Sunday, August 30, 2015

Smiling 'before shot'

Good bunch of guys I have rebuilding this wall at the Dalhousie University Dry Stone Walling Workshop. 
They are all smiling.

And that's a good sign.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Full Moon Lighting

Worked late under the light of the full moon last night. The Super Moon (of three that we will have this year) looked on as I finished the wall end, getting it ready for today's workshop at Dalhousie University.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Finally finished!

Shaun S. wrote to me a few days ago to say he took my weekend walling workshop in Inverary Ont in June 2011 and that he had finally completed his dry stone wall project he had started back then. 

His plan at that time was to build two 40 ft sections of wall using re-claimed

" I started the wall in the summer of 2012 and had it 95%done
last summer, but still needed to locate some nice field stone to top off my last section of wall. I finished the last 40 ft section today!

A brief history of the project: I removed the stone from a nearby foundation of an old house on the property adjacent to mine in Winchester. 
My brother owned the house and property and demolished the brick house after it was no longer inhabitable. I dug out the old stone from the foundation and removed it and stacked it for future use in the summer of 2007. I placed the wall along the private dirt roadway that I share with two other brothers, and the wall was built approximately 40 feet from the foundation of the old brick house. 

When I was digging out the foundation I located an old apothecary bottle
later dated to the 1870's.

I worked on the wall myself and logged 180 hours on both walls. I capped off the walls with nice field stone that had been tossed to the fence lines over the years. It took months to search out this final layer of decorative stones.

Thought I'd update you both on my project which is now FINISHED!!!



Thursday, August 27, 2015


Andrew G wrote to tell me he enjoyed the week-end workshop at Kingsmere and that he will wear his Dry Stone Walling Across Canada tee shirt with pride! 


He sent along images of part of the retaining wall he built in his backyard. 

The stones were from the Holy Trinty Church on Sherbrooke street in Montreal. The story of this church is a sad one:

''Holy Trinity was constructed in 1865 and for the first 60 years of its existence it was known as the Sherbrooke Street Methodist Church. 

The Greek Orthodox community bought the church in 1925 and it was gutted by a fire in January 1986. After the fire the Greek community raised money to rebuild it but the funds were diverted to other projects. It was demolished in 1997.''

The building and all the dimensional stones including dressed voussoirs, lintels and quoins were being trucked away to be crushed into gravel. Andrew came across the church being demolished one day as he was driving to work and had to some fast negotiating to be able to rescue over 60 tons of the material. He was able to use it in his sunken garden, after storing it for a couple years on his front lawn.
Andrew ended by writing "I guess a small consolation is that some of it was not turned into gravel."

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On top of a stone foundation.

Here's a shot of most of the participants involved in second phase of the spiral staircase stone watch tower in Gualala.
Congratulations and a big hand to the stone women and stone men who did so well getting the vision to this stage. 
Mark and I (and a few others I'm sure) are really missing not being there for this second part of the build. Oh well, at least we will see most of you in January at the Symposium.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In need of repair.

I'm looking forward to instructing a training course here next weekend.  We will be restoring a 30 foot section of this important hundred year old dry stone wall in a major Canadian city.  Can you guess where it is?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kingsmere August 2015

Last weekend's Kingsmere workshop was a success. A twenty-eight foot section of wall was restored and the dry stone enthusiasts who attended were delighted to have learned and accomplished so much.   



Sunday, August 23, 2015

Walling On Our Bellies

After a slow morning of taking apart the stones in the old wall at the restoration workshop in Kingsmere yesterday, we gathered for a scrumptious gourmet lunch supplied by Boulangei Ville

No doubt the good food had a lot to do with our increased productivity that afternoon and the quality of workmanship.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Walling and Picnic Lunches.

Today we are all set up to do two days of repairs to a section of wall at an NCC property near the nation's capital in the Gatineaus. We do this at Kingsmere every August now as part of a special dry stone wall restoration/workshop program. 

If you are in the Ottawa area you might like to come out and see what we are doing this Saturday or Sunday. There's yummy gourmet pita bread sandwiches and desserts too from the local bakery. Who knows, there may be some extra vegan sandwiches left over, so feel free to join us for lunch!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rain game.

Rainy hot humid slippery heavy stones yesterday….
I fought the wall and the wall won.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

I see stone chips.

A very well done dry laid feature made from flagstone at the Castlehill Heritage Centre, Castletown, Caithness

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Natural Stone Works!

Dan pearl sent photos of a beautiful moon gate he recently built on his property.  

He explained

 "I started this 5 years ago intending to build it with a batch of odd shaped cobbles stones I had been collecting.  It mostly sat as the base portion of stone built up to just the bottom center keystone and 4-5 stones either side of it.  I kept finding that the neighborhood kids would dislodge everything with constant climbing and trash my batter lines.  It was always one step forward and two back to restore the bottom of the arch.  It ends up as a bit of an oval because I refused to strip out and reset the last round of disruptions.  

Holly and I are planning to build a new home here on our lot.  The stone leftovers from various jobs were in the way and I couldn't bare to abandon the project after all this time so I just used the stones laying around with minimal trimming to get it done. 

No machines were used in the building and all the big stones were walked up the outside steps to be placed.  

Couldn't of done it without you sharing your knowledge freely- both arches and moon gates.  For that I am grateful.  Thank you! "

Thank you, Dan . It looks terrific!

Dan lives near Rochester N Y and can be contacted at
   dan pearl
  natural stone works, LLC
       107 Long Pond Rd
    Rochester, NY 14612 
     ph: (585) 260-8653

Monday, August 17, 2015


After storing them for sometime near his mother's house, Evan Oxland, (who brought them back from their spectacular debut at Toronto's Nuit Blanche in 2012) arranged to deliver this cheery collection of stony, painted-faced memorabilia back to our property in Port Hope.

And here they remain, (resting up for some future occasion perhaps) a whimsical reminder of happy days when dry stone walling was allowed to be structurally spontaneous at times and good wallers felt encouraged to adventure into different areas of creativity without risking their reputations.

Evan Oxland and Akira Inman certainly organized an exciting event that night. 

"Wall Spray was a dry stone Mashup." Evan explained, "The idea was to bring the rural to the urban."

There was a whole lot going on - music, dancing and a continuous light show. The graffiti wall became a kind of transmogrification, an evolving mixture of artists, craftsmen and audience, advancing the ever-changing stone wall eastward along the busy Toronto sidewalk   

It was a fresh concept, and though unorthodox, embodied the spirit of Canadian walling, which was, and hopefully will remain, entirely friendly, inclusive and non-competitive. 

Perhaps the relocated Nuit Blanch stones will be re-membering.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dry Stone Walling Across the World

Camel Hump dry stone wall.
Photo: Camel Hump is the longest continuous dry stone wall in Australia. (Supplied: Prue Chapman)

While not a lot of comments are posted to this blog directly, both Thinking With My Hands and the DSWAC website get lots of feedback via private emails from around the world. We mostly get inquiries about the dry stone work opportunities in Canada. Occasionally we get requests for information about wallers who would be interested in traveling and working in far away lands. 

Below is a sample letter I received yesterday. It sounds like a great opportunity for someone with artistic walling skills and a taste for adventure.

< Greetings Canada, here from Australia. Maybe you can pass on my contact to any strapping young lad that might want to work down under and build me a wall or two. I live quite close to the fabulous Gold Coast and am looking for someone who wants an awesome working holiday.I have plenty of wonderful rocks to create with!! Similar to a wwoof-ing experience, I'm offering amazing accommodation, meals and a car and a fantastic holiday, in exchange for 4 days a week creating some rock art. Open to any discussions.
Dr.A T >

I will provide the contact information if you are interested.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Talking about my generator

Like several of our neighbours here in Port Hope we installed a generator after the big ice storm of 2014. It is situated conspicuously in front of our above ground pool. (The pool is hidden by the Engleman Ivy)  To disguise the plastic, very out of place 'look' of the the generator, we built a free standing dry stone wall around it. 

Now it's as if the generator has just 'faded away'. 

It seems to me that this is very simple solution and could be applied in situations where you had propane tanks or other unsightly things on your property that you wanted to hide.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sunny Side of the Hill

We have a project on the go involving terracing up the south side of a concave hollow sloping away from a small creek which we built a 12 foot span dry stone bridge across ten years ago.

The walls will be curved and have rounded pillars to the east.
Unfortunately the hollow where we are working is a like a huge bowl that concentrates the sun's heat right at us. It is a heat sink. There is little shade and no breeze there.

The project kind of reminds me of these hot walls in sunny Danville California where next door I was commissioned to do a dry stone installation involving curvy walls using stones on the bias, as well as creating a small slanted moon gate feature.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Watching the watch tower go up.

Work continues all this week on the Fish Rock Lookout Tower. The huge combination stone step and floor section has been carved and lifted and set in place.

The watch tower is being built in the perfect place to be able to see the ocean.

Thanks to Amanda Stinsen and David Claman for photos

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In the Zone.

The first week on the job Dylan got poison ivy on his arms. He went to the walk in clinic after a weekend of scratching and got a prescription for some prednisone. For some reason he seems to have super human strength now. He was lifting incredible size rocks all day yesterday and did the job of two men. Needless to say Dylan is proving to be a really good worker. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nice Niche

Sean Donnelly built this cute little gothic niche with his assistant Nash over the past couple of days at the Highland games in Fergus Ontario. He said "I wasn't sure how I was going to finish it off, but after reading your post this morning I went with the traditional copes" 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ennismore unveils new dry stone wall and archway

Ennismore unveils new dry stone wall and archway

The Ennismore Arch would not have happened were it not for the three women standing to right of me - Hellen Young, Sarah Sulivan and Gail Woodard.  

Many thanks also to the Ennismore Horticultural Society . 

There are a lot of volunteers who helped and the DSWAC students who did so well completing this arch over two consecutive weekends last summer.  
And now, thanks to everyone who came out yesterday to this unveiling event.

The Ennismore Hort Society showed a lot of forward thinking in organizing on such a grass roots level, members of their community to gather and create such a fine looking permanent stone feature. It commemorates Ennismore Ontario and the Irish culture connected with it, and does so by utilizing local people and material, rather than having a construction company come from outside the community to build some impersonal concrete edifice that would have had no real connection with the people. The arch demonstrates the skills and enthusiasm that the people of this small southern Ontario community uniquely possess.

We had fun building this dry stone arch. It was a great experience and the impact the finished structure creates now as you come round the corner suggest that something very special happened here and continues to do so.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bruce Bridge

Immediately after we built Bruce Bridge back in 2008 we planted the walking surface of this Dry Stone Walling Across Canada bridge with a variety of sedum. 

On revisiting the property much later it was obvious the plants were thriving, doing better than I'd expected with all the foot traffic and even mowers driving over it occasionally.

The round fieldstone copes were an experiment. Introducing local glacial granite into the quarried limestone mix created an interesting visual border as well as forming two prominent and very stable 'curbs' for vehicles to pass between.   

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Copeless Situation.

Presently we are rebuilding some old farm walls north of Peterborough Ontario. The mossy fieldstone is piled 3 feet thick and 8 feet wide along the hedge rows. Here's a section we've done with finished copes and then another photo with the copes taken off. We were asked to take them off, as the client didn't like the look of them. Hmm. Which style do you like?