Sunday, May 31, 2015

Uncovering the big Ness of Brodgar

We had hoped to see the Ness of Brodgar on our 'Old Stones' tour of Scotland.

There's plenty of fascinating information written about it on several good web sites including this one. 

Experts are saying that this 5000 year old network of dry stone structures that has been uncovered used to be some sort of large a temple complex.

A lot of the pics on the internet showing the recent excavations there look something like the photo above.

Unfortunately when we arrived there it had been recently covered over and looked a bit 'messy'. 

Apparently the structure is being protected until the team returns to uncover more mysteries ( along with all the tarps and rubber tires )

Never mind we've seen plenty of other wonderful old stone structures here in Orkney, which I'm planning to post photos and details of in the next few days.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Ring of Brodgar

We visited a world famous Neolithic standing stone ring yesterday afternoon. The Ring of Brodgar in Orkney Scotland is the third largest henge in the British Isles.

Perhaps my crock wasn't the best thing to put in the photo to give a sense of the scale of this mysterious prehistoric structure. 

What the actual structure signifies is definitely a matter of conjecture. 

Based on all the new archaeological findings there are some surprising interpretations of what actually went on here 5000 years ago. Visitors should be prepared for the unexpected when approaching any of the several megalithic structures in and around the Ness of Brodgar .

Friday, May 29, 2015

To 'be' or 'not to be' there

Our flight path two days ago

We did better yesterday.

To 'be' or 'not to be' (there)?
There is the question .
At some point we are not just getting there, we are in a state of totally being there.
With all the our flight delays, we've done a lot of extra traveling just to get to Scotland
It seems to have been about 'getting there' so far and while getting there is good, it is very obviously different from being there.
Being there is timeless
Being, and everything to do with being there, is way more real, more meaningful.

The in the in-flight film 'Being There' suggests that life is just a state of mind.My question is,  is it possible to completely do away with not being there ?"

Stones have got all this sort of thing covered. They are very there .
I think it's wrong for instance to talk about how long standing stones and ancient stone circles have been there.
Surely they just continue in a permanent state of being there ,
They are grounded in being.
They are very good at being there .
Perhaps they are waiting for us to transcend always trying to get there and merely enter that state of being there that they exude .
It's not a process
It's more about restraint , it's more like the opposite of a process, it's much more solid than that
Anyway after a long day of travelling. we are glad to be here now at least in Glasgow. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rocky trip

A dozen or so of us are off to Scotland today for the second time in 12 hours. The ten day 'Old Stone' tour where we will be exploring dry stone walls, stone castles, stone circles, standing stones and underground stone chambers as well as some exciting new (old?) archeological sites on the Orkneys, got off to a rocky start when the plane we were on last night turned back over Northern Quebec. Generator problems was the official word from the captain. 

Despite this minor setback we remain confident things will go smoothly from here on and we all look forward to the next part of the trip - getting there.  Stay tuned for lots of photos and interesting discussion (and conjecture) about the historic details concerning some of the ancient places we will eventually be visiting.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Dry Stone Archaeological Foundation

Archaeological enthusiasts John and Mark have unearthed a mysterious dry stone structure near Buckhorn Ontario. We are eagerly awaiting the results concerning the carbon dating of this unusual rectangular building. There is a lot of conjecture as to what the early people of Ontario would have used it for. Next month we hope to begin reconstructing it and restore the structure to the way it would have looked when it was first built.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Craigflower Manor Dry Stone Wall Victoria BC

Don't know what this is, but it's pretty and it's growing on the property, so I'm calling this a Craig flower.

This is part way through day one.

This is all the way 'throughs' - day two

Now were really through. 

Seven students, two instructors, two days, eighteen and a half feet of free standing dry basalt stone wall. Thanks to all the students who did such a great job and to Christopher Barclay and the Highland Games Association who organized this event.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Day one of the Dry Stone Walling Across Canada weekend workshop at the historic heritage Craigflower Manor estate in Victoria, British Columbia. We will be proving again this weekend that beautiful long-lasting stone walls can successfully be built without using any mortar or manufactured stone products, but not without a good mix of friendly collaboration and cooperation. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post to see if we get to the top ! 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Photoshop Glue

I came across this on Pinterest. I'd like to think it's a photoshopped tongue-in-cheek dig at some of the very probably impossible examples of stone balancing being posted out there. Maybe it isn't. If not then, 'very probably impossible' isn't an oxymoron either. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Shore Thing

Sometimes when the wind and surf is just right, and you've got the time and the perfect beach, with just the right shape and size stones, you sense the need to do something wild and daring. At times like this you need to create something that momentarily encompasses the potential and excitement you feel just to be alive. 

Or, of course you could do something that's almost as fulfilling, and go kite surfing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Things that Stones Expect You to Know # 10

Stones just wanna have fun !

On the final day of our dry stone wall building demonstration at the Victoria Highland Games last weekend, we let some of the stones play around together in the park for a while (with supervision, of course).

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Going for a Wall in the Park.

We went for a simple very traditional style dry stone wall in Topaz Park this time at the Victoria Highland Games. It was built with random shaped basalt material from Squamish B.C. 

There was a section of the 16 foot wall we left unfinished so that people could see a cross section of a wall with the  through stones and the hearting revealed.

Even though we were a bit hard to find we were happy with the lovely site we had to work in this year, tucked under a grove of mature trees, away from most of the main events.  

We had a lot of fun talking to the people who did find us and many of the onlookers who came by learned how a proper dry stone wall is built and why we build walls without mortar. 

Some of the repeat visitors to the games told us they were expecting something more dazzling with arches and loops, more like what we built during the big Victoria Day event last year, and the year before. 

I guess we've become our very own hard act to follow.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Not finished yet!

It's good if you have some longer stones to put 'through-stones' along the wall at about knee height. Yesterday we were through-stoning the demonstration wall. But strangely, were not finished yet!

Jose Janecek takes questions from interested visitors to the Victoria Highland Games about what the three through-stones are for.

While the others pack the inside of the wall, Christopher Barclay is scraping the hearting barrel.

Here are some of the happy wallenteers.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Can you believe it? We're here at the Highland Games in Victoria this weekend, stacking stones, trying to build a simple demonstration dry stone wall and the bagpipers, ( the bagpipers !)  come over and ask us to keep the noise down ! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Victorian Arch, Wall, Games and Upcoming Workshop

Yesterday I revisited a Gothic arch and a rather challenging herringbone dry stone wall that my students and I created almost ten years ago at Island Stone Landscape Supplies near Victoria BC. 

My good friends Christopher Barclay and Kevin Maloney were there helping at that workshop. 

Next weekend we will be doing another dry stone workshop at the  Craigflower National Historic Site  We will be leaving a permanent dry stone feature (perhaps and arch) for people to enjoy at that estate. It would be good to see some Victorians sign up and participate in this workshop, and if not, at least try to come out to the Victorian Highland Games walling event happening today and tomorrow at Topaz Park Victoria. You can help put in a stone or two.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Vertically Unchallenged

Photo by K. Gleason

These are BIG stones. They are river rock that comes from a secret place near Grass Valley, California. Many of them are shaped like round cushions and are impossible to shape. My hands and I agreed that this was probably the best way to use them. Even though there was some really heavy lifting here, we had a lot of fun building this way.
The tall Redwoods bookending this semi circle section of wall are about three feet in diameter.
This is an experiment we did last January for a bigger project to be built in California next year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Things that Stones Expect You to Know # 8

That we need stone !

In fact, in terms of enhancing our gardens and homes, and as structural elements in the landscape, in parks along trails and in most public places
 'stone is All we need'.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A drainage Issue solved

We suspected that one of the gaps in the original stone wall which we had chosen to repair at last weekend's workshop had fallen down because the ground water had undermined the foundation. 

We rebuilt that part of the wall with a drain to alleviate the problem. 

Here you can see the wall (and drain with stone lintel) from both sides. 

First - above, on the morning of the second day after there had been many hours of rain, 

Then - below, on the same day at the completion of the dry stone workshop workshop in Mayo County, Ireland

Monday, May 11, 2015

Not So Dry, Dry Stone Walling in County Mayo

The weather turned crazy on Sunday in County Mayo. Wind and rain made walling a bit of a battle. Our boots sank into the boggy soil and it was impossible to keep our feet dry. I don't think I have been that wet for a long time. 

Despite the rain and everyone worked diligently and cheerfully. There was a great sense of accomplishment and camaraderie throughout the entire workshop . The skies cleared by 4pm as we began the big push to finish the three gaps that we had first set about to repair on the Saturday morning. 

I think everyone did very well considering the weather and the fact that the stone selection at each gap had dwindled to nothing.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Mayo Walling Clinic

At the beginning of the workshop instructors in Ireland are required to read aloud a printed document explaining everything that wallers must know about 'health and safety'. The students must then all sign a document saying they have read the material and understand all the risks involved in taking a dry stone wall workshop. 

After the students have taken all the precautions to safeguard against injury themselves, they are then instructed how to diagnose and properly care for the actual patient - the ailing dry stone wall.

This weekend is a veritable 'hospital' for walls and wallers here at the 'Mayo Clinic'.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Walls of The Greenway

We arrived here yesterday in Mulraney (Mallaranny) County Mayo, Ireland on the invitation of the Mayo County Council to teach a dry stone walling course this weekend. These beautifully built dry stone walls (over 150 years old) were commissioned to by the railroad to be built along long stretches of what has now become a hiking trail called the Greenway. 

There are one or two gaps like this one that Patrick is standing beside which we will be fixing with our 15 students this year. 

The countryside is beautiful, the people warm and friendly, the weather surprisingly mostly dry so far.  

What a treat it is to be here doing the thing I love the most.  

- More updates to follow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Things that Stones Expect You to Know # 5

     That they like to be together, 
and will stay together as long as they can.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Things that Stones expect you to Know # 4

That they are heavy and very hard for a good reason.

While it might be tempting to build with a less demanding material - say swedes, for example, which are very plentiful in Britain (including the Lake District) and are much lighter and softer than rocks, we need to understand that they don't make nearly as strong a wall as rocks do, and eventually even swedish walls start to go mushy.