I'm teaching this week in Haliburton. A blacksmith I met who lives and works in the area informed me about how they built dry stone walls around here "back in the day".
According to him, all the settlers pretty much just heaped them in up in piles along the fields. He'd built a few himself. Because the older ones all looked like the wall he'd made, which he took time to show me (above) he figured that nobody could have taken any care or time to make them properly, "the way I was going to be teaching my students to build " .
He told me to go look at a wall nearby in a forested conservation area, for example, and see what he meant about the settlers not stacking them very carefully . I got the directions and went on a good old 'Wall Safari' and to my delight found remnants of a very old fallen down wall hidden in the woods.
It seemed to me that the wall had actually originally been built very well. Now a lot of it was mostly a meandering heap of stones lost in the ferny undergrowth, but here and there I uncovered sections of beautiful looking orderly arrangements of glacial granite that confirmed my understanding that many of the settlers actually knew what they were doing and took time to do it properly.
It disappoints me that people nowadays rarely take that kind of time anymore. The fact that most of the remaining older walls appear to be merely long piles of stones, looking kind of disheveled, does not mean they were originally built that way.
That kind of fuzzy thinking surprises me. That's like thinking Hadrian's Wall was built shoddily because of how a lot of it looks today.