Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Farley Festival.

Those of us involved with Dry Stone Walling Across Canada are excited about an unusual international event coming up this October in little old Port Hope, Ontario.

Unveiling of commemorative plaque at the Farley Mowat/DSWAC Ceremony in Port Hope Ontario Canada. Oct 18th 2006

On the the 2016 Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, a permanent boat roofed house structure that was originally built in honour of Farley Mowat ten years ago, on the same date during the 2006 DSWA festival, is going to be ceremoniously dismantled and reassembled at a more appropriate site nearer the centre of town. 

Stone by loving stone the dry laid boat structure which was built while Farley was with us, will be moved to its new home, as a kind of memorial to one of Canada's greatest authors and long time resident of Port Hope 

Audiences will see the new incarnation of 'The Boat' being reconstructed by professional wallers from Britain the USA and Canada, during the festival, this time on public town property, near the banks of the mighty Ganaraska River. 

Residents and walling enthusiasts and most importantly avid readers and lovers of Farleys writings from around the world are invited to attend this event and many will be given the opportunity to participate in remembering Farley by helping carry (and wheelbarrow) some of the (smaller) stones from the boat to their new home, during our special 'Farley Festival'. 

This will be part of a special parade commemorating our beloved Farley during which the larger stones will all be transported by flatbed truck and 'floated' down Dorset street (presumably with fans and onlookers waving and cheering either side of the street) to then be reassembled in boat-like splendour at the new mooring spot (appropriately ) across the river from the port hope library. 

It will indeed be the weekend when the Boat That Wouldn't Float actually did get 'floated' !

Please set aside this date in your calendars to join us for all the fun and pomp and ceremony. I'm guessing if Farley was still with us he'd get a huge kick out of the whole idea and highly approve of such a cooky three-day literary/stone celebration.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Wallers - A poem by Irvine Hunt


                           It begins well. In canvas den 
                           the dykers bivouac beside the ridge,
                           and hands at a touch set out to put
                           a crag of slate to rest,
                           to build a wall before the frost.

                           Through scattered stone,
                           through bracken and scree, 
                           quiet minds begin to pick, 
                           sorting the rock,
                           eyeing the slope; 
                           lodging a first stone,
                           where a wall will stand.

                           It falls to place, the wall,
                           slowly, advancing on beck 
                           and hump,
                           draining heights
                           of tumbled scree,
                           a stone snake, 
                           a line across the fell
                           till hard against a barren slope 
                           it piles
                           and sets to climb a wet hillside.

                           At this the dykers seem to slow,
                           through mist they move
                           and sheets of rain,
                           as lost, momentum gone. 
                           a cleft is filled in stone by stone.

                           Ragged weeks ensue and still
                           they build.
                           In a dull flare 
                           autumn fades,
                           and November’s mists,
                           till a first trace of frost,
                           the white edge of winter,
                           shines along the ridge and only then 
                           the mountain slope is crossed. 

                           Three months gone
                           from the first stone
                           to a wall complete,
                           scarcely half a mile, little more, 
                           yet built to last . . .
                           past my day, and yours.

                           It seemed the only way 
                           to build a wall. 

Copyright Irvine Hunt

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Less than 22 days until Spring

A complex of garden walls built in 2014 by members of Dry Stone Walling Across Canada near Dorset . Photo John S-R

Be happy. Here in Canada, there are less than 22 days until spring. In Australia they have to wait over two hundred days before spring arrives.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Instagram is a refreshingly simple and spontaneous way of sharing your own photos. No drama. No bombardment of unwanted links and videos.Very little advertising. Just good daily photography. I like it.

Check out some of your walling friends. I'm drystonewaller.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Warm Walls

Very interesting article in Low Tech Magazine on the efficacy of masonry walls in gardening, which logically would include dry stone walls .

Thanks to Denise Ricard for this link  -  Fruit walls in urban farming

Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s

Fruit Walls: Urban Farming in the 1600s

Montreuil peaches
We are being told to eat local and seasonal food, either because other crops have been tranported over long distances, or because they are grown in energy-intensive greenhouses. But it wasn't always like that. From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, urban farmers grew Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands, using only renewable energy.
These crops were grown surrounded by massive "fruit walls", which stored the heat from the sun and released it at night, creating a microclimate that could increase the temperature by more than 10°C (18°F). Later, greenhouses built against the fruit walls further improved yields from solar energy alone.
It was only at the very end of the nineteenth century that the greenhouse turned into a fully glazed and artificially heated building where heat is lost almost instantaneously -- the complete opposite of the technology it evolved from.

Picture: fruit walls in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris.

The modern glass greenhouse, often located in temperate climates where winters can be cold, requires massive inputs of energy, mainly for heating but also for artificial lighting and humidity control.
According to the FAO, crops grown in heated greenhouses have energy intensity demands around 10 to 20 times those of the same crops grown in open fields. A heated greenhouse requires around 40 megajoule of energy to grow one kilogram of fresh produce, such as tomatoes and peppers. [source - page 15] This makes greenhouse-grown crops as energy-intensive as pork meat (40-45 MJ/kg in the USA). [source]
Dutch style all glass greenhouse
Dutch-style all-glass greenhouses. Picture: Wikipedia Commons.
In the Netherlands, which is the world's largest producer of glasshouse grown crops, some 10,500 hectares of greenhouses used 120 petajoules (PJ) of natural gas in 2013 -- that's about half the amount of fossil fuels used by all Dutch passenger cars. [source: 1/2]
The high energy use is hardly surprising. Heating a building that's entirely made of glass is very energy-intensive, because glass has a very limited insulation value. Each metre square of glass, even if it's triple glazed, loses ten times as much heat as a wall.
Fruit Walls
The design of the modern greenhouse is strikingly different from its origins in the middle ages [*]. Initially, the quest to produce warm-loving crops in temperate regions (and to extend the growing season of local crops) didn't involve any glass at all. In 1561, Swiss botanist Conrad Gessner described the effect of sun-heated walls on the ripening of figs and currants, which mature faster than when they are planted further from the wall.
Gessner's observation led to the emergence of the "fruit wall" in Northwestern Europe. By planting fruit trees close to a specially built wall with high thermal mass and southern exposure, a microclimate is created that allows the cultivation of Mediterranean fruits in temperate climates, such as those of Northern France, England, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Fruit wall in the UKAn English fruit wall. Wikipedia Commons.
The fruit wall reflects sunlight during the day, improving growing conditions. It also absorbs solar heat, which is slowly released during the night, preventing frost damage. Consequently, a warmer microclimate is created on the southern side of the wall for 24 hours per day.
Fruit walls also protect crops from cold, northern winds. Protruding roof tiles or wooden canopies often shielded the fruit trees from rain, hail and bird droppings. Sometimes, mats could be suspended from the walls in case of bad weather.
Fruit walls pruning
The fruit wall appears around the start of the so-called Little Ice Age, a period of exceptional cold in Europe that lasted from about 1550 to 1850. The French quickly started to refine the technology by pruning the branches of fruit trees in such ways that they could be attached to a wooden frame on the wall.
This practice, which is known as "espalier", allowed them to optimize the use of available space and to further improve upon the growth conditions. The fruit trees were placed some distance from the wall to give sufficient space for the roots underground and to provide for good air ciculation and pest control above ground.
Peach Walls in Paris
Initially, fruit walls appeared in the gardens of the rich and powerful, such as in the palace of Versailles. However, some French regions later developed an urban farming industry based on fruit walls. The most spectacular example was Montreuil, a suburb of Paris, where peaches were grown on a massive scale.
Established during the seventeenth century, Montreuil had more than 600 km fruit walls in the 1870s, when the industry reached its peak. The 300 hectare maze of jumbled up walls was so confusing for outsiders that the Prussian army went around Montreuil during the siege of Paris in 1870.
Peaches on the fruit walls of montreuil paris
Montreuil fruit walls
Peaches are native to France's Mediterranean regions, but Montreuil produced up to 17 million fruits per year, renowned for their quality. Building many fruit walls close to each other further boosted the effectiveness of the technology, because more heat was trapped and wind was kept out almost completely. Within the walled orchards, temperatures were typically 8 to 12°C (14-22°F) higher than outside.
The 2.5 to 3 metre high walls were more than half a metre thick and coated in limestone plaster. Mats could be pulled down to insulate the fruits on very cold nights. In the central part of the gardens, crops were grown that tolerated lower temperatures, such as apples, pears, raspberries, vegetables and flowers.
Grapes in Thomery
In 1730, a similar industry was set up for the cultivation of grapes in Thomery, which lies some 60 km south-east from Paris -- a very northern area to grow these fruits. At the production peak in the early twentieth century, more than 800 tonnes of grapes were produced on some 300 km of fruit walls, packed together on 150 hectares of land.
The walls, built of clay with a cap of thatch, were 3 metres high and up to 100 metres long, spaced apart 9 to 10 metres. They were all finished by tile copings and some had a small glass canopy.
Because vines demand a dry and warm climate, most fruit walls had a southeastern exposure. A southern exposure would have been the warmest, but in that case the vines would have been exposed to the damp winds and rains coming from the southwest. The western and southwestern walls were used to produce grapes from lower qualities.
Thomery vines
Thomery todayPart of the town of Thomery today, seen through Google maps. The old fruit walls are still dominating the landscape. The houses were built later.
Some cultivators in Thomery also constructed "counter-espaliers", which were lesser walls opposite the principal fruit walls. These were only 1 metre high and were placed about 1 to 2.5 metres from the fruit wall, further improving the microclimate. In the 1840s, Thomery became known for its advanced techniques to prune the grape vines and attach them to the walls. The craft spread to Montreuil and to other countries. 
Chambre-a-raisin-thomeryStorage system for grapes in Thomery. Picture: Topic Tops.
The cultivators of Thomery also developed a remarkable storage system for grapes. The stem was submerged in water-filled bottles, which were stored in large wooden racks in basements or attics of buildings. Some of these storage places had up to 40,000 bottles each holding one or two bunches of grapes. The storage system allowed the grapes to remain fresh for up to six months.
Serpentine Fruit Walls
Fruit wall industries in the Low Countries (present-day Belgium and the Netherlands) were also aimed at producing grapes. From the 1850s onwards, Hoeilaart (nearby Brussels) and the Westland (the region which is now Holland's largest glasshouse industry) became important producers of table grapes. By 1881, the Westland had 178 km of fruit walls.
SlangenmuurA Serpentine Fruit Wall in the Netherlands. Wikipedia Commons.
Mur de retranchementA different type of fruit wall. Wikipedia Commons.
The Dutch also contributed to the development of the fruit wall. They started building fruit walls already during the first half of the eighteenth century, initially only in gardens of castles and country houses. Many of these had unique forms. Most remarkable was the serpentine or "crinkle crankle" wall.
Although it's actually longer than a linear wall, a serpentine wall economizes on materials because the wall can be made strong enough with just one brick thin. The alternate convex and concave curves in the wall provide stability and help to resist lateral forces. Furthermore, the slopes give a warmer microclimate than a flat wall. This was obviously important for the Dutch, who are almost 400 km north of Paris.
Variants of the serpentine wall had recessed and protruding parts with more angular forms. Few of these seem to have been built outside the Netherlands, with the exception of those erected by the Dutch in the eastern parts of England (two thirds of them in Suffolk county). In their own country, the Dutch built fruit walls as high up north as Groningen (53°N).
Fruit walls improved 1Source: Fruit walls improved, Nicolas Fatio de Duilier, 1699
Another variation on the linear fruit wall was the sloped wall. It was designed by Swiss mathematician Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, and described in his 1699 book "Fruit Walls Improved". A wall built at an incline of 45 degrees from the northerm horizon and facing south absorbs the sun's energy for a longer part of the day, increasing plant growth. 
Heated Fruit Walls
In Britain, no large-scale urban farming industries appeared, but the fruit wall became a standard feature of the country house garden from the 1600s onwards. The English developed heated fruit walls in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to ensure that the fruits were not killed by frost and to assist in ripening fruit and maturing wood.
Heated fruit wallA heated fruit wall of Croxteth Hall Walled Kitchen Garden in Liverpoool. Picture: The Horticultural Therapist.
In these "hot walls", horizontal flues were running to and fro, opening into chimneys on top of the wall. Initially, the hollow walls were heated by fires lit inside, or by small furnaces located at the back of the wall. During the second half of the nineteenth century, more and more heated fruit walls were warmed by hot water pipes.
The decline of the European fruit wall started in the late nineteenth century. Maintaining a fruit wall was a labour-intensive work that required a lot of craftsmanship in pruning, thinning, removing leaves, etcetera. The extension of the railways favoured the import of produce from the south, which was less labour-intensive and thus cheaper to produce. Artificially heated glasshouses could also produce similar or larger yields with much less skilled labour involved.
The Birth of the Greenhouse
Large transparant glass plates were hard to come by during the Middle Ages and early modern period, which limited the use of the greenhouse effect for growing crops. Window panes were usually made of hand-blown plate glass, which could only be produced in small dimensions. To make a large glass plate, the small pieces were combined by placing them in rods or glazing bars.
Nevertheless, European growers made use of small-scale greenhouse methods since the early 1600s. The simplest forms of greenhouses were the "cloche", a bell-shaped jar or bottomless glass jug that was placed on top of the plants, and the cold- or hotframe, a small seedbed enclosed in a glass-topped box. In the hotframe, decomposing horse manure was added for additional heating.
Hot frames and cloches
SchietraamHow the greenhouse was born. Foto: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed.
In the 1800s, some Belgian and Dutch cultivators started experimenting with the placement of glass plates against fruit walls, and discovered that this could further boost crop growth. This method gradually developed into the greenhouse, built against a fruit wall. In the Dutch Westland region, the first of these greenhouses were built around 1850. By 1881, some 22 km of the 178 km of fruit walls in the westland was under glass.
These greenhouse structures became larger and more sophisticated over time, but they all kept benefitting from the thermal mass of the fruit wall, which stored heat from the sun for use at night. In addition, many of these structures were provided with insulating mats that could be rolled out over the glass cover at night or during cold, cloudy weather. In short, the early greenhouse was a passive solar building.
Greenhouse against the wallGreenhouse built against a serpentine fruit wall. Source: Rijksdienst voor het culturele erfgoed.
Dutch greenhouse 1930sA Dutch greenhouse from the 1930s, built against a brick wall. Picture: Naaldwijk in oude ansichten.
The first all glass greenhouses were built only in the 1890s, first in Belgium, and shortly afterwards in the Netherlands. Two trends played into the hands of the fully glazed greenhouse. The first was the invention of the plate glass production method, which made larger window panes much more affordable. The second was the advance of fossil fuels, which made it possible to keep a glass building warm in spite of the large heat losses.
Consequently, at the start of the twentieth century, the greenhouse became a structure without thermal mass. The fruit wall that had started it all, was now gone.
During the oil crises of the 1970s, there was a renewed interest in the passive solar greenhouse. However, the attention quickly faded when energy prices came down, and the fully glazed greenhouse remained the horticultural workhorse of the Northwestern world. The Chinese, however, built 800,000 hectare of passive solar greenhouses during the last three decades -- that's 80 times the surface area of all glass greenhouses in the Netherlands. We discuss the Chinese greenhouse in the second part of this article.
Kris De Decker

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fire and Ice

So we used most of the pile of leftover stone to make this fireplace facade last week in Bakersfield.  It's faux. It's not dry laid stone, no. I admit it. 

The devil's cream was used in great amounts, all secretly hidden behind the stones.

However this project bought us some time for the snow to melt up in the mountains. Our plan was to leave the hot smoggy valley and go up and do some stone work there this coming week.

Of course we will be using the devil's cream there too.

Here's some hardened stuff that we came across which we had left up there on a mortar board 12 months ago.

Anyway, when we got up to Alta Sierra yesterday, it was still pretty cold. So...

We're thinking of using the 'devils ice-cream' instead. 

It looks like it sticks pretty good too. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Hoop Jumping

I think it's worth reposting the article I wrote in Thinking With My Hands back in October of 2010 warning Canadian wallers against letting their passion for stone become stifled by the dictates of professionalism. 


'It may be that the question before us today is not the value of certification but rather the dangers of professionalism.
In an edition of Intelligent Life, the life culture and style quarterly periodical put out by the Economist (Winter 2010), an article by Ed Smith, discussed the questionable motives behind and the self-deception of professional orthodoxy as an end in itself and suggested that it had sucked the pleasure out of not only sports and recreational activities but also out of his work and his craft.

In the quotes below Smith explores this subject in relation to professional sports.

— " How did the concept of professionalism become so dominant? And why is it assumed to be innately desirable? Professionalism has certainly travelled a long way in a short time. In the space of a hundred years, the words "professional" and "amateur" have virtually swapped places. 

At the end of the 19th century, an amateur meant someone who was motivated by the sheer love of doing something; professional was a rare pejorative term for grubby money making. Now, amateurism is a by-word for sloppiness, disorganization and ineptitude, while professionalism is the default description of excellence. Ours is the age of professionalism: it is a concept in perpetual bloom. 

But all bubbles as we have painfully learned about finance, must eventually burst. Is it time we let some of the hot air out of professionalism?"

— " Professionalism isn't so much a real process as a form of self-definition. We have had to become ever more professional because that has become the lens through which we interpret progress and success. The question no one ever dared asked: is professionalism actually helping us to do anything any better?" 

We as wallers should ask ourselves - should someone else's interpretation of 'professionalism' dictate the value we put on our own abilities and the level of craftsmanship we have set for ourselves ?  Is our motivation to wall better or just to pass tests better? 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Italy Field School


Join senior Willowbank staff and Italian conservation colleagues for a rare educational opportunity. The Willowbank Canova Field School program involves documenting and revitalizing an abandoned medieval stone village near Milan. The structure of the field school reflects Willowbank’s emphasis on combining theory and practice. Participants will be engaged in philosophical and technical debates as well as the hard but satisfying work of rebuilding beautiful stone and wood medieval structures. The Italian colleagues have been breathing new life into decaying medieval villages in the Domodossola area of northern Italy, in the foothills of the Alps. The Canova Association brings together local and international participants to share experiences and stimulate local investment in conservation and adaptive reuse. It also hosts an annual Canova International Architect Encounter, an intimate international forum with participants from around the globe. They gather in the beautiful Canova setting to discuss and debate best practices in conservation, sustainability, and revitalization. The Field School will focus on the village of Ghesc, on the outskirts of Domodossola. It was built in the 15th century but was abandoned more than 50 years ago. The revitalization of Ghesc is the latest project undertaken by the Canova Association with its local partners. This village, with its unusual stone buildings including stone-tiled roofs and remains of beautiful medieval frescoes, will be your laboratory for 15 days as you acquire documentation skills, study design options, and implement the partial rebuilding of one of the stone structures.
Dates for the 2016 Willowbank Canova Italy Field School are May 16-30
Apply now by downloading and completing the form here and returning by mail or email to Willowbank along with a copy of your résumé. Deadline for applications is March 4th, 2016


The approximate costs associated with this program are outlined below. The exact costs will be confirmed and will depend on the Euro exchange rate.
  • Deposit: $500 deposit due within 2 weeks of notification of place on the program. Deposit will be forfeited if you do not take up your place on the program.
  • Program Fee (accommodations, 3 meals per day during the program, local transportation): $2,400 (payable to Willowbank) please note this does not include deposit amount listed above.
  • Airfare (estimated cost): $1,400
  • Travel Health Insurance: $100
Additional costs to consider: Spending money for any additional food, clothing, transport and accommodation costs outside of the course dates of 16-30 May.
Please note that having a valid passport, booking travel to and from Domodossola, Italy and buying travel health insurance are the responsibility of the participant. Further details will be sent to you upon notification of your place on the program.
For general inquiries contact:
T: 905.262.1239 x 21
For inquiries about the academic programs contact:
T: 905.262.1239 x 23

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Practicing Levitation

Photo by Katalystic

I got this one to stay up for a few seconds!

The trick is to relax.

The stones can sense if you are afraid, and then that's the time you're gonna lose your concentration and break one.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How would you make this fireplace more interesting?

This is what we've been asked to change.

This is what we've got to work with. Apparently these stones were left over from a fireplace job where I assume the mason already used up the good ones.

Here's that job. I don't know. Maybe he left us the good ones...