road. Employing local labourers and horses pulling stone boats, Scott methodically and skillfully built more than 10,000 feet of wall.

150 years later, a lot of those walls are still standing and looking beautiful as ever.
(These 2 photos of one section of wall from the same angle were taken over 100 years apart ) 

The last time we did any major work repairing some of these historic walls was back in May of 2010.
Akira, Menno, Evan, Joe and I did about 100 feet of wall.

'The Boulder Dash'

Here's a photo of Menno laying out the huge foundation stones on that first Monday in May. He worked very quickly . 

Dan Snow writes in his blog

"The mending of old dry stone walls lies at the heart of the walling trade. It’s often where the beginner waller cuts his or her teeth in the craft. An old wall is a lesson book waiting to be opened. It teaches correct methods of construction by example, and offers many cautionary tales with full-color illustrations. Chapter by chapter, the story of a derelict wall section unfolds in reverse as it’s dismantled."

I value the opportunity to be working with another great crew of guys again this year at Balsam Lake. I suspect there will be more lessons to be learned from these historic, unpretentious, almost coarse (but not coursed) permanent livestock containment walls.

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