Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Continuing Tradition.

Each year Dry Stone Walling Across Canada sponsors the annual award for "Dedication to Traditional Stone Masonry Techniques" in its continuing support of the Algonquin College Masonry Heritage Tradition and Techniques Program. 
It seems to me, by avoiding pressure to become 'not for profit', this organization has been far more effective in encouraging up-and-coming masonry students (and walling enthusiasts) not just through award programs but also in the varied hands-on demonstration/training walling events it's held over the past twelve years, as well as providing more professional experience through job opportunities and permanent employment with DSWAC.
At the Algonquin College June convocation the "Dedication to Traditional Stone Masonry Techniques" Award along with a DSWAC Certificate was presented to Dylan Hansen.  
Dylan has been an excellent student at the college and is highly regarded by his peers and masonry instructors.  When Dylan and I spoke on the phone I was encouraged by his eagerness to get all the experience he could in every area of applied stone masonry, especially 'walls without mortar'. I am looking forward to having him come work with us soon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Zen Portal

Let the stones draw you in to their world 

A 360 stereographic panoramic projection of a rocky beach.

2010 Evan Sharboneau and PhotoExtremist.com

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Structural Integrity

We can learn a lot from a good retaining wall. It has integrity and decorum. It doesn't gossip or badmouth others.  It's all about holding the dirt back.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Things Stones Expect You to Know # 14

That they are way more cultured than culture stone

Culture is one thing and varnish is another.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A fast glimpse of the building of the Irish lookout tower. Stage One

This is the time lapse thing Nick Tomkins set up of the first stage of the tower build we did in California. It was over a week and a half of construction. The crew was working flat out going straight up with random sydney peak mica quartzite and dressed black granite. There are some ups and downs in video as we pre-fit several courses of stones before taking them down and then laying them up again with lime mortar.

The second phase of the stone tower is a special workshop open to 6 masons and will be happening in August. It would be an exciting thing to take part in if you have the time and were interested in spiral staircases, dressing and shaping stone, hot lime mortars, traditional masonry and early Irish stone structures. 

Have you ever wondered how old stone buildings were constructed? What tools were used and how stonemasons used them?

You, are invited to learn and participate in the construction of the second stage of a 32 foot tall traditional Irish Stone Tower located on the beautiful rural Mendocino coast in Gualala, California. 

Designed and directed by Master Stonemason Patrick McAfee of Ireland and Kyle Schlagenhauf, lead Stonemason from California. Learn how the geometry of the circle, polygon and cone are all brought together in the building of a stone round tower. 

The workshop includes the traditional use of hot lime mortar, Roman style with a pozzolan. The tower will be built of coursed schist rubble walls, punctuated with bands cut black granite, both quarried in California. You will learn the secrets of effectively working with contemporary and traditional tools, as well as material handling and lifting. The use of a put log scaffolding will be introduced.

Architectural features that will be cut by hand on site and installed during the workshop include the completion of a black granite newel spiral staircase, a lintel door and windows, an oculus window, candle niches, and a finial. 
Space is limited to six skilled and experienced participants.
DATES: August 3 - 14, 2015
COST: $850.00, includes lunch. Proceeds benefit the educational mission of the 
             STONE FOUNDATION a non profit 501(c)3.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What's in a Name?

I'm thinking of ideas for names of a company for someone who is a waller and in the landscape business. Here's one.

Got any ?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Older than language

Georgian Bay Meditation

Rosy granite, dark veined
feldspar flecked with black,
gleaming splash of milky quartz,
angular stones drawn by glaciers,
fractured and scraped,
rounded by sand and waves,
rocky abstractions milled from the Shield

I chose your birthday token
from the gritty northern shore,
place in your veined hand
a ruddy gold-streaked story-
older than language, than love.
Dark green bands of igneous rock,
orange lichen dropped like paint.
Jack pines clutch at crevices,
jagged branches growing all one way.

In the bay, shifting hues: cobalt,
steel grey. And thin, bitter spume
snaps at the scudding sky;
Waves slap against stone,
retreat, return, the rhythm lasts
all afternoon - or our whole lives.
What's left is little time
to understand it all, beginning
with these ancient traces of shore.

Nan Williamson

from a book of her poetry  leave the door open for the moon

Drawing also by Nan Williamson 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Rocks Around The Clock

Yesterday being just before the summer solstice, and the weather forecast being for sun all day, I took the opportunity to install the stone posts we had prepared to be the markers for the hours of the day around the Fleming College Sundial we built last year in Peterborough Ontario.

I staked where the shadow of the gnomon was at every hour, using my trusty iPhone, and then dug a two foot deep hole at each spot. Marking the hours around a sundial takes a while. You just have to put in the time.

It was hard digging too. It seemed every hole I dug around the clock had at least one buried rock stubbornly resisting my efforts to shovel a deep perfect sized hole. The new 'hour markers' all had roman numerals inscribed on the top of the posts. At the end of the day I literally put in eleven 'hours'.

The garden's position shown here, just northeast of the actual sundial (starting at about eight o'clock ) made it impossible to set in any markers for the last three hours of daylight.
The flower garden in effect relieved me having to dig any more. 
Not that I minded how long it took, but someone else looking to quit earlier, and finally coming round to the garden border, might have thought to themselves... "There just weren't enough flowers in the day"

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A dry wine goes best with a dry stone wall (event)

I asked Sunny Wieler if he could do a short summary of the engaging dry stone event he and many of the good people in the stone walling community attended last week Austria.

It was an event organised by Helmut Schieder from the Gartenbauschule Langenlois, a horticultural college in the dense wine region an hour from Vienna.

Sunny took some fantastic pictures.

Sunny writes...

"Helmut attended our Gathering of Stones event in Ireland in 2013 and invited a number of us from that event to instruct at his 'Stein & Wein' (Stone & Wine) festival at the horticultural college and nearby vineyard where he works. 
There was five different builds on over four days, with groups of students from all over Europe rotating each day to a different wall.

Ken and myself were working on a traditional Irish 'Feidin' wall. 

Nick Aitken and Eddie Farrelly worked on a large double sided boulder wall. 
Pat McAfee was on a wedge retaining wall.

Close by Sean Adcock was building a long Clawdd. 

In the nearby vineyard of Heiligenstein,Rainer Vogler instructed students in building the local traditional retaining walls. 

It was a hugely successful event, and quite unique in that students got an opportunity to work on such a variety of projects over just one week. 

It was also great to visit some of the great wine makers of the region and getting to sample many of their wines"

Thanks Sunny.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Stone Crop.

Photo cropping.
We tend to crop photos of everything, including walls !The crop is an edited version. We like to think its a better view than the entire thing. We narrow the image down to a smaller vignette to produce a larger effect.
It's a case of small is more.
It's the opposite of needing to have the big picture
You don't crop things bigger. You crop things smaller to see something you might otherwise miss or to take the viewers eyes off the obvious.
We are balancing the elements of content, proportion and composition
We are highlighting what we want the viewer to see, the aspect that we think is more important than the hole.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Things that Stones Expect You to Know # 13

Slater's Bridge nr Windemere, the Lake District  U K. -Photo J Shaw-Rimmington 

They prefer to have a purpose !

More than 100 years ago workers at the slate quarry in Little Langdale built this dry stone bridge in order to get to work every day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Camel Quarry House

Camel Quarry House.

Situated on the site of a former slate quarry, on the shores of the Camel Estuary near Padstow in Cornwall.

Architecture by Mclean Quinlan.

Photography & Edit by Will Scott.
The garden and walls were designed by Mary Reynolds

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hand's Little Helpers

Embedded image permalinkYes they are Big Rocks. But I've trained my gloves to move them without me

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Standing Stone

If stones don't stand up for themselves who will?


On the A849 near Foinnphort in Scotland there is a lone standing stone. It's just standing around.
It is surrounded by a high well built Galloway dyke.
It is worth going to see if you have time and are waiting for the ferry for Iona.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Scale is everything.

Scale is everything.
Small looks small until you realize it's large.
Big stones can look like little stones.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

All You Need Is Stone

Tonight, Thursday 7 pm June 11th, I will be giving an audio-visual presentation 'Stone Alone' at the Port Hope Library, in Port Hope Ontario. I'll be examining one of the least valued natural resources we have in Canada and consider the singular method of best creating a 'sense of place' with it.

While it's hard to leave them alone, in that we all like to collect them, play with them, and many of us, make things with them, maybe it's time to see stones in the singular. Although stones are very inclusive and in combination aesthetically pleasing, the time has come to appreciate stone alone!

Here in Canada we have plenty of stone.

It is a valuable commodity just the way it is found, collected and/or quarried responsibly

It is not always used properly.

But thankfully there is a resurgence going on now.

With some basic skills the art of 'building with stone' to create walls without mortar, has started to take off in Canada.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Nunnery on Iona

The well tended ruins of the Augustinian Nunnery on Iona have walls that reveal layers and layers of history. The many changes the structure has obviously undergone (both additions and subtractions) are like clues. They reveal different periods and styles of stonework. The variations  catch the eye and the imagination, at every turn.  Those of us on the Tour of Stones, and thousands of other visitors to this sacred site, I'm sure, all feel a need to try to piece together the story of what happened here.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Coming to level.

Impressive dry stane dykes, like this one that we inspected on our drive to the ferry to Iona two days ago, draw attention to the fascinating process whereby stones are stacked in morphing pattern from irregular to regimented.

There is a primal satisfaction the eye registers in the gradual re-arrangement of the disorganized into the ordered. Heavy awkwardly shaped bundles of glacial granite are painstakingly collected off the fields, rolled into place, then lifted on top of each other, in what seems a very unpatterned fashion, until eventually the emerging 'wall' ascends into a distinguishable, very level flank of uniform medium size cope stones. They look like a long row of gnarly teeth topping some elongated prehistoric jawbone. 

The whole wall is a massive almost godlike accomplishment - a never-ending process of creating order out of chaos.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


There was a good deal of drama concerning taking the ferry from Fionnphort to Iona yesterday. The weather was dark and overcast and extremely blustery. There was an 'amber alert' at the ferry dock which meant the ferry might stop running any time and the chances of our getting back off the island to the hotel to Mull were not good. If we did get stranded on Iona we would miss our bus and plane connections for our return to Canada 

Nevertheless the decision was made to venture forth into the storm and hope the ferry would stay running for the return voyage at 4 pm 

As a special surprise treat arranged before hand, Norman's son Duncan was standing there playing the bag pipes as we stepped onto the island. Duncan took us to the Argyll Hotel where he works and the thirteen of us shared a scrumptious lunch together at the same table. 

Afterwards Duncan showed us the extensive hotel garden which he is totally responsible for starting and maintaining. He's planted many kinds of vegetables and berries as well as flowers, and also does some of the stone wall repairs there. It seemed like a harsh climate to be trying to grow anything but Duncan has some good looking produce coming up in all the beds. 

After visiting the abbey we went to the nunnery ruins to check out the different styles of stonework left from different periods of construction over the last 800 years. The part I was intrigued by was this alternating jumper/thin stone gneiss pattern which was reminiscent of some of the dry stonework I had seen in the Lake District on a previous stone wall tour in 2011.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Happy Birth Deja´ Vu

The day started with a very wet boat ride to the Isle of Ulva to see a Scotish black house. 

The day got better and butter as the clouds parted and the butternut soup arrived.

One of the best parts was the group photo on the stone bridge at Dervaig on the Isle of Mull. 

Appropriately, some of the same people were there at another bridge on the Tour of Walls in the Lake District back on my birthday on June 5th 2011 as well.

It was like a Birth Deja´ Vu 

Thanks again to everyone who made this day special !