Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Steve Manders

A very short classical dry stone fence of Celtic design in Cobourg.  There must be a story here.  It is beautifully made, perhaps that is the story.
This wall was built in the spring of 2006 by students of a masonry instructor at Brookside who took one of my indoor workshops in the winter of that same year.

"A very short classical dry stone fence of Celtic design in Cobourg. There must be a story here. It is beautifully made, perhaps that is the story." Steve Manders

Steve Manders posted photos of dry stone walls in Ontario including our Hubb Creek Bridge on his Panoramio website. 

Press the link below to see.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spraying in another language

It's amazing how often graffiti lettering, with all its clever stylized variations, has a mysterious, almost spooky sameness to it. Why are the words so often unreadable and apparently completely meaningless? The fact that graffiti appears in so many places with this same consistency of meaninglessness is very disturbing. 

Is there a worldwide standard setting committee somewhere enforcing this stuff ?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Another Outdoor Fireplace

This is the dry stone outdoor fireplace we are working on presently in Durham Region Ontario.
My clients and I collaborated on the design which involves building the fire box into the corner of the sunken dry stone courtyard which we are also making, that wraps around an historic Georgan-style house, built of squared fieldstone. 
The rough-in was done by Mackenzie Fike from Port Carling, Ontario. It will be a four foot arched opening.
It all sits on a concrete pad. 
There will be a grate that can be set into the opening for cooking on and a metal crane fitted on the right side for hanging pots over the fire.

The dry stone cladding will be done similar to the way we did this one that  Evan Akira and I did a couple years ago near Baltimore, Ontario.

More details to follow….

Monday, October 27, 2014

Object Lesson

Who ordered these stones?
Their placement,
Their combination of shapes,
So solid and precise.
Forming phrases and axioms that I can almost make sense of.
 Written in a forgotten language I knew before
I came out of the sea.
Before I became me.
I can not improve on these things,
But I shall keep practicing,
And continue building walls.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Sundial People

The vice president and president of Fleming College, Brian Baker and Tony Tilly stood in front of the new dry stone sundial for a photo on the sunny Friday afternoon it was completed. 

Thanks to Brian Howe who brought us coffees from Timmy's 

Thanks to the great crew - Doug, Susan, Colin, Craig, Rhys, Liam, Chris, Zoe, Chelsey, Brian, Dave and Tony.

 Congratulations especially to our 6 students 'the sundial kids' from Peterborough regional College who came here with Jess and Kelly and Tony Lowe from England to attend this special walling course and did so well.

Thanks to Terry Williams the Director of Plant and Facilities who organized the pouring of the concrete pad and to Dave and the maintenance crew who moved stone for us.

Thanks to Shelley Schell the Training Officer at the Haliburton School of The Arts who along with Sandra Dupret Dean/Principal of Fleming College – Haliburton Campus initiated and organized the details of our five day creative walling workshop.

Thanks to Glen Windrem for trucking and to Jeff Parnell for the load of limestone.

Thanks to Jim Felstead of Rock your world for the two big base stones.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Completed Sundial

The sundial sits on a piece of stone 
Telling time all alone 
Reads the sun as it moves round 
With the shadows without a sound 
It tells the time upon its face 
Never wrong or out of place 
Telling time with shadows cast 
All alone as time goes past 
It does not move it does not rock 
A work of art that's nature's clock

William Worthless 2010

Thanks to Shelagh Lippay for sending this poem.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gnomen and Gnowomen under the Gnomon

We had our second full day of rain here building our dry(?)stone sundial. Maybe we should be making a cloud dial, or a rain meter. We're all still having fun, but it's 'time' to tune in some sun. Where's the dial?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two Peterboroughs

With kind funding from the British government, Tony Lowe (top left) a countryside management teacher at Peterborough Regional college near Cambridge, England, and six of his students, arrived in Canada last weekend to attend the creative walling class being offered at Fleming College in Peterborough Ontario. These students, already knowledgeable in the rural craft of dry stone walling, have come to improve their skills as they learn about the artistic side of walling. Yesterday morning we talked about design and using small blocks made miniature structures and 'doodled' three dimensionally, exploring the themes of 'time and light'. 

In the afternoon we gathered in the rainy, very drizzly British type weather to work with a large muddy pile of life size stones. We talked about quarries and the different types of tools used for splitting stone and then shaped some of the big ones.

Today along with five mature Canadian students, the class will be starting to actually build a permanent sundial which has been specially designed for the front entrance of the college. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

What Improve Meant

There's always someone who comes along and improves the mouse trap.
Did that mean the original one was wrong?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Repairing Damage

Here's a very recent photo I took of the 150 year old section of curved wall up at Balsam Lake Ontario. Way back in 2003 we did some repairs (up nearer the pillars) where a car had crashed into it. The workshop was a success and the property owner got the wall repaired for free.

I was sad to discover some damage had been done to the wall again (near where the curve starts) perhaps by the same reckless person, but we will go up there soon and just repair it again. 

We chose an earlier photo of this very curve to use for the Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada logo. 

We didn't really want to change the DSWAC logo when in 2012 we gave this our association name (and our support) to a not-for-profit organization that had just be formed, so we changed our name to Dry Stone Walling Across Canada and kept the initials. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Walls

Port Sydney Ontario

Balsam Lake

It's Autumn - that beautiful time of year when many of the leaves on the trees turn colour. 

It's harvest time too here in Ontario. Some of the stones have really started to ripen.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Raising the Gnomon

Preparation is underway for the first Dry Stone Sundial Workshop in Canada, at Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. In the video we are raising the ginormous 15 foot long stone gnomon into position, ready for the class to begin constructing this art installation October 20 to 24, 2014,

The Gnomon and the Gnorman

It was great to have Norman Haddow here all this week helping calm my nerves and offer his valuable advice on how to go about tackling the preparations for the upcoming creative walling workshop. Unfortunately Norman has to fly back to Scotland tomorrow and will not be involved in the actual course. No wonder he looks a bit grumpy.

Here is the pile of stone my students will be working with.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cat Walk

A photo of some charming dry stone work done recently near Wilson N. Y. by Jason H. 
The unusually narrow staircase is reminiscent of something from the old world.
Nice to see such attractive work gets the cats approval too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Student Walls

These student walls, barely 12 hours old, like all properly dry laid walls, not only create a certain element of satisfaction but also a sense of 'time'.

The gated opening/passageway built by our students created an inviting entrance to the dry stone castle garden (off behind the trees in the background ) where we have done things in previous years.

All in all, our Canadian Thanksgiving weekend walling festivities, which ironically were held in the United States this year, turned out to be even more successful than other years.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Castle Folly

Last weekend while visiting Brockport I had the opportunity to do this short video of the dry stone folly we've been building with our students each thanksgiving weekend over the last four years. The castle gained a new arch this year.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Until you've tried to make an acceptable wall with bad stones youll not value the skill of a real magician who manages to make them perform

Friday, October 10, 2014

Slate Panel

This is a decorative slate panel that John Bland recently made with Andre Lemieux
It is to go into a section of a dry stone wall that people will be building during the Alton Mills Dry Stone Wall Festival which is coming up this weekend. 
I hoping this event (which is in now the secant festival for the newly formed Canadian walling association) will be spectacular!
Unfortunately Norman and I will be busy in New York State.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Well Done Sean.

Sean Donnelley just got back from a trip down to Kentucky. He visited the good folk at the Dry Stone Conservancy.  Sean explained he went down as a spectator to see how they do  the walling competition (which they have every year at this time)  but ended up competing at the last minute, and did very well. He was awarded 2nd place in the professional class!  

Above is a photo of the completed section of wall he built for his journeyman certification which he also accomplished while he was down there. He had to do a curved wall, which is very tricky. String lines are useless for doing curves and maintaining the right batter is very important too. Well done Sean ! 

Sean tells me will be at the Alton Mills Dry Stone Wall Festival this year and if you see him there you might want to extend to him your congratulations too!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Putting it into Practice

Fred and his wife Cindy took a dry stone workshop that John Scott and I taught near Brighton two summers ago.

He specifically wanted to take a course where he could learn how to use stones like the awkward granite boulders he had all over his country property.

When I visited Fred and Cindy's place last week I was amazed at how well Fred had caught on to the skill of walling and how good his walls looked.

It's very gratifying to see students take what they have learned and go back to their own projects and do such impressive structural work, and in this case do such a good job of 'coursing' with such awkward roundish stones.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Norman Haddow Visits

It's almost Thanksgiving here in Canada and for the next two weeks we have the pleasure of master craftsman Norman Haddow's company as he visits with us again for the tenth year in a row now

He has recently returned from Southern Itally where he collaborated with our dear friend Thea Alvin teaching a two week course repairing a heritage trull as well as building a small shepherd's hut. 

Normans student's learned the basic technique of corbelling as they took what Norman calls 'wild' stones and stepped in several courses into the middle of the opening of this 6 foot high shepherd's hut structure.

The hut was made of these wild stones which are very irregular in shape (and all found on the ground at the site) rather than using 'tame' dressed stone from a nearby quarry.  

These are the tulli where the 15 students and the instructors stayed, socialized at night and apparently had some wonderful meals together.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Waiting for some sod to come along

Late last spring I went back to finish this wall and stairs that I started in November of 2013. 
It had been a long winter in Ontario,
I must go back again and see if any sod has come along.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Lots of nice rocks.

Many of us think this guy is crazy. He is pretty amazing! And yes, it's a great video. I just wish they'd do another video without the bike or the guy in it. Just the scenery and the music.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mount Pleasant Revisited


Cynthia Jamieson recently sent me photos (below) that she took of Mount Pleasant Arch which she took nine years ago (several months after it was constructed).  Her father-in-law Ross owns the farm where we built the dry stone arch high on a hill using only the stones which had been piled there many many years ago by farmers clearing the fields. As you can see in the photo above (which I took last week) the arch is still looking quite pleasant.

Cynthias son Brad Jamieson and his buddy Alex and the arch stand proud 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Arch of Ennismore

The Arch of Ennismore
a rewrite of a poem by
William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Ennismore
And a garden arch build there, of stone all dry laid;
Nine feet tall t'will be, and on one side a niche or two ,
And shrubs and flowers around it plant,
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes from stone
Dropping in veils from the top of opening to the pillars shore.
There limestone all a glimmer, and noon a sparkling glow,
And evening stars and moon all light Ennismore.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day.
I feel the garden growing and what oh then is more?
While I stand on the roadway, or on the mossy path,
My heart is called to Ennismore.